Arrogance + Hypocrisy

When I was growing up, I spent many afternoons drinking Turkish tea with one of my mentors – a great doctor and Muslim leader from our community – who gave me lasting gifts with every conversation. We always discussed politics and religion and leadership … the very stuff we are told never to talk about … until the pot of tea was emptied … and then we would brew another pot and talk some more.

Mostly, I just listened.

“What is the worst combination of sins?” I remember asking.

After great contemplation, a long sip of tea … and then another … the wise elder leaned forward and whispered two words: “Arrogance and Hypocrisy.”

Long sip …

Five years ago, filmmaker and environmentalist James Cameron came to Ft. McMurray to observe the oil sands and made some public comments that came from a place of ignorance and ambition … another ruthless combination. Knowing little about the history, the geology or the science, the Hollywood director flew in on his private jet and aggrandized the unearthly degradation that was fueling the very things that heated his expansive home, built his movie studios and powered his luxurious choices of transportation … arrogance plus hypocrisy at its finest.

Some five years later, the oil sands now attracts withering celebrity icons on their personal “quests for relevance.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Neil Young, Robert Redford, Daryl Hanna (how she is deserving to be on any list?) have all graced us with their presence, their pontifications, and their self-importance … serving out the dangerous cocktail … a double shot of arrogance with a twist of hypocrisy.

But sometimes the world surprises you.

Last week I was in Montreal and had the opportunity to hear James Cameron being interviewed by George Stroumboulopoulos. I braced myself when the question from the audience inquired about his latest environmental crusade. However, after five years of fact-based research and a boat-load of humility, this is how James Cameron answered the question:

“What I have learned is that 19.5% of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and greenhouse effect is caused by animal agriculture, which is more than the entire transportation sectors put together … all cars, trucks, planes, ships … everywhere. So with a simple food choice, we can basically switch off global warming. Now, what are the chances of people suddenly deciding not to eat meat and dairy? Probably pretty slim. But it is possible … as opposed to it is not possible to switch the entire energy and transportation grid to alternatives in one day.” James Cameron then went on with great humility to acknowledge some of his own past hypocrisies in his use of energy products and how his crusade has shifted from one of finger-pointing and condemnation to one of leadership through personal action.

James Cameron sipped some Turkish tea.

Now, I’m sure James Cameron would still like us to reduce our energy footprint. But what I was impressed with is ability to sit quietly and reflect, and to recognize that the supply of energy is not the problem in a world with insatiable human demand. Human demand is the root cause, and that knows no geography.

“What if the billions of dollars spent on environmental activism was spent on education and marketing – the changing of human behavior?” I ask.

Hmmm …. that’s a question that requires another pot of Turkish tea.

3 thoughts on “Arrogance + Hypocrisy

  1. Good Morning Brad…well done, hmmmm Turkish Tea, sounds like it’s the ideal leveler…Short Steps. Long Vision.

    Yesterday I attended my friend John Poon’s bestowing of a Doctorate of Laws at the U of A at the Jubilee. This is a brilliant lawyer et al and we lost him to HK to build the Esprit Brad world wide…somehow we have to keep’em here up on the high prairie. A true Visionary. here’s his comments to the Graduary… cheers Terry

    http://news.ualberta.ca/newsarticles/2014/june/hd-recipient-urges-future-leaders-to-step-beyond-comfort-zone

  2. Brilliant! I love the idea of taking the time that it would take us to sip tea to think through a response, not just react. And how knowledge changes prospective. A car speeds by me: is he a jerk ruling the road, or is his urgently trying to get to a loved one in need. Context is king…

  3. Brad…good evening…Blatchford…well I thought that the perhaps the city was turning a new leaf with the new Council and Mayor, Katz is fortunate that he dealt with last one…I was more than embarrassed with respect to the decision today to let Perkins + Will know that the Blatchford cost was out of whack and the eco element minimized dramatically, I am sorry but that’s bush to me and far away from your visionary thoughts about Edmonton not being a beer and bingo town any longer. How discouraging it was to me…now the city wants to handle the development of the site…I quit, I guess I am getting too old to understand what I viewed as Arrogance & Hypocrisy, I saw it in action today. Terry Willox

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