Jargon Watch: "Predatory Delay"

©. Joe Raedle/ Getty Images

Twitter can be an incredible time suck, but also an incredibly valuable tool of communication, as demonstrated by a true master of the medium, Alex Steffen. In a recent tweetstorm, Alex looks at Houston (and a lot of other events) in new and different terms:

Predatory delay: "the blocking or slowing of needed change, in order to make money off unsustainable, unjust systems in the meantime." It is not delay from the absence of action, but delay as a plan of action- a way of keeping things they way they are for the people who are benefiting now, at the expense of the next and future generations.

Alex blames the older generations that mostly control government, in and out of political office.

It is all about shading, about casting doubt, about looking for reasons to delay action. It could be flood control in Houston, building affordable housing for young people, getting rid of cars. There is always an answer.

It is something we have talked about here and on Treehugger - the older generation resisting change, pushing it all of to the next generation, after convincing themselves that scientists could be wrong and it isn't as bad as they say.

Instead of doing something, we pretend that we can keep getting richer, keep driving, keep digging and burning coal and let the kids pay it all and for our retirement.

Gardiner East

Ashton Paul/ Gardiner expressway at Keating channel/CC BY 2.0

It's everywhere. It's Britain where the older generation votes for Brexit because they don't like immigrants and cost their kids jobs. It's Toronto where I live, where they spend a billion on keeping up an elevated highway to save suburban drivers two minutes and more billions digging a subway because the last crackhead mayor didn't like trolleys slowing down cars and the current mayor is chasing the same votes.

Houston is a demonstration of the true cost of predatory delay; insufficient investment in flood control, pretending that climate change doesn't exist even as hundred year and five hundred year storms start hitting every decade. And while I know that this single event cannot be pinned directly on climate change, it's all piling up on us, from vast forest fires in Canada to droughts in the Middle East to rising waters.

traffic in Toronto

Highway 401 traffic, Wikipedia/CC BY 2.0

Predatory delay is government policy these days in almost every country. We know it is inevitable that we have to reduce the number of cars on the road and get them off fossil fuels as quickly as possible but instead we build highways and reduce fuel efficiency.

We know we need more affordable housing but we let the NIMBYs run our cities and stop housing. In Toronto where I live, even author Margaret Atwood is doing this.

We know that plastic is killing our oceans but governments won't even bring in the most modest controls on plastic bags and in fact, state governments are even banning municipal governments from doing anything.

So many important words in a few tweets. Alex is right. Enough delay.