Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

'Do with less, so they'll have enough! Rationing gives you your fair share.' (Colour poster, 1943)United States. Office of War Information.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter.

From the Comments is designed to highlight interesting and thoughtful contributions from our readers. Some comments have been edited for clarity. Everyone can read the comments but only subscribers will be able to contribute. Thank you to everyone furthering debate across our site.

Readers respond: The climate crisis is like a world war. So let’s talk about rationing

The one benefit I see in this article is that it’s at least crystal clear what you’re after. I lived the first 20 years of my life under a communist dictatorship, and what you propose sounds just like them – all of this for the collective good, of course. The results speak for themselves. No thanks. – app_64585212

Nonsense. This is one of the most ridiculous ideas I have read. You would put our farmers out of business.

Instead of putting our health in peril and punishing Canadians, stop buying anything from China and India and start manufacturing the things we need here with nuclear power.

Different people require more protein for health reasons – males, people with hyperglycemia and diabetes.

You could wipe North America and Europe off the map and it would lower greenhouse gases by about a huge 8.7 per cent.

The problem is a global one: China, India, the United States, Russia. – ThinkAboutIt42

Let me get this straight – we’re going to ration ourselves for our 1.6-per-cent contribution to greenhouse gases while China alone continues to rapidly expand its carbon footprint? All in the name of doing our part? Have Canadians gone mad? – Puma2

I don’t see rationing as an answer.

Rationing during a time of war was necessary to ensure that troops were adequately nourished. In other words, goods were scarce and there was a desperate need for those goods to fight the war. People understood and were willing to endure the short-term pain knowing that when the war was won life would return. It was a short-term prospect.

Climate change is not equivalent. It is a very long-term problem and rationing will just breed resentment. There is a very big difference between someone agreeing to, say, less meat per week for a year or two, and someone accepting meat restrictions for the rest of their lives.

The real answer to climate problems cannot be at the end of a spear where people are told what they can and cannot have. The answer is in driving demand toward more sustainable sources. And population control has to be part of the discussion. Changes are for naught if we have another billion people on this planet in 10 to 20 years.

Consider plastic packaging, because it’s in the news. Consumer demand is shifting to less packaging and companies are responding. That is how this has to go. We can do it. – Rationalthought

‘Conservative leadership felt like an oxymoron under Andrew Scheer’s tenure,’ plus other letters to the editor

‘Assisted death is never a no questions asked scenario.’ Readers debate Canada’s law on assisted dying, plus other letters to the editor

‘Jody Wilson-Raybould could have cut this deal more than a year ago.’ Readers react as SNC-Lavalin pleads guilty to fraud, plus other letters to the editor

Open this photo in gallery:

In this Jan. 13, 1945 file photo provided by the U.S. Army, American soldiers of the 347th U.S. Infantry wear heavy winter gear as they receive rations in La Roche, Belgium.ANONYMOUS/The Associated Press

As a veteran, the title of this article [is] repellant. You have no idea what war is. – rgo29

Communism comes packaged in green now. – CK00

If you want to discourage consumption, let's start by radically reducing the amount of resources consumed by governments. You can not on one hand be worried about the environment and on the other be in favour of a government system that provides a massive incentive for consumption via wealth redistribution.

If you are going to have children, you should first have the financial resources to pay for their upbringing, health care and education. If you can’t afford this, it should not be the liability of the taxpayer. Currently we have a system where incentives are completely reversed: have as many children as you want. Not only will many things be covered, but our government will cut you a substantial monthly cheque for each child. We should be applying higher taxes to people who have children and cutting a cheque to those who don’t. That would reduce consumption pretty quickly.

Socialism and environmental conservation are incompatible. Progressives need to come to terms with this cognitive dissonance and decide which is more important. – Nome Cognome

Many people now commute long distances to reach their homes because there is no housing where their work is. In this rationed system, would they give up home heat to pay for their gas to get to work?

The lifeboat analogy is best applied to world population growth, which is one of the most significant drivers of emissions. Every extra human is an energy user, consumer and polluter, and further crowds the planet.

There are too many people already and, as a species, we are destroying the earth. The single most important thing that could be done to combat climate change would be to pull out all the stops in reaching replacement level population, if not declining population, to allow the planet to recover. Countries like Canada that are already well below replacement-level in births can aim for births plus immigration to equal no more than replacement rate.

We can also be more generous with foreign aid and target it to family planning for everyone that wants it; women’s education because it reduces the number of children and helps lift families out of poverty; clean tech transfers for sustainable power; and vaccines and clean water because it is the decent thing to do. – res ipsa loquitor

Rationing consumption addresses a symptom, not the underlying problem. Try rationing human reproduction instead. If you could get the population back to two billion people, there would be plenty for all, without rationing. – George Bay

What could possibly go wrong if the government were to manage rationing just like the Ontario government is managing the rationing of marijuana. We would all be starving in the dark, but maybe that’s what this author wants. – Sue Howard

Open this photo in gallery:

Canada's Second World War rationing didn't end when the fighting stopped. The measures were eased, but still continued until 1947 so Canadian produce could be saved for export to Britain and other battle-scarred European nations. Here, a Globe and Mail front page from August, 1947, reports the loosening of Canadian canning-sugar rations and the tightening of British meat rations.The Globe and Mail

A 20-ounce T-bone for dinner, medium rare! – Alberta Brooksy

I challenge the author to substitute “my friends and I” wherever “we” appears in this article. – AvxFx

Most of the planet is just beginning to reach middle-class status and thirst for the consumption banquet it promises (60-inch TVs, cars, Antarctic cruise, the latest crock pot, year-round access to foreign apples) and have zero interest in a postmodern Western notion of enlightened austerity to save the planet. Five billion of the poor more or less have screen access to a vision of how two billion of us have partied hard for decades. And now the entire planet plans to party hard.

So clip those coupons if you must, but the only long-term solution to saving the planet environmentally is for population control, in which there are fewer of us to party. And this applies to any environmental problem, not merely those arising from whatever the earth’s temperatures will do. If you doubt this, as an aside, note that China’s Belt and Road initiatives are chasing mineral deposits globally to build the billions of batteries required to realize our latest enthusiasm: the electric car. – jpwjpw

I’ll comment on the distribution problem: equality.

Humans being humans, who here reading this doesn’t think that rationing will devolve into something like the old Soviet Union’s approach, best summed up by George Orwell’s statement from Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” The peasants were rationed food, but the Soviet leadership received more and better food.

Think about this for a moment: Everyone will be issued a “carbon card” preloaded with an annual amount of carbon spending, but elites (who we all know have to have more resources for themselves and their families to keep the whole system running) will get a “carbon black card" with more of an allotment. For all outward appearances they are rationing just like us, but unbeknownst to us they don’t have to change their behaviour in the least.

In a nutshell, I’m not going to practice one bit of climate austerity until the leaders and elites of this country start to visibly do it themselves. – CookeV

Open this photo in gallery:

September 5th 1939: A butcher painting a meat registration notice on the window of his shop: 'Register Here Now And Be Sure Of A Good Supply Of Meat.'Fox Photos/Getty Images

Let’s start by rationing trips by climate activists and government officials to climate conferences. – El Guapo 66

I don’t believe we can change the path of climate on our planet. I certainly believe we can control our pollution. – Nancy6136

If you're proposing a ration scheme to reduce our consumption then two things are absolutely necessary for it to get off the ground:

The agreement of the rest of the First World to enforce the same terms.

A decision to bomb any developing country into the 15th century if they increase emissions in any way for any reason whatsoever.

Neither of these things are going to happen, so what the author is really proposing is that Canadians suffer so that other nations can relatively improve. – hug-ugh

Rationing = lower demand = falling GDP = economic depression = social crisis = real war. Try again. – billy112

For a start, a far simpler proposal. Ban advertising of heavily emitting products and services. The auto, travel, energy, food and other industries spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year to encourage us to create more emissions. These types of advertising are literally pouring gasoline on the climate-crisis fire.

The tobacco crisis has demonstrated that enlightened regulation of advertising, together with consumer education, can have a real and positive impact on reducing demand. We should apply the knowledge gained from the war on tobacco to the war on greenhouse-gas emissions. – RichardC3

Open this photo in gallery:

Circa 1940: A housewife at the bacon counter of a London provision store, waiting for her bacon coupons to be clipped from the ration books.Topical Press Agency/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

For 10,000 years, people dealt with scarcity: The next life is better. Deal with less.

Then along came the Renaissance, which said: This life is worth living. Closely associated with that was capitalism, which said: Have more. Having more works. Having less doesn’t work.

The only way to solve the carbon problem is to find a technological way that results in having more, not a quota that results in having less.

The capitalist cycle of labour, production, consumption and credit keeps generating more and more wealth for more and more people. We have health care, defence, education, arts and enjoyable leisure because we have the money to pay for it. And food, and lots of it. Labour in exchange for more and better is what keeps our society going. Without it, there would be trouble.

For complex reasons, capitalism failed in the 1930s. The Second World War saved it. For most in North America, the war meant finally having a job. Rations in the 1940s were better than starving in the 1930s.

So when people say, “The answer is to earn, spend and consume less,” they’re wrong. The answer is to earn, spend and consume more, and to find smarter and better ways to do it, not to deal with having less. – Excimer

I started doing this years ago: Moved to a downtown core and walk everywhere, even to work. Drive a used vehicle and only when absolutely necessary. Buy used goods off Kijiji and only new stuff when all other possibilities are exhausted. Removed meat from my diet. Refuse to use plastic wherever possible.

My thinking behind these lifestyle changes was basically this: I cannot remove myself from the choices I make. My choices define my life. If change is possible, it has to start with me. It will require personal sacrifice. It’s going to hurt. But it is something that I am willing to do to preserve the planet for my children and grandchildren.

It’s not perfect; I’m not perfect. But it’s a start, and it’s a few steps in the right direction. – CognitiveDisonnance

I do some of these things too, except I buy new and freecycle to others, drive only for groceries and kids’ activities, buy new cars and maintain and drive them for 15-plus years, and eat large parts of a 100-mile-diet.

However, I choose to do this. I do not think I should impose my lifestyle choices on others. If people like my lifestyle, they can adopt it if they want. But to make it government fiat as the author suggests is the antithesis of the free society we live in.

I come from a communist country that had a command economy. It was a corrupt and wretched place, full of human misery. The author seems to gloss over the fact that in order to make so many people live under such restrictions, you need draconian people on top who will punish them if they don’t.

History teaches us that this kind of system rewards despots or sadists, who are capable of looking at their fellow humans with little compassion, sympathy or respect, and can treat them as nothing more than cogs in the wheel. No thanks. – Freshycat

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe