The Environment: Getting Fucked Right In The Tree Hole
It’s summertime, which means you’re either toiling away at work, on vacation exploring the natural beauty of this gorgeous country (barf!), or, like me, feeling guilty about sitting inside wasting a sunny day while occasionally staring down at your disgusting body only to feel the crushing weight of shame fall over you as you recall the embarrassment felt when you last removed your shirt at the beach, so fuck it, I’ll just stay inside and read the news for you.
For those of you who are connecting with nature (by sticking your energy braid into a tree hole or whatever), I would recommend reflecting on how fortunate we are to live in a country with such pristine and awe-inspiring beauty. I wouldn’t be so affectionate about this sort of thing had I not just spent the last month on tour driving around Canada and the United States, taking in its pristine vistas and awe-inspiring traffic. I returned from tour (which was a lot of fun, thank you for asking) to find a glut of articles about the Conservatives’ omnibus budget, Bill C-38, and its alleged far-reaching effects on environmental research and regulation.
Canadian scientists and advocates are claiming the bill weakens fundamental environmental protections and stifles research that has resulted in unparalleled scientific achievements. At first glance, this doesn’t seem all that surprising from a government that, in the past, has muzzled climate scientists and a leader who has called the Kyoto Protocol "essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations.” So what exactly are all of these changes that have the hippies so furiously shaking their devil sticks at? Here’s a brief overview:
- Despite the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell recognizing that carbon pricing is inevitable, the Conservatives disbanded the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, an independent panel of experts that offers non-partisan advice to the government on sustainable development, because they kept recommending carbon pricing. Which just makes the Tories look a divorced Dad wearing skinny jeans and a trucker hat going “right, guys?”
- The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory that first detected and studied the largest ozone hole found over the Arctic will end year-round operations as a result of cuts. Let's hope the scientists can still discover massive holes in the ozone while also working part-time jobs at a cell phone kiosk in the mall.
- The internationally-renowned Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario will be shut down in a year. The research conducted at the ELA since 1968 (found nowhere else in the world) resulted in groundbreaking discoveries in farm fisheries, acid rain, and climate change.
- A language change in the Fisheries Act will affect the long-standing ban on any activity that results in the “harmful” alteration of a habitat. The ban will now only extend to any alteration that causes “serious harm.” Essentially putting the idiom “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” to the test. Which is to say that the government is probably trying to create some kind of insanely strong super fish.
- Parks Canada is being gutted like a super fish to the tune of $29-million.
- Changes to the Species At Risk Act and the process of federal environmental oversight on major resource developments have many critics concerned that the government will sign off on projects regardless of their environmental impact.
- Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver referred to opponents of resource developments like the Enbridge Pipeline as “radicals” and expressed concern that environmental charities were acting to stall economic progress because of their “foreign funding”. This resulted in the government to undergo a massive audit of environmental charities. As it turns out, most foreign money given to Canadian charities doesn’t even go to environmental groups. Forget about the fact that the majority of the oil sands ownership and profits are foreign, let’s investigate those evil charities trying to save fucking polar bears.
Okay, so that’s a shitload of pretty substantial changes to our environmental policy that would put anyone’s dreads in a knot. And there are probably more, too. The National Post’s Andrew Coyne wrote: “When the President of the United States wants to announce a major change in policy, he goes on national television. When Harper does it, he scribbles it in the margin of whatever mystery novel he’s been reading and leaves it on the bus.” Nothing is more emblematic of this statement than these huge policy shifts receiving little to no expert consultation or public debate.
So what do we take from it? The Conservative Government doesn’t care about environmental protection? Sure. That’s obvious. They have no need for evidence-based policies built on years of scientific research? Absolutely. So much so that thousands of Canadian scientists rallied in Ottawa this week to mourn the “death of evidence”. And let’s not forget that the government scrapped the long form census two years ago and recently made massive cuts to Statistics Canada. The Conservatives clearly don’t want to hear anything contrary to what they already believe. Which is normal, I can’t tell you how many libraries I've burned down after being told something I don't want to hear.
What’s perplexing, though, is the rate at which the government wants to develop our natural resources at the expense of the environment. They want to speed up the process by cutting red tape and streamlining oversight, ignoring the impact on the land, local species, and even communities. Efficiency is fine, but not when it means cutting corners. I mean, I’m not risking the destruction of entire eco-systems by using online banking.
So what’s the rush?
Perhaps after the F-35 scandal, the robocall election fraud allegations, and the NDP surging in polls the Conservatives are recognizing that their majority may be short lived. But with the unwavering arrogance they’re showing (by proposing bills like this, for instance), that seems unlikely. What’s more convincing is that the economy and job creation consistently rank as a the top issues for Canadians, so what better time to overhaul environmental policies when it’s barely on the public’s radar? Moreover, if you disguise the funding cuts as balancing the budget, and describe the changes to regulations as streamlining economic development, well then, who is going to argue with that? Not that anyone had the chance to.
Bill C-38 passed the senate at the end of June with Liberal leader Sen. James Cowen reflecting that the “examination [of the bill] was still woefully inadequate for a piece of legislation of such size and far-reaching scope”. This summer, let’s hope the senators and MPs reflect on a few things: What it means to pass such a comprehensive bill (425 pages making changes to dozens of laws) with little review. What it means to make laws ignoring evidence-based expert opinion. What it means to hinder or quash groundbreaking research. Or what it means to ignore communities and habitats for the sake of “economic development.” And while you, the reader, are lake swimming or getting drunk at a cottage this summer, take a moment to reflect on how lovely this country is, because by the time the economy straightens out, the changes will already be irreparable.