February 9, 2011

Still waiting for the Environment Minister to protect the environment

Fort McMurray Photo by sbamueller via Flickr

The Minister of the Environment oversees the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which states on its website: “Our role is to provide Canadians with high-quality environmental assessments that contribute to informed decision making, in support of sustainable development.”

The Agency’s commitment to sustainable development (SD) is ensconced in the preamble to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (the Act), established in 1995:

…The Government of Canada seeks to achieve sustainable development by conserving and enhancing environmental quality and by encouraging and promoting economic development that conserves and enhances environmental quality. …Environmental assessment provides an effective means of integrating environmental factors into planning and decision-making processes in a manner that promotes sustainable development.

Sounds great! To BC citizens’ delight, they blocked the Prosperity Mine development in BC (Jim Prentice’s parting gift). But since new Environment Minister Peter Kent’s appointment, all I have heard him do is defend and spew lies about the oil sands.

“I have a feel for the sensibilities of the people, of the environment,” Mr. Kent says, yet he seems clueless that the majority of Canadians are concerned about climate change, something about which his government is clearly not. Otherwise the Conservatives would be taking leadership on greenhouse gas reductions and fighting climate change. Instead, they block international consensus in order to preserve the economy — an economy that cannot function without the environment. And why is the environment the last item on Kent’s website’s quicklinks list?

Does the Minister not know his own ministry’s mandate? Minister Kent is spending more time protecting the economy than the environment, though if he did his homework, he’d understand they aren’t mutually exclusive.

Well, at least there’s some good news, from the United States.

Related post: Alberta’s tar sands a humanitarian issue, too

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Note: I am writing solely on my own behalf, and do not claim to represent the David Suzuki Foundation or its views here.

February 1, 2011

Alberta’s tar sands a humanitarian issue, too

Tar sands, 1981Tar sands excavation north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, in 1981. Despite a recession, the project continues to expand. (Photo by CanadaGood via Flickr)

Update: Alberta continues fight against EU climate measures and Environment Minister Peter Kent outright lying to Parliament.

I was first introduced to the PR paradox of “ethical oil” when my friend Ben West at the Wilderness Committee went head-to-head with former tobacco industry lobbyist Ezra Levant in a debate on the subject. In this week’s Science Matters column, David Suzuki and Faisal Moola pull apart Levant and his fellow Conservatives’ argument, saying “the ‘ethical oil’ argument they promote has >holes as big as the ones in the ground around Fort McMurray.”

The environmental impacts alone should be a no-brainer. The razing of forests just to drill releases carbon dioxide — and if allowed to expand, an area of boreal forest the size of Greece will be industrialized with little hope of reclamation. The volume of greenhouse gases emitted prevent Canada from achieving any progressive, critical targets on GHG reductions and therefore thwart global efforts to reach consensus. The world’s largest construction project, the tar sands can be seen from space, but its effects are felt right here on earth, and no more deeply than by the First Nations downriver of the project, who are seeing higher than normal rates of rare cancers caused by toxic contaminants. Fish are turning up deformed, the water is polluted, the air is polluted. I see absolutely nothing ethical about this. It’s hypocritical for the Conservatives to suggest that oil from other nations be avoided because of human rights violations or lack of democracy. There is a human rights crisis going on in Prime Minister Steven Harper’s own back yard while his so-called “Environment Minister” Peter Kent claims our source of oil is ethical.

Continue reading Alberta’s tar sands a humanitarian issue, too »