Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

Does Harper leave us room for hope?

Rachel Carson

If Rachel Carson, a biologist and author of Silent Spring, were alive today, she’d likely be one of those people that federal natural resources minister Joe Oliver would condemn as a “radical environmentalist” with “a radical ideological agenda.”


In her compelling book, published in 1962 by Houghton Mifflin, Carson warned of the deadly impact that DDT and other chemicals had on the food chain, from insects and birds to fish, the earth, and humanity itself. Her book produced a firestorm of contempt and anger from scientists, academics, and politicians. She was dismissed as an ignorant female, a fear mongerer, and someone guilty of misguided science. Yet, her vision of how toxins affect the interconnectedness of life – a concept rarely mentioned in public at the time – proved prescient and correct. Her book helped lead to the banning of DDT in North America.


A half-century later, today’s environmentalists face similar vicious bite-back and dismissal for their concern about the Northern Gateway pipeline and the potential impact of oil supertankers on the B.C. coast. How truly insulting to have politicians such as Oliver and prime minister Harper, who are supposed to be looking after the people’s interests,  demonize those who simply care about the planet’s future, fish and wildlife, and the livelihood of those who depend on both. Shame on them both.


Even our local Tory MP, John Weston, dismissed local Sunshine Coast residents who criticized the policies of Harper and the Conservative party at his recent public meeting in Sechelt. He said that these meetings attract “negative elements.” In that statement, he has shown that he holds little interest in truly listening to his voters, the community that he is supposed to represent. He has minimized the voices of concerned seniors, teens, and those of all ages in between. Shame on him.


Harper’s government repeatedly demonstrates what little value it places on the power of democracy and the value of a healthy environment. Oliver has said that only those directly affected by the Enbridge pipeline should be allowed to speak at the current National Energy Board hearings. That eliminates the voices of hundreds of citizens (and voters). He might as well say: The vote of person A is worth more than the vote of person B.


Oliver continues to strive to speed up the hearings and strip the federal Fisheries Act of regulatory teeth while Harper nuzzles closer to more oil and trade deals with China and Japan. They both make heroes of those who care about oil profits, and villains of those who want to ensure a healthy, sustainable planet. (Like the F.B.I., who harassed anti-war groups in the 1960s and 1970s, Harper is investigating environmental groups for their “foreign” support. Yet he seeks and extols the “foreign support” of Chinese investors and oil companies in Alberta’s tar sands.)


Life, the earth, and its people are far more multi-layered than the prime minister’s simplistic, dualistic model of good versus evil. Overall, Harper is a threat to democratic principles and needs to be removed from office through a vote of non-confidence.


Two days ago, at Earth Day celebrations in Roberts Creek, Donna Shugar, director of the Sunshine Coast Regional District, mentioned how challenging it is to feel hopeful in today’s environmental climate. I agree. Yet as long as people continue to speak out, protest collectively, choose to consume less and grow more organic food, exercise their vote, and support groups that work to protect our planet, we still have room for hope.

We need to take back the right to choose what is in B.C.’s public interest. Take action by writing a letter to Premier Clark (premier@gov.bc.ca), with a cc to your MLA, asking for her to take Northern Gateway off the list of projects under the Equivalency Agreement.  Once the National Energy Board submits its findings, we will have bound ourselves to it. We already know what the federal government has decided.

(Kudos to the students at Windermere High School in east Vancouver who hosted an interactive program on Earth Day.  They set up a 3-D walking course, made to scale in the same representation as some of B.C.’s coastline, and had participants, who “wore” boxes as if they were oil tankers, try to navigate the route. What a great way to bring home a message!)

For more on this subject, I heartily recommend reading Open Letter to Premier Christy Clark by Robyn Allan, posted on April 19, 2012. Allan is a former CEO and president of the Insurance Corporation of B.C.


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April 24, 2012 at 9:19 am Comments (0)

Oil and asbestos: Canada’s stance a global embarrassment

Canada is an environmental embarrassment now that it’s become the first country to renounce the Kyoto Protocol against global warming. As comedian Stephen Colbert said recently, our country will soon be known as “the Great Grey North.” And why? Because prime minister Stephen Harper, an entrenched lover of Canadian crude, is determined to expand Alberta’s tar sands and extend their reach via pipelines within and beyond our borders.


The tar sands currently produce 1.5 million barrels a day – the third-highest rate after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. (To see how the tar sands’ tailing ponds are damaging nearby waters, lands, and the livelihood of First Nations communities downriver, see the documentary White Water, Black Gold.)


Canada is the number one producer of oil to the United States. Despite the spectre of peak-oil predictions, Canada expects to more than double its oil production by 2025. The Canadian government shows no concern about not meeting its targets for greenhouse gas emissions, as defined by the Kyoto Accord; it faced $14 billion in penalties under this agreement.


Canada’s stance on asbestos is equally disgraceful. Harper’s government refuses to list asbestos as a hazardous substance under the UN Rotterdam Convention. Yet, exposure to asbestos has been proven to be the the single largest contributor to work-related cancers (100,000 to 140,000 deaths annually worldwide). The World Health Organization estimates that between 5 and 10 million people will die from asbestos-related diseases, according to grassroots media site The Dominion.

The world health community has denounced Canada for taking its position regarding asbestos. Yet, its production and related cancers continue. That’s the human cost of operating the country’s only asbestos mine in – where else? – Asbestos, Quebec.

What can we do? Speak out. Educate yourself on the issues. Write a letter to Stephen Harper and your local MP. Be aware of how your life choices affect greenhouse gas emissions. Make a commitment to reduce your carbon footprint, using a specific percentage and a target date. Join an environmental group that strives to prevent the expansion of the tar sands and the construction of oil pipelines. Donate to these groups.

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December 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm Comments (2)