10 January 2012

Slowing Harper's rush to environmental ruin

The federal government, it appears, is in a hurry. We cannot exploit the tar sands fast enough and bad guys are getting in the way. In an open letter to Canadians, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver declared, "Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade. Their goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth. No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydroelectric dams."

Wow—for someone who's criticizing radical groups that is quite the radical letter. Mr. Oliver went on to suggest the federal government will pursue ways to overhaul the hearings of independent regulatory bodies.

What, I wonder, is the rush. We are extracting resources from the Earth faster than it can replenish them and we are polluting it faster than it can absorb the pollution. The sensible approach at this point, if we want to avoid crashing our civilization, is to SLOW DOWN.

Slowing down development would accomplish at least four good things:

• Offer the planet more opportunity to recover from our assault on it.
• Give more sustainable technologies a chance to catch up.
• Make sure we do the proposed projects right, i.e. in the most sustainable way.
• Ensure we avoid projects that do more harm to the environment than any economic benefit warrants.

Oliver's comments came one day before federal regulatory hearings began on the Northern Gateway pipeline, designed to deliver crude from Alberta's tar sands to Kitimat, B.C. for shipment to Asia.
Over 4,300 people have signed up to address the hearing. Good for them. And good for us. This kind of interest in projects that have major environmental effects is healthy for the natural world, i.e. the world that sustains us. After all, the environment doesn't need our economy—indeed it would be vastly better off without it—but our economy ultimately depends entirely on the environment. Caring for the future of the environment is caring for the future of the economy.

Yes, in its currently depressed state the economy needs jobs, but trading jobs today for a ruined environment tomorrow is a fool's game. Unfortunately, our federal government is playing the fool

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