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> Monday, April 2nd, 2012 > Opinion > If everybody else cared about climate change, would you?
If everybody else cared about climate change, would you?
Victor de Jong
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Published: Monday, April 2nd, 2012
In light of the recent Water Week, and in keeping with the theme of this weekís issue, it seems appropriate to revisit the relationship between Canadian politics and the environment. The last time Environment Minister Peter Kent made the headlines, it was over Canadaís decision to abandon the Kyoto Protocol at a convention on climate change in South Africa. The conflict arose after Kent refused to comment on dropping out of the agreement even long after it became apparent to the international community that he intended to do so.
More recently there have been accusations that the Conservative government has been delaying, or even preventing, federal scientists from speaking with the media about research results. The research of Kristi Miller on declining fish populations remains unpublished, and other Canadian scientists are currently studying similar environmental issues, such as the impact of the Alberta tar sands. Reduced transparency of academic research is a new paradigm for both Canada and the scientific community. Scientific advancement relies on open sharing of information and any threat to it, real or perceived, reflects poorly on Canada internationally.
As per usual, the debate is being framed by government assertions that critics and the media are trying to create an issue where there isnít one. Although there may be an element of this in every political story, thereís usually a kernel of truth to these accusations as well. The Conservative government has created a political environment where presenting information that may undermine their goals is frowned upon. The official Federal agenda has several top priorities, but the obvious favourites are job creation and economic growth.
Itís difficult for a country to deal with environmental restrictions, as evidenced by Kentís actions in Durban, but itís also difficult for them to care. Environmental restrictions can result in driving up manufacturing prices and limiting the efficiency of industries. By the time any of these climate change concerns begin to manifest, however, Harper will be a portrait on the walls of Parliament. This necessitates a precarious balance. On one hand, the government needs to invest enough into environmental reform that the international community wonít condemn them, and, on the other, they cannot make environmental changes that would jeopardize the economy. You may have noticed advertisements recently aired on Canadian networks that picture a worker in the Alberta oil sands talking about how clean and safe the process is. I donít pretend to be any sort of environmental expert, but the concerns of those who are, coupled with images of stagnant sludge pools poised above fresh water sources, point to the possibility of a different message about safety.
In a democratic government, there needs to be an explicit and deliberate effort to conduct all business and research in the public eye. Any failure to do so will undoubtedly be misinterpreted by some as an attempt at secrecy, which implies wrongdoing. A concerted effort must be made on the basis of providing resources capable of informing individuals on the principles and practices being used by government. These resources should be capable of educating a person regardless of their background. While there may only be a minute percentage of the population interested in this information, their ability to access it should be guaranteed, as it is their tax dollars funding these projects.