Outwardly, Earth Day 2012 was like previous Earth Days. People marched and drummed down Main Street, attended the Planet Peace Café and watched environmental documentaries.
We would understand if there was a special sense of urgency this year, precipitated by the federal government’s environmental policies and questions about where Stephen Harper’s Conservatives appear to be taking Canada.
Our country has already pulled out of the Kyoto Accord. The new federal budget includes cuts to climate science studies, environmental protection monitoring and industry oversight. In the latest move, Harper has given power to himself and his cabinet to make the go/no go decisions on major energy projects, such as the Northern Gateway pipeline, that are deemed to be in the “national interest.” Furthermore, participation in the environmental review processes for those same mega-projects will be limited now to those who are directly affected. Why are we not surprised to hear there’s no current definition of “directly affected?”
Looming over the discussion is the Northern Gateway project. Oil produced in Alberta has to cross BC before it can reach Asian markets. The benefits will go to Alberta, the risks will be assumed here in BC.
Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver responds to critics by saying the government is not rubber-stamping projects for the benefit of corporate interests over environmental concerns.
“Some claim that it is an either/or proposition, the economy or the environment. We disagree,” Oliver said. “We believe the two can – and must – go together.”
We understand those complexities, but we think the government tips the balance too much in one direction when it slashes funding, changes the rules, breaks our word as a nation, dismantles checks and balances and limits opportunities for public participation.
The Conservatives are behaving like cheerleaders for mega-projects, not like leaders concerned about the economy and the environment.
When we think about Earth Day and protecting the environment that shelters and nurtures all of us, we remember the old Sesame Street song, “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” The trouble with the Conservatives is: they’re not even trying.