THE GALLON ENVIRONMENT LETTER
Institute for Business and the Environment
410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231
Vol. 12, No. 10, October 12, 2007
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ABOUT THIS ISSUE
Environmental education is not being done as
well as it might be in many Canadian schools. GL's assessment is that schools in
general are good at instilling environmental values but not nearly as good at
teaching environmental science, environmental economics, or environmental
policy. The result is that fairly simple things, like recycling, are taught well
but more complex challenges, like reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, remain
something of a mystery for most families and most young Canadians. In this issue
we look at some of the recent developments in school-based environmental
education that hold promise of a greener education system, and hence a greener
society, in the future. In a future issue we will review environmental education
at the post-secondary level.
In our environmental education feature, a
recent report by Dr. Roberta Bondar and others is particularly relevant.
Congratulations to the group for telling it like it is. We have a total of ten
articles about environmental education, many of which connect with our mandate
of emphasizing the link between business and the environment.
Our editorial reviews the recent Ontario
election and finds that environment was not just pushed off the agenda by the
religious school funding issue or by a biased media. There is something wrong
with the way activists address the environment issue - we make some 'helpful'
Also in this issue, our 30-second summary
section includes news of the CCME Extended Producer Responsibility Task Group
and progress in Nova Scotia, a fascinating presentation on human behaviour
('More food makes more people.'), and a reaction to our editorial on Extended
Producer Responsibility for nuclear fuel. The Canadian Council of Chief
Executives (CCCE) recently published its latest commentary on climate change -
we dissect it and dismember it! Even so, it is not all bad. We should also note
for readers who first turn to the end of each issue for our regular 'funny' that
a second 'funny' for this issue is embedded in our commentary on the CCCE
report. Happy Motoring!
While speaking of CCCE, it is one of the major
Canadian proponents of market 'certainty' when it comes to government
environmental initiatives. A court in Germany has recently ruled that the German
government has no obligation to provide certainty. If only such a court decision
would be enough to end the corporate whining!
CCCE is not the centre of the universe, though
it might aspire to that lofty goal, so this issue continues with a report from
the OECD Round Table on Sustainable Development which concludes that biofuels
may have not only fewer benefits than expected but may also be the future cause
of major inflation and world hunger.
While this is not a climate change issue of
GL, one of our three book reviews is also about climate change. We challenge the
new Jeffrey Simpson - Mark Jaccard book with the same vigour as in our review of
the CCCE climate change report. Our second book review will serve to calm your
troubled nerves - it is of a book about the 1000 year old trees of the Niagara
Escarpment. The book is truly inspirational and could be an excellent corporate
holiday gift for environment-minded companies. Our third book review, Rick
Mercer Report: The Book is nothing if not lightsome, but illustrates how
environment is, at least for now, becoming entrenched in some pretty unusual
places, including the world of Canadian political satire.
We end this issue with an important guest
column from Charles Caccia, a Bookshelf item from Dr. Laura Westra, and an
excellent idea for renewable power from Bark magazine.
In the next issue we plan an update on Great
Lakes and other Canadian water quality and water quantity issues. Meanwhile,
enjoy this issue and keep those Letters to the Editor coming. We welcome all
perspectives, whether we agree or not, and particularly solicit input from those
who disagree with our content.
ELECTION HIGHLIGHTS FLAW IN ENVIRONMENT STRATEGIES
Prior to this week's Ontario election a number
of environment and labour groups announced that they were joining forces to
ensure that environment and workplace issues would be the top issue in the
campaign. Not only did they fail to achieve this lofty goal but environment
hardly registered as an issue, though we must not forget that the Green Party
increased its share of the vote from 2% to 8%, based in part on results in a few
constituencies where the Green vote was particularly strong but still not enough
to win a seat.
The Leader of the New Democratic Party blamed
the lack of interest in the environment and other issues on media failure to
follow these issues. Others are blaming lack of coverage of the environment on
the faith-based schools funding issue that was introduced into the campaign by
the Conservative Party and which became the dominant issue.
Gallon Environment Letter has a somewhat
different perspective. Environment has never been a major issue in any Canadian
election campaign, federal or provincial, and we suspect it will be many more
campaigns before it is.
Reviewing the environment platforms of the
three major parties in this Ontario election, it is difficult to discern any
major differences. Certainly there are slight differences of tone and of the
perspectives on the relative roles of the private sector and public sector in
such areas as voluntary initiatives versus tough regulation and how many new
nuclear power plants to build but these are more nuance than major policy
Perhaps even more significantly, the leaders
of the major parties clearly do not want to talk about the environment during an
election campaign. We suggest this is because they do not know enough about it
to answer any questions but see it as a quagmire in which dramatic condemnation
from environmentalists will follow any minor mis-step.
Environmental groups are also generally weak
when it comes to political participation. Criticism of past performance is easy
but development of a comprehensive forward looking strategy against which
political platforms can be measured has been elusive. Few groups actually engage
in the campaign, either because they do not wish to offend their supporters who
come with all kinds of political views or because they understandably fear loss
of their charitable status if they become politically partisan.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell
once said that election campaigns are not the time to discuss complex issues. GL
is inclined to think that she was right. We'll go so far as to suggest that,
despite polls showing that Canadians see it as a major issue, climate change and
the environment will not be a major issue in the next federal campaign, whenever
Canadians have recognized that environment
will get short shrift in the agenda of a government from any party likely to
form a government in Canada. In light of what we see as that reality, it is GL's
view that it is time for environmentalists to adopt new strategies. Trying to
make environment an election issue is unproductive. Instead we need detailed
strategies that are so compelling and that have such broad based support that a
government of any party will adopt them as its own. Even better would be
strategies that can be implemented with a minimum of government involvement.
Toxic-free consumer products could be introduced and promoted through one or
more private eco-labelling schemes. Energy efficient vehicle owners and those
who transport themselves without owning a car could have their names placed on
an honour roll of environmentally responsible Canadians. Annual awards for
corporate environmental responsibility, with accompanying free publicity, would
achieve at least as much as lobbying for new environmental regulations. A
environment and economy roundtable of the automobile industry, labour, car
buyers, and environmentalists might be more successful in finding ways to
attract energy efficient vehicle research, development and manufacturing to
Canada than anything that government has done or is likely to do. A Green Plan
for Canada designed by industry, environmentalists, labour, and community
representatives of all political stripes is likely to achieve much more than a
federal government Green Plan developed with little consultation and containing
little more than a plan for where to throw money.
For years the environmental and business
communities have been saying that a successful environment and Sustainable
Development strategy must have carrots and sticks. The Ontario election has
shown that cajoling political leaders produces nothing akin to the social,
political and economic sea change that maintenance of an environment conducive
to today's massive human populations requires. GL suggests that it is time for
political carrots, positive environmental strategies that provide solutions
compatible with the visions that Canadian families have for their own future.
Unless we find those and present them in such a compelling manner that they are
adopted as mainstream, environment will once again disappear from the political
agenda and the earth's human population will soon be facing imminent
BONDAR: ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION ON ONTARIO SCHOOLS
In June, Dr. Roberta Bondar, Chair of the
Working Group on Environmental Education of the Curriculum Council, Ontario
Ministry of Education presented a report called Shaping Our Schools, Shaping Our
Future. The Group also had six expert educators, Dr. Eleanor Dudar, Dr. Allan
Foster, Dr. Michael Fox, Catherine Mahler, Pamela Schwartzberg, and Marlène
Walsh. The mandate was to review policies, programs and practices in Ontario,
across Canada and internationally on an environmental education policy for
Ontario schools and to make recommendations which Bondar suggests will "ensure
that our students are equipped with the skills, knowledge, and perspectives they
need to become engaged and environmentally responsible citizens.
While some of the Ontario curriculum includes
environment, there is no comprehensive approach to environmental education in
elementary and secondary Ontario schools. During the 1990s, a number of optional
courses on environmental science were eliminated. Few faculties of education
offer environmental studies for future teachers. Environmental education through
non-profit associations such as the Council for Outdoor Education in Ontario
(COEO) and the Ontario Society for Environmental Education (OSEE) has declined
dramatically. Only recently a new Program Enhancement Grant has been set up
which can be used for outdoor education. Because of little available teacher
environmental training, the ability of teachers to even deliver what is in the
curriculum on environment is limited. The report is intended to be one of
several subjects to be reviewed to contribute to revising the curriculum to meet
The report highlights some of the practices of
other jurisdictions which could be adapted for Ontario including:
Alberta: Has a science curriculum with a
multidisciplinary approach to environmental education involving outdoor
ecological investigation from Grade 2.
British Columbia: Has an interdisciplinary
guide for teachers with a conceptual framework for cross-subject environmental
learning in all classrooms and guidance on perspectives for creating
Quebec: Has targeted environmental awareness,
consumer rights and responsibilities as one of five top priorities of
California: Legislation mandates environmental
education through the Education and Environment Initiative. Curriculum plan is
being developed in consultation with scientists and technical
Minnesota: As part of a collaboration with 11
other states has set benchmarks for learning experiences for environmental
education at all grade levels.
12-State Education and Environment Roundtable:
Has a framework using environment integrated into all subjects with focus on
problem solving and learning through real-world projects.
Australia: Has a national action plan
supported by a national Environmental Education Council and a Working Group for
policy development and enhancing educational resources. In 2005, Australia
introduced a national standard for environmental education.
Finland: Based on a pilot phase 2002-2005, the
Finish strategy for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development is
proposed to be implemented not only in schools but in general, liberal, adult,
vocational, polytechnic and university education as well as research and
postgraduate programmes. Promotion of ESD is said to be taken into account in
the core funding of the different education sectors and also considered one
element of the performance management of the Ministry of Education.
Ireland: Has a framework of social,
environmental and science education integrated with the history, geography and
science curriculum. Active engagement of the students is a key
Israel: Has developed a formal curriculum
through cooperation between the ministries of education and environment. In
elementary school, environmental education is interdisciplinary while at the
secondary level, classroom study and field research is conducted with special
teachers trained in environmental issues. All educational institutions must have
formal and measurable sustainable development plans.
New Zealand: Has key principles and guidelines
for environmental education.
Sweden: Education on the environment and for
sustainable development is included in 9 out of 18 compulsory subjects. Emphasis
is on action and outside the classroom education.
UK: Has a national sustainable schools
framework with community involvement and real world learning.
Among the recommendations are:
- Apply environment to science, social studies
and geography but also to courses in other curriculum areas.
- Explore a range of environments including
built and natural environments, living and inanimate
- environments, and local, national, and global
- Engage in outdoor education and in actions
which help to improve the environment.
- Learning should take place in schools which
support environmentally sound practices.
- Leadership from within the provincial
government including the Ministry of Education, Ministries of Environment,
Energy, Natural Resources and Training, Colleges and Universities is
- The province needs to have a clear policy, a
mandated requirement on schools, investment and staff for environmental
- School boards should be supplied with
guidelines for environmentally responsible procurement, operations and
The report has many other recommendations on
collaboration with environmental experts to develop teaching guide, professional
development for teachers, facilitating access to environmental education
resources, and so on.
see links to original documents and references here.
Some groups such as FoodShare in Toronto are
emphasizing the need for food education to connect people with the land and the
farmers who produce food. Supermarkets can play a role. An ad GL hasn't seen
before by IGA shows a little kid quizzing Dad about the vegetables. Dad gets
stumped at a leafy green and a pop-up provides the answer, "Swiss Chard."
Not all educational programs do as well. One
of our colleagues commented that his 20 month-old granddaughter knows how to say
Dora but not Nana or Grandma. When GL watched the television cartoon show Dora
The Explorer, we found the counting and the repetition might be educational but
the food concepts were misleading, even after we allowed for some artistic
license such as a trail leading by the goody-bearing trees instead of the
plantations they usually grow in. Kids really shouldn't be given the idea that
you walk around and pick food for eating off trees you just happen to encounter.
The bananas were growing in exactly the size of bunches as sold in the grocery
store whereas real bananas grow in big stacks. And Dora's chocolate tree
provides pieces of chocolates ready to eat instead of cacao beans. GL wonders if
any psychologists have studied what children take away from these half-realistic
half-anything-goes shows; for sure the watchers of this show learned the wrong
things about the plants supplying the ingredients in the banana-nut-chocolate
cake Dora was going to make for her mother. As Patrick Carson stated, we need a
widely available, accurate, and equally attractive environmental television show
for the very young
One superb source of food information for
residents and visitors to the City is provided by the Montreal Botanical Garden
which features garden exhibitions of cereal crops such as winter wheat, sorghum,
and barley, a large fruit and vegetable garden including jicama which grows like
a morning glory, carrots, and Swiss chard as well as an ornamental edible garden
with herbs, coloured greens, tomato vine as tall as a person and apple trees.
The Garden uses no pesticides on lawns and integrated pest management for the
other areas. For the month of October up to Halloween, a contest with prizes for
decorating pumpkins (not cut like jack-o-lanterns but painted and glued with
additions to make faces, houses or coaches for princesses) draws kids and
parents. As well as the exhibit of these artistic-expression pumpkins in the
greenhouses, there is a display with a human interpreter of all different kinds
of pumpkins, zucchini and squashes along with recipes to promote food in
cooperation with Union des producteurs agricoles (Union of Agricultural
Producers) in Quebec.
see links to original documents and references here.
EDUCATION FOR PLANET EARTH
The magazine Green Teacher contains ideas for
education with the environment, ready to use activities for teachers and
resources for books, kits, games and other green information. One of the
articles in the summer issue #81 has activities and games on trade, human rights
and the environment and how consumer choices affect human rights. We recommend
see links to original documents and references here.
EDUCATION FOR DEVELOPMENT
Most of Nepal's rural population has no access
to education and basic services. A Nepalese NGO, Partnership for Sustainable
Development, sees youth development, especially environmental awareness, as key
so youth can use their abilities to influence and protect the environment.
PSD-Nepal seeks to alleviate poverty, promote sustainable development and
empower the underprivileged, especially women, children, youth groups and
disabled persons. Among other programs, PSD invites volunteers from all over the
world to work in communities in Nepal on construction, teaching, health care,
and nature conservation measures. Regular programs run in summer for 6 weeks,
Easter for 4 weeks, and long term for 3-5 months although PSD is willing to make
appropriate arrangements for other programs. This kind of tourism with a purpose
seems to be an increasing trend as students and people in general want to make a
meaningful contribution while working together with people of other countries
and gaining first-hand experience. PSD has developed handbooks for their three
program areas: rural community development, education and environment/nature
conservation. Among the projects are:
- construction of community toilet
- non-formal education for youth clubs.
- construction of safe drinking water wells,
hand taps and water tanks.
- improvement of environmental degradation
through tree planting.
- construction of smokeless stoves.
- teacher training
Small-scale projects are identified by local
villages and then PSD works with a partner organization called JustAid, a UK
web-based donate site, to fundraise for equipment. PSD believes that the local
community must be involved in order for projects to succeed.
Volunteer programme director Bishnu Bhatta
presented a paper at the World Forum on Early Care and Education conference in
its 8th year, held in Malaysia in May on connecting children with nature. He is
one of the two leaders from Asia on the Nature Action Collaborative for Children
which arose from the 2005 World Forum. Attendees at the WF in Montreal in 2005
heard Wil Maheia from Belize, Monique Sweeting from the Bahamas, and John and
WorldNancy Rosenow from the United States give a presentation called "Helping
Children Learn to Love the Earth Before We Ask them to Save It." The interest
eventually led to the formation of the NACC which has goals to connect children
with the natural world through nature education while at the same time
protecting them from the too much exposure to serious environmental issues such
as acid rain, whale hunting, ozone depletion and rainforest destruction until
they are developmentally ready. While middle school children most often have the
cognitive ability and understanding to deal with such issues, younger children
do not and may develop biophobia, a fear of the natural world and ecological
see links to original documents and references here.
SUPPORT FOR GREEN LEARNING
A number of companies such as BC Hydro,
Enbridge (BC), Scotiabank, Hydro One, Bullfrog Power and TransCanada, as well as
governments such as BC Ministry of Environment, Environment Canada, and the
Ontario Ministry of the Environment, are supporting GreenLearning, a web site
providing curriculum resources provided by the Pembina Institute. Curriculum
units have been developed for Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. For
example, a new unit called EnerAction for Grade 4-6 in BC and Ontario encourages
students to take action on energy issues, find out how energy conservation
affects climate change and compare their school's efforts with others. It was
pilot tested by teachers in April with launch in September.
see links to original documents and references here.
Funded by the J.W. McConnell Family
Foundation, Green Street promotes environmental stewardship among young people
across Canada. The Canadian Teachers' Federation and the Centrale des syndicats
du Québec act as English/French secretariats for the Green Street program.
Programs must meet Benchmarks for Excellence in regard to the themes, goals and
objectives of Environmental Learning and Sustainability as well as teaching
standards. The programs are delivered by Green Street-approved providers.
- Better Environmentally Sound Transportation
BEST which offers programs on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and climate
change by encouraging people to cycle, walk, carpool and use public
- Clean Nova Scotia which provides materials
for the Planet Action Club for Kids with Cool Coyote as the PACK mascot. For
ten years, the Planet Action newsletter has explored environmental topics and
helped students take action to make a difference. Sponsors of the program have
helped to ensure the newsletter is ad-free. Another program called Towards a
Brighter Future has targeted the whole school community including caretakers,
administrators, students and teachers to analyze and reduce energy use in the
school. For the 2007-08 school year, this program will be offered in French
due to support from Conserve Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia Power. Quagmire is a
role-playing game aligned with learning experiences in Grade 5-6 in Atlantic
Canada. Students have to decide whether or not to destroy a salt marsh to
build a highway or to protect the marsh.
- Safe Drinking Water Foundation.(see GL V12
No.9). Students in Grade 11 or 12 who have participated in SDWF's education
program are invited to submit entries to a contest. Submissions may be a play,
a poster with a presentation, a public forum with speakers, a song, skit or
other creative ideas on safe water. Deadline for entry April 30, 2008.
- Trout Unlimited Canada which runs the Yellow
Fish Road(TM), a storm drain marking program to show people that pouring stuff
down the drain not only toxic materials but also soapy water goes untreated
into the waterways harming fish, other aquatic life and people.
see links to original documents and references here.
SUPPORT: CRITICAL TO ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION
GL notes with interest that the Bondar report
(see separate article) recommends environmental education be a whole-system
responsibility in the sense that the leadership has to value it and make it seen
to be important. Sometimes education leaders see the importance of the
environment but the system presents hurdles which seem insurmountable. A
volunteer group of citizens in Haldimand County, from where Gallon Environment
Letter emanates, were so concerned that local students were no longer receiving
outdoor environmental education due to the closure of a Nature Centre in a
conservation area run by the Grand River Conservation Authority that they
determined to reopen it. They negotiated with the GRCA, a highly bureaucratic
organization, and fund-raised for building materials and native plants for
landscaping around the building. The Ontario Power Generation facility at
Nanticoke has been a consistent financial supporter. The volunteers also
provided sweat labour to restore the Centre and worked with the GRCA for
teachers with the needed skills. They worked with the teachers to provide such
necessities for indoor study such as specimens, for example hawks found as
road-kill and stuffed by a taxidermist, nests, rocks, snake skins and so on. In
small-population but large area rural communities, distances can be quite large
and although school boards were willing to pay the per student rate for the
lessons, lack of funding for buses turned out to be almost a deal breaker. In
the end three different school boards from a number of counties were able to
send the children for learning. It is doubtful that any educator could have
devoted the amount of time and effort that these volunteers contributed to
making their dream happen.
An interesting aside: one of the 'legacies' of
the Ontario Mike Harris Conservative government was the requirement that
students put in 40 hours of volunteer work in order to graduate from high
school. GL has always thought that mandating volunteer work is contrary to the
basic concept: to volunteer is to act on one's own free will. Also for many
small groups, organizing kids who don't want to be there is a draining waste of
time and effort. However, for the outdoor education project, the Harris mandate
turned out to be an exceptionally good idea: some of the students who came
worked very hard, were much more agile than the mostly older volunteers and were
self-motivated at solving problems such as how to put up the ceiling tiles or
plant a heavy tree in a pot. Those oldsters who were used to speaking
generically about the "younger generation" in a faintly disdainful way spoke in
superlatives about this young group.
From time to time GL's parent company provides
labour and financial support to this successful local initiative.
EDUCATION FOR STEWARDSHIP
The Nova Scotia Resource Recovery Fund Board
Inc., a non-profit corporation with a board of directors from both the private
sector and government, develops and administers industry stewardship programs,
assists in development of industries for processing materials diverted from
waste and provides incentives to residents to reduce, reuse, recycle and
compost. Public education and awareness is one of its five mandates designed to
help Nova Scotians achieve a maximum of 300 kg. of waste per person by 2015
compared to the current 488 kg.
In fiscal 2007, RRFB generated $13 million in
net revenue and of that contributed $8.3 million or 63% of net revenues to Nova
Scotia's 55 municipalities for diversion credits and funding for local
recycling, composting and other programs. Funding is available not only for
waste diversion programs but for municipal initiatives to raise awareness and
provide education. About $1.4 million was spent on education and promoting waste
reduction. The industry stewards also participate in education, for example, for
newspaper recycling, the industry contributes $200,000 each year in advertising
space each year to educate the public about environmental issues.
Resources are available for a range of
stakeholders and events:
- Teachers: RRFB provides classroom visits and
contests. The Nova Scotia Recycles Contest is supported in part by MEC and
Empire Theatres.. Schools are eligible for the Mobius Environmental Award won
in 2007 by Ecole-Le Marchant/St. Thomas School in downtown Halifax. As well as
a Green Energy Team, the school was found to be a leader in recycling,
composting and energy conservation education. The South Shore Regional School
Board adopted a comprehensive waste management policy in 2005 with multi-sort
bins inside and outside the school and classroom presentations. Not only the
school but the whole Region had the lowest waste disposal rate in the province
and possibly the country or 340 kg/per capita. It seems to demonstrate the
truth of the idea that if you can get the kids to change they will change the
- Moby S. Loop looks like a blue bin about four
feet high with big eyes and a smile but is a remote controlled robot who
speaks, shakes hands, sings songs and does a recycling dance. He comes to
schools, festivals and events to promote waste reduction.
- A team of educators hold open houses during
Environment Week and make presentations to schools, businesses and community
- Businesses: guides for quick-service
restaurants, green office, green meetings, waste audit, and success
- Residents: Guide to composting, nine
different building plans for compost bins. Details of the various recycling
programs such as beverage containers, used tires, paint, derelict vehicles,
safe sharps bring-back, household hazardous waste disposal. Mandated clear
plastic bags in the six municipalities of the eastern region led to an almost
immediate increase in recycling.
- Education is also foreseen for operators of
the depot systems with new standards, specifications and standards manuals.
There are 83 Enviro-Depots in the province.
- Apartment dwellers: People who live in
apartments tend to do less source separation and some of the foreign students
attending Acadia University aren't used to recycling at all. The local
municipality worked on an education program for apartment owners and with
staff and students at the University including translating recycling brochures
into Mandarin. The partnership turned out to improve apartment recycling
As part of its 3-year strategy plan, in 2008,
the RRFB intends to complete a first phase of evaluating its education and
awareness programs. In addition it intends to work with the Nova Scotia
Department of Education to develop and implement a waste reduction curriculum in
NS schools with a pilot curriculum in select NS schools by 2010.
see links to original documents and references here.
CONSUMERS ABOUT RISK
Educating consumers about health and
environmental risks is key to changing behaviours of both consumers and the
companies which supply products and technology. However scientists often give
explanations too difficult for non-specialists to understand. For this reason,
the European Union's Public Health division provides summaries of scientific
opinion in more easily understood language for three non-food Scientific
Committees: Consumer Products, Health and Environmental Risks, and Emerging and
Newly Identified Health Risks. The summaries can be accessed as various levels
through a questions and answers approach: 1. an overall summary which also
provides a context for example, what is nanotechnology? 2. detail based on
various questions 3. more detail from the source as well as links to the
original source and other references. The three level summary is copyrighted by
Greenfacts which is contracted to produces the consumer risk assessment. Unlike
this site, Canadian government summaries for lay people sometimes do not make
the original scientific document available online. The Greenfact template
ensures all the pieces are made available but seems somewhat complicated in
there being many links to click for "more" information.
Among the summary sheets 2006-2007
UV radiation and sunbeds: Sunbeds have some
positive benefits because UVB exposure may increase vitamin D levels. Although
some people say they feel better, there is no evidence in biochemistry for this.
Risks include sunburn, inflammation of the eye, cataracts, melanoma of the eye
and different kinds of skin cancer. UV radiation is thought to reduce the
functioning of the immune system which may lead to cancer and infectious
diseases. Risk factors for malignant melanoma are age, gender, skin type, moles,
freckles and family history. Sunburning intermittently especially when young is
also a factor. Annual dose limits are given as guides although there is no level
at which skin cancer risk is reduced. Use of sunbeds is likely to increase the
risk of malignant melanoma of the skin, and possibly skin cancer. Those under
the age of 18 should not use sunbeds as exposure while young increases risk. Eye
protection should be worn while on a sunbed.
Tooth Whitening: With up to 0.1% hydrogen
peroxide, use of tooth whiteners are safe. Under supervision of a dentist with
proper use, they are considered safe from between 0.1% to 6% hydrogen peroxide
but not if sold as over-the-counter. Self-diagnosis is a risk. Conditions such
as gingivitis, other periodontal disease, defective restorations, dental tissue
injury, use of tobacco and alcohol may increase the toxic effects of hydrogen
peroxide. Tooth whiteners are not recommended for those under 18. Tooth
whiteners can cause harm though tooth sensitivity, irritation, erosion of
enamel, increasing exposure to mercury due to changes in amalgam, and
interacting with the resin of composite tooth restorations.
Nanotechnology: These are technologies which
are tiny measured by a nanometre (millionths of a millimetre). The summary
provides a link to a list of 580 consumer products such as home furnishings,
computer hardware, cleaners, sporting goods, cosmetics, wound dressings,
coatings, pet products, table ware, etc. The technology is being used to make
scratchproof eyeglasses, crack-resistant paint, anti-graffiti coatings,
stain-repellent fabrics, self-cleaning windows and in health care to deliver
drugs and gene therapy and conduct microsurgery. Nanoparticles are so small they
can get inside the human, for example through the skin through use of cosmetics
with nanoparticles, even inside cells and molecules persisting over a long time.
They can be inhaled and move around into the brain, the fetus and may become
toxic or cause lung or heart disease. There is so little information about the
effects that scientists cannot draw generalized conclusions but require specific
studies for the various uses, getting increasingly widespread. How to measure
exposure is still unknown. At a small scale, chemicals may interact with living
organisms differently than larger forms of the same chemical so separate studies
are needed for nano-scale chemicals. Very little is known about how living
beings or the environment respond to nanoparticles. Diesel fumes also contain
nanoparticles. The scientists do not know if the current methods for assessing
hazards are sufficient when applied to nanotechnology and need to modify or
develop new methods. The risk is highest with free nanoparticles rather than
those which are part of larger (although still very small)
see links to original documents and references here.
GETS GREEN SCHOOLS
Last year California voters supported a ballot
initiative (referendum) to allocate $100 million to more energy and resource
efficient "green" classrooms in public schools. As a result, Governor
Schwarzenegger signed an Executive Order to implement the State's Green Building
Initiative that provides funding for schools built with State funds to be
resource- and energy-efficient.
The High Performance Incentive Grant program
will promote the use of high performance materials and features in new
construction and modernization of projects for K-12 schools. These include
designs and materials that promote energy and water efficiency, maximize the use
of natural lighting, improve indoor air quality, use recycled materials and
materials that emit a minimum of toxic substances, and feature acoustics that
help the teaching and learning process.
see links to original documents and references here.
CANADA: ENFORCEMENT SCHOOL
Algonquin College partners with Environment
Canada to provide nine-week Basic Enforcement Training for Environment Canada
officers. Environment Minister John Baird congratulated fifteen graduates in
July who returned to Environment Canada better informed. The program covers
requirements and offences under potential offences under a number of Acts and
Regulations including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999; the
Species at Risk Act (SARA); the pollution provisions of Canada's Fisheries Act;
the Migratory Birds Act and Regulation; and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection
and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA). Some of the
officers who are attending also evaluate the content of BET is areas in which
they specialize, for example two Wildlife Enforcement Division staff Ian
Amirault-Langlais and Hugh O'Neill from Atlantic Canada evaluated the course as
it applies to the Wildlife Enforcement Division.
see links to original documents and references here.
Volkswagen works with the environmental group
German Society for Nature Conservation NABU to promote climate and the
environment. The company and the NGO organize fuel saving training sessions for
free throughout Germany to help drivers save up to 25% of fuel by driving
differently. For the first time, Volkswagen invited NABU to join the company's
exhibit at the international auto show in Frankfurt Germany in September. One
auto industry commentator on the trade show observed that fuel efficiency and
climate change replaced, at least temporarily, industry buzzwords such as
horsepower and torque.
Volkswagen is also encouraging youth to think
about transport for the future. "Judend denkt Zukunft" (Young People Think of
the Future) is a industry-school partnership for students age 9-12 who play
innovation games simulating a process which Volkswagen conducts in its
facilities identifying social megatrends, and trends for the automobile sector.
The ideas of products and services of the students for mobility and
driver-assisted systems are subjected to practical checks such as technical
feasibility, how to market and potential acceptance in the marketplace, and
viability of financing. UNESCO has declared the program an official project of
the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.
Volkswagen has released its 2nd Group
Sustainability Report. Driver. The Group offers 54 vehicles with CO2 emissions
less than 140 g per kilometre and eleven of these have CO2 emissions of less
that 120 g per kilometre. The company says that therefore many of its models
already meet the voluntary 140 g per kilometre agreed to between the European
Automobile Manufacturers' Association and the EU. Unlike what most companies
would do, under a section called Highlights and Lowlights, Volkswagen identifies
a campaign against it by BUND (Friends of the Earth, Germany) in November 2006
which accused the company of auto models which harm the climate.
see links to original documents and references here.
Bob Kenney, Solid Waste-Resource Analyst of
the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Environment is Nova Scotia's
representative on the Extended Producer Responsibility Task Group of the
Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment CCME. In June 2007, CCME
endorsed the Canada-wide principles for extended producer responsibility with
packaging as a first priority. Nova Scotia is leading in Canada in terms of
recycling, he told GL, as documented by Statistics Canada due to a diverse
approach including industry stewardship, education, legislation, research and
development, innovation and incentives (see separate article on RRFP). Asphalt
roof shingles are processed by separating the flake paper which is sent to
LaFarge cement for fuel while the asphalt is reused for pavement. Mattresses are
taken apart. and the elements which can be are recycled. Probably the biggest
innovation is that funding serves as an incentive to municipalities to recycle:
those which divert more get more leaving less for those not diverting as
Babooram, Avani and Jennie Wang. Recycling in
Canada. EnviroStats Summer 2007. p3-
Dr Russ Hopfenburg of Duke University writes,
"A narrated version of a special seminar that I delivered at Cornell University,
entitled "World Food & Human Population Growth," has been posted online.
This presentation is pertinent to the goals of the Gallon Environment Letter. I
invite you to view the 33 minute presentation at http://www.panearth.org. I hope you will be inclined to share this show with
your readership." Hopfenburg suggests that humans tend to believe that we behave
the way we do because we are humans. In fact we are motivated by the same forces
as other species. The carrying capacity for humans depends on the availability
of food just as it does for other species. Agriculture has enabled humans to
make more food. Total food production increased 1.5 times while the number of
people doubled from 3 billion to 6 billion. More food makes more
Russell Hopfenberg, Ph.D. is Consulting
Associate in Medical Psychology Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral
Sciences, Duke University.
World Food and Human Population Growth
narrated by Russ & Edie Hopfenburg
In regard to the GL V12 No.9 editorial on
Extended Responsibility for Spent Nuclear Fuel, Jamie Kneen writes, "Question:
If the fuel rods are produced in the US from Canadian uranium and Brazilian
steel, whose responsibility are they? My point: I've never heard of EPR starting
from raw commodities until you mentioned it. But intriguing. What of all the
asbestos, lead, nickel etc. we produce and where it ends up?"
Jamie Kneen Communications & Outreach
Coordinator (613) 569-3439 MiningWatch Canada 250 City Centre Ave., Suite 508
Ottawa, Ontario K1R 6K7 http://www.miningwatch.ca
BUSINESS: WAIT FOR CONSENSUS ON CLIMATE CHANGE
The Canadian Council of Chief Executives,
formerly known as the Business Council on National Issues, recently issued a
press release based on a task force report about climate change. The news story
says CEOs call for "aggressive action on climate change." To GL this is
eco-rhetoric roughly equivalent to the 'aspirational targets' of the recent APEC
meeting. Thomas d'Aquino, CEO of CCCE, an organization which includes members
from big oil and the oil sands, has from time to time presented his organization
as pro-environment but not always. When Russia ratified the Kyoto Protocol,
d'Aquino was recommending reduced targets, longer time periods and more from
developing countries, or as Hugh Windsor, a Globe and Mail columnist said,
"tightening the screws on the Third World." (See Celebrating Coming Into Force
of the Kyoto Protocol Feb. 10, 2005 GL10N3). In other circumstances D'Aquino has
spoken in favour of environmental and social responsibility, for example.
rejecting the idea that CEOs should care only about profit as claptrap, rather
responsible business is good business. (Corporation - The Movie April 7, 2004
GLV9N7). The Council's Vice-President, John Dillon, has for many years been one
of Canada's leaders in understanding of Sustainable Development and policy tools
for climate change.
However, the current document seems more like
support for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol
rather than a forward-looking commitment to climate change action from Canada's
major corporations. The "aggressive action" promoted by CCCE is mostly the same
old negative agenda: ditch the Kyoto Protocol, level the playing field, wait
until "we" all agree, don't pick on business, action will cost way too much,
can't be done in Canada until the whole world does it, it's not fair, give us
money to do it, business is doing their part - it's the government messing up,
and so on. When industry wants to delay, consensus gets put on the agenda even
though consensus tends not to feature large in classical capitalism. The Kyoto
Protocol may be the closest we get to consensus on action for climate change. If
this report is a call for action, it is not for the business community but for
On the more positive side, the CCCE report is
a worthwhile to read for its perspective on the business view of the most
powerful companies in Canada. The good news, if there is any, is that CCCE is
today not as negative as some of its members have been in the past.
Five key elements of the CCCE 'action plan'
- a national plan with "governments, industry
and consumers working together towards shared goals."
- investment in new technologies with reduced
- targets "framed within a policy environment
that keeps companies healthy and profitable and that both encourages and
enables increased investment in new technologies."
- price signals for businesses and individuals
such as emissions trading and environmental taxation.
- Canadian leadership globally to "ensure the
participation of all major emitting countries."
Among the points which CCCE makes
- "Individual companies and industry sectors
have made considerable progress." GL suggests not a lot, as emissions have
- It is the various levels of governments that
haven't worked together. GL suggests that, in Canada, waiting for governments
to work together is worse than watching paint dry.
- Waste of time on debating a national target
which is not realistic or achievable. GL suggests that it would not have been
a waste of time had CCCE members accepted their responsibility to help develop
a national plan when Canada first engaged with the Kyoto Protocol. In 2013 the
international community may well impose sanctions on Canada, for our failure
to even try to meet Kyoto targets; those sanctions may impact very severely on
our international competitive position.
- "We all contribute to the creation of GHG
emissions and nothing meaningful will happen unless we all take our share of
the responsibility." GL agrees but points out that it is industry, and in
particular the oil and gas industry, that has failed more than any other
sector to take its share of the responsibility.
- The Alberta proposal for a technology fund to
finance cleaner technologies is good. Business would like it for the longer
term not just the short term as under the current federal climate-change plan.
GL is not opposed in principle to government subsidies for socially
responsible business activities but continues to be concerned about the
comparative size of subsidies to the oil, gas and nuclear industries when
compared to the size of subsidies to the renewable and conservation
- The intensity targets are too high, higher
than competitors in the same industries in other countries. GL wonders why
CCCE has not proposed alternate targets and whether major corporations would
actually be happy with any government mandated emissions reduction
- Instead of targets, "a more flexible,
bottom-up approach." Sensibly, GL wonders whether the majority of CCCE members
would reduce emissions except so far as they benefit from co-benefits such as
savings in energy costs or from increased market access due to consumer/supply
chain preference for environmentally improved technology or products. More
cynically, GL has to wonder whether CCCE actually reads its reports before
publishing them. We can agree that the Canadian government should buy into
CCCE's proposal for a "a more flexible, bottom-up approach" by which we might
suggest that the CCCE should have its members present their bottoms for
application of a more flexible approach.
- Absolute goals are needed but shouldn't
penalize firms in the short term. GL agrees: a climate plan should present
opportunities for firms to change.
- Companies need to know that the rules are on
which investments are made will not be changed arbitrarily and should reward
early action rather than penalize. GL agrees again: a plan should guide
climate policy. Changes will be needed over time but changes should not be
arbitrary but fulfill specific longer term goals.
- "Market forces alone, however, are unlikely
to be sufficient to meet the challenge of climate change." GL agrees yet
again, but the fact that market forces are not a silver bullet should not mean
that they are not applied at all.
- Emissions trading attractive in theory but
have challenges such as fairness in regard to the overall cap set initially by
government, domestic companies may be made uncompetitive, credits need to have
assurances that the reduction in emissions were achieved, liquidity problems
such as excess supply or demand if markets are too regional and wide
fluctuations in price could create high level of uncertainty for investors. GL
is a fan of emissions trading, agrees that good design for emissions trading
is important but wonders whether the convoluted conditions demonstrate a split
vote among CCCE members.
- CCCE isn't proposing a carbon tax but if
environmental taxation is used to send signals it shouldn't discriminate
against any particular sector. GL suggests that CCCE still does not get it.
The idea of taxing carbon is inherently discriminatory - against high
greenhouse gas emitting industries.
- Canada can play a leadership role in Post
2012 climate change action which will require the participation of all major
emitting nations. GL reminds CCCE that the Kyoto agreement was intended to
show leadership on the part of Canada and other industrialized countries.
Canada failed to show such leadership and lacks the credibility to call for
commitments from other countries where curtailing energy use stops poor people
from achieving even a small portion of the standard of living most Canadians
GL agrees the lack of a climate change plan
which government actually implements has set back effective emission reductions:
a number of forward looking companies were ready to make such reductions but
didn't follow through because of lack of rules. Many of the companies
contributing to this report have been key to lobbying to make sure that the
governments do not implement such plans. Some level of certainty over the long
term is also desirable but difficult to guarantee (see story on Biofuels). Also
important is good design of programs to achieve greenhouse gas reductions rather
than tie companies up in costly bureaucracy. Competitiveness is important but
evidence is growing that economic well-being may depend on how well greenhouse
gas emissions are controlled.
Members of Task
Force on Environmental Leadership
M. Elyse Allan President and Chief Executive
Officer General Electric Canada
Jean Bernier President Ultramar
Ron A. Brenneman President and Chief Executive
Marcel R. Coutu President and Chief Executive
Officer Canadian Oil Sands Limited
Dominic D'Alessandroo President and Chief
Executive Officer Manulife Financial
Thomas d'Aquino Chief Executive and President
Canadian Council of Chief Executives
Arthur A. DeFehr President and Chief Executive
Officer Palliser Furniture Ltd.
Paul Desmarais, Jr. Chairman and Co-Chief
Executive Officer Power Corporation of Canada
N. Murray Edwards President Edco Financial
Richard B. Evans President and Chief Executive
Officer Alcan Inc.
Kenneth E. Field Chairman and Chief Executive
Officer GreenField Ethanol Inc.
Dan J. Fortin President IBM Canada
Richard L. George President and Chief
Executive Officer Suncor Energy Inc.
Fred Green President and Chief Executive
Officer Canadian Pacific Railway Company
Linda S. Hasenfratz Chief Executive Officer
Duncan Hawthorne President and Chief Executive
Officer Bruce Power
Tim J. Hearn Chairman, President and Chief
Executive Officer Imperial Oil Limited
J. Jeff Johnston President Dow Chemical Canada
Deryk I. King Chairman and Chief Executive
Officer Direct Energy
Jim Kinnear President and Chief Executive
Officer Pengrowth Management Limited
Jacques Lamarreo President and Chief Executive
Officer SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.
Donald R. Lindsay President and Chief
Executive Officer Teck Cominco Limited
Jeffrey M. Lipton President and Chief
Executive Officer NOVA Chemicals
Ronald N. Mannix Chairman Coril Holdings
Gordon M. Nixono President and Chief Executive
Officer Royal Bank of Canada
David J. Paterson Chairman, President and
Chief Executive Officer Bowater Incorporated
Hartley T. Richardsono President and Chief
Executive Officer James Richardson & Sons, Limited
Joseph L. Rotman Chairman Amaranth Resources
Stephen G. Snyder President and Chief
Executive Officer TransAlta Corporation
Guy J. Turcotte President and Chief Executive
Officer Stone Creek Properties Inc.
Annette Verschureno President The Home Depot
William B. White President E.I. du Pont Canada
Michael M. Wilson President and Chief
Executive Officer Agrium Inc.
see links to original documents and references here.
NO CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO CERTAINTY
As discussed in the article in this GL about
the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, business routinely argues that it
seeks certainty. Generally GL would agree that governments should set a longer
term of planning to get better results; however, there are no guarantees. In
Germany, 29 companies sought to hold the German government to continue its tax
exemption for biofuels. Germany amended its Mineral Oil Tax Law and other laws
in 2002 to benefit alternate energy including biofuels which were exempted from
the oil tax from January 2004 until the end of 2009. Instead, Germany eliminated
the tax exemption for biofuels and implemented a tax escalating to 2012. As of
January 1, 2007, a quota requires a certain mix of diesel-biodiesel blends with
taxes required. The legislators believe that the blend requirements are
sufficient market incentives for a growing biofuel market to offset the
potential negative effects of taxes. The industry says that it is insufficient
and have closed a number of biofuel plants.
The plaintiffs argued that the taxes
threatened their livelihood; that the promise of long term tax exemptions led
them to invest and that the new tax law is a breach of trust. The court ruled
that today's tax exemption has no constitutional requirement to be continued
into the future, compensation for higher taxes should not be expected and the
constitution gives no rights to success in the marketplace or right to
see links to original documents and references here.
TABLE: BIOFUEL SUBSIDIES OFTEN HARMFUL
The OECD Round Table on Sustainable
Development released a report on biofuels which conclude that biofuels may have
fewer benefits than expected. Canadian Jack Sadler, Dean of the Faculty of
Forestry at the University of British Columbia, was among those who provided
comment on the draft paper. Even in Brazil, "the most cost effective ethanol
producer in the world", selling the sugar is more profitable than selling the
ethanol made from sugar. Biofuels will increase the price of oil for the
agricultural market, increasing both production costs for agriculture and for
biofuels and will increase the price of food between 20%-50% over the next ten
years. Consequences of conversion of land look modest e.g. best case scenario of
the World Energy Outlook projects 3.8% of arable land in the world used for
biofuels. At a regional level effects could be dramatic as land is drawn away
from crops for food, animal feed and fibre. While vehicle emissions are lower
than for fossil fuels, environmental impacts from agricultural production are
seen as very high "in terms of soil acidification and excessive fertilizer use,
biodiversity loss, air pollution caused by slash-and-burn and the toxicity of
Governments have provided subsidies for both
production of biofuels and reduced taxes for biofuel sales. Generally subsidies
for biofuels tend not to adjust support based on improved environmental
benefits. In fact, in the US, the biodiesel excise tax credit is twice as high
if the biodiesel is produced from virgin vegetable oils and tallow than if made
from used cooking oil. And in Brazil, subsidies favour local producers in
economically disadvantaged regions which may result in higher negative
environmental impact. Some subsidies are justified on the premise that biofuels
help contribute to domestic energy security but that depends on how much
petroleum it takes to produce each litre of biofuel. Subsidies for biofuels go
not to experimental pilot projects but to mature first-generation manufacturing
plants. The cost of reducing a unit of CO2 through these plants through subsidy,
for example in the US, is over $500 per tonne of CO2 equivalent; it would be far
more effective to purchase CO2 offsets at market price.
Some governments are changing their
preferential tax treatments of biofuels. The
Swiss have a new Mineral Fuel Tax to be in effect in 2008 with tax benefits
based on criteria and proof. Switzerland
will allow beneficial taxes if the biofuel has not only a positive greenhouse
gas balance but achieves a certain environmental score when compared to its
fossil fuel alternative such as gasoline. Most biofuels have an overall
environmental performance worse than gasoline. When biodiesel is made from waste
materials such as recycled cooking oils, its score is better than gasoline. Most
biofuels made from woody biomass rated better than gasoline. In The Netherlands there is a proposal for a new subsidy
scheme with one proposed criteria banning biomass production with high risk of
significant carbon losses. The EU is planning for minimum sustainablity
standards for biofuels. In the UK beginning in 2008, biofuel companies must
submit reports on net greenhouse gas savings and sustainability of the biofuels
supplied. Some of these new rules may be subject to contest under the World
The report recommends that governments stop
issuing new mandates for biofuels and find ways to phase out the old mandates.
The mandates provide certainty to the investors but transfers risk to other
sectors and financial investors. Mandates mean that fuel which cannot be made in
a sustainable way will still be produced. Subsidies also reduce the price of
fuel sending the wrong signal to drivers about the real cost of fuel
consumption. Taxing fuels for the externalities they create would be best.
Governments are providing millions of dollars to an industry about which they
know very little. Subsidies encourage expensive investment in inefficient
Other recommendations include:
- Use standards to link any tax exemptions or
subsidies Brazil has certification Social Fuel Seal to take into account
regional social imbalances and agro-ecological potential. Certification yields
different rates of taxation for biodiesel but is only available to Brazilian
- Governments should remove import tariffs on
biofuels as many developing countries have a comparative advantage.
- Reduce chance of overcompensation by
investing at the R&D level rather than at first generation. For example,
the US Energy Policy of 2005 calls for reverse auctions for cellulosic ethanol
production so the bidder needing the lowest amount of public money gets the
- Conservation or the demand side should get
more attention than the supply side. A litre of gasoline saved is much cheaper
than subsidising inefficient new sources of supply.
- Even the best scenario projects no more than
13% of the liquid fuel need replaced by biofuels by 2050. Instead of diverting
such large sums of public money on a single technology, the report suggests
"Given that a much larger supply of clean transportation energy will be needed
than biofuels can supply, governments need to apply their regulatory
interventions and fiscal resources in ways that enable the widest array of
technology options to compete."
see links to original documents and references here.
Written by well-known policy commentator
Jeffrey Simpson, well-known Simon Fraser University resource economist Mark
Jaccard, and writer and engineer Nic Rivers, the book Hot Air: Meeting Canada's
Climate Change Challenge can only be described as a very odd commentary. On one
level it seems to be calling for strong Canadian government action on climate
change but on another it criticizes targets, the Kyoto protocol, and trying to
get closer to meeting Canada's Kyoto targets in the near term. We're not too
late, we are too late. Education is no good but education is necessary. Targets
are no good but targets are necessary. Get started now, tougher measures not now
but down the road. It is almost as if the book was written by a committee,
albeit a rather interesting committee.
Coming from the right side of the political
spectrum, the book vehemently and, GL thinks, ironically, calls for stern
government involvement through regulation and market-based economic instruments.
Jeffrey Simpson, a journalist of much renown with an Order of Canada has been
national affairs columnist at the Globe and Mail, a major national newspaper
with a generally pro-business view, since 1984. Despite writing for the past two
decades, Simpson doesn't have many (GL couldn't find any but is open to
evidence) columns supporting Kyoto so it seems inappropriate for him to harp
quite so much on it being too late for meeting our Kyoto commitments. The Globe
and Mail has been one of the media which has consistently published the views of
climate sceptics to "balance' the stories of the science of climate change. The
media gets off very lightly in this book although the national papers have
played a significant role in confusing the public and politicians. Business also
gets only a slight slap for funding climate change skeptics.
Mark Jaccard previously authored a book on
sustainable use of fossil fuels for which he won an award from the right-leaning
Donner Foundation (GL V11 No. 13, November 13, 2006). Possibly because of this,
the Conservative government appointed him to the National Round Table on the
Environment and the Economy, an advisory group to the government which has
recently been described in media stories as a watchdog (not its original
mandate). However, through this new book Jaccard has clearly bitten the hand of
those who appointed him to NRTEE.
On one level, the book seems to be
pro-environment by taking a strip off every politician since the 1980s about
their "green plans" and lack of implementation to deal with climate change.
Brian Mulroney is given least blame, apparently not because of any outstanding
green performance but because he was prime minister during the 1980s at the very
beginning of climate change policy development. The authors use a model to
produce evidence that most of the plans wouldn't have succeeded anyway but
without peer-review information, the reader is left wondering about the
conclusions as number crunching is done off-stage in a black box. The authors
criticize loopholes in the large final emitters legislation, advocate market
instruments such as carbon taxes, carbon management standards, an upstream cap
and trade system, emissions cap and trade system for large emissions, taxes for
small emitters and households among other options. On this level, the call for
action is very encouraging and good to hear.
On the other level, the authors seem to
believe that somehow, despite its poor climate change performance, Canada can
still lead by abandoning its international commitment under Kyoto. The authors
are so keen to abandon Kyoto that they continually attack setting targets
calling the desire of politicians to set targets as 'targetitis'. They
themselves suggest what are essentially targets but so vague as to be
unmeasurable e.g. on page 248, "We need to reduce our GHG emissions by half, or
more, starting now and heading into the next decade, and continuing for many
decades thereafter." GL asks by half from what?, by when? Another national
affairs columnist, James Travers, writing for the Torstar newspapers takes a
more considered view saying that targets are essential, "Consultants, CEOs and
yes, Conservatives, insist that you can't manage what you don't measure. But
when it comes to climate change, Stephen Harper doesn't want to measure what he
doesn't want to manage."
Smell Test of
In the book is an eight-item checklist which
should have been edited out. It is supposed to act as a smell test to
distinguish between"serious talk" and "false promises". Among these
If politicians propose targets but do not
detail how these are to be achieved, this is failure.
necessarily so. In many ways, it is better if government doesn't get too much
involved in the detail of how to achieve targets e.g. one of the complaints by
business is that governments micromanage by specifying certain types of
technology when other types are more efficient and less costly. Targets do need
to have plans about what happens if the targets aren't met.
If politicians insist that behavioural change
by individuals alone will solve the climate change problem, assume
is a strawman which the authors are kicking at. There is general agreement that
all parts of society need to participate.
If politicians complain about jurisdictional
constraints, assume failure
GL: Federal-provincial and municipal relations
do provide constraints and politicians do blame other jurisdictions for lack of
action or for taking certain types of actions. That's a reality but when there
is political will, these jurisdictions in Canada often are able to negotiate
agreements that succeed despite the initial or ongoing complaints.
If politicians crisscross the country or their
province handing out subsidies and offering photo opportunities of themselves in
front of wind tunnels, research laboratories or corn fields, assume
GL: This is a rant which combines a couple of
themes which aren't necessarily connected. Although GL agrees that subsidies are
often environmentally harmful, some subsidies are useful to develop domestic
capacity for environmental improvement. Photo ops are not entirely bad as they
send a signal that the government is aware of and supports environmentally
preferable development. One of the problems GL has had with corporations and
government is that often they fail to communicate about steps they are taking in
the right environmental direction.
If politicians insist that Canada can meet its
Kyoto commitment, offer the benefit of the doubt that they are not lying just
GL thinks effort and getting somewhat closer
will stand Canada in good stead to reducing the penalties which Canada can
expect to have assigned to it for breaching its legal contract under
international law. In principle, GL agrees with the concept suggested which is
toughen up requirements in the future but can't understand the point of no
interim, short-term and long-term targets. It is like some diet book which might
promise to help you lose 50 pounds without ever losing 10 pounds. It just cannot
be done: instead by trying to meet our Kyoto targets we will set the stage for
those future emission reductions.
see links to original documents and references here.
STAND: CAN'T SEE THE TREES FOR THE CLIFF
The Last Stand is about the old growth forest
growing on the Niagara Escarpment written by Doug Larson with photos and more by
Peter Kelly with a foreword by singer Sarah Harmer (GL V10 No. 22 December 15,
2005). The Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, stretches 735
kilometres in Ontario from Niagara to Tobermory. On the cliff face is a forest,
an ancient forest of stunted eastern white cedars with a 2,767 year chronology
and the age distribution of old growth forest with many more youngsters and only
a few very old trees. It is connected to an ecological system which includes
lichens, liverworts, mosses and ferns. But unlike the majestic sequoias or other
big trees, these old trees are gnarled, twisted and some look like they are
barely alive. They can't be described as tall because the seed usually lands on
a shaded crack in the rocks and then the tree grows downwards due to the pull of
gravity and around towards the light. In fact, the photos are often accidently
printed upside down. The trees are rarely as much as seven metres in length,
most of them could fit into a the height of a living room. Ironically a
biological study of the Bruce Peninsula in 1963 concluded that "there is nothing
botanically outstanding about the forest cover of the Bruce, at least the trees
themselves." A 1985 biological study of the Mount Nemo area near Burlington made
no mention of the trees.
Although Doug Larson of the University of
Guelph in the mid-1980s had become a world expert on lichens growing on cliffs,
funders told him that lichen research was not a priority. So he brought together
a small group, Uta Matthes and Ruth Bartlett both with doctorates in ecology
along with graduate student Steve Spring and others to form the Cliff Research
Group. One of the research topics they set out to explore was the effect of
hiking on the ecology of the cliffs; it turns out that virtually no one had done
any ecological research on the cliffs themselves and not much on the Niagara
Escarpment either. They didn't expect to find what they did but began to compare
sites where hiking took place (disturbed site) with a site without trails
(undisturbed site). They assumed that the trees were second or third growth like
all the other forests in Ontario. Larson used a borer to remove a pencil-shaped
wood sample from a living tree and some tree debris from the rock fall (talus)
at the cliff bottom. After overcoming the difficulty of reading the rings
because the density of rings was so high, the count came to 400; one ring per
year meant these trees were 400 years old. At first they thought only this
location was old but a map included in the book shows other clusters all the way
to Tobermory. A couple of dead trees in the talus were 1,032 years old and one
was 1,890 years, the oldest ever documented in Canada. The oldest yellow cedar
in British Columbia are about 1,300 years old. The work of researching and
documenting this forest is challenging as it requires rock climbing, threats
from bee hives, and the talus is often greasy slippery when wet. Kelly learned
how to secure his camera but one expensive camera dropped to smash on the rocks
below. As well as the photos of trees, a number of which are described
individually, there are detailed pictures such as of tree cross-sections, and
spectacular cliff views. The background grey sketches on some of the printed
pages are very attractive: each one is a unique tree some of which are named
such as Amputee which has various branches cut off.
There is still no protection for this forest
and the authors express some rage at how vulnerable these trees are, "If we
can't recognize the importance of one thousand year-old trees in the heart of an
increasingly urbanized southern Ontario, what hope have we got for protecting
anything else." Large scale development could be a future threat but an
immediate threat is rock climbing. Rock climbers are the only ones which come in
direct contact with the oldest trees on the cliff face and can cause
considerable damage; a growing number of people are taking up climbing. Nobody
has ever restricted climbers about where they can climb before on the
Escarpment. The authors say that the Niagara Escarpment is "more than just an
outdoor climbing gym. It is a living ecosystem that is vulnerable to human
impact and it represents part of the 17% of the earth's surface that has not
been converted to human uses."
In addition to the sense of urgency for
protection, there is also an overall feeling of incredible respect for these
ancient trees surviving hardship. It echos a First Nations story recorded by a
missionary about a mythical figure Glooscap whose brother wanted to be forever
in good health and live to a very old age, so Glooscap turned him into a gnarled
The production of this book seems to be very
high for its price of $39.95. If companies or individuals are looking for gifts
with an environmental theme, this book, which is not preachy yet inspirational,
would be enjoyed by anybody who takes pleasure in the outdoors. It is a
one-of-a-kind story told by people who know how to tell a good science story, a
truly hopeful and marvellous story of discovery. And as a bonus any day when you
feel like you are between a rock and a hard place, keep the book beside you to
help you learn to emulate those ugly trees in their longevity in the face of
Kelly, Peter E. and Douglas W. Larson. The
Last Stand. Toronto, ON: Natural Heritage Books, a Member of the Dundurn Group,
Peter Kelly University of Guelph Cliff Ecology
Research Group 519 824-4120, Ext. 52679 (work) and Prof. Doug Larson Department
of Integrative Biology 519 824-4120, Ext. 52679
REPORT: THE BOOK
RMR: The Book mentions quite a few people in
relation to environmental issues. Of course, Mercer himself has been an
environmental celebrity. The Canadian Government hired him to be the key
spokesperson on television commercials for the One-Tonne Challenge calling for
personal action for climate change. Some Canadians were unsure about whether
this meant global warning was a joke. Rick Mercer self-describes himself as an
entertainer who tells jokes for a living.
His television show Rick Mercer Report is not
so much a set of jokes as a humourous tour of Canadian life and politics in a
unique mix reflecting other television shows: the hands-on of Dirty Jobs, the
political satire of Jon Stewart's Daily Show and a fractured what's in the news
as Bob Hunter used to do in a more serious vein. While seeming to tremble with
fear and trepidation, Mercer participates in physically and otherwise
challenging activities such as flying in formation on one of Canada's Snowbird
jets or getting attacked by a trained police dog. For political satire, Mercer
walks rapidly through a graffiti lined alley ranting about some issue: many of
these rants have been collected in this book. He also manages to persuade the
most powerful politicians such as the Prime Ministers to spend time with him so
he can make fun of them: Mercer calls this a "mutually parasitic relationship:
they need me, I need them...There is no price too high to pay for a few good
minutes of TV." The New Prime Minister Stephen Harper allowed Mercer to sleep
over at the PM's residence. Mercer also features The Front Page usually photos
of political leaders to which he adds satiric commentary and photo amendments.
He dives into frigid water with a reluctant environmentalist David Suzuki, and
skinny dips with former Premier of Ontario Bob Rae. One celebrity shoot shows
him and Elizabeth May with a chainsaw under the heading, Killing a Tree.
Actually the tree is already dead but May wants to save it for the woodpeckers
but down it comes and Mercer says, "This is fantastic. The leader of the Green
Party cutting down a tree. It's like Stephen Harper performing a gay
Mercer rants about
- The Ontario Teachers Pension Fund investing
in cigarettes and Ritalin, possibly a conflict of interest.
- Whether aging rock stars whether Bono or
Geldof should be setting the agenda for the G8.
- Bullies in Parliament, every party has them.
About John Baird, now Environment Minister, who "loves nothing more than to
stand up in the house and bully an opposing member with the glee of a
neglected 13-year old." And Mercer says unfortunately it works too, "In the
House of Commons he who yells the loudest and is the most demeaning often
- Rona Ambrose. "The woman becomes the minister
of the environment in a government that says right off the top that the
environment is not a priority; she does exactly what she's told, which is
basically nothing and then she gets the slap for it."
- The Vote: "No matter what kind of weird,
wonderful or only-in-Canada kind of government we end up with, we all had the
opportunity to vote, we all got to have our say, and not a single shot was
fired. That, my friends, is a country worth voting for.
- On the Armed Forces: The soldiers have
nothing to do with the policies; "they just go to work every day, risk their
lives and follow orders of their political masters. In turn they get used as
pawns at every turn."
- New Government: "It's becoming clear that
most Canadians think this 'new government' business is a tad ridiculous and an
insult to their intelligence. As a result, the Conservative party is now
testing new slogans such as 'now with lemon' and 'contains more fibre".
- On a controlling Prime Minister: Mercer
suggests that Harper has fitted his ministers with shorter leashes and an
electric shock collar. "John Baird, for example, has taken to wearing the
device in an unprescribed manner. As a result he seems to enjoy the sound of
his own voice more than he did six months ago (if such a thing is possible)."
Mention is also made of the kid on a temporary contract being marched out of
Environment Canada for leaking Baird's climate change plan and the hottest
read on the Hill, a 200 page manual from the Prime Minister's Office on how to
disrupt the workings of Parliament. Mercer says, "The idea that such a
strategy exists is hardly surprising. The fact they put it in writing takes
stupid to a whole new level."
- Net Worth: Mercer goes to Africa with former
Liberal cabinet minister and multi-millionaire Belinda Stronach on what some
said was to be the Pink Champagne Safari but turned out to be to "Places Rick
Never Wanted to Go" such as Rwanda and Ethiopia. They went with Columbia
University economist Dr. Jeffrey Sachs who promotes mosquito bednets treated
with insecticide good for more than five years to fight malaria. The nets
cover two or three kids and each one costs ten bucks. On the most recent RMR
on October 2 issued a challenge to universities to participate in
Spreadthenet.org for nets for the first targeted countries: Liberia and
Rwanda. The RMR will go to the university raising the most funds for one of
the shows for broadcast.
GL found this is a very enjoyable book and a
reminder of political shenanigans over the past few years lest we forget. Mercer
is fairly even-handed about slinging the mud across all parties.
Speech Delivered to Young Environmental Professionals: September 18, 2007
by Charles Caccia
The day when sustainability, the environment,
and the dwindling natural resources become the object of public opinion combined
with strong public pressure, governments will change direction. It is your
generation which will have to deal with the veritable mess you are inheriting
Your inheritance is threatened as shown in
forecasts such as: The population on this planet will go up from 6 to 9 billion
people in the next forty years. Each day 4 000 children die from diarrhea and 1
400 women die needlessly in pregnancy or childbirth. By 2060, oil production
would have to triple just to meet global population growth and maintain current
standards of living. According to the IUCN, the 2007 red list, "one mammal out
of four, one bird out of eight, one-third of all amphibians, and 70% of
registered plants are in danger."
Twenty years after the publication of Our
Common Future, the report by the World Commission on the Environment and
Development, and after some remarkable initial progress towards sustainability,
we are on a slippery slope. Digby McLaren (1919-2004), geologist, President of
the Royal Society of Canada, one of the initiators in 1986 of the International
Geosphere-Biosphere programme focussing on climate change, editor of two books
on global change wrote a paper in 1989 asking, "Sustainable until when?" and
"Sustainable for whom?" He questions the soundness of current economic thinking
which he says is " is caught up in a system which assumes limitless resources
and ignores the production of waste products." We know resources are finite and
waste is no longer easy to dispose of. Growth economics fail to recognize the
linkage to the ecosystem which has only finite capacity to provide inputs and
receive outputs. With a quarter of the population using most of the resources
and producing most of the waste, McLaren concludes the impossibility of applying
Western standards to the other three-quarters of the world's
We, earthlings, have to deal with nuclear
waste, still with unknown destination for final disposal or with urban sprawl,
or with traffic congestions, or with air quality, or with tropical storms, or
the consequences of climate change such as the pine beetle infestation in the
West and so on. In Canada, current federal, and provincial tax laws encourage
and even subsidize greater emissions of greenhouse gases. In Ontario, the
provincial government announces proudly the construction of new nuclear plants,
while the federal government creates the illusion that the waste issue is
resolved. What an earth in shambles we are leaving you!
Where did we go wrong ? While it is difficult
to find a complete answer, there are partial ones. Depending on your
perspective, of course. For instance, some things go wrong because we tend
- react and try to cure after the damage is
done rather than anticipate and prevent the problem in the first place.
- dominate nature rather than learn how to live
- give precedence to the profit motive.
- have electoral systems where elected bodies
cannot make long-terms decisions.
- have government structures with an economic
rather than a sustainability focus.
- abandon targets and timetables in favour of
elusive voluntary , "aspirational" goals. For example, we must take Kyoto
seriously even if we can't achieve the 2012 goal and address post Kyoto
options, internationally and at home, with targets and timetables, not
"aspirationally"as suggested at the APEC meeting in Australia: time is not on
- draw down on our natural capital when we
should only be spending the interest.
- wait for the smoking gun, instead of being
guided by the " precautionary principle".
Let's also keep in mind we have had also some
good news. We have made progress : with acid rain, with the ban on CFCs to
protect the ozone; with the removal of lead from gasoline, with the ratification
of certain international treaties. We also had some well-intended national
legislation: CEPA, SARA, CEEA, subsequently watered down by business interests
and weak governments, but still, I would argue, much better than nothing, which
is what we had before. Many municipalities across the country have banned the
use of cosmetic pesticides and are taking other environmental
So, despite books like "Our Final Century?" by
Martin Rees, "Collapse" by Jared Diamond," The Revenge of Gaia" by James
Lovelock, "Fire" by Monbiot, Thomas Homer-Dixon's "The Upside of Down:
catastrophe creativity and the renewal of civilization", "The Population Bomb"
by Paul Ehrlich, etc., it is too soon to throw the sponge in and get ready for
the end, as some are suggesting we should. There is still time but not much to
turn things around.
The question then is, how can we reverse
alarming trends? One thing seems to be clear, in a democracy such as ours, we
have to exert pressure on the politicians. They understand the importance of the
ballot box. They need to know which way public opinion wants them to go. When
political pressure is applied at the right time, at the right place, on the
right people, it can work wonders. At every election we have an opportunity to
register a message with the future government of our country, province-territory
and municipality. What seems impossible today can become reality tomorrow, with
And where is the pressure to be applied? On
mainstream political parties. It will take a long, long time before a green
party can become a mainstream party. To effect change, the Liberal and the
Conservative parties have to become green. It is your pressure, your
involvement, your work with mainstream parties which will make the difference.
As one great parliamentarian used to say, "
When hunting elephants, don't get distracted by rabbits!"
In our democracy, we have the opportunity to
enjoy and practice a beautiful legacy , indeed a gift we inherited from previous
generations: the democratic system, and the opportunity of shaping policies;
dialoguing with candidates, and, in between elections, with elected officials,
public servants, the media, etc. This beautiful legacy is now in your hands. It
could permit us to do something valuable for many generations: yours and beyond.
Let's do so before it is too late.
Charles Caccia is a former Liberal Minister of
the Environment for Canada and Senior Fellow at the Institute of the Environment
at the University of Ottawa.
Do you have a favourite or inspirational
environment book (fiction or non-fiction) or magazine or have you written a
book, report or article you would like to draw attention to? It can be
electronic or hard copy. Let us know what it is and in 50 words or less why it
appeals to you from an environmental point of view and a few words on who you
are. We'll select one for printing in each issue over time in the next year or
so. Send email to email@example.com with subject line: Fav Env
This Bookshelf item written and recommended
Laura Westra, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita (Philosophy) University of
Ph.D. in Law, Osgoode Hall Law
More than 300 million people in 70 countries
are part of the indigenous population. Indigenous peoples both in Canada and
elsewhere, are indeed the "canaries" or "sentinels" as they are the first
groups/communities affected by climate change and industrial pollution when they
live traditionally of the land. That has been the topic of my latest book which
uses examples of insufficient legal rights of these peoples in the face of
governments and businesses which fail to consult with them or seek their consent
on relocations, mining plans and other development which cause environmental and
At the same time, traditional lifestyles
indicate the sort of relation to the land that is, or should be the goal of all
communities, as much as possible, in order to minimize our footprint, and
reverse the damaging trends inherent in globalization.
BARK FOR TAKE
In an issue which also discusses enviro-hazards
such as insecticides and cigarette smoke for canine pets, Kevin Skaggs writes
in Bark magazine about green transport to reduce fuel consumption and air
pollution because "It's a dog's world, too, after all." Bark is a "dog culture"
magazine from (where else, Berkeley, California). One of the wheels is a foot-powered
scooter converted to paw-power through a dog harness which can be used with
up to three dogs. Apparently a decent-sized dog can provide power for 100
pounds more than the dog weighs so a 60 pound boxer can power a 160 pound
Paid subscribers see links to original documents
and references here.
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