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EXCERPT: There Is No Planet B

04/22/2014 05:52 EDT | Updated 06/22/2014 05:59 EDT
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True colour satellite image of the Earth showing Greenland, the North Pole and Europe, with cloud coverage. This image in orthographic projection was compiled from data acquired by LANDSAT 5 & 7 satellites., Globe Showing Europe, True Colour Satellite Image (Photo by Planet Observer/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Dr. Warren Bell, a British Columbia GP, addressed the Joint Review Panel hearings on the Enbridge pipeline on January 28, 2013. Bell, who has training in psychology, said the toxic Enbridge controversy is a symptom of "structural pathology" at the heart of Canada's government.

He traces it back to the first Europeans who through a "combination of force of arms, disease, mass immigration and various legalistic arrangements -- including a genocidal strategy called the residential school system -- relentlessly marginalized our First Nations and irreparably destroyed their intimate connection to the ecosystem." Bell points out that hundreds of First Nations communities are squarely in the pipeline route.

The second pathological element is our much-maligned electoral system. Our first-past-the-post system is "psychologically grossly inefficient. Especially in complex or conflictual situations, it generates a mixture of cynicism, despair and anger." The third element, the all-powerful Prime Minister's Office, is "an invitation to social disaster. The illusion of efficiency in political decision-making is subverted by the opportunity for hardline autocracy," Bell suggests.

The final element is the surge in corporate influence that absolves employees of personal responsibility for often-disastrous decisions and puts profit above all else. Bell describes a patient in his mid-twenties who said he was deeply depressed and anxious "about the overheated, depleted future he was heading towards.

He felt that the government in this country was acting now to make it worse for him and his young children later." Bell co-founded the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment [CAPE] in 1995, which scientifically examines the intimate inter-relationship between human and ecosystem health. Bell discusses Stephen Harper's autocratic ways, and his "willingness to mask his own renowned intensity behind a rigidly bland persona is a truer indication of his deep commitment to power."

The doctor's fourfold cure is nothing new: repairing the relationship with our First Nations, electoral reform, loosening the iron grip of the PMO and reining in the overwhelming power and influence of the corporate sector. "Until we do these four things, our country is vulnerable to political, social and ecological upheaval that will retard our development as a nation, and likely offer ruin to the lives of future generations."

The renowned filmmaker Bonnie Klein was part of a wave of over 200,000 Vietnam-era women and men who immigrated to Canada out of opposition to the war. Her children, Naomi and Seth are noted social activists. Bonnie Klein received the Order of Canada in May 2013 and made an impassioned speech lamenting the direction her adopted country has taken: "rather than protect our precious resources; our land, water, air and our own health from climate disaster, we are shaming dissenting individuals and groups by labelling them naive or subversive. We are allowing partisan interests to silence our scientists and civil servants."

The Vancouver Sun reported in March 2013 that a new code of conduct at Library and Archives Canada [LAC] dictated that federal librarians and archivists who visit classrooms, attend conferences or speak up at public meetings on their own time are engaging in "high risk" activities. Staff has to clear such "personal" activities with their managers in advance to ensure there are no conflicts or "other risks to LAC."

The Library and Archives Canada's Code of Conduct: Values and Ethics came into effect in January 2013 and dictates that employees have a "duty of loyalty" to the "duly elected government." Toni Samek, a professor of library and information studies at the University of Alberta told the Sun "once you start picking on librarians and archivists, it's pretty sad." Samek characterised several clauses in the Code as "severe" and "outrageous."

Our archivists are top-notch and often invited to lecture internationally -- apparently not for much longer: "On occasion, LAC employees may be asked by third parties to teach or to speak at or be a guest at conferences as a personal activity or part-time employment. Such activities have been identified as high risk to LAC and to the employee with regard to conflict of interest, conflict of duties and duty of loyalty."

The wording wouldn't be out of place in an internal memo in China or North Korea: "As public servants, our duty of loyalty to the Government of Canada and its elected officials extends beyond our workplace to our personal activities," the Code says, adding that public servants "must maintain awareness of their surroundings, their audience and how their words or actions could be interpreted (or misinterpreted)."

This is an excerpt from Capt. Trevor Greene's new, self-published book, There Is No Planet B: Promise And Peril On Our Warming World.