Mining is important to human well-being, but the current economic system means it's often aimed at maximizing profit with little regard for people or the environment. It's one area where Canadians can make a difference. Canadian mining companies haven't always had a great record for environmental and social responsibility in communities where they operate -- but public scrutiny and pressure may be helping to change that.
While Winnipeg residents enjoy clean water, the people of Shoal Lake 40 suffer from substandard water. It's an abrogation of the basic right of all Canadians to have access to clean, safe drinking water. The fact that such deplorable conditions persist in places like Shoal Lake, and in hundreds of other First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities across Canada, is a national shame and must be resolved immediately.
Society as a whole saw jobs created, collected tax dollars and bore at least some of the blame, for the harm caused by both tobacco and asbestos. And yet this did not absolve the manufacturers of responsibility for the damage caused by their product. So yes, we are all responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, but fossil fuel companies are much more responsible.
The approved EA measures are very complex, and will include freezing in place the huge underground dumps of arsenic trioxide which pose the greatest health risk. It is likely to take 25 years to freeze it all. The freezing system will have to be actively operated, forever. The arsenic will stay poisonous -- it does not improve with time.
The idea of a right to a healthy environment is getting traction at Canada's highest political levels. Federal Opposition MP Linda Duncan recently introduced "An Act to Establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights" in Parliament. If it's passed, our federal government will have a legal duty to protect Canadians' right to live in a healthy environment.
So how do we ensure that all Canadians have the right to enjoy clean air and water and healthy food? We could follow the lead of more than half the world's nations and enshrine the right to a healthy environment in our Constitution's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That's one of the goals of the Blue Dot Tour
When a tailings pond broke at the Mount Polley gold and copper mine in south-central B.C., spilling millions of cubic metres of waste into a salmon-bearing stream, B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett called it an "extremely rare" occurrence, the first in 40 years for mines operating here. He failed to mention the 46 "dangerous or unusual occurrences" that B.C's chief inspector of mines reported at tailings ponds in the province between 2000 and 2012, as well as breaches at non-operating mine sites.
Those who don't outright deny the existence of human-caused global warming often argue we can't or shouldn't do anything about it because it would be too costly. Take Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who recently said, "No matter what they say, no country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country." But in failing to act on global warming, many leaders are putting jobs and economic prosperity at risk, according to recent studies.
Although the conservation challenge is daunting, nurturing functioning ecosystems offers hope. Healthy oceans ensure we can continue to enjoy seafood -- and they're more resilient to increasing human impacts. If the global fishing industry wants to ensure its survival, it should advocate for marine ecosystem conservation.
Climate change is an environmental crisis like nothing we've ever faced because it transcends environmentalism -- it is not a fight against pollution, but a fight against polluters. It is a struggle to change the economic and political systems that uphold business as usual. The climate movement needs more out of each us -- we can't simply click, sign or wish this problem away.
In railing against everything from bike lanes to transit spending, pundits and politicians often raise the spectre of a "war on cars." Of course, there is no war on cars -- but there should be. Combatting pollution and climate change, reduced dependency on private automobiles will lead to healthier people, fewer deaths and injuries and livable cities with happier citizens. And that's worth fighting for!
I was raised on a dairy farm in Belledune, a small community on New Brunswick's North Shore. By the time I showed up to school in the fall of 1968, the schoolhouse was bordered by a smelter on one side and a fertilizer plant on the other. I started hearing a little voice inside me saying, "Do something!"
The ecological and physical consequences of blowing our carbon budget, from disappearing coastlines to a melting arctic, are stark but often hard for someone like Minister Flaherty to understand. This ignorance, willful or accidental, is dangerous because it is also obscuring major economic consequences.
Canada is blessed with some of the last vestiges of pristine nature on Earth -- unbroken forests, coastlines and prairies, thousands of rivers, streams and lakes, open skies, abundant fresh air. We are also defined by our Constitution. Our Constitution's Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives us freedom of expression, equal protection from discrimination and the right to life, liberty and security of the person. But it doesn't mention the environment. How can we fully enjoy our freedoms without the right to live in a healthy environment?
Our days on tour are long and can be gruelling, but we are fuelled by the mutual satisfaction that we are engaged in extremely important work and that our message is being heard. Personally, I feel excited and energized and have just come off of what I would describe as one of the best summers of my life.
I do not think society has been as intentionally naïve with the effects of first and second hand smoke as it has been with air pollution. Municipalities are making it much harder to smoke on outdoor patios as well. Needless to say, smokers do not attempt to minimize the effects of smoking, nor are tobacco manufacturers able to market their products freely.
While its easy to finger regimes with questionable human rights records it is somewhat challenging at times tallying up the environmental record of sun destinations. This topic weighed heavily on my mind this year during four months spent in one of the most desirable destinations on the planet -- the Maldives.