Day 43 – A word for Stephen Harper, from Wade Davis

Bear with me, as today’s blog post is a departure from my usual.

This evening I listened to an infuriating CBC interview with an Enbridge representative, talking about the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, followed by an even more infuriating sound clip of Mr. Harper discussing the need to “streamline” environmental reviews.  As I debated pulling out my own hair in frustration, I was reminded of the passage I read last night.  I have just started reading the fourth lecture in Wade Davis’s Massey lecture series (complied in The Wayfinders, the first of my 12 non-fiction books – check out this post: bit.ly/QY75cw).  In it, he talks about proposed mining development in the Sacred Headwaters of British Columbia.  If I could ask Mr Harper to read, and absorb, one thing (other than a scientific review of the impacts of the Northern Gateway), it would be this:

“Environmental concerns aside, think for a moment of what these proposals imply about our culture.  We accept it as normal that people who have never been on the land, who have no history or connection to the country, may legally secure the right to come in and by the very nature of their enterprises leave in their wake a cultural and physical landscape utterly transformed and desecrated.  What’s more, in granting such mining concessions, often initially for trivial sums to speculators from distant cities, companies cobbled together with less history than my dog, we place no cultural or market value on the land itself.  The cost of destroying a natural asset, or its inherent worth if left intact, has no metric in the economic calculations that support the industrialization of the wild.  No company has to compensate the public for what it does to the commons, the forests, mountains, and rivers, which by definition belong to everyone.  As long as there is promise of revenue flows and employment, it merely requires permissions to proceed.  We take this as a given for it is the foundation of our system, the way commerce extracts value and profit in a resource-drive economy.  But if you think about it, especially from the perspectives of so many other cultures, touched and inspired by quite different visions of life and land, it appears to be very odd and anomalous human behaviour.”

I’m not sure how to turn this into a green resolution… perhaps simply posting this, and having a few people read and talk about it to their friends, is enough.  But just in case, I also pledge to NEVER vote for Stephen Harper.  Or shake his hand, should the opportunity arise.

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