Science: The systematic study of the nature and behaviour of the material and physical universe, based on observation, experiment, and measurement, and the formulation of laws to describe these facts in general terms. — Collins English Dictionary
I never go through a day without thinking, at some point, about the destruction of nature in the world and the efforts to halt that destruction and restore natural areas. You’ll likely have heard that the Canadian Conservative Party, who are in power now, sees oil extraction and pipeline building as priorities for the country’s prosperity. At the same time, they have fired publically employed environmental scientists, cancelled whole projects and prohibited public scientists from speaking about their findings without first being vetted so that they are “on message.”
Recently the government has closed a series of science libraries connected with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. They say this is to consolidate information, digitize it and save money. Apparently, however, a government email has surfaced that speaks of culling the information and lists the savings as around $440,000. This may be a lot of money for most of us, but it is quite a low saving for a federal budget. In the last few weeks, researchers have discovered that materials from the closed libraries, some with records dating back a century, are being destroyed. A photograph showing books and papers in a dumpster has appeared online. I find this deeply troubling.
My own belief is that these destructive actions toward environmental scientists and scientific information speak to the Conservatives’ desire to withhold knowledge (inconvenient truths) of our eco systems from citizens. Not only can destroying knowledge have destructive consequences for our health and wellbeing in Canada and beyond, but it is deeply undemocratic.
I’m writing about this today to do my small part in spreading the word and to say there can be no justification, financial or otherwise, for destroying knowledge or for censoring the messengers. I’ve added a few links if you’re interested in reading further. Plus some photos of the beauty of nature in Canada.
I heard a radio interview on the CBC on Friday with David Suzuki, a well-known Canadian scientist and advocate for nature. David and another guest spoke about Ecuador, which, first of all, placed the rights of nature in its constitution in 2007. This was ratified by Ecuadorians in a referendum in 2008. I believe I had heard about the rights of nature before but not paid adequate attention to the concept. The idea that the natural world has rights that are worthy of protecting as opposed to being property is a belief alien to most North Americans. So this move by Ecuador, the first country to protect nature’s rights, is an excellent challenge to widespread, habitual ways of approaching the natural world.
In addition, Ecuador came up with the idea in 2007 to leave a huge amount of oil in the ground that lies beneath the Yasuni National Park. This park is apparently a fantastically diverse and rich area of rainforest. Ecuador, which is not a wealthy country, proposed that it be compensated half the price the oil would bring in for not extracting it. Here is another idea that likely seems impractical and outrageous to most North Americans. Yet I’ve read in The Guardian newspaper that $300 million has so far been given or pledged to Ecuador from countries, foundations, corporations and individuals–money that will be used for renewable energy projects to help finance reforestation, conservation and social projects. The money is not given directly to the Ecuadorian government but is held in trust and administered through the UN.
Though these bold ideas and actions coming out of Ecuador will not save the world in themselves, they seem entirely fitting given the serious problems we all face through global warming and the ongoing destruction of the natural world, on which we depend for life. They are inspirational paths that have the possibility of jolting us out of the usual boxes we find ourselves in and toward much needed constructive change.