Environment Week 2012 in Ottawa

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who writes on local and global social and environmental issues.

Most of us try to do what we can to live in a way that respects the environment. Sometimes, it’s not obvious how best to do that. Take this past week, for example.

June 3-9, 2012 was Canadian Environment Week, and the Canadian government suggested we turn down our air conditioning, recycle, plant wild flowers or go for a nature hike in order to “make a difference.” Good ideas—I’ve promoted them myself—but a bit beside the point when you look at the bigger picture.

That picture includes Bill C-38, the budget bill currently before Parliament. The bill revises environmental laws, weakens environmental assessments and protections, and drastically reduces or eliminates much environmental monitoring and research. It’s accompanied by layoffs of hundreds of scientists and other staff at Environment Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada and Health Canada, elimination of the advisory National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy, and increased funding to the Canada Revenue Agency to monitor charities for political activity.

That’s why several hundred Canadian organizations and thousands of individuals chose June 4 to “Black Out Speak Out,” calling on the government not to implement the changes. According to Ecojustice, the budget bill “will weaken Canada’s most important environmental laws and silence Canadians who want to defend them. Instead of using the usual process for sweeping changes, which allows for thorough debate, these changes are being shoehorned into a 452-page budget bill.”

Things aren’t all rosy either at the provincial and municipal levels, where the Ontario budget embedded changes to the Endangered Species and other Acts, and where Ottawa residents have seen green spaces threatened, most recently when the City’s contractor removed trees in Silvia Holden Park and Council’s transportation committee confirmed its top choices for the western light-rail transit route.

Sometimes, acting for the environment (which includes us, by the way) doesn’t mean just composting and using public transit, although these are important. Sometimes it includes contacting MPs, political party leaders, MPPs or city councillors and reminding them what we want our elected representatives to be doing.

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