Earth Day has quietly come and gone, against a backdrop that has seldom been less peaceful when it comes to environmental issues in Canada.
The annual observance on April 22nd has had a very checkered history. It began back in 1970 when America was still fighting a war in Vietnam, and Richard Nixon was still testing nuclear weapons.
It would be another 20 years before Earth Day had much impact in Canada.
A pile of burning tires in a place called Hagarsville grabbed so much attention that Canadians were suddenly driven to tell pollsters that protecting the environment was job one.
In 2012 the picture is very mixed, especially here in western Canada which has emerged as an economic powerhouse driven by resource development.
In Ottawa we have a majority Conservative government which has never done much more than pay lip service to environmental concerns. Now they seem to be pushing those concerns beyond the back burner. They’re just about right off the stove as the mantra of Stephen Harper and company has become “Get on with it”.
Major energy developments like the Northern Gateway Pipeline are being fastracked like never before. Ottawa does not even have an identifiable strategy when it comes to climate change, and they seem determined to silence prolonged debate on the issue.
The new pit bull on the issue is Joe Oliver, the minister of Natural Resources. He seems to have marching orders that are very clear.
This past week David Suzuki resigned as head of the foundation which bears his name. He did so in the face of threats by Ottawa to revoke their charitable status because of political activity, some of which is paid for by interests outside the country.
Suzuki calls it bullying, but before he goes too far he should look in the mirror. The foundation has all but written off both Alberta and Saskatchewan in their annual report cards on efforts to curb emissions of greenhouse gases. In earlier pronouncements, the media superstar has urged that politicians who don’t take the threat of global warming more seriously should end up behind bars.
Whoa ! Time out ! Has everyone in public life in this country been watching too much hockey? It’s becoming harder and harder to remember the days in which the original Earth Day took place.
One of its early champions was actor Eddie Albert. Some say it’s more than just coincidence that his birthday was April 22nd. We remember him mostly as the star of “Green Acres”, the popular sitcom about a New York businessman who opts for a simpler life in the country.
His character’s name was Oliver Wendell Douglas, but that’s about the only possible connection to Joe Oliver. Behind the scenes Eddie was a quiet promoter of many early efforts to save the planet.
Canada could use someone like that about now.
Roger Currie is a writer, broadcaster and blogger.
He currently hosts Talk of the Town every weekday at Noon, 4pm and 10pm on Access channel 7.
He will be relocating to Winnipeg in early May.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org