Canada: an environmental failure

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Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

Most Canadians proclaim their love of the outdoors, nature and the wilderness.  Camping, hunting, fishing, outdoor sports and wilderness hikes are taken as

Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

Most Canadians proclaim their love of the outdoors, nature and the wilderness.  Camping, hunting, fishing, outdoor sports and wilderness hikes are taken as
a definition of the Canadian spirit. However, our actions speak otherwise.  Specifically, our treatment and engagement with the environment is deplorable. On most environmental issues, Canada gets a failing mark. We are destroying the very wilderness we proclaim as essential.
Climate change is undoubtably the first concern. Politicians tell us that Canadians account for only 2% of CO2 emissions; however, Canada’s population is less then one-half of one percent of the planet’s population.  This means on a per capita basis, Canadians are adding CO2 to the atmosphere at a rate of more than four times the world average. So why is Canada not taking sufficient measures to reduce our CO2 emissions?
Water is another significant indicator of Canada’s lack of meaningful concern for our environment. Canada has 20% of the planet’s fresh water – 7% if only renewable water sources are considered. This should be a cherished resource in a world facing a water crisis greater than the climate change crisis. But here again, Canada fails basic environmental tests. The USA is the only country that consumes more water per capita than Canada.  And, further, Canada has a poor record of controlling water pollution. It’s very easy, and in the short term economical, to dump untreated or only partially treated sewage and other waste directly into our rivers and lakes.
A third area of environmental mismanagement is our forests. Over the last 40 years, more than 9,000 square kilometers of forest and peatlands in Eastern Canada have been flooded for hydroelectric projects. In Alberta, more trees are cut for agriculture or oil and gas exploration than for timber – that is, the trees are not replanted for future harvesting; the forest is lost. And Ontario has lost 60% of its wetland for agricultural development.  Unrecoverable exploitation of our forests occurs in all provinces and territories.
Garbage and waste disposal is another area where Canada falls short for best environmental practices. The recent forced return of Canadian garbage from the Philippines and Malaysia has highlighted the fact that only 9% of the 3.2 million tonnes of plastic waste generated each year gets recycled, which is becoming a major pollutant in our waters and oceans. Not surprisingly, only the USA produces more waste per capita than Canada, but its recycling rate is better.
There are many other environmental issues such as endangered species
protection, infrastructure improvements and overall land and resource use that are of concern. Without Canadians realizing that we face serious environmental issues, the damage is progressing beyond recovery. Our sense and identification with the “great outdoors” is not matched by our concern about the degradation to
our environment. Will our children only dream about Canada’s pristine wilderness?