Today, ‘environment’ is considered a dirty word

April 14, 2013 admin Latest Posts

from Outdoor Rambles  by Terry Sprague, Picton Gazette, April 11, 2013

Our natural environment is under siege. Hard to believe considering that we depend on it and its biodiversity for our own survival.

There was a time, not too many years ago, the term “environment” was respected. No one dared disturb that which was protected. No one wanted to anyway as we saw its importance to our survival, so it was seldom an issue. Laws and legislation and policies were, for the most part valued, and we found ways to alter our plans to accommodate those laws that were in place. Somehow we knew, without being told, that the environment was revered and an entity to be valued and respected.

When did we lose respect for that which sustains us? Today, it seems fashionable to ignore legislation and circumvent policies if someone has enough power and money to make it happen. Developers can barely keep a straight face as they feign a concern for habitat and wildlife that is destroyed as they boast of plans to create new habitat as part of their project. There – we’ve done our bit for the tree huggers – now, let’s get on with it. The Environmental Review Tribunal hearing launched by the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists regarding the inappropriate placement of wind turbines at Ostrander Point continues. It just boggles the mind that thousands of dollars had to be raised by true environmentalists, in touch with the real world, to protect an environmentally significant property against a decision made by environmental agencies that they, themselves, are supposed to protect. Pro-turbine letter writers have a mindset. They babble on disparagingly about birds as though that was the only argument; they just can’t wrap their minds around the much larger picture.

We are seeing more and more of this trend today, where laws and legislation, in place to protect our natural heritage, are altered to accommodate development. We have to wonder why protective legislation is in place to begin with, if these same laws can be ignored in favour of streamlining large scale development. We have already seen that power and money can result in a permit to “kill, harm and harass” endangered species, but if a member of the public were to harass a bald eagle or any one of a number of species, they would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. At the end of the day, the decision is always about who has the money and power to do what they want. Bottom line is, the issue has absolutely nothing to do about “clean and green”, or efforts to offset climate change – today’s new marketing buzz words. With few exceptions, only those who stand to gain financially appear to be in favour of this uncontrolled raping of our natural heritage.

When did we in the last decade or so lose our appreciation and respect for wildlife, regarding it as some sort of roadblock instead of something we should be cherish and look after? When did we decide that swallows and bats were no longer needed to control our insect populations, or undeveloped wild spaces were no longer required to serve as escapes from a world out of control? Was it when irresponsibility became fashionable and we no longer had a desire to do anything about our burgeoning human population, or was it when we decided that doing our bit in our backyards was boring.

As our world population explodes out of control, we worry about mega projects that will destroy so much. In the news now is talk of a gas fired electrical generating facility coming to the Lennox Generating Station site. We wonder what, if any, concessions will be made for the established wildlife there, especially a significant black tern colony east of the existing plant (that it is in a wetland matters little these days), and the waterfowl staging area in what is known as the Upper Gap of Lake Ontario.

We shake our heads as developers run roughshod over residents on Amherst Island and turn this bucolic community into a war zone. The majority of residents there are aghast over plans to erect over 30 wind turbines, in an area that stands to lose so much. Here, it seems only a handful of land owners stand to gain and that’s enough to create a permanent blight on the island.

We need to slow down and think what irreversible harm we are doing to the earth when developers care not a whit about the environment they are destroying in their overzealous attempts to seal and sell a product at any cost. The term “clean energy” is but a marketing tool. And it is a tool that has become very cruddy and abrasive through misuse. What is clean and green are those efforts to work together to preserve what few wild spaces we have left. When we lose the biodiversity that maintains us a human race, it is gone forever. We can never bring it back. It’s time to stop re-writing legislation to appease the wealthy, and it’s time to stop destroying bald eagle nests in Fisherville, and it’s time to stop regarding our environment as an inconvenience.

Reader’s Comments:

“Thank you for your clear and well reasoned article in the April 11 Gazette. I have been fortunate to have had the flexibility in my schedule to enable us to attend almost the entire ERT proceeding so far that is now ongoing in the county. Attendance at these proceedings, while most trying at times, has provided an astonishing education in natural history particularly relating to the worlds of bats and birds and their migrations and numbers, alvars and their plants, Blanding’s Turtles and their habitat needs and Monarch butterflies, not to mention the effects of Industrial Wind Turbines known to occur on all the aforementioned species and their habitats.Regarding your column noting that somehow environment has become a dirty word, yesterday at the ERT hearing I approached a young man that I knew to be there as an employee of the MNR. When I asked him what his job there is he said that he is a REA Ecologist. I tried to determine if this meant something different than some of what the original concept of the term ecology implied, using the simple example that if I pour a pollutant in a river at point A, does it still effect the water, plants, animals and people downstream at Point B, in the new world of Renewable Energy Assesment Ecology. If I understood his response, and I may not have, he said that that the example I used, that he perceived to refer to the ‘interrelatedness’ of things in the natural world, still holds true to a degree, but that it would be subject to interpretation of the REA needs first. This is pretty astonishing to me. At least I suppose, it indicates that the MNR should consider changing the name of their Ministry to more accurately reflect what their business is nowadays. The young man did say, ‘You probably remember the MNR when it did something’. H-m-m-m. Again thanks for your fine column.”  – B.R.M., Bloomfield

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