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2008-07-04 - 12:00 p.m.

...Kudos, Canadian Parliament - BOO Canadian news..

A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

A big congratulations and well-done to Canada's Federal Parliament, which just passed a National Sustainability Act yesterday. The act demands that Canadian government implement a sustainable development strategy. It also calls for the establishment of a Sustainable Development Office, as well as a Sustainable Development Advisory Council on which First Nations, NGOs, businesses, and labor are all represented.

The core of this bill was drafted by one of my colleagues and the students in our program, as part of one of their class projects, so it's rather exciting news around here. Not surprisingly, I found no mention of this bill on either the G&M or CBC news web pages.

So it is possible that this act stands only as a symbol, or perhaps a sign that it really IS true that 80% of Canadians want to move towards developing a society that is sustainable. (although what a weak symbol, if not one of those Canadians even knows that it exists...).

To a certain extent, the act IS symbolic, because I expect that if you polled all Canadians, you would find 24 million different definitions of "Sustainability," or perhaps 15 million who don't even know what the word means. The concept of sustainability means something different to everyone, and I imagine that would still hold true within the definition of the act:

“sustainability” means the capacity of a thing, action, activity, or process to be maintained indefinitely.

Okay. Sure.

I think even the term "sustainable development" leaves room for interpretation, although it is less vague:

“sustainable development” means development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

But most specific (and exciting) within the act is the invocation of the "precautionary principle:"

“precautionary principle” means the principle that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

So let's move away from definitions and think about what this COULD mean. Can you imagine it? All stakeholders represented around the table, planning a sustainable future for Canada? And to me a precautionary principle means that chemicals - a pesticide, a hairspray chemical, and new type of grain, a new coolant for a refrigerator - are to be considered guilty until proven innocent. It means that the 90-99% certainty of the IPCC is certain enough for Canada to act against global warming.

I will be interested to see what happens. Because the damning phrase in that definition of the precautionary principle is "cost-effective measures" - and I'm certain that there will be several different interpretations of what is cost effect. It is easy to support a principle until it affects your wallet. I can still hear the screams over the 2.4 cents/liter carbon tax that was implemented in BC as of July 1. But ladies and gentlemen, as I see the SUVs driving down the road, and I hear my brother - a rather sensible guy - talking about buying one, I have to say that I'm still of the opinion that resources aren't expensive enough..

Yesterday morning I attended a completely depressing meeting for this faculty committee on which I'm serving. And before I was finished with my homework for that meeting, and with breast pump just barely detached, I was whisked off to attend another meeting downtown for a group that uses dialogue to bring stakeholders together to think about BC's future. It was inspirational. And it was effective. Because it worked from the principle of bringing different parts of the community together and using communication to explore their commonalities to work on a vision for the future. It was just that - visionary.

As much as I would like to be a visionary, I think that I really am more of a nuts and bolts kind of person. But I think that I can recognize imagination and creativity when I see it, and although I wish that it were coming from me, I know enough to embrace the creativity of other people. I think we all need a dose of vision in our lives.

This is particularly true with people who are dealing with environmental change. Vision is essential. And so I am blown away by the people who thought to put a federal act like this on the books; and I'm blown away by a BC liberal government - known in spite of the name for being hardasses on social support for health, education, and poverty - that finally saw what is needed.

Okay, enough said.

leave a note

...they are just words, Suzi... - 2011-08-29
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