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Finding the right balance between economic and environmental values is never easy. This is particularly true when energy is the focal point of discussion. Then the quintessential question becomes: How much of of our ecological resources are we willing to expend in order to fuel our carbon-based lifestyle?
The oil sands controversy is a case in point. But it’s not the only example. In BC, hydro development is raising hackles all across the province. Ironically, it’s ‘run-of-river’ hydro that’s in the eye of the storm. Usually considered an eco-friendly way to generate electricity, an explosion of existing and planned development is threatening to overwhelm BC’s river systems (see the map above, courtesy of Private Power Watch).
Public debate around developments like these has, in the past, been facilitated by legislated requirements for environmental assessments. However, the federal government recently suspended assessments for all projects under $10 million. At the same time, it rendered protection of many navigable waters largely discretionary and removed advance notice provisions. We’re in dangerous waters here. Without a forum for citizen engagement, we could end up selling ourselves down the river.
While surprisingly few Canadians have expressed alarm over the general suspension, opposition to the changed regime for navigable waters has been much more vocal. The Senate’s Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee, which is gearing up for hearings on the Navigable Waters Protection Act, has received an unusually large inflow of emails requesting an opportunity to speak to the issue. To add your voice, send an email to the committee clerk whose contact information can be found through this link.
Posted On Jun 01 02:51PM
History will judge this change in required environmental assessments harshly -- and I hope Canadians wake up to this change soon, and not after the damage has been done.
Posted On Apr 09 04:11PM
The whole idea of sustainability is that you aim to produce three kinds of values with every policy and project -- economic, environmental and social. They are ALL valued. One is not better than the other, just different. Ideally, when a project is assessed, positive value propositions outcomes for each of the three domains are explicitly stated to determine how the project will affect the desired outcomes. Then a decision is made in terms of whether those outcomes have been met.
In practice, too often the environmental outcomes are not met and social outcomes are miscast as "jobs" or "income", which is really an economic outcome. People fall into the trap again and again of saying its either the economic benefits or environmental conservation. The environment is typically regarded as a "cost" instead of a benefit in its own right.
At least with public hearings, some of the environmental values get expressed. The last thing we should do, recession or no recession, is eliminate the hearings process. Building things left, right and centre and destroying habitat and recreational sites is not a sustainable practice.