It’s Earth Day 2007 and our green consciousness has never been higher. But how far have we really come in healing the planet? Here’s a look at the good, the bad and the downright earth-killing developments since this time last year.
HIGH: Yes, it's way out in BC, but forestry campaigners will tell you trees across the country are breathing a sigh of relief thanks to the Great Bear Rainforest agreement that'll protect an area the size of New Jersey from the chop. Well, that's what the paper says. Now we just have to make sure they stick to it.
More bubbly gets popped after two years of campaigning by Forest Ethics corners Victoria's Secret into signing a landmark eco policy ensuring that its babes-in-bras catalogues won't be printed on endangered Canadian forest any longer.
No, not every creature lives in forest cover, but we're throwing Ontario's revised Endangered Species Act in here anyway and bigging up the province for finally taking action to protect species on the brink.
LOW: While we'd classify the gutsy moratorium on logging and mining in the boreal forest by nine brave First Nations groups as a kick-ass high, it's also a real low that the province isn't even acknowledging it.
Driving home the need for just this kind of ban, Global Forest Watch sounded the latest alarm on the fact that destructive logging practices in the boreal are continuing to push threatened species like the woodland caribou closer to the history books.
HIGH: Fancy a windmill or a solar panel farm? A year ago today, the province announced that anyone with renewable dreams could sell power back to the grid for cash. There are still some glitches, like, oh, how increased property assessments on farms with windmills are taking a worrisome chunk out of profits, but we're hoping the province will take the high road as enablers, not roadblocks.
LOW: So many lows since last year, it's hard to choose. First there was the broken coal-plant-closure promise, the $42 billion in new cash for nukes (not to mention the lack of proper enviro assessments for them), getting gassed with the Portlands Energy Centre in the east end and McGuinty's general nose-thumbing at the power of conservation.
HIGH: The Clean Water Act was finally approved this past fall, and the regs that give the act its teeth are coming down the pipe as we speak.
Water savers will be thrilled to hear that the province actually updated the building code to allow rainwater collection for use in flush toilets, rather than wasting drinking water.
We should also applaud Toronto's board of health and city council for demanding that the province lower the maximum allowable level of radioactive tritium in our drinking water. (Right now, the permitted level is 10 times higher than it is in the U.S.) Of course, nothing's come of it yet, but, hey, they tried.
LOW: Water woes run deep in this country. Okay, so the province finally said it would start charging bottlers water-taking fees, but come on, what's $4 on a million litres? Must be a joke.
And would it have killed the Harper government to sign the international moratorium on the ocean-ravaging practice of bottom trawling in international waters, when even U.S. prez George Bush did? Failing to do so helped sink the ban in a hurry and made Canadians look like serious green grinches on the world stage.
HIGH: Shockingly, the Harper government is taking action (or at least seems to be) on 200 toxic chemicals in common use, throwing $300 mil at the plan. Okay, so scientists advised the feds to address 400 chems, not 200, but it's a start.
And so far so good for the provincial NDP's Community Right to Know (about the chems in our 'hoods and products) legislation, which will be ready for a final vote in May. Let's cross our fingers it makes it to the finish line.
LOW: How horrifying is the barrage of scientific studies on all the persistent toxins swimming in our blood? Even eco naysayer Rona Ambrose tested positive this year. Especially depressing when you pair that with research showing that flame retardants, non-stick chems and hormone disrupters in can linings and the like may be serious disease-inducers in humans and wildlife alike. Hopefully, Health Canada's move to start monitoring 5,000 Canadians for chemicals starting this year will lead to some serious bans.
HIGH: Deposit return on LCBO containers will definitely boost provincial diversion rates for glass bottles and the like, but city staffers would no doubt classify this one as a low because of lost blue bin revenue.
We could consider the securing of a London-area landfill site that doesn't involve exporting our trash to Michigan a high of some sort, but it's only really laudable if we barely have to use it. (Time to ban recycables and compostables from the waste stream!)
LOW: McGuinty's clearly been huffing incineration fumes again - after all, he announced that new "energy from waste" pilot projects won't need to go through an environmental assessment. Put down the corporate brochures, will ya, Dalton? There's no such thing as "emission-free."
HIGH: If we had to scratch around for a silver lining on this front, it would be the flicker of amusement we get from watching politicians and corporations twist themselves into green pretzels for votes. This, of course, plummets to a "low" if voters actually buy the greenwash come election time.
LOW: Drowning polar bears, drowning baby seals, drowning islands. It's all fucking heartbreaking. As are the endless reports (thanks, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) on the imminent destruction facing every corner of the planet if we don't slash our carbon emissions in radical, society-restructuring ways, especially knowing there's no way in hell our government will go there.