A MAN WITH A PLAN
For as long as any of us can remember, David Suzuki has been the Canadian poster boy for environmental and social activism. For his devotion to his cause, he’s been granted numerous awards and honours, both in Canada and on an international scale.
In 2005, a public CBC poll named him the fifth most important Canadian EVER, and he was the only one in that top 5 to be still alive, so, according to Canadians across the country, Suzuki is the most important living Canadian. This most certainly makes him someone we ought to listen to. And the rest of the world, shaking their heads at what Harper is doing to our country, would agree. David recently finished his final cross-country tour, and it included a stop here in St. John’s last fall. It was to promote his last hurrah: The Blue Dot Movement.
WHAT IS THE BLUE DOT MOVEMENT?
The “blue dot” referred to in The Suzuki Foundations’ Blue Dot Movement is planet earth, the only planet we know of that can sustain human life. According to Blue Dot’s website, 110 nations worldwide recognize that clean air and water, and healthy food, are basic human rights. Canada is not one of these nations. And that’s what the Blue Dot Movement is aiming to change, one city at a time.
The overall game plan is this:
– Neighbourhoods band together to demand change from their city’s environmental practices.
– These cities then come together to demand change in their province’s environmental legislation.
– These provinces then come together to demand change in our nation’s charter of rights.
It’s a game plan that will test the notion one person – one neighbour from each neighbourhood, or one mayor in enough municipalities – really can make a difference. It relies on a snowball effect, but a plausible one, and one that ends in all levels of government recognizing fresh air, clean water, and healthy food as basic human rights.
As the Blue Dot website puts it, “When 7 of 10 provinces, and more than 50% of the Canadian population has recognized our right to a healthy environment, we turn toward the ultimate goal: amending the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” to declare our right to clean air, fresh water, and healthy food. This would be the final step for us, and for the planet, and for Suzuki’s long and hard battle to protect our nation’s environment.
If it is constitutionalized that we Canadians have the right to healthy air, water, and food, then industry and government would have to prove that a development will not harm our country’s environment in any way that would harm us. If government or industry breach this right of ours, we have the right to take them to court. After all, government is supposed to represent us, and listen to us, and protect us. Not rule us, ignore us, and systematically destroy our country in the name of economy building.
The Blue Dot Movement is as much about protecting the people and places we love, and standing up for our health and wellbeing, as it is about protecting the environment. After all, all the oil and un-gutted mines in the world won’t save us from an earth ravaged by the consequences of climate change, soil degradation, and contaminated water supplies. FYI: Only 2% of the earth’s surface is drinkable water. Two percent! Instead of safeguarding it, we’re fracking it, wasting it, and contaminating it into oblivion. And when our primary-aged kids look us in the eye, confused, and ask, “but why would we do this if we need water?,” our answers never suffice. Two percent, people. Experts predict the next world war will be over fresh water.
St. JOHN’S JOINS THE MOVEMENT
In June, St. John’s became the first Atlantic Canadian city to proclaim its residents have a right to a healthy environment. In doing so, we’ve joined the ranks of 60-something other Canadian municipalities in getting behind Suzuki’s final hurrah.
During the City’s declaration, Mayor Dennis O’Keefe urged both provincial and federal governments to enshrine the people’s right to a healthy environment in Canada’s Charter of Human Rights. But while it’s a terrific first gesture on the city’s behalf, it’s meaningless without action. As city employee Scott Morton Ninomiya said at a council meeting, the creation of an environmental action plan for St. John’s should be an immediate next course of action. One with “specific targets and timelines.” Words and promises mean nothing without action – action is what changes the world.
CATCHING CANADA UP WITH MORE PROGRESSIVE COUNTRIES
If this all sounds a little granola to you, it shouldn’t. Despite claiming to value our natural world, Canada is not progressive, intelligent, nor forward-thinking in terms of environmental issues. In fact, the government scientists our tax dollars pay for recently made international news for protesting the fact Harper is muzzling them from sharing their findings about climate change and other environmental issues with media and the public. It’s like something out of a movie. And it’s changing international opinion of our country.
For Canada, a big part of embracing this movement will be embracing a country not so reliant upon oil for both its economy and its energy supply. The funny thing is our fear shouldn’t be abandoning oil, but rather relying on it so much: oil is a non-renewable resource – one day it’ll all be gone – the light bulbs should be going off that our reliance on oil is counterproductive to building a stable economy and energy supply for the future. One day, we won’t have oil, why not start moving away from it now, considering our obsession with it is destroying the planet. Did you know we burn 85 million barrels of oil a day. That’s three billion, five hundred and seventy million gallons of oil. A Day.
Meanwhile, solar technology has come a long way in recent years, and science has proven solar energy could easily power the world. It’s why France just built the biggest solar power operation in Europe, and in 2014, more than half of Germany’s energy needs were met by solar technologies. Recent research declares that we could power the world with solar energy by covering only 0.2% of the earth’s surface in PV cells. And people are getting innovative about where to find space for solar plants: In The Netherlands, their bicycle lanes are also solar panels that contribute to its power grid. The European Environmental Agency has also confirmed that wind energy alone would generate sufficient energy for Europe without any problems.
As St. John’s city employee Scott Morton Ninomiya has said, we need to “join other cities across Canada to press all levels of government to work together to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in Canada’s constitution. Our country is part of a very small, shrinking minority of nations not to have done so already.”
GETTING BACK TO HEALTHIER FOOD
A big part of this movement is also about getting back to healthier food. Canadians have a fixation on how cheap their food is, to the point that we’ve grown unconcerned with its freshness, quality, or even safety, and we’re therefore oblivious to its often horrendous origins. Where other cultures have daily markets and streets lined with butchers, delis, and bakeries … we have giant boxed stores full of packaged, preserved food whose genesis was more concerned with maximizing profit from sales, than retaining quality and nutritional value. Eating fresh, healthy, locally derived food should also be part of this movement. (And hey, it’ll also lower the carbon footprint of your food – why cart in quinoa from South America, if we could grow it right here in Newfoundland?)