The Future We Want
Environmental Science (EVSC) Faculty of Environment
55 EVSC students worked together to create a statement on "The Future We Want". It took 10 weeks, and much discussion, but in the end, it simply came down to Happiness; the future we want is simply one in which we are happy. And, this happiness includes healthy functioning ecosystems, for their services, but mostly for their beauty.
Happiness, as most philosophers will tell you, is the only thing that really matters, and Canadians are generally a happy people. But what makes us happy? Personal and financial security perhaps, since both provide comfort, peace of mind, and reliability. Or perhaps it is freedom, after all people can only be happy if they have their rights safeguarded. Or maybe it is health and filial satisfaction, since what good is happiness if you are unhealthy and have no one to share your happiness with. And what about nature, our pristine Canadian wilderness must factor into our sense of happiness too. Most Canadians would agree on the importance of having access to clean drinking water and beautiful recreational lakes and rivers. Maybe then, it is a motley mixture of all these – unique to every Canadian. So yes, we are happy now, but what about tomorrow, or the day after, or 20 years from now? Are our sources of happiness being safeguarded sufficiently, particularly nature and our environment? And are there ways that we could impact our own future in a positive and meaningful way?
In the 1980s and 1990s, Canada was a leader in addressing environmental issues. However, over the past decade, Canada’s environmental leadership has stagnated. Canada was ranked 37th out of 132 countries in 2012 for environmental performance by Yale researchers. Worldwide, countries have taken action to protect the environment. Sweden has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions past its Kyoto target through aggressive carbon taxation policies and reduction incentives. Germany has subsidized its growing renewable energy sector. It is evident that Canada is lagging behind in environmental management and protection, while many other countries are quickly adapting to a changing world.
Now the government claims they are making the environment a priority by implementing more monitoring for large projects with environmental impacts and restoring land into natural habitat such as with the tar sands operations. In reality, only 0.2% of tar sands land has been reclaimed since development of the tar sands began. A series of legislative changes which inappropriately relaxes environmental regulations (such as the Fisheries Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and by sneaking through these changes with the Omnibus Budget Bill C-38), laying off and muzzling of scientists involved with environmental monitoring, and selling off the rights to our resources, has delivered a fatal blow to the possibility of a sustainable future. We wonder then, if an unsustainable future could be a happy future or the one we want?
Adding to our consternation are the cuts to scientific communities, such as the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Science. From $110 million in 2003, grants to CFCAS has been reduced to $35 million in 2009. These cutbacks cripples scientific bodies, prevents enforcement of already-weakened regulations, and steers programs to adhere to government’s agenda. How can informed environmental decisions be made without research? How can decision impacting our future be made without research?
Clearly the current administration lays more focus on expanding our economy rather than preserving our environment. One need look no further than the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPA). This 31-year investment trade deal allows Chinese industry representatives, outside Canadian courts to review decisions of any legislature, government, or court (federal, provincial, or municipal) that affects any Chinese-owned asset. In essence, Chinese industry has the ability to sue the Canadian government for an action that could be classified as “discriminatory”. Environmental protection laws and regulations are thought to be particularly vulnerable to this treaty.
But we – as a society and as individuals – all have the power to change our world in a positive way. Informing citizens is important, but being active and engaging citizens is vital to creating a meaningful and positive impact on the local community.
Sole Food is a prime example of realistic transformations in community practices moving towards sustainability. This local community-based project encourages sustainable development by the integration of innovative farming methods with concrete social goals. The project uses a grassroots approach to promote a future where local farms are present and thriving in every neighborhood, providing access to fresh and healthy food to the community. Engaged citizens will benefit by being empowered through education, employment and building connections by creating a supportive community of farmers and consumers. Green Chair Events is a local waste management business that specializes in providing simple yet effective recycling solutions and waste management services for events, residences, and businesses. With their belief in the power of change, Green Chair Events’ work aims to bring positive change to both the public and event industry by educating, innovating, and inspiring people in an environmentally responsible way.
It is evident that citizens are becoming increasingly involved with ensuring a sustainable future by stepping up to safeguard our environment, our happiness and ultimately our future. A collaborative effort with the government, stimulated by the citizens, is needed to develop better management strategies for this complex system of interconnected socio-economic and ecological dynamics. As Canadians we should demand the involvement of our government.
M. Aspiazu; A. Azevedo; S. Baldock; C. Busch; S. Busch; Q. Cai; J. Chang; A. Chen; H. Cheng; G. Churko; C. Corazza; C. DeMatteis; A. Drover; K. Dullemond; H. Frost; Y. Fung; Y. Gao; H. Gehrels; K. Gingera; J. Gordon; T. Haapalainen; M. Heft; R. Ho; J. Jaski; A. Jebb; W. Kuang; T. Lawson; K. Liu; B. Lute; J. Mann; R. Marascio; H. Miao; J. Michell; A. Miskiewicz; L. Morton; K. Munn; E. Naghshinehpour; M. Orobko; K. Patterson; L. Perreault; L. Principe; W. Rong; N. Salihue; K. Schneider; M. She; M. Shi; C. Sikich; C. Stevenson; D. Tan; K. Tonnesen; T. Tsang; J. Wan; M. Wong; E. Yau; J. Zhang.