Blue Dot goes to Parliament Hill

15 October 2016 / By Alaya Boisver for

On September 28, 2016 the David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice co-hosted a reception on Parliament Hill about the future of environmental rights and responsibilities in Canada.

Our goal was to introduce Members of Parliament (MPs) and their staff to the Blue Dot movement and the call for legal protection of everyone’s right to a healthy environment through a gold-standard federal environmental bill of rights. Continue reading

Nature’s right to exist gets a boost from key organizations

/ Mike Gaworecki for Mongabay

The United Nations and the world’s largest conservation organization are both pushing for equal rights for nature.

  • The more than 1,300 members from over 170 countries of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) signalled their support for nature’s inherent right to exist at the organization’s most recent World Conservation Congress, held in Hawaii last month.
  • These actions on the part of the IUCN will in turn help boost the efforts of wildlife conservation conventions such as CITES, which are especially crucial in the midst of skyrocketing illicit trade in endangered species, according to Linda Sheehan, executive director of the California-based Earth Law Center.
  • In August, just before IUCN members convened in Hawaii, the UN released a report prepared by 120 experts in economics, education, ethics, law, science, and other disciplines that recommended the rights of nature be included in our governance systems.
In 2008, Ecuador became the first country to enshrine in its constitution the right of nature to exist and thrive. Then Bolivia passed its Law of the Rights of Mother Earth in 2010, which not only recognizes the natural world’s rights but also grants Earth what’s been called a “legal personality,” thereby allowing legal action to be brought on the planet’s behalf by its representatives — namely, mankind.At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012, countries adopted a document titled “The future we want” that took a tentative step toward rights for nature by recognizing that it’s necessary to promote harmony with nature in order to achieve a just balance between the needs of current and future generations.Efforts are now underway in countries around the world to enact laws based on the same principle. Numerous communities and municipalities in the U.S. have already passed laws — often known as a “Community Bill of Rights” — establishing the rights of nature and humans to clean air, pure water, and healthy ecosystems. In fact, in 2014, an ecosystem in Pennsylvania filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit in defense of its own rights, the first action of its kind.

Now the United Nations and the world’s largest conservation organization are both pushing for equal rights for nature, as well.

Continue reading

Extinction Tourism

by Ray Grigg

By NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using AMSR-E data courtesy of the National Snow and Ice Data (NSIDC), and sea ice extent contours courtesy of Terry Haran and Matt Savoie, NSIDC, based on Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) data. - NASA, en:NASA Earth Observatory, Public Domain,

In 2013, the Northwest Passage was expected not to open up for travel until Mid-Centry  (Scientific American, A. Jogalekar 2013 March 6, 2013), but now in 2016 it is being done. Shown here is the rate of change from 1979 – 2007.  NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using AMSR-E data courtesy of the National Snow and Ice Data (NSIDC), and sea ice extent contours courtesy of Terry Haran and Matt Savoie, NSIDC, based on Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) data. – NASA,

The Crystal Serenity, a 300-metre long luxury cruise ship on its journey from Alaska to New York via the Northwest Passage, will be the first vessel of its size and sophistication to traverse this complex and dangerous waterway. Now, unfrozen because of global warming, the iconic Northwest Passage will be able to offer a unique blending of excitement and indulgence to the adventurous 1,070 passengers and the crew of 700.

The expedition required meticulous planning. Only about 10% of Canada’s Arctic waters are adequately charted. So, two veteran ice pilots are assisting in navigating the huge ship. The Crystal Serenity is also accompanied by a British icebreaker, the RRS Ernest Shackleton, along with two helicopters to scout for threatening ice conditions.

Professor Michael Byers, a UBC expert on climate change and Arctic sovereignty, noted that the expedition could be the beginning of a new industry called “extinction tourism”. Continue reading

Decision Making for Dummies

by Ray Grigg

The Books for Dummies series now comprises 274 titles, ranging from Tarot for Dummies and Hockey for Dummies to Sex for Dummies. So, in the complex and often confusing world of environmentalism, perhaps a few words on decision making are timely.

As news reports on unfolding environmental crises stream from multiple directions, the pressure to make intelligent decisions has become palpable. How do we function within this milieu of heightening pressure? Some people just shut down because the tension is too great, an escape strategy that is ultimately unhealthy for both themselves and everyone else. Avoidance is no longer an option.

Others feel overcome by idealistic expectations, immobilized by countless demands, as if the weight of the world — like Atlas in Greek mythology — has been placed on their shoulders. But a way does exist to ease this overwhelming sense of burden.

Begin by accepting that nothing you can do singularly will save the planet from ecological trauma. This spares you the debilitating burden of owning the whole problem as personally yours. But you can contribute to solutions. As a small part of a vast movement of altered awareness and behaviour, great changes can be effected. So, how do you participate wisely? Continue reading

Media: The Absent Force

by Ray Grigg

The sobering reports coming from almost all scientists confirm that the response of the media to the unfolding climate crisis is not proportional to the seriousness of the problem. This incongruity between the scientific assessments and the media coverage creates the impression that our greenhouse gas emissions are a manageable challenge, that our corrective measures are adequate, and that we can avoid ecological catastrophe. The opposite on each point almost certainly applies.

The media is largely to blame for this misrepresentation of our predicament. Its efforts to provide balanced coverage is an admirable goal when exploring the broad dimensions of a controversial issue. But not every subject is equally controversial. On the matter of climate change, the media continually juxtaposes messages of alarm with those of reassurance, thereby inflating the importance of minority opinions and giving the impression that the political initiatives being enacted are sufficient to address the problem. But the science is conclusive. Climate change is happening, the consequences will be serious, and will not be averted by the present pledges of greenhouse gas emission reductions. Continue reading

The Magical Sheen

Photo by CHEK News, of Victoria B.C.

First Nations come together to protest B.C. salmon farms for the devastating consequences to the health of the salmon and consequently their culture, contending it is “cultural genocide.” Photo by CHEK News, of Victoria B.C.

by Ray Grigg

The arrival in July of the Sea Shepherd’s RV Martin Sheen on its “Operation Virus Hunter” expedition to examine salmon farms along the east coast of Vancouver Island had an unexpected effect. The ship’s mere presence created a physical and symbolic place for First Nations to express their seething resentment about an industry that many of them have been opposing for nearly 30 years.

As the ship visited fish farms, it became a catalyst for action by the many chiefs and elders invited aboard. Their growing uneasiness inspired them to respond to the diminishing runs of salmon, herring and oolichans that represent their traditional way of life. These species constitute their life-blood. And they blame salmon farms for spreading the diseases, parasites and pollution that threaten their identity by contaminating their sacred waters.

The threat, they contend, constitutes cultural genocide, for they are literally “salmon people”, intimately bound for millennia to the natural cycles of the wild salmon’s generosity. Since the arrival of salmon farms — without consultation in their “un-ceded waters and territories,” as hereditary chief George Quocksister Jr. explains — their anxiety has been growing. Visits to the actual salmon farms confirmed their worst fears. Continue reading

All is Not Well With Salmon Farming

by Ray Grigg

All is not well with salmon farming. The industry presents a front of confidence and optimism but behind the public relations image is a reality of threat and fear. The situation in Norway, the country from which the industry spread to Scotland, Chile and Canada’s East and West Coasts, is an indicator of the direction the industry is heading.

In Norwegian salmon farms, viral diseases are proliferating and sea lice are developing resistance to the pesticide of choice, emamectin benzoate (aka SLICE). With increasing frequency, sea lice-infected farmed salmon must now be bathed in a hydrogen peroxide solution to cleanse them of the parasite. This is also becoming the practice in Chile, Nova Scotia and BC. Once allowed for use in Canada only through the Emergency Drug Release Program as a treatment of last resort, SLICE became a routinely applied chemical in June 2009. It is now becoming ineffective.

Although escaped farmed Atlantic salmon do not seem to be a major problem in BC where they are not native, in Norway and Canada’s Maritimes their damage to the native Atlantics may be serious and irreversible. The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research recently tested 20,000 Atlantics in 147 Norwegian rivers and found that, in 109 of these rivers, up to 50% of the wild fish and up to 42.2% of their genes were altered by interbreeding, a genetic contamination that could impair the viability of the wild fish. This would be a serious threat to wild Atlantics in Canada’s Maritimes. Continue reading

Scientists are Back

by Ray Grigg

Scientists are back. The dictatorial edict of censorship from the Harper government that prevented scientists from communicating freely with the public was lifted within hours of the new Trudeau government taking office. No one was more relieved than Kristi Miller, the head of molecular genetics at DFO’s Pacific Biological Station. Indeed, her research on salmon diseases is now considered high priority by Ottawa (CBC News, July 23/16).

This is a dramatic change from 2011 when the Prime Minister’s Office prevented her from discussing both her research published in Science magazine and the evidence she was giving to the Cohen Commission on the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye run. “I was told at the time that the problem with the study was that it was talking about dying salmon, and that wasn’t a positive news story.” So, she explained, “When we were banned, it almost made government scientists second-class citizens in the scientific arena. It was quite embarrassing. I really felt like a second-class citizen.”

Miller and her science colleagues found themselves in the same second-class as wild salmon when the Harper government and DFO gave priority to farmed Atlantics. In Miller’s assessment, “There’s always been research… trying to understand disease processes in aquaculture fish, but never really taken to the level of impacts on wild fish.” Continue reading

Taking Control

by Ray Grigg

If we think of our relationship with nature as being divided into two basic phases — adapting and then controlling — this may provide a perspective that could guide us toward some practical solutions to our present environmental problems.

For almost all of our existence as a species, we lived in an adaptive relationship with nature, in an essentially wild environment where we reacted creatively and resourcefully to the conditions provided by nature. Eventually we took a modest control of our circumstances by making rudimentary tools, constructing crude shelters and using fire. But mostly we lived by adapting to the conditions that nature presented to us.

This relationship began to change radically with the Agricultural Revolution about 10,000 years ago. We slowly replaced hunting and gathering with crops. Animal and plant husbandry helped us to avoid some of nature’s unpredictable qualities. Continue reading

Motivated Reasoning

by Ray Grigg

Motivated reasoning is defined by Psychology Research and Reference as “a form of reasoning in which people access, construct and evaluate arguments in a biased fashion to arrive at or endorse a preferred conclusion” — motivated because “people use reasoning strategies that allow them to draw the conclusions they want to draw.”

The fascinating quality about motivated reasoning is that the thinker’s conclusions seem to be reasonable and valid. In reality, however, the psychological urge to confirm an opinion is so important that the thinking skews the reasoning toward a foregone conclusion. Motivated reasoning is an elaborate form of confirmation bias.

People who use motivated reasoning to reach invalid conclusions are actually well-intentioned and honest — they are “driven by an accuracy motivation” and are trying to be principled and ethical. But they are unaware of the thinking mechanism that is leading them to an unsupported conclusion. Thinking, in other words, is more complicated than it seems.

This explains why we need to be aware of the motivation that underlies the reasoning we do. Our emotional and attitudinal disposition can determine the conclusions we reach. So a clue to identifying the presence of motivated reasoning can be found in the degree to which we want or do not want something to be real. Continue reading