At this biodiversity conference the Green Energy Act lay like a dog turd in need of a policy pooper-scooper.
The 2012 Muskoka Summit on the Environment entitled Perspectives On Biodiversity Loss – From Science to Policy, follows on the inaugural 2010 Freshwater Summit which had its inception in the year of the world Summit in Muskoka.
The objective then was to prepare a policy statement which would be communicated to our government representatives at the international Summit. An lsarc.ca member with long-standing involvement in freshwater monitoring and protection was invited to the first event and this year again attended to bring a Lake Superior perspective to the proceedings giving us the opportunity to share with you a first-hand report:
Perspectives On Biodiversity Loss – From Science to Policy followed the established model: Opening speeches by Scott Young – Town of Bracebridge, MC John Smoll – Queen’s University and entertainment by First Nations singers, six lecture and question sessions, panel discussion moderated by Paul Kennedy for the CBC “Ideas” programme, rousing wrap-up by Gord Miller Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, closing by Judi Brouse – Muskoka Heritage chair of the organizing committee.
The overlap between the biodiversity attendees and the old water crowd was just large enough to provide some familiar faces and old connections along with new networking opportunities. Our Northern message, “Defining Green” was posted for all to read on the wall of the meeting room, graced also by various sponsor displays. The flyer and FITY Dollar bills were distributed to interested parties during chat breaks. Many Muskoka locals shared great concern about development pressures eroding the amenity values of landscape upon which their tourism is based. Large-scale projects are seen as a threat to both their environment and the economy.
Speakers’ bio and their abstract is available and the CBC ‘Ideas’ program will air a panel discussion sometime next week, so the following is short personal observations on unique perspectives and points of interest only.
The title of Justina Ray’s book “Caribou and the North: A Shared Future” (Dundurn Press 2008) poetically states the conundrum of balancing the urgency of biodiversity protection with socio-economic considerations. Her experience in the vast landscape which sustains Caribou may have given her a spatial awareness akin to that of Northerners. Justina sees land use changes leading to fragmentation of habitats as contributing greatly to the degradation of population and ecosystem resilience. Perceptions of habitat vary as does interest in species which may not be charismatic but are crucial to ecosystem functioning.
Though Jeremy Kerr is an accomplished speaker whose convictions and poise are mesmerizing his acceptance and dissemination of exaggerated anthropogenic global warming claims, which the IPCC itself has had to disown, are less admirable. He, like the hyperbolic mainstream media which ascribes everything to climate armageddon, is convinced we face, not just change, but extreme change. Jeremy understands media manipulation and acknowledges the value of marketable subjects such as butterflies in soliciting support for biodiversity issues.
In private conversation Jeremy is dismissive of scientists who do not conform to the groupthink or ‘scientific consensus’ of the seriously compromised IPCC. If “Climategate” 1 and 2 did not raise alarm bells this quote should: “We have to offer up scary scenarios… each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective and being honest.” — Stephen Schneider, IPCC author, 1989.
As an equal opportunity government basher my question to Jeremy was why he, who was involved with the creation of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, had failed to even mention the egregious ESA-destroying changes hidden from public scrutiny in Ontario’s budget omnibus Bill 55. His reply, that he lacked the time in his presentation, seemed disingenuous considering his over-long belabouring of the environmental lapses of the Federal government which largely depends on the Provinces for implementation and enforcement of its regulations.
The presentation of McGill researcher Andrew Gonzalez was enlivened by the announcement of his work being freshly published in the Journal Nature as of that same day. He recounted the steps in his evolutionary ecology experiment using yeasts to determine the adaptive ability of a population to environmental stress, in this instance salt. The recovery of populations due to local adaptation or evolutionary rescue is important and there is strong indication that populations which have recovered from a stressor will retain that survivability.
Stephen Monet is Manager of Environmental Planning Initiatives at the City of Sudbury. He recounted the progress of Sudbury’s Re-greening Program which has been underway since 1978. The first attention was given to a cosmetic beauty band along highway approaches to the infamous moon-scape. Since the soils were so badly eroded, poplar and birch have been the most prevalent volunteer species and even with liming the coniferous plantings have struggled. Salvage of large tracts of forest understory doomed by highway expansion has enabled transfer of whole mats of plant communities. Careful documentation of these attempts allows better evaluation and will provide valuable data for researchers in future.
Monet responded to my question regarding disappointment generated by development now necessitating the felling of some of the original plantings by saying that the trees were planted even on private land so it was always known that this would happen and they have simply required that trees cut will be compensated for by plantings elsewhere.
A former Ontario Power Generation biologist, Stephen Hounsell currently works in the Corporate Sustainable Development Group. He led the recent “renewal” of the ill fated 2005 Ontario Biodiversity Strategy and spoke at length on it with the hard-sell delivery of an industry pitchman. His resort to climate alarmism may have prompted a later question/suggestion from the audience that a sense of crisis fatigue might render it counter-productive.
That the American conservation biologist Thomas Lovejoy sounded as though he was at Death’s door may account for a lack-lustre performance or perhaps it was the eye of the beholder which saw an overtly political creature and closed. Lovejoy has served on science and environmental councils under Reagan, Bush and Clinton. His anecdotes hinted that it is not what you know but who you know that counts.
An actual politician in the Canadian House of Commons from 1993 to 2004 Karen Kraft Sloan, of course founded a consultancy after retirement. EcoNexus helps people achieve their environmental and sustainability aspirations. For a person who was Canada’s Ambassador for the Environment from January 2005 to September 2006 she was rather undiplomatic in her criticism of the Federal Government despite its endorsement of the Biodiversity Accord.
She did provide useful information on science policy development and integration. The socio-ecological nature of the public policy issues often make for a “wicked problem” which is ill-defined and where solutions are elusive and often resolutions are accepted in lieu of real solutions. To be effective, communiques to policy-makers should be concise, simple and offer something concrete, politically acceptable and achievable in the short-term.
As usual the Environmental Commissioner for Ontario Gord Miller’s rant was dynamic and delivered with sardonic humour, including several well known quotes such as, : “If stupidity got us into this why can’t it get us out?”
He chastised the Provincial Government, which is responsible under the Canadian Constitution, and the MNR for assiduously ignoring the 2005 Ontario Biodiversity Strategy and for shunning Mr Hounsell and his Ontario Biodiversity Council and the new biodiversity strategy they developed without formal government involvement; MNR expressly stated that it is not directly responsible for the contents of the strategy. The ECO also made an angry effort to stir the audience to communicate to the Federal government our desire that Canada honour our commitment under the Convention. In 1992, the Convention on biological diversity was introduced at the Rio earth summit as an international agreement to conserve biodiversity and commit to its sustainable use. A year later, the government of Canada became the first industrialized country to become a signatory to the Convention.
Per the CBC schedule blurb:
“Wednesday, June 13
Buying into Biodiversity:
The 2012 Muskoka Environmental Summit brings together prominent scientists and influential policy makers to discuss critical questions about biodiversity and the environment. IDEAS host Paul Kennedy moderates the plenary panel discussion.”
You will have an opportunity to hear that for yourselves, however my question to the policy expert Karen Kraft Sloan may be subject to censorship, though it did in fact follow up on the moderator’s own question as to what happens if they get policy wrong, I give the gist here:
Citing the many ways the Green Energy Act fails to meet the criteria of good policy i.e. attack on Democracy through removal of municipal power to veto development; social strife due to inequality of rural and urban residents including disrespect for First Nations traditional values and lifestyles; ballooning economic costs we can only imagine since there was never a proper cost/benefit analysis done; unsustainable environmental harm to endangered species and spaces with wind and solar developments squeezed into places which should be protected, like Ostrander Point between designated Important Bird Areas, places previously thought protected like Oak Ridges Moraine and minimally impacted ecosystems such as the watershed of Lake Superior. I remarked that the GEA, at this conference on biodiversity, had lain like a dog turd and that we are in need of a Pooper-Scooper.
Unfortunately our policy expert turned out to be more politician and dodged and weaved and then stepped daintily over the mess saying that she had been too focused on Federal issues to be cognizant of how the GEA was being implemented in this Province. Justina Ray, who had been eager to pitch in from the start, expounded with enthusiasm on the undesirability of fragmenting habitats but she was unable to directly address the policy clean-up we desperately need… flies are gathering.
Here are some short video clips from the Summit:
Andrew Gonzalez 1 – Biodiversity Change.mp4
Andrew Gonzalez 2 – Does biodiversity matter?.mp4
Gord Miller 1 – MNR & Biodiversity Strategy.mp4
John Smol 1 – Our use of biodiversity.mp4
John Smol 2 – Number of endangered species.mp4
John Smol 3 – Four challenges to biodiversity.mp4
Justina Ray 1 – defining biodiversity.mp4
Karen Kraft Sloan 1 – Parties to engage in preserving biodiversity.mp4
Steve Hounsell 1 – defines biodiversity.mp4
Steve Hounsell 2 – The conservation imperative.mp4
Steve Hounsell 3 – Suggested priorities.mp4