[Written by Elizabeth May]
Good Sunday Morning!
December 22, 2019
Happy Solstice! And Good Sunday Morning from Bergen, Norway. We arrived by train from Oslo yesterday evening to visit my two newly attached grandsons – John’s son and family live here. So three more sleeps until Christmas! God Jul!
Being the festive season, time for some good news for a change.
First up, the wonderful news yesterday from the Nova Scotia government. There will be no extension of the deadline for a system to deal with the toxic effluent from the mill in Pictou. The Boat Harbour Act, passed in the NS legislature to create a deadline for clean-up, will be honoured, closing down the current polluting abomination by end of January 2020. That essentially means the mill will close.
That mill was built with one sweetheart deal after another by Scott Paper in 1967: grants in lieu of taxes, practically free access to Nova Scotia forests, repealing the “Small Tree Act” which had forbidden logging small trees to protect the saw log industry. (Thus, converting Nova Scotia’s forests from large and mixed forests for sawmills, to monocultural spruce-fir for pulp). To protect those softwood trees from “competing” deciduous, in the early 1980s, Scott Paper decided to spray Agent Orange. So did the two other major multinationals in Nova Scotia. Local grassroots efforts organized to stop them, leading to a court challenge known as “the herbicide case” within which, to pay a bill of costs to Scott Paper, my family lost 80 acres of land. And on and on. But to cap it off, the mill was built on lies to the Mi’kmaq people of Pictou Landing First Nation.
Back in 1967, to make life easy for Scott Paper, the NS Department of Environment was put in charge of waste treatment. The fishing grounds of the Mi’kmaq was appropriated with the promise that fishing would be unimpaired. The toxic stew of Boat Harbour wiped out the fishery and rendered the area unusable. Sneaking back with a friend from the First Nation years ago, I was appalled. It looked like a scene from the worst dystopian sci-fi imaginable – acres and acres of steaming, burbling toxic waste. And the stench.
The solution proposed a few years back was a big pipe to carry the effluent out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The fishermen opposed the plan and so did Pictou Landing First Nation. The mill owners were given the legislated deadline to come up with a workable plan. They seem to have gambled on the (usually) safe bet that the government would bail them out. Well, now that mill will have to close. The provincial government announced $50 million to help the workers. I hope the money goes to the workers and not the mill owners. We’ll stay on top of that. But for now, OH! Happy Day!!
Next up in a Good Sunday Morning of good news is the strongest court ruling yet that governments have a duty to protect citizens from climate crisis. The Netherlands’ Supreme Court rejected an appeal against an earlier pro-climate win. The court confirmed that the government had explicit duties to protect its citizens’ human rights in the face of climate change and must reduce emissions by at least 25% compared with 1990 levels by the end of 2020. (For contrast, Canada is currently 17% above 1990 levels).
“…(T)the lives, well being and living circumstances of many people around the world, including in the Netherlands, are being threatened,” Kees Streefkerk, the chief justice, said in the decision. “Those consequences are happening already.”
Columbia University’s Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, hailed the decision: “There have been 1,442 climate lawsuits around the world…This is the strongest decision ever. The Dutch Supreme Court upheld the first court order anywhere directing a country to slash its greenhouse gas emissions.”
The 1,442 similar cases globally have been launched in Belgium, France, Ireland, Germany, New Zealand, Britain, Switzerland, Norway, the European Union, as well as the United States and Canada. Personally, I do not want to wait until climate litigation makes it through the courts, but the pressure is building.
And to cap off your Good Sunday Morning, surprising news from India and China. The news comes from NASA. Advanced Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) was used to study changes in the greenery of the planet over time. This method led to a surprising discovery. The planet is greener now than it was two decades ago. Initially, the researchers were not sure how and why, but determined that tree planting in China and India was responsible. In fact, India is breaking records in tree planting having planted 50 million trees in just one 24 hour period.
So with Trudeau’s promise to plant two billion trees, Canada could start catching up. If only the tree planting was not to be paid for with profits from the TransMountain pipeline. Sorry! I will stick to good news for this Sunday morning.
Merry Christmas! Be back in your inbox next Sunday!
Love and thanks,