Can Canada Save Its Environment?

By Salloum, Habeeb | Contemporary Review, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Can Canada Save Its Environment?


Salloum, Habeeb, Contemporary Review


UNPREDICTABLE weather events, an ecosystem being eroded, rates of illness, such as lung disease and cancer, are on the increase in Canada and many other parts of the world. Pollution and a vise in greenhouse gases are affecting the health and quality of life of millions of people. It seems that most countries in the world, including Canada, are entering to various degrees the twilight zone of a deteriorating environment. Yet, governments, at all levels, have been reluctant or unwilling to seriously address the problem.

During my youth in the 1930s and 1940s I never heard anyone discuss pollution or greenhouse gases. They were virtually unknown words among the vast majority of people. However, this was to change in the latter part of the twentieth century when scientists began to warn of the danger of people destroying their environment. It was a wake-up call that has dramatically increased throughout the world. Organisations and political parties dedicated to saving the environment sprang up in innumerable countries and the race began to try and turn back the ever rising tide of environmental destruction.

In Canada in 1971, a small group of twelve concerned individuals, in protest against the American testing of nuclear weapons, set sail from Vancouver in a leased fishing boat. Their target was the US atomic test site of Amchitka in Alaska. Calling themselves "Greenpeace", they linked their concern for the environment with their fear of a nuclear war.

Envisioning a green and peaceful world, Greenpeace evolved from this small, loosely organized protest-group in Vancouver, Canada's largest western coastal city, into an international phenomenon that stood up to governments and large worldwide companies. As an environmental movement par excellence it attracted support across all stratas of society from ordinary citizens to celebrities, musicians, politicians, writers, and visionaries. In the ensuing years, all over the world people came to know that Greenpeace meant protecting the environment.

Soon after its inception, Greenpeace, moving onto wider issues such as the general environment, began to spread and grow, especially in Western Europe and Canada. It carries out major international campaigns to: stop global warming; conserve the world's forests; protect biodiversity in all its forms; promote economic equity in international trade; prevent the pollution of the earth's oceans, land, air and fresh water; end all nuclear threats; as well as promote peace and global disarmament.

A little more than a third of a century later, Greenpeace has become an all-encompassing global environmental movement, with its headquarters in the Netherlands. The Greenpeace organisation consists of Greenpeace International in Amsterdam and Greenpeace offices around the world. Operating in some 150 countries with a near three million members it is today an independent global active organisation that campaigns to change attitudes and behaviour of people unknowingly destroying the world around them.

Political 'Green' parties linked to Greenpeace now have members in the parliaments in a number of western European countries. In Canada during the 2008 election, the Green Party, an environmentalist movement led by Elizabeth May, did very well. However, like all green parties throughout the world, Canada's Green Party is basically an environmentalist movement and no one really expected it to be a serious political contender. Due mostly to the charisma of its leader, the party increased its percentage of the popular vote from 4.5 per cent in 2006 to 6.8 per cent in the 2008 election. Most of its spokespersons, although disappointed in not winning any seats, were happy with the results. The election gave the party's message of environmental preservation a chance to be heard by a large section of society.

During the last quarter of the twentieth and the first decade of the twenty-first century Greenpeace has been fighting to save the natural environment. …

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