Peace and Eco Briefs, July–August 2012

Peace and Environment News — Insider, July–August 2012
by Mike Buckthought

Canada’s Endangered Environmental Laws

EarthThe House of Commons recently passed the omnibus budget bill (Bill C-38) after a marathon voting session. Bill C-38 will weaken Canada’s environmental legislation, paving the way for pipelines and pollution. According to Environment Minister Peter Kent, “approximately 4,000–5,000 EAs (environmental assessments) are conducted by federal authorities every year.” Kent says under the new legislation, most of these projects “would no longer require a federal EA.” On June 4, thousands of Canadians joined the Black Out, Speak Out online protest to speak out against legislation that threatens the environment. Over 500 organizations blacked out their websites. All of the country’s opposition parties participated in the online protest. (Postmedia News, June 15, 2012; Ecojustice, June 4, 2012; Black Out Speak Out

Cutting Environmental Research

The Harper government has cut funding for the world’s leading freshwater research centre. In an open letter, scientists urge the government to reconsider its decision to close the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), a unique research facility. Since 1968, scientists have conducted groundbreaking research examining the effects of lake acidification, eutrophication, climate change and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The omnibus budget bill cut the centre’s $2-million annual funding. “I think the real problem is we have a bunch of people running science in this country who don’t even know what science is,” says David Schindler, a world-renowned scientist. If no alternative funding can be found, the centre will close by March 2013. (Globe and Mail, June 1–15, 2012)

Record Investments in Renewable Energy

Global investment in sustainable energy reached a record US$257 billion in 2011, despite the world economic crisis. Investment in green energy has surged: last year’s total was six times the 2004 figure. While Canada focuses on the tar sands, many countries are transitioning to a low-carbon economy. Global investment in solar energy has soared, with large increases recorded for the United Kingdom, Greece, Australia, France, Italy, Spain and Japan. Last year, the leading countries were China and the United States. Both countries invested over US$50 billion in renewable energy. Canada’s investment in renewable energy dropped eight per cent, reaching US$5 billion — about a sixth of Italy’s total. (The Guardian, June 11, 2012; Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2012, June 11, 2012

Canada Drops Peacekeeping

United Nations peacekeeping missions help people around the world make the transition from conflict to peace. There are currently over 99,000 UN peacekeepers on four continents. There has been a dramatic decline in Canada’s support for peacekeeping. In the early 1990s, Canada was the world’s leading contributor of peacekeepers. According to the UN’s April 2012 report, only 33 Canadian military personnel and 130 police officers are serving in peacekeeping missions. Fifty-two countries are contributing more peacekeepers than Canada. Although Canada no longer plays a prominent role in international peacekeeping efforts, Canadians continue to express strong support for peace. According to a 2010 Nanos poll conducted for the Globe and Mail, Canadians rank peacekeeping as the top priority for Canada’s military. Only one in five Canadians want the country to send soldiers to war. (Globe and Mail, June 8, 2012; United Nations Peacekeeping

Former Australian PM Criticizes Canada

In comments published by the Ottawa Citizen, a former Australian prime minister criticizes Canada for failing to uphold an international treaty that bans cluster munitions. “Canada used to be in the forefront internationally in leading the world in good directions,” says Malcolm Fraser. “It is a pity the current Canadian Government, in relation to cluster munitions, does not provide any real lead to the world. Its approach is timid, inadequate and regressive.” Canada signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but proposed legislation would allow Canadian soldiers to help military forces of other countries use the banned weapons. “These weapons are outlawed because of their indiscriminate nature and devastating consequences for civilians,” says Laura Cheeseman, Director of the international Cluster Munition Coalition. “In its current form, this legislation leaves open the possibility of Canadian Forces personnel using cluster bombs.” (Ottawa Citizen, June 3, 2012; Mines Action Canada, May 30, 2012

Mike Buckthought is a writer based in Ottawa.

Published in the Peace and Environment News Insider, Volume 27, Number 3, July–August 2012, page 6.

Commuter Challenge Update

Peace and Environment News, July–August 2012
by Mike Buckthought

Commuter ChallengeDuring Environment Week (June 3–9), over 25,500 people across Canada joined the 2012 Commuter Challenge. The annual event encourages everyone to use sustainable modes of transportation such as walking, cycling, public transit and telecommuting. By taking part in the Challenge, participants reduced greenhouse gas emissions by over 440 tonnes of carbon dioxide during the week.

In Ottawa-Gatineau, a total of 1,500 people joined the Commuter Challenge. Over 40 workplaces were represented, ranging from small non-profit organizations to large federal government departments.

The Commuter Challenge included an environment-friendly competition between workplaces, to see which organizations had the highest rates of participation.

In Ottawa-Gatineau, the winning organizations were: the Sierra Youth Coalition (80% participation; workplaces with fewer than 50 employees), CUSO International (43% participation; 50–100 employees), Mountain Equipment Co-op (39% participation; 100–150 employees), Canadian Museum of Nature (32% participation; 150–200 employees), Fairmont Château Laurier (13% participation; 200–1,000 employees), Export Development Corporation (12% participation; 1,000–2,000 employees), and Statistics Canada (16% participation; workplaces with more than 2,000 employees).

The event also included an environment-friendly competition between communities, to see which cities and towns had the highest rates of participation. Calgary was the winning community among the cities with populations greater than one million. In Calgary, a total of 6,770 people used sustainable modes of transportation such as the C-Train, cycling and walking to get to work.

Another winning city was Winnipeg (cities with a population over 500,000). For the ninth year, it was the leading city in its population category. The Province of Manitoba and City of Winnipeg have been strong supporters of the Commuter Challenge, and this has translated into high participation rates in the province. Over 5,200 Winnipeggers joined the event this year.

The other winning communities were: Halifax (population over 250,000), Kingston, Ontario (population over 100,000), Saint John, New Brunswick (population over 50,000), North Vancouver, BC (population over 25,000), Thompson, Manitoba (population over 10,000), Banff, Alberta (population over 5,000), and Wabowden, Manitoba (population under 5,000).

Commuter Challenge 2012 was organized by non-profit organizations and municipalities across the country, including the Sustainable Alberta Association, Green Action Centre, Better Environmentally Sound Transportation, Clean Nova Scotia, City of Kingston and Region of Waterloo.

To view the results of the Commuter Challenge, visit The 2013 Commuter Challenge will take place during Environment Week, June 2–8, 2013.

Mike Buckthought is a car-free commuter, and founder of the Commuter Challenge.

Published in the Peace and Environment News, Volume 27, Number 3, July–August 2012, page 3.