Peace and Environment News — Insider, November–December 2012
by Mike Buckthought
Omnibudget Guts Protection for Waterways
The latest omnibus budget bill (Bill C‑45) introduces changes that would gut one of Canada’s most important environmental laws. The Navigable Waters Protection Act requires federal approval for projects that affect navigable waterways. If the amendments pass, the legislation would only apply to 97 lakes, 62 rivers and the three oceans. The act would no longer apply to tens of thousands of lakes and rivers across Canada — clearing the way for oil pipelines, mines and hydroelectric projects. The 443-page omnibus bill introduces changes to over 60 different acts. Because these far-reaching changes are combined in one bill, there will be limited opportunities for debate in the House of Commons. (Canada NewsWire, October 18, 2012; Globe and Mail, October 18, 2012)
Clean Water Act
While Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was introducing the newly minted omnibus bill, Americans celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. This key law came into effect on October 18, 1972. Before the law was introduced, corporations and municipalities were free to dump untreated sewage and toxic chemicals into lakes and rivers. Two-thirds of the country’s waterways were too polluted for swimming. Ohio’s Cuyahoga River caught fire on a number of occasions, thanks to the ever-present oil pollution. Over the past four decades, the Clean Water Act has led to significant improvements in water quality across the United States. (New York Times, October 16, 2012; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, October 18, 2012)
B.C. Mine Rejected
The B.C. government has rejected a proposed copper and gold mine near Morrison Lake, 65 km northeast of Smithers. An environmental assessment revealed that the mine would threaten sockeye salmon and water quality in the region. The Lake Babine Nation has opposed Pacific Booker Minerals Inc.’s mining application because of concerns about the impacts on salmon in the First Nation’s territory. “Sockeye salmon is a renewable resource at the heart of our culture and communities,” says Chief Wilf Adam of Lake Babine Nation. “We can’t risk trading a renewable, sustainable fishery for a non-renewable mine that will leave a legacy of contaminants and toxins in our territory,” he says. (Lake Babine Nation, October 2012; Globe and Mail, October 1, 2012)
Disappearing Arctic Sea Ice
On September 16, the area of Arctic sea ice fell to the lowest ever recorded. The Arctic sea ice extent reached 3.41 million square kilometres, about half of the 1979–2000 average. The rapid collapse of the Arctic ice cap will have serious implications for species such as polar bears. Some experts are predicting that polar bears will disappear in many regions of the Arctic. Meanwhile, the area covered by Antarctic sea ice has increased. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, stronger circumpolar winds are pushing the Antarctic ice outward, increasing the total area. (National Snow and Ice Data Center, October 2, 2012; The Guardian, September 19, 2012; PostMedia News, September 21, 2012)
Averting Nuclear Armageddon
A new historical project reveals that the world came close to being devastated by nuclear war. The October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis was a pivotal point in history. Surveillance aircraft spotted Soviet missiles, capable of hitting American cities with nuclear weapons. The United States and the Soviet Union came close to engaging in a nuclear confrontation. University of Waterloo historians Jim Blight and Janet Lang document the Cold War crisis in a new book, The Armageddon Letters. They say the world is still threatened by nuclear war, and we need to learn from history — to save the world from armageddon, we need to eliminate nuclear weapons. (Ottawa Citizen, October 16, 2012; The Armageddon Letters, www.armageddonletters.com)
Mike Buckthought is a writer and environmental activist based in Ottawa.
Published in the Peace and Environment News Insider, Volume 27, Number 5, November–December 2012, page 6.