Monday, June 18, 2012

There are many examples of unsustainable things going on in the world and here are a few I’ve read about or seen going on in Canada.

Unsustainable, the amount of pressure we put on the soil for commercial clear cutting of forests; soil can no longer retain water thus the landscape is destroyed.

Unsustainable, one of the world’s dirtiest industries, “the oil sands production generates three times the greenhouse gas emission as a barrel of conventional oil”*. Up to 4 barrels of water are used to produce 1 barrel of tar sand oil “resulting in gigantic tailings [pools] of toxic waste that can be seen from outer space by the naked eye”**. This water is drained from the Athabasca (which in Cree means where there are plants one after another - will we have to change the name soon?) River in Alberta.

Unsustainable, our Canadian mining industry is among the biggest in the world and also involved in 33% of mining conflicts (whether “taking over land abroad and polluting water sources, destroying the environment, and often without consulting the affected communities or listened to their concern”) between 1999-2009***. In October 2010, Bill C-300, which is the so-called responsible Mining Bill on corporate accountability of mining companies abroad (to target mostly developing countries) and created by our Liberals was put to final vote in the House of Commons and rejected by most MPs, many Liberal MPs didn’t even show for the vote, did they ever take the bill seriously?

Unsustainable, the environment’s priority shifted from top to the near bottom in the Conservative’s new 2012 budget. The Canadian government is taking the money from environmental budgets and putting it into the oil industry pockets and cutting funds on environmental related industries and pushing downward investment in anything related to climate change like the closing of Eureka, a research base camp and a Canadian meteorological station on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut (Arctic).

Unsustainable, cutting programs like Katimavik, “Canada’s leading youth volunteer-service program that gives youth the chance to take part in intensive service and learning projects that help change the Canadian communities”**** This includes helping the uOttawa sustainability community and Sandy Hill to be even more sustainable year after year.

Sustainable, the water used to water our lawns and cars could come from a grey water sources for instance from rain barrels that you can put under your gutter to recuperate rain water. The City of Ottawa actually funds (50$) to people who want to buy rain barrels (http://rainbarrel.ca/sales/, look up Ottawa on the page to see when they are being offered). Water is a precious resource and we have the tools to keep it clean, the use of grey water is an excellent initiative and a first step in preserving this precious resource.

Sustainable, innovation, investment and the creation of jobs in our burgeoning sustainable energy industries - like solar energy, geothermal electricity, wind power, and hydraulic power.

Sustainable mining is possible. Taking a more sustainable approach toward the environment and involving stakeholder communities is essential. Taking the fuel industry a step further by investing more money into cleaning tar sand effluent before putting it back in nature. Maybe these organizations could invest in more sustainable energy industries and slow down the tar sand industries.

There are many ways our Canada can be more sustainable, I could write for days and list many great sustainable industries but unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time. But many together the Canadian population could sacrifice a few minutes a day to take action, being more sustainable it is soooooo easy.

If you are looking for more info, all these issues and more are going to be discussed at the Earth Summit in Rio right now. Check out what groups like We Canada are doing to help make Canada more sustainable at the international stage.

~ alex - campus sustainability coordinator
photo credit - jonathan rausseo

* Canada’s Tar sands, Cal project, http://www.calproject.org/factsheet-ibcc-tarsands.pdf, consulted on june 12th 2012.
** Ibid, Canada’s Tar sands.
*** Ownership of companies involved in mining conflicts 1999-2009,2010, Responsible mining – What next?, Canadian catholic organization for Development and Peace, http://youth.devp.org/tag/mining/, consulted on june 12th 2012.
**** Katimavik programs, Katimavik, http://www.katimavik.org/programs/all, consulted on june 12th 2012.

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