Friday, August 03, 2018

Something To Cheer About

Michael Harris reflects over at ipolitics on why throwing in the towel is never the right choice. And, rather than preach, he tells a story rooted in recent history:

This week in Canada there was a remarkable example of how a few people with a head for glory, a plucky band of scientists, changed history in this country.
Kenora MP Bob Nault announced on behalf of the Trudeau government an investment of $4 million in the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario.
It was a very good move — and the second batch of funding for the ELA from Ottawa since 2016. This 58-lake natural laboratory has contributed some of the most stunning scientific discoveries in the world over the 50 years of its existence.

The work the ELA has done has had world wide consequences:

It was the ELA, for example, that came up with irrefutable evidence that acid rain — industrial pollutants from U.S. coal plants — was killing Canadian lakes. That research led directly to the landmark Acid Rain Treaty between Canada and the United States.
Before ELA scientists presented their evidence, U.S. President Ronald Reagan was fond of claiming that trees caused more pollution than cars.
The ELA also did landmark freshwater research on oil spills, phosphorous in detergents, silver nanoparticles, and the deadly effects of atmospheric mercury on fish, and therefore on human beings.

But, despite its record of accomplishment, Stephen Harper shut down the ELA as part of his war on science. It's only been a few years, but I suspect many Canadians have forgotten  just how dedicated Harper was to burying science and scientists:

In Harper’s March 2012 budget, 3,000 environmental assessments were eliminated, including many dealing with fossil fuels and pipelines;
The Harper government closed seven of nine world famous DFO libraries, with some priceless collections ending up in landfills, like the 50 volumes produced by the HMS Challenger expedition from 1872-1876;
The Conservatives killed the long-form census, cut funding to science, closed several research facilities and reduced atmospheric studies to just 70 per cent of what they had been in 2006;
Harper dropped his scientific advisor and elevated a creationist to the post of minister of science and technology;
Harper’s fisheries minister made drastic changes to the Fisheries Act without consulting his own scientists;
Harper suppressed significant studies by federal scientists like Kristina Miller and David Tarasick.
Miller produced a study that showed a virus from fish farming might have decimated wild sockeye runs in British Columbia. Even though her study was published in the journal Nature, she was forbidden to talk bout it.
In Tarasick’s case, his discovery of a large hole in the ozone layer over the Arctic made the government’s do-nothing approach to climate change even more embarrassing. He too was muzzled.

But science and young scientists -- who had not yet finished their PhD's -- fought back. Their refusal to knuckle under has paid off.

I have been increasingly disappointed by the Trudeau government. But I cheer their decision to revive the ELA. There are still somethings to cheer about.

Image: The Manitoban


The Mound of Sound said...

There are a few zealots who label critics of this government "Trudeau haters." They ignore how we are eager to commend Trudeau when his government does something right, such as the ELA programme. It's only four million, a pittance compared to what we'll pay for the TransMountain pipeline, but it is still a very good thing.

Owen Gray said...

It's a small step, Mound. Trudeau's other promses pale in comparison to re-opening the ELA. But the story proves Harris' point. Giving up is always too early. I'll try to keep that in mind as I see ignorance moving in like a prairie blizzard.

the salamander said...

.. yes, Stephen Harper showed his disdain and fear of science & biology constantly & in the crudest manner.. ideological de-funding. Trump is very very similar.. without question they are both sellouts. I tweeted a critical message today re a young PhD who is doing selenium research, who I came acoss on Google News. Good on Tudeau on re-funding this.. but maybe he could 'walk the walk' re environment, habitat, species, SARA, amd skip the rainbow unicorn re posturing re supertankers for LNG and Dilbit to Asia. If gutting much of Alberta and BC is requred for resource stripping .. and zero reality they could ever be remediated.. he may as well come out and say so.. instead of the fatuous fluffing from himself, MkKenna, Notely, Kenney and Horgan et al..

Owen Gray said...

Reviving the ETA will not make up for the damage Trudeau will do if he bows to big oil, sal. The scientists at the ETA would be the first to tell him that.