Recently, news blogs and newspapers reported that some politicians had cribbed research conducted by my foundation and used the information to build their own environmental agendas.
This news sent many a blogger all atwitter. While some of them focused on whether or not the information had been adequately referenced, others decried this action on the part of the politicians as proving that they had no ideas of their own, so they had to steal them from others.
Allow me to clear something up right now. To all politicians looking for ways to reduce our footprint on nature ? or, to use politician-speak, create an ?environmental platform?: Knock yourselves out. Feel free to steal, pilfer, borrow, rent, filch or otherwise take any research my foundation does and put it to good use.
This may seem obvious to some, but the whole point of conducting and publishing this research is to get people to actually use it. As public education, it helps raise awareness of environmental problems. But more important, it provides solutions to those problems. And most of those solutions are best implemented by our political and business leaders, rather than by individuals.
So if you ask me if it bothers me that politicians are stealing the solutions brought forward by my foundation, the answer is no. To use a computer term, we consider this information ?open source.? It?s a free buffet; please take all you like. The whole reason why we do the research is to effect change. If those who have the power to make those solutions happen actually use that information, so much the better. This is how change happens.
As for the complaint that using my foundation?s ideas shows that politicians have none of their own ? nonsense. Since when do great leaders come up with all their ideas on their own? Societies built around the narrow viewpoints of one person are called dictatorships and tend to be decidedly backward and not terribly pleasant. And if the notion is that ideas should only be coming from within a particular party ? again, nonsense. This kind of partisan mentality is a form of xenophobia and it kills new ideas. Then again, perhaps that explains the state of Canadian politics.
I?ve also been asked if I worry that if one political party ?steals? our ideas and runs with them, it might be off-putting to the other parties. That is a concern. But we can?t control who uses our research and nor do we want to. The David Suzuki Foundation is non-partisan. We share our research with all political parties and encourage them all to adopt the solutions we bring forward.
Frankly, it?s a tough slog all around. We can have a great idea and support from the vast majority of the public, but political leaders can turn it down flat because it might cost votes in an important constituency or because of political lobbying from an industry group. Sometimes there doesn?t appear to be any reason why an idea is rejected other than fear of change. That can be disheartening, but at least if the information is out there, the public can use it make changes in their own lives or to ask our leaders to take action.
My foundation is just one of dozens of organizations across Canada offering solutions to the country?s environmental and social problems. Rather than ignoring these solutions because they don?t come from within a particular party, it is my hope that our political leaders open their eyes, embrace change and start taking advantage of all this free advice. That isn?t stealing, it?s just good leadership.
Take the Nature Challenge and learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.
Category: Science Matters