Canadians are hungry for environmental leadership

Here’s your weekly Science Matters column by David Suzuki.
I’ve never been this exhausted, or this exhilarated. It’s only been a week and already I’m overwhelmed by the response from Canadians concerned about our health and our environment.

Even in winter, traveling across Canada is an inspiring experience. Our country is so vast and our peoples so varied, one wonders what holds it all together. Weather and geography may provide some of the glue, but much more than that, I think there is a common set of values that Canadians hold dear.
Those values include a strong desire to take care of our collective home, a desire to be a collaborative player in the international community, and an openness to new ideas and innovations.
One thing has been abundantly clear: Canadians, at least those who I have spoken to, are more than ready for change. They want to make environmentally responsible choices, but are frustrated by the lack of options and the lack of support from their elected leaders.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, I heard stories of families split apart by the tar sands. Those left at home are grateful for the incomes their loved ones are able send, but they are torn by concerns about the inherent unsustainability of the industry, and what its continued development will mean for global warming and for future generations. And many would rather be “back home”.
In New Brunswick, people told me they were worried about their province being too heavily tied to a single corporation that is expanding fossil fuel development. While we still need fossil fuels, local concerns centered around a lack of economic diversity and a continued reliance on raw resources. Those concerns were echoed in forestry practices, with many people saying that logging was continuing at an unsustainable pace, and that monocultured tree plantations were replacing diverse forests.
In Nova Scotia, I was grateful to be able to spend some time with renowned biologist Ransom Myers, whose work on the depletion of the planet’s fish stocks sounded a warning to the world. And in Prince Edward Island, we felt the pride of a province that has a plan to be entirely powered by green energy.
At each stop, I’ve been asked which political party I support. And my answer is always the same – none. My tour is certainly political, in that the biggest sticking point towards environmental progress in this country lies in our elected leaders, especially at a federal level. But it is strictly non-partisan. Environmental sustainability should not be a partisan issue. We all need clean air, water and fertile soil. We all need jobs and a sustainable economy that does not deplete the natural services we all ultimately depend on for our health and survival. And now that all parties are responding to the polls and talking green, maybe we can actually get some strong legislation without any party paying a price for it.
And what I hear from Canadians is frustration that environmental progress has been bogged down by partisan fighting. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether we have a minority or majority government, headed by the Conservatives, the Liberals, the NDP or the Greens. What matters is that we start taking serious steps towards improving Canada’s environmental progress. Serious steps, not just party rhetoric.
I write this as we pull into beautiful Montreal at sunset. Quebec has been an inspiration, with more ideas and solutions here than anywhere yet. To beat global warming and put Canada back on track, we need to learn from those solutions and let them be the glue that binds this country together.
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