You’re from Canada, eh?

Once a person finds out you’re Canadian, a picture appears in their mind. A vision of polar bears as pets, igloos as houses and maple syrup covering every meal immediately appears. For future generations however, a new image will overpower the rest: one having Canadians as money hungry, oil filled, environmental threats. This new image is quite a change from the proactive, earth friendly Canada the world knew two decades ago. And who can Canadians thank for this shift in environmental protection? The federal government of course.

Although the current federal conservative government isn’t fully to blame, the recent dramatic cuts of both money and jobs in the environmental department overshadow the lackluster performance of the former Liberal government. Under the previous government, Canada was ranked 28 of 30 countries for green initiatives in a 2005 study done by Canadian environmentalist, David Suzuki’s foundation. While agreeing to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 6% below the 1990 levels by signing the Kyoto Protocol, they instead allowed Canada’s emissions to increase 20% by 2005.
With a new year, came a new government. Conservative Stephen Harper was elected as Prime Minister in 2006. With this came the beginning of the end of environmental protection in Canada as we knew it.

In the six years Prime Minister Harper has been the leader of Canada, 200 million dollars has been cut from both environmental research and monitoring, the number of review agencies for projects has been severely decreased (only three exist today), over 700 Environment Canada jobs have been cut and most recently, Canada has withdrawn from the legally binding Kyoto Protocol. The reason given for these drastic reductions in environmental protection is of course, the economy. The propaganda explains that in order for the economy to survive, cuts need to be made, and those cuts need to come from the environment budget. It is acceptable however, for the government to spend 60 billion dollars on military warships and fighter jets, or so they say.

The most shocking and internationally condemned action taken by Canada is by far its withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol was the first step in cutting greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The federal government stated that the emissions’ cut was unrealistic and through attempting to meet their goal, the economy would suffer. And of course by the economy, they mean the Alberta tar sands. While some do credit the tar sands for keeping Canada out of the recent recession, they are also credited with releasing the most amount of greenhouse gases the country has ever seen. With tension in the Middle East, the United States promotes and supports the Alberta tar sands as it is seen as ethical oil. The oil from Canada is from a democratic, free society, whereas by buying oil from Middle Eastern countries, America is seen as supporting their way of life and government; something they went to war over.

So let’s try to understand the mechanics of the Alberta tar sands shall we? Because we can’t talk climate change in Canada without mentioning these destructive reserves. The process in which to extract the oil in Alberta creates far more emissions than extracting regular crude oil as the energy needed to do so is extensively more. This is because the oil in Alberta is situated in bitumen, which is a very thick, black substance. As opposed to conventional crude oil drilling, wherein the oil is simply drilled and captured, the oil in the bitumen must be extracted from the sand. The process in which these two substances are separated is extensive, time consuming and, as expected, costly. The oil in Alberta is available through both mining and in situ processes. The mining process damages the land severely, whereas in situ involves far less damage.  The in situ process of extracting oil involves heating up the bitumen to a temperature where it becomes less viscous, allowing for it to flow to the surface. Once deemed unconventional oil because of the drastic measures needed for extraction, it has recently been branded as conventional, allowing the public to feel better about these polluting, expensive tar sands. Cue government funded commercial displaying lovely scenery where oil was once mined.

So what can we do? Get involved! As the government has control over how Canada’s environment is treated and funded, electing politicians with the environment as a priority will result in change. It is only through being proactive citizens can our voices truly be heard. With more education on the environment and more importantly, our impact on it, the masses will understand the crisis at hand and become motivated. After all, this is a democracy and every vote counts!

Not only is the Canadian government finding every way possible to decrease the amount of green initiatives already in place, but it is knowingly polluting the atmosphere and destroying the land. It has become a country internationally frowned upon for its lack of efforts in the fight against climate change, as money and power have taken priority. Now, let me ask you, is this the kind of country you are proud to call home?

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5 Responses to You’re from Canada, eh?

  1. avatar Jordana says:

    I loved the beginning of this post (including the title), especially how you poked fun at Canadian stereotypes before delivering the bad news. Loved word choices like “lacklustre”, they really added some punch. I found the post to be very concise, informative and detailed without being confusing. I also enjoyed the way the writing flowed like a face-to-face conversation. Since I have to offer a critique, I would suggest just trying to switch out one of the “appears” in the first couple sentences, just to avoid some repetition. In closing, I must tell you how much I loved your concluding question. It actually left me thinking, rather than just be done reading and moving on. Awesome touch! Loved this one 🙂
    – Jord

  2. avatar Colby says:

    I found the introduction intriguing with the Canadian stereotypes; it did an effective job of capturing my interest to your article. I also think you have a strong argument with the Alberta oil extraction operations; definitely one of the big Canadian powerhouses for the economy. Although the last sentence of the fourth paragraph about America buying oil from Canada because it is oil from a democratic country was new to me (probably because I’ve never heard about that argument before, but then again I don’t ever read the economy or business section of the paper), but if you have a link for it I would be interested to read . But I am very happy to see that you didn’t use the common, yet quite unsupported (In my opinion) argument of America invading Iraq solely for oil; I simply believe the Iraq War was more complex than that. Not to get too off track, I do believe what you said about the government changing decisions (the Alberta Tar sands being now “conventional”) is true and that plays a large role throughout our history. Its the same idea with diplomacy, one day this country is my friend, but the next day the country is my enemy. Anyway, a good Canadian oriented climate change post and thank you for your insight.

  3. avatar Rebecca says:

    I really liked this post; while the other commenters have already said this, the intro of the Canadian stereotypes was super effective, when you mentioned the change that the next generations will experience regarding these stereotypes, I automatically wanted to read more, to find out how we can preserve our labels, keep them from being sadly right! And speaking of we, it would be nice to see some tips as to how the reader as an individual can help; the statistics are very strong, used effectively, but I don’t know if all the blame should go to the government, you know? Addressing this might be a good way to bring the post around, personalize it for the reader:) Thanks for an enjoyable piece!

  4. avatar Daniel says:

    “For future generations however, a new image will overpower the rest” – colon, not semi colon
    I don’t have many comments for you – it was very well written. To involve the reader a bit more – where do you think the average Canadian stands on some of these issues? What should concerned citizens do to avoid this future? Is avoiding it even possible?

  5. avatar Myra says:

    Hey Orna,
    You have a great piece here. I really appreciated the use of statistics to support your idea. I find it incredible how we hear so much about these oil sands in the media, but never really point the finger at the government rather than the producer and consumer. Your address to the moral affect and climate change I believe is a crucial part to political and citizen attitude change towards the environment. Climate change isn’t just about money and technology anymore, but the willingness to change in the name of national identity.

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