‘If You Aren’t Part of the Solution, You Are Part of the Pollution!’
An Earth Day Message from Doug Draper at Niagara At Large
Posted on Earth Day, April 22nd, 2021
This Thursday, April 22nd marks the 51st anniversary of countless many around the world holding ‘environmental teach-ins’, rallies, tree-plantings, among a host of events, in observance of the first-ever Earth Day.
A wide-eyed high school kid back then, I joined a group of my school mates in staging a demonstration in front of what was then one of the most polluting industrial plants in my hometown of Welland.
We were out there in front of the plant, receiving a mixture of people waving support and shouting at us to go back to school and shut up, and we weathered it all – filled with hope that if enough people got engaged in the fight to protect our natural environment, we would, by now, be living in a far healthier world.
Little did I know in 1970 that nine years later I would begin working as a reporter at The St. Catharines Standard, covering, for the better part of the next two decade, environmental issues full-time, until the one proud, independent newspaper, along with so many other good, community newspapers across Canada, was sold to corporate business that cancelled all environmental beats because they seemed to focus on issues that interfered with their business interests.
Yet a good deal of progress was made in the years following that first Earth Day.
Governments in Canada and the United States, including ones that were conservative-oriented, created environment ministries and agencies among them the Ontario Ministry of Environment and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and passed milestone legislation to better protect and preserve our air, water and precious green spaces.
In the early 1970s, then Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (Justin’s father) and, believe it or not U.S. Republican President Richard Nixon signed the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, one of the first bi-national pacts of its kind in the world to protect shared bodies of water. Niagara’s Regional Chair) for an Environment Minister.
With the blessing of his boss, then Liberal Premier David Peterson, Bradley was able to pass one piece of progressive environmental legislation after another, and play a pivotal role in negotiating and signing an agreement with Canada’s federal government and our American neighbours to significantly reduce industrial chemical pollution in the Niagara River.
We were on such a roll back then, stoking the embers of hope so many of us had on that very first Earth Day that we were on the right track.
Yet today, in Premier Doug Ford’s Ontario, all of that hope and will for moving forward for a healthier future seems so long ago and far away.
In fact, we have been moving backwards with Ford, his political minions and the legions of predatory developers and others that buy them with their financial support.
For the almost three years since it came to power, with nothing close to a mandate from a majority of Ontario voters, the Ford government has acted as though it can’t move fast enough to undue all of the environmental progress going back to the province’s Bill Davis Conservative government of the 1970s and Jim Bradley’s tenure as an environment minister in the 1980s.
It gutted the independent Environment Commissioners Office in Ontario, grounded Ministry of Natural Resources field workers, muzzled and defunded the Ministry of Environment to a point where it is almost non-existent in the minds of the public, worked to weaken the mandate of our Conservation Authorities, pulled vital teeth out of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and on and on
Seemingly oblivious to all of the expert information, compiled around the world, that health green environments serve, among other things, as a protective wall against pandemics like the one that is causing such catastrophic damage to us all, Doug Ford and his government have shown over and over again, that they see a wetland or a woodland or any other part of our natural environment as an obstacle to building more multi-lane highways or to covering over with concrete or asphalt.
The climate deniers and laggards, and anti-environment members and supporters around this Ford government constitute an existential threat to the health of our precious natural heritage, to the health of our communities and sustainable economies, and to our children’s future.
Ford and his cronies pose a clear and present danger to our health and security.
During that first Earth Day, I carried a sign that read; “If You Aren’t Part of the Solution, You Are Part of the Pollution,” and I believe that message is as relevant today as it was back then.
It means that as many of us as possible must get engaged in issues that impact on the quality of our environment, whether that means doing our part as citizens to help shape new planning rules or a new tree-protection bylaw for our region, supporting better public transit systems, or joining the fight to save what are left of our precious natural places like Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls, or Waverly Woods and the wetlands in Frenchman’s Creek watershed in Fort Erie.
We also need to make it our business to keep a close eye on the voting records of our municipal, provincial and federal politicians when it comes to protecting and preserving precious resources on this earth
So this Earth Day, I call upon all of us to become more involved than we ever have before in environmental issues and to vote out of office, at the first possible opportunity, those politicians and governments, at every level, that are placing short-term greed ahead of the longer term interest of our communities and children.
Have a healthy and safe Earth Day, Doug Draper, Niagara At Large
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“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders