We are all pro-environment…until we are asked to do something about it


The Hill Times (April 3, 2017)

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand there is something seriously wrong with the environment.


Toronto sunrise from Mississauga (Photo by Angelo Persichilli)

At the same time, you don’t have to be a political science professor to understand that politics is the major obstacle to the solution of the problem. This is because in politics you are not judged by what you do, but by what you say. If you say the right “politically correct” thing, nobody cares about the results.


Aside from organizations like Greenpeace, many so-called environmentalists are political activists, polluting the debate to advance their political cause. They preach the obvious but they have no implementable plan on hand.

To understand the difficulties, one needs only to read last week’s projection from Environment Canada according to which the country is “on pace to miss its reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, pumping out at least 30 per cent more than promised that year.”

  First, I am wondering how we can predict what is going to happen in 2030 to the environment when we are unable even to predict the bank rate next month or the price of gas next week. In fact, the 2030 projection is made with many disclaimers and “most appropriately viewed as a range of plausible outcomes.” Basically, a building with the foundations calculated on a guess.

Environment regulations, oil prices, carbon taxes, and economic strength, all which are directly related to polluting emissions, are all subject to dramatic changes between now and 2030.

Protecting the environment requires more than political rhetoric, and cheaply written and pompously promoted accords. If we are serious about it, we must rearrange our way of life, the way we shop, how we drive our cars, even the way we watch TV.

Writing and signing legislation, without explaining to the people the consequences on their daily life, business arrangements, or employment, just pollutes the debate.

Let’s look at the celebrated Kyoto Accord, signed in 1997 by the then Liberal government.

Ottawa committed to a reduction of six per cent by 2012 of the polluting emissions compared to 1990 levels. By the time the Liberals left the government in 2006, the emissions did not decrease, but actually increased by 22 per cent. Nonetheless, most of the environmentalists accused the Harper government of killing the Kyoto Protocol.

For the Conservative government to abide by Kyoto, they had to implement a series of sharp reductions in polluting emissions within six years after the Liberals proved that it was impossible to do the same in 12 years without killing thousands of jobs. The increased cost of production would have put hundreds of Canadian companies out of business. It would have encouraged imports at cheaper prices from countries like China, India, Brazil, and United States, major polluters who were not part of Kyoto. The alternative was to scrap the accord or pay a penalty of $12-billion by 2012.

I am not a climate-change denier. I believe something very serious is going on within the environment, but I confess my ignorance in scientifically explaining it and my lack of ability to propose a solution.

What I know is that if we remove hypocrisy and politics (I guess if we remove one, the other goes automatically) we have a chance to succeed.

I am tired of the polls saying that “the vast majority of Canadians are in favour of a strong fight to defend the environment” and, at the same time, they trash every politician proposing a small sacrifice to do it. (If you don’t believe it, ask Stéphane Dion and his carbon-tax proposal). I am tired of lectures from people like artists, actors, and singers preaching pro-environment policies while they are the major polluters with their private jets and lighting arrangements in their Hollywood villas using up the amount of power in one day what a Third World village uses in a month.

I am tired of politicians and political activists promoting pro-environment policies without taking the responsibility to tell my neighbours that, to defend the environment, we must walk more, drive less, and put sweaters on instead of raising the heat.

If we don’t do that, any plan or projection is, as Environment Canada says, only a “range of plausible outcomes.”

Angelo Persichilli is a freelance journalist and a former citizenship judge for the Greater Toronto Area. He was also a director of communications to former prime minister Stephen Harper and is the former columnist for Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, and former political editor of Corriere Canadese, Canada’s Italian-language newspaper in Toronto.

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