All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

Stand up for Science: the other speeches

leave a comment »

Speak up for science

Speak up for science

Last September several scientists gathered on the step of the Vancouver Art Gallery to speak up for science, joining other similar demonstrations across the country.  The speeches are as relevant now as they were four months ago, unfortunately.  So I’ve collected excerpts to share for the next few posts. Previous posts include excerpts from the speeches of Sarah Otto,Thomas Kerr, Alexandra Morton, and Lynne Quarmby.

Speaking at the gathering were also a number of well known environmentalists: Tzeporah Berman, David Suzuki, Craig Orr, Fin Donelly, and Joe Foy.  They are public figures who have spoken on many occasions, and maybe because of that they are easier to tune out, and their speeches may not have the raw emotion of the scientists who spoke at the event.  But what they have to say matters a great deal (click on their names for more info, you’ll see).  I have collected excerpts from their speeches in this post.  (Longer versions of the speeches can be found here. A great overview of the issue can be found in Chris Turner’s book The War on Science and the documentary The Silence of the Labs.)

Tzeporah Berman said, in part:

Our government’s plan for 9 million barrels a day is consistent with a world that has 6 degree warming scenarios. The International Energy Agency said that for $1 spent on clean energy technology we will save $4 in dealing with the impacts of climate change.

Oil corrodes. It corrodes pipelines and it is corroding our democracy. Democracy thrives with the widespread dissemination of knowledge, with transparency, and with education. It helps us to make good decisions. Democracy thrives with shared knowledge that creates informed debate.

How about if we take the 1.2 billion dollars this year that our government is giving, our tax payers money, to subsidize the oil and gas industry, the most profitable companies on the planet, how about we use that to research the toxins leaking into the drinking water of the Athabascan Chipewayn First Nations of the tar sands, how about if we use that money to research the impacts that are happening in Canada from climate change?   How about if we use some of that 1.2 billion dollars so that First Nations have the resources to understand the projects being imposed on them?

This year the UN told us that more people will lose their homes due to global warming as a result of climate change than war. Yet our federal government has not only stopped talking about climate change. We’ve heard less concern from Candaian scieintists, seen fewer studies, heard fewer reports. There has been much less reporting.

It is said that knowledge is power and the suppression of knowledge is the oppressor’s most powerful tool. In the last several years, we have experienced a dramatic suppression of knowledge in Canada, a disturbing silencing of some of the country’s most important scientists. Some of our most important scientific bodies have been shut down because this is a government that does not want to talk about climate change and not address climate change and expand the tar sands at the rate they want.

Let’s be clear. This is not an issue of right or left. This is an issue of right and wrong.


David Suzuki said, among other things:

We now have a prime minister intent on pushing through the pipeline across British Columbia before all of the scientific information—the assessment—is even in. We don’t make informed decisions that way. We have to assess the information available. But what we are now is we are threatened with politicians deciding, not only whether or not to listen to scientists, but the kind of information that scientists are allowed to tell us about.


Craig Orr:

There is an uncertainty dichotomy in which scientists use uncertainty to drive inquiry while industry uses uncertainty to drive the status quo.


Fin Donnelly:

It is a tactic. If you muzzle scientists, if you don’t get that information out to the public, then there are no problems. You can move ahead with your agenda. And there is an agenda. Harper is focusing on the next two years as we move toward a federal election and he is focused on getting oil to markets.

The pattern is: do things behind closed doors. Do not include parliamentarians. Do not include the public. That has to change.


Joe Foy:

I understand that the truth matters, it matters how things work. Good decisions mean a good life and bad decisions mean a life trying to fix your mistakes and that’s why science matters.

More and more, at the Wilderness Committee, we have to rely on Freedom of Information legislation. Information our tax money paid for, we should be able to have access to that information. It can take as much as a year to get critical information on critical projects.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: