We can’t choose between economy, environment

Source: We can’t choose between economy, environment


Politicians are increasingly treating the tension between the economy and the environment as though we can happily choose one and ignore the other.

The current provincial government is promising the moon when it comes to the economy. But it seems to treat any indication of sound environmental action – from local environmental regulation to climate change – with disdain

Battle is declared on environmental groups with “war room” rhetoric. Even the quiet business of law making continues to relegate the environment. For instance, of the 14 bills and amendments that have received royal assent under the new government, none strengthens action on the environment. Rather, some partly roll back environment regulations.

To dismiss the environment in these ways is to dispel myriad critical issues that touch the life of every Albertan. These include local environmental use, air and water pollution, disposal of toxic wastes by industry, and the impact of extreme and unpredictable weather on our agriculture, and safety of life and property.

To be clear, we must not take for granted our economic strength. Indeed, our relative wealth has and will continue to provide some degree of bulwark against environmental stress. But that has its limits. Even the insurance industry is rethinking risk and insurable assets in the face of environmental stress. And failure to respond appropriately to environmental imperatives will not only undermine our economic base, we also deny ourselves the opportunity to lead the world in the economies of the future.

And we should not delude ourselves that we can somehow stay untouched by environmental instability in other parts of the world. Our food, clothing, electronics and other daily necessities depend on webs of supply chains that connect us to distant corners of the world. The powerhouse of our internet is based in places as far as Belgium and Finland. Our phones rely on cobalt mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Even our wastes had to be sent as far away as the Philippines – who have recently sent back our dodgy export.

A lot is possible within the space where we pay equal attention to the economy and the environment. When trade-offs are inevitable, they should not be left to self-interested powerful lobbies or supposedly neutral market logics. The power of robustly informed public debate and civic participation must prevail.

Niyi Asiyanbi