Accelerating into the fog

Imagine, for a minute, that you are riding a motorcycle and you are accelerating. Exhilarating, isn't it? Especially on a twisty road, and this one is particularly wriggly. There is curve after curve.

Imagine, for a minute, that you are riding a motorcycle and you are accelerating.

Exhilarating, isn’t it?

Especially on a twisty road, and this one is particularly wriggly.

There is curve after curve. You hit another, and open the throttle a bit more.

The centreline is zipping by. So are the deep woods on either side of the road. You crank the throttle some more … wooohooo!

And then all the markers are gone, obscured by a thick patch of fog.

Now you can’t see a blessed thing. You are blind, and have no clue where you are going or even where the road is.

So you crank the throttle a bit more …

And so here we are, in the midst of a global crisis, essentially blind, cranking the throttle and expecting to emerge unscathed.

We’re talking about rampant industrialization and resource extraction, climate change and planning. Or the lack of it.

The evidence of this recklessness is everywhere.

We could go macro, and lament the stuff Ottawa is and isn’t doing. Or we can stick around home and look in the Yukon.

For example, the territory likes to brag about its clean, fish-filled rivers and watersheds.

But how pristine are they? And how many fish do they contain? Are the ecosystems healthy? Are they as healthy as they were five or 10 years ago?

We don’t know.

The territory has done almost no research into such places. It has virtually no baseline data.

Even high profile areas like the Peel Watershed are a mystery. Other less iconic places might as well be on the dark side of the moon.

And, when a development is proposed, the company behind it is tasked with figuring out what’s there – of collecting that basic information.

That seems a little ridiculous.

The information a mining or exploration company is interested in collecting is far different than the stuff a biologist might be focused on.

Consider, for a moment, that every year the territory spends more than $74 million making sure there’s mineral and oil and gas development in the territory.

It voluntarily maps out the geological data for the companies, and makes the information freely available – promoting development.

It spends just seven per cent of that budget doing inspections and other oversight. As a point of comparison, it spends five per cent doing communications.

In comparison, the territory spends just $27 million on its Environment Department.

And there is scarcely any similar collection of baseline biological data that might match the mapping of geological formations.

So we know where the commodities are, and how rich the deposits are, but are more than a little clueless when it comes to the quality of the water, or the populations of fish and other biological resources.

The problem is that our society’s economic policies give priority to things that are, in a practical sense, virtually worthless, like lead and zinc, and generally disregard the things that are really valuable to sustaining life, like water and fish.

That offhand approach to those resources is seen in how little we examine them prior to approving projects that will destroy them.

As we said at the beginning, we are essentially blind on a twisty highway and we’re opening the throttle.

It may be exciting in the short term, but it’s almost guaranteed to end in disaster.

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