worthless treasures

The territory's industrialists are euphoric. The resource-extraction biz is booming. Geologists are traipsing through the wilds looking for new riches, helicopters are whupping, trucks are rumbling and cash, of course, is flowing.

The territory’s industrialists are euphoric.

The resource-extraction biz is booming. Geologists are traipsing through the wilds looking for new riches, helicopters are whupping, trucks are rumbling and cash, of course, is flowing.

Life in the Yukon is good.

Wait a minute, that’s not quite accurate … business is good, the territory’s life is under siege.

It has been so for decades, but during the territory’s occasional boom times, things deteriorate more rapidly.

It is a real-world example of how, in our society, economics runs roughshod over natural systems.

This is the point David Suzuki was making last week.

We value the metals, not the so-called overburden – the life-giving plants and soils and water that hide them.

We treasure the timber, not the living trees.

And we squander water, using it as a cheap, convenient way to push petroleum products from cracks deep in the earth, or using it as an easy place to sink acid-generating tailings for millennia.

Our economic system considers rivers, trees, soils, grasses – even the air we breathe – of little, or no value beyond their industrial uses.

Don’t believe it?

Today, gold is $1,607.25 an ounce. What’s air worth?

Or water? Coke pegs it at $2 per 500 millilitres in the grocery store. But what’s Minto paying to use water in the territory? How much is it using, precisely?

And if you say lead, zinc and copper are virtually worthless, you’re bound to be assailed by some mining wonk. They’ll say you’re an idiot – that you’ve forgotten, or don’t know computers, cars, bikes and numerous other tools of convenience and leisure are made from metals.

There’s lead in that car battery, they’ll argue. There’s aluminum, copper, tungsten and gold (among other things) in that computer you pound away on.

It’s a common argument, designed for people hooked on the luxuries that make life easy.

The problem is, those luxuries are subsidized. Nobody pays their true costs because the cost of environmental degradation is not considered in the price. The environment is worthless.

So, looked at in broader terms, you should wonder who really has forgotten what’s useless and what’s valuable. What’s scarce, and what’s plentiful.

Is it the people, like Suzuki, trying to get society to place an economic value on the fast disappearing, life-sustaining systems of our planet – water, air, soils, plants, animals, insects?

Or is it those who don’t, allowing our oceans, lakes, rivers, forests and air to be hopelessly degraded and treated as dumps in the blind pursuit of mineral wealth and profits to manufacture the trinkets, widgets and gizmos our rapacious society values so dearly?

These are big questions.

Currently, business in the territory is good. But, unless we place more value on our still-functioning ecosystems, our lives are going to be much less so.

Just Posted

Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley announced youth vaccination clinics planned for this summer. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon government file)
Vaccination campaign planned for Yukon youth age 12 and up

The Pfizer vaccine was approved for younger people on May 5.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced two new cases of COVID-19 on May 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two new cases of COVID-19 reported, one in the Yukon and one Outside

One person is self-isolating, the other will remain Outside until non-infectious

Courtesy/Yukon Protective Services Yukon Wildland Fire Management crews doing a prescribed burn at the Carcross Cut-Off in May 2020.
Prescribed burns planned near Whitehorse neighbourhoods to improve wildfire resistance

Manual fuel removal and the replacement of conifers with aspens is also ongoing.

Chloe Tatsumi dismounts the balance beam to cap her routine during the Yukon Championships at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club on May 1. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Gymnasts vie in 2021 Yukon Championships

In a year without competition because of COVID-19, the Polarettes Gymnastics Club hosted its Yukon Championships.

The deceased man, found in Lake LaBerge in 2016, had on three layers of clothing, Dakato work boots, and had a sheathed knife on his belt. Photo courtesy Yukon RCMP
RCMP, Coroner’s Office seek public assistance in identifying a deceased man

The Yukon RCMP Historical Case Unit and the Yukon Coroner’s Office are looking for public help to identify a man who was found dead in Lake LaBerge in May 2016.

Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine minesite has created a mess left to taxpayers to clean up, Lewis Rifkind argues. This file shot shows the mine in 2009. (John Thompson/Yukon News file)
Editorial: The cost of the Wolverine minesite

Lewis Rifkind Special to the News The price of a decent wolverine… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: border opening and Yukon Party texts

Dear Premier Sandy Silver and Dr Hanley, Once again I’m disheartened and… Continue reading

Fire chief Jason Everett (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City launches emergency alert system

The city is calling on residents and visitors to register for Whitehorse Alert

Two young orienteers reach their first checkpoint near Shipyards Park during a Yukon Orienteering Association sprint race May 5. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Orienteers were back in action for the season’s first race

The Yukon Orienteering Association began its 2021 season with a sprint race beginning at Shipyards.

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its May 3 meeting and the upcoming 20-minute makeover.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister talks tourism in “virtual visit” to the Yukon

Tourism operators discussed the budget with Freeland

Polarity Brewing is giving people extra incentive to get their COVID vaccine by offering a ‘free beer’ within 24 hours of their first shot. John Tonin/Yukon News
Polarity Brewing giving out ‘free’ beer with first COVID vaccination

Within 24 hours of receiving your first COVID-19 vaccine, Polarity Brewing will give you a beer.

Most Read