Long view is needed to wisely manage mining

Ross Burnet I enjoyed Kyle Carruthers's Sept. 3 column concerning tough questions about federal transfers. He makes an interesting point about the perceptions the rest of Canada might hold about a territory that receives substantial per capita transfer p

COMMENTARY

by Ross Burnet

I enjoyed Kyle Carruthers’s Sept. 3 column concerning tough questions about federal transfers. He makes an interesting point about the perceptions the rest of Canada might hold about a territory that receives substantial per capita transfer payments but also a region that transmits active opinions that oppose development.

He surmises that these realities might play into one another. He suggests that a strong and lasting preservation ethic might decrease transfer payments because, he ponders, “what’s in it for the rest of Canada?” I think he means apart from a strong and lasting preservation ethic, which is also of value to Canadians.

The tide is certainly turning towards environmental protection and preservation. Long forgotten and buried notions are re-dawning on people that natural resources ‘do’ much more than provide materials and jobs. Materials and jobs are important for the way our society functions but the natural world serves much more than that. Severe environmental changes like those caused by climate change are regularly described in terms of what just happened and not so much about what was decided months ago to set things up.

I’m not suggesting that this causes that, but I am suggesting that everything causes everything. The natural world is not just a store of materials; it’s a self-nourishing system that reaches much further than we have yet imagined let alone comprehended. With a number of decades of more or less ignoring this relationship, humans have had a significant negative impact on the natural world. We’ve had a few jobs along the way and also gotten a few materials too, which has led to some remarkable advances, without a doubt. Good for us. But not just good.

Carruthers recognizes that an exorbitant amount of resource development and, he admits, environmental degradation would have to occur in order for Yukon to pay its own way. The transfer payments are large and the Yukon can’t support itself fully. Let’s just take these two abstractions out of the debate for a moment because we are likely going to continue to have some transfer payments and some development.

The issue has been paralyzed by the question: how much? That’s the wrong debate. It’s not how much, but how? It’s methods that matter.

It’s great to find and make use of ore and a host of other resources, but across the nation, the resulting degradation, catastrophic accidents and side-effects have not been avoided or mitigated in the way that proponents often suggest and many environmental review processes seem to allow.

We will certainly produce some effects to get our widgets, but we tend to not think about how far those effects travel, their ultimate severity, or their cumulative impacts until there is a catastrophe. We’ve tended to elevate the value of the short-term financial benefits, at the expense of direct health and welfare.

The resource sector is intelligent and informed. I think it should kindly drop the PR campaigns and the boundary pushing conferences and concentrate on the wisest places, the wisest methods, the wisest research and innovation to constantly improve how it explores, develops, refines, and transports natural resources.

Embrace the regulation that is necessary to protect the public good and convince the public of the value of the industry not with bumper stickers, but with smarts everyone can appreciate. Do this and watch stocks soar. Perhaps there would not be quite so many “don’t develop” messages if the means of developing were not so invasive and devastating to water, species, and habitats.

The Yukon will probably see more development. By all means, let’s create jobs. But let’s also make it a world-leading operation with a philosophy for the times that is meaningful to Canadians. That’s what’s in it for all. And widgets too. Market forces can still compete for profits, but also for integrity of methods that preserve values of health throughout.

Ross Burnet lives in Whitehorse

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Members of the RCMP’s traffic services team examine police markers on Range Road after a six-year-old boy was struck by a vehicle near the Takhini Arena in Whitehorse on Oct. 25. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Six-year-old hit by vehicle near Takhini Arena

Police were called to the scene around 12:15 p.m. on Oct. 25

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. Two new cases of COVID-19 were identified in Watson Lake over the weekend. The cases are connected to three others in the community previously announced by officials on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two additional COVID-19 cases in Watson Lake bring total up to five

Individuals with symptoms and connections to the three other cases were tested over the weekend

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

Teagan Wiebe, left, and Amie Wiebe pose for a photo with props during The Guild’s haunted house dress rehearsal on Oct. 23. The Heart of Riverdale Community Centre will be hosting its second annual Halloween haunted house on Oct. 30 and 31, with this year’s theme being a plague. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Plague-themed haunted house to take over Heart of Riverdale for Halloween

A plague will be descending upon the Heart of Riverdale Community Centre… Continue reading

Indigenous lobster boats head from the harbour in Saulnierville, N.S. on Oct. 21. Elected officials in the Yukon, including all 19 members of the legislature, are backing the right of Mi’kmaq fishers on the East Coast to launch a moderate livelihood fishery. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)
Yukon legislature passes motion to support Mi’kmaw fishery

“It’s not easy, but it’s also necessary for us to have these very difficult conversations”

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging the reduction of its caribou quota to zero. (Yukon News file)
YG replies to outfitter’s legal challenge over caribou quota

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging… Continue reading

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this year, saying that with COVID-19, it’s “more important than ever.” (Black Press file)
Get flu vaccine, Yukon government urges

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

asdf
COMMENTARY: Me and systemic racism

The view from a place of privilege

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading

Most Read