asymmetrical environmentalism

It has always been a problem for small organizations to take on large entities, be they corporations or governments. The difference in resources was, in the past, sometimes insurmountable.

It has always been a problem for small organizations to take on large entities, be they corporations or governments.

The difference in resources was, in the past, sometimes insurmountable.

This was especially notable in a northern context, such as the Yukon.

Some well-funded company or government department would engage a local community in consultations and meetings.

The end result would be a one-way flow of information from the company or government to the local community in order to win support for whatever development or concept was being proposed.

Thanks to technology all that is now out the window.

There is now a way for small groups or even individuals to reach out and provide information that shows what the corporation or government is proposing is not beneficial to the community and the environment.

The rise of the internet allows almost any individual or small group to marshal information sources and get their message out.

For example, someone has posted a very amateurish, but very effective, video of Yukon garbage burning on YouTube.

Type ‘Yukon Garbage Burning’ into the YouTube search engine and it should be the first result listed.

Be careful that the computer speakers are not on too loud, as most of the video has death metal music playing in the background.

While this video is a bit rough around the edges, it gets the message out to the entire world about the Yukon government’s garbage burning practices in the communities.

The Yukon government can hire as many consultants as it wishes to produce as many reports as it wants touting the effectiveness of garbage burning, yet a single video that shows the toxic hell that is a community garbage burn vessel negates all that.

This form of activity, at least in military circles, is known as asymmetrical warfare.

A combatant, perceived as the ‘weaker’ in conventional terms, uses new or unconventional strategies to redefine the battle.

In environmental campaigns this has been going on for years.

One only has to look at the stunts that Greenpeace has done worldwide, such as climbing polluting chimney stacks or blocking pipes pumping pollutants into rivers.

These actions, while getting the attention of mainstream media, did require individuals actually doing something risky.

The spread of the internet and the availability of portable cameras has changed that.

Now all individuals have to do is record what is going on and then distribute it.

One picture or video widely distributed can negate hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of consultations by any company or government.

There has also been increase in accessibility to previously restricted technologies.

Google Earth is equivalent to giving everyone, and every environmental group on the planet, their own personal spy satellite.

It permits almost anyone with decent internet access to look down upon environmental messes made in the Yukon.

The abandoned pits at Faro, the impact of placer mining upon stream valleys in the Klondike, the clear-cuts caused by past logging in the southeast Yukon and the old oil and gas seismic exploration lines near Eagle Plains are now laid bare for one and all to see.

Advances in digital technology and the related means of distributing information through digital conduits such as the internet have changed the environmental playing field.

It must be noted that the digital era has also made it possible to spread positive aspects about the environment.

The beauty of the Peel Watershed has been extensively documented through digital media, and now some of that is available on YouTube.

The Peel Watershed is undergoing a land-use planning process at the moment, and a draft plan has just been released for public comment.

Even if a person has not been into the heart of the watershed, its beauty and environmental significance can be appreciated through digital recordings widely available on the internet.

After viewing some of these recordings, it is easy to understand why a member of the public would write in to the Peel Watershed Planning Commission and advocate for a high degree of environmental protection.

There is not much the industrial development companies or their supporting government departments can do in response.

They cannot post images of uranium mines or natural gas wells devastating a natural landscape and hope it will sway public opinion in favour of such industrial activity.

It just will not work.

Thanks to information technology, one citizen can show the entire world bad environmental practices that are happening in the Yukon.

It can also show the beauty that already exists here, and is worthy of saving.

Asymmetrical environmentalism means the rules of waging campaigns to protect the environment have changed.

It means each and every Yukon person can, if they choose, stand up and show the world their concern over whatever environmental issue they choose.

The resource extraction industry and certain governments have yet to figure out a way to respond to this, which means they are in the process of losing this particular campaign.

One does hope that this means the environment could end up being the winner.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse

based part-time environmentalist.

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

Just Posted


Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Hans Gatt wins inaugural 2021 Yukon Journey

The Yukon Journey, a 255-mile race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse, kicked off on Feb. 24

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022