Invoking Ecological Wisdom
Ecological Wisdom, a Green Party core value, means understanding that humans and every other species of animal and plant are integral and interdependent parts of a living planet. When we degrade the Earth or any part of it, we undermine the integrity and viability of all life including our own. Our duty, then, is to live on Earth with the lightest touch possible. As we draw on Earth systems to meet our basic needs and enjoy a high quality of life, we should not do irreparable harm to those systems or to other species. This is an ethical issue as well as a practical one. As part of a global community, our duty is to all life, not just our own.
Sadly, industrialization and consumerism since the mid-20th century have already done irreparable harm. Climate change and mass species extinctions are global proof of this. Soil erosion, water and air pollution, deforestation, the waste crisis and environmental illness are evident at regional and local levels.
Much has been lost, but there is much left to save. Governments have a duty to regulate business practices, commercial products, and behaviours to dramatically reduce the current burden on ecosystems, species and people who are at risk of being trampled on the path of so-called progress.
- Fully restore the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
- Pass stringent regulations on pesticides and other chemicals
- Develop a national safe drinking water strategy
- Ban all single-use plastics by 2022
- Protect a minimum of 30% of waters and land by 2030
Reducing Ecological and Health Risks
Hundreds of thousands of chemicals are in commercial use. Only a handful have undergone independent scrutiny of their toxic effects on humans and ecosystems. Tragically, we only discover after long exposure that some are unsafe and by then the damage has been done. The regulatory system is always playing catch-up. Pollution and toxic chemicals pose serious health threats such as cancer, asthma, learning disabilities and other chronic diseases, with marginalized populations often at greatest risk. The health impacts of exposure to toxic substances are estimated to cost our health-care system tens of billions of dollars annually.
A Green government will:
- Pass legislation to give Canadians the right to a healthy environment, promoting greater transparency in decision-making, public participation rights and access to judicial review mechanisms.
- Set targets for reducing the use of pesticides in agriculture through programs to assist farmers in moving to organic and regenerative farming.
- Strengthen the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) to limit the approval and use of toxic chemicals that affect our health and environment.
- Regulate microfibres as a toxic substance under CEPA.
- Invoke the precautionary principle in making decisions about approvals of products, substances, projects and processes where there is the potential for irreversible harm. If there is no scientific proof of safety, then approval will be withheld.
- Revive and expand the National Pesticides Monitoring and Surveillance Network.
- Create an adverse effects reporting database for doctors and emergency rooms to keep track of health impacts of pesticides and other chemicals.
- Ban neonicotinoid pesticides, which kill bees and other pollinators, and support farmers in shifting to alternatives.
- Ban all forestry and cosmetic uses of glyphosate-based herbicides as well as their use as a pre-harvest desiccant.
- Ban all toxic ingredients in personal care products.
- In collaboration with provinces, territories, municipal/local governments and Indigenous Peoples, develop a national water strategy to ensure safe drinking water for all in Canada.
Moving Towards Zero Waste
- Set national targets to reduce the production of solid waste and work with provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments to achieve those targets.
- Implement an extended producer responsibility program to hold manufacturers financially responsible for the waste associated with the production, distribution, packaging and end of life of their products.
- Require an increasing percentage of recycled plastic feedstock in durable plastic products.
- Require all products to be fully recyclable using readily available processes.
- Phase out Canada’s export of solid waste to other countries. If we produce it, we should manage it.
A National Plastic Waste Strategy
Plastics are the fastest-growing component of the solid waste stream. Dalhousie University scientist Dr. Boris Worm says that close to 90 per cent of sea birds have plastic in their guts. Production has increased from two million tonnes annually in 1950 to more than 300 million tonnes today. It is estimated that 80 per cent of all the plastic that has ever been produced – 8.3 billion tonnes – is still around, in landfills or in the environment. The problem of plastic pollution has now become so acute that the public is demanding that governments take action.
A Green government will work with provinces, territories and Indigenous governments to develop and legislate a comprehensive national strategy on plastic pollution to be implemented over 10 years. In the meantime:
- Establish a plastics lifecycle advisory group, comprising representatives from all sectors in the lifecycle of plastic products, scientists, and federal and provincial government representatives, to provide guidance and recommendations in establishing plastics biodegradability, recyclability and sustainability standards.
- Adopt a precautionary approach to limit the production and use of persistent contaminants in plastic, based on evolving research into the human health impacts of micro-fibres and other micro-plastics.
- In consultation with food distributors and sellers, set 2022 reusable and refillable packaging targets for supermarkets and other food stores.
- By January 2022, ban the production, distribution and sale of all unnecessary or non-essential petroleum-based single-use plastics, including: carry-out and produce bags, balloons, straws, plates, cups, lids, cutlery, cotton buds, drink stirrers, cigarette filters, and plastic water bottles (less than four litres); packaging, including multilayer packaging, packing straps, all multipack rings, takeaway packaging, and all expanded polystyrene (styrofoam) packaging; and all single-use plastics that are not easily recyclable or have additives that make them non-recyclable, including thermoset plastics.
- Extend the ban on microbeads to include household and industrial cleaning products.
- By 2021, require all new washing machines sold in Canada to have a removable, cleanable filter to capture micro-fibres that otherwise pass through water treatment plant filters and into water bodies.
- By 2021, fund proper solid waste management systems in Indigenous and Arctic communities.
Rescuing the Oceans
The world’s oceans are in trouble. Besides overfishing (see Food from the Sea), pollution, acidification, climate change, habitat damage and fishing gear are taking a terrible toll on marine life and ecosystems. Eight to nine million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year, the equivalent of one large garbage truck full of plastic every minute. This plastic ends up floating, submerged, or sinking to the ocean floor, often leaching and absorbing toxic chemicals, and harming and killing marine life through either entanglement or ingestion.  In short, we have to clean up and back off and give marine ecosystems a chance to heal themselves.
- Turn off the pollution taps flowing into coastal waters including municipal sewage and industrial effluents. Climate protection policies to prohibit new offshore oil and gas development and phase out existing operations will reduce the threat of marine oil spills.
- Slash fossil fuel use (Mission: Possible) to protect the oceans from acidification.
- Expand marine protected areas from 10 to 30 per cent of Canada’s territorial waters by 2030.
- Legislate cruise ship waste discharge standards that meet or exceed those of our coastal neighbours.
- To reduce and mitigate plastic waste from fishing gear that entangles and kills marine animals, by January 2021 implement an Extended Producer Responsibility program for all companies making or selling synthetic fishing gear which would fund the retrieval of lost or abandoned fishing gear, commonly known as ghost nets, and the collection and recycling of old, damaged, and recovered fishing gear.
Protecting Species and Habitats
Several hundred animal and plant species are currently on federal and provincial lists of species at risk of extinction with more added every year. The most common cause of their decline is destruction of habitat due to economic activity and urbanization. Rarely are species removed from the list. Often their status continues to decline, despite their protected status.
- Increase funding to federal departments to dramatically ramp up the development and implementation of endangered species recovery plans required by legislation, placing tight deadlines on completion and invoking emergency powers of the federal government to protect species when provincial governments fail to do so.
- Protect a minimum of 30 per cent of freshwaters, oceans and land by 2030.
- Commit $100 million annually over the next four years to create Indigenous-led protected and conserved areas and fund stewardship of these lands and waters by Indigenous guardians.
- Fully restore the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which was gutted by the Harper government in 2012, and adopt the recommendations of the independent Expert Panel on Environmental Assessment, commissioned by the Liberals and then ignored.
- Increase funding to Parks Canada to ensure that the ecological integrity of our national parks is maintained, and where necessary restored, and that heritage sites are fully protected and maintained.
- 23. Smith, Robert and Kieran McDougal. Costs of Pollution in Canada: Measuring the impacts on families, businesses and governments. International Institute for Sustainable Development (June 2017): Page ix. Available: https://www.iisd.org/sites/default/files/publications/costs-of-pollution-in-canada.pdf. [Accessed August 23, 2019].
- 24. University of Georgia. “More than 8.3 billion tons of plastics made: Most has now been discarded.” Available at: https://news.uga.edu/scientists-calculate-total-amount-of-plastics-ever-produced/.
- 25. European Commission. “Plastics can concentrate toxic pollutants, endangering marine ecosystems.” May 2013. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/326na6_en.pdf.