Our health is at risk

Writer challenges federal environment minister Catherine McKenna, urging that the health of people is more important than economy

(The following is a reply from local resident David Bowering to a letter sent by federal environment minister Catherine McKenna regarding the Pacific NorthWest LNG project.)

Dear Minister McKenna:

Thanks for taking the time to reply. It is deeply discouraging to realize just how entrenched you are in the view that the health of the “economy” is more important than the health of people, the environment, and sustainability.

The Skeena River and its amazing capacity to support a healthy way of life for people over the centuries will not survive this project.

The divisions among First Nations people caused by the proposal are already clearly evident to those of us who live here: political and corporate pressure, bribery, tokenism, and a colonizer mentality that fundamentally does not understand the values held by the hereditary and traditional leaders are what really lie behind phrases like “after extensive consultation with indigenous peoples”.

The boom and bust economy that this project exemplifies along with the damage it will do, makes people sick rather than healthy over the long term, even if your government is fortunate enough to bask in the glow of construction and jobs while things are booming.

The responsible and desperately needed approach is to abandon our dependence on megaprojects that exploit and pollute in order to create the illusion of “growth”.

We need a concerted emphasis on small, local, sustainable enterprises that build communities rather than turning them into industrial work camps.

I suppose I should be gratified to hear that the carbon emissions will be capped at a somewhat lower level than the proponent wanted, but I know that this business as usual with a few tweaks approach to dealing with climate change and the creation of a sustainable future won’t come close to dealing with these issues.

We need to begin by stopping the bleeding and showing the world that we are serious. These huge fossil fuel endeavours are open wounds that need to be closed before we take on the much more nuanced and difficult job of trying to nurse the planet back to health.

Minister McKenna, I am 70 years old and after a long public health career I am pretty immune to talking points and policy spin.

It was only near the end of my career that I really began to see that the prevailing notions about trade and the resource economy are the real upstream causes of the big chronic disease epidemics of our time including the alienation and despair driving the current outbreak of drug overdose deaths.

I hope it doesn’t take your generation and your government as long to wake up as it did me.

David Bowering, MD. MHSc,

Terrace, B.C.