WOOD: Natural Capital: What Canada Stands to Lose

WOOD: Natural Capital: What Canada Stands to Lose

Postby Oscar » Mon Jun 08, 2015 3:36 pm

Natural Capital: What Canada Stands to Lose

[ http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2015/06/04/Ca ... ign=080615 ]

Worth hundreds of billions, our ecological wealth is endangered. A Tyee Solutions excerpt.

By Chris Wood, 4 Jun 2015, Tyee Solutions Society

It's an old economic truism that scarcity creates value. In an era when natural capital is disappearing around the globe, it's also increasingly highly valued. Beyond degrading biological, intrinsic and cultural values, Canada's ineffective stewardship of our ecosystems puts at risk billions, potentially trillions of dollars worth of wealth.

. . . SNIP . . . . .

Standards and accountability

It's impossible to manage what you don't measure. Yet Canada lacks consistent and timely reporting of critical variables, from snow depth to species populations, needed to make sound decisions. In the words of a joint federal-provincial study in 2010: "Information critical to the assessment of ecosystem health is missing."

Nearly 50 European governments have countered the impulse to overlook environmental decay by joining the Aarhus Convention. It commits them to gather and publish enough information about their environment to establish its status. Anyone who believes a government is failing to do so, may request an arms-length investigation and ask national courts to compel compliance with any judgment that results.

Near-term electoral rewards tempt any democratic government to overlook long-term environmental losses in its decision-making. Britain, India, Australia and the United States all broadly share Canada's legal tradition, but have found at least a partial answer in a doctrine known as the "Public Trust."

Derived from Roman antecedents, it holds that governments have an inescapable duty to future citizens to protect certain natural features, especially related to water -- and that citizens may ask the courts to force governments to meet that responsibility. Written into constitutions and simple legislation, the doctrine has obliged governments at all levels to improve their stewardship.

Canada's expanses of still-healthy landscape offer us an enormous economic advantage in a world running out of nature. Our failure to defend it over the last 25 years puts that advantage in doubt.

The shortfall between the environmental aspirations we express as Canadians and our national actions is irrefutable. But it's not inevitable. Effective models for action surround us. And we have a fast-rising economic, as well as ecological, stake in the outcome. [Tyee]

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Author and journalist Chris Wood is Coordinating Editor for The Tyee Solutions Society, and wrote its groundbreaking Bottom Lines: A Quarter-Century Report on Canada's Natural Security.
[ http://www.bottomlines.tyeesolutions.org/chapter/intro ]
It was produced by the Tyee Solutions Society (TSS) with generous support from Gencon Foundation.
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