Thursday July 31, 2014





Ginta: The year we leave behind and the lesson to take forth

I don’t make resolutions when the year bids farewell. It never works the right way. Most tend to fall through, anyway, before January’s over.

I do, however, look at the year that passed and aim to carry at least one lesson into the New Year, hoping that it will sprout good things and ideas.

The year we will soon leave behind has been notably rich in lessons. Some painful, some frustrating or worrying, some uplifting and yet all of them defined by one concept: humbling. 

Humbling to realize that we have much to learn.

The biggest lesson, a collection of many in fact, has a strong environmental flavour. This one more than ever, we’ve became aware of how fragile life is and how the sturdy and resilient environment we take for granted tends to set its own boundaries (think environmental disasters, both silent such as severe drought in areas we barely know the name of and loud powerful storms alike.)

Though somewhat easy to lull ourselves into believing that environmental worrywarts are crying wolf for nothing, reality brings the said wolves closer than we may expect.

If family Christmas dinners, unwrapping gifts and tumbling in the snow did not quench your interest in keeping up with the latest news, you may be aware that some of the finest and most valuable freshwater, ocean and environmental libraries in Canada have recently been dismantled by the Harper government.

To say that such irrational, shocking decisions are a mistake is an understatement.

The destruction of knowledge has always had disastrous consequences, both short- and long-term. This particular situation may be one of the most disastrous because of how much depends on it.

Our well-being as people, of our land and waters, and our environmental backbone, a matter of national pride one could say, depend on it. 

We have to know our water and its history and understand the immense responsibility of preserving as much of it as possible, for as long as possible.

Yet according to the latest news, key scientific public libraries (seven out of nine) holding precious and unique work have been dismantled and the information tossed in the garbage, save for some documents that have been digitized and some materials saved by concerned scientists.

Many environmental research centres have recently lost staff and funding, too. The connection between the two is both vital and hard to miss.

One cannot exist without the other and we cannot exist without them either. Not in the long run, not when we have to hold onto the one asset that will keep us alive and healthy as a species: knowledge.

The enemy of knowledge is not ignorance but superficial knowledge.

Being humbled by ignorance is a great step toward acquiring knowledge; there is room to learn and grow.

Superficial knowledge leads to gross inaccuracy in assessing facts and mistakes with consequences that affect generations to come and threaten our present-day environment.

The ‘libricide’ as some scientists have called the recent dismantling of science libraries by the Harper government is a chilling reminder that knowledge should not be taken for granted and those with the power of decision may not be the best to guard it.

Without access to scientific knowledge that allows for environmentally-considerate decisions, we will witness saddening and long-term or irreversible damage to our living space.

Take the controversy over the Northern Gateway Pipeline; recently cleared by Environment Canada but under severe public scrutiny and with a final decision by the provincial government has been weakened by the looming threat of countless lawsuits. Knowledge is being used to honour the land and its people.

We also have our own controversy around the intended Ajax mine and then there is, of course, the economically booming but environmentally threatening reality of the tar oil sands.

Knowledge in the form of panel discussions, environmental assessments and public input is what generates controversy, but allows for all sides to be considered before a decision is made.

With science libraries destroyed and massive amounts of data discarded, we are left to our own devices to decide the fate of freshwater habitats and other habitats — land and water alike — threatened by economic development, pollution and resource exploitation. These can and will tip the balance and not to our advantage.

If there’s one lesson to be learned from the year that passed is that knowledge should not be taken for granted. When that happens, we have much to lose and unjustly so.

My decision for the year that begins is to prevent that, as much as it is in my power, and I invite you to join me. After all, if we share the same living space, it is only natural that we share the responsibility to keep it alive and healthy.

* * *

Daniela Ginta is a mother, scientist, writer and blogger. She can be reached at daniela.ginta@gmail.com, or through her blog at www.thinkofclouds.com.





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