After reading Bill Black’s article in the weekend edition of The Chronicle Herald, I was prompted to write a few lines on the same subject.
Mr. Black decried the fact that over-zealous environmental protection impacts on many economic activities and industrial processes, which have a negative effect on employment. That in turn has led to significant reductions of population in rural areas, which have historically depended on natural resource-related work opportunities.
I particularly liked his point that when environmental and risk assessments are carried out that
“the impact on the viability of the communities and people living in them" be taken into account,
especially if it would benefit them.
He ended his article with this paragraph: “Jobs are necessary for human habitats to survive. The people living in those communities deserve the opportunity to remain and prosper."
In my opinion, Mr. Black’s article can be summed up in one sentence: when it comes to natural
resource development and environmental protection, we need a balanced approach.
After I read the article, my mind wandered back to a lively discussion among friends after a
dinner party in Montréal, close to 50 years ago. We were all quite young and probably more
idealistic than now, some more than others of course. There were some quasi latter-day
“hippies” among us.
We were discussing various environmental issues and the various nasty things being done by
“big business” and “bad industry.” After a great deal of criticism about our degraded modern
world, which included some self-flagellation (after all, we were part of it), I remember blurting
out something along these lines: "I agree, yes we are to blame. You know why? Because there
are just too damn many of us."
After a few moments of stunned silence and after overcoming the shock of my “Eureka" moment, I added: "Don't you see! If there were not so many people expecting or demanding this and that, we would not exploit our natural resources in a way that leaves irrevocable and irreparable impacts.”
There wasn't anyone in the room not agreeing with me. So, I continued: “Therefore, the obvious
solution is to find a way to reduce the human population.”
Even before anybody was able to say
anything, I added: ”Ok, Ok, crazy idea!”
We cannot even slow down human population growth, let alone reduce the numbers now on the planet. Can you picture a political leader, of any kind, anywhere in the world, advocating that we save the planet by carrying out some sort of cull, the way wildlife officers control national parks? All of that is a non-starter.
That is not really what I am saying. My point is that we are here, too many of us, and (we have to live with that fact.
It's been many decades since that evening, but that particular realization has influenced my thinking since then. It has always allowed me to take a "balanced approach” to developments
and environmental protection issues.
Let us develop all of this a little further: We cannot go back tens of thousands of years. Of
course even then extinctions were carried out by the humans roaming the globe. Think of the
mammoths and several pre-colonial species of animals wiped out by the relatively sparse
original inhabitants of the American continents. It is not possible to live in harmony with “all
There are just too many of us. And we all want to live. So much of our world, especially the medical one, contributes to more and more of us surviving and living as long as possible. That's just the way we are.
And there is no need to feel guilty. We have a right to be here. It is not our fault that millions of
years ago some primates started to walk upright and gradually developed larger brains, learned
to use tools and weapons to the point where their successors prospered without a predator
higher up in the food chain. There are more insects than humans on the planet, but they are
under control. The human species is not.
None of this means that we should not have learned from the mistakes of the past. It does not
mean that we should blindly exert ourselves over other species or stupidly destroy the world
around us - the very world we need to survive as a species. However, it is totally justifiable to
take a human-centred approach to the care of our planet, especially if we do not favour the
alternative (the Cull).
Therefore, we need laws, regulations and policies which seek to find a balance to extremes. Extremes of any kind.
Unfortunately many so-called “environmentalists" are extremists, for one reason or another, and
often very selfish ones. They succeed to wield a disproportionate amount of influence,
especially on the special interest -focused politicians of our times, most of whom have no
idealogical or philosophical magnet of their own. The well-being of the human species requires
consideration as well. I can only hope that we all, especially political leaders take a more
To be continued…
Morris Haugg is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel.