Monday, June 27, 2011

Brian Mulroney and the Environment

Shortly after being sworn in as the Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands, Elizabeth May urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take a lesson from his Conservative predecessor Brian Mulroney and to show some leadership on environmental issues. While the current administration's disinterest in the environment is widely known, in 2006 Mulroney was named Canada's Greenest Prime Minister by Corporate Knights magazine. As May pointed out, Mulroney was the last Prime Minister whose party received a majority of the popular vote, a fact she attributed to his willingness to listen to public concern.

One of Mulroney's key legacies is his work on acid rain. While he was quick to address the issue in Canada, he had considerable difficulty prodding President Ronald Reagan to pursue a similar course in the United States. (Roughly half of the pollution causing acid rain in Canada came from sources south of the border, meaning a bilateral solution was necessary.) It wasn't for lack of trying. While considerable lobbying occurred behind the scenes, you can get a sense of Mulroney's dedication to the issue through his public statements at the time. In March 1985 the Prime Minister appeared on the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS. When asked if he was pleased with Reagan's recent admission that acid rain was an important issue to consider -- part of the President's grand scheme of delaying action -- Mulroney replied that "I hope that we will be able to do better than that. In point of fact the United States and Canada have inflicted great savagery upon our common environment. You know this is not something that we own. This is a trust that we must pass on undiminished to our children. And I think that we've done great damage over the years to our environment. We have been thoughtless. We have been careless.”

Nonetheless, Reagan continued to delay action, citing the need for further study of the issue. Two years later, when Mulroney was introducing Reagan to a Special Session of the Canadian Parliament, he once again returned to the theme. As he eloquently stated, "I urgently invite the U.S. Administration and the American Congress to join with this Parliament and the Government of Canada in concluding a firm bilateral accord which will provide a North American solution to acid rain. In this matter, time is not our ally but our enemy. The longer we delay, the greater the cost. For what would be said of a generation that sought the stars but permitted its lakes and streams to languish and die?"

In 1991 Mulroney and Reagan's successor, George H.W. Bush, signed the Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement, obliging the two countries to reduce their sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Deep Throat Does The (Toronto) Environment

Ah, the old student newspaper…

I recently found myself sifting through back issues of the University of Toronto’s Varsity in an on-going effort to understand the campus community’s burgeoning environmental consciousness. Along the way I’ve come across an assortment of articles showcasing the best in student journalism. Lawrence Clarke’s “Can Linda Lovelace really be ‘just the girl next door?’” (March 14, 1975, pages 16-17) is one such piece. Lovelace, who rocketed to infamy with her starring “performance” in the 1972 pornographic film Deep Throat, was in Toronto the Good to promote her forthcoming feature Linda Lovelace for President.

I hear it had a clever plot.

In between the occasionally awkward questioning (“What would you do if you met the head of the Roman Catholic Church?” did not spark the insightful response the interviewer apparently hoped for), Lovelace’s stinging critique of simulated sex in mainstream cinema (her thoughts on the racy Last Tango in Paris? “The sex was so obviously faked it was stupid.”), and the obligatory defense of her line of work (shoot ‘em up films, she argued, are the real pornography), it turns out Lovelace was deeply concerned with the state of Toronto’s environment.

Sitting in her room on the 29th floor of the Hyatt Regency hotel, Lovelace began critiquing the pollution outside. “Toronto’s air isn’t that much better than New York City or Chicago….In five years children will be dying from this air, but no one cares.” And, while she believed the air problems could be solved, she wasn’t optimistic that the present political structure would allow for the necessary changes. Predicting catastrophe, Lovelace announced her intention to go back to the land: “I’d like to buy a farm soon either in the U.S. or in Scandinavia. Then I’d like to learn how to farm just for survival, not to make money or anything. It’s people who do this who are going to have a chance to go on living when something does go wrong.”

I wonder if Traci Lords gave any interviews on acid rain?
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