Volume 93, Issue 43

Tuesday, November 16, 1999


Environmental awareness: the key to our future

Environmental awareness: the key to our future

Clare Elias/Gazette
A SCENERY OF SMOKESTACKS. Emissions from smokestacks compliment the muddy waters and littered shores of the Thames River. London is home to a vast array of flora and fauna and environmental activists are making sure it stays that way.

By Becky Somerville
Gazette Staff

Environmental degradation continues to plague the earth at an alarming rate and with time as the planet's most precious resource, it is becoming imperative that the public become aware of these issues and transform rhetoric into action. Through education and a transition to earth-friendly practices, most experts agree a difference can be made beginning at the individual level.

"The biggest environmental issues today are atmospheric pollution, ozone depletion, climate change and an overall rape of the planet's resources," explained Tracy Frauzel, information officer for Greenpeace. Other factors which contribute to the deterioration of the environment are the overuse and mismanagement of land-based resources, she added.

Greenpeace, Frauzel explained, is an environmental activist group which educates the public through non-violent direct actions and the lobbying of governments and corporations. Currently the organization is working on campaigns which target genetic engineering, nuclear power and weapons, while also examining climate change, over-fishing and toxic dumping worldwide.

Through school curriculums and an environmental agenda among businesses, awareness and action are being created, Frauzel said.

"Environmental activism can be part of a person's daily life," she explained. "Over the years there are some things that have become part of people's consciousness." Frauzel added that cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions by riding public transit, recycling, re-using and conserving energy are environmentally friendly ways to aid the earth in everyday life.

"Businesses are putting [the environment] as a whole part of their process and are trying to incorporate environmentally sound practices into their business plan," Frauzel said. She added government action and leadership needs to be taken in order for environmental problems to be seen as a global issue.

Tom Wonnacott, associate professor of statistical and actuarial sciences at Western, said he has been researching demography and population growth and has a passionate interest in the environment.

His appreciation for the earth is reflected in his realistic, positive outlook on the state of the environment today.

Wonnacott said although the scarcity of natural resources is a present day problem, he explained it's a problem which has been getting better. "When it comes to resources, it turns out they are becoming more and more plentiful, not more scarce."

He added another prevalent environmental issue is pollution. It has an enormous number of other environmental repercussions such as weather and climate change, he said.

Although environmental problems are still prevelent, Wonnacott said other concerns, such as social problems, are also rising to the forefront.

"If we don't get the diagnosis right, we won't get the cure right," Wonnacott said. "Technology and population are the problems [contributing to environmental degradation] but they're also the solution."

Marianne Lines, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Pollution Control, a Sarnia-based organization which acts as a catalyst for change on pollution through the dissemination of information, said prevention practices are the most effective way to deal with our suffering environment.

"We want to raise awareness so people can take action for themselves. I think unless people have the right knowledge it will be hard for them to make informed decisions," Lines said. She further explained the centre uses pamphlets and seminars to inform small businesses, governments and all educational audiences on how they can prevent pollution.

"We reinforce design, technical and behavioural changes and encourage people to be more efficient so they may ultimately protect the environment," Lines added.

Another avenue for environmental change has been approached by Cornelia Hoogland, associate professor of education at Western. By adopting an artistic perspective to environmental education, Hoogland believes an emotional connection to the earth can be achieved which in turn will encourage care for the environment.

"It seems to me that environmentalists have been saying for a long time that they are not getting through to people," Hoogland said.

Art and other mediums, such as literary works, help people to visualize and create a closer relationship with the earth, she added.

"Ecology is something you see and feel in your hands," Hoogland said. "It's one thing to learn the facts but it's another thing to create a relationship with the natural world."

The Environmental Bill of Rights helps to facilitate a similar type of relationship between the people of Ontario and the environment, explained Robert Blaquiere, public information officer for the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. The ECO, which reports annually to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, delivers public education programs and reviews and reports on how government is progressing on environmental issues.

"The EBR recognizes that the provincial government has the primary responsibility for protecting, conserving and restoring the natural environment. It represents a new era in environmental decision making – one of better public participation, citizen empowerment and greater accountability of decision makers," he explained.

Blaquiere said by providing environmental education to social, environmental, governmental and educational audiences, a proactive approach to the earth was encouraged.

Clare Elias/Gazette
"THE BLOB" ATTACKS LONDON'S THAMES RIVER. Yet another product of pollution and environmental degeneration lurks just beneath the surface of the river. This toxic tar blob is the end result of a coal gasification process which occurred between 1853 and 1939.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999