It is galling how the "Do-little" NDP government pats itself on the back for small feel-good initiatives. When these initiatives are analyzed in context of the entirety of the government's activities it is clear that the Government is committed to nothing more than tokenism.
Today was the perfect example of this tendency. Conservation Minister Stan Struthers announced, that in collaboration with the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), the province will be introducing a cell-phone recycling program.
I have no issues with this program on its own accord. It is promising to see the industry taking initiative. When cell phones end up in the land-fill they often leach toxins, and the mining of these metals have considerable environmental impacts.
It should, however, be recognized that cell phones are only one contributor to the province's growing e-waste problem. Nowadays it seems like everybody owns at least one, if not multiple computers, lapbtops, Ipods, television sets, DVD players, Blu Ray players, gaming consoles, and other consumer electronics. Consumer electronics date themselves quickly and within a couple of years they either end up in the landfill, or perhaps stowed away in someone`s closet/garage. Furthermore e-waste is but one part of a larger problem that revolves around our society's flagrantly frivolous production of so-called "waste".
Looking at today's press release on cell-phone recycling in isolation it becomes easy to believe that this government is at the vanguard of the environmental movement, but governments cannot be judged on the basis of a single press release alone. They need to be judged on the sum of their actions.
On Earth Day the government's press releases promised "...to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 20 per cent over the next three years," and Doer pledged $7 million to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to enhance Natural Areas.
$7 million sounds like a substantial investment in our ecosystems, until you consider the fact that the week before the government announced an infrastructure investment in Winnipeg's Inland port of $111 million- that's nearly 16 times the value of the investment in the Nature Conservancy of Canada! Furthermore both the construction and operation of the proposed CentrePort port are likely to cause an increase in GHG emissions.
The Province has been bolstering the CentrePort Canada Corporation as a way to "develop Manitoba's economy". The idea is to turn Winnipeg into a so-called "inland port" whereby Winnipeg will be a worldwide centre of distribution. Such a plan is heavily reliant on the idea of increased international trade, and in particular a continuation and expansion of our current practices of needlessly shipping products around the world by plane and truck.
Apparently the government never read the memo that our current methods of transporting freight with fossil-fuels is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Transportation is Manitoba's largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), creating 37% of the roughly 20 megatonnes of GHGs that Manitoba produces each year. It logically follows that promoting more international freight transport will further increase our GHG emissions.
The inland port concept is heavily dependent on the construction of a new airport and new roads. Has the government even considered the effects of such a massive construction project on the province's GHG emissions?
According to a 2001 study in The Annual Review of Energy and the Environment every tonne of concrete produced in North America creates 242 kg of Carbon emissions, and this does not include "...the CO2 emissions attributable to mobile equipment used for mining of raw material, used for transport of raw material and cement, and used on the plant site." In his recent book Heat, George Monbiot argues, "It is probably fair to say that a tonne of cement produces about a tonne of carbon dioxide.”
Clearly just the construction alone will be very taxing on Manitoba's atmosphere.
Air travel is also one of the fastest growing areas of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the David Suzuki Foundation "...since 1990, CO2 emissions from international aviation have increased 83%." Yet, in their most recent budget the government reduced the aviation fuel tax for domestic cargo flights and expanded their aviation fuel tax exemption for international cargo flights.
We are already proposing to spend billions of dollars on CentrePort. Why do we feel that it is prudent to deny Manitobans the tax revenue generated from international cargo flights to encourage aviation freight in spite of the clearly apparent ecological costs?
This government is baking a toxic cake, but because they have put some green icing on the outside, they want Manitoban's to believe that they can have their cake and eat it too. Hopefully we are smart enough to quit swallowing the Province's sugar-coated nonsense, because the more we eat, the worse it is for Manitoba in the long run.
http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.energy.26.1.303 (subscription required)