Michael Riordon

the view from where I live

Experimental Lakes Area: science, an endangered species?

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ELA, phosporusSince 1968, the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) has generated unique, whole-ecosystem science to protect freshwater in Canada and other countries.

In May 2012 the government of Canada announced that the world-renowned research station will be closed.  Several other federal water protection initiatives have also been cancelled.

Within hours, marine biologist Diane Orihel launched the coalition to save ELA , and to defend scientific integrity in Canada.  (Recently she took up her PhD studies again, but the Coalition continues to fight for safe water and honest science.)

Diane Orihel talked with me between events on the road.  While some scientists have openly protested the government’s assault, many remain silent.   Why?

“Fear.  The amount of fear I’ve encountered is incredible.  Government scientists are afraid that they’ll lose their jobs if they speak out.  University professors are afraid to speak out because they could get blacklisted by the government and not get their grants renewed.  Environmental NGOs with charitable status are afraid they’ll lose it if they speak out too much.  Some scientists and ENGOs have actually told me they’re under investigation by the government due to public stands they’ve taken.   Even students are afraid, I’ve been astounded by how many are frightened to participate in the campaign, even to sign a petition, because it might affect their ability to get a job in the future.

“Science can’t function, our democracy can’t function under this kind of fear.  It’s clear that the vast majority of Canadians don’t support the agenda of this government.  That’s why I’m trying to inspire people to stand up, to speak out for what they believe.  It’s the only way we can take back our country, and return it to where it should be going.”

Read/see more:

Research on oil-sands impact cost centre its funding, scientists say.  The Globe and Mail, June 2012.

New video from the Coalition to Save ELA: Stop the war on science.

Rick Mercer’s Rant, on government threats to the ELA, science and freshwater.

Author: Michael Riordon

Canadian writer and documentary-maker Michael Riordon writes/ directs/produces books and articles, audio, video and film documentaries, plays for radio and stage. A primary goal of his work is to recover voices and stories of people who have been silenced or marginalized, written out of the official version: First Nations (aboriginal) youth, Mozambican farmers, inmates in Canadian prisons, traditional healers in Fiji, queer folk across Canada, Guatemalan labour activists. Michael also leads courses, workshops and seminars for community organizations, trade unions, schools, colleges and universities.

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