Michael Riordon

the view from where I live

“They cannot stop me from talking.”

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Scientists Biased, Talk Too Much: Confidential government memo.

Details here, in Blacklock’s Reporter: minding Ottawa’s business, August 11, 2014.

Tar sands 2Tar sands, Alberta, Canada.  Photo: The Nation.

The primary target of the confidential memo, John Smol, is a professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, a widely acclaimed paleolimnologist (fathoming the life stories of lakes), and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change.

Why does the Harper government want to silence John Smol and his co-researchers?  Because they know too much.  The current regime in Ottawa is an aggressive booster of the enormously destructive tar sands colossus, and is determined to keep Canadians strictly on message: tar sands = good for Canada, with minimal harm.  Period.  Trouble is, their message keeps getting shredded by the findings of honest science.

Why won’t John Smol shut up?  He knows too much:

“The huge problem is that many environmental problems are long scale.  They can take years, decades to show up – or longer, sometimes I work in centuries, even millennia.  But politicians think in terms of four years, at best.  Look at the tar sands – go ahead, pump it out as fast as you can, we’ll be out of here in four years, what do we care?  Industry is even worse, they think in quarters, 90-day intervals.  Costs for the future are horrendous, but they’re not in this fiscal cycle.  When things go extinct, they’re extinct forever.  You destroy a river system, it’s gone. Destroy a fish population, it’s gone.  How do you gauge what that’s worth?”

Delve into John Smol’s research, paleolimnology, and why he speaks out, in Bold Scientists: dispatches from the battle for honest science.  Available September 4, 2014, in print and e-book from Between the Lines.

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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