Michael Riordon

the view from where I live

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Bold Scientists in Kingston, Ontario: November 6

cropped-bold-scientists-front-cover8.jpgAuthor Michael Riordon in dialogue: Whole food for free range minds.

Thursday November 6, 1 – 2:30 pm. Room D214, Mackintosh Corry Hall, Queen’s University.
Map: http://www.queensu.ca/campusmap/main?mapquery=mackintosh.

Everyone is welcome.  Bring your own mind.

Co-sponsors: Studies in National and International Development (SNID), and the School of Environmental Studies.

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Good news: The ELA is saved!

In April 2012, the government of Canada announced that it would close the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in northwest Ontario.  Since 1968 the world-renowned research station has hosted a unique whole-ecosystem approach to studying how lake ecosystems and fish respond to human and natural disturbances.  The resulting data, unattainable anywhere else, is essential for objective, evidence-based decision-making.

Save ELAWithin hours of the closure announcement, marine biology PhD candidate Diane Orihel launched an international campaign to save the ELA.

Two years later, victory!  Today the grassroots Canadian organization Evidence for Democracy announced that a final agreement has just been reached to transfer operation of the ELA to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), based in Manitoba.  It will be backed by the governments of Ontario and Manitoba, which appear to be less hostile to evidence-based decisions and policies.

For more on the vital connections between science, evidence and democracy, Evidence for Democracy offers two public events:

5 pm, Thursday April 3, Dr. Munir Sheikh, former Chief Statistician of Canada, on why public policy needs to be informed by evidence.  The event will be live streamed. Details here.

Governing in the Dark, a recent public talk by Canadian biologist Scott Findlay can be seen or read online, here.

In dark times, signs of hope.

Follow the Save ELA story in Bold Scientists: dispatches from the battle for honest science, coming from Between the Lines, autumn 2014.

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Experimental Lakes Area: science, an endangered species?

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.