Granting legal rights to nature


When the Halton regional council handed the centuries-old oak tree a death
sentence because it stood in the way of the Bronte Rd. widening, Joyce Burnell
had to pay to save it.

She needed to raise more than $300,000 to have the road paved around the
tree, instead of over top of it.

But what if that ancient tree, gnarled but beautiful and a healthy eight
storeys tall, had its own inviolable legal rights – a right to exist, for
instance – that, at the very least, Halton council would have had to consider
before it made the decision to cut it down?

“Well, 95 per cent of people would probably think of us as crazy, to think of
trees in that manner,” Burnell, 87, says. “But I agree with it. You see a tree
by itself, and you don’t realize it’s that big. You have to get out of your car
and walk up and touch it. Then you realize that it has survived three centuries.
It just seems they do have life, so I think it’s a good idea.”

She adds with a giggle, “It could fight for itself, sue the people who want
to take it down.”

Well, it could certainly have somebody act on its behalf, to fight for its
right to live. There would have to be a weighty hearing, balancing the needs of
the tree and its desire for survival, with the need for the region to widen the
road at the expense of the tree’s existence.

Granting legal rights to nature, such as animals, trees, rivers and forests,
is a growing concept in environmental law – if not as explicit as giving a goat
in the Rocky Mountains legal standing in a Banff courtroom, then as a basic idea
upon which the field is expanding in our statutes and in legal bodies.

Read the full article online at the Toronto Star.

Dead plant walking

Catherine Porter
Tyler Hamilton

NANTICOKE, Ont.–Travelling south along Route 55, there are few warning signs
you are approaching the country’s most-wanted polluter. The rolling hills are
decorated with languorous cows. Poultry barns and corn silos flash by. A farmer
in a baseball cap fishes out his mail from a rusty box.

It’s a picture of Ontario pastoral, except for the menacing procession of
transmission towers that look like giant metal scarecrows flashing through the
trees. They lead down to Lake Erie, gleaming silver in the winter sun, and to a
black mountain and two tall, puffing smokestacks. As you get closer, you can
pick out what appear to be miniature yellow trucks climbing the mountain’s
switchbacks. And finally, the sign: Ontario Power Generation. No

This is the Nanticoke electricity plant. It has the dubious honour of being
both Ontario’s leading spewer of toxic emissions that cause acid rain and smog,
and the country’s biggest source of greenhouse gases – those villainous brews
causing the atmosphere to warm.

For years, it’s been on death row, first sentenced by the Ontario government
to dismantlement in 2007, then 2009, and now 2014.

Read the full story online at the Toronto Star.

Could market bust spell green boom?

Peter Gorrie

This week, stock markets thrashed wildly, the Bank of Canada warned
of tough economic times, and the United States languished on recession
watch. Environmentalists aren’t sure whether to grin or groan at this
avalanche of gloomy news.

Common wisdom is that the environment
is a good-times issue, a luxury. When the economy tanks, so do thoughts
of turning green. That happened in the early 1980s and again a decade
later when economic booms turned to busts.

But it’s not that cut
and dried. With little hard evidence to go on, good arguments can be
made that a recession is either good or bad for the environment.

some argue that households or companies that want to prosper should go
green, in a recession individuals can’t spend on energy-saving
appliances or major home retrofits.

Shoppers are more likely to
choose cheap factory-farmed foods over more expensive organic products
and donations to environment groups tumble.

The tendency is to think of short-term economic survival rather than longer-range benefits.

Read the full article online at the Toronto Star.

Where cancer-causing agents lurk

By Nancy White

First off, Devra Davis won’t do the interview on her cellphone.

Call me back on the land line, she instructs. It’s not the money she’s concerned about. It’s the microwaves.

She’s also concerned about drinking diet pop, wearing a lot of cosmetics and eating non-organic red meat.

make no mistake: she’s not some trendy health-scare type. She’s a
blue-chip cancer epidemiologist, director of the Center for
Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
with a Grade A scientific pedigree: a PhD from the University of
Chicago, a decade at the National Academy of Sciences, an author of
more than 170 published articles.

And she’s worried about her environmental exposure to cancer.

has to start where they’re comfortable, taking control of their own
homes,” says Davis, who will be the keynote speaker at Women’s College
Hospital’s health forum Friday. “Then they have to make sure they vote
for politicians who understand the importance of this issue.”

This issue is how we’ve let modern life, from the air we breathe to the products we use, poison our bodies.

Read the full article online at the Toronto Star.

Panel pushes debate on carbon tax

Globe and Mail

OTTAWA — The Canadian
economy can transform itself into a clean-running green machine by 2050,
slashing its emissions by more than half with very little economic pain, say the
authors of a new report from the National Round Table on the Environment.

The federally-funded advisory panel is urging government
leaders to quickly put a “strong” price on industrial emissions of greenhouse
gases and air pollutants and says the sooner the better for both the economy and
the environment.

The report urges Canadian politicians to focus the
debate on either a carbon tax, a cap and trade system, or both.

A carbon tax would force industry to pay a fee for every
tonne of harmful emissions released into the atmosphere. A cap and trade system
would allow companies to emit up to a specific cap. Permits to emit above the
cap would have to purchased from companies that have lowered their emissions
below their cap.

“Our findings suggest that in the long-run, the overall
effect on Canada’s gross domestic product will not be significant, amounting to
the equivalent of approximately one to two years of ‘lost growth’ of GDP between
now and 2050,” said David McLaughlin, the President and CEO of the panel.

Read the full article online at the Globe&Mail.

Read the report >

Green Party of Ontario announces new Interim Female Deputy Leader

For Immediate Release

Toronto – December 20, 2007 – Frank de
Jong, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario, today announced the appointment of
Melanie Mullen as Interim Female Deputy Leader for the provincial party. She
replaces outgoing Deputy Leader Victoria Serda.

“On the heels of our greatest election
success to date, the Green Party is naturally undergoing a bit of reorganizing.
Some of the people who worked so hard on the campaign understandably need a
break from the day-to-day activities of running the Party,” Leader Frank de
Jong said. “We’re
very happy to welcome Melanie on board as the Party builds towards an even
stronger campaign for 2011.”

Mullen, from Niagara Falls, comes to the
Green Party as an experienced environmental engineer. She is looking forward to
contributing to the GPO Provincial Executive for the next few months, filling a
key role as one of two Deputy Leaders. The Male Deputy Leader is Dr. Sanjeev
Goel, of Brampton West. The GPO will hold a formal contest for a full-term
Female Deputy Leader at its Annual General Meeting this spring.

“I want to thank Victoria for her efforts to help
build the Party, to develop her local Constituency Association, and the great
amount of time and effort she put in during our 2007 campaign, both as Deputy
Leader and as the GPO candidate in Huron-Bruce,” de Jong said. “As both GPO
Deputy Leader and a municipal councilor in Saugeen Shores, she had been
balancing a busy schedule that made it difficult to fulfill all of her
objectives, so I understand her decision to step down.”

Serda had been the GPO Female Deputy
Leader since September 2006. She was
instrumental in overseeing the most recent election campaign, which resulted in
the Party tripling its membership and its share of the popular vote, an
unprecedented achievement for the party. Serda is also a certified Climate
Change Messenger on behalf of Al Gore and The Climate Project. She has
presented Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth
presentation to more than 19,000 people across Canada, more than any other
presenter in this country.

Mullen is a graduate of the
Environmental Engineering program at the University of Guelph and has an
extensive background in environmental activism. Most recently, she represented
the Green Party of Canada at the United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in
Bali and helped to organize the
International Greens meeting in Bali and the release of the Global Greens’ statement
on the Bali negotiations.

In 2006, Mullen received the Canadian
Engineering Memorial Foundation Award for Ontario which honours excellence and
dedication to education, women in engineering and the environment. Mullen
returned home to run as the Green Party candidate for Niagara Falls in the 2007
Ontario provincial election where she received 11.4% of the popular vote – the
second highest percentage garnered by any female Green Party candidate.

Mullen is fluent in both English and

– 30 –

Media enquiries contact:
Anouk Hoedeman, Media Relations


Le Parti Vert de l’Ontario
annonce une nouvelle Chef adjointe intérimaire féminine

Pour diffusion immédiate

Toronto – 20 décembre 2007 – Le Chef du Parti Vert de l’Ontario,
Frank de Jong, a annoncé aujourd’hui que Melanie Mullen avait été nommée Chef adjointe
féminine intérimaire. Elle remplace la Chef adjointe Victoria Serda.

Parti Vert est en train de se réorganiser après la meilleure élection que nous
n’ayons jamais eue. Certaines des personnes qui ont travaillé très fort se
retirent des affaires opérationnelles du parti en ce moment, vu qu’ils ou elles
ont besoin d’un peu de repos,” a commenté le chef Frank de Jong. “Nous sommes
contents d’accueillir Melanie à bord alors que le parti commence à se préparer
pour une campagne encore plus solide, en 2011.”

vient de Niagara Falls et elle a de l’expérience comme ingénieure
environnementale. Elle est heureuse de pouvoir contribuer au Conseil provincial
du PVO lors des prochains mois, en remplissant le rôle d’un des deux chefs
adjoints. Le Chef adjoint masculin est le docteur Sanjeev Goel, de
Brampton-Ouest. Le PVO organisera des élections pour une Chef adjointe féminine
lors de son Assemblée biennale ce printemps 2008.

“Je veux remercier Victoria pour les efforts qu’elle a fournis en
aidant à bâtir le parti et en développant son association politique locale.
Elle a également donné beaucoup pendant la campagne électorale de 2007, tant
comme Chef adjointe que comme candidate dans le comté de Huron-Bruce,” a dit de
Jong. “Comme Chef adjointe et conseillère municipale de Saugeen Shores, elle a
jonglé un horaire chargé qui ne lui permettait pas de se concentrer sur tous
ses objectifs, ainsi je peux comprendre sa décision de remettre sa démission.”

Serda était Chef adjointe féminine du PVO depuis septembre 2006.
Elle a joué un rôle décisif de supervision de la campagne électorale récente,
campagne grâce à laquelle le nombres de membres du parti et le nombre de votes
a triplé: un exploit sans précédent pour le parti. Serda est aussi une Agente
de changements climatiques certifiée au nom de Al Gore et de son Projet
climatique. Elle a présenté le film Une
vérité qui dérange à plus de 19 000 personnes à travers le Canada, et a
ainsi été la présentatrice la plus active à ce chapitre.

Mullen est diplomée du programme de Génie environnemental de
l’Université de Guelph et elle a des antécédents considérables en activisme
environnemental. Très récemment, elle a représenté le Parti Vert du Canada à la
Convention-Cadre des Nations Unies sur les changements climatiques de Bali.
Elle a également participé à l’élaboration du document des Verts Mondiaux au
sujet des négotiations de Bali.

En 2006, Mullen a reçu le prix de la Fondation commémorative du
génie canadien. Ce prix vise à récompenser l’excellence et le dévouement
éducatif de femmes impliquées dans les domaines du génie et de l’environnement.
Mullen est rentrée chez elle pour se porter candidate pour le Parti Vert à
Niagara Falls lors de l’élection ontarienne de 2007. Elle a reçu 11.4% du vote,
et s’est ainsi placée en deuxième position parmi les femmes candidates du Parti

Mullen est parfaitement bilingue (anglais et français).

– 30 –

Contact médiatique:

Anouk Hoedeman




Development trumping environmental policy, report says

Peter Gorrie

province is letting development run roughshod over protection of
invaluable natural resources, Ontario’s green watchdog says.

region around Toronto is being decimated by expanding suburbs, highways
and gravel pits, despite creation of the GTA Greenbelt and regulations
to control urban sprawl, Environmental Commissioner Gordon Miller says
in his annual report, to be released today.

In the North, lack of
planning and reliance on policies that give mining companies virtually
unfettered access to the fragile wilderness threaten to destroy what
Miller calls an “ecological treasure.”

In both regions, the report says, the Liberal government must step back and rethink its strategy.

Read the full article online at the TorontoStar.com.

Climate change critics fear Canada’s influence

Peter Gorrie

“What we will do in the next two, three years will determine our future. This is the defining challenge.”

call to action came last month from Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, after that group of global
scientists warned “humanity’s very survival” is at stake if we don’t
apply a cold compress to Earth’s increasingly sweaty brow.

is the first day of that brief time to get our act together. In Bali,
Indonesia, delegates from Canada and about 180 other countries, or
parties, will launch the 13th annual United Nations conference on
climate change.

Judging by the most optimistic predictions of the
outcome, it’s safe to say the gulf between doomsday rhetoric and
diplomatic dithering couldn’t be wider.

Read the full article online at the TorontoStar.com

Farm readies biogas plant


ILDERTON — A green revolution in agriculture and power production is taking shape at the Stanton Bros. dairy farm.

It’s called biogas, a technology that transforms livestock manure and food waste into clean, renewable energy.

The Stanton Bros. biogas plant is only the third in Ontario and by far
the largest. The farm has the capacity to handle 2,000 head of dairy
cattle producing enough manure to generate 300 kilowatts of power.

Read the full article online at the London Free Press.