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Two top ecologists to vote NDP

Biologist Alexandra Morton and ecologist Bill Rees plan to vote for the New Democratic Party in next week’s provincial election.

“I personally have always voted Green. But I feel partly responsible for Gordon Campbell getting in these last two elections, and so I’m voting for the NDP,” Morton told a Vancouver press conference this morning.

“I’m absolutely with the Greens philosophically. On the other hand, I probably will vote strategically to avoid seeing the Campbell government return,” agreed Rees, the UBC professor who devised the “ecological footprint” concept.

The tacit endorsements came at the conclusion of a panel discussion hosted by Save Our Rivers at which five noted conservationists spoke out against the treatment of B.C.’s rivers by Premier Gordon Campbell’s government.

Mark Angelo, founder of World Rivers Day and chair of BCIT’s new Rivers Institute, kicked off the panel discussing. He called the Fraser “the world’s greatest salmon river,” and listed run-of-river hydropower projects among a list of threats to salmon habitat:

“There is currently no umbrella strategy for these projects in terms of exactly what we are trying to achieve and at what cost. There’s also no overall plan for this initiative…

“Without a strategy or plan, we have seen something akin to a gold rush, with literally hundreds of rivers being staked. And that hasn’t been good for our rivers, our environment, or the energy sector for that matter. I think there are probably some in the IPP sector who would agree that the gold rush approach has not been helpful or beneficial.”

Elaine Golds, a biochemist, explained her opposition to a hydropower project planned for the Upper Pitt River Valley:

“One of the reasons we run into these problems is that we have a very flawed Environmental Assessment process. It was considerably weakened by the Campbell government.

“The electricity we produce in this province only accounts for something like 2 to 3 per cent of the greenhouse gasses… yet [the Campbell government’s] energy plan predominantly focuses on electric production...

“We obviously do need to de-carbonize our economy… but to suggest that run-of-river power projects are going to help us to that is simply ridiculous.”

Bill Rees, a member of the Royal Society of Canada, described the Campbell government’s support for the private hydropower industry a “knee-jerk response to a perceived energy crisis,” and added:

“There is no energy crisis. There is abundant energy, which we use wastefully and profligately. We could generate more energy through conservation than these projects will ever produce. Therefore we do not need them. …

“In my view it is simply time to draw a line in the sand around the growth ethic. Growth is coming to an end this century, whether we like it or not… So while it may seem heresy today to talk about the growth ethic and the need to reach a steady-state relationship with the earth… in 20 years it will be principal debate on the planet.”

Alexandra Morton, the wild salmon conservationist who has openly challenged David Suzuki and other environmentalists who support Campbell, observed, “If you are breathing in British Columbia, you have sucked air into your lungs that was made by a tree fed by salmon,” and said:

“For the past two months, since I won in B.C. Supreme Court, I have been sending a letter to Gordon Campbell asking simply that the laws of Canada be applied to the salmon feed lots that are in our oceans.

“More than 13,000 people have now signed this letter and he will not even answer. For me this speaks volumes.

“I would like to know right now what he plans to do with these fish farms. Because not answering the question leads me believe that he will allow them to expand and to grow and to choke off these living systems that we depend on.”

Vicky Husband, a conservationist and member of the Order of Canada, rued, “If we live in the best place on earth, then why in the hell are we not protecting it?” and said:

“We’ve seen what the deregulation of the banking system, the economic systems, have done. They’ve led to economic collapse. And what we’re seeing here is supreme deregulation of any kind of environmental protection. …

“[British Columbia’s] Environmental Assessment is flawed. It’s almost close to being a joke, because it really never turns down any projects… And now we’re hearing that it would be a political decision if an Environmental Assessment is done.”

While all spoke against the Campbell government's record, none of the other presenters would state publicly who they plan to vote for on May 12.

Monte Paulsen reports for The

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