The following column was submitted to JSC by long-time Bolton resident Bill Wilson who is working on a book entitled “True Nature Conservation”
We humans are BECOMING familiar with nature and slowly beginning to shed some of our old arrogance about nature. Humans are EVEN expressing a sense of interest and humility for nature’s relationships with humanity. During the 1700s and early 1800s naturalists Linnaeus 1737, Banks 1776, Humboldt 1845 and Darwin 1859 began to describe, promote and classify worldwide nature in ways that could be shared by other naturalists.
Humboldt 1845 described three ways in which humans are affecting climate: deforestation, ruthless irrigation and the great masses of steam and gas produced in the industrial centers. No one but Humboldt had looked at the relationship between humans and nature like this before.
Darwin’s 1859 work scientifically demonstrated that human origins are natural and are not of divine origin. By understanding that we humans are part of nature we began to realize how dependent we are on a healthy and predictable natural environment.
By 1900 the United States and Canada recognized that the Great Lakes needed significant surveillance to protect these waters for growing populations and from actions of international commerce and traffic. The International Joint Commission (IJC) was therefore created in 1909 and led by British-Canadian Thomas Adams who was very aware from his European experience of needed measures to prevent urban plaque. After lengthy testing the IJC determined in the 1960s that there was verifiable scientific evidence that the Great Lakes ecosystem was under significant stress. Since then the IJC has begun to eliminate some of the persistent toxic substances which have accumulated in parts of the Great Lakes.
We are also beginning to understand that we can only sustain nature and ourselves by valuing how peace with nature and ourselves can be achieved as strongly urged by the eloquent stories of John Muir 1892, Aldo Leopold 1942, The Creation of the United Nations 1945, Paul Sears 1957, Basil Johnston 1976 and Robert Dorney 1975. Stephen Jay Gould 1993 and lawyer Rupert Ross 1996 have offered many encouraging insights into how nature can be understood. Al Gore 2006 invested his time and money to warn us scientifically of the negative implications of global warming.
In 1972 the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development called for a charter to guide the transition to sustainable development. The idea of the Earth Charter:1987 was proposed by Canadian Maurice Strong (Born 1929) and Russian Mikhail Gorbachev (Born March 2, 1931). The Earth Charter was declared in 2000 and has a global declaration of fundamental ethical principles for building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society. It seeks to inspire in all people a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the whole human family. We all need to share the Earth Charter with everyone we know!
We still link the natural environment and the economy in an exploitive sense. But the more recent concept of sustainability has drawn our environment and economy together in a more interdependent and positive sense. It was the Bruntland Commission 1987 which told us that sustainable development, the full integration of environment into our economic life, was the most viable way to ensuring both our environment and our economic future. See report “Our Common Future”, published in 1987 by Oxford Press and Gro Bruntland.
However this growing collective and positive familiarity with nature is not being shared by Premier Ford of Ontario. Ford’s refusal to protect the Greenbelt will reduce urban dweller’s ability to experience and value clean air, water and trees.
While the Internet has given free access to the stories I have been passing on, the following article warns how creative ideas might be refused by restrictive values and governments: On October 18, 2022 Freedom House published the following statement: “Global internet freedom declined for a 12th consecutive year as more governments erected digital barriers designed to censor dissent and monitor users, according to a report released today by Freedom House. Achieving positive human interdependency with nature and each other AND world peace becomes dramatically more difficult to achieve when we cannot at least share the same lines of communication, let alone values!!
I hope that all readers with internet familiarity can help keep the internet equitably free to support nature and the Greenbelt and world peace.