Sunday, April 21, 2013

April 21: Sunday ruminations...

Many years ago, while teaching in China (Canadian history, of all things), I had a student who graduated to become one of the wealthiest men in China. Then, after he married and became  the father of two children, he came to Montreal to see me and, more important, for me to meet his wife and his children. He registered at the most expensive suite in the most expensive hotel in Montreal, the one where the Montreal rich kept their mistresses, and where Brian Mulroney was a regular at the bar. He was picked up at the airport by the hotel's Rolls-Royce. And so it was that I met his wife and his two children. They were delightful; and he had good reason to be proud of them. of them.

It was one of those dreadfully hot, city days. His wife asked if I would like a glass of water. I sure would. She brought me a glass, and I tipped it back for the delicious cold to hit my throat.

Yech! It was warm, almost hot. I had forgotten.

In China, clean water is almost unobtainable. In the rush to industrialization, rivers became dumping grounds for toxic chemicals, rubbish of all sorts - and even human waste. (That's not unusual, particularly where mining operations are involved. Canadian mining companies are known around the world for the environmental devastation they cause, and for the brutality they use against anybody who objects.)

Chinese waterways are so  dangerously polluted that many cannot be used for irrigation - let alone drinking. Even in the cities, which treat the water, it is usually unsafe to drink. Those few who can afford it, drink imported, bottled water. The rest boil their drinking water for at least some measure of protection.

That came to mind as I thought of Harper's bizarre legislation that removed environmental protection from most streams and lakes in Canada. We know that he wants to bring more mining and oil companies into Canada, whatever damage it may cause.  He's particularly eager to bring in the Chinese - so eager that he is prepared to sell out Canada, even to accepting the sort of terms the West usually forces on third-world countries.

In the most notorious agreement, a Chinese company will be permitted to import its own workers (at its own wage scales), even for jobs that millions of Canadians are quite capable of doing. It will also be permitted for the Chinese company to sue Canada if any environmental laws interfere with its profits - and the suit can be conducted in any country, and in a secret court.

Well, I guess that's strong reason to weaken our environmental laws. But to strip them entirely from 95% of our fresh water?

That's when I thought of that glass of warm water in a Montreal hotel.

China does have some clean, fresh water - at least a much as we do. But it's not nearly enough for two billion people. It never has been - and it's getting worse, fast, in the rush to industrialize and urbanize. China wants our fresh water. But our fresh water environmental protections would have blocked such a massive export of water.

Somebody at Irving press must know this. It is not possible that all of them should be as dumb as they appear to be. But you will never read a word about it in those papers.


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