by: Obert Madondo
A new book by Canadian journalist and author Chris Turner presents “a passionate and meticulously researched argument against the Harper government’s war on science.” The book urges Canadians to be concerned because this war is “the most vicious assault ever waged by a Canadian government on the fundamental principles of the Enlightenment.”
Published by Greystone Books, “The War On Science: Muzzled Scientists and Willful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada”, articulates how the Conservatives have systematically politicized and controlled science, muzzled government scientists, and cut federal funding to research stations across Canada. Last year, the Conservatives passed Bill C-38, an omnibus piece of legislation that repealed more than 60 different pieces of legislation, including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
The blurb from Greystone Books tells us:
“In this arresting and passionately argued indictment, award-winning journalist Chris Turner argues that Stephen Harper’s attack on basic science, science communication, environmental regulations, and the environmental NGO community is the most vicious assault ever waged by a Canadian government on the fundamental principles of the Enlightenment. From the closure of Arctic research stations as oil drilling begins in the High Arctic to slashed research budgets in agriculture, dramatic changes to the nation’s fisheries policy, and the muzzling of government scientists, Harper’s government has effectively dismantled Canada’s long-standing scientific tradition.
Drawing on interviews with scientists whose work has been halted by budget cuts and their colleagues in an NGO community increasingly treated as an enemy of the state, The War on Science paints a vivid and damning portrait of a government that has abandoned environmental stewardship and severed a national commitment to the objective truth of basic science as old as Canada itself.”
The blurb echoes this illuminating feature Turner published in Corporate Knights magazine in June, 2012.
Last year, thousands of scientists, students and allied activists marched on Parliament Hill and held a mock funeral to mourn the untimely death of evidence in Canada.
Canada’s information commissioner, Suzanne Legault, confirmed earlier this year that her office would investigate allegations that the Conservatives are gagging Canadian scientists, following a complaint jointly filed by the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Victoria and Democracy Watch.
The world is not blind to Harper’s unrelenting assault on science. Even the New York Times tells us the assault that occurred in the United States under George W. Bush – when scientists were forced toe the party line on the climate policy, endangered species and related policy issues – is “nothing” compared with “what is being done in Canada” by the Conservatives. In an editorial published in September, the NYT offered:
“It began badly enough in 2008 when scientists working for Environment Canada, the federal agency, were told to refer all queries to departmental communications officers. Now the government is doing all it can to monitor and restrict the flow of scientific information, especially concerning research into climate change, fisheries and anything to do with the Alberta tar sands — source of the diluted bitumen that would flow through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Journalists find themselves unable to reach government scientists; the scientists themselves have organized public protests…
Science is the gathering of hypotheses and the endless testing of them. It involves checking and double-checking, self-criticism and a willingness to overturn even fundamental assumptions if they prove to be wrong. But none of this can happen without open communication among scientists. This is more than an attack on academic freedom. It is an attempt to guarantee public ignorance.
It is also designed to make sure that nothing gets in the way of the northern resource rush — the feverish effort to mine the earth and the ocean with little regard for environmental consequences. The Harper policy seems designed to make sure that the tar sands project proceeds quietly, with no surprises, no bad news, no alarms from government scientists. To all the other kinds of pollution the tar sands will yield, we must now add another: the degradation of vital streams of research and information.”
Calgary-based Chris Turner is a journalist and the author of The Leap: How to Survive and Thrive in the Sustainable Economy, a finalist for the 2011 National Business Book Award, and The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Non-fiction. He also attended the Berton House Writers’ Retreat between January and March 2013. He is currently writing his first novel, Canadian Shield.