Putting on My Running Shoes

By Tooker Gomberg, Montreal, Canada.

Tooker runs for the federal ND’s in Outremont.

This column is being written on Earth Day, a good time to ponder what’s happening on this part of the planet.

Across Canada, spring has sprung. Here in Montreal a few meagre clumps of snow linger in shady spots, dwindling reminders of a recent snowstorm. Now the doggy doo has begun to appear. I know it – I just scraped some off my shoes.

As the snow melts it flows through the sewers into the mighty St. Lawrence River laden with car doo-doo. Water mixed with leaked oil and gasoline, asbestos from brake linings, and other pollutants. The water then travels out to sea, eventually evaporating and falling down somewhere else. That water keeps cycling around. Just like the air. And the pollution. Everything is connected.

There is so much that we don’t know. Thank goodness for the alternative weeklies, and the Internet. Without them, for example, nobody would know that Canada’s best known environmental activist, Paul Watson, has been locked up for the past eighteen days. He’s being detained in a high security jail in the Netherlands on trumped up charges.

Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace, and founder of the seal and whale protecting Sea Shepherd Society, was accused of sinking a whaling ship in Norwegian harbours in 1992. He was tried in absentia, and now with an election looming in Norway it looks like the government wants to bring him home as a trophy. So he was arrested in the Netherlands at Norway’s behest, and extradition papers are being prepared. Little does it seem to matter that Mr. Watson was not even in Norway when the ship sank. Nor that Norway has committed itself to returning to the commercial slaughter of whales despite the International Whaling Commission’s global ban on whaling.

Mr. Watson has received numerous death threats from Norwegians who are anxious to resume hunting whales. Word has it that if he ends up in Norwegian jail he may not get out alive. That may sound like an overstatement, but it may not be. Anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko was murdered in South African jails. Internationally renowned rubber tapper and rainforest protector Chico Mendes was killed in the Amazon. And don’t forget Karen Silkwood, the anti-nuclear activist who died in a mysterious car crash.

One might expect and hope that the Canadian Government would be doing its utmost to help free a renowned, if controversial, Canadian under such circumstances. A government that does not stand up for an exceptional citizen fighting for the health of the planet is a short-sighted and irresponsible government. Maybe the Prime Minister set the tone last year when he angrily throttled a protestor, The message seems to be: protesters not welcome.

But there is a long and honoured tradition in North America of Civil Disobedience. Thoreau wrote about the duty of citizens to stand up, challenge, and if necessary break the law when the government refuses to do what is right and required.

Our government in Ottawa has talked and talked about the climate change crisis, but neglected to walk the walk. It has broken the commitments it made to the world at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It continues to give billions to resource extraction mega-projects while neglecting the alternatives. It is a government which proudly panders to big business. So with a federal election anticipated I feel compelled to do my part.

I’m putting on my running shoes. For the next six weeks I will be pounding the pavement and knocking on doors in the federal riding of Outremont, Montreal. I will be running as the NDP candidate in the upcoming election. I hope that people will agree that it’s time to get beyond the incessant chattering of bloated politicians. That it’s time to deal with issues that matter: a healthy environment hand in hand with a sustainable economy.

We’re heading into a new millennium. Elections are a time to talk about possible futures. What do you think, can we heal the earth?

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