The Connexions Annual:
Introduction to Environment, Land Use, Rural
As we witness an apparently unending succession of environmental
hazards and catastrophes, awareness is spreading that we are in the midst of a profound ecological crisis.
The dimensions of that crisis are frightening. Global warming —
the greenhouse effect — threatens massive disturbances to climate, vegetation, sea levels, water supplies,
and agriculture. Airborne pollutants, including acid rain, are causing the death of lakes and forests, and are a major cause of cancers and respiratory illnesses in humans.
Water pollution, including toxic wastes, raw sewage, oil spills,
and garbage dumped at sea, is befouling shorelines and making water
unfit to drink or to swim in. Fish and marine mammals suffer from
these hazards, and from overfishing and huge deadly driftnets. The earth’s protective ozone
layer is thinning dangerously, with potentially devastating effects
on the marine food chain and on humans who venture into the sunlight.
Rain forests are being destroyed at a catastrophic rate, with inevitable
consequences for climate worldwide. We are in the midst of a massive wave of species extinctions, and countless
other species of animals and plants are nearing the edge. Stresses on wildlife and habitat range from outright
destruction to overhunting to the proliferation of all–terrain vehicles.
Unsustainable farming practices are degrading the soil, depleting
water reservoirs that took centuries to build up, polluting lakes, rivers and groundwater with chemicals, inadvertently
encouraging the biological selection of pesticide–resistant insect pests, and dangerously narrowing the
genetic diversity of cultivated plant species.
If there is any hope, it is that people worldwide are resisting
the urge to simply despair, and are instead seeking to do whatever
they can to reverse the trend.
Many people are trying to change their own lifestyles by avoiding
products and practices which are harmful to the environment, by reusing and re–cycling, by composting, by reducing
the use of private automobiles. They are also pressuring governments and industries to change and supporting environmental
In Canada, environmental and conservationist groups have sprung
up around a wide variety of concerns. Some concentrate on local issues, such as the clean–up of a river, or
the dumping of raw untreated sewage into the ocean. Others deal with broader problems, such as acid rain, the
preservation of wetlands and natural and wilderness areas, the pollution
of the oceans and the Great Lakes, energy conservation, nuclear
power, excess packaging, the forest industry, or urban planning
and land use.
Farming and rural life are one area of particular concern. Canadian
farmers (and the rural communities which depend on them) are caught up in the pressures of a market economy
that squeezes small farmers while encouraging environmentally damaging
farming practices. Farming ranks with mining, fishing, and construction
work in its risk of physical injury or death, and in addition farmers
are exposed to a range of hazardous pesticides. Farmers who want
to get off the treadmill are often trapped by huge debts. In response,
organizations working for the survival of family farming and rural
communities have sprung up, as has a movement to return to more
‘organic’ farming techniques. Happily, a market for ‘organic’ products
is rapidly developing.
A movement for change is gathering steam, and is chalking up local
successes as well as having a broader social impact.
Those active in environmental issues are also wrestling with how
best to organize. Some groups see their role as lobbying and pressuring governments or businesses on a particular
well–defined issue. Other groups are strictly local, using tactics that range from education and petitioning to
Still other organizations have developed broader strategic visions.
Some see themselves as primarily ecological (e.g. “deep ecology”)
while others incorporate an economic and social vision as well (e.g.
“social ecology”, “bioregionalism” or the Green movements).
Some stress the development of alternative models of sustainable economic activity based on decentralist and ‘human scale’ approaches.
Also receiving recognition is the fact that environmental issues
are closely linked to third world development issues, and to questions
of peace and urban planning. The increasing awareness of the global
nature of environmental problems has made it apparent there is no
hope of solving them unless the problems of poor countries generally
are addressed. For example, most third world countries have no sewage
treatment facilities, no controls on industrial pollution, and no
means of dealing with hazardous wastes except by dumping them in
the sea. Rain forests will continue to be cleared unless local people
see viable economic alternatives for themselves.
There is still hope for reversing the trend toward environmental
collapse, but only if we are able to work together worldwide to
achieve profound changes. Our many local initiatives are steps toward
achieving that, but many more steps are needed before we become a movement capable of bringing
about those changes.
Aussi disponible en français: L'annuel
Connexions: Introduction à l’environnement, l’utilisation
agraire et la campagne
También disponible en español: El
Anuario de Conexiones: Introducción al Ambiente, Uso de Tierra,
Other Overview Articles from the Connexions Annual:
to the Connexions Annual
to the Arts, Media, Culture section of the Connexions Annual
to the Community, Urban, Housing section of the Connexions Annual
to the Development, International section of the Connexions Annual
to the Economy, Poverty, Work section of the Connexions Annual
to the Education, Children section of the Connexions Annual
to the Environment, Land Use, Rural section of the Connexions Annual
to the Health section of the Connexions Annual
to the Human Rights, Civil Liberties section of the Connexions Annual
to the Lesbians, Gays section of the Connexions Annual
to the Native Peoples section of the Connexions Annual
to the Peace section of the Connexions Annual
to the Women section of the Connexions Annual
and Reading List from the Connexions Annual
Other Resources and Links:
Online: Environment, Land Use, Rural Links
Online: Nature & Outdoors Links
The Poisonous Legacy of Ontario’s Environment Cutbacks