It would be funny…
With school children arrayed at his feet, Ontario’s environment minister, Glenn Murray, announced last week his government was giving $1 million to an organization dedicated to educating children aged five to 11, about how to help protect animals and their habitats.
His advice to the children assembled at the ROM for the press event was predictable, if somewhat ham-handed: Go home and tell your parents and grandparents to use less carbon.
Murray isn’t the first to employ children to market his wares. Cereal makers, burger sellers and dictators have all used children to influence decision-makers. The Ontario government isn’t above using an effective marketing technique to sell its message, even when the moral and ethical turf is a bit squishy.
Earth Rangers formed in 2001. The funding from the province will help the organization expand its school assembly program and develop a new Grade 6 class visit program.
For Murray, this is an investment in the minds of young and impressionable children— a recruiting drive for foot soldiers in his campaign to restore his government’s credibility on environmental matters.
“The most thoughtful discussions that move people to change are discussions between children and their parents, and children and each other,” noted Murray to the children before him.
Eventually, however, Murray will be challenged to square his government’s words with its actions. Rather than educate children about nature, he risks teaching them about the nature of government.
Earth Rangers is indeed a well-respected education and conservancy organization— very much in tune with the sensitivity of the animals and plants around us, particularly those species that are struggling to survive.
Among these is the Blanding’s turtle. Last year, Earth Rangers launched a project and mission to enhance awareness of the plight of this endangered turtle species. Its Protect the Blanding’s Turtle program brought schoolchildren from across the province to the Toronto Zoo to incubate dozens of Blanding’s turtle eggs.
“Together we will watch as our turtles grow in our nursery and, as Earth Rangers, we are working together to respect wetlands and honour the ancient creatures that live there,” writes researcher Bob Johnson on the Blanding’s turtle page of the Earth Rangers website.
Later the project released 21 turtles into the creeks and marsh in the Rouge Valley.
For those who have invested time, money and heartache in protecting the Blanding’s turtle in Prince Edward County, the irony is particularly cruel.
From one desk the Ministry of Environment is paving the way for the destruction of the Blanding’s turtle. From another it is funding education programs urging our children to protect it.
Since the advent of the Green Energy Act, the province has methodically removed protections and regulatory hurdles that safeguard the environment and species at risk like the Blanding’s turtle. They have lowered, and in some cases eliminated, regulatory protections in order to streamline the path enabling wind and solar developers to transform pastoral lands into vast industrial tracts of electricity production. Almost all of which is sold at discount prices to Michigan and New York.
In Prince Edward County, the province granted a developer a permit to “harm, harass and kill” the Blanding’s turtle. Let us ponder this a moment: A provincial permit granting a developer the right to kill an endangered species. Let that sink in.
Of course, the developer has promised it will take steps to minimize the destruction of turtles and its habitat ,and that its actions will result in a benefit to the species. But a provincially appointed review panel didn’t believe it. The found the developer’s plans to protect the species simply weren’t credible. After 40 days of hearings, the review panel concluded the project would cause “serious and irreversible harm” to the endangered species.
How did the Ministry of Environment respond? It fought back with all its legal might, striving to reverse the decision and repudiate its environmental guardians.
So twisted has this ministry become, it is seeking to simultaneously save and destroy the Blanding’s turtle.
Meanwhile, the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists have waged an expensive, multi-year battle to prevent the destruction of the turtle’s vulnerable habitat at Ostrander Point. Their efforts and successes have been funded by donations and from their own pockets. No big Ontario cheques have come their way.
With fresh new funding, Earth Rangers will fan out to schools across Ontario this fall urging children to protect the Blanding’s turtle, the bobolink and other endangered species. Meanwhile, PECFN will be back in a courtroom trying to stop the same government and its agents from bulldozing the turtle’s dwindling habitat.
Listen up children, there is a lesson in this.
The best way to protect Blanding’s turtle is to give generously to the Save Ostrander Point project at saveostranderpoint.org.