The Gleaner
Letters to the editorOpinions

Citizen involvement in the protection of nature is more important than ever

This letter was previously published in Le Devoir on February 24.

For years, the world’s political leaders have been taking part in major international meetings and making reassuring commitments, but action has not always followed. The example of COP15 on biodiversity, which took place in Montreal in December 2022, is a case in point. Just over a year later, we are still waiting for concrete results from these commitments, particularly in terms of access to nature, protection of threatened and vulnerable species, and support for Indigenous leadership.

We must admit, the late Hubert Reeves was correct when he said: “Only the involvement of citizens and organizations will encourage, not to say compel, elected representatives to take concrete action to stem the tide of global destruction.”

Once again, the responsibility for reminding people of these commitments and ensuring that they are fulfilled seems to rest with the population and civil society, at least until proven otherwise.

Faced with the urgent need to act, citizens are not being fooled.

With a front-row seat to the destruction of natural environments, more and more of us are becoming involved. Our involvement is embodied in the actions of hundreds of groups across Quebec, such as Nature Hudson, which led the environment minister to cancel the certificate of authorization he had issued to a real estate developer wishing to build in the habitat of a species in a precarious situation. Another is the mobilization against Stablex, near the Blainville peat bog, where the BAPE ruled in favour of citizens and environmental groups by not recommending the construction of a new toxic waste landfill site.

Faced with multiple challenges, we join forces with environmental organizations, armed with biological characterizations and tax studies; we will multiply consultation meetings, take legal action, and see things through to the end, most often on a voluntary basis with the conviction that our power to influence is real.

Faced with the urgent need to act, citizens are demanding more

The indispensable contribution of citizens’ groups to transforming our society in response to the environmental crisis must be recognized and encouraged at all levels, notably through transparent access to information and revised and improved public participation processes. The opposite is true in the case of Northvolt: opacity, redacted information, and a refusal to submit the entire project to the BAPE. One year after COP15, this approach is worrying.

Citizens call for urgent

Too often our leaders have delivered lofty words that, in reality, have not translated into action, caught up as they are in the vocabulary of economic development and short-term vision. In so doing, they are dangerously gambling with the public’s trust and the future of generations to come. Faced with this situation, it is tempting to give up. But we don’t have the luxury of being fatalistic.

The battle goes on, and we must celebrate our victories. When citizens come together, political leaders listen and can change course.

Citizens, join our movement, and help us to nurture hope while putting pressure on elected representatives at all levels to realize our vision of a world in balance with nature. Let’s stay vigilant and committed as we unite our voices to counter those of corporations and their lobbyists; let’s demand to be heard. The survival of democracy, nature, and our future generations depends on it.

Alain M. Gaulin, Mouvement d’action régional en environnement (MARE)
Daniel Desroches, Les Amis du boisé Neilson
Myriam Thériault, Coordinator, Mères au front
Marie-Audrey Nadeau Fortin, Biodiversity and Forest Project Manager, Nature Québec
Chloé Tremblay Cloutier, Demain le Québec network, David Suzuki Foundation
and 328 other signatories, including 135 organizations and citizen groups, across 15 regions of Quebec.

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