Why Canadians should care about the closure of the PEARL Observatory
Yesterday we announced the closure of the Polar Environment Research Laboratory (PEARL) located in the high Arctic at Eureka, Nunavut. And what should disturb Canadians about this news has nothing to do with scientific entitlement, belief or disbelief in climate change or signalling our failure as a nation to be able to honour international agreements and commitments. We should be disturbed by the rejection of the notion of our sovereignty by the current Government. Sovereignty has been a cornerstone of the Canadian identify for hundreds of years. Sovereignty is a part of the Canadian mystique, our world-renown ability to stickhandle through difficult situations and find common ground and compromise in chaos.
The current Government has in recent months, in addition to closing the PEARL facility, attempted to stop all ozone research by Environment Canada as well as successfully eliminated the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS). This well-coordinated attack on atmospheric science has two major implications for our sovereignty.
- Developing policy. Traditionally when governments are trying to determine future policy actions they need information on which to base their decisions. For instance, how will changing climate affect Canadian agriculture? What affect will future climate changes have on air quality? If the Government is successful and rids itself of scientists investigating climate and weather issues, and further is successful in cutting support to University researchers, where is it going to get its information to make decisions? If you are in business and want to make a plan should you rely on your competitors (e.g. other nations) to provide the best possible advice to benefit you?
- Health of citizens. Another important function of government is risk assessment. For instance, when the Antarctic Ozone Hole was discovered and was found to be growing its affects on humans was felt in New Zealand. It was critical for their government to be informed and know what was happening locally. Last winter measurements from the PEARL Observatory were a critical part of showing the first significant Arctic ozone losses that were at a level of the Antarctic Ozone Hole. We feel it is a responsibility of the Government to monitor atmospheric air quality so they have the knowledge necessary to bring forward policies protecting the health of Canadians. Do we want to rely on getting this information from other nations?
For a Government that has made mention many times about sovereignty, particularly in the context of the Arctic, the closure of the PEARL observatory is particularly troubling. So are we to accept the plan is to just “develop” the Arctic and let’s not bother with any informed thought on how we go about doing that? That logic was prevalent in the 19th century expansion across North America, but we learned some hard lessons from that experience we should not forget. The Government’s logic that Canada’s loss of an existing high Arctic research facility is compensated for by a plan to possibly build a facility in 2017 located 1600 km to the South is unacceptable (FYI 1600 km is about the distance from Toronto to Atlanta, Georgia!).
If your Canada includes homegrown scientific research into the environment to allow informed policy decisions and you want Canada to keep a scientific presence in the high Arctic to protect our sovereignty you can write to your MP, the Prime Minister and Minister Kent and let them know how you feel about the closure of the PEARL facility. Contact information is given at the end of this article.
- Dennis Bevington, MP from Western Arctic, NT, questions the Government about the closure of PEARL:
- Read the CANDAC closure notice.
- See the Save PEARL Facebook page.
- Read some facts about CFCAS.. The Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences was the only funding available in Canada specifically for scientific investigations of climate and weather. The Harper Government chose to eliminate this program, thus making it difficult for weather and climate research to find support, as existing opportunities are either targeted for specific areas or have as a substantial part of their criteria, revenue generation.
- Article about sovereignty and its role in Canadian history.
- See an example of the Government’s commitment to development in the Arctic.
Contact Information to Let Your Voice be Heard
You can locate your MP’s information at: http://www.canada.gc.ca/directories-repertoires/direct-eng.html. Letters mailed to the following addresses in Canada do not require postage.
The Prime Minister address: Office of the Prime Minister, 80 Wellington Street Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Fax: 613–941–6900, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Enviroment Minister Kent can be reached at: The Honourable Peter Kent Minister of the Environment, Member of Parliament for Thornhill (Ontario), Les Terrasses de la Chaudière, 10 Wellington Street, 28th Floor, Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0H3
Tel.: 819–997–1441, Fax: 819–953–0279, Email: Minister@ec.gc.ca