The Contradiction That Is Farley Mowat

The contradiction that is Farley Mowatt

By Tim Murray
Canada Free Press
Tuesday, March 4, 2008

On Friday September 7, 2007, the venerable Canadian environmental author Farley Mowat made a boldly generous but stunningly futile gesture. He donated 200 acres of his Cape Breton land to Nova Scotia Nature Trust.

He called on others in the province to follow his example so that good land wouldnt fall into some developers clutches and be destroyed for profit like every other part of the western world.

But while Mowats motives are beyond dispute and his affinity for wildlife unquestioned, he continues to evidence no understanding of the root causes of biodiversity loss.

In North America it is runaway population growth, fuelled largely by mass immigration and coupled with excessive consumption that is crowding out wildlife habitat, wetlands and farmland.

The question to be put to the environmental movement is, can nature preserves, greenbelts and national parks permanently shield wildlife and flora from the developmental pressures issuing from this growth?

Ontario commentator Brishen Hoff answers with a categorical no. History has proven that no lands are protected when the population surrounding them is growing. This applies to countries, national parks, islands, or whatever. Once growing populations that surround pristine areas reach a tipping point, the demand for the resources of the protected area will become so great that all safeguards, laws, or barricades will be obliterated and the resources will be exploited.

That is why Albert Bartlett, of the University of Colorado, established as his Fundamental Law of Planning that a workable, durable local plan cannot be effected in a community until the regional population is stabilized.

Curiously, advocates of secure borders and more restrictive immigration have been reproached and ridiculed by soft greens and mainstream environmental NGOs for proposing the equivalent of an international gated community that couldnt hope, they allege, to fend off the heavy global traffic of people in the real world.

Yet none of these critics will acknowledge that their little fortresses—their nature preserves, their greenbelts, their parks, their strict land-use zonings—have little hope of standing up to the pressure of the growing populations we have recently seen. Growth spilled out of the urban boundaries of Portland, Oregon—poster child of smart growth—into surrounding farmland. And with no let-up from immigration, houses are being built on formerly sacrosanct British greenbelts, the lungs of Britain.

And as long as economic growth is God, conservation lands are not secure either. They can and have been withdrawn by legislation and executive order. At one time an Act of Congress removed 1,400 square kilometers of the original Yosemite National Park for timber and mineral production. Brishen Hoff points out that in Banff National Park roads were expanded and campsite/tourist developments added, while in Lady-Evelyn Smoothwater Provincial Park, ATV trails were cut for motorized fisherman. In Lake Superior Provincial Park, natives are now building roads and bridges for resource extraction and in Algonquin Provincial Park, clearcut logging takes place and there are now more kms of roads in the park than the GTA.

Hoff explains that designating more land as protected does not lessen the appetite of a growing population for timber, minerals and fresh water. So while there is more protected land today than there was 50 years ago, there is also less wild habitat and biodiversity. Wildlife habitat will continue to be lost as natural capital is relocated from the economy of nature to the human economy, until the economy shifts to a kind of steady-state model, writes Professor Brian Czech of, Virginia Polytechnic Institute. But such a model implies population stability, something Canada will never enjoy with a 1.08% growth rate from the import of a quarter million immigrants each year. This population growth will degrade protected lands through air pollution, litter, trespassing, hunting, groundwater contamination, alien species introductions and easements for growing infrastructure, as Hoff enumerates the incursions.

Oddly, there is virtually no environmental organization in Canada that makes a connection between immigration and environmental degradation of any kind. Not the Sierra Club, the David Suzuki Foundation, Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Canadian Parks and Wilderness, Ontario Nature—the list goes on. None of them speak of a connection. Quite the contrary. The problem is not whether we grow, so the mantra goes, but how we grow. If we grow smart, we can welcome the whole world here.

And the biggest Welcome Wagon in Canada is the leader of its Green Party, Elizabeth May, who argues for an immigration level even higher than that supported by her rivals. She calls this Canadas Great Multicultural Project. May parrots those two sweet-sounding buzzwords that many environmental organizations use so frequently—cultural diversity. But cultural diversity in Canada and the United States cannot be sustained without massive and fresh injections of newcomers to bolster existing immigrants who otherwise would assimilate.

Viable multiculturalism requires unrelenting mass immigration. And mass immigration marginalizes wildlife habitat. Cultural diversity therefore comes at the cost of biological diversity. So lets dispense with the cant. The correlation is clear. Growing cities, vanishing wildlife, dial 1 for English.

One final irony, who was the man who spear-headed the national fund-raising campaign this past summer to raise campaign donations for Green Party leader Elizabeth May? None other than Farley Mowat, the man who wants to protect animals, birds, and plant life from human encroachment.

It was Mowat who once famously compared our species to yeast in a vat, mindlessly multiplying as we greedily devour a finite world. But apparently Canadas not finite, or at least that portion of it beyond the safe bosom of a conservation charity.

To think that Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who dueled with Elizabeth May over the immigration issue when she was president of Sierra Club Canada, named his newest ship, The Farley Mowat

That makes two contradictions.

Tim Murray
Quadra Island, BC