Commentary | In which the environment is a governmental issue

The Daily’s environment pullout lacks analysis

Coming to the forefront of our imaginaries in Montreal is the fight for environmental justice, an intersectional issue that has been largely led by Indigenous resistance groups, since before the Idle No More movement, and during the ongoing Decolonize movement.

Divest McGill – called Decorporatize McGill in late 2012 – is a group on campus that picked up traction with their petition in fall 2012 that demanded the University’s divestment from fossil fuel firms directly involved with Plan Nord.

We saw candidates coordinating their platforms around environmental issues last year in student union elections at Concordia and McGill – although no political slates are allowed on our campus. It is no wonder that The Daily chose to pick at the issue of environmental degradation, or as I like to see it, the imminent apocalypse that will end the possible side-effects of contemporary neoliberalism.

To put it plainly and verbatim, this is the sentence the Environment Issue opened with: “We all inhabit the same planet, but we have gone too long ignoring the fact that our actions can have a profound impact on communities around the world.” I am unclear at what point the introduction for special issues became loaded with empty rhetoric found on the likes of Lululemon tote bags. And just forget about clarifying the totally nebulous use of the word “community” here.

Having previously sat on The Daily editorial board for two years, and the Daily Publications Society for one year, I am no stranger to the high level of organization and extra work it takes to pull off a strong special issue. That said, in terms of writing, this is one of the weakest special issues I have seen in the past three years. Although, I do commend The Daily on the Enbridge Line 9 centrefold and increased online content – in particular the panel discussion among environmental groups on campus.

Beyond that, the writing and so-called ‘analysis’ contained within the issue predominantly criticized government policy. “Harper’s War on the Environment” discusses the details of Harper’s lack of concern with the environment – which I would not readily call a war – with the sole focus of regurgitating the 2014 Climate Change Performance Index report.

“Who is Most Affected by Climate Change?” rolls through the facts and figures provided by the United Nations (UN), complete with quotations from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Even “Indigenous Resistance to Resource Extraction Around the World” shows no new reporting.

The only original reporting can be found in the “Science and Technology to Combat Climate Change” section, and the “Fighting for Climate Justice” article online. In addition, the purportedly online article regarding Indigenous activism in Canada, which was promoted in the print pullout, cannot be found on the environment microsite at all.

The Daily is upheld by its Statement of Principles and should use its pages to provide space for those voices, which are not readily represented in mainstream media. One only has to look at the nation’s major newspapers today, or any day, to hear the voice of Prime Minister Harper and the UN as funneled to us through the words of journalists. In addition, the weak intersectional approach to class and the environment underserves the community The Daily is written for.

We see no bottom-up movement analysis or hear from the real people and groups active in pushing forth environmental change. Analyzing environmental policy purely through high-power institutional data denotes the agent of change as that of the Harper government, of the UN. When did The Daily forget about the community and look to the government for change?


Readers’ Advocate is a twice-monthly column written by Hera Chan addressing the performance, relevance, and quality of The Daily. You can reach her at readersadvocate@mcgilldaily.com.


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