Indirectly and directly Lester B Pearson, Prime Minister of Canada (1963-1968) saved many American lives and put this country on the international map. During the depths of the Vietnam war, it was customary for some American backpackers to sew the new Canadian Maple`flag (which Pearson introduced) on their backpacks to avoid being recognized as Americans. Pearson also introduced universal health care, student loans, the Canada Pension Plan and helped raise Canada's status as a country and sustain its reputation as a peace keeper concerned about the developing world.
How things change. Now many countries in the Commonwealth wish Canada to leave and the green backpackers are likely removing the maple leaf from their packs. Our international reputation and appeal as a country is in quick descent as evidenced in the Guardian article here and a few concerned citizens have assumed responsibility for presenting Canada's brand to the world - see previous post on Reputation.
Increasingly Canada' s pristine image of wilderness stretching inifinitely into the horizon is being tarnished by scarred images of black, bitumen encrusted deserts. as described by John Vidal in this four minute video here:
While Harper's policies were in alignment with the Bush administration - the world is literally and metaphorically a lumberyard to be exploited - the new US administration are expressing a different view (even if they are constrained by a conflicted Congress) and even China is shifting its position..
But this is not just a tale of two men but two countries. While Harper and the national government are dragging their feet on issues like climate change, Canadian leaders at the community level (across provinces, in cities and on First Nations lands) are actively stewarding the land and acting responsibly. While men in suits prevaricate in cities, hoards of caring individuals with varying levels of political status are showing they care about the land and are protecting Canada's vast forests as best they can as described in another article here. There are plenty of reasons to be both proud and stand on guard for Canada.
Canada's boreal forest - all 1.3 billion acres of it - stores the equivalent of 27 years' worth of current global greenhouse emissions, soaking up 22% of the total carbon stored on the earth's land surface. If that dries out, the release of greenhouse gases would be catastrophic.
So given that we Canadians may have lost any right to tell the world what to do and how to behave (and appear to have little appetite to do that anyway), we can focus on conserving the precious green resources that provide the scenic backdrop to every tourist photo, provide succour to many of our iconic critters (beaver, moose and bear), soak up our carbon and provide the clean air we breathe. This is no longer a philanthropic action on the part of the tourism community but vital to its long term survival and credibility. Regardless of whether you believe climate change is occurring or even caused by human activity, simple housekeeping logic suggests that failure to take care of the food in the larder avoids hunger or sickness.