BOYD, David R.




Author Tags: Environment, Law

LITERARY LOCATION: George's Hill, North Pender Island. DIRECTIONS: From the Otter Bay ferry terminal, take Otter Bay Road past Port Washington towards Stanley Point. The trailhead is located at the corner where Walden Road meets Ogden Road.

“When I'm stuck or need to think something through," says environmental lawyer David R. Boyd, "I climb up to the top of George's Hill on North Pender, which overlooks Prevost and Saltspring Islands. Whether it's the extra oxygen from exertion or the magic of the place, it often enables new ideas or insights.”

ENTRY:

According to David Richard Boyd, it's important to stop and realize that many environmental problems have been successfully identified and combatted in the past fifty years.

That's the rationale for The Optimistic Environmentalist: Progressing Toward a Greener Future (ECW 2015) in which he inspires hopefulness, particular for young people, by citing how many billions of hectares of lands and water have been protected by the creation of new parks. Gray whales and bald eagles are no longer in dire danger of extinction. Progress has been made on protecting the ozone layer and renewable energy from wind, water and sun has entered the mainstream dialogue about saving the environment. Dozens of toxic chemicals have been banned.

Meanwhile Boyd is realistic about Canada's environmental challenges and concludes Canada has devolved from being a world leader to having second-rate standards in Cleaner, Greener, Healthier: A Prescription for Stronger, Environmental Laws and Policies (UBC Press 2015).

Like Nero who fiddled while Rome burned, Prime Minister Harper can be objectively viewed as part of the problem, not part of solution, particularly now that Canada and Japan have publicly stalled the rate of environmental activism among G7 countries at the G7 summit in 2015.

"Canada's position at the G7 summit on long-term decarbonization of the economy is nothing more than grandstanding," says Boyd. "While the world is already shifting towards a clean, renewable future (demonstrated by rapid growth in wind, solar, and geothermal energy), the Canadian government has been doggedly prioritizing the interests of the fossil fuel industry.

"This is terrible public policy and will cause substantial economic, social, and environmental losses for Canada. Canada has a long and sorry track record of obstructing international negotiations about environmental issues. While once upon a time we were leaders, in the Trudeau-Mulroney era, we are now widely recognized as international environmental reprobates.

"Media reports of Canada's role in watering down the recent G7 commitments are consistent with our lousy reputation, and I witnessed this kind of malicious interference firsthand in 2005 while working in the Privy Council Office at Prime Minister Paul Martin's request. Canada led the opposition to strong climate change and foreign aid commitments in the negotiations that led to the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. Unless the federal election results in a different government taking power in October, Canada can be expected to continue its dark and dastardly deeds at the crucial Paris negotiations on climate change in December."

In Cleaner, Greener, Healthier, Boyd compares Canada's environmental policies with those of the European Union, Australia and the U.S. and diagnoses why Canada has fallen behind, focussing on how the health of a population is inextricably linked to the environment. It's a subject he researched thorouugly for an earlier book, Dodging the Toxic Bullet: How to Protect Yourself from Everyday Environmental Health Hazards (Greystone, 2010).

Boyd maintains that implementing the recommendations in Cleaner, Greener, Healthier would prevent thousands of premature deaths, avoid hundreds of thousands of preventable illnesses, and save billions of dollars in unnecessary health care expenditures.

He concludes Cleaner, Greener, Healthier by prescribing legal remedies that will enable Canada to regain its former leadership role within the global commmunity without harming the economy.

Boyd first explored the differences and similarities between U.S. and Canadian environmental laws in Unnatural Law: Rethinking Canadian Environmental Law and Policy (UBC Press, 2003) with a foreword by Thomas R. Berger. In that book Boyd similarly prescribed the changes that he believed Canada must make to achieve a sustainable future. Shortlisted for the Donald Smiley Prize from the Canadian Political Science Association, it was hailed as a "monumental work" by David Suzuki; Robert F. Kennedy praised its "clarity, authorial grace and welcome concern." David Suzuki subsequently provided the foreword for David Boyd's Dodging the Toxic Bullet: How to Protect Yourself from Everyday Environmental Health Hazards (Greystone 2010).

At the time of writing Unnatural Law in 2003, Boyd was a Senior Associate with the University of Victoria's POLIS Project on Ecological Governance and adjunct professor with SFU's graduate Resource and Management Program. By 2007, he had added a stint as a Trudeau Scholar at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. As of 2015, Boyd retains his SFU affiliation and lives on Pender Island.

As an environmental lawyer, Boyd has advised the governments of Sweden and Canada and served as the executive director of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund. He has also written Sustainability Within a Generation: A New Vision for Canada and he has edited Northern Wild: Best Contemporary Canadian Nature Writing.

Two of his recent books in particular, The Environmental Rights Revolution: A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights, and the Environment (UBC 2012) and The Right to a Healthy Environment: Revitalizing Canada's Constitution (UBC 2012) have been influential in the drafting of environmental provisions for new constitutions in Iceland to Tunisia. They also inspired the David Suzuki Foundation's Blue Dot campaign to secure legal recognition of the right to a healthy environment for all Canadians.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
The Environmental Rights Revolution: A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights, and the Environment
The Right to a Healthy Environment: Revitalizing Canada's Constitution
Unnatural Law: Rethinking Canadian Environmental Law and Policy

BOOKS:

Northern Wild: Best Contemporary Canadian Nature Writing. Editor

Sustainability within a Generation: A New Vision for Canada.

Unnatural Law: Rethinking Canadian Environmental Law and Policy (UBC Press, 2003)

David Suzuki’s Green Guide (Douglas & McIntyre/David Suzuki Foundation, 2008)

Dodging the Toxic Bullet: How to Protect Yourself from Everyday Environmental Health Hazards (Greystone, 2010) $21.95 978-1-55365-454-4.

The Environmental Rights Revolution: A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights, and the Environment (UBC Press 2012) $95 9780774821605

The Right to a Healthy Environment: Revitalizing Canada's Constitution (UBC Press, 2012) $85.00 978-0-7748-2412-5

The Optimistic Environmentalist: Progressing Toward a Greener Future (ECW Press 2015) $19.95 978-1-77041-238-5

Cleaner, Greener, Healthier: A Prescription for Stronger, Environmental Laws and Policies (UBC Press 2015). $95 978-0-7748-3046-1

The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save the World (ECW 2017) $19.95 978-1-77041-239-2

[BCBW 2017]

Unnatural Law
Press Release (2007)


from UBC Press
Unnatural Law author David R. Boyd evaluates Clean Air Act and Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

As recently highlighted in The Globe and Mail, David R. Boyd’s expertise on the strengths and weaknesses of Canadian environmental law and policy led to his testifying before the parliamentary committee charged with reviewing the proposed Clean Air Act. Boyd’s report (“Reality check: Climate change and the proposed Clean Air Act”) draws on his book, Unnatural Law—the authoritative account of the state of Canada’s environmental law and policy.

In light of the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Conservatives’ promotion of their Clean Air Act, and BC Premier Gordon Campbell’s throne speech announcement of ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, Boyd’s expertise is more germane than ever, and Unnatural Law provides invaluable insight and context for understanding these crucially important issues.

Boyd’s report to the parliamentary committee emphasizes many of the conclusions of Unnatural Law. He recommends Canada’s continued commitment to Kyoto as essential both for addressing our environmental crisis as well as for rebuilding our tarnished international reputation. Nations implementing strong policies to meet their Kyoto commitments are outperforming Canada both environmentally and economically, argues Boyd. For example, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark have imposed carbon taxes but the World Economic Forum ranks their economic competitiveness well ahead of Canada.

While Boyd concedes that Canada may no longer be in a position to meet its initial obligations under the Kyoto agreement, we must not turn our back on Kyoto, but rather, redouble our commitment. Canada urgently needs to implement effective policies, including a carbon tax and strong regulations, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Canada’s ultimate objective must be to look beyond Kyoto and commit to achieving an absolute emissions reduction of 80% by 2050, as climate scientists indicate is necessary.

With political debate raging over whether Canada can, or even should, endeavour to meet its Kyoto targets, few people are as capable as David Boyd in explaining the reasons why some laws and policies foster progress while others fail—and the costs and consequences of our action and inactions in the struggle to manage climate change.


The Environmental Rights Revolution
Interview (2012)


from Monica Rolinski

David R. Boyd has advised the governments of Canada, Sweden, and Iceland on environmental and constitutional issues and is the co-chair of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Team along with Mayor Gregor Robertson. He is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Commission on Environmental Law, the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment, the Forum for Leadership on Water and the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW). A former Trudeau Scholar at UBC, he has also taught at SFU and UVic.

Monica Rolinski interviewed David R. Boyd for BC BookWorld on August 22, a.k.a. Earth Over-Shoot Day, declared by the Global Footprint Network to announce the day each year when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year.

David R. Boyd of Pender Island is an environmental lawyer and former director of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund who has collaborated with David Suzuki and Thomas R. Berger.
His two most recent books are The Environmental Rights Revolution: A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights, and the Environment (UBC Press $34.95) and The Right to a Healthy Environment: Revitalizing Canada’s Constitution (UBC Press $29.95).
The Environmental Rights Revolution is the result of five years spent researching 193 constitutions around the world, and court decisions of more than 100 nations, to examine the impact that constitutional provisions can make on environmental protection.

He says the follow-up book, The Right to a Healthy Environment, “was almost like a no-brainer.” It examines how and why similar constitutional changes must be made to enshrine environmental protection in Canada as a basic human right.

BC BOOKWORLD: I came across the term “rogue primates” in a book you edited, The Northern Wild, and it’s also the title of John A. Livingston’s Rogue Primate: An Exploration of Human Domestication (Key Porter, 2002).

DAVID BOYD: That’s one of the best Canadian environmental philosophy books that has ever been written. His premise is that humans were the first domesticated species and that we have turned nature on its head. That premise is a powerful beacon and it has had an influence on me.

From a broad perspective, human ethics have fallen behind our human technological prowess. We’re able to wreak incredible havoc on the earth in a way that past generations simply didn’t have the capacity to do. We don’t have the ethics or the institutions to rein ourselves in.
As an environmental lawyer my path has been searching for ways of altering this. In the beginning I was taking a very micro approach, filing lawsuits against specific projects, and I became frustrated with that, and the site specific nature of it, so I moved on to think about how we need to change.

BCBW: And you’ve concluded….

BOYD: We need to change our environmental laws to be stronger. But it’s not just the laws, it’s the entire system that we have to transform if we’re going to stop behaving like rogue primates, and start protecting the earth.

BCBW: We think that humans are not animals and that somehow we live outside of the natural world.

BOYD: Yes, David Suzuki says we have evolved from naked apes to a super species, and he doesn’t use super in a particularly complimentary way. There’s a beautiful book, edited by a couple of guys from Harvard, called Sustaining Life (Oxford UP, 2008) which is all about the way that humans are dependent on the natural world. Dr. Eric Chivian and Dr. Aaron Bernstein, both of whom are medical doctors, reached the conclusion that our whole way of being in the twenty-first century is the result of a basic failure to recognize that we are an inseparable part of nature; that everything we do that damages or harms nature is actually a form of damage and harm to ourselves as well. It’s completely unscientific to think that we could ever be separate from the natural world.

BCBW: But better resource management alone doesn’t seem to be enough.

BOYD: Because there’s a fundamental problem even with the language of resource management. When you look up resource in the dictionary it’s something that’s meant to be used. That really is not consistent with our understanding of our dependence on ecosystems from which we are currently over-extracting our resources. Calling something a resource justifies the treatment as something that’s just there to serve us.

I talk about people living in the North American bubble. We are completely focused in Canada, and to a lesser degree the United States, on extracting natural resources; everything getting bigger and getting better. Trading in your iPhone 3 for your iPhone 4 and waiting for your iPhone 5. It’s not like that everywhere in the world. There are countries and regions that are much closer to what I would describe as having a sustainable set of human values. These countries, and these regions, are actually making progress towards a sustainable future in ways that are hard for Canadians to even begin to digest.

BCBW: After ten or so years of tracking them, what stands out?

BOYD: Sweden is widely regarded as having the strongest environmental laws and policies in the world. For example, imposing taxes on all kinds of chemicals and forms of pollution. They are attempting to transform the very basis of the economic structure so that they create less pollution, use fewer resources. To their credit, they have made progress.

Costa Rica is one of the pioneers in this field. Putting the right to a healthy environment into their constitution back in the early 1990s. I have met many people there, environmental lawyers, academics, people running convenience stores, people sweeping the street, and almost to a person, they commented on how that change twenty years ago had really marked a profound shift in the way they saw their country. So now, Costa Ricans of all stripes really take a deep-rooted pride in the fact that their country has this global reputation as an environmental leader. I mean, they’re not perfect, they haven’t achieved the holy grail of sustainability, but boy, they’ve made incredible strides in that country.
In Argentina, one of the amazing stories that I came across was a neighbourhood in Buenos Aires where a public health nurse moved into this very poor area full of oil refineries and petrochemical plants. After a couple of years of living and working there, she started to experience serious health problems, including a tingling feeling in her fingertips and her toes. So she went to see her doctor and her doctor ran some tests, they came back saying that she had very high levels in her body of a chemical named toluene which is a by-product of oil refineries. She was irate so she went to see a lawyer. The lawyer said, well, Argentina’s constitution does say that everyone has the right to a healthy environment. Then this woman, whose name is Beatriz Mendoza, gathered a bunch of her neighbours and with the help of some lawyers filed a lawsuit which went all the way to the Supreme Court of Argentina. In 2008, the Supreme Court made the most extraordinary legal judgment that I’ve ever read from any country ordering the municipal, provincial, and federal governments to do a whole list of very concrete things to decrease the pollution; restore the water shed; and protect human health from the environmental hazard.

BCBW: So there’s hope.

BOYD: I had no idea, despite being an environmental lawyer for over fifteen years when I started this, that the idea of a healthy environment had been put into so many national constitutions around the world. My research found that we’re now up to 95 countries that have put the right to a healthy environment into their constitutions. The right to a healthy environment is the most rapidly adopted human right there’s ever been in a short space of time.

BCBW: How do we fare in Canada when it comes to enshrining environmental integrity into our constitution?

BOYD: Very little has been done. We think that Canada is this great country and the reality is that Canada is a beautiful country but our environmental laws, our environmental policy, and our environment are really ranked behind the majority of industrialized nations.
We have terrible situations in Canada like chemical valley in Sarnia, Ontario, where there are dozens of petrochemical plants and oil refineries. The environment there is contaminated almost beyond the imagination. You really have to experience it to understand how absolutely awful it must be to live there on a full-time basis.
If changing things in a chemical valley can happen in a poor neighbourhood in a city in Argentina, because of the power of this constitutional law ensuring the right to a healthy environment, I have every belief that a similar shift should and could take place in Canada.
That’s why I wrote the second book. With the first book I learned amazing things about the transformative impact of the right to a healthy environment around the world. The second book takes those lessons and shows how they can apply to Canada and how we can learn from what other countries have done.

Revolution 978-0-7748-2161-2;
Healthy 978-0-7748-2413-2

by Monica Rolinski, a freelance writer
in Vancouver.

[BCBW 2012]


The Optimistic Environmentalist: Progressing Toward a Greener Future (ECW $19.95)
Article (2015)


from BCBW (Autumn)
According to David R. Boyd, it’s important to stop and realize that many environmental problems have been successfully identified and combated in the past fifty years.

That’s the rationale for The Optimistic Environmentalist: Progressing Toward a Greener Future (ECW $19.95) in which he inspires hopefulness, particularly for young people, by citing how many billions of hectares of land and water have been protected by the creation of new parks.
Gray whales and bald eagles are no longer in dire danger of extinction. Progress has been made on protecting the ozone layer and renewable energy from wind, water and sun has entered the mainstream dialogue. Dozens of toxic chemicals have been banned.
Meanwhile Boyd is realistic about Canada’s environmental challenges and concludes Canada has devolved from being a world leader to having second-rate standards in Cleaner, Greener, Healthier: A Prescription for Stronger Environmental Laws and Policies (UBC Press $34.95).
Like Nero who fiddled while Rome burned, Prime Minister Stephen Harper can be objectively viewed as part of the problem, not part of the solution, particularly now that Canada and Japan have publicly stalled the rate of environmental progress among G7 countries at the G7 summit in 2015.

“Canada’s position at the G7 summit on long-term decarbonization of the economy is nothing more than grandstanding,” says Boyd. “While the world is already shifting towards a clean, renewable future (demonstrated by rapid growth in wind, solar, and geothermal energy), the Canadian government has been doggedly prioritizing the interests of the fossil fuel industry.

“This is terrible public policy and will cause substantial economic, social, and environmental losses for Canada. Canada has a long and sorry track record of obstructing international negotiations about environmental issues. While once upon a time we were leaders, in the Trudeau-Mulroney era, we are now widely recognized as international environmental reprobates.
“Media reports of Canada’s role in watering down the recent G7 commitments are consistent with our lousy reputation, and I witnessed this kind of malicious interference firsthand in 2005 while working in the Privy Council Office at Prime Minister Paul Martin’s request. [Prior to the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, Canada was also reluctant to commit to strong climate change and foreign aid commitments, according to Boyd.]

“Unless the federal election results in a different government taking power in October, Canada can be expected to continue its dark and dastardly deeds at the crucial Paris negotiations on climate change in December.”
In Cleaner, Greener, Healthier, Boyd compares Canada’s environmental policies with those of the European Union, Australia and the U.S. and diagnoses why Canada has fallen behind, focussing on how the health of a population is inextricably linked to the environment—a subject he researched for an earlier book, Dodging the Toxic Bullet: How to Protect Yourself from Everyday Environmental Health Hazards (Greystone, 2010).

Boyd maintains that implementing the recommendations in Cleaner, Greener, Healthier would prevent thousands of premature deaths, avoid hundreds of thousands of preventable illnesses, and save billions of dollars in unnecessary health care expenditures.

He concludes Cleaner, Greener, Healthier by prescribing legal remedies that will enable Canada to regain its former leadership role within the global community without harming the economy.

Boyd first explored the differences and similarities between U.S. and Canadian environmental laws in Unnatural Law: Rethinking Canadian Environmental Law and Policy (UBC Press, 2003) with a foreword by Thomas R. Berger. In that book Boyd similarly prescribed the changes that he believed Canada must make to achieve a sustainable future. Shortlisted for the Donald Smiley Prize from the Canadian Political Science Association, it was hailed as a “monumental work” by David Suzuki and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. praised its “clarity, authorial grace and welcome concern.” Suzuki subsequently provided the foreword for Dodging the Toxic Bullet (Greystone Books, 2010).

At the time of writing Unnatural Law in 2003, Boyd was a senior associate with the University of Victoria’s POLIS Project on Ecological Governance and adjunct professor with SFU’s graduate Environmental Resource Management Program. By 2007, he had added a stint as a Trudeau Scholar at UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. As of 2015, Boyd retains his SFU affiliation and lives on Pender Island.

As an environmental lawyer, Boyd has advised the governments of Sweden and Canada and served as executive director of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund.
Two of his recent books in particular, The Environmental Rights Revolution: A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights, and the Environment (UBC Press, 2011) and The Right to a Healthy Environment: Revitalizing Canada’s Constitution (UBC Press, 2012) have been influential in the drafting of environmental provisions for new constitutions in Iceland and Tunisia. They also inspired the David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot campaign to secure legal recognition of the right to a healthy environment for all Canadians.

Optimistic: 978-1-77041-238-5
Cleaner: 978-0-7748-3047-8