50 years of environmental law in Canada

While I was giving a seminar on environmental law to Turkish lawyers this week, I realised that 2011 is roughly the 50th anniversary of Ontario (and I think Canadian) environmental laws. It was in 1961 that the Ontario Water Resources Act and Ontario Water Resources Commission were created, to stop municipal and industrial sewage from being dumped, untreated, into our lakes and rivers. Yes, we really did that, only 50 years ago. (Then we switched to dumping them in gravel pits, with consequences we are still struggling with.) Air and waste permits came a decade later. 50 years of very hard work and real progress, even if the hardest problems (eg urban sprawl, nuclear waste, climate change) are now worse than ever.

50 years are a blink in time, especially compared to Turkish history. It’s a powerful reminder: our “greening’ is only a mm deep, and must not be taken for granted.