While scrutinizing for Elizabeth May in London North Centre two months ago, I had an interesting conversation with a Conservative volunteer. She complained to me how outrageous it is for governments to be outlawing pesticides, citing that mainstay of schoolyard arguments that “it’s a free country.”
The problem is, of course, that when you define freedom that liberally (hehe) and approach it in such an ideological way, you back yourself into impossible corners. (Witness Donald Rumsfeld’s famous observation that “Free people are free to…commit crimes and do bad things.”) I asked the Conservative volunteer if she would agree that, even though it’s a free country (whatever that means), the government would be within their rights to, say, prevent people from putting poison in children’s food. (She did.) I then explained to her the process by which toxins like pesticides work their way up the food chain, bioaccumulating and becoming more potent at each level, until ultimately they show up in mothers’ breast milk.
At this point, she uncomfortably changed the subject. I don’t remember what to, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with “liberal corruption.”
I was reminded of that by two main news stories today, which report that some children’s necklaces have been recalled due to lead poising risk, and that politicians are even more toxic than humans. Er, I mean, more than other humans. (Apparently, Jack Layton is particularly fire retardant.)
The Globe and Mail reports that the testing, done on Jack Layton, Environment Minister Rona Ambrose, and Liberal environment critic John Godfrey, “found a bewildering cocktail of contaminants…[that] have been found to cause cancer, disrupt normal hormone function, and lead to birth defects,” including DDT, which has been banned for decades but will continue to circulate in the environment for decades to come.
The politicians had between 49 and 55 pollutants in their bodies, slightly more than what most Canadians are carrying around. Most upsetting for me is that, according to Rick Smith, the executive director of Environmental Defence who did the study, the politicians “were surprised as heck by the results.” They shouldn’t be. This is neither news nor new. I wonder if Rick had to resist an urge to slap them.
Regardless, I just wanted to take this opportunity to say, on record, that I don’t think we should be poisoning children, or, heck, even politicians. I know, I know, it’s a controversial position, but I think it’s important to take a principled stand on this one, public opinion be damned. In fact, a well-known Green Party member once suggested to me that we use the following campaign slogan: “The Green Party: We don’t want to poison your kids.” Catchy, ain’t it?