In recognition of Earth Day 2015

I rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus to pay tribute and mark the 45th annual Earth Day.

Mr. Speaker, Earth Day was originally held on April 22, 1970 in the United States and it was originally intended as a one-time deal. It was to bring awareness to the environmental movement, but now it’s considered as the birthplace of the modern-day movement.

As Yukoners, we have a lot to celebrate when it comes to our environment, to our beautiful scenery, to our fresh air and our clean water.

We are certainly very fortunate, but we should also take note of all those things that we may take for granted that some other countries and areas of this world do not possess. As individuals, we all have a part to play in ensuring that the actions that we take and the products that we buy are not damaging to the environment. As lawmakers, we have the added responsibility of ensuring that what we do in this Chamber is for the long-term benefit of generations of Yukoners to come. That means not mortgaging the future for short-term gains.

Earth Day is a chance to celebrate what we have and provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our individual choices that we make each day and how they affect the carbon footprint. I was first introduced to a topic, to a concept, to a theory 25 years ago when I was studying environmental science, and that is called the “tragedy of the commons”. The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory and it is by Garrett Harden. The term is taken from the title of an article that Harden wrote in 1968, which in turn is based upon an essay by a Victorian economist on the effect of unregulated grazing in common lands. The theory states that individuals acting independently and rationally, according to their own self-interests, behave contrary to the best interests of the whole group by depleting some portion of the common resource. Simply put, without a plan from a greater community, the individual and society will believe that their small actions couldn’t possibly have that much damage.

Now the reason for this  history — and I have to tell you that it is very humbling to do a history lesson in front of Mr. Deuling, who is a legend in the that pursuit in the Yukon. The reason for the history lesson is that this is not a new concept. It has been a widely held truth in science for over a century now that this tragic belief is having an enormous, detrimental effect on our climate. As an individual, as a community or as a small government, we cannot simply assume that our small, individual contribution does not affect the larger picture, for that is simply not true.

This is why Earth Day is such a profound success as an environmental movement. We live in a global village, and the tide is turning on those who believe that our small footprints do not add up. More than six million Canadians join together each year with more than one billion people across the world in 170 countries to stage events and provide awareness on a local environmental stage.

I am very pleased to stand here today and recognize Earth Day. Living in a healthy, beautiful territory is something that we are fortunate to enjoy and that I truly hope to pass on for generations to come.