December 1, 2009
Environment Probe turned 20 this year. To our surprise and delight, we also learned this year that our foundation maintains Canada’s most popular environmental web site. The reason, we suspect, is that the public doesn’t like top-down environmentalism, and we have the field of community-based, market-oriented environmentalism pretty well to ourselves.
Developing our unique approach to environmentalism has made for an interesting and exciting 20 years. From our early work on forestry, fisheries, and endangered species to our more recent work on agriculture and water, we have stressed that empowering individuals and communities is the key to protecting our land, water, and other natural resources. And we have stressed that a sound environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. Several aspects of our work have set us apart from other environmental groups:
• Our confidence in individuals and communities, who are our best environmental stewards. We call our approach "bottom-up environmentalism." We have worked tirelessly to promote property rights and decentralized decision making to empower individuals and communities to protect their environment against corporate and government polluters.
• Our work to decentralize natural resource holdings. Short-sighted governments have razed Canada’s forests and depleted her fisheries, demonstrating that they cannot be trusted as custodians of precious resources. We have advocated community-based or privately held resources to ensure more sustainable management.
• Our focus on enlisting the market in protecting the environment. To ensure safe drinking water and effective sewage treatment, we have campaigned for greater private funding and operation of utilities. A competitive bidding process will encourage efficiencies, while a sound contract will enable municipalities to hold private operators accountable for their performance.
• Our commitment to phasing out subsidies to resource users. We have steadfastly opposed below-market stumpage fees, artificially low water prices, and other subsidies that encourage wasteful resource use. Requiring the users of resources to pay their full costs creates powerful incentives to conserve.
Twenty years ago, when we started this work, we relied primarily on writing newspaper articles and giving speeches to get the word out. Of course, the world has changed considerably since then. We still write articles, publish books and studies, and give speeches, but now we also communicate electronically with people all across the country, and beyond.
To mark our 20th anniversary and to promote our approach to a wider audience, we have launched a new web site. The public reaction has been very encouraging! Our foundation’s site has become Canada’s most intensively used environmental web site. The Alexa metrics developed by Amazon.com tell us that Canadians are more likely to stay on our site after arriving than they do on other environmental groups’ sites. They view many more of our pages, and they spend more time reading our material. In fact, visitors to our site stay with us four times as long as with the next most engrossing site.
I invite you to visit our new site at http://www.environment.probeinternational.org and to see for yourself what the excitement is about. You’ll find blogs on a host of current issues. Under "Citings," you’ll find a new quote each time you visit. And of course you’ll find publications spanning our first two decades – articles, speeches, studies for government agencies, submissions to environmental assessments and regulatory hearings, and even the full text of one of our books, all promoting our unique brand of environmentalism.
These materials – and the two decades of research and activism that they represent – would not have been possible without our donors’ generous support. In order to remain independent of governments, corporations, and unions, we continue to depend on you. Please support our work with a generous donation, and help launch a third decade of bottom-up environmentalism.