Elizabeth Nickson

Originally published Saturday, August 28, 2004 in The National Post
Re-published on with permission of the author

Canada’s very own Wizard of Oz made what was billed as “a rare public appearance” on Tuesday night at the University of Victoria. Dr. Maurice Strong, the recipient of more honours than this page has room to list, very much resembles the man who ruled Oz with thunder and lightning machines. He is a small, round, somewhat unobtrusive fellow, with wisps of white hair crowning the determinedly compassionate look on his face. This Tuesday evening, he has a cold, so there are snorts, coughs, throat clearings, sneezes and at least one very vigorous nose-blowing, punctuating his hour-long speechifying to the choir. Which in this case, was a conference of Restoration Biologists from all over the world, one-third of whom were supposedly aboriginal peoples.

No one can twist the knickers of the right-wing as thoroughly as Dr. Strong. He is accused of so many foul things, it seems utterly impossible that one innocuous Canadian from south-west Manitoba could be so evil. When the sinister notion of One World Government comes up, Strong is considered both architect and chief financial officer. He is, however, rightly called the Michelangelo of networking. Senior Advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; Senior Advisor to World Bank President James Wolfensohn; Chairman of the Earth Council; Chairman of the World Resources Institute; Co-Chairman of the Council of the World Economic Forum, and so on seemingly forever, what interests us most in Canada perhaps, is his PMO level appointment as Paul Martin’s senior adviser on Kyoto.

My knickers were feeling pretty twisted 10 minutes into the Great Man’s speech, so much so that my companion was moved to say, “it sounds like he’s been giving this for 30 years. The ideas are stale, old-hat, interesting perhaps in 1965.” That must be why, I think, looking around the auditorium, pretty much everyone is over 40, trending towards 60. They are all coloured green, brown and tan, distinctly Robin Hood-ish, if Robin could have worn pricey, ugly climbing shoes. We have trained so many dirt worshippers in this past generation, they have nothing to do but make endless job applications in the form of fear-mongering speeches just like Maurice Strong’s. The aboriginals? They must have been at dinner.

One outrageously mistaken statement follows another, but mostly what we are hearing is that the world has “gone terribly wrong.” We “have severely disrupted natural systems,”“the fate of the human race is in our hands,”“aboriginal values must be applied to the modern world.”“We are facing devastation, caused by our mindless inadvertence.”“We are in the early stages of a battle which will literally determine our fate as a species.”“We are altering the rate and pace of change and undermining life on Earth.”“We must transition to sustainable development.”“The transition must be forced.”“We must break inertia.” Those “who oppose us are special interests and dangerous ideologues.”

All these emotion-laden, fact-deprived statements are patently false. As Strong ought to know, all environmental indicators in the First World, with the exception of greenhouse gases, have been trending positive for decades. Smog has declined by a third since 1970, even as the number of cars has doubled and vehicle miles traveled increased by 143%. Acid rain has decreased 67%, airborne lead 97% and CFC emissions have virtually ended. Even in smog-central L.A., smog has declined by a factor of 7 since the 1980s. Harbours once deemed so filthy that chickens could walk across them, are now hosting arts festivals and dinner cruises. Toxic emissions by industry have declined 51% in the last 15 years, water consumption has dropped 9% and forested areas have been expanding for more than a decade. One animal species has fallen extinct since the late 70s. Numbers of bald eagles, peregrine falcons, brown pelicans and grey whales have recovered sharply.

All of which, Strong, in part responsible for this clean-up, seems curiously unaware.

Finally, with the room convinced that Armageddon is nigh, we get to the good news. “The battle is stalled,” he says. We “need a new momentum towards sustainability.” We must “break the inertia.” We must “train the collective will, institute educational measures and increase social pressures.” Lifestyles will “have to change, the transition must be forced.” And so on. He then makes a pitch for global governance and the Earth Charter, a document that he helped devise, which he sees as a “moral guide, the best I know.”

This would be amusing in a man with less actual power. Voters hardly appear in either the Earth Charter or global governance model. Both bypass national governments and representative democracy in order to empower the sort of people who are willing to sit in committee meetings to the bitter end. Businessmen, workers, moms, people with actual busy lives, would be the losers in this new political order. The result would be decisions reached by self-selecting elites, restoration biologists for instance. People who hate actual people but love Mankind and seek to improve it no matter what. Headed by our very own Wizard of Oz.