I remember the first time I sat around a kitchen table in a rural community giving environmental law advice. I was speaking with a farmer who was beset by pollution running across his fields and destroying his fish and hunting camp along the Rideau Canal.
The family had asked my law firm what we could do about the landfill leachate from a major Ontario city dump that was destroying habitat. No one from the City, the waste company or government had offered to help them. Now everyone in the room — his wife and mother at the wood stove, his sons and daughters and grandkids around the table — was keenly awaiting what I had to say.
I asked: Are there any fish in the fields, ditches or nearshore? The family told me the bay was once the best fishing area around and that fish still spawned in the fields and ditches every spring.
I asked: Can I get access to the water draining from the dump to sample as it runs onto your land? The family told me the exact locations where the water bubbled up on the dump walls and ran year-round onto their property.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.