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General News · 6th June 2009
On the topic of the precautionary principle, I just read a wonderful interview with Carolyn Raffensperger, done by Derrick Jensen in 2002. Carolyn is executive director if the Science and Environment Health Network, author of several books and columns for the journal Environmental Forum, speaker and key advocate of the precautionary principle.

This is an excerpt from that interview that I found particularly interesting:

"Derrick: you’ve been accused of attempting to shut down the entire economy. Not that, from my perspective, that would be a bad thing.

"Carolyn: we’ve been told we’re going to stop civilization as we know it, or we’re going to ask everybody to go back to horse and buggy days, or we’re going to stop all technology. What’s interesting about the accusation that the principle will stop all progress is that the precautionary principle actually calls for action, precautionary action. What a wonderful paradox.

"D: but if the precautionary principle had been in place hundred years ago there would be no automobiles.

"C: probably. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have a transportation system. It means we might not have used fossil fuels. It means we might have actually used human ingenuity and creativity to create a transportation system that honoured our place on earth, that didn’t fundamentally pollute the planet. Maybe we wouldn’t have this technology, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have any technology. We just wouldn’t have one that is so overwhelmingly destructive"

And this is how she finishes the interview:

"we can protect the things we love. We have the tools to do it. We can prevent this terrible damage, and we can restore the damage that we’ve already done.
"we need to put love back at the center of our decision-making. We have allowed science to take over in a way that has displaced the things we love, the central feeling of love, love for our children and for our children’s health and future, love for the natural world, love for the places we live. Somehow we think science is going to be able to give us answers, when our instincts, when our guts, tell us it can’t. Science can tell us many things, but we cannot use it to make decisions in place of love"

In simple terms, the precautionary principle means that when we have scientific uncertainty and the likelihood of harm, we must take preventive or precautionary actions. The precautionary principle, or forecaring, gives us a way to change our behavior, personally and collectively. It reminds us to acknowledge our mistakes,
admit our ignorance, and act with foresight and caution to prevent damage.

Now, is it too much to ask that we take a similar precautionary approach for the potentially destructive mammoth run-of-river projects that have been proposed for BC ?

If you are interested in learning more about the precautionary principle, check the attached document Put Values First, (specifically, check the Blue Mountain Lake, Statement of Essential Values in page 9) and/or visit the following websites:

The original declaration:
Environment Canada perspective:
Further details:

thanks for listening,