Debate rises over spraying

Opinion
Pictou-Advocate-opinion

Spraying is sometimes met with indifference, but there has been a recent exception.
Northern Pulp has applied for permits to the Environment Department to spray more than 1,300 hectares of woodlands in Colchester and Halifax counties. It is part of an annual program to spray herbicides as part of what the company calls its vegetation management program.
Opinions on spraying run deep and can be extreme. Spraying has taken place for decades for domestic, corporate and military purposes. The history of spraying is as unpleasant as it is long. It is a history of first condoning a chemical to the point of championing it as a cure for pests and then stopping it once enough people realize it’s bad and it’s wrong. It tests society’s tolerance of such activity.
DDT was considered a miracle insecticide until its effects on wildlife became too visible and alarming for it to continue.
Military use of defoliants during the Vietnam War up to 50 years ago resulted in considerable debate over its short-term and long-term destruction.
Spraying crops and lawns means a few less weeds. More people have questioned its worth when weighed against the harm caused to plants and animals.
The herbicide applied for in the permits is glyphosate. With this most recent debate, will it be the next chemical whose use in Nova Scotia is called into doubt?
It prompts one to recall decades ago when spruce budworm spraying was first acceptable and later criticized to the threshold of protest. Signs point to recovering populations in the near or distant future and calls are resurfacing for spruce budworm spraying to resume.
The political fallout over Northern Pulp’s spraying application leaves one skeptical that any intelligent arguments about it are possible. The discussion is not progressing far when the a Liberal MLA all but justifies the spraying in question because successive Progressive Conservative, NDP and Liberal governments have allowed it for the past seven years.
Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane is right. She says the matter is conflicting. But her point that the lack of biodiversity of forests in Nova Scotia, Canada and throughout the world has been making them vulnerable to the effects of climate change is compelling.
It leads one to conclude that societies were better off when forests were sources of sustainable, perpetual harvest before forests were replaced with monoculture tree plantations – and they would be again.
It’s the current government’s turn to decide whether or not spraying has merit.
Forests are the earth’s lungs. The mass deforestation is not reserved to recent times – in the world’s tropic and temperate zones – when one researches a time when there were cedars in Lebanon and pines in Rome.
We also need to decide what kind of forest we want and what the planet’s present and future ecology can bear.

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