Buying carbon indulgences (Letter)

Letter - Manitoba Co-Operator 

Letters to the Editor
Manitoba Cooperator

Dear Mr. Gilmour:

Re: The carbon credit reality Feb.25

Almost four years ago I saw a full colour, half page ad placed by the Manitoba Pork Council with the Winnipeg Free Press. It claimed that Big Pig, as I know the MPC, had the strictest environmental protection of any jurisdiction in North America. So I wrote the former CEO to ask who had the second strictest. Obligingly, he wrote back to say that he didn't know. Yes, he didn't know. Meaning that the published claim was specious. (I exposed that lie before a legislative committee with the CEO in the room and the ad never again appeared in the Free Press.) 

So, excuse me if David McInnes' gushing about Canada's record in food sustainability appears to be similarly suspect. I duly note that he is under contract to 22 various and sundry special interest groups seeking some sort of Good Agribusiness Seal of Approval for food sustainability.

You report Maple Leaf Foods, of listeriosis infamy, buying indulgences in response to climate change. Paying industrial agribusiness  to store carbon is window dressing. It is form over substance. Farmers should be managing the land in the pursuit of regenerative agriculture because that is their calling, not because a billionaire needs them for promotional purposes that will enhance his company's status before a gullible media. 

On November 8, 2019 the Free Press published a story entitled "Maple Leaf Foods says it's now carbon neutral". Michael McCain gushed about his company's concern for the environment. This is the company that got a special dispensation from Gary Filmon (former MB  Premier) to destroy our locally sustainable hog farming community in favour of the current oligopoly that sees 8 million pigs raised under inhumane conditions with an enormous carbon footprint which in no way can be mitigated by writing a cheque to a foreign corporation. 

The Globe and Mail of December 17, 2019 reported that BMO has consumed the Kool-Aid. Maple Leaf now qualifies for BMO's "sustainability-linked" loans because of its ESG (environmental, social, governance) principles. However, to its credit, the Globe also noted that BMO did not audit, nor will it ever audit, Maple Leaf's ESG performance. And if it otherwise observes ESG failure, Maple Leaf will endure no financial penalty on its "sustainability-linked" loans. (BMO did not reply to my letter of complaint.)

Farmers will benefit financially if they embrace regenerative agriculture. That's unavoidable. Humans will secure our future because  such agriculture can contribute enormously to the drawdown our annual carbon production. Healing our soils worldwide will help to heal our climate and reverse the insidious desertification about which we were warned in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment over 20 years ago. Michael McCain writing a tax-deductible cheque to Indigo Ag in Boston only guarantees a deposit to Indigo's bank account and favourable media for Maple Leaf. Consultant McInnes speculates that Canada may be "the most sustainable food producer anywhere". In the meantime, Manitoba is overrun with what Big Pig four years ago called, essentially, the most sustainable pig factories in North America...until they weren't. 

Restorative agriculture demands commitment. Will Manitoba farmers rise to the challenge? This spring, check out the landscape. You will see fields tilled as black as the Ace of Spades. You will see topsoil blowing into ditches. Shelter belts being removed. Poison being applied. Drainage being accelerated. Wetlands destroyed. Carbon being surrendered to the atmosphere. And Mr. McInnes boasts of our "sustainability credentials"? That Maple Leaf, one of his clients, is part of a proposal to develop a "Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Index" is terrifying.

C.Hugh Arklie,


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