Why is Stephen Harper like kryptonite to intelligence? Now scientists from Harvard, the Smithsonian Institute and other top academic institutions are furious with Harper for his decision to shut down the Experimental Lakes Area programme.
"I was pretty shocked," said Harvard University aquatic sciences Prof. Elsie Sunderland. "This is one of the foremost research projects and places to do research in the world. To have it shut down is just appalling. It's just embarrassing."
Before moving to Harvard, Sunderland, originally from Nova Scotia, worked for years creating policy at the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Research done at the experimental lakes on the effects of mercury on fish and waterways was discussed at the highest levels of the EPA and helped form the basis of new regulations on coal-fired power plant emissions. Those new rules became official in December.
Work on the lakes has also led to continent-wide policy shifts on acid rain, changes to the way hydro dams are built, a ban on phosphorus in detergents and huge advancements in the battle against the green algae that fouls Lake Winnipeg beaches every summer.
Scientists deliberately pollute all or part of a lake to measure the long-term effects on an entire complex ecosystem, allowing a huge breadth of research that could never be done by studying piecemeal samples of mud and water. Then, they let the lake return to its natural state.
This summer, ELA staff and researchers from Trent University were slated to begin a new long-term project on the effects of nanoparticles, an emerging multi-billion-dollar technology, on waterways and fish.
Specifically, scientists were planning to add micro-particles of silver, woven now into socks and underwear to kill bacteria, to a lake to measure the effects on the ecology.
Federal officials say the ELA no longer "aligned with the department's mandate and is not responding to our research priorities." Ottawa hopes a university or the provinces will take over funding the project.
Our Born Again Dark Ager really can't stomach science, especially if it's environmental science. Maybe it's those small, beady eyes scrunched so close together.