The Greening of Canada: Federal Institutions and Decisions


297 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-0645-0
DDC 363.7'0560971




Reviewed by Alice Kidd

Alice Kidd is an editor with The New Catalyst editorial collective in
Lillooet, B.C.


What is the role of the federal government in helping people and
institutions to live in a healthy, sustainable way on the earth? How has
the Department of the Enviromment functioned in this search in the past
20 years? The Greening of Canada attempts to answer these questions by
providing both a history of the DOE and an analysis of its successes and
failures. In addition, the relationship of human policy and action to
the biophysical realities of a changing world are examined.

One of the key concepts presented by the authors is the notion of the
double dynamic (humans and the environment). Human decision-makers
(governmental and nongovernmental, environmental, and business) were
engaged in the search and struggle for political control over the
policymaking process. Furthermore, media and public opinion sometimes
led the process and sometimes followed. There was some attempt to have a
focused, integrated approach; however, particular scientific issues
(such as acid rain) or specific geographic issues (like South Moresby)
often drove the agenda. Key players often used these environment-based
issues as a means to gain political advantage in other areas.

The biophysical world has life of its own aside from the political
process: “There is ... the enormous task of coming to grips with the
unpredictable and subtle interdependencies of ecosystems ... and what
particular types of policies are needed to address them.” Whether or
not the DOE managed to address the political realities of
decisionmaking, it often failed miserably in the face of biophysical

The Greening of Canada is a valuable addition to the discourse on how
to live sustainably on the earth. It calls for further understanding of
the gap between the two dynamics of human and other life. However, it is
primarily a bureaucratic analysis in that it lacks a coherent
understanding of the relationship between humans and the environment and
ignores the role of culture (especially Native culture) in the most
successful resolutions. The integration of the double dynamic might best
be pursued by adding cultural analysis of past decisions to the present


Doern, G. Bruce, and Thomas Conway., “The Greening of Canada: Federal Institutions and Decisions,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 17, 2024,