The Canadians are Closing Large Outdoor Laboratory that Tests Environmental Impact on pollutants in Ecosystem

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 3rd, 2012

Week in Review

Now it appears that the Canadian government hates the planet.  As hard as that is to believe.  But here they are pulling the funding to a vital scientific research center.  That few have probably ever heard of before (see Scientists decry Ottawa’s plan to close environmental research centre by SHAWN McCARTHY posted 6/1/2012 on The Globe and Mail).

For six years, Cynthia Gilmour, senior scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, led a research team that annually poured a teaspoon of mercury isotope, diluted in water, into a small, remote lake in Northwestern Ontario.

The international project was being conducted in the federally funded Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), a unique outdoor laboratory for ecosystem research consisting of 58 lakes and their drainage areas.

Dr. Gilmour and her colleagues from the United States and Canada wanted to determine the environmental impacts of new deposits of mercury – a powerful brain toxin – into a lake that already had high background levels. The ELA was the one place in the world where they could do that.

The centre has hosted a number of groundbreaking research projects over its 55 years, including major advances in the understanding of lake acidification and eutrophication – the destruction of a body of water through the addition of nutrients such as phosphates and nitrates.

Now, as part of its spending restraint, the Harper government has announced that Fisheries and Oceans Canada will stop funding the Experimental Lakes Area and close the world-renowned research centre by next April if a new operator cannot be found…

Departmental officials are “working aggressively” to find a group to take over the funding, said David Gillis, director-general of the department’s Ocean and Ecosystem Science division. He said the operating costs amount to about $700,000 a year, though former chief scientists say the baseline budget is more like $3-million annually when core researchers are included…

“By shutting ELA you remove a critical tool for finding the most reasonable and cost-effective solutions to national and international environmental issues,” she wrote. “The small federal investment in the research station has been returned thousands of times over in public and ecosystem health.”

Wow.  Science is expensive.  Especially researchers.

It would be interesting to see their books.  This is an area containing 58 lakes.  So I’m guessing it’s outdoors.  With a laboratory located inside a building somewhere.  That has either electricity connected to it.  Or they have a generator to provide their energy needs.  Now they’re not building the laboratory or the energy infrastructure each year so most of this operating budget must be consumables.  Like energy (electricity, natural gas, oil, gasoline, etc.).  Food.  And water.  As I’m guessing they’re not drinking the water they’re polluting with mercury.  They may also have a few vehicles.  A helicopter or two.  Some boats.  Which they may be paying interest and principle on as well as paying for a pilot.  And some scientific equipment.  Test tubes.  Beakers.  Erlenmeyer flasks.  To replace the ones they drop.  And an IT tech to fix the occasional problem with their computer equipment.  Perhaps that’s what the $700,000 annual budget covers. 

If the scientists each earned, say, $125,000 a year in wages and benefits the other $2.3 million would pay for about 18 researchers.  Do they have 18 researches?  Do they need 18 researchers?  Are they running so many experiments that it keeps 18 researches busy year round?  Or is it only open for the summer months?  When the lakes aren’t frozen and covered with snow.  If so then it’s only a part-time gig for these researches.  Which means they wouldn’t be earning $125,000 in wages and benefits.  So if they were only earning, say, $30,000 in wages and benefits for their few months there that $2.3 million would pay for about 75 researchers. Which is a lot more than 18. 

Still some say this is a small federal investment.  Of course, when the provincial and federal governments are both running deficits $3 million is a lot of money.  But you know who this isn’t a lot of money to?  Rich environmentalist celebrities.  Those who bring in hundreds of millions of dollars a year.  The same people who showered President Obama with millions of dollars in one fund raiser after he endorsed same-sex marriage.  They could all pitch in and cover these costs to save the planet they are so worried about.  And it wouldn’t make a dent in their lifestyle.  They could do this.  But I doubt they will.  For they rather have the government spend our tax dollars for their worthy causes.  While they hire the finest tax lawyers to hide as much of their wealth as possible from the taxman. 

But this could in fact help them hide their money from the taxman.  For this could be a large charitable deduction.  It would be a win-win.  Save the planet.  Save their wealth.  And let them worry about what they’re doing up there for $3 million a year.

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