The Human Right to a Healthy Environment: How It Can Transform Society and Achieve Reconciliation – Transcript

About This Episode

Porcupine (00:00): If you think the United Nations has nothing to do with your day to day life, think again, lawyer and UN Special Rapporteur David Boyd will show you how the human right to a healthy environment is a game changer for reconciliation. 

Episode Introduction

Porcupine: How do porcupines hug? Very carefully. And such ss the story of reconciliation, at least so far. I’m Merrell-Ann Phare. I’m Michael Miltenberger. This is Porcupine.

Porcupine (00:46): Hi everybody. We’re here today to interview David Boyd, who is so amazing. I love talking to him. He is currently…he’s done so many things in his life, but he’s currently the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment. He’s a lawyer, a law prof, and has spent a lifetime on the front lines of, kind of like, the environmental battle here. And I noticed in your bio that you are the record holder for the Barnacleman Triathlon. And I want to know what the heck is that.

David Boyd (01:32): Well, first of all…

Porcupine: Was that just a made-up triathlon that only you compete in or what? 

David Boyd: Uh, pretty much, yes. So, I used to do things like Ironman triathlon. And then I realized like the carbon footprint of that was just enormous as well as the financial cost. So, I thought, well, you know, why not do a triathlon at home where you live? Like it could become a thing, right? People could, no matter where you live, you can do a triathlon. So, I started this thing where you…I jumped in my kayak. I paddled around Pender Island. That’s the first day. And then the second day I ride my bike to every one of the 55 ocean access trails and walk down the trails to the ocean. And then on the third day I run from the North end of North Pender to the South end of South Pender and back. So, it’s a pretty intense experience. And then a couple of years ago, I thought, you know, why take up three whole days? Why not do them back to back? Like in one day? And so, my wife was like, you’re insane. It’s not a good idea, but I thought, I think I can do it. Like if the tides are good. So, on the solstice a couple of years ago when…maximum sunlight, right? I went out and did it in 23 hours and 15 minutes, like a total blast. But yeah, no, I’ve tried to get people to do it with me, but so far, I haven’t been successful.

Tell us about your journey.

Porcupine (02:30): Gee, I wonder why? I just wanted to start with a question then. So, as I said in the opening that you’re the UN Special Rapporteur and trying to figure out the issue of human rights as it relates to enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment that’s no small task. Before we talk about that, where did the young David Boyd start out?

David Boyd (02:56): I’m going to truncate that story cause I don’t like talking about myself, but I was really blessed to have a mom who we grew up in the foothills of the Rockies in Alberta. And we spent a lot of time hiking and cross-country skiing. So, I fell in love with the mountains and the outdoors at a very young age, and then ended up as an environmental lawyer. And as a young environmental lawyer, I fell under the influence of an amazing guy from the Philippines named Tony Oposa, who at that time had just filed this ground-breaking lawsuit on behalf of his children and a bunch of their friends arguing that the clear cutting of old growth forests in the tropical rainforests of the Philippines was a violation of their constitutional right to a healthy environment. And as a young Canadian lawyer, that idea just blew my mind. And so, for 27 years, I’ve been kind of trying to figure out how that happened, how we could make it happen here and how we can make it happen everywhere.

Porcupine (03:52): Is that the core of what you’re trying to accomplish as being a UN Special Rapporteur?

David Boyd: Yeah. So, my two main goals are to achieve universal recognition of the fundamental human right to live in a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. A right which, surprisingly to many Canadians, is already recognized in 156 of 193 UN member States. So that’s over 80% of the world recognizes this right already, either in their constitutions, their legislation in regional human rights or treaties or in a foreign court decisions. And then the second part of that is, you know, words on paper, don’t make the air cleaner, you’ve got to have action to implement. And so, my second goal is to actually transform those ambitious words into changing people’s lives for the better.

Porcupine: So where’s Canada in that, in terms of being one of those 150 some countries, are we on the list?

David Boyd: No, we’re not. And so, you will both know that there are two provinces and the three Northern territories in Canada that have recognized the right to a healthy environment, but Canada has not at the national level. And the good news is that after many years of pestering and persuading, I think that the current federal government is very close to bringing in some amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act that for the first time we’ll achieve that national recognition and will allow us to join the majority of the world’s countries that have already taken that step.

What’s changed for Canada to recognize that a healthy environment is a human right?

Porcupine (05:20): So getting here, that’s amazing news. I didn’t know that you were that close. Actually. What changed the tide for Canada to decide that it would potentially do this?

David Boyd: For a long time, Canada also opposed recognition of the human right to water, you know, opposing it at the United nations. And then in 2010, the United Nations Human Rights Council and the United Nations General Assembly, both passed resolutions for the first time, recognizing those fundamental human rights to water and sanitation and Canada actually abstained from those votes, which I think is a stain on Canada’s conscience and is a stain on our human rights record. But to Canada’s credit after that, we did come around. And so, the Canadian government now does accept that there is a human right to water and human rights to sanitation. It’s encouraging that in the last decade, we’ve seen more than $2 billion invested in bringing safe drinking water and proper sanitation facilities to remote Indigenous communities across Canada. And the job is not done, but substantial progress has been made. You know, close to 90 communities have gained access to safe drinking water. And a lot of people think, well, what difference does a UN resolution make? Well, here’s a crystal clear case of where it has made a difference.

Porcupine (06:37): There’s this global level of the ideas like you just said, what does the United Nation’s stuff have to do with my daily life? Folks are sitting and listening to this, trying to figure out how do these things connect this idea of human rights, the environment, and reconciliation.

David Boyd: You can trace this causal chain that goes back to 2010. And it goes back before that, right? Because you had Indigenous Peoples, environmental organizations, human rights activists, all clamoring for decades to get to that kind of, you know, that final achievement of universal recognition of the right to water in 2010, that was a huge victory. And you celebrate the victory. And the very next day, you go back to work to implement those words and to take those lofty promises and to translate them into actions that do improve people’s lives in their kitchens, in their bathrooms, in their communities. But we can’t change the past. We can only change the future and accelerate the pace of change and fulfill, like…keep the government’s feet to the fire. They say that this is going to be completed by the end of 2021. That’s an extremely ambitious timetable. It’s probably been knocked back a bit by the COVID-19 pandemic. When you have a human right, you can just put it on the table and say, okay, this is no longer a policy option. This is an obligation that you are legally compelled to act to fulfill our basic human right to water. And I think that’s why human rights are such a game changer. And that’s why I’m so excited about the potential of the right to a healthy environment, to transform human society and to achieve reconciliation, both in in the sense of reconciliation between, you know, the colonial settler state and the Indigenous Peoples. But I think I use reconciliation in an even broader sense, which is reconciliation of the human beings with the rest of nature. And, you know, like the Western idea that we’re conquerors of the planet and nature is just a bunch of commodities for us to use and exploit.

David Boyd (08:32): We need to throw that idea into the trashcan and sink it to the bottom of the ocean and adopt the Indigenous wisdom that we are actually part of this incredible community of life on earth. And that transformation to me is one of the fundamental pillars of reconciliation, both between white folks, like me, and Indigenous Peoples, and between all human beings and the natural world that we’re so incredibly blessed to be part of.

Porcupine (09:01): When I was Minister of Environment you got in touch with me, because we were rewriting some of our environmental legislation. I read your book and you made the point very clear that governments tend to write legislation that has all sorts of old clauses and there’s lots of ‘mays’ and very few ‘shalls.’ Has there been any improvement across the country when it comes to that type of legislation being done… that’s a little tighter, a little more assertive with less ‘mays’ and more ‘shalls,’ when it comes to protecting the environment and doing the right thing?

David Boyd: The fact is that in Canada, environmental legislation continues to be written predominantly in discretionary fashion. And that continues to sabotage our efforts to improve the level of environmental protection, to improve the quality of air and to tackle the climate emergency that we’re looking down the throat of, to tackle the biodiversity crisis that we’re embroiled in, to just connect it back to human rights, if I may. Like that’s the power of human rights. It’s not human rights…

There’s no ‘may’ in human rights. Everything about human rights is ‘shall.’ 

I’d love to talk about some of the amazing things happening all over the world, where people are taking this right to a healthy environment and they’re using it to address the biodiversity crisis, the climate emergency water pollution, air pollution, and all of these interlinked environmental challenges that we’ve created.

Porcupine (10:27): So, David, we’re definitely going to ask you for examples on the difference between theory and practice on this, but I just want to ask one question before we get there. If this was to become a human right to safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, what would happen next here as a change we would see or would need to see in the systems that are making all these decisions and stuff? Yeah.

David Boyd (10:48): Let’s say there was a UN resolution on the right to a healthy environment and let’s say Canada then incorporated that right into legislation. I think the biggest single change would be that there would be solutions implemented to address the egregious injustice, which is that the majority of these environmental problems we’re talking about, they affect low income Canadians. They affect Indigenous Peoples in Canada, they affect new immigrants. So, you know, we have crystal clear scientific evidence for example, that air pollution disproportionately affects low-income Canadians and new immigrants. And so, and there are pollution hotspots in Canada, both in terms of air quality and water quality. That would be first in line to get cleaned up, to have actions taken, to recognize that the people whose environment is in the worst shape are the ones who most desperately need recognition and fulfillment of their right to a healthy environment.

David Boyd (11:46): So to me, it’s a really powerful tool for addressing those environmental injustices, like on the Aamjiwnaang First Nation reserve in Ontario and the Alberta tar sands. 

Nobody should have to be bearing that disproportionate burden of pollution on behalf of the rest of us so that we can drive and fly and do all the things we do. 

So that would be, to me, a really, kind of transformative change in our society.

Porcupine (12:11): Could I just go back a bit, just to the issue of reconciliation and you were…how you were defining it? Merrell-Ann and I have been making the case for quite a while now that we see reconciliation as a 360-degree concept that affects every aspect of life.

David Boyd (12:31): Yeah. I would agree with that. I know a lot of people who are going through their own kind of the visual reconciliation processes, if you’re on Pender Island, we have a fantastic reconciliation process with the local T’Sou-ke First Nation, or, you know, people from T’Sou-ke are coming to Pender and teaching us things. And we’re sitting down together around tables and breaking bread and talking about climate change and the way it’s affecting the islands. And so, there’s that very local level, which I think is really important. We have reconciliation happening at the national level. We have reconciliation happening at the international level. Some of the things that I’m working on as the UN Special Rapporteur are directly related to this broader issue of reconciliation. So, you know, Merrell-Ann earlier asked for a couple of examples, let me give you a couple of examples. One is an amazing case that you’re probably both familiar with where a group of Indigenous Peoples from Australia called the Torres Strait Islanders have filed a lawsuit against Australia that’s before the United Nations Human Rights Committee, arguing that Australia’s dismal record of climate inaction is a violation of their rights to life, to health and to culture under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Sea levels are rising.

David Boyd (13:46): Storms are getting more wicked. They’re getting saltwater intrusion into their drinking water supply, and it’s killing the trees where they’re growing their food. And so that’s just, you know, that’s a climate justice slash human rights slash reconciliation issue. And so, in my role, as the UN Special Rapporteur, working together with my predecessor professor, John Knox from the US, we filed an amicus curiae brief in that case. And we expect a decision to be forthcoming from the Human Rights Committee in 2021. Another thing that I do as the Special Rapporteur is country visits, and one of my first, my first two country visits, in fact, one was to Fiji and one was to Norway. I want to see for myself the impacts of climate change on a Small Island Developing State. And I didn’t know much about Fiji before I went there. And it’s actually got this amazing history where Indigenous Peoples never relinquished their ownership or their title of the land.

David Boyd (14:41): So the majority of Fiji is still and has always been in Indigenous hands, but they are definitely being hammered by climate change. I was there a couple of years after Tropical Cyclone Winston hit. And Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016, was the most powerful storm to ever reach land in the Southern hemisphere. Winds of over 330 kilometers an hour, if you can imagine. Just devastating impacts on people. I visited one Indigenous community where the people had lived in basically like if you picture a postcard of Fiji in your mind, like idyllic palm trees, sandy beaches, that’s where they lived for thousands of years. And it became unlivable. They had to move their whole community inland three kilometers. So now the Elders can’t get to the ocean, the children can’t get to the ocean. And so, the impacts on their culture, on their human rights are just devastating.

David Boyd (15:34): And then at the other end of the spectrum, I went and when I was in Norway, I spent almost a week North of the Arctic circle with the Sámi Indigenous Peoples. And they’re, you know, they’ve been herding reindeer. That’s the heart of their culture, the heart of their economy, the heart of their identity. And in recent years, despite how they’re way North…but there’s been rain every winter in recent years. And so, you know, these reindeer that have evolved to survive in the winter, by scraping away the snow to get at the lichens and the moss on the ground, they can’t eat. They can’t scrape away the ice that forms when it rains in winter. And so, there’s been mass starvation of reindeer, just like devastating to every aspect of the Sámi life. And it’s because of climate change and neither the Sámi people nor the people of Fiji have any responsibility for that. It’s all on us. It’s our lifestyles, it’s our technologies. And it’s our responsibility.

How do we move forward to improve the intersections of climate and reconciliation?

Porcupine (16:30): I can picture exactly those examples. You’re a professor, an Associate Professor of Law, Policy and Sustainability at UBC. And so, I imagine you with a first-year group of students who are all keen and believe they’re going to be able to do something different with environmental law. And I’m wondering, what do you, what do you tell them when it comes to kind of the intersection of climate, Indigenous rights, reconciliation, like what needs to change and how do you present that to them?

David Boyd (17:01): Well, I think the path forward is actually strikingly clear. You know the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said, we need rapid systemic and transformative changes in all aspects of society in order to address the climate emergency. So, they’ve made it crystal clear. We need to reduce emissions roughly 50% in the next decade. And we need to get to net zero by the middle of the century. That’s the challenge that lies before us. And the good news is we have the technology that can get us there, right? So, there’s already been a massive shift globally away from fossil fuel, right? For electricity generation towards renewables. And that shift is accelerating every day, every week, every month. And I tell my students these stories, because we need to nourish hope to keep them going. 20 years ago, there was one gigawatt of installed solar electricity generating capacity worldwide.

David Boyd (17:56): That’s a billion watts. That’s a big number. The International Energy Agency, which is the world’s leading energy forecasting experts. They said, if we put the right policies in place, if we get the right levels of investment, we could have seven times as much solar just as quickly as 2020. Well, you know what, instead of getting going from one to seven, we went from one to 700. We’re adding seven gigawatts of solar, what the experts thought would be the global total, we add that every month to the global grid. Because solar is the cheapest form of electricity generating that there is in most parts of the world today. And so that’s transformative, right? So that means we’re sitting here in 2020, like in pain about climate change, but: 

We’re in the middle of this renewable energy revolution that’s going to transform the world.

David Boyd (18:44): And then right after that, we have to deal with the transportation system. Well my God in Norway, what was incredible to learn when I went to Norway… the most recent statistics, actually from last month, over 90% of new vehicle sales are electric vehicles. Now they have a bunch of policies in place to make that happen. Those policies are now rolling out across Europe. So that sector is undergoing an incredible transformation. The building industry…There’s new building codes in the European Union, California and Vancouver, that are at the forefront globally that require net zero building, which means that a building has to be able to produce as much electricity that consumes. It’s no longer a radical idea. It’s the law in jurisdictions that are home to over 500 million people. So that’s a transformation of the construction industry. And then we know that we need to change industrial agriculture.

David Boyd (19:36): We know that we need to change. We need to stop deforestation and put in place incredibly ambitious reforestation programs. And those are really the three key elements, right? The energy system, the food system, and taking care of natural ecosystems. And I want to talk some more about that because I think that’s where these…that’s where reconciliation, Indigenous Peoples and the climate and biodiversity crisis converge again, in a place of optimism.

Human rights is a powerful tool we use to knock down entrenched systems and harmful laws.

Porcupine (20:05): Which gets me to the other fundamental issue that everybody has to struggle with, which is within entrenched institutions, entrenched bureaucracies and laws, regulations, and policies that lag far, far behind what’s happening in the public sphere, what the people are saying, what industry’s doing…and just wondering what your thoughts are about those challenges. And it’s the most frustrating part, which is as a former politician, where you have a four-year term, 1,460 days. Then you walk into your mandate, all filled with energy and vim and vinegar. And you walk right into an entrenched system that immediately starts running the clock on your 1,460 days.

David Boyd: Yeah, they’re absolutely a problem. And there’s nothing we can do except knock them down with every sledgehammer and boot that we can muster. Right. You know? And again, this is where I look at human rights as such a powerful tool. You know, if you go back a couple of hundred years in human history, when slavery was the basis of the global economy…Well, there was a lot of laws and entrenched systems and people with vested interests, and the abolitionists had to just kick down every single one of those laws. And it took an incredible, incredible effort and incredibly courageous people, but they used human rights as their sledgehammer.

David Boyd: And if you look at the women’s rights movement, you look at the Indigenous Peoples’ movement that has made so much progress over the last 50 years, you know, with a huge breakthrough decades in the making and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And that again was just a stepping stone, like just building the power of those movements by using rights to bust things forward. You know, that the same thing is happening with persons with disabilities, with LGBTQ+ peoples. I mean, these are people who are using their human rights to knock down these laws, to change the laws, to transform the systems. And we have to do that in the environmental context as well. And one of the most exciting developments there, I think is that, you know, there’s now all of this incredible science that looks at lands that are owned and managed by Indigenous Peoples and goes,: wow, look, these guys are actually managing these lands in such a way that there’s higher levels of biodiversity, higher levels of abundance, more healthy forests, higher levels of carbon storage.

David Boyd (22:31): For the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, you have a bunch of countries saying, well, we got to get to 30% by 2030. That’s an extraordinarily ambitious goal. And if it was done the wrong way, if it was done by drawing lines on a map and kicking people out, that would be like an absolutely disgraceful and unlawful violation of those people’s human rights. And since we have this science now in our back pocket, we can pull it out and say, look, the way forward is clearly to recognize the title and rights of Indigenous Peoples, and local communities and Afro-descendants. And that actually will get us to where we want to go in terms of protecting the biodiversity. That’s at the foundation of all life on earth. I’m absolutely bullish on a 30% target. There’s a bunch of countries that have already surpassed that and are doing just fine, thank you very much.

Governments need to work with Indigenous Peoples to protect the incredible lands we call home.

David Boyd (23:23): But to get there as a human species, like in the big countries, like in Brazil, in Canada, in Russia, there’s only one way to do that. And that way is in partnership with Indigenous Peoples. And co-management, I 100% agree with you, Michael, that’s the way you roll that out, but you have to be very clear from the outset that it’s going to take sitting down between governments and Indigenous Peoples and going, ‘okay, this land is incredible. The richness of life on this land is incredible. Let’s protect it. Let’s make sure we can continue to protect and preserve our culture and our rights. And let’s do that together.’ 

Porcupine: So, co-governance is a concept that seems to be gaining traction, but a lot of…back to entrenched systems, a lot of governments don’t even like to use that word in the same room with Indigenous governments, what’s going to really seem to happen,

Porcupine (24:13): Unfortunately, there’s going to have to be some catastrophic stream of events that are going to leave no more choice, but we’ll have paid a terrible price by then. So just curious, your sense of…as you look forward, what do you see? 

David Boyd: Well, I mean, I see it as those terrible catastrophic events are not future events. They’re what’s happening to our planet right now. I mean, we’re looking at the four horsemen of the apocalypse right now. We’re looking at a climate crisis. We’re looking at a biodiversity crisis. And for the love of God, like seven million people die every year because of air pollution. That’s a global health crisis. I mean, that’s one of the reasons I said today has been a challenging day, because a coroner’s inquest in London, England, for the first time anywhere in the world that I’m aware of, ruled that a nine-year-old girl’s death was directly caused by air pollution.

We have a vision for the best future, but we have to act now to get there.

David Boyd (25:03): And, you know, it’s really hard to connect those dots, but seven million people a year my friends. Two million people a year dying from water pollution. I don’t know how many people are going to die from the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s also connected to our dysfunctional, unhealthy relationship with the natural world. And so, the catastrophes are here. We have a vision for the future. It’s called the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. And every person on earth should sit down and read those 17 goals because they describe a vision of the future that no one in their right mind could possibly disagree with. No poverty, no hunger, equality for everyone, clean energy, healthy biodiversity and ecosystems, education for all. I mean, it’s a vision of like heaven on earth and we know the pathways forward, but we have to act now if we’re going to get there.

David Boyd (25:53): And I, you know…if I’m being absolutely brutally honest, I don’t think we’ll get there in 10 years, but we could get there in 20 years if we really were serious about transforming our world; about reconciling ourselves with Indigenous Peoples, with people of colour; with changing the systems that have become entrenched over the last couple of hundred years, we could get there. And it would be a world that we would all be absolutely thrilled to live in. And there are examples of countries in the world that have done those kinds of transformative changes. And we need to hold those up to the light and say, ‘look what happened here? Look what can be done.’ And then other people will say, ‘Hey, you know, that works. Let’s, go down that path.’

Porcupine (26:38): In one of our other interviews, we talked to an Elder named Stan McKay. We were talking to him about a Call to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action # 46, which calls for the creation of a covenant of reconciliation. One of the things we were doing was asking him, why a covenant? And he said, ‘a covenant means we have to be inclusive. We have to build right relationships among all the people. Not just some. We have to be able to open our arms to everybody and be strong as a big family that way.’ And he said, ‘and we have to restore our relationship with the earth.’ And that’s the covenant that we need to do. It’s not just a covenant between people. It’s a, broad-based re-establishing of a respectful relationship with the earth.

David Boyd (27:34): Yeah. You know, that really resonates with me. And I tell you: 

Every single person has the right to live in a healthy environment. 

And I gave a talk a few years ago at the University of Victoria. And one of my favourite people on this planet, Professor John Borrows came up to me afterwards, you know I’m sure you both know him… Anishinaabe and he said, ‘David, I love your passion for the right to help the environment.’ And in his very gentle and lovely way, he said, ‘but you need to talk about responsibilities.’ And, I’ll never forget that moment because it was such a brilliant and insightful thing to say, you know, in the West, we talk about human rights incessantly, and we talk about State’s obligations, but at the heart of this, I think we also have to talk about people’s responsibilities and we have responsibilities to each other.

David Boyd (28:22): And we also have responsibilities to this planet and to the other species with whom we share this planet. And so, I think like… I love that covenant idea, and I think that:

We need to reconcile the idea of rights with the idea of responsibilities. 

The report that I’m just finishing up right now is about safe and sufficient water as part of the right to a healthy environment. And one of the things, one of the recommendations I’m making in my report, which ties this back to the theme of our conversation today, is that just as we’ve recognized that Indigenous Peoples have an incredible stewardship ethic for the land, we can’t forget that they also have exactly the same incredible stewardship ethic for water. And yet there’s been much less progress at the global and national levels in recognizing Indigenous rights and tenures and governance over water.

David Boyd (29:17): And so that’s one of the points that I make in my report that needs to change as a priority recommendation. I say, nations need to incorporate the right to a healthy environment and then take a rights-based approach to all aspects of water governance. And one of the big pieces of that governance puzzle is recognizing Indigenous rights and tenures over water, so that they can regain their traditional role in stewardship and governance of water. 

I have to give you credit Merrell-Ann, because it was your book Denying the Source that really opened my eyes to these issues related to Indigenous water rights. But sometimes we have to turn to the courts to kick government’s when they’re just not willing to sit down. And so, I think of like, there are extraordinary things happening all over the world where people are taking their right to a healthy environment and using it in the court system to force governments to action.

Cases where people and lands have won based on their right to live in a healthy environment:

David Boyd (30:09): And sometimes those are like…my favorite case is a case that was brought about three years ago by 25 children and youth in Colombia, in South America. And they brought a case based on their constitutional right to live in a healthy environment, saying that deforestation in the Colombian portion of the Amazon rainforest violated their right to a healthy environment. And that case went to the Supreme Court of Colombia. And the Supreme Court of Colombia said to those young people, ‘you’re absolutely right.’ And ordered the government to come up with a plan to stop deforestation. And then the courts in Colombia have just built on that. And there are now at least 10 decisions of courts in Colombia saying that rivers have rights in much the way that the Whanganui River in New Zealand has legislated rights. These are court orders, and they’re saying, you know, these rivers have rights and you have to set up guardians, you have to establish human guardians that are a combination of Indigenous Peoples and scientists and young peoples to look after the rights of these rivers, because obviously rivers can’t speak for themselves. So that’s just another source of reconciliation. And I think that’s why this topic is so rich. And I’m so grateful to the two of you for delving into it.

Connection with nature is in our DNA.

Porcupine (31:25): David, I’d like to ask you just a bit more of a personal question. I just notice that you live on Pender Island close to nature off the coast of BC. And I was wondering if that plays a grounding kind of rule in your life as you deal with these important sometimes incredibly depressing complex issues.

David Boyd (31:45): Yeah, I’ll…to be honest, I couldn’t live or work without the connection to the land and water here. I mean it’s my medicine. I go out every day and either run through the forest or ride my bike around or, you know, kayak around the Island. And it’s just so replenishing, it’s so rejuvenating, it’s so restorative. And you don’t have to live in, like, you know, this is kind of like a temperate paradise here, but everywhere on earth, there is beauty, right? There are flowers, there are birds, there are insects that are extraordinary. There’s the sound of the wind, the colour of the sky, the stars in the night sky. I mean, those parts of nature…We’ve been evolving on this planet with life, humans for hundreds of thousands of years, life for literally billions of years. And we’re deeply connected here. Like, you know, human beings, we share DNA with every single form of life on this planet. And it’s only the last couple of hundred years where we’ve kind of lost track of our cousins, if you will. And we need to re-establish those bonds and that’ll help us with that broader reconciliation project because once you stop and smell the flowers and listen to the birds, those connections start to rebuild. And, I’m convinced that if we could get more people spending contemplative time in the natural world, that we would be a long ways towards our reconciliation objectives.

Porcupine (33:15): And one of the upsides I’ve seen about COVID and there’s so few of them, but one of them is: I’ve seen many more people as families, walking in parks, out in trails. And like the level of engagement, physical engagement outside I’ve seen in the city here has been dramatic.

David Boyd: I hope it continues too, and you know, there’s amazing scientific research about the human health benefits of just going for a walk in a park. I mean, or, or even like one of the most extraordinary studies I saw, they looked at a bunch of hospital patients, some of whose windows looked out on a tree and some of whose windows looked out on a brick wall. And, you know, they statistically proved that the people who are looking out at a tree got better faster. I mean, nature really is medicine. And of course, Indigenous Peoples know that better than anyone.

Would you rather be a ghost or a dog?

Porcupine (34:06): I can just hear the excitement in your voice and it amazes me because you work in such a tough field, you’ve got lots of energy and we’re very appreciative of that, David, and thank you so much for your time. So, would you rather be a ghost or a dog?

David Boyd (34:23): I’d rather be a dog for sure, because I don’t believe in ghosts, and dogs get to ramble around, dogs have a great sense of smell. You know, they’re four paws firmly grounded on the earth. So that’s a pretty easy choice. Although I would say if I could be the forefather of a dog and be a wolf, then I’d really be in my comfort zone.

Porcupine: I hope you continue to reign undisputed over the Barnacleman Triathlon. 

David Boyd: Well, there’s pretty good odds of that. Thank you very much. And thank you for having me as a guest. Thank you, more importantly, to both of you for the pioneering work.

Porcupine (35:06): Thank you, David. 

Thanks to you for listening to Porcupine Podcast. We hope you return and please feel free to rate and subscribe. Bye for now. 

Listen to the Episode

Episode 1: Reconciliation Through Conservation: Mining, the Environment, and Development that Conflicts with the Rights and Values of Indigenous Peoples
Episode 2: The Human Right to a Healthy Environment: How It Can Transform Society and Achieve Reconciliation
Episode 3: Addressing the Indigenous Health Gap: Reconciliation Through Bridging Western and Indigenous Medicines
Episode 4: Finding Healing After Surviving Residential Schools in Canada
Episode 5: Reconciliation: Redefined by an Indigenous Spiritual Leader
Episode 6: Reconciliation and Serving the World Through Sustainable Engineering
Episode 7: How Housing Could Save the Lives of MMIWG
Episode 8: Exploring Reconciliation through Clean Energy in Indigenous Communities
Episode 9: Reconciliation and Climate Change: Indigenous Peoples Taking Action
Episode 10: Indigenous Economic Reconciliation: The Way to a Strong Canadian Economy


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