The Acid Rain Formula
A recipe for resurrecting the environmental movement’s effectiveness.
In mid-October 1980, a current and former environment minister and a group of environmentalists sat down for coffee at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel to plot the demise of acid rain.
The coffee party included John Roberts (federal environment Minister), John Fraser (his predecessor), George Rejhon (Canada’s environment counselor from the Embassy in DC), Monte Hummel (WWF
Canada head), Adèle Hurley (head environment researcher for Ontario’s Liberal opposition leader Stuart Smith), Michael Perley (Canadian Environmental Law Association) and Mark Rudolph (a student of Mr. Hummel’s).
Mr. Fraser and Minister Roberts laid out the situation: “In two weeks, Ronald Reagan will win the election. We cannot beat up on him. We need a third-party to kick up a fuss to keep the issue of acid rain alive. This group will need to have an office in Canada and one in the US to build support for action against acid rain in Congress and with other US officials.”
The consensus was that the stunningly beautiful and plain-speaking 26-year old Adèle Hurley would be just the person to get the acid rain message across to Washington power brokers. Ms. Hurley said she would go on the condition that “Mark takes my job at Queen’s Park.”
Mr. Rudolph was happy to oblige, and thus was born the Canadian Coalition on Acid Rain, the most successful single-issue environmental group in North American history.
REMEBERING THE RECIPE FOR THE COALITION ON ACID RAIN
• Two hyper-competent, media-savvy people who own the issue: Canadian Coalition on
Acid Rain led by Adèle Hurley in DC and Michael Perley in Toronto
• Two million environmentalists with a common front: Canadian Coalition on Acid
Rain grew to include 58 member groups, representing over 2 million Canadians
• One Prime Minister firmly behind it: Brian Mulroney
• One champion MP: Stan Darling
• One President firmly behind it: George Bush Sr
• Two Premiers firmly behind it: David Peterson, Robert Bourassa
• Several Environment Ministers: John Roberts, John Fraser, Tom “terrific” McMillan,
Clifford Lincoln (Quebec), Jim Bradley (Ontario)
• A smattering of celebrities, media, progressive business people and wealthy cottagers to spread the word and tap funds: Margaret Atwood, Muskoka Lakes Association, Martin Connell, Michael De Pencier, Sonja Bata, Bob Schad, Adrienne Clarkson, Norman Jewison, Farley Mowat, Mordechai Richler, David Suzuki, etc.
• One commando team inside a government that serves as the testing ground: Mark
Rudolph, Gary Gallon, David Oved, Jim Bradley
Know your stuff: Know your science and your solution. Charlie Ferguson, Inco’s head of environment was frustrated that the company’s leadership would not let him make more progress on reducing pollution. Over a lunch with an old sparring partner who was between jobs, Mr. Ferguson admitted that it was doable for Inco to make over 50 per cent reductions in SO2 emissions without breaking the bank. Several weeks later, Mr. Ferguson’s sparring partner landed a job as chief of staff to the Ontario Minister of Environment.
Head off criticism by putting political masters in the belly of the beast before they take action: In July 1985, Minister Bradley went on a road trip to Wawa, Kid Creek, and Sudbury to tour each of the main facilities responsible for the province’s acid-rain related emissions.
Mix in commando team: The Ontario Ministry of Environment assigned an A-Team to come up with an acid rain plan. The A-Team held weekly meetings on the 14th floor, with the Minister within earshot on the 15th floor to get quick direction at decision points. The first A-Team meeting was held August 3, 1985, and the Countdown Acid Rain program, beamed by satellite to six cities and announced to an all-party standing ovation on December 17, 1985, made page one of the New York Times the day after.