I blog about environmental and social justice issues because I am very concerned about the health of the interdependent web of life of which we are a part.

Melting Arctic ice.......beautiful and frightening!

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Be Prepared

China will tomorrow start ramping up preparations for typhoons, dust storms and other extreme weather disasters as part of a 10-year plan to predict and prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Improved warning systems, new emergency drills and bolstered infrastructure will form the backbone of the new regulations, which are the country's most advanced measures yet to deal with natural disaster.   China has a long history of devastating floods and droughts, but officials said the problems were intensifying.  
"It is necessary to respond to the new situation under climate change to avoid and mitigate the losses caused by meteorological disasters," said Gao Fengtao, deputy director of the state council's legislative affairs office, as he unveiled the new policy. In recent years, he said, disasters were characterised by "sudden occurrence, wider variety, greater intensity and higher frequency in the context of global warming".   Officials warned this posed a threat to human life and a huge challenge to China's sustainable development.
China is taking climate change seriously: perhaps James Lovelock is correct when he states democracy is an impediment to reversing climate change. 

No - Mr Lovelock is not: we don't exactly luxuriate in democracy in Canada.  We get to vote in an election and then have absolutley no influence over provincial  and federal decisions. ( The Mike Harris government was even sued to prevent them from implementing their common sense revolution: the plaintiffs got absolutely nowhere.)  Moreover, we live in an electoral system where companies like Koch and Exxon pump millions of dollars into funding misinformation on climate change.  In a sense, Canada hasn't even tried democracy.....witness the Afghan detainee scandal. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Those With The Deepest Pockets have The Best Research?

A Greenpeace investigation has identified a little-known, privately owned US oil company as the paymaster of global warming sceptics in the US and Europe.  The environmental campaign group accuses Kansas-based Koch Industries, which owns refineries and operates oil pipelines, of funding 35 conservative and libertarian groups, as well as more than 20 congressmen and senators. Between them, Greenpeace says, these groups and individuals have spread misinformation about climate science and led a sustained assault on climate scientists and green alternatives to fossil fuels.   Greenpeace says that Koch Industries donated nearly $48m (£31.8m) to climate opposition groups between 1997-2008.
James Lovelock may be right: we may not be evolved enough to do anything about climate change.   But listen not to the voice of despair.  Instead,  print the Guardian article, save it, and memorize the institutes funded by Koch.   Then use the information to persaude and motivate doubters.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Speaking of Climate Change and Water

B.C's provincial environment Minister Barry Penner advised British Columbians on Monday to brace for possible drought in many areas of the province this summer following two months of unusually warm and dry weather.  It could also mean an earlier start to the forest-fire season, Penner warned.

Snowpacks in river basins across B.C. are below normal levels and with only four to six weeks of winter remaining, time is running out to make up the difference.

If the situation persists, it could pose serious problems for cattle ranchers who need both rain to foster vegetation growth and snowpack to refill lakes and stock watering ponds that have not yet recovered from drought conditions in the summer of 2009.  Snowpacks range from 65 per cent to 95 per cent of normal, according to a bulletin issued by the ministry's river forecast centre.

"I want to give advance notice to local governments, to individuals as well as industry, that we may have some water supply challenges this summer, and it's a good time to start looking at ways we can reduce our consumption over the summer months," Penner said.
Didn't Gwynne Dyer and others suggest wars might be fought about access to water as climate change alters rainfall patterns?   I hope we are a  long way away from armed conflict - but I did overhear (OK - I eavesdropped) vendors at the local farmers' market discussing  verbal conflicts about water rights last summer.   2010 looks as if it will be worse at the moment - perhaps we should begin reducing greenhouse gas emssions in a meaningful manner and working on plans to adapt to it.   Just a thought....

Wonder if the BC Government Is LIstening?

THE Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) has published a summary report on scientific studies into the environmental impact of current salmon farming operations.

The organisation says it reveals a devastating catalogue of malpractice in the way salmon farming is impacting wild salmon, sea trout and the marine environment, and provides incontrovertible proof that it is a sword of Damocles suspended over some of Scotland’s most iconic natural resources. It accuses the multi-million pound salmon farming industry of precipitating an environmental disaster, and calls for a nine-point survival plan to be actioned immediately.

The report’s main findings claim that:
Fish farm parasites can kill young wild salmon and sea trout
•Salmon farming could force wild salmon into extinction
•Salmon farming sewage can poison the sea bed

Paul Knight, CEO of the S&TA, states: “Aquaculture practiced sustainably can offer enormous benefits to mankind and significantly reduce the pressure on our precious wild oceanic stocks. But the scientific literature unequivocally demonstrates that fish farms, as presently constructed and operated, are having a disastrous impact on native fisheries, the wider environment and the many public benefits associated with it.
How many million fish went missing in the sockeye run last year?  Perhaps we should stop permitting fish farming in open net pens and do something about climate change which warms the waters the salmon return to.  Please send Gordon Campbell a letter on farmed salmon requesting that the provincial government shut down open net pens.  One could alos stop eating farmed salmon.

Let's Prove Him Wrong!

"I don't think we're yet evolved to the point where we're clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change," said Lovelock in his first in-depth interview since the theft of the UEA emails last November. "The inertia of humans is so huge that you can't really do anything meaningful."  One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is "modern democracy", he added. "Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."   He thinks only a catastrophic event would now persuade humanity to take the threat of climate change seriously enough, such as the collapse of a giant glacier in Antarctica, such as the Pine Island glacier, which would immediately push up sea level.
Gulp!  Abrogate democracy in order to deal with climate change?  I rather object to living in a totalitarian state .... but, acccording to Mr Lovelock, I may be left hoping for a catastrophic event.  Hobson's choice....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Water Woes

The headline point of the report is that by 2030, unless substantial changes are made to conserve water and build new supplies, there will be a 40% gap between projected water demand from a bigger, richer global population, and "accessible, reliable" supplies. 
Water shortages are not merely a future problem in the Interior of BC.  http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wsd/plan_protect_sustain/water_conservation/index.html
With 25% of the fresh flowing water in Canada, British Columbia appears to be richly endowed with water supplies. However, the increase in population growth, the expansion of industry and agriculture, and the potential for climate change impacts all place enormous pressure on the province’s water supplies. Snowmelt and rainfall contribute to the water supplies across B.C. But precipitation is limited in the summer months, when the demand for water increases and the supply availability decreases. Water conservation is critical in summer months but year round water conservation has significant benefits as well. Reducing water consumption decreases the amount of water that requires treatment, as well as sewage and infrastructure costs.

Please click on the above link for a drought map of the Pacific Region according to the government of Canada.  And I predict the drought will worsen this summer due to El Nino......

I'm very glad Kamloops City council decided to install water meters.

Monday, March 22, 2010

High Temperatures Ahead

From Climate Progress:
NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has released a draft paper “Current GISS Global Surface Temperature Analysis.” It is a must read for warming junkies, but, as James Hansen notes in an e-mail, “it is too long for popular use.” So Hansen offers “some of the main conclusions,” as well as a description of a rather shocking hack of the GISS website (all of which is reprinted below). The first conclusion is:
1) Contrary to popular belief, global warming has not stopped nor has the rate of warming even slowed down in the past decade (Figure 21).
The paper predicts a new record 12-month global temperature record, and says the calendar year (2010) is likely to set the global surface temperature unless “El Nino conditions deteriorate rapidly by mid 2010 into La Nina conditions” [as happened in 2007]. NASA notes: This new record temperature will be particularly meaningful because it occurs when the recent minimum of solar irradiance (http://www.pmodwrc.ch/ pmod.php?topic=tsi/ composite/ SolarConstant) is having its maximum cooling effect.
The ClimateProgress blog contains the link to the NASA article should you wish to read the entire draft paper.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Transition Towns Totnes

Vancouver, BC Under Water

Ok - not quite. 

Bing Thom Architects has investigated how global warming might transform Vancouver’s shoreline if no dikes are built. ...Keenan, who chairs the Vancouver planning commission, pointed out that sea levels are based on average tide, but climate change will be accompanied by increased storm surges. “You have to add on high tide and the impact of a storm to look at the development area that will be impacted,” she said....So what is the likelihood of dramatically higher sea levels? According to Hadi Dowlatabadi, a professor at UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, a key consideration is what happens to the glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica. In a phone interview with the Straight, Dowlatabadi explained that as the oceans absorb more heat, they will expand. “Our current thoughts are that the amount of heat that is being absorbed by the oceans has already committed us to a sea-level rise of 40 or 50 centimetres this century,” he said.....Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey reported last month that ice shelves are retreating from the southern section of Antarctica because of climate change. This area contains five major ice shelves, including the Wilkins Shelf, which has lost more than 4,000 square kilometres since 1998. The Larsen B ice shelf, which was in the same area, collapsed in 2002.
If we cared about our grandchildren,  we would all be working to reverse climate change. And working to mitigate its effects and  figure out how to adapt.  And working to create a truly sustainable way of life.....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Local Food Debate

Right now, our industrial food system is not sustainable. It uses too much fossil fuel and is destroying the environment – we are eroding our soils, chemical fertilizers are destroying our waterways and oceans. The only way we can feed ourselves into the future is by cultivating local and sustainable food systems.
As I see it, the Green Revolution put an end to hunger and starvation in many parts of the world. I can live with some of the tradeoffs that were made. Look at the whole picture of large-scale monoculture. Forests in countries that are at the level of development of Chile and higher are seeing either an increase in the area of their landmass covered by forests or, when there is no room left to grow as in Japan, an improvement in their quality. Large-scale monocultures give us the opportunity to produce an ever-growing amount of food on a given amount of land.
You can join the converstion by asking the experts on Thursday at noon, ET.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It's Not A Problem if It Isn't Covered in The Media

A dramatic reduction in Canadian media coverage of climate change science issues is the result of the Harper government introducing new rules in 2007 to control interviews by Environment Canada scientists with journalists, says a newly released federal document.

"Scientists have noticed a major reduction in the number of requests, particularly from high profile media, who often have same-day deadlines," said the Environment Canada document. "Media coverage of climate change science, our most high-profile issue, has been reduced by over 80 per cent."

Many (federal climate change) scientists are recognized experts in their field, have received media training, and have successfully carried out media interviews for many years," said the document, leaked by an Environment Canada employee who asked not to be named.

"Our scientists are very frustrated with the new process. They feel the intent of the policy is to prevent them from speaking to media."
Climate change isn't happening if we don't fund research and don't discuss it in the media, right? Isn't this the party that was elected on a platform of accountability and transparency?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tar Sands Producers Have Plans to Spend Money on Expansion

The thought-provoking new WWF/Co-op report, Opportunity Cost of the Tar Sands, puts into perspective the estimated £254 billion ($379 billion) that the big oil companies are planning to invest in tar sands between now and 2025.  It explains how this money could instead be used to kick-start ambitious green energy plans in Europe, or to enable the world to hit half the UN’s Millennium Development Goals in the 49 least-developed countries, which would mean averting four million child deaths annually.The money that oil companies want to pump into tar sands would cover the cost of the proposed Desertec Industrial Initiative, linking North African solar plants into a supergrid supplying 15% of Europe’s electricity by 2050. Or it could fund a Europe-wide shift to electric vehicles.
"If Canada extracts its probable reserves of oil from tar sands, this will almost single-handedly commit the world to dangerous levels of CO2 in the atmosphere — contributing to dangerous climate change, destroying ecosystems and habitats around the world," said Butfield. "The $379-billion question is: Will the oil companies listen? For the planet's sake, they have to."
Reason totters on its throne ......379 Billion dollars to extract dirty oil and emit how much greenhouse gases?

Jim Prentice Wants Your Input - actually, He is Legally Required to Ask for It.

To maintain our standard of living in the 21st century, Canada must address the challenge of environmental sustainability. The issues are well known; we need to address climate change and air quality, maintain water availability and quality, and protect our natural heritage. Environmental issues must be balanced with economic considerations. By doing so, we can make long-term sustainable progress on the environment that is integrated with progress on the economic and social agenda for Canadians.  I am pleased to present to Canadians this consultation paper, Planning for a Sustainable Future: A Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada, that will both strengthen how government promotes environmental sustainability, and improve the transparency and accountability of how we do it....Your comments on the draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy can be provided by email to sdo-bdd@ec.gc.ca or mailed to the Sustainable Development Office at Environment Canada at the following address by July 12, 2010.
Please reply to Mr Prentice by June 25, 2010 as the comment period closes two weeks after the final strategy is required to be completed. (The pertinent law requires 120 days of consultation with the public - and prorogation forced the consultation period to end after the deadline for completion of the enviornmental sustainability strategy.) Please instruct the Honorable Mr Prentice to take climate change seriously and invest in clean energy and green jobs.  Additional new funds should be made available to the  Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences. 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Transistion Town Totnes

Peak Oil and Climate Change

China's demand for oil jumped by an "astonishing" 28% in January compared with the same month a year earlier, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says. The body added that demand for oil in 2010 would be underpinned by rising demand from emerging markets, with half of all growth coming from Asia.
It’s Wednesday, and the week’s US oil inventories numbers will soon be out. I have no clue what they will say, nor much interest, either. But others do. Exactly why oil traders and speculators think the data has anything to do with the state of world oil demand is beyond me. .... It certainly wasn’t US fuel demand that took oil prices over $100 in the first place, and it won’t be US fuel demand that will push them back into that range anytime soon. US oil consumption is almost 3 million barrels per day short of its pre-recession peak.
Looks suspicioulsy like peak oil  is almost here.....Peak oil and climate change are intertwined problems: the solution to both is transitioning to a low carbon economy. Subsidising  tar sands porducer is not a lotng term solution: please let our Prime Minsiter know thaat we want Canada to invest in  clean energy and green technology. We want Canada to plan for a low carbon future - because we're going to get one whether we like it or not. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'm Gonna Read This!

Excerpted at The Tyee
Today's threats demand that we hone a new sensibility, the capacity to recognize the hidden web of connections between human activity and nature's systems and the subtle complexities of their intersections. This awakening to new possibilities must result in a collective eye opening, a shift in our most basic assumptions and perceptions, one that will drive changes in commerce and industry as well as in our individual actions and behaviors.

A velvet climate revolution for sure!

Ethical Investing

Shareholders of Suncor Energy Inc. will soon know more about the costs of carbon in the company’s business. ... Enbridge Inc. will provide additional disclosure about its Northern Gateway oil-pipeline project. These Calgary companies didn’t reach these decisions independently, however. In each case, the commitment to expanded disclosure about environmental issues came after talks with executives at Ethical Funds Co., an institutional investor with social responsibility as part of its core mission.  The efforts of Ethical Funds illustrate a growing place for environmental concerns in the corporate governance movement.....Now activist institutional investors are asking to bring carbon costs and water quality to the annual shareholder ballot.
Businesses that ignore climate change ignore both opportunities and risks.  Firstly, they ignore outright threats  to their business - such as the risk that they won't have available water when they need it. ( Just ask the Merritt rancher that was isntructed to turn off his irrigation pumps last fall because the kokanee were spawning.)  Secondly, they ignore the opportunity to positon themselves as environmental leaders and attract more customers or investors by doing so.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

We Should Install Water Meters In Kamloops

I have the greatest respect for Anita Strong: however,  I feel she has not considered all of the ramifications of her opposition to water meters.  She wrote to the editor of the Kamloops This Week on March 5, 2010 expressing her distress at the potential installation of meters in Kamloops.  (Water meters were rejected in a referendum held in 2001. ) She asked "What is the meaning of the referendum results of the previous administration? Nothing? "  I'm wondering for what period of time  a vote should  be binding? For example, the law on slavery was voted on several times in Britain  until it was repealed - after said law  was upheld the first time. Would Ms. Strong suggest that the issue should never have been reviewed after it was upheld the first time?  Should slavery still be legal? Of course not - times change and no one approves of slavery in  2010.  The referendum rejecting water meters was held almost ten years ago - I think the zeitgeist has changed.   It is at least fair to ask the question : would the installation of water meters benefit Kamloops?

I feel it would.

The City of Kamloops states that a Kamloopsian consumes 800 liters of water per day.  800 liters!!!!!!Swedes use just  200 liters per person per day - and the average British Columbian uses just over 400 liters of water per day .  In 2004, the average Canadian used 329 liters of water per day according to the Real Estate Institute of Canada.  Using all that water has environmental impacts .  We return less water than we remove to the ecosystem - and the water returned is of a lower quality than that withdrawn. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, that bastion of environmental concern, states “high [water] consumption places stress on rivers, lakes and groundwater aquifers and may require dams and flooding with serious ecological impacts.”

And then the spectre of climate change rattles its chains. 

Historic data suggest that many parts of British Columbia are already starting to experience some of the impacts of climate change. ....Although warmer temperatures may be appealing, seemingly small changes in climate can have significant ecological, social, and economic consequences. For example, slightly warmer [winters]  have contributed to the devastating mountain pine beetle infestation in the B.C. interior. There are growing concerns about summer water shortages in the agriculturally-significant Okanagan region. The rate of global warming projected for the 21st century is much faster than observed changes during the 20th century, and likely faster than at any time during the past 10,000 years.  Rising air temperatures will reduce the amount of precipitation that falls as snow in the winter and in the mountain regions, resulting in lower river levels during the dry summer period. Higher temperatures in the summer will increase the need for water — for people, aquatic life, and irrigation in agriculture. What’s more, the increased heat will heighten the evaporation of water, leading to water loss. This will make it even harder to ensure adequate water supplies.
Kelowna began installing water meters in the middle 1990s.  Their average water consumption per capital per day has dropped to 400 liters per day since then.  The installation of water meters in Kamloops combined with educational programs would drop water consumption in Kamloops to similar levels.  Not only would that be good for the environment, it would benefit our pocketbooks. The water treatment plant cost millions: increasing its capacity would cost millions more.  Wouldn't it make more sense to use less water instead of squandering our tax dollars?

Transition Towns

Two of us attended a Transition Towns Workshop this weekend in Vernon, BC:  it was unlike most workshops I've ever been to.  I was astonished, energized, strengthened, and inspired - you could have knocked me over with a typewriter!   Transition Towns are places that, led by an initiating committee,  are working to solve the problems of peak oil and climate change locally.   That sentence sounds impossible, doesn't it?  It isn't - the city that I have raved about previously, Portland, Oregon - is a Transition Town.  ( Portland's greenhouse gas emissions will be 10 % below 1990 levels this year! )

But it isn't just the successes that make the Transition Model so cool: coolness is implicit in its philosophy.  It is best describeds by the phrase "Transition is a party, not a protest!"  The model is democratic and inclusive; focuses on both exterior results and inner transformations, creates social connections and fun, and embraces uncertainty.  In fact, their UK website states:
We truly don't know if this will work. Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale. What we are convinced of is this:
■if we wait for the governments, it'll be too little, too late
■if we act as individuals, it'll be too little
■but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.
Check out their website at http://www.transitiontowns.org/TransitionNetwork/TransitionNetwork
 Or research a Canadian city  - Victoria, BC, and Vancouver, BC are both transition towns. Or go to a Transition Towns workshop with your friends.  And start a party!
(Yes, the reference to "obsolete" technology was deliberate. )

Monday, March 8, 2010

BC Government Is Changing Cosmetic Pesticide Legislation

The Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria is encouraging you to "learn about provincial government's plans to ban the sale and use of cosmetic chemical pesticides through legislation."
Please click on the link above - scroll down slightly to Cosmetic Pesticide Legislation - and read the ELC's response which is intended to assist citizens in drafting their own response to the Ministry of Environment's questions on  pesticide use.  

This is our opportunity to have our voices heard - please draft a response and forward it to the BC governemnt.  I'll post mine on this website as soon as I can.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

March 4, 2010 Meeting 7:00 pm TRUSU Boardroom

The folks who brought the 350 rallies to Kamloops last fall are now asking for the public’s participation in a new venture. Jan Greenwood, chair of the Social and Environmental Action Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, says the group is following up on a promise to kick start a local environmental/sustainability network with an evening meeting on March 4 at TRU.

Ideally, the group would like to see involvement from a broad spectrum of community organizations, everything from fly fishers to local food networks to backcountry users to birdwatchers to riverkeepers to conservationists. “Everyone has a vested interest in maintaining a healthy environment to pass on to our children,” says Greenwood. “Each community organization comes at it from a slightly different angle, but there are many places where our interests overlap. Our goal is to set up connections between these groups, and set up a real web of communication.”

What would this community network look like? What form would it take? How would it be set up? Those are questions that will be answered at the organizational workshop planned for 7 pm March 4 at the TRUSU Boardroom at TRU’s Independent Centre.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

NASA Photo Of Pine Beetle Kill

Mountain pine beetle populations have exploded across western North America, as fewer colder nights freeze the insects and keep their numbers in check. The beetles feed and lay eggs in pine trees; eventually, a large enough infestation can kill the tree. The current infestation in British Columbia’s forests, which began in the 1990s, is ten times larger than any other on record. In this 2006 false-color image, trees damaged and destroyed by beetles, shown in red, yellow and brown, cover a wide swath in the Cariboo region of British Columbia. Healthy, growing forests take up carbon dioxide (a powerful greenhouse gas) and produce oxygen. Dead forests release carbon dioxide when trees decay, and could accelerate warming. The Canadian Forest Service predicts that beetle-damaged Canadian forest tracts will release 220 megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 2020.
Click on the link, scroll to the bottom, and click on animals/plants  in the image gallery to see the satellite photo.  Dead trees cover a good portion of the BC Interior, not just the Cariboo.  Ask any forestry worker if climate change is a problem. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

NASA and Climate Change

Pondering Syncrude's potential legal liability  for despoilation of the commons brought greenhouse gas emissions and climate change to mind.  I wondered what, if anything, NASA had to say about the nasty winter the east is suffering through.  Is is proof that climate change is not happening?  No such luck.
Hansen explains that the 5-year and 11-year temperature averages, i.e. the planet's annual average temperature, averaged over 5 or 11 years, are valuable because they place less emphasis on single-year variability. These running averages show a consistent rise in the Earth's temperature over the past 30 years.  Allowing for this variability, global warming theory does not posit a linear, year-to-year increase in temperatures. Nor does it say that harsh winter weather will simply end. What it does say is that increasing concentrations of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, with unchecked growth, will contribute a greater and greater warming influence on the world's climate.
Climate change is happening as I write.  Please send a letter to the Right Honorable Stephen Harper asking him to implement science based reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions.  Ask him to invest in clean energy and green technology a la Germany if  he wishes to stimulate the economy and get people back to work.
UPDATE:  NASA found water on the moon!
Using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists have detected ice deposits near the moon's north pole. NASA's Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 1 to 9 miles (2 to15 km) in diameter. Although the total amount of ice depends on its thickness in each crater, it's estimated there could be at least 1.3 trillion pounds (600 million metric tons) of water ice.  "The emerging picture from the multiple measurements and resulting data of the instruments on lunar missions indicates that water creation, migration, deposition and retention are occurring on the moon."

I wonder if climate change deniers will also deny that water exists on our moon....

Syncrude Goes to Court

Call me naive: I'm  wondering why Syncrude is fighting federal and provincial charges in the case of the dead ducks in their tailings pond.  Syncrude has apologized in public for the  1600 duck deaths.  So why isn't Syncrude taking its legal fees and putting its money into measures to prevent this from happening again? 
Not only that, their public relations staff could announce that Syncrude fully accepts responsibility amd os saving taxpayers the cost of a full trial. The answer, of course, is that the issue at stake is bigger than a one time incident. 
Speaking outside the courthouse Monday, Sierra Club Prairie director Lindsay Telfer said the case goes far beyond the ducks, and the "tailings ponds themselves are on trial.  I think that this incident specifically showed the world just how toxic the tailings ponds are," she said. "We know now that the waters have killed 1,600 ducks, we know that those waters are leaking into the Athabasca [River] and we know downstream communities have significant health problems."  Environmentalists and observers from the oil industry are watching the trial closely because it could set a precedent for tailings-pond operators.
And there you have it: tar sands producers are worried this case will set a legal precedent.  They fear they will be forced to take responsibility for their despoilation of the commons.  And if Syncrude loses, might tar sand producers also be forced to account for their emission of greenhouse gases?

 Watch for this case to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada if Syncrude loses. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

My Favourite Supporter of Democracy

MPs do work hard – what with all the committee work, constituency work and political work. They just don't work hard at their real job. Although they sat for 130 days last year, it took only hours to approve spending of $240-billion, which works out to roughly $1.8-billion per sitting. With no sense of embarrassment and no appreciation of the dark irony of it, they spend much more time increasing federal spending than they do in supervising it. Prorogation kept these seditious MPs out of the House for 22 days. History would suggest that these spendthrifts are coming back too soon.
Spendthrifts?   Ah yes - Mr Reynolds prefers the tactics that the Right Honorable Mr Bennett used to deal with the great depression in the 1930s - do nothing.  That worked out really well  - both for the economy and the citizens of Canada.    Perhaps when Mr Reynolds is successfull in shutting down all democratic process that lead to spending government funds, we can rename Bennett buggies for Mr Reynolds.
(For Mr Reynolds' views on democracy, please see my February post entitled No Wonder Businessmen Loved the Nazis.)

The Olympics Are Over

Vancouver is waking up to a hangover this morning: the Olympics are over. They ended well  for Canada - we won two gold models in hockey.  Will they end well for the Right Honorable Stephen Harper?  Have Canadians forgotten about the torture of Afghan detainees?  Has the best ever Olympics afterglow gone to our heads - have we fogotten our anger at the  proroguing of Parliament and the dirty tricks to shut down the committee investigating the torture of Afghan detainees?

 Has Mr Harper crafted and perfected a vision to inspire the nation as he "recalibrated" during the extended winter  break?  Will the throne speech and the new budget presented by his Finance Minister demonstrate leadership?  Will the Conservatives fund clean energy and sign on to meaningful cuts to Canada's greenhouse gas emissions?  Will we actually do something about climate change  ?  Will Canada begin a velvet climate revolution instead of playing follow the leader with the Americans?

It should be an interesting week.....