CBC News · Posted: Jun 19, 2020 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: June 19
About 1,000 kilometres south of the North Pole lies Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago. Home to roughly 2,600 people, it also has another, larger, more famous population: that of 1,057,151 seeds.
This is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV), an effort to preserve seeds from around the globe that could eventually be lost as a result of natural or human factors. The vault’s inventory includes everything from African varieties of wheat and rice to European and South American varieties of lettuce and barley.
In fact, Indigenous people have long preserved seeds because they have important cultural ties within the community.
“There’s this very strong relationship that people have with seeds,” said Alejandro Argumedo, director of programs at the U.S.-based Swift Foundation, which aims to preserve biocultural diversity. “In the place where I come from, for instance, seeds are considered to have feelings and heart. And so you’ve got to treat them with lots of love.”
It’s a deeply reciprocal relationship, he said.
“There’s this big difference between just looking at seeds like biological materials that are important for farming,” said Argumedo, who is Quechua from Ayacucho, Peru. “Indigenous people see them more as members of an extended family and to which you have to [tend] with care. Because there will be a reciprocity — they will be providing you … food, will be caring about you.”
Argumedo cites the “qachun waqachi” potato variety used in a marriage ritual, where the bride (“qachun” in the Quechua language) gently peels the potato to show her love and caring for her husband-to-be as well as for Pacha Mama, or Mother Earth.
“The ritual articulates the Andean belief that love and respect between humans depends on and is nurtured by the land and epitomizes the commitment of couples to protect their seeds and food systems,” he said.
Terrylynn Brant, a Mohawk seed keeper from Ohsweken, Ont., has dedicated her life to this effort.
“I do a lot of work that supports other faith keepers in the work that they do. I support healers, seers, people like that … because sometimes people need to use a certain food for a certain ceremony,” she said. “I treat [seeds] with honour and respect.”
Argumedo said that the preservation of specific seeds is important in Indigenous communities where rituals require the best, purest form of seed.
“People are more interested in different features or characteristics of the seed. So people do selection for cultural reasons. And many of those traits are associated with taste, are associated with the colour and shape, because they will be used in rituals or social gatherings to create community cohesion,” he said.
“And if you want to have a better relationship with your neighbours, you better have the right seeds, because you will be offering it as a way of respect.”
Hannes Dempewolf, senior scientist and head of global initiatives at Crop Trust, a German-based organization that’s involved with the Svalbard seed vault, said there’s another important reason for preserving genetic diversity of seeds.
“Every seed, every variety is unique in itself,” he said. “They have a unique set of genes that we have no idea what they could be useful for in the future.”
Global Climate Scam: An Interview with Lord Christopher Monckton
Climate Misinformer: Christopher Monckton (Skeptical Science)
Christopher Monckton is a British consultant, policy adviser, writer, columnist, and hereditary peer. While not formally trained in science, Monckton is one of the most cited and widely published climate skeptics, having even been invited to testify to the U.S. Senate and Congress on several occasions.
Canada, Japan work behind scenes to water down statement on climate change, CP reports
CBC NewsPosted: Jun 08, 2015 11:02 AM ET Last Updated: Jun 08, 2015 2:47 PM ET
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes his place for the official family photo with outreach partners at the G7 Summit in Garmisch, Germany, on Monday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has agreed to a G7 commitment to deep cuts in carbon emissions by 2050 — with an eventual stop in the use of fossil fuels by the end of the century.
The call for a low-carbon footprint will “require a transformation in our energy sectors,” Harper said Monday at a news conference in Germany, following the two-day G7 summit.
“Nobody’s going to start to shut down their industries or turn off the lights,” he said. “We’ve simply got to find a way to create lower-carbon emitting sources of energy — and that work is ongoing.”
RAW: Harper says G7 unanimous on environment1:47
Canada and Japan blocked attempts at a stronger statement on binding greenhouse gas reduction targets, according to The Canadian Press sources who saw a working draft of the G7 communiqué, which was released today as the summit wrapped up.
“Nobody’s going to start to shut down their industries or turn off the lights.”– Prime Minister Stephen Harper
“We emphasize that deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required with a decarbonization of the global economy over the course of this century,” the G7 leaders said in their final communiqué.
“We commit to doing our part to achieve a low-carbon global economy in the long-term including developing and deploying innovative technologies striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050 and invite all countries to join us in this endeavour.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been pushing the G7 to endorse a pledge to reach zero carbon emissions.
“Canada and Japan are the most concerned about this one,” said one source who was privy to discussions but would only speak on the condition of anonymity. “The two of those countries have been the most difficult on every issue on climate.”
During question period on Monday, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the government’s role in “toning down” the communiqué leaves “Canada with an environmental black eye on the world stage.”
The G7 commitment comes in the midst of a United Nations climate conference in Bonn, Germany, and ahead of a more major one in Paris in December that hopes to negotiate a new, post-2020 global climate agreement.
Members of the Climate Action Network, an international coalition of more than 850 organizations, called the G7 agreement a “groundbreaking” one that will help push forward the new global agreement.
“The course is right, but more speed, ambition and specific actions are needed,” Samantha Smith, leader of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative, said in a statement.
“The course is right, but more speed, ambition and specific actions are needed.”– Samantha Smith, WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative
“Developing countries are ready to move fast and far on renewables, but they need finance and technology from rich countries to do it. We need to see more of these concrete commitments for immediate action.”
Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement that the agreement is a sign that “the end of the fossil fuel era is inevitable, and the dawning of the age of renewables is unstoppable.
“Now G7 countries must increase the ambition of their domestic climate plans, so as to do their fair share of meeting this global goal.”
Harper slams Putin at G7
The two-day G7 summit in the Bavarian alps touched on various international issues, including the global economic recovery, fighting terrorism and its financing, as well as the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The G7 — which includes the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, as well as the president of the European Council and the president of the European Commission — was formerly the G8 until Russia was suspended last year overits involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.
Harper described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a disruptive force whose former role in the organization inhibited co-operation.
“Mr. Putin makes it his business to be deliberately troublesome,” he said.
While there may be cases in which G7 countries have to deal with Putin “because Russia remains an important country on some issues,” Harper emphasized that Putin does not share the values of G7 members.
“The G7 is a group of countries that share fundamental values and objectives in the world. We share similar types of economies so we share similar problems. We also share similar values — deep, progressive and aggressive commitments towards democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law,” he said.
Last updated Wednesday, May. 13 2015, 12:40 PM EDT
Lax Kw’alaams members voting in the final of three meetings have unanimously rejected a $1-billion cash offer from Pacific NorthWest LNG, declining to give aboriginal consent sought by the project while creating uncertainty for plans to export liquefied natural gas from British Columbia’s north coast.
The lure of the money, which would be spread over 40 years, is being overshadowed by what the native group views as excessive environmental risks. The Lax Kw’alaams fear the Pacific NorthWest LNG project led by Malaysia’s Petronas will harm juvenile salmon habitat in Flora Bank, located next to the proposed export terminal site on Lelu Island.
“The terminal is planned to be located in the traditional territory of the Lax Kw’alaams,” the aboriginal group’s band council said in a statement Wednesday. “Only Lax Kw’alaams have a valid claim to aboriginal title in the relevant area – their consent is required for this project to proceed. There are suggestions governments and the proponent may try to proceed with the project without consent of the Lax Kw’alaams. That would be unfortunate.”
In the first vote in Lax Kw’alaams, 181 eligible voters unanimously stood up to indicate their opposition to the LNG proposal. In the second vote in Prince Rupert, the pattern continued as 257 eligible voters declined to provide aboriginal consent. Tuesday night’s vote at a downtown Vancouver hotel made it three unanimous rejections in a row, said Lax Kw’alaams Mayor Garry Reece.
In Vancouver, 112 Lax Kw’alaams members stood up to convey their no votes, two sources close to the native group said. Dozens of others phoned and e-mailed band officials to signal their opposition.
The voting tally “sends an unequivocal message this is not a money issue,” the Lax Kw’alaams band council said. “This is environmental and cultural.”
Mr. Reece and 12 elected councillors will make the final decision on behalf of the 3,600-member band. They left the door open for good-faith negotiations, as long as those discussions don’t involve being too close to Flora Bank.
“Lax Kw’alaams is open to business, to development and to LNG,” including talks with Pacific NorthWest LNG, according to the statement.
An estimated 800 people live in the community of Lax Kw’alaams, while roughly 1,800 are based in Prince Rupert and another 1,000 in Vancouver and elsewhere.
Besides the cash offer from Pacific NorthWest LNG, the B.C. government is willing to transfer 2,200 hectares of Crown land, valued at $108-million and spread over the Prince Rupert harbour area and other property near Lax Kw’alaams. TransCanada Corp.’s Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline plan is also under scrutiny by the First Nations group.
The band council said there needs to be better co-ordination among the provincial and federal governments, with the latter represented by the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA). Lelu Island and nearby waters are under jurisdiction of the port authority.
“To date, it is the considered opinion of the Lax Kw’alaams that there has been indifference to the point of negligence or willful blindness, or both, by PRPA in respect” of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project, according to the band council’s statement.
Pacific NorthWest LNG filed its environmental impact statement in February, 2014. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency expressed concerns to the joint venture in May, 2014. Catherine Ponsford, the agency’s project manager for the Pacific and Yukon region, emphasized the need for Pacific NorthWest LNG to take heed of what is currently the picturesque setting of Lelu Island. “The project would convert large parts of Lelu Island, an undeveloped area of 192 hectares, into an industrial site,” she wrote in a five-page letter to Michael Lambert, Pacific NorthWest LNG’s head of environmental and regulatory affairs.
Ms. Ponsford sent another letter to Mr. Lambert in February, noting that Pacific NorthWest LNG agreed to conduct “3-D sediment dispersion modelling” to study the complex system that effectively holds Flora Bank in place. Ten weeks after that letter, Pacific NorthWest LNG submitted a new study by engineering firm Stantec Inc., dated May 5, that argued the construction of a suspension bridge and trestle from Lelu Island to Chatham Sound would not have an adverse effect on salmon habitat in Flora Bank.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which began its review of Pacific NorthWest LNG in April, 2013, is expected to rule on the project by October.
“The significance of the Skeena River estuary to area First Nations cannot be overstated,” the band council said. “Lax Kw’alaams has on staff a team of scientists directed to assess the environmental challenges posed by the existing design for movement of LNG from the terminal.”
Summary: Despite the fact that 81% of Canadians accept that temperature on Earth is increasing, researchers have revealed that Canadians are generally misinformed about the science of climate change and are divided over the construction of new oil pipelines.
Despite the fact that 81% of Canadians accept that temperature on Earth is increasing, Université de Montréal researchers have revealed that Canadians are generally misinformed about the science of climate change and are divided over the construction of new oil pipelines. The researchers’ study also found that 70% of Canadians perceive significant changes in weather where they live; 60% believe that weather in Canada has been getting more extreme; and 87% believe these changes are somewhat or very likely the consequence of a warming planet.
The nationally representative telephone survey interviewed 1401 adult Canadians during the month of October, yielding a margin of error of +/- 2.6% in 19 of 20 samples. The study, run concurrently with researchers at the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College in the US, highlights a stark contrast between the views of Canadians and Americans on the existence of climate change and support for pipelines, yet remarkable convergence on perceptions of weather and climate-related knowledge.
Hardly opinions based in fact
80% of Canadians, versus 60% of Americans, believe there is solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has increased over the past four decades. This figure was significantly lower in Alberta (72%) and the Prairies (Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 60%.)
Of those who perceive an increase in temperature, 61% attribute the warming to human causes, compared to only 45% in the US. The figure was significantly higher in Quebec, at 71%, and significantly lower in Alberta, at 41%.
70% of Canadians perceive significant changes in weather patterns where they live, with 60% of Canadians perceive national weather is becoming more extreme, with highest figures in Ontario and on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. These figures were 58% and 68% respectively for Americans.
Extreme weather is either somewhat (40%) or very (47%) likely the result of global warming, according to 87% of Canadians (and 68% of Americans.) Moreover, 59% of Canadians believe climate change will begin to harm people living in Canada within the next 10 to 25 years. A plurality of Canadians (35%) believe it already is.
Finally, two out of three Canadians (67%) believe the government is either not too prepared (34%) or not at all prepared (33%) for the consequences of a warming planet
Despite all this, more Americans (35%) than Canadians (30%) know that methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, while 60% of Canadians (and 45% of Americans) believe that carbon dioxide emissions are responsible for the hole in the ozone layer.
Pipelines and politics
Canadians are more likely to oppose (44%) than support (36%) the Keystone XL energy pipeline, while 20% have a neutral opinion. The opposite is true on the other side of the border: the figures are 34%, 52% and 14%, respectively. However, support is highest among self-identified supporters of the federal Conservative Party of Canada (55%), mirroring the polarized situation in the United States, where 72% of Republicans support the project against 39% of Democrats.
Within Canada, support for Keystone XL was highest in Alberta (58%). At 50%, Trans Canada’s Energy East project has greater support than Keystone XL, but opinions vary substantially across regions. At the high end, 68% of citizens in Alberta support the project, compared to a low of 33% of citizens in Quebec.
Finally, support for a system of cap and trade in Canada has increased to 60% in 2014, and continues to be more popular among Canadians than a carbon tax (48%).
“When you dig into the data, you see that Canadians are beginning to connect the dots between the notion of ‘climate change’ and observable changes in weather where they live. However, Canadians lack a certain degree of climate literacy, and it would be a mistake to assume that all Canadians are on the same page when it comes to fundamental climate science,” explained Erick Lachapelle, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Montreal and principal investigator for the Canadian portion of the study. “The public is not as informed as perhaps they should be about this important issue, and there continues to be wide variation across the country, in terms of perceptions, beliefs, and preferences. The division over pipelines is a case in point.”
About the poll
The National Survey of Canadian Public Opinion on Climate Change was designed by Erick Lachapelle (Université de Montréal), Chris Borick (Muhlenberg College) and Barry Rabe (University of Michigan). The survey was administered to a nationally representative sample of 1,401 Canadians aged 18 and over. All interviews were conducted via telephone in English and French from 6 October 2014 to 27 October 2014. Calls were made using both landline and mobile phone listings. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 2.6% in 19 of 20 samples. Regional margins of error vary according to subsample size. Results reported here are weighted according to gender, age, language and region to reflect the latest population estimates from Statistics Canada (Census 2011).
Canada once had a shot at being the world’s leader on climate change. Back in 2002, our northern neighbors had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s first treaty that required nations to cut their emissions or face penalties. In 2005, the country hosted an international climate change conference in Montreal, where then-Prime Minister Paul Martin singled out America for its indifference. “To the reticent nations, including the United States, I say this: There is such a thing as a global conscience,” Martin said.
Australia, too, was briefly a success story. The government ratified Kyoto in 2007 and delivered on promises to pass a tax on carbon by 2011. The prime minister that year, Julia Gillard, noted her administration’s priorities to set “Australia on the path to a high-skill, low-carbon future or [leave] our economy to decay into a rusting, industrial museum.”
Today, the two countries are outliers again—for all the wrong reasons.
According to a 2014 Climate Change Performance Index from European groups Climate Action Network Europe and Germanwatch, Canada and Australia occupy the bottom two spots among all 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Among the 20 countries with the largest economies (G20), only Saudi Arabia ranked lower than them. Canada and Australia’s records on climate change have gotten so bad, they’ve become the go-to examples for Republicans, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who don’t think climate change exists.
How did these two nations go from leading the fight against climate change to denying that it even exists?
On the way to his first trip in the U.S., Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott stopped for a full day of talks with Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June. The Sydney Morning Heraldreported that Abbott was in Canada’s capital with the intention of building a “conservative alliance among ‘like-minded’ countries” to try to dismantle global efforts on climate change. At a press conference that day, Harper applauded Abbott’s efforts to gut Australia’s carbon tax. “You’ve used this international platform to encourage our counterparts in the major economies and beyond to boost economic growth, to lower taxes when possible and to eliminate harmful ones, most notably the job-killing carbon tax,” Harper said. He added that “we shouldn’t clobber the economy” by pursuing an emissions trading scheme or a carbon tax.
This is how Canada and Australia’s top leaders frame global warming. The two stress that they will always choose short-term economic gain first, disregarding scientific findings and even the interests of their political allies in the process.The countries’ abrupt shift on climate track conservatives’ rise to a majority in Canada in 2011 and in Australia last year.
In just a few years, conservatives have delivered blow after blow to the nations’ environmental progress. Canada withdrew from Kyoto in 2011 to avoid paying expensive penalties for failing to meet its promise to cut carbon 6 percent over 1990 levels (Canada’s emissions had risen by nearly 30 percent). Harper offered a less ambitious target instead, one that mirrored the U.S.’s commitment cut 17 percent of carbon pollution by 2020. But Canada will miss that target by a long shot, according to environmental groups who point to the aggressive development of the Alberta tar sands oil and expired clean energy subsidies. The commissioner of the Department of Environment and Sustainable Development noted in a recent report that Canada “does not have answers” to most of its environmental concerns. Australia, meanwhile, had the world’s highest emissions per capita in 2012—topping even America’s. The government’s mediocre ambition of cutting emissions 5 percent by 2020 won’t happen either: It projects emissions to grow 2 percent a year, according to Inside Climate News.
The hostility toward environmental interests goes even deeper than energy policy. Harper has battled his own scientists, independent journalists, and environmental groups at odds with his views.
Climate scientists have reported that they are unable to speak to press about their own findings, feeling effectively “muzzled” by agencies that want to script talking points for them. In June, a government spokesperson explained that federal meteorologists must speak only “to their area of expertise,” which does not include climate change, according to a government spokesperson. Journalists sometimes face bullying, too. Environmental author Andrew Nikiforuk told ThinkProgress that “a government of thugs” slandered him and shut him out of events. But environmentalists may fare the worst. Seven environmental nonprofits in Canada have accused the Canada Revenue Agency of unfairly targeting them for audits. According to internal documents obtained by The Guardian, Canada’s police and Security Intelligence Service identified nonviolent environmental protests—like people who oppose hydrofracking and the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline—as “forms of attack” fitting the “number of cases where we think people might be inclined to acts of terrorism.”
Australia, for its part, has downplayed scientific findings. Abbott, along with his Environment Minister Greg Hunt, have rejected any link between extreme weather and global warming. Abbott, who once called the science of climate change “absolute crap,” said last year that UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres was “talking out of her hat” when saying that rising temperatures were driving more intense and frequent brushfires. “Climate change is real as I have often said and we should take strong action against it but these fires are certainly not a function of climate change,” he argued. Hunt defended his boss, citing Wikipedia as his proof. “I looked up what Wikipedia says for example, just to see what the rest of the world thought, and it opens up with the fact that bushfires in Australia are frequently occurring events during the hotter months of the year. Large areas of land are ravaged every year by bushfires. That’s the Australian experience.” He could have referred to his Department of Environment’s website instead, had it not earlier removed explicit references connecting climate change, heatwaves, and fires.
As the host of the G20 this November, Australia is in an awkward position. Australians have staged protests, while the U.S. and European leaders have pressured Abbott to put climate change on the agenda. He has refused. There’s no room for climate, he says, because the summit is about “economic security” and “the importance of private sector-led growth.”
What’s even more baffling about the rise of climate denial in both countries is that it’s apparently not the popular view in either country. According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Australians and Canadians say climate change is a major threat—as opposed to 40 percent of Americans who say the same.
Of course, the U.S. has reversed itself recently, too. President Barack Obama is making climate change a second-term priority, and has taken steps to cap carbon pollution from power plants. Such initiatives have put the U.S. on track to meet its pledge in Copenhagen in 2009 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020. At the same time, China, which faces internal pressure over air pollution, is looking a lot more serious about slowing down pollution; it will begin a national cap-and-trade program in 2016. Even India is redoubling efforts on clean energy, to meet the power needs of its growing population. Half the world plans to put a price on carbon.
It’s true that neither Canada nor Australia has much responsibility for the amount of heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere. The United States, China, and India make up a combined 49 percent of the world’s carbon emissions in 2013. Canada and Australia, by comparison, emit 3.5 percent of total carbon emissions combined.But the critical requirement for an international climate change agreement—which negotiatiors will try to hammer out in Paris next year—is that every country big and small make a commitment to greenhouse gas targets. Fortunately, the negligence of two smaller, industrialized countries won’t be the fatal blow to negotiations in Paris. Still, by ducking their own responsibility, Australia and Canada are ignoring their “global conscience”—to borrow a former prime minister’s words.
A decade ago, our close allies due north and across the Pacific rightly shamed us on our poor response to climate change. Now, they’ve lost the moral high ground. At the September United Nations Climate Summit, the largest gathering of world leaders yet on the issue, both Abbott and Harper were no-shows. The ministers sent in their place also arrived empty-handed; Australia’s foreign minister suggested that only larger countries should be responsible for more ambitious climate action. Canada Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq repeated an already-public commitment that Canada would copy Obama’s fuel economy regulations requiring 35.5 miles per gallon. Afterward, in an interview with the Globe and Mail, Aglukkaq spoke of the unfairness of a global treaty. “It’s not up to one country to solve the global greenhouse-gas emissions. I mean, seriously now, it’s just not fair. We all have to do our part, big or small countries.”
That’s true. If only her small country would do its part, too.
CBC News Posted: Apr 10, 2013 5:30 AM ET Last Updated: Apr 15, 2013 12:40 AM ET
A pair of Canada Geese. The University of Waterloo is trying new ways to fight the geese problem on campus, including using dog patrols and asking students to tweet in nest locations.
It’s spring. That means longer days, warmer weather, and for Canada Geese, it’s nesting season.
The Canada Geese that have taken up residence at the University of Waterloo are famous, in part because they don’t hesistate to defend their nesting areas from perceived intruders.
Alex Harris and Molson the dog, pictured above, patrol UWaterloo twice a day to chase away Canada Geese.Photo:warriordad.smugmug.com/
Alex Harris is no stranger to hissing, flapping, angry geese. Harris is the man behind the University of Waterloo’s Geese Police and along with Molson, a border collie-golden retriever cross, patrols the university campus twice a day along a five-kilometre path. Canada Geese are notorious at the university because the large number of people and buildings offer protection from natural predators, allowing the geese to thrive.
The daily patrols are part of Harris’ undergraduate thesis project for his Geography and Environmental Management Honours degree. By summer, Harris wants to have an accurate picture of how Molson affects geese nesting habits along the designated path, in order to “determine exactly how bad the problem is and how long it will take to fix it and balance the ecosystem out,” he writes on his website.
By SARAH WHEATON – JAN. 24, 2014Protesters against the Keystone XL gathered in November across the street from where President Obama attended a fund-raising event in San Francisco. Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Environmentalists have spent the past two years fighting the Keystone XL pipeline: They have built a human chain around the White House, clogged the State Department’s public comment system with more than a million emails and letters, and gotten themselves arrested at protests across the country.
But as bad as they argue the 1,700-mile pipeline would be for the planet, Keystone XL has been a boon to the environmental movement. While it remains unclear whether President Obama will approve the project, both sides agree that the fight has changed American environmental politics.
“I think it would be naïve for any energy infrastructure company to think that this would be a flash in the pan,” said Alexander J. Pourbaix, president of energy and oil pipelines at TransCanada, the company that has been trying to get a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline since 2008.
Environmentalists want to stop the transport of 800,000 barrels a day of heavy crude from oil sands formations in Canada to Texas refineries, and an oil extraction process that emits more greenhouse gases than other forms of production. Proponents of the Keystone XL project say that the oil will come out of the ground with or without a new pipeline and that other methods of transport, like rail, cause more pollution. They point out that TransCanada began operations on Wednesday on a southern pipeline segment that connects to existing pipelines to provide a route from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.
The project has raised the profile of activists like Bill McKibben, a former writer for The New Yorker and founder of 350.org, an organization that focuses on climate change. Jeff Swensen for The New York Times
Although some critics say the environmental movement has made a strategic error by focusing so much energy on the pipeline, no one disputes that the issue has helped a new breed of environmental organizations build a mostly young army eager to donate money and time. The seven-year-old email list of 350.org, an organization that focuses on climate change, has more than doubled to 530,000 people since the group began fighting the pipeline in August 2011. In addition, about 76,000 people have signed a “pledge of resistance” sponsored by seven liberal advocacy groups in which they promise to risk arrest in civil disobedience if a State Department analysis, expected this year, points toward approval of the pipeline.
The Keystone XL project has also raised the profile of a diverse generation of environmental leaders, like the activist Bill McKibben, a former writer for The New Yorker and founder of 350.org, and the billionaire venture capitalist Thomas F. Steyer, who is estimated to have contributed at least $1 million to the movement and has starred in four 90-second ads opposing the pipeline. Not least, it has united national and local environmental groups that usually fight for attention and resources.
“Over the last 18 months, I think there was this recognition that stopping the pipeline is, in fact, important,” said Ross Hammond, a senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “But it has also brought a huge number of people into the movement.”
That movement, Mr. McKibben said in an interview, “looks the way we want the energy system to look: not a few big power plants, but a million solar panels all tied together.”
A sign was planted last March in a field in Nebraska. Nati Harnik/Associated Press
Politically, the draw of Keystone XL comes from its physical presence. It is far easier, environmental activists say, to rally people around something as vivid as a pipeline bisecting the United States than, say, around cap-and-trade legislation that would have forced industry to pay a price for its carbon emissions. The legislation failed in Congress in 2009.
“When we’re able to focus on distinct, concrete projects, we tend to win,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “And when we tend to focus on more obscure policies or places where we need action from Congress, we tend to stall, like every other thing tends to stall.”
The pipeline has been a particular hit with small donors, especially as environmental organizations turn more to protests, fund-raisers said. Last year, the Sierra Club raised $1 million in six weeks for a major rally in Washington. About $100,000 of that came from contributions of less than $1,000.
“This is not one of our usual long-term campaigns,” said Jackie Brown, the Sierra Club’s chief advancement officer. “This was an emerging upswelling of support.”
A portion of the Keystone XL pipeline under construction in North Dakota. TransCanada, via Reuters
Wealthier donors are also opening their wallets. Betsy Taylor, a longtime environmental fund-raiser, said her network of contributors was increasingly supporting the more aggressive campaigns run by groups like 350.org and Bold Nebraska, a shift away from the environmental research and policy organizations that have traditionally drawn such contributions.
Keystone XL — the XL stands for express line — would be a shortcut to the Gulf of Mexico as well as an extension of TransCanada’s existing Keystone pipeline, which runs from Alberta to Nebraska, with small branches to Illinois and Oklahoma. Keystone XL would be a far more direct route across the United States. Keystone consists of a three-foot-diameter pipe that is three feet underground. Keystone XL would also be three feet in diameter, but four feet underground.
Initially, opposition to Keystone XL consisted of scattered people and groups along the proposed route of the pipeline, including indigenous tribes in Alberta. The fight went national in June 2011 when James E. Hansen, a former NASA climate scientist, wrote an open letter calling the pipeline “game over for the climate” and urged people to write to Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state. (Because the project crosses an international boundary, it is subject to approval by the State Department.)
Mr. McKibben, the author of numerous books about climate, decided to use 350.org to campaign against the pipeline. That fall, he urged his members to commit civil disobedience in front of the White House.
Activists including Michael Brune, right, of the Sierra Club, and the civil rights leader Julian Bond, second from right, tied themselves to a White House gate to protest the Keystone XL. Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press
“I remember when I heard the call for civil disobedience, I thought, ‘Yeah, right, you’ll get like 40 people to show up,’ ” said Mr. Hammond of Friends of the Earth. “And then, bam!” Over a two-week period, about 1,200 people were arrested at the White House.
Stephanie Kimball, 30, a Wisconsin dentist, said in a recent telephone interview that she had been “trying to figure out where to jump in” to the environmental cause when a talk by activists arrested in 2011 inspired her to volunteer as a local coordinator for 350.org. She said she was also working to stop a pipeline by the Canadian corporation Enbridge.
To counter the campaign, TransCanada has had to run television and radio ads to promote the jobs that the pipeline could provide. Industry allies like the American Petroleum Institute have also been running ads.
If Mr. Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline, Mr. Brune of the Sierra Club said, it will be “the Vietnam of his presidency.” But, he added, environmentalists’ efforts will hardly have been for nothing.
“If you lose on this,” said Mike Casey, a consultant on a number of environmental efforts, including Mr. Steyer’s, “this infrastructure doesn’t go away. It remains deployable and passionate.”
PM Stephen Harper steps up attack on Justin Trudeau over terrorism
OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Apr. 25 2013, 1:52 PM EDT; Last updated Friday, Apr. 26 2013, 9:05 AM EDT
Stephen Harper is stepping up his attack on rival Justin Trudeau’s musings about the “root causes” behind the Boston bombings, saying the only appropriate reaction to such attacks is to condemn the actions and direct government efforts to fighting them.
“This is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression,” [emphasis added] Mr. Harper told a news conference in Ottawa, a phrase he later repeated in French for the benefit of French-language media outlets.
Mr. Harper had been asked by a journalist Thursday to say at what point he considered it acceptable to start talking about the “root causes” that might lead someone to plot an attack on North American soil, such as the Canadian residents arrested this week and accused of scheming to derail a Via train.
The Prime Minister made the remark on the same day a fierce debate erupted over news that Tory MPs are being urged to blanket their ridings with flyers bashing Mr. Trudeau as an inexperienced lightweight.
“Root causes” is the phrase Mr. Trudeau used last week when he said it was essential to look at the motivating factors behind the Boston Marathon bombings. Mr. Harper wasted little time in ridiculing his Liberal opponent for what he considered a weak response to terrorism.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister elaborated on his assertion that now is no time for academic pondering, saying that those who would seek to hurt Canada are starkly opposed to Western values.
“These things are serious threats – global terrorist attacks, people who have agendas of violence that are deep and abiding threats to all the values that our society stands for,” the Prime Minister said.
“I don’t think we want to convey any view to the Canadian public other than our utter condemnation of this violence and our utter determination through our laws and through our laws and activities to do everything we can to counter it.”
To devote this much time to the leader of the third-biggest party in the Commons suggests Mr. Harper is stooping to conquer – but Conservatives say privately they believe the opportunity to brand Mr. Trudeau as inexperienced is too good to pass up.
The Tories have recently begun running attack ads that brand the Liberal Leader as inexperienced or “in over his head” and the Conservatives feel Mr. Trudeau has confirmed this criticism.
Mr. Harper defended the use of taxpayers’ dollars to finance a bulk-mail campaign – known as 10-per-centers – against Mr. Trudeau at a news conference on Thursday. He said the campaign is well within the rules of the House of Commons, and MPs from all parties send partisan missives.
“All parties work within those rules, and all parties use those activities and use those rules.”
But the newly minted Liberal Leader is hitting back, accusing the Tories of using the public purse to spread distortions and lies.
“Instead of defending an increasingly indefensible, mediocre record on the economy and on various decisions, they attack and they use whatever public resources they can to turn people away from politics and to foster cynicism,” Mr. Trudeau said in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Separately, Thursday, the Combatting Terrorism Act, a bill that would give additional police powers at the cost of civil liberties, received Royal Assent. The Harper government, which sponsored the legislation, did not say how soon S-7 comes into force.
With a report from The Canadian Press
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Breaking: RCMP Close to Arrests of Known Sociologists (Coop Média de Montréal)
When asked about the RCMP arrests made in an alleged terrorist plot, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had a warning for Canadians who would “commit sociology.”*
The RCMP has confirmed that it is aware of several sociologist networks operating in a number of Canadian universities. Sources say arrests are imminent.
While most sociologists currently operating in Canada are thought to be of the home-grown variety, there appears to be a great deal of international coordination through various websites, social media and academic journals.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is expected to introduce emergency minimum sentences legislation for anyone who commits sociology or provides material support to a known sociologist network. The legislation could be introduced as early as tomorrow.
Sources say the RCMP will likely make arrests of known sociologists in the coming hours. More details will be provided as the story develops.
David Bernans is a Québec-based writer and translator. He is the author of Collateral Murder. Follow him on twitter @dbernans.
* An actual quote! This is a satirical article, but, believe it or not our Prime Ministeractually said this. It has to do with the Harper government’s insistence that ignorance is the best policy when it comes to the root causes of evil.
4:30 pm UPDATE: This reporter was interviewing security expert Guy Lapoint on the extent of sociology in Canada when he was taken away for questioning by the RCMP. Just before the RCMP barged into Lapoint’s office he was saying, “If only we had some way to find out what makes people commit sociology, some sort of macro-view of the whole society that could explain this phenomenon, we could…”
High-ResAs two men were arrested this week for allegedly conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack, the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not interested in talking about the causes of terrorism. He said: “I think, though, this is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression… The root causes of terrorism is terrorists.”
He inspired me to make this for Sociology at Work. Go forth and commit sociology, friends!
IF President Obama blocks the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all, he’ll do Canada a favor.
Canada’s tar sands formations, landlocked in northern Alberta, are a giant reserve of carbon-saturated energy — a mixture of sand, clay and a viscous low-grade petroleum called bitumen. Pipelines are the best way to get this resource to market, but existing pipelines to the United States are almost full. So tar sands companies, and the Alberta and Canadian governments, are desperately searching for export routes via new pipelines.
Canadians don’t universally support construction of the pipeline. A poll by Nanos Research in February 2012 found that nearly 42 percent of Canadians were opposed. Many of us, in fact, want to see the tar sands industry wound down and eventually stopped, even though it pumps tens of billions of dollars annually into our economy.
The most obvious reason is that tar sands production is one of the world’s most environmentally damaging activities. It wrecks vast areas of boreal forest through surface mining and subsurface production. It sucks up huge quantities of water from local rivers, turns it into toxic waste and dumps the contaminated water into tailing ponds that now cover nearly 70 square miles.
Also, bitumen is junk energy. A joule, or unit of energy, invested in extracting and processing bitumen returns only four to six joules in the form of crude oil. In contrast, conventional oil production in North America returns about 15 joules. Because almost all of the input energy in tar sands production comes from fossil fuels, the process generates significantly more carbon dioxide than conventional oil production.
There is a less obvious but no less important reason many Canadians want the industry stopped: it is relentlessly twisting our society into something we don’t like. Canada is beginning to exhibit the economic and political characteristics of a petro-state.
Countries with huge reserves of valuable natural resources often suffer from economic imbalances and boom-bust cycles. They also tend to have low-innovation economies, because lucrative resource extraction makes them fat and happy, at least when resource prices are high.
Canada is true to type. When demand for tar sands energy was strong in recent years, investment in Alberta surged. But that demand also lifted the Canadian dollar, which hurt export-oriented manufacturing in Ontario, Canada’s industrial heartland. Then, as the export price of Canadian heavy crude softened in late 2012 and early 2013, the country’s economy stalled.
Canada’s record on technical innovation, except in resource extraction, is notoriously poor. Capital and talent flow to the tar sands, while investments in manufacturing productivity and high technology elsewhere languish.
But more alarming is the way the tar sands industry is undermining Canadian democracy. By suggesting that anyone who questions the industry is unpatriotic, tar sands interest groups have made the industry the third rail of Canadian politics.
The current Conservative government holds a large majority of seats in Parliament but was elected in 2011 with only 40 percent of the vote, because three other parties split the center and left vote. The Conservative base is Alberta, the province from which Prime Minister Stephen Harper and many of his allies hail. As a result, Alberta has extraordinary clout in federal politics, and tar sands influence reaches deep into the federal cabinet.
Both the cabinet and the Conservative parliamentary caucus are heavily populated by politicians who deny mainstream climate science. The Conservatives have slashed financing for climate science, closed facilities that do research on climate change, told federal government climate scientists not to speak publicly about their work without approval and tried, unsuccessfully, to portray the tar sands industry as environmentally benign.
The federal minister of natural resources, Joe Oliver, has attacked “environmental and other radical groups” working to stop tar sands exports. He has focused particular ire on groups getting money from outside Canada, implying that they’re acting as a fifth column for left-wing foreign interests. At a time of widespread federal budget cuts, the Conservatives have given Canada’s tax agency extra resources to audit registered charities. It’s widely assumed that environmental groups opposing the tar sands are a main target.
This coercive climate prevents Canadians from having an open conversation about the tar sands. Instead, our nation behaves like a gambler deep in the hole, repeatedly doubling down on our commitment to the industry.
President Obama rejected the pipeline last year but now must decide whether to approve a new proposal from TransCanada, the pipeline company. Saying no won’t stop tar sands development by itself, because producers are busy looking for other export routes — west across the Rockies to the Pacific Coast, east to Quebec, or south by rail to the United States. Each alternative faces political, technical or economic challenges as opponents fight to make the industry unviable.
Mr. Obama must do what’s best for America. But stopping Keystone XL would be a major step toward stopping large-scale environmental destruction, the distortion of Canada’s economy and the erosion of its democracy.
Thomas Homer-Dixon, who teaches global governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, is the author of “The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization.”
What started as a murmur in early October from First Nations People in Canada in response to Bill C45 has become a movement that echoes the sentiments of people all over the world, a battle cry of love for the planet, “Idle No More.” At first glance it might appear that this movement is isolated and doesn’t effect you if you are not native or if you don’t live in Canada, yet it does. It may appear that this resistance is not related to The Occupy Movement, The Arab Spring, The Unify Movement, Anonymous, or any of the other popular uprisings sparked by social unrest, but it is.
At its very core, all of these movements have very common threads and are born from common issues facing people everywhere. Those who represent financial interests that value money over life itself, that are devoid of basic respect for human decency, and for nature have dictated the future for too long and people everywhere are standing up to say, “No more.” This non-violent social uprising is viral in the minds and hearts of everyone across the planet determined to bring healing to our troubled communities, our planet, and the corruption that is eroding the highest places of governments around the world.
Flashmobs with dancing and drumming at a malls in Olympia, Wash. Tempe, Ariz., Denver, Colo., a giant circle dance blocking a large intersection in Winnipeg, rail blockades in Quebec, this movement is using cultural expression combined with modern activism to get attention, and it is working. From their website, “Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water.”
Idle No More was started in October by four ladies; Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon & Sheelah McLean who felt it was “urgent to act on current and upcoming legislation that not only affects First Nations people but the rest of Canada’s citizens, lands and waters.” On December 11 Attawapiskat Chief, Theresa Spence, launched a hunger strike requesting a face-to-face meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss broken treaties and protection of natural resources. Spence is staying in a tipi on the frozen Ottawa River facing Parliament Hill and has gained the support from many natives and non-natives who are in solidarity with this movement.
Chief Arvol Lookinghorse from South Dakota recently expressed his support in a letter posted on Facebook that states, “As Keeper of our Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, I would like to send out support for the efforts of Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation, for giving of herself through fasting with prayers for the protection of Mother Earth.” He goes on to say,
This effort to protect Mother Earth is all Humanity’s responsibility, not just Aboriginal People. Every human being has had Ancestors in their lineage that understood their umbilical cord to the Earth, understanding the need to always protect and thank her. Therefore, all Humanity has to re-connect to their own Indigenous Roots of their lineage — to heal their connection and responsibility with Mother Earth and become a united voice… All Nations, All Faiths, One Prayer.
Society and nature work in similar ways to our own body’s immune system. We are given a symptom that causes us to be aware that there is an illness that needs to be addressed. We can try to suppress the symptom, but that does not heal the illness. Popular uprisings with very core commonalities are spreading all over the planet. Exploitation of our environment, as well as the exploitation of people and cultures for the sake of financial gain is immoral and must be stopped at the highest levels of our governments. It is possible to have a thriving economy and environmental ethics.
Here in America, the response to Occupy is tucked into NDAA as Washington prepares ways to suppress the symptoms of social discord. Without addressing the illness at its root nothing will change. It is like the mythical Many-Headed Hydra, if you cut one head off, two more will grow back. Popular uprisings will continue here and all over the world until leaders understand that people want real fundamental change in policy. Governments should lead by example if they want to be respected.
With Twitter, Facebook and the internet, these separate movements are finding solidarity with each other and converging as a global super-movement for the planet and all people. The quote used at Unify is, “Everyone, Everywhere, Together” and it is beginning to resonate more than ever.
Each of these movements share a commitment to non-violent revolution in their call to end the exploitation of people and the exploitation of natural resources. Sustainability can be applied to all aspects of social rights, economics and the environment. Social, economic, cultural, and environmental movements, resistance, civil disobedience, flash mobs and more will continue until this is addressed at home and abroad. Whether it is Anonymous and Wikileaks exposing the corruption of governments, or Indians with drums dancing and chanting in a local mall, people everywhere are awakening, speaking up, and acting for the needed changes. It’s time for politicians and religious leaders to get the message everywhere.
It is a simple choice: continue to be part of the cancer that slowly destroys our water, our air and the resources that are the fabric of life by staying unconscious, or become the conscious antidote that slowly kills the cancerous disease which threatens the existence of life on the planet? Is the disease capitalism, corruption, ignorance, greed, The Illuminati, or some combination of all of these things spiralling out of control? It doesn’t matter because it is becoming obvious that there are people from all nationalities, religions, and cultural backgrounds who are determined to resist the progression of imminent destruction. A factory producing monkey wrenches for the gears of the machine which is at the center of our collective demise.
Will the leaders wake up to this in order to play the roles they have sworn to uphold or will they further discredit their position, their institutions, and help to destroy the very systems that they have been entrusted to maintain? Every time Congress represents the will of a few wealthy people over the interests and the well-being of the planet and the people, they do more to subvert and destroy the state than ten thousand people protesting in the streets. When leaders fail, they destroy the trust that holds society together.
Is Harper cold and callous enough to ignore a constituent on hunger strike a short distance from his office? Can he afford to ignore these issues? Can any of us afford to ignore this call to be idle no more?
Take a moment and listen to the eloquent words of an 11-year-old girl in the video below. If a child can understand this, how come world leaders are still silent on making real changes to address these urgent issues?
Please support Idle No More, learn more about the movement, how it effects all of us and get involved. All of our futures depend on it.
‘The storm was a monster,’ says weather modification company
BY THANDI FLETCHER, CALGARY HERALD AUGUST 14, 2012
Paul Newell captured dramatic images in the Bearspaw area of northwest Calgary just before the start of the hailstorm on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012. Photograph by: Reader photo , Paul Newell
A ferocious storm that hammered parts of Calgary with hail stones larger than golf balls late Sunday, causing millions of dollars worth of damage, could have been much worse if cloud-seeding planes hadn’t attempted to calm it down.
“The storm was a monster,” said Terry Krauss, project director of the Alberta Severe Weather Management Society, which contracts American-based company Weather Modification Inc. to seed severe weather clouds in Alberta’s skies. The society is funded by a group of insurance companies with a goal of reducing hail damage claims.
Before the storm hit, Krauss said, the company sent all four of its cloud-seeding aircraft into the thick and swirling black clouds. The planes flew for more than 12 hours, shooting silver iodide, a chemical agent that helps limit the size of hail stones, at the top and base of the clouds, until midnight.
But despite the heavy seeding, golf-ball-sized hail stones pelted parts of Calgary late Sunday night, causing widespread damage to cars and homes.
“This one was a beast. It took everything we threw at it and still was able to wreak some havoc,” said Krauss. “I believe if we hadn’t seeded, it would have even been worse.”
Northeast Calgary was worst hit by the storm, where the hail was between five and six centimetres, said Environment Canada meteorologist John Paul Craig. Other parts of the city saw toonie-sized hail from a second storm system, said Craig.
Craig said Sunday’s storm was worse than Calgary’s last major hailstorm, which saw four-centimetre hail stones, in July 2010.
“These hail stones were just a little bit bigger,” he said.
At Royal Oak Audi in the city’s northwest, broken glass from smashed windows littered the lot Monday morning. Of the 85 new and used cars on the lot, general manager Murray Dorren said not a single car was spared from the storm.
“It’s devastating — that’s probably the best word I can come up with,” he said. “It’s unbelievable that Mother Nature can do this much damage in a very short time. I think it probably took a matter of 10 minutes and there’s millions of dollars worth of damage.
Dorren estimated the damage at about $2 million. Across the lot, the dinged-up vehicles looked like dimpled golf balls from the repetitive pounding of the sizable stones. Some windows and sunroofs were shattered, while others were pierced by the heavy hail.
“They look like bullet holes right through the windscreen,” salesman Nick Berkland said of the damage.
Insurance companies and brokers were inundated with calls all day as customers tried to file claims on their wrecked cars and homes.
Ron Biggs, claims director for Intact Insurance, said it’s too early to tell how many claims the hail event will spurn, although he said they received about two to three times their normal call volume on Monday.
Biggs said the level of damage so far appears to be similar to the July 2010 hailstorm, when Intact received about 12,000 hail damage claims.
Chief operating officer Bruce Rabik of Rogers Insurance, which insures several car dealerships in Calgary, said the damage is extensive.
“It’s certainly a bad one,” he said. “We’ve had one dealership, which they estimate 600 damaged cars. A couple other dealerships with 200 damaged cars each.”
Rabik said claims adjusters are overwhelmed with the volume of claims. He urged customers to be patient as it may take a day or two as insurance workers make their way to each home.
Shredded leaves, twigs and broken branches blanketed pathways along the Bow and Elbow rivers as city crews worked to clear them, said Calgary parks pathway lead Duane Sutherland.
“This was the worst that I’ve seen,” said Sutherland.
Once daylight broke Monday, Royal Oak resident Satya Mudlair inspected the exterior of his home, which was riddled with damage. “Lots of holes in the siding, window damage to the two bedroom windows, and the roof a little bit,” he said.
The apple tree in his backyard has also lost about half its apples, he said. Fortunately, his car was parked inside the garage and was spared any dents.
Mudlair said his insurance company told him it would take two or three weeks before the damage would be repaired. “There’s a big pile of names ahead of me,” he said.
Mudlair’s wife, Nirmalla, had just fallen asleep when she was awoken by the sound of hail stones hitting the roof.
“It was very bad. It was like, thump, thump,” she described the pelting sound. “We got scared and I kept running from room to room.”
Cloud-seeding expert Krauss said Calgary has experienced more severe weather than usual this year, although Sunday’s storm was by far the worst.