Sunday, March 28, 2010

How you can support Skeptical Science

Keeping track of the ebbs and flows of the climate debate is more than one person can handle.

Consequently, I've tried to set up Skeptical Science in such a way that anyone can contribute to the content. So here are some ways you can help make Skeptical Science a comprehensive resource on climate science...

Read more here.

Arctic Summit told to leave it in the ground

The Indigenous Environmental Network, the Council of Canadians, and the Alaska based REDOIL Network have issued an open letter calling for an international moratorium on all new exploration for fossil fuel resources in the Arctic region. The letter is directed at the Foreign Ministers of Canada, Norway, Denmark, Russia and the United States who will be present at the Arctic Summit in Chelsea, Québec, March 29, 2010.

The discovery of 90 billion barrels of oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Arctic region has triggered a rush to secure access that includes petroleum companies such as Shell and Exxon.
“New oil and gas development is anything but responsible in the face of a very serious climate crisis which requires governments like those meeting in Chelsea to rapidly reduce emissions,” says Andrea Harden-Donahue, Energy Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “It is no small irony that increased access to exploit reserves in the fragile Arctic Ocean ecosystem is largely the result of melting sea ice.”

“We believe that a moratorium on fossil fuel development would be a first step to addressing the climate crisis we are in. Strong actions need to be taken now by Governments of the world to effectively address climate change. Indigenous peoples worldwide bear the consequences of Global Warming daily and we want concrete action now,” states Faith Gemmill, Executive Director of the Alaska based Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL).

“Climate change is responsible for increased levels of contaminants like mercury, DDTs and PCBs in staple edible fish species near my home community,” says Daniel T’seleie, a K’asho Got’ine Dene from Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories. “Increased development of Arctic oil and gas would not only contribute to the climate crisis that is devastating Arctic communities, it would also add more direct pressure to fragile ecosystems that are already stressed by the combined impacts of climate change and existing development. This would be an unconscionable infringement on the rights of Arctic Indigenous Peoples.”

Excellent photo opportunities: The IEN and the Council of Canadians will bring a message to Foreign Ministers to “leave it in the ground” Monday afternoon at the parking lot off of Meech Lake road near the road leading to the Arctic Summit meeting location.
For more information:

Clayton Thomas Muller, Indigenous Tar Sands Campaigner, Indigenous Environmental Network,, 1-218-760-6632

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Water on the Table

More information at

EU considers easing environmental standards for fuel

By Mike De Souza
Canwest News

The European Union is considering weakening its proposed environmental standards for fuel in response to a lobbying effort from the Harper government to protect Canada's oilsands, newly released documents have revealed.

A new discussion paper to be debated by a panel this week suggests that European officials will remove restrictions on fuel from the oilsands in its draft legislation, pending "further review."

The standards must still go through a period of consultations and several months of debate prior to adoption or a veto by the European Parliament, but the concerns raised in the meantime by Canadian officials appear to have prompted a change.

"I must note Canada's concern regarding the measures currently under discussion," wrote Canadian Ambassador Ross Hornby in a Jan. 25, 2010, letter to the EU. "In the original consultation document, oilsands-derived fuels (erroneously labelled as 'tar sand') are treated as a distinct fuel source, separate from all other crude pathways for petrol and diesel fuels."

Hornby warned that the reporting requirements of the original European standards, as proposed in 2009, would result in a "costly and extremely complex" system for the North American oil industry.

"Such a system would be extremely difficult to implement and monitor and would in itself create barriers to trade, particularly in light of the highly integrated nature of the North American oil industry," Hornby wrote.

The original proposed standards from 2009 included a chart that estimated the extraction of fuel from the oilsands produced more than five times more greenhouse gas emissions than fuel from conventional oil or diesel, but that overall emissions from the Alberta industry were about 15 per cent higher. The new proposal has removed those references to the oilsands.
"Tarsands have magically disappeared," said Nusa Urbancic, a low-carbon fuels policy officer for Transport and Environment, an environmental research group in Europe.
Hornby's letter to the EU also said that oil producers had reduced emissions in the sector per barrel of oil produced, but did not mention that their overall emissions had almost tripled between 1990 and 2006.

The Alberta government said it was pleased about the latest news from Europe, suggesting it demonstrates the government's "campaign" was working.
"We're having an impact," said Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert. "We've managed to convince the New Democrats to quit calling it tarsands and start calling it oilsands. We've got the European Union starting to look at the need to reassess some of the initiatives they've taken, based on, I would say, not the best information, so we need to keep up the campaign."

Federal Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
Canadian environmentalists blasted the Harper government, arguing it is misleading the international community, in this and similar letters to U.S. officials, about its efforts in Canada to crack down on pollution from industries such as the oilsands.
"It is bad enough that the federal government is doing nothing of consequence to fight global warming here in Canada. Now they are going to other countries and actively lobbying to weaken perfectly good climate-change policy in order to protect the interests of the tarsands," said Graham Saul, the executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, a coalition of environmental groups.
"The government of Canada is systematically misleading the European Union about the real impacts of dirty oil. They are saying they intend to clean up the tarsands, when they clearly have no plan in place to do so."
Urbancic said it would now be up to member countries of the EU to decide on whether to accept the new proposal, or veto the new version that exempts the oilsands.

'The Ice Passage' Thaws Some Hard Canadian History

Author Brian Payton on death in the Arctic, why ice is alive, our melting sense of nature, and more.
By Geoff D'Auria

There are those who say the search for the Northwest Passage is the closest thing Canadians have to a creation myth, that in attempting to complete the line that circles the continent, we have a story that in some way tells of the birth of a national psyche, hardy but humbled in a frozen, natural crucible.

Not a bad idea. Not completely true, of course, but that's never gotten in the way of a good story, let alone a national myth.

The parts based in truth make for some compelling reading -- Pierre Berton's Arctic Grail and Ken McGoogan's Fatal Passage, for example, or even fictionalized accounts like Mordecai Richler's novel, Solomon Gursky Was Here, which uses the failed Franklin expedition as a backdrop against which a backwards and conflicted nation walks out of the white-out with a raven on its shoulder.

Stepping into the Arctic canon with a true story of high adventure is Brian Payton's The Ice Passage, just selected as a finalist for a B.C. Book Award. In Ice Passage, Payton tells the gripping tale of the McClure expedition, which set out in the 1850s to find the elusive Northwest Passage and the missing Franklin expedition, which disappeared in 1845 looking for the same passage.

Except the expedition wasn't Robert McClure's when it began. The mission was supposed to be led by Captain Richard Collinson, who was captaining the Enterprise. It seems, according to Payton's telling, that McClure's boat, the Investigator, outraced Collinson's to the western entrance of the passage and plunged in rather than wait for the other ship.

McClure's ship, and his ambition, soon got stuck in the mouth of an icy-fanged Arctic.
And so begins this little-known tale of Shackletonian proportions, a story of historic firsts and human drama. Do they find traces of Franklin? Do they follow him to the grave? Are they actually the first through the passage? Because history has virtually ignored their efforts, Payton's able to construct a story that doesn't let you go until the very last chapter.

Relying heavily on the journals of a German missionary, a translator who, it was hoped, could communicate with the Inuit, Payton found a counter-point to the blustery narrative of the 19th-century British naval men. What emerges is a multi-layered drama that is as human as it is heroic, and Payton resists the temptation to mythologize.

I met with Payton in a fogged-up coffee shop on a mythically-soggy Vancouver winter's day to talk about his love for this nerdy German missionary, the dangers of being an 'ambitious dude' in the Arctic, competing versions of expedition history, and how best to tell the story of a melting Arctic.
Here's what he had to say:

Read the rest of this article at the Tyee here.

Stan Roger's great song below.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

BOLIVIA: Activists from across the globe to attend Peoples Conference on Climate Change


Renowned human rights activists, scientists, academics, and social organisations from various parts of the world have confirmed their participation in the Global Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which will be held in Cochabamba, April 20-22.

Among those who will be present are Naomi Klein, author of No Logo; Eduardo Galeano, author of The Open Veins of Latin America; Danny Glover, actor in films such as Lethal Weapon and 2012; Nobel Peace prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel; Jim Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute of Space Studies and NASA climate expert; Bill McKibben, director of; the philosophy Samir Amin, North American Jerry Mander and others.

Moveover, 8 “undeveloped” countries, as the UN refers to them, have confirmed their presence, among them Franck Armel, foreign minister of the Republic of Benin; Idi Nadhoim, vice-president and agriculture minister of the Union of the Comoros; Thant Kyaw, director of foreign relations of Myanmar; Konte Cheikh Abdel Kader, international expert on environment of Senegal; Brima Munda Sowa, general administrator of environmental issues for Sierra Leon; Abdullah Ali Fadhel Al-Saadi, Minister Plenipotentiary of Yemen; and Khampadith Khammounheuang Ang, director general of Laos, as well as a representative from Nepal.

Bolivia has invited the 192 member nations of the United Nations to participate in the summit that was convoked by president Evo Morales following the failure of the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen.

International social movements who felt defrauded by the document signed in Copenhagen have also confirmed their presence. Representatives from countries such as Belgium, France, Mexico, Malaysia and the US will attend the summit in Cochabamba.

There will be various working groups. In the working group “Reestablish harmony with nature” will be Frei Betto, one of the maximum exponents of Liberation Theology; Bolivian Foreign Minister, David Choquehuanca; and Nobel Peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchu.
In the working group “Rights of Mother Earth” will be Leonardo Boff, one of the main promoters of the rights of the Earth; Corman Cullinan, who in his Wild Law proposes not only changing jurisprudence in the world, but also creating a jurisprudence of the Earth.

As panelists in the working group “Climate Justice Tribunal” will be present the South African bishop Desmond Tuto; the ex-president of the General Assembly of the US, Miguel d’Escoto; and writer Adolfo Perez Ezquivel.

In the working group “Climate debt” will be the writer Eduardo Galeano; Michael Meacher, research on the social impact of the exploitation of oil; and Andrew Sims, among others.
In the working group “Climate migrants” will be the author of No Logo, Naomi Klein; and John Davidson.

In the working group “Forests, food and water under climate change” will be present Pat Money, Alberto Gómez, Hildebrando Vélez, Timothy Byakola and others.
In the working group “Do we need a referendum on climate change?” will be present Amy Goodman, journalist Ignacio Ramonet, Joao Pedro Stedile and Antonio Hill.
Moreover, 10 presidents have confirmed their participation in the summit, who will debate some alternatives to confront climate change.

Translated from Cambio

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The SPP, Deep Integration and Corporate Control - The Agenda Continues

By Paul Manly and Jen Kirk
Synergy Magazine

The Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) between Canada, the United States and Mexico is officially dead but the project of deep integration between the three countries continues, as does the overarching worldwide neoliberal agenda of privatization, harmonization, free trade and corporate control. In August of 2009, the website announced that the SPP was no longer an active initiative of the US government and that this website was now an archive for the SPP. Since that announcement, there have been a number of indicators that what hasn’t already been implemented in the SPP process continues forward as separate initiatives.

Ship-Rider, a pilot project that became permanent in May 2009 allows the RCMP to ride on US Coast Guard vessels and US Coast Guard officials to ride on RCMP vessels so they can cross back and forth across the border without jurisdictional restraints. This is an example of a multitude of incremental changes, sold as crime fighting or security measures but which add to a continual erosion of Canadian sovereignty through the integration of police, military and security organizations between the three countries. In Mexico, the Merida initiative has included the involvement of the American military and the RCMP in the drug war inside Mexico. Will this mean we will see a boom in drug production in Mexico as we have seen in Afghanistan since the NATO led invasion in 2001?

The Harper government couldn’t determine it’s own position on climate change at the Copenhagen talks without knowing what the American position was because as the government stated ‘the Canadian position on climate change needed to harmonize with the American position’. Are our economies already too deeply integrated for Canada to be able to make important decisions all by itself? Canadian foreign policy also continues in lock step with the USA and in some cases takes an even more neo-liberal and militaristic stance.

The Climate Crisis or the Crisis of Climate Politics?

By Andre Pusey and Bertie Russell
Institute for Anarchist Studies

The threat of an impending climate crisis has rightly dominated the headlines over recent years – unabated carbon emissions, alongside peak oil, are leading us to a bleak, even apocalyptic scenario. In addition to this we are experiencing a crisis of neoliberalism, where the restructuring of capital is finding ways to exploit (and hence worsen) the ecological collapse it has fomented. Both in the UK and worldwide, we have seen the emergence of movements aiming to tackle climate change. These movements embody a politics that appears to cross the political spectrum, but in fact all gravitate around a single apolitical space, or as Steven has termed it, a “post-political space.”

As the UN prepared to meet for the COP15 in Copenhagen, we found our movements in a state of political crisis. Dominated by methodologies that rely on an emerging carbon consensus as the basis of their (a)politics, movements such as the Camp for Climate Action find themselves powerless to engage with the decentered problem of climate change. There is an urgent need to reassess climate change in terms of power and productive relations, and to move beyond the single-issue environmentalism that has isolated climate change as the preserve of a specialist eco-activist vanguard.

This essay understands the COP15 and its aftermath as a potential for revealing and overcoming the schizophrenic tension of environmental movements. We point towards the emerging climate justice movements as an opportunity to move beyond the post-political towards an antagonistic politics of the commons.

Read this article at The Institute for Anarchist Studies website.

Nuclear Power in Canada

The Federal Conservative government's March budget  has a major section on “Green Jobs and Growth” but once again there is virtually nothing here that is positive or of any substance.

Over 70% of the new money in this area is simply another $250 million plus to Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, which the government is planning to sell off, possibly to foreign interests. There are very small amounts for a great lakes action plan, more funding for tax depreciation for waste energy investments and some other announcements of ongoing programs.

The government’s emphasis continues to be funding for nuclear energy, carbon capture, ethanol and facilitating faster exploitation of oil and gas. The budget announces various funding programs to streamline regulation review and environmental assessments for resource projects in the north, which presumably involve a pipeline. And, unfortunately, the budget includes ultimately nothing to deal with the major environmental crisis of our time: climate change. (CUPE)

The Pembina Institute released a study a few years ago on the risks of nuclear energy. Here is what it concluded:

"This study has sought to portray, in as complete a manner as possible based on publicly available and accessible information sources, a picture of the environmental impacts resulting from the use of nuclear energy for electricity generation in Canada. It is intended to inform comparisons with other energy sources.

The study finds that nuclear power, like other non-renewable energy sources, is associated with severe environmental impacts. In short, the use of nuclear power for electricity generation cannot be considered “clean.” Each stage of the nuclear energy production process generates large amounts of uniquely difficult-to-manage wastes that will require perpetual care, and that effectively push costs and risks arising from current energy consumption onto future generations. The process also has severe impacts on surface water and groundwater water quality via a range of radioactive and hazardous pollutants, and results in releases to the atmosphere of a wide range of criteria, radioactive and hazardous pollutants as well as GHGs.

In addition, the technology poses unique occupational and community health risks, along with security, accident and weapons proliferation risks not shared by any other energy source.

Nuclear generating facilities suffer from high capital costs and long-construction times, with significant risks of cost overruns and delays. These are major barriers to private investment in the sector, particularly in combination with a history of poor facility performance in Ontario and emerging challenges regarding uranium costs and supply.

In the context of these impacts and risks, nuclear energy cannot be seen as a viable response to GHG emission problems associated with reliance on fossil fuels (e.g., coal) for electricity generation. In addition to the consideration that nuclear power is not itself a GHG emission-free energy source, a future path based on nuclear energy would simply replace one problem (GHG emissions) with a series of different, but equally unacceptable impacts and risks. These impacts and risks encompass everything from facility reliability and waste management to the potential for catastrophic accidents and nuclear weapons proliferation.

As a result, proposals for the retention and expansion of the role of nuclear power must be approached with the greatest of caution. Such proposals must be examined in the full light of their environmental, economic and security implications, not only for Canada, but the rest of the world as well. They must also be examined in the context of the full range of available alternatives. Such an examination is likely to conclude that better options are readily available. These options range from making the most efficient use possible of existing energy resources to expanding the role of low-impact renewable energy sources that offer far safer, cheaper, more reliable and more sustainable options for meeting society’s energy needs."
Read the full report here.

The Path to Human Development

The financial and economic crisis currently enveloping the world market is causing an enormous amount of social chaos. Workers and families are being dislocated from their communities as factories and workplaces are shutdown. Immigrants already forced to migrate to find work are amongst the first laid-off and pushed into even more exposed social settings.

Women's work is becoming increasingly precarious, and the pressures on women to undertake unpaid care work increasing. A vulnerable planet is under greater pressures as measures to improve the world's ecology are sacrificed to the need to restore corporate profits. As Mike Lebowitz notes in the pamphlet below, the logic of capital is opposed to the logic of human development. In an economic crisis, all is sacrificed to the restoration of capitalist profitability.

A new anti-capitalist movement is emerging. This is renewing the popularity of the writings of Karl Marx, and in particular his penetrating analysis in Capital, still the foremost analysis of why capitalist development inevitably leads to economic crises. The ideas of socialism are re-gaining popular resonance. New study groups and activist campaigns are growing daily. The Path to Human Development: Capitalism or Socialism? is a significant contribution to these efforts. Read it. Study it. Debate it. Circulate it among friends and comrades. Take part in the anti-capitalist movement that is emerging across the world. Alternatives to financial greed, economic chaos and barbarism are not only possible, they have taken on an urgency.
Read The Path to Human Development here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Offsetting Resistance: The effects of foundation funding from the Great Bear Rainforest to the Athabasca River

A report by Macdonald Stainsby and Dru Oja Jay

A movement is building to shut down the tar sands, one of the most destructive projects in human history. Decisions are being made about the strategies that will be used and the goals that will be pursued.

But as the number of people opposing the tar sands grows larger, the number of people making the crucial decisions is getting smaller -- and closer to the oil and gas industry.

A small, secretive group of insiders has been collaborating with large American foundations and industry to concentrate decision-making power concerning anti-tar sands campaigns. Headed by Michael Marx, one of the architects of the Great Bear Rainforest deal in northwestern British Columbia, these groups have a track record and a documented trail of funding relationships that steer them--whether they intend to or not--into closed-door, backroom deals with industry and government.

The lack of transparency, the absence of any democratic structures, the questionable sources of funding, and the track record of these corporate and foundation-funded Environmental NGOs are the subjects of a new report by Macdonald Stainsby and Dru Oja Jay. Offsetting Resistance: The effects of foundation funding from the Great Bear Rainforest to the Athabasca River examines the role of ForestEthics and other Environmental NGOs in the Great Bear Rainforest deal and in the Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy. From there, it reveals the hidden structures behind the emerging "North American Tar Sands Coalition," which seeks to keeps its decision-making body "invisible to the outside," while funnelling millions of dollars to its preferred groups -- to the potential detriment and sidelining of community organizers across North America.

"After researching the history of these foundation-driven organizations," says report co-author Macdonald Stainsby, "the thing that stands out is the repeated use of temporary structures where transparency and democratic input is non-existent. Worse, funding may be used to force a specific agenda on the communities who are at immediate risk from tar sands extraction."

"The other thing we found," adds Stainsby, "is that the communities who win battles with industry tend to do so despite the work of these groups."

"We're at an important point," says report co-author Dru Oja Jay, "where we have to decide what kind of anti-tar sands movement we're going to build."

"We can choose to become beholden to secret puppet-masters, funded by massive American foundations and industry, or we can choose a process that's accountable to the communities who are fighting for their lives, a process that's democratic and transparent."

"Everything depends on which way it goes," Jay adds. "We're trying to provide relevant information so that people can make informed decisions. Will money be used to silence more critical voices, or will grassroots initiatives be placed at the forefront of the struggle?"

National Farmers Union newsletter

February 2010

NFU newsletter February 2010 -

Is Earth past the tipping point?

Take your place... At the Table


Toronto, ONTARIO – A new global campaign, “AT THE TABLE”, wants the voices of the world’s poorest people to be heard when G8 and G20 leaders sit down to make decisions affecting the lives of everyone on this planet.

“AT THE TABLE” launched on March 8, International Women’s Day, in the building where G20 leaders will gather June 26-27. The campaign, backed by a coalition of major Canadian NGOs, labour, student and faith-based groups, calls for bold action to ensure that poverty eradication, climate change and economic reform are high on the agendas of both the G8 and G20 agendas.

Stephen Lewis, a noted international development and HIV and AIDS advocate, called on Summit leaders to live up to their UN Millennium Goals and the promise to halve poverty by 2015. “This is an historic moment for Canada. We are in a position to lead the world in resolving one of the great moral issues of our time.”

Two members of Oxfam’s “W8”, eight high-powered women from the Global South, spoke at the Metro Convention Centre launch. Dorothy Ngoma is President of Malawi’s nurses union and Sandhya Venkateswaran represents the “Don’t Break Your Promises” coalition in India. Women are 70% of the world’s poorest people and W8 leaders are asking global leaders to invest in women and children, as it is a proven way of lifting communities out of poverty.

“The decision to cap Canada’s foreign aid budget is a disastrous setback for those most affected by the economic crisis and climate change.” said Dennis Howlett of MAKE POVERTY HISTORY. “It’s even more urgent now that our voices be heard at the Summit tables.

“We've said we'll give money to the poorest countries to adapt, and we've said we'll phase out subsidies to big oil,” said Tzeporah Berman Executive Director of climate action NGO PowerUP Canada. “Instead we are one of the top ten polluters in the world and are falling behind in the race to create clean energy. As host to the world, Canada has an unavoidable responsibility to stop dodging our commitments and lead.”

Prime Minister Harper and the G8 Summit leaders were present at the launch in the unique form of “Flat Leaders” — downloadable portable images that can be taken to events and “talked to”. AT THE TABLE invites Canadians to join the conversation with the G8/G20 leaders by holding public dinners, roundtables, and online events and posting pictures of their “Flat Leader” at the events. Global partners throughout Africa and all 20 Summit countries will hold similar activities. The campaign will culminate in a Global AT THE TABLE Day of Action in June

Visit the At the Table website here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Change the System, Not the Climate

Working TV: New on the Web

Voices from Bolivia and Venezuela on the fight for climate justice after Copenhagen featuring Pablo Solon, Bolivia's representative at the United Nations, lead spokesperson on climate change at the Copenhagen Summit, and Federico Fuentes, a participant in the revolutionary process in Venezuela and writer, on Sunday, March 7, 2010 at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada.

Watch the videos here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Report raises troubling questions, suggests reasonable solutions

Matthew Bramley
The Pembina Institute

A new report from Climate Action Network Canada reaches some troubling conclusions about the federal government's approach to climate science research in Canada.

On Monday, Canwest reporter Mike de Souza and La Presse journalist François Cardinal reported that leaked Environment Canada documents obtained in CAN's research show the federal department's new media relations policy, adoped in 2007, reduced the news media's coverage of Environment Canada climate scientists by 80%, leaving some of Canada's top climate experts "extremely frustrated" and feeling "muzzled".

But that's just part of the story.

Read the rest of this article here.

Canada’s Climate Policy Sinks to New Lows

Green Party of Canada

It is not enough that the current Canadian government is moving backward on the issue of climate change, as evidenced by the total lack of funding for climate initiatives in the recent budget, but now government officials are pressuring other countries to do the same. South Africa is the latest victim of Canadian pressure tactics. Committed to a carbon neutral development path, South Africa is understandably attempting to resist a Canadian plan to build a mega coal-fired power plant.

Canadian coal mining company CIC Energy Corp claims to have already sunk a $100 million into the 1,200 MW plant, called the Mmambula power station, planned for the border area of South Africa and Botswana. International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan is lobbying on the company’s behalf, traveling to South Africa this week. Van Loan calls this boondoggle ‘a solution waiting to happen’ for South Africa's energy shortages.

“The international community must wonder what happened to Canada as a once-respected climate leader,” said Elizabeth May, Green Party Leader. “While the rest of the industrialized nations are investing in renewables and clean technologies, Canada is still peddling coal.”

“We will not avoid drastic changes in our climate unless we phase out energy sources like coal plants. There are so many opportunities in clean energy that we are missing out on. Canada is apparently stuck in the dinosaur age – and we know what happened to them.”

Climate Catastrophe: Surviving the 21st Century

by Ronnie Cummins & Will Allen

"The catastrophic impacts of climate change are not only going to take place in the distant future. They are taking place now."--Vandana Shiva, Soil not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis

Climate Stabilization Requires a Cultural and Political Revolution

The climate, energy, and political catastrophe we are facing is mind-boggling and frightening. Yet there is still time to save ourselves, to move beyond psychological denial, despair, or false optimism. There is still hope if we are willing to confront the hydra-headed monsters that block our path, and move ahead with a decisive plan of action. The inspirational message we need to deliver is that we're not just talking about drastically reducing fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, but rebuilding society, creating in effect a New Woman and a New Man for the 21st Century.

What we are witnessing are the early stages of a mass grassroots consciousness-raising and taking back of power from out-of-control corporations, banks, corporate-controlled media, and politicians. This cultural and political revolution will empower us to to carry out a deep and profound retrofitting of industry, government, education, health care, housing, neighborhoods, transportation, food and farming systems, as well as our diets and lifestyles.

Read the full article at

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Money spent on tar sands projects could decarbonise western economies

The Guardian

The £250bn cost of developing Canada's controversial tar sands between now and 2025 could be used to decarbonise the western economy by funding ambitious solar power schemes in the Sahara or a European wide shift to electric vehicles, according to a new report released today.

The same amount of investment would also help the world to hit half of the Millenium Development Goals in the 50 least-developed countries, says the research from The Co-operative and conservation group, WWF, which is released to coincide with a new film, Dirty Oil, being premiered in 25 cinemas around the UK today. It is a hard-hitting documentary narrated by Canadian actor, Neve Campbell.

The moves are all part of a concerted effort to put shareholder and public pressure on BP and Shell which are at the forefront of extracting oil from the carbon-intensive tar sands of Alberta.

The Co-op claims its task has gained urgency by BP unveiling plans last week to speed up new tar sands projects through a tie-up with Devon Energy.

"The sums of money being invested in tar sands developments are enormous and difficult for the average person to grasp," says Paul Monaghan, head of social goals at the Co-op.

"This report (The Opportunity of the Tar Sands) puts things into perspective and demonstrates not only the scale of the problem, which could take us to the brink of runaway climate change, but also the opportunity being lost. It is literally a matter of life and death that these enormous oil titans are re-steered to much more sustainable paths," he adds.

The production of tar sands is estimated by critics to emit three times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil production. It is estimated that tar sands production will increase from its 1.3m barrels a day to at least 4m barrels by 2025.

A resolution has been put down by the Co-op and other shareholders to be taken at the BP annual general meeting next month alongside a similar one for Shell asking for a review of the economics and environmental impact of tar sands.

The Co-op and WWF say the combined cost of all tar sands – £250bn – could be used for clean power projects such as the Desertec scheme linking solar plants in North Africa to a "supergrid" which could produce 15% of Europe's electricity by 2050.

See also Actress Neve Campbell toured the Fort McMurray oilsands this week and met with leaders of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree First Nation.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

In and Out of Crisis

The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives
Greg Albo, Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch

With the recent publication of their new book on the financial crisis and the crisis of the North American Left, In and Out Of Crisis (PM Press, 2010), ZNet took the opportunity to interview Greg Albo, Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch on some of the themes of the book and the struggles that now confront the Left. The authors all teach political economy at York University, and edit the Socialist Register. The Bullet reproduces that interview here.

Can you tell ZNet, please, what In and Out of Crisis: The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives is about and what is it trying to communicate?

This book departs from the common tendency on the left no less than on the right to judge economic and political developments through the prism of ‘states versus markets,’ with each crisis marking an oscillation between one pole or the other. There are many conceptual and political traps in such a binary opposition. On the one hand, it suggests that markets can be potentially self-sufficient and that somehow states, as the underwriters of a vast administrative and physical infrastructure necessary for markets to exist at all and as guarantors of private property, can be marginalized.

On the other, it is proposed that the state can compensate for market failures and act as a neutral policy mechanism to offset private interests by governing in the public interest. This misses the point that we are talking about capitalist markets and capitalist states, and the two are deeply inter-twined in the class and power structures of global capitalism. This book especially shows how far this is so in the case of the American state in relation to financial markets.

We hope to dispel some debilitating misconceptions on the left concerning the nature of capitalist crises as well as the relationship between the state, finance and production in the neoliberal era. The book traces the historical process through which, over a century punctuated by previous crises, the American state and finance developed in tandem, and came to play a new kind of imperial role at the center of global capitalism. And in light of the contradictions that were produced in this process, it also traces the development of the crisis that began in 2007 and explains the active role of the American state, both under Bush and Obama, in containing the crisis in ways that reproduced the structures of class inequality and power domestically and internationally.

In addition to this, we analyze the relationship between industry and finance, especially in terms of how it played itself out in the crisis in the auto sector. This means the full class dimensions of the crisis are brought to the fore, and leads to a sober examination of the impasse of the North American labour movement and how seriously this affects the North American left.

Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book?

The interpretation offered in this book is located within the analytical framework of radical political economy, and in particular its lineages in Marx and state theory. It is partly a product of collective efforts, not least the intensive discussions we have had with our graduate students in the political science department at York University. Many of the chapters are based on pieces each of us wrote during the course of the crisis that appeared on The Bullet of the Socialist Project. The three of us found it very stimulating to work together in laying out our overall argument for this book, and clarifying our conceptualization of the neoliberal period of capitalism, our reading of the crisis, and the vision and politics behind the strategic alternatives we want to pose for the North American left.

What are your hopes for the book? What do you hope it will contribute or achieve politically?

The book was conceived at a historic moment when the ruling elites – from the financiers through the Detroit auto executives to liberal politicians – had lost credibility. Yet labour and the left remained on the defensive. Being realistic today means daring to put forward something really new on the political agenda. Rather than perpetuating dependence on markets, competition, private corporations and the values and pressures they represent, the left needs to be organizing around an independent vision.

Our book argues that the alternatives needed are not ‘technical’ solutions to capitalist economic crises, but political ones that challenge property rights in the name of democratic and social rights. This involves a transformation in left culture, one which can't really begin, let alone succeed if it isn't part of the widest degree of discussion and debate about economic and political possibilities, involving mobilization within and across the gender, racial and ethnic diversities of working class communities, and developing strategies for identifying allies and building new popular, union and community capacities. We see the book as a contribution to this.

Even as they tried to stimulate the economy, states were impelled to lay off public sector workers or cut back their pay, and to demand that bailed-out companies do the same. And while blaming volatile derivatives market for causing the crisis, states promoted derivatives trading in carbon credits as a solution to the climate crisis. In the context of such readily visible irrationalities, a strong case can be made that – to really save jobs and the communities that depend on them in a way that converts production to ecologically sustainable priorities during the course of this crisis – we need to break with the logic of capitalist markets rather than use state institutions to reinforce them.

However deep the crisis, however confused and demoralized are capitalist elites both inside and outside the state, and however widespread the popular outrage against them, making the case for such a broader democratization will certainly require hard and committed work by a great many activists. They will need to put their minds not only to demanding immediate reforms but how to finally make a genuine democracy that transcends the capitalist economy and state. We want to clarify that this is on the agenda as a essential precondition for building out of this crisis the new movements and parties that are needed to make such a genuine democracy a real possibility.

The book is published by PM Press/Spectre. A preview is available on Google Books.
From The Bullet

Friday, March 12, 2010

Corporate Past - Corporate Future…?

By Joel Bakan
New Left Project

Joel Bakan is a Canadian lawyer and writer. The author of several books he is also one of the makers of the award winning documentary The Corporation. He spoke to NLP on the role of corporations in modern society.

How did the corporate form arise?

Various forms of the corporate form have been around for quite a while. Even Roman law had concepts of corporate identity that resemble modern corporate personhood. But the corporation as we know it today is really a product of the 19th century. Industrialization, and particularly the invention of the steam engine, made large-scale enterprise possible for the first time. The prevailing business form, the partnership, could not raise the kind of capital required by these enterprises because the number of investors was limited to the number of people who could practicably work together to run the enterprise.

The genius of the modern corporate form is that it separated ownership from management and thus made it possible for thousands, even millions, of individuals to be owners – to invest in various-sized chunks (shares) of the enterprise, and thus finance it. The task of running things would then be delegated by the shareholders to directors and professional managers. The corporate form could thus pool investment capital money from large numbers of investor/owners and finance large enterprises, such as railroads, steamship lines, and industrial works.

But this new class of anonymous and distant owners, having no real say or role in the conduct of a company’s day-to-day operation, demanded legal protection, whether to ensure their invested capital was used in ways that would benefit them, or to ensure they were not liable for debts and wrongs committed by companies they had no effective control over. Corporate law was reformulated, beginning in the mid-19th century, to provide those protections. The “best interests of the corporation” principle was added, requiring that all decisions made by managers and directors had to be geared to serving the best interests of the corporation and its shareholders; and so too was limited liability, which ensured shareholders would not be liable for company wrongs and debts.

A third principle, corporate personhood, was also necessary. If the people in the corporation – shareholders, managers, directors – were not legally liable or relevant, who was? Who would buy and sell businesses’ property, enter contracts of employment and supply, assume liability at law, and so on? Rights and duties do not exist in thin air. They must attach to a legal subject, a person. So, bingo!, the law invented one. By the strangest of legal alchemies it deemed the corporation itself – an abstract set of legal and institutional relations – to be a person (and so it has remained).

What in your view is wrong with the corporate form?

Ecosocialist Joel Kovel speaking in Regina

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ecosocialists Greece


Our Party was found in August 2007. Our first name was: "Association of Ecosocialists Greece". At that time we participated in "Oikologiki Paremvasi" (Ecological Interference) and supported SYRIZA on the parliamentary elections in September 2007. SYRIZA stands for: Coalition of the Radical Left and has 10 party-members, one of them was "Oikologiki Paremvasi". In December 2007 we split from "Oikologiki Paremvsi" because of main political problems and we decided to turn the "Association" into a Party.

In January 20th 2008, our first conference took place in Nikaia - Piraeus. More than one hundred members participated in it by e-mails for the final documents and other decisions. Half of them were present at the conference. Among other documents, our members voted for full support to the “Ecosocialist International Network”.

Two of our members participated in the first International Ecosocialist meeting in Paris (October 2007). Four of our members participated in the first SYRIZA conference (March 2007). Two of our members are also members of the Central Co-ordinating Committee of SYRIZA .

"Ecosocialists Greece" is a component political organization of SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left). We also participate in the “Greek Social Forum”. Ecosocialists Greece support the international campaign for the Global spreading of the principles of the Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, against war.

Member organizations of “Ecosocialists Greece” are:

1. Naturalistic and Social Movement – Peoples’ Ring
2. Immigrants Union (Piraeus)
3. Left Opposition

Ecosocialists Greece Website
Ecosocialists Greece Blog

Controversy Grows Over Brier Corporate Sponsor Monsanto

Monsanto’s GE seeds cause havoc for farmers
by Ecology Action Centre

The corporate sponsor of this week’s Brier, biotechnology company Monsanto, is under intense scrutiny from environmental, consumer and farmer groups in Nova Scotia, and across Canada and the world.

“Many curling fans might be shocked to learn that the Brier sponsor Monsanto is at the centre of farmer and consumer battles over genetically engineered seeds and increasing corporate control in farming,” said Marla MacLeod of Ecology Action Centre, a Nova Scotia-wide environmental group. “We are saddened that the great Brier championship is now associated with this relentlessly controversial company,” said MacLeod.

Earlier this year, the Curling Association of Canada signed a multi-year sponsorship agreement with Monsanto that includes championships through to 2013. Monsanto has sponsored the Brier since 2006. This week’s Brier runs until Sunday March 14 in Halifax.

Monsanto is the largest seed company in the world and owns approximately 86% of all the genetically engineered (GE) seeds sown across the globe. GE corn, canola, soy and sugar beet (white) are grown in Canada and Monsanto dominates the market in all four crops.

“Curling is being used to soften the image of a company that takes farmers in Canada to court for alleged patent infringement, for saving seeds,” said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN). Monsanto now puts farmers that it sues onto an “Unauthorized Grower List” which prohibits them from buying Monsanto products in the future. “The Curling Association should not be providing a platform for Monsanto’s corporate public relations,” said Sharratt.

Monsanto’s GE seeds are causing havoc for many farmers in Canada. Saskatchewan organic grain farmers tried to establish a class action lawsuit to seek compensation from Monsanto and another corporation for loss of organic canola due to GE contamination. A Private Members Bill – Bill C-474 - will be debated in the House of Commons on Wednesday March 17, to address the issue of export market harm caused by GE seeds.

Groups across the country are engaged in various struggles to stop Monsanto’s GE seeds from harming farmers’ livelihoods and the environment. Just last week, farm groups and consumers from across Canada wrote to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to try to stop the lifting of an injunction on planting Monsanto’s GE alfalfa. “The release of Monsanto’s GE alfalfa would be an immediate threat to organic food and farming in Canada,” said Cammie Harbottle, Youth Vice President of the National Farmer Union and a farmer in Nova Scotia.

“We don’t want the great sport of curling marred by association with the harm that can be caused by genetically engineered seeds,” said MacLeod.

For more information: Marla MacLeod, Ecology Action Centre, 902 442 1077; Lucy Sharratt, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 613 241 2267 ext.6 or cell 613 263 9511; Cammie Harbottle, National Farmers Union, 306 652 9465. For background on Monsanto:

"Conspiracy" Science: Mass Media and the Conservative Backlash on Global Warming

by Anthony DiMaggio

On March 2, the New York Times ran a story informing readers of recent "controversies" related to global warming. The story chronicled the efforts of scientists affiliated with the United Nations Climate Panel and other major research institutions to answer the claims of conservatives who suggest there is a conspiracy to hide the "debate" over climate change. The Times' story attempted to "objectively" report the controversy, highlighting on one side the efforts of climate scientists to "assert the legitimacy of the vast body of climate science" which states that global warming is real, and climate deniers on the other side seeking to expose scientists who "propagandize for shoddy science."

Global warming graduated in the last few years to the status of one of the great enduring political issues of our time. Unfortunately, public discourse is taking a dramatic step backward in light of corporate media's attacks on the scientific community. Scientific studies are greatly furthering our understanding of climate change, but establishment journalism is largely erasing the gains in public knowledge made over the last three years.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Climate Movement is Dead… Long Live the Climate Movement!

Rising Tide North America is pleased to announce the release of our latest publication: The Climate Movement is Dead… Long Live the Climate Movement!

In the aftermath of the COP15 talks in Copenhagen, the inability of the Big Greens, governments, and market approaches to find genuine and sustainable solutions to climate change is undeniable. As author Naomi Klein so aptly observed at the end of COP15 talks, “A particular model of dealing with climate change is dying.”

In the same uncompromising spirit as Rising Tide publications such as Deal or No Deal, and Hoodwinked in the Hothouse, CMID:LLCM delivers a timely critique of the failures of this “particular model” as exemplified by the mainstream NGOs who have grown all too cozy with corporations and the political establishment. It explores the ways in which “green” capitalism,electoral politics, and market mechanisms, far from solving the climate crisis, are some of the climate movement’s biggest obstacles.

Not content with mere polemic, CMID:LLCM charts a course that diverges from the dominant discourse of the mainstream climate movement. The essay lays out a strategy of supporting and escalating frontline struggles againstdirty energy while building a new global climate movement from the ground up, based around core principles of climate justice, grassroots power, solidarity, and direct action.

The Climate Movement Is Dead: Long Live the Climate Movement is a must-read for anyone left disenchanted by the mainstream climate movement, and all who are ready to step it up and fight for climate justice.

climatemovement longlive

The 2010 People's Summit: Building a Movement for a Just World

Basic Principles of the People's Summit

The 2010 G8/G20 Summit, set to take place in Toronto, Ontario (June 25-27, 2010) presents Canadian civil society organizations and groups with an opportunity to strengthen our collective voice and lend cohesion to our efforts on the environment, poverty, human rights and social justice.

The actions and policies of the G8 and its member-states have significant impact on millions of lives the world over, and with this, comes an opportunity for us - a diverse civil society, including community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, public, media and other groups – to work together to educate, empower and ignite positive change we would like to see in our world.

We converge in Toronto from June 18th – 25th to create a space where our diverse movements can democratically organize to advocate and educate on behalf of global justice. The People’s Summit is happening from June 18th-20th, and will be followed by a week of autonomous actions throughout Toronto in the lead up to the arrival of the G20 Leaders on June 25th.

You can be involved in creating the summit and surrounding actions! Contact us at  and stay tuned for meetings and events.

The People's Summit Website 
The People's Summit on Facebook

Warmest, driest winter in Canadian history

From the balmy Arctic, to the open water of the St. Lawrence and snowless western fields, this winter has been the warmest and driest in Canadian record books.

Environment Canada scientists report that the winter of 2009-10 has been 4 C above normal, making it the warmest since nationwide records were first kept in 1948. It was also the driest winter on the 63-year record, with precipitation 22 per cent below normal nationally, and down 60 per cent in parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

"It's beyond shocking," said David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada. He also warned that "the winter that wasn't" may have set the stage for potentially "horrific" water shortages, insect infestations and wildfires this summer.

As much of Asia, Europe and the U.S. shivered through and shovelled out of freak winter storms, Phillips says Canada was left on the sidelines.

Temperatures across Canada, except for a small area over the southern Prairies, were above normal, with some parts of Nunavut and northern Quebec more than six degrees above normal, he and his colleagues report.

Phillips said the weather appears to be tied to several factors, chief among them El Niño, a shift in the winds and ocean currents in the Pacific Ocean, and thinning, retreating Arctic ice.

Might it be called global warming or climate change? - NYC

Canada Urged to Ban Nuclear Weapons from Arctic

by in Canada

Ban Nuclear Weapons from Arctic, Increase Security Cooperation: Report

Arctic and nuclear weapon states need to work together to rid the Arctic region of nuclear weapons, finds a new report by security analysts Michael Wallace and Steven Staples.

Ridding the Arctic of Nuclear Weapons: A Task Long Overdue” was released today by the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Pugwash Group, the national affiliate of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.

“Cold War-era nuclear weapon policies and practices in the Arctic, such as nuclear submarine patrols and over-flights by bombers, pose an environmental risk to the region, and an unnecessary security threat to the international community,” said Steven Staples, President of the Rideau Institute.

The report proposes greater security cooperation among the circumpolar states, including nuclear weapons states United States and Russia, with the ultimate goal of creating an Arctic Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. Six similar de-nuclearization agreements now cover much of the South Pacific, Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia.

“No one can deny that these treaties have been an important part of efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons,” said Michael Wallace, Professor Emeritus of the University of British Columbia. “The Russian Federation might be persuaded to give up its Arctic-based nuclear forces if the United States was prepared to enter a significant, new arms strategic control treaty.”

In the meanwhile, there are steps that Canada could take right away. “The Canadian government could prohibit the transit of nuclear weapons through the Northwest Passage, and work with other Arctic non-nuclear-weapon states to create a regional agreement to be free of nuclear weapons north of the Arctic Circle,” noted Adele Buckley, environmental scientist and member of the international Pugwash Council.

The sponsor organizations will be encouraging the Canadian government when it meets with representatives of Arctic and G8 states in the coming months.

The report is available from

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Humanity, Society and Ecology: Global Warming and the Ecosocialist Alternative

Humanity_ Society and Ecology Global Warming and the Ecosocialist

Green, Inc.

Why have big environmental groups sold out the environment? Follow the money! (as usual)

Reviewed by Keith Goetzma

The highly paid leaders of big environmental organizations are compromising themselves and the planet by cutting deals—as well as wining, dining, and scuba diving—with corporate executives whose firms pollute and plunder resources. That’s the rather damning case laid out in Green, Inc. by environmental journalist Christine MacDonald, who challenges green groups to wean themselves from these tainted corporate donations and relationships, which range from apparent conflicts of interest to out-and-out scandal.

As an environmentalist, MacDonald is acutely aware of the interconnectedness of all things, and she touches on a constellation of related issues: greenwashing, green certification, dicey political alliances, indigenous rights, out-of-control logging and mining, even human rights and slavery. Green, Inc. doesn’t contain enough fresh enterprise reporting to be deemed a full-blown exposé, but the book ties together enough data, anecdotes, and previously reported material to be taken seriously as a critique of the business of environmentalism.

MacDonald singles out three organizations for her harshest criticism: the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, and Conservation International, where she briefly worked and thus attained “insider” status. She also notes improprieties and ethical lapses at other groups, and to be fair widens the circle of accountability to include all consumers: “Demanding to know where the products we purchase came from and how they were made is maybe the most important thing we can do to press corporations to clean up their operations and supply chains.”

This review was originally published in the January-February 2009 issue of Utne.

The Explosion of the Climate Change Movement

The (Un)frozen North

By Liz Stanton
Public Goods: The economics of climate, equity and shared prosperity

The deeper the understanding that scientists gain about climate change, the more “feedback” processes they uncover. In other words, the more they realize how climate change leads to yet more climate change. This is one of the biggest areas of uncertainty in projecting future climate impacts. Average and best-case-scenario damage estimates are well understood, but hidden feedback processes can mean surprisingly high and difficult-to-estimate worst-case scenarios. Here’s one example:

Within a few decades, climate change will have rendered the Arctic unrecognizable to anyone who had seen it in centuries past. Arctic ice and snow are melting as temperatures rise. Without these vast white (and highly reflective) expanses, global warming will occur at a much faster rate. (This is called the “albedo effect”: The sun’s rays bounce off of snow and ice, but are absorbed by the newly exposed dark ground.)

Permafrost – land “permanently” frozen solid before climate change – is thawing, too, and it releases methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere as it softens. New research reveals that the permafrost surface under the Arctic ocean is already thawing and releasing methane – a factor unaccounted for in current models of projected future climate change.

Last week, the Pew Trusts released a study led by economist Eban Goodstein that estimates the global cost of this additional warming from the melting Arctic at $2.4 trillion to $24 trillion, total, by 2050. (Note that one of the reasons for this wide range of forecasts is the wide range of social cost of carbon estimates used in the study: $13 to $798 per ton. For more on this see my critique of the EPA’s much-lower range.) According to Goodstein’s calculations, today’s Arctic warming is equivalent in effect to two-fifths of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; by 2100, this will have doubled to four-fifths of today’s U.S. emissions.

Tomorrow I head to Ottawa to share my findings so far on the economics of climate change in Canada with other researchers also working on this topic. The “frozen North” is a new area of study for me, and my research on Canada’s coastal zones is already proving fascinating. It will be the topic of many future blog postings.

A recent posting on the blog offers a helpful explanation of the relative importance of methane emissions.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Climate change and capitalism's ecological fix in Latin America

By Eduardo Gudyna
Critical Currents

The issue of climate change has recently acquired great promiunence in Latin America. It has received considerable coverage in the mainstream media, been the object of many citizen-led campaigns and has at least been discursively acknowledged by governments and some companies. Yet despite this growing presence in public debate, the question is whether the proposals that have been circulated so far are really aimed at devising effective measures to tackle climate change.

The analysis in the present text shows that the discourses of all South American governments today, while not denying the challenge of climate change, present it in a distorted way. Climate change is thus rendered as functional for a process of commodification of nature and a reorientation of environmental policy. Even under leftwing governments, South America is witnessing the redeployment of variations on the theme of faith in progress through the appropriation of nature, thus preventing the substantive agreements that would be necessary to confront climate change.

Read this article here.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Conservative Budget Promotes “Head In Oil Sands” Approach to Climate Change

by Christine
350 or Bust

As the Globe and Mail’s Shawn McCarthy points out, the budget announced by Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty yesterday puts climate action on ice:

"The Harper government has taken a pause in financing federal action on climate change.

In his budget speech Thursday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was literally silent on the issue – climate change was not mentioned, though the government has in the past described it as one of the major challenges of the age.

Rather than provide new spending for programs to reduce Canada’s greenhouse-gas emissions, the government is standing pat as it prepares to regulate emission reductions in transportation, electricity and industrial sectors."

Graham Saul, Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada responded to Flaherty’s budget as follows:

“Just when we thought that it couldn’t get any worse, today’s budget is a monumental failure of this government to do what it takes to address climate change in a meaningful way.

We are falling behind in the race for the clean energy jobs of the 21st century; the U.S. continues to outspend us embarrassingly 14:1 per capita on renewable energy. We have also failed to commit to our fair share in supporting poorer countries as they adapt to climate change."

Tim Weis, Director of Renewable Energy and Efficiency Policy at the Calgary-based Pembina Institute, points out on his renewable energy blog that in this budget Canada has hit rock bottom on investments in the environment. The resulting lag in innovation and green jobs will haunt Canada in the years to come:

"Yesterday’s Speech from the Throne committed Canada to becoming a “leader in green job creation”, but today’s budget does not walk the talk. With the Federal renewable energy investment program officially out of money, this budget’s void effectively means the federal government is walking away from renewable power. In spite of studies that have shown investments in renewable power actually generate a net financial gain for the government, it appears that this government still believes that taking action to protect the environment is at odds with building a strong economy. (In fact, Pembina’s analysis shows that we can take strong action to address climate change while growing our economy and creating nearly two million net new jobs.) "

Perhaps that perception is in part why Canada ranked 14th out of 17 countries for innovation, according to a recent report card from the Conference Board of Canada. Without strong federal leadership, Canadians will continue to lag behind as other countries take the lead in the emerging clean-energy market. (The U.S., for instance, set aside $98 billion for environmental and sustainable energy projects in last year’s economic stimulus package, outspending Canada 14:1 )

It seems that Harper’s Conservatives are leading Canada on a charge to nowhere but down economically and environmentally. The writing is on the wall - the carbon economy is the past, not the future. Former World Bank Chief Economist Lord Stern has estimated that to keep heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions below levels that would cause catastrophic climate change would cost up to two per cent of global GDP. Lord Stern initially predicted that failure to act on climate change could cost from five to 20 per cent of global GDP, but recently revised that, saying the cost of inaction would be “50 per cent or more higher” than his previous highest estimate – meaning it could cost a third of the world’s wealth.

As scientist Richard Gammon, speaking on the steps of the U.S. Congress in 1999 said:

"If you think mitigated climate change is expensive, try unmitigated."

If you haven’t already contacted your Member of Parliament as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of the Environment Jim Prentice, do so now. Tell them it’s time for the Conservatives to get their heads out of the oil sands and take decisive action on climate change.

Click here and here to find out what else you can do to fight climate change.

Socialism in the 21st Century: A Model with Changeable Pieces

What does 21st-century socialism consist of? Is it only a slogan or a dream that can be turned into a reality? Last century’s socialism has bequeathed this new one a logbook, with certain qualities that 21st-century socialism must acknowledge, embracing some, correcting others, and avoiding still others completely. The fast-changing times we live in today will necessarily make this model a puzzle we can put together and take apart.

By Juan Carlos Monedero

According to the logbook bequeathed to 21st-century socialism, last century’s predecessor had four main qualities: efficiency, heroism, barbarity and ingenuousness. The efficiency had to do with its capacity to bring a considerable amount of humanity—feudal Russia, imperial China and the depressed areas of Central Europe, Africa and Asia—into the modern era. The barbarity is what makes up the black book of the often unfairly called “real socialism,” and had to do with the Gulags, Walls, purges, political prisoners, lack of representative democracy, creation of enemies of the people, elimination of dissidence and the like.

Twentieth-century socialism also demands that we remember its heroism—often purposefully silenced—in stopping the spread of Nazism during the Second World War (of the 50 million dead, 20 million were Soviet citizens) and those who died or were imprisoned and tortured in the struggles against dictatorships and for democracy. Less talked about was socialism’s ingenuousness in the past century, by which we mean simple, even simplified, albeit well meaning, solutions to complex problems that aren’t resolved by changing the analysis of human nature.

Five main reasons 20th-century socialism was ingenuous

First, it was naïve for believing that assaulting the state apparatus was enough to change the social system. This naiveté is found in Marx himself, a man so convinced that a harmonious reign would follow the fall of capitalism that he didn’t stop to develop a theory of transition, justice or the State to match the challenges that were to come. Once power was won all else was improvisation. That was why Lenin decided to interpret each moment in the unfolding process, even as other Marxists reproached him for his rush and his unwillingness to adjust to the pace laid out by Marx, by then considered an oracle.

Two, it was naïve for believing that creating a single party ruled by democratic centralism (i.e. information flowing from bottom to top and orders from top to bottom) was enough to regulate society, respond to evolutionary changes and join together different volitions. Only if one believes that there’s such a thing as a single truth can one propose the creation of a single party.

Three, it was naïve for believing that nationalizing the means of production and controlling them through the State would satisfy social needs more effectively and abundantly than capitalism. Nationalizing the means of production does not mean socializing them.

Four, it was naïve for believing that what worked well in Russia would work equally well in other countries with different experiences, histories and worldviews. This was behind the bitterness of Peru’s Mariátegui, who warned orthodox Marxists that Latin America needed a Marxism that was “neither an imitation nor a copy” of the Soviet model.

And five, it was naïve for believing that uninterrupted growth would bring a reign of abundance that would end all human and social problems, ignoring humans’ need for deeper meaning, the depletion of the planet’s resources and the problems of modern productivity. Likewise for incorporating the idea of “the end of history” without understanding that socialism itself is a part of history and therefore must change with the societies and remain open to incorporating new needs, such as ecological sensitivity.

Twenty-first century socialism must rectify these errors and do a more complex analysis than the simple one that led to political actions in the past century now considered contrary to commonly accepted emancipating practices. Twenty-first century socialism will keep its substance. It is socialist because it clearly and definitively situates itself in opposition to capitalism and the exploitation capitalism entails. In addition to class domination, socialism now must incorporate any other type of domination—gender, racial, environmental, sexual and generational—into its social transformation. In this sense, socialism maintains its role as party pooper to capitalism’s promised orgy.

How can we envision socialism in the 21st century? I imagine it with these characteristics.

Twenty-first century socialism must rethink the definition of human nature

This definition must not be based on false assumptions about good and evil. We are neither angels nor devils. Both selfishness and altruism are part of our biological makeup. Which one is emphasized depends upon the social structure. Socialism committed the error, a legacy of the Enlightenment, of thinking that human beings were not only “good” but “perfectible.” On the other hand, Hobbes’ statement that man is “the wolf among men” is also incorrect. Humans have a strong survival instinct that leads them to both individualistic and group behaviors.

We now know that the new circumstances do more for any transformation than the supposedly “new man” who constantly reverted to old vices during the 20th century. Social conditions can even lead to genetic modifications. People who live from planting rice in wetlands have developed alleles that make them immune to malaria. All this explains the social nature of human beings.