Monday, January 31, 2011

Weyburn Carbon Storage Project Enters a Critical Phase

By Peter Montague

A photo taken in 2005 shows a site in
Weyburn, Saskatchewan, where carbon
dioxide is piped and buried underground.
The Weyburn carbon storage project in Saskatchewan, Canada, has entered a critical phase as authorities scramble to respond to claims that toxic amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) have leaked out of the ground, contaminating soil and water, killing small animals, and casting doubt on the viability of carbon storage as a technical fix for global warming.

Since 2000, the Weyburn project has been aiming to demonstrate that carbon dioxide (CO2) -- the main global warming gas -- can be safely buried a mile below ground. As reported previously, a technical study was released January 11 supporting claims that CO2 has leaked out of the ground at Weyburn, making explosive sounds, contaminating soil and water, asphyxiating small animals, and frightening Cameron and Jane Kerr into abandoning their farmhouse home.

The release of the technical study by geological engineer Paul Lafleur was accompanied by a short video, a slide show, and a brief written history of the Kerr's attempts to bring attention to these problems as far back as 2004. The Canadian advocacy group Ecojustice has been assisting the Kerrs.

Cochabamba + 1: Climate Justice and Ecological Alternatives Conference


Cochabamba + 1: Climate Justice and Ecological Alternatives

A conference that will address themes such as ecological crises and citizen alternatives, strategies towards sustainable environment and industrial conversion, fossil fuel conflicts, science and climate justice, ecosocialism, citizen mobilization to combat shale gaz/ the Tar sands, ecological debt and solidarity, the multiplicity and convergence of networks. In sum, it will be a time to build a movement!

Dates: April 15 to 17, 2011
Place: Montreal, Canada


Pablo Solon, ambassador of Bolivia to the Unites Nations and the principal initiator of the movement towards climate change of the People's Summit that took place in Cancun in 2010.

Maude Barlow, president of the Council of Canadians, world-renowned activist on the issue of access to water.

Vinod Raina, Leader of the People's Science Movement in India. He is known for his work on the issue of environmental debt.

Judy Rebick, professor at Ryerson University, political and social activist.

Louise Vandelac, professor art the Environment Institute of the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM).

And also, Amir Khadir , André Bélisle, Avi Lewis, Clayton Muller Thomas, Éric Darier, Gustave Massiah, Jacques Létourneau, Joel Kovel, Judith Marshall, Laura Martin, Louise Casselman, Lucie Sauvé, Michel Duguay, Michel Lambert, Michel Loreau, Naomi Klein, Nick De Carlo, Pat Mooney, Paul Moist, Roger Rashi, Sam Gindin, Terisa Turner, Tony Clarke, and more !

The program will be available soon!

Canadian cap-and-trade program recommended

Julius Melnitzer
Financial Post
January 31, 2011

The National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy has recommended that Canada adopt its own national climate change regulations and adapt them to US policies if and when the latter appear. Among other things, the authors of the report conclude that matching Canada’s GHG emissions targets to those in the U.S. would lead to higher carbon prices in Canada.

Stikeman Elliott’s Canadian Energy Law blog has a good summary of the report.

The Story of Cap & Trade from Story of Stuff Project on Vimeo.

Climate Wars by Gwynne Dyer

Book Review
The Green Blog
"Red and Green since 2007"

With a title like Climate Wars this book looks “alarmist” even to someone sick and tired of being called just that. But actually, it is far less dramatic than the action paced science fiction that may come to mind. Written by a veteran soldier with academic degrees in military history and years of experience in journalism. Based mainly on the projections made by army analysts of the world from the prognoses in the IPCC 2007 report.

For those of us with academic backgrounds in ecological science and/or a couple of years of climate debate behind us several of its chapters are climate change science and policy repetition. But for me – working on mapping the links between natural resources and conflict – chapter 1 is a great summary with extra insights to the geopolitics of predicted climate change impacts.

Floods Australia‘s ‘Katrina’ moment

By John Pilger
Green Left
Monday, January 31, 2011

When you fly over the earth’s oldest land mass, Australia, the view can be shocking.

Scars as long as European countries are the result of erosion. Salt pans shimmer where once native vegetation grew. This is almost impossible to reverse. The first to die are the most vulnerable species.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Australia’s devastation of its natural environment has caused more mammal extinction than in any other country. The iconic koala is used to attract tourists; the Queen and Oprah Winfrey, are photographed cuddling one, unaware that thus unique creature has enriched the state of Queensland for decades with its industrial slaughter and the sale of its skin to Britain and America.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reheating the climate change story

The media have dropped climate change, with its tricky science. But cast in economic terms, it could recapture public interest

Jules Boykoff
30 January 2011

Here's a climate conundrum: while scientists declared 2010 to be the hottest year on record, media mavens have been afire with the fact that US media coverage of climate change dropped precipitously, or as the popular Daily Climate blog put it, "fell off the map". 2010 was a scorcher of historic proportions, so proclaimed Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the World Meteorological Organisation, but the quantity of media coverage on this pivotal issue plunged to pre-Inconvenient Truth levels.

Unions Can Address Jobs Crisis with Bold Action to Protect the Climate

By Sean Sweeney
Labor Notes
January 28, 2011
Also read Climate Protection Strategy: Beyond Business-­as-­Usual
By the Labor Network for Sustainability

Unions can use the promise of a Green New Deal to turn climate negotiations into a rallying point. Some U.S. unions could start by breaking ties with polluting employers and joining the movement for a global climate deal with binding targets to reduce carbon emissions.

With no fanfare and just a little private celebration, the international union movement claimed a small but important win in the latest round of UN climate talks in Cancun last year. They won an agreement from governments that climate protection measures must not come at the expense of workers.

Claiming the ultimate victory—a global climate deal with binding targets to reduce carbon emissions—depends on adopting a different approach, however.

Technological fundamentalism: Why bad things happen when humans play God

By Robert Jensen
Published by The Progressive Christian
Original article:

If humans were smart, we would bet on our ignorance.

That advice comes early in the Hebrew Bible. Adam and Eve’s banishment in chapters two and three of Genesis can be read as a warning that hubris is our tragic flaw. In the garden, God told them they could eat freely of every tree but the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This need not be understood as a command that people must stay stupid, but only that we resist the temptation to believe that we are godlike and can competently manipulate the complexity of the world.

We aren’t, and we can’t, which is why we should always remember that we are far more ignorant than we are knowledgeable.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The World According to Monsanto

Marie-Monique Robin
National Film Board of Canada, 2008

There’s nothing they are leaving untouched: the mustard, the okra, the bringe oil, the rice, the cauliflower. Once they have established the norm: that seed can be owned as their property, royalties can be collected. We will depend on them for every seed we grow of every crop we grow. If they control seed, they control food, they know it – it’s strategic. It’s more powerful than bombs. It’s more powerful than guns. This is the best way to control the populations of the world. The story starts in the White House, where Monsanto often got its way by exerting disproportionate influence over policymakers via the “revolving door”.

One example is Michael Taylor, who worked for Monsanto as an attorney before being appointed as deputy commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991. While at the FDA, the authority that deals with all US food approvals, Taylor made crucial decisions that led to the approval of GE foods and crops. Then he returned to Monsanto, becoming the company’s vice president for public policy.

Thanks to these intimate links between Monsanto and government agencies, the US adopted GE foods and crops without proper testing, without consumer labeling and in spite of serious questions hanging over their safety. Not coincidentally, Monsanto supplies 90 percent of the GE seeds used by the US market. Monsanto’s long arm stretched so far that, in the early nineties, the US Food and Drugs Agency even ignored warnings of their own scientists, who were cautioning that GE crops could cause negative health effects. Other tactics the company uses to stifle concerns about their products include misleading advertising, bribery and concealing scientific evidence.

Watch the full documentary HERE.

Monsanto trailer below.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A hard rain's gonna fall

Climate change will yield more extreme rainfall, according to a 2009 analysis.

David L. Chandler
MIT News Office
August 17, 2009

Heavier rainstorms lie in our future. That's the clear conclusion of a new MIT and Caltech study on the impact that global climate change will have on precipitation patterns.

But the increase in extreme downpours is not uniformly spread around the world, the analysis shows. While the pattern is clear and consistent outside of the tropics, climate models give conflicting results within the tropics and more research will be needed to determine the likely outcomes in tropical regions.

Read more HERE.

Art, Activism, and Permaculture

By Lars Kwakkenbos
Foreign Policy In Focus
January 20, 2011

Infamous for fomenting mass disobedience on bicycles during the Copenhagen climate Summit, touring the UK recruiting a rebel clown army, running courses in post-capitalist culture and falling in love with utopias, the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination exists somewhere between art and activism, poetry and politics. The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination is not an institution or a group, not a network nor an NGO, but an affinity of friends who recognize the beauty of collective creative disobedience. It treats insurrection as an art, and art as a means of preparing for the coming insurrection.

Creation and resistance are the entwined DNA strands of the Lab’s practice. It sees art and activism as inseparable from everyday life. Its experiments aim not to make art but to shape reality, not to show you the world but to change it together. The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination brings artists who have escaped the prisons of the art world together with activists who want to revolutionize forms of political action. Together they apply their creativity to the engineering of social movements. Working without hierarchy, taking direct action, practicing self-management and living ecologically, they refuse to wait for the end of capitalism, but attempt to live in spite of it.

In this interview from the new book Art & Activism in the Age of Globalization, the Laboratory's co-founders Isa Fremeaux and John Jordan talk about their inspirations and aspirations.

Read article HERE.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ecosocialist responses to the failure of global capitalism

By Tim Ayres
NSW Secretary
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union
Australian Left Renewal Conference
Search Foundation
May, 2010

I would like to start by first acknowledging the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and I pay my respects to their elders past and present. It is a challenge for a group of speakers at a left forum to speak for less than 10 minutes, I welcome those of my comrades from the AMWU who are in the audience, who know it’s impossible to get me to speak for 10 minutes once I get going, but I do also notice in a new innovation for the search foundation and friends there’s a bell here, that speakers can ring for themselves when they hit the two minute mark. It’s a sort of self-regulation.

I have been invited today to make a few remarks about the left response to the two most obvious recent failures of modern capitalism - the collapse at the centre of our financial system and the challenges inherent in our response to the ‘market failure’ of carbon induced climate change. Both are pretty easy cans to kick - they both contain all too easy examples of the contradictions of neo-liberalism and modern capitalism and its unfair impact upon the worlds least powerful. The real challenge for the Left, and I really mean the democratic modern Left, is not to provide effective critiques of the Pythonesque ‘contradictions inherent in the system’, but to chart ways that we can build an intellectually strong, popular and practical pathway through these challenges. The topic really invites you to draw some conclusions, or at least begin a discussion about Left renewal.

Germans sound nuclear dump alarm

Cancer statistics cited to oppose soon-to-be waste-storage site in the country's north.

Al Jazeera

Thousands of angry protesters delayed a shipment of nuclear waste arriving at a dumping site in Germany last November.

Authorities are considering using the site for long-term nuclear waste storage, but anti-nuclear campaigners say alarming cancer statistics at a site in the same region should serve as a warning.

Al Jazeera's Nadim Baba reports.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Canada's Climate Challenge

How to trim greenhouse gas weight while piling on the tonnes in the oil sands?

By Fred Wilson
January 19, 2011
Third in a series on oil politics and climate change

There is one overriding question that hangs over the Harper government's adamant refusal to face up to climate change and to regulate a reduction in Canada's greenhouse gases. How is it possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time generating more of them than ever?

Stephen Harper and Peter Kent are like the overweight twins trying to shed pounds, while eating greasy bitumen burgers for lunch. That is what our ever increasing bitumen exports to the U.S. amounts to in relation to the struggle to take action on climate change.

Downsize or Modify? A Conversation with Noam Chomsky

By Mickey Z.
Dissident Voice
January 19th, 2011

While Noam Chomsky surely needs no introduction, as they say, that doesn’t mean interviewing him has to follow a blueprint. So, after seeing him in a video called Are We Running Out of Oil? I decided to initiate a conversation about the future…or perhaps lack thereof.

What will happen if activists don’t kick things up a few thousands notches and provoke massive changes in the way humans currently live? Chomsky and I, of course, agree it’d be best to create such change and learn the answer to that question. On a few other points, we didn’t agree.

Our discussion went something like this…

Ecology and Islam

A Review of Abdul-Matin’s “Green Deen”

By Eric Walberg
Dissident Voice
January 14th, 2011
Book available HERE.

Muslim Americans are slowly beginning to make their mark on their conflicted society. There are more Muslims than Jews in the US now — approximately 5 million. They are the most diverse of all American believers, 35 per cent born in the US (25 per cent Afro-American), the rest — immigrants from southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Traditionally they have voted Republican, but have shifted to Democrat and Green parties in recent years.

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin is the son of black converts, raised in New York, a community organiser now environmental adviser to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His book about Islam and the environment — Green Deen — is a stimulating overview of both the US environmental movement and how American Muslims are becoming part of it, bringing their own unique perspective.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Art and Socialism

By William Morris

My friends, I want you to look into the relations of Art to Commerce, using the latter word to express what is generally meant by it; namely, that system of competition in the market which is indeed the only form which most people now-a-days suppose that Commerce can take.

Now whereas there have been times in the world's history when Art held the supremacy over Commerce; when Art was a good deal, and Commerce, as we understand the word, was a very little; so now on the contrary it will be admitted by all, I fancy, that Commerce has become of very great importance and Art of very little.

I say this will be generally admitted, but different persons will hold very different opinions not only as to whether this is well or ill, but even as to what it really means when we say that Commerce has become of supreme importance and that Art has sunk into an unimportant matter.

Allow me to give you my opinion of the meaning of it; which will lead me on to ask you to consider what remedies should be applied for curing the evils that exist in the relations between Art and Commerce.

Read more HERE

Eco Power Lists: Fatuous, invidious and misrepresentative

The fame, extreme wealth and disproportionate influence celebrated by such lists are completely at odds with the values of the green movement

George Monbiot

Brad Pitt was named in the Observer's eco power list for his
work funding and building 13 new green homes in New
Orleans, after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina
Is there anything the Sunday papers can't turn into a fatuous celeb-fest? Two days ago, the Observer published its "eco power list". It will come as no surprise that it featured Brad Pitt – which list doesn't? It was more surprising to find Jay Leno there, on the grounds that he has made the, er, 240 cars he runs "as green as possible".

And the chief executive of Ford, because he has just unveiled an electric Ford Focus (sadly he didn't simultaneously veil the gas guzzlers he continues to market). Much of the list was a catalogue of rich and powerful people who have now added green – or some nebulous semblance of green – to their portfolios.

But I'm less concerned about the contents of these lists than the principle. To me, eco and power occupy different spheres. The environmentalism I recognise is a challenge to power. It confronts a system which allows a handful of people to dominate our lives and capture our resources. The fame, the extreme wealth, the disproportionate influence celebrated by power lists stand in opposition to the values and principles that green thinking espouses.

Two Good Quotes

Daniel Tanuro
The Futility of Green Capitalism
Climate and Capitalism

On Being an Ecosocialist

An ecosocialist differs from an ecologist in that he analyzes the "ecological crisis" not as a crisis of the relationship between humanity in general and nature but as a crisis of the relationship between an historically determined mode of production and its environment, and therefore in the last analysis as a manifestation of the crisis of the mode of production itself.

In other words, for an ecosocialist, the ecological crisis is in fact a manifestation of the crisis of capitalism (not to overlook the specific crisis of the so-called "socialist" societies, which aped capitalist productivism). A result is that, in his fight for the environment, an ecosocialist will always propose demands that make the connection with the social question, with the struggle of the exploited and oppressed for a redistribution of wealth, for employment, etc.
– Daniel Tanuro

On "Scientific" Socialism

Stephen Jay Gould
Roundtable on the Future of the Left
Brecht Forum
October, 1998

Stephen Jay Gould
This may not be a popular position, but at least it’s mine. (laughter) I think, at least as I understand it, the way in which they use the term “scientific,” we should drop it now.

It was the nineteenth century, and Marx came out of this tradition which was highly deterministic and had theories of historical stages. I think he was following a procedure that’s been very common throughout history, based on the prestige of science and the misunderstanding that science is meant to be a deterministic enterprise. I think that’s really an incorrect position. I think if we’ve learned anything in the twentieth century, it’s the depth of history’s contingencies and unpredictabilities.

They can be explained after they happen, you can certainly have prognostications, you can certainly learn important things, and the word “scientific” itself is very broad. It doesn’t only mean the caricatured LaPlacean determinism, and I think science could be broadened as a concept to include historical complexity which doesn’t grant that kind of predictability.

Nonetheless, the whole historical context of the phrase “scientific socialism” is so bound up with the outmoded, deterministic view that was common in nineteenth century science, and which spilled over into theories of social structure and predictability, that we’d probably be better off just dropping it. (applause)

The Economics of Happiness

The Economics of Happiness website

Also visit 8 Reasons Global Capitalism Makes Our Lives Worse -- And How We Can Create a New Kind of Economy

"Critical to all this is a political instrument — or political party — that can provide leadership. This is needed because a society marked by the vices of the old cannot produce a process where all workers become socialists at the same time.

But a new kind of leadership that “fosters revolutionary practice only by continuously learning from below. There is, in short, a process of interaction, a dialectic between the political instrument and popular movements.

'By itself, the former becomes a process of command from above; by itself, the latter cannot develop a concept of the whole — that is, it cannot transcend localism.'" - Putting Humans Back Into Socialism.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Welcome to the Greenhouse

O/R Books
Buy book HERE

What will our new world look like? How will we-can we-adapt? The clash of a rapidly changing environment with earth's self-styled ruling species, humans, provides ample creative fodder for this riveting anthology of original science fiction.

In Welcome to the Greenhouse, award-winning editor Gordon Van Gelder has brought together sixteen speculative stories by some of the most imaginative writers of our time. Terrorists, godlike terraformers, and humans both manipulative and hapless populate these pages. The variety of stories reflects the possibilities of our future: grim, hopeful, fantastic and absurd.

"[T]here is a lot about global warming that we don't know. As the planet heats up, almost certainly some regions will experience more intense droughts, but which regions, exactly, and how intense will those droughts be? ....The greatest unknown of all is, of course, how people, collectively, will respond. Will they be chastened? Genocidal? Or will they just muddle along, behind growing seawalls and shrinking coasts? Science—even social science—can't answer questions like this, which is why we turn to science fiction. Welcome to the Greenhouse!" —Elizabeth Kolbert

Species-at-risk defenders walk away from NAFTA review process

Citizen’s complaint process a ‘sham,’ groups say

Jan 17, 2011

VANCOUVER — An international coalition of environmental groups, represented by Ecojustice, has withdrawn in protest a complaint against Canada, a first in the history of NAFTA’s environmental watchdog.

The complaint, made to the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) in 2006, alleged that the Canadian government failed to enforce laws to protect at least 197 at-risk species in Canada.

Climate Change Fix Threatens Indigenous Peoples

Posted By Ruth Thompson 
January 17, 2011

Here at the University of Saskatchewan I have the pleasure of supervising graduate students working in the areas of Canadian Aboriginal law and international Indigenous rights. Last year Nkasi Adams, the first Indigenous woman to graduate from law school in Guyana, joined us at the University of Saskatchewan to pursue an LL.M. focussing on the tensions between Indigenous peoples’ rights and international measures to deal with climate change. I’m happy to have her provide most of the ideas and information for this month’s column. It’s something we don’t know enough about here in the north.

Climate Change Fix Threatens Indigenous Peoples

By Nkasi Adams

We have probably all heard about ways that climate change will threaten Indigenous peoples — by causing rising sea levels, less sea ice, and so on. However we don’t hear much about the ways that preserving forest as a means to deal with climate change threatens Indigenous peoples. Shouldn’t saving standing forests be a good thing for forest-dwelling peoples?

The Windup Girl

By Erik Curren
Transition Voice
January 1, 2011

It's not the apocalypse. And it's certainly not the Death Star or the planet Tatooine. But The Windup Girl is a compelling vision of our industrial world as it could be in a low-energy future.

Sci Fi for smart people

Many futuristic tales inhabit a world with all the social depth of Dungeons and Dragons.

Their politics is white hat vs. black hat and the prize is power-for-power's-sake. Spaceships, lasers and teleporters run on an endless supply of safe clean energy (either "nuclear power" or just plain magic), so there's never a need to stop for gas or recharge a battery. Forget about nation states -- every planet has somehow been unified into a single cultural and political entity and the real action is with interplanetary empires and federations.

And then there's money. Or not. Did Darth Vader ever have to wrangle with accounting for more budget to cover stormtrooper body armor? Did we ever see Mr Sulu grouse about the price of Vitamin Water as he fumbled for change in the PX of the Starship Enterprise?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Peak Oil and a Changing Climate


The scientific community has long agreed that our dependence on fossil fuels inflicts massive damage on the environment and our health, while warming the globe in the process. But beyond the damage these fuels cause to us now, what will happen when the world's supply of oil runs out?

In a new video series from The Nation magazine and On The Earth Productions, Bill McKibben, Noam Chomsky, Nicole Foss, Richard Heinberg and other scientists, researchers and writers explain.

Visit for more videos in this series.

The Science and Humanism of Stephen Jay Gould

Monthly Review Press
Purchase book HERE.

Stephen Jay Gould was not only a leading paleontologist and evolutionary theorist, he was also a humanist with an enduring interest in the history and philosophy of science. The extraordinary range of Gould’s work was underpinned by a richly nuanced and deeply insightful worldview.

Richard York and Brett Clark engage Gould’s science and humanism to illustrate and develop the intellectual power of Gould’s worldview, particularly with regard to the philosophy of science. They demonstrate how the Gouldian perspective sheds light on many of the key debates occurring not only in the natural sciences, but in the social sciences as well. They engage the themes that unified Gould’s work and drove his inquires throughout his intellectual career, such as the nature of history, both natural and social, particularly the profound importance of contingency and the uneven tempo of change.

How Green Became the Color of Money (Pt 3)

A Concise History of the Rise and Fall of the Enviro Establishment

By Jeffrey St. Clair
Click HERE to read Part One
Click HERE to read Part Two

In the Clinton era, the contours of environmental politics settled into a triangulated landscape, bounded by the Executive Office Building and its agency outlets (where administrative fiats were handed down with devastating finality); the committee rooms of Congress (where the chairmen of the all-important appropriations committees dole out pork and pollution); and the grey mansions of the special interest lobbies, both environmental and industrial, stacked along K Street.

Daily the inhabitants of these centers of power determined the levels of lead in the blood of children in south-central Los Angeles; the number of Chinook salmon chewed up by hydro-electric dams on the Columbia River; the gallons of dioxin flushed into the Mississippi; and the fate of such animals as the grizzly bear, whose habitat can remain protected public land or be transformed into clearcuts or cyanide-laced heap leach gold mines.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Climate change deniers skilfully fuel doubt

Quasi-science used to manipulate opinion, new book says

By Graham Thomson
January 15, 2011

Erik M. Conway and co-author Naomi Orekes - Merchants of Doubt
Historian Erik Conway did two things this week that might seem counterintuitive, if not downright odd.

He voluntarily left the warmth of Pasadena, Calif., where he works at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to come to Edmonton during the middle of a bitter cold snap. And while here, as thousands of Edmontonians coaxed their cars to life for the frigid commute home through snow-choked roads, Conway entered a lecture hall at the University of Alberta to present a lecture on global warming.

Conway understands, as do climate scientists around the world, that a cold snap in Edmonton does not negate the science of global warming that takes into account the worldwide climate over a span of a century and a half.

Socialists debate consumerism

"The impulse to consumerism remains tied to the alienation of work. "  `Productivism' or liberation?

By Ben Courtice
November 2, 2010

In a recent seminar on trade unions and the climate movement, I observed a surprising disagreement between some of the socialists present. It was started by a comment from Melbourne University academic (and Socialist Alliance activist) Hans Baer, who suggested that the “treadmill of production and consumption” had to be challenged, that we need to challenge consumerism and the alienation of work that makes people buy things to feel better.

Liz Ross of Socialist Alternative took umbrage at this, declaring that workers should create and enjoy wonderful technological products, tearing down a straw figure that Hans was supposedly arguing to stultify the creativity of the working class.

A more nuanced response came from a member of Solidarity, Chris Breen, who suggested he was fine with rich people giving up their second house but against the idea that ordinary people should be asked to sacrifice.

The disagreement over consumerism highlights a strategic debate among environmentalists, but also an important debate on the left.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tar Sands Oil Some of World's Dirtiest: Report

Findings counter studies that put bitumen's carbon footprint slightly higher than regular crude.

By Andrew Nikiforuk

A report by a major global research group representing the world's 10 largest car buying markets has concluded that Canada's bitumen is one of the world's dirtiest oils due to its poor quality, low gravity and the vast amount of natural gas needed to enrich it.

The study for the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), which looked at the carbon intensity of oil from 3,000 fields now supplying European gasoline markets, also concluded that increasing reliance on dirty fuels will raise greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent above that of conventional oils.

After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

By Naomi Klein
January 14, 2011

"Dolphins off the bow!"

I race to the front of the WeatherBird II, a research vessel owned by the University of South Florida. There they are, doing their sleek silvery thing, weaving between translucent waves, disappearing under the boat, reappearing in perfect formation on the other side.

After taking my fill of phone video (and very pleased not to have dropped the device into the Gulf of Mexico), I bump into Gregory Ellis, one of the junior scientists aboard.

"Did you see them?" I ask excitedly.

"You mean the charismatic megafauna?" he sneers. "I'll pass."

Ouch. Here I was thinking everyone loves dolphins, especially oceanographers. But it turns out that these particular marine scientists have issues with dolphins. And sea turtles. And pelicans. It's not that they don't like them (a few of the grad students took Flipper pictures of their own). It's just that the charismatic megafauna tend to upstage the decidedly less charismatic creatures under their microscopes. Like the bacteria and phytoplankton that live in the water column, for instance, or 500-year-old coral and the tube worms that burrow next to them, or impossibly small squid the size of a child's fingernail.

Read more HERE.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How Green Became the Color of Money (Pt 2)

By Jeffrey St. Clair
Click HERE to read Part One.

By the end of Reagan’s second term, the big environmental organizations were well-pickled in the political brine of Washington, with freshness and passion drained out.

Early in the 1988 campaign of George H. W. Bush, the Texas transplant attempted to distance himself from the environmental ethos of Reagan, who had said that if you saw one redwood tree you had seen them all. Bush’s strategy of revision was due mainly to the political instincts of Lee Atwater, who closely scrutinized polling data showing that support for green causes cut across class lines: over 70 percent of the voters wanted more governmental action to protect environmental quality.

Thus, Bush proudly claimed that he intended to be the “environmental president.” He went after Michael Dukakis, the governor of Massachusetts and the Democratic nominee, over the dismal condition of Boston Harbor. Bush pledged to support the reauthorization of the Clean Air Act, including new provisions aimed at controlling acid rain, and to take firm action to curb global warming. He actively promoted a plan for “no net loss of wetlands.”

Read more HERE.

Split Estate: Trailer

Split Estate website HERE.

This compelling Emmy Award winning documentary shows the dirty side of hydraulic fracturing and natural gas, an energy source the industry touts as a clean alternative to fossil fuels.

Environment Minister Kent 'won't get far' in the U.S. if he accuses groups against oil sands expansion of being slanderers, say environmentalists

'He seems more interested in smearing Americans as slanderers than addressing the concerns that we have with the environmental impacts of tar sands oil,' says Friends of the Earth.

By Tim Naumetz
The Hill Times
Jan 12, 2011

PARLIAMENT HILL – U.S. environmental groups Environment Minister Peter Kent accused of slander and “outright lies” about petroleum extraction from Alberta’s oil sands are reacting angrily to his allegations, as well as his plan to try to convince Americans the oil is “ethical” compared to petroleum imports from Saudi Arabia and other countries.

“If he’s going to come to the U.S. saying that we’re a bunch of slanderers, I don’t think that will get very far,” said Alex Moore, an energy specialist with Friends of the Earth in Washington, D.C., one of several U.S. environmental groups that launched a “No Tar Sands Oil” campaign in December.

“He seems more interested in smearing Americans as slanderers than addressing the concerns that we have with the environmental impacts of tar sands oil,” Mr. Moore said. “They [Mr. Kent and Mr. Harper] seem to be coming from the position that people who are concerned about tar sands oil have something against Canada. We really want to move off oil entirely. America and the rest of the world cannot afford continued addiction to oil.”

Another pipe dream

By Marc Lee
Progressive Economics Forum
January 13th, 2011

The Weyburn, Saskatchewan carbon capture and storage (CCS) project has sprung big leaks, and with it the argument that CCS can make dirty fossil fuels clean. The core idea behind CCS is taking CO2 emissions and piping them back underground where they are supposed to stay, forever. In the case of Weyburn, the CO2 comes from a coal plant across the border in North Dakota, and the injection is for “enhanced oil recovery”, or using the gas to re-pressurize the well to get more fossil fuel out.

Now, thanks to some diligent work by EcoJustice, there is good evidence that the CO2 is bubbling back up to the surface. Interestingly, it was the geological aspects of CCS that were supposed to be rock solid. The big flaws in CCS thinking were that projects are very costly, so the economics are not favourable (leading to the perverse outcome of governments pumping in billions in subsidies for pilots for an industry already raking in tens of billions in profits per year). And even under ideal conditions (like emissions from a coal-fired electricity plant), CCS could not capture 100% of emissions, and in cases where combustion is decentralized (a car engine or a home furnace) CCS could do very little to change the emissions status quo.

But such a broad-based failure is reminiscent of the confident statements about the risks of offshore oil drilling put to bed by the BP spill. Now with CCS, the industry is left without a fig leaf. The real bottom line is that fossil fuel consumption must be reduced and then eliminated if we are to have anything resembling human civilization for our grandkids, period. Will there come a government, anywhere, willing to say no to the oil and gas, or coal industries? In the short-term, I’m not optimistic. It may take more Katrina and BP scale disasters before change happens, and perhaps not even then.

In the meantime, the pipe dream of a technological fix that preserves the status quo is dead.

It's time to talk of climate change

What kind of world are we going to leave for the next generation?

By Ellen Sandell
January 14, 2011

IN APRIL 2009 the Los Angeles Times ran the headline: "What will global warming look like? Scientists point to Australia". The article said events unfolding in Australia - record-breaking droughts, killer bushfires and devastating floods - gave a snapshot of our future in a globally warmed world. Nearly two years on, it seems very little has changed.

The floods that have led to most of Queensland being declared a disaster zone are a disturbing reminder that living in one of the richest countries in the world does not shield us from the devastation of natural disasters.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

From NAFTA to CETA: Canada-EU Deep Economic Integration

By Dana Gabriel
Be Your Own Leader

Canada and the European Union (EU) have already held five rounds of negotiations towards a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which will go beyond NAFTA. With the sixth round of talks scheduled to take place in Brussels, Belgium from January 17-21, Canadian and EU officials remain optimistic that a deal could be finalized by the end of 2011.

Thus far, negotiations have included key areas such as goods, rules of origin, services, investment, government procurement, as well as others. As talks enter their final crucial stages, there are growing concerns over the threat CETA poses to Canadian sovereignty. Coupled with the financial turmoil sweeping Europe, deep economic integration with the EU could prove disastrous.

Time history of atmospheric CO2

Carbon Tracker

Time history of atmospheric carbon dioxide from 800,000 years before present until January, 2009. Recommend full screen/HD to read titles. See for more information on the global carbon cycle.

From Henry Ford to Rob Ford: Auto-destruction and possibilities of a car-free future

Dr. J
Your Hearts on the Left

From car assembly-line pioneer Henry Ford, to Toronto's new pro-car mayor Rob Ford, we are living in an auto-dependent and auto-destructive society that is harming our health and our environment. But a healthy and green, car-free world is still possible.


During every hospital shift I see people who have been directly injured by cars—from whiplash and bruising, to broken bones, to fatalities. Car crashes are so common as to be simply part of the daily hospital routine. Listening to the radio traffic report outside the hospital is no better: collisions are presented as daily nuisances to be avoided, their human toll hidden.

But the patients and traffic reports add up. According to the World Health Organization cars kill more than 1 million people a year, injure 50 million, and are predicted to become the third largest contributor to the global burden of disease by 2020. This costs countries up to 4% of their GNP, with a global total of more than half a trillion dollars a year.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change

Isuma TV

 A scene from - Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge
 and Climate Change
Nunavut-based director Zacharias Kunuk (Atanarjuat The Fast Runner) and researcher and filmmaker Dr. Ian Mauro (Seeds of Change) have teamed up with Inuit communities to document their knowledge and experience regarding climate change.

This new documentary, the world’s first Inuktitut language film on the topic, takes the viewer “on the land” with elders and hunters to explore the social and ecological impacts of a warming Arctic. This unforgettable film helps us to appreciate Inuit culture and expertise regarding environmental change and indigenous ways of adapting to it.

Exploring centuries of Inuit knowledge, allowing the viewer to learn about climate change first-hand from Arctic residents themselves, the film portrays Inuit as experts regarding their land and wildlife and makes it clear that climate change is a human rights issue affecting this ingenious Indigenous culture. Hear stories about Arctic melting and how Inuit believe that human and animal intelligence are key to adaptability and survival in a warming world.

The Future of Food Riots

By Gwynne Dyer
Common Dreams

If all the food in the world were shared out evenly, there would be enough to go around. That has been true for centuries now: if food was scarce, the problem was that it wasn't in the right place, but there was no global shortage. However, that will not be true much longer.

The food riots began in Algeria more than a week ago, and they are going to spread. During the last global food shortage, in 2008, there was serious rioting in Mexico, Indonesia, and Egypt. We may expect to see that again this time, only bigger and more widespread.

Most people in these countries live in a cash economy, and a large proportion live in cities. They buy their food, they don't grow it. That makes them very vulnerable, because they have to eat almost as much as people in rich countries do, but their incomes are much lower.

Consumerism: Curses and Causes

By Rick Wolff
Monthly Review

Consumerism in the Garden
US consumerism -- citizens driven excessively to buy goods and services and accumulate consumable wealth -- is cursed almost everywhere. Many environmentalists blame it for global warming. Critics of the current economic disasters often point to home-buying gluttony as the cause. Many see consumerism behind the borrowing that makes the US the world's greatest debtor nation today.

Moralists of otherwise diverse motivations agree on attacking consumerist materialism as against spiritual values. Educators blame it for distracting young people's interest from learning. Psychologists attribute mass loneliness and depression to unrealizable expectations of what commodities can deliver to consumers. Physicians decry the diseases, stress, and exhaustion linked to excessive work driven by desire for excessive consumption. Yet, for a long time, exhortations by all such folks have mostly failed to slow, let alone reverse, US consumerism.

The question is why? The answer is not advertising, since that begs the question of why that industry should have been so successful in the US and grown to such influence. Nor is it plausible to attribute some national personality flaw to our citizens.

Canada's own year of extreme weather

By Rebeka Ryvola
Climate Science Watch
January 11, 2011

2010 was a year of wild weather all over the world. Who doesn't remember the torrential monsoon rains that devastated Pakistan, Russia's raging wildfires that wiped out grain crops and burnt forests to a crisp, and the record breaking hot spells that struck around the globe?

In short, 2010 was not a very happy weather year for many parts of the world. One place viewed as largely removed from weather calamities is Canada. Northern, cool, wet, and forested, Canada enjoys the prime location and conditions to escape pretty much scot-free from wild weather events. However, the weather of 2010 suggests that Canada may not be as safe and sound as commonly thought.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Climate Change Will Continue to Year 3000

By Shiva
GCC News Brief

According to new research published in the latest edition of the journal Nature Geoscience the current impact of CO2 on the atmosphere will have lasting effects for the next thousand years, in the best case scenario.

Within the proposed thousand years, the computer simulations created saw climate change patterns reversing in places such as Canada, desertification in North Africa as the land dries out by up to 30 percent, and ocean warming by up to 5°C in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica is likely to cause the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet and cause a sea level rise of at least four metres.

This is the first climate model to predict so far into the future, and is based on best case zero-emissions – cutting carbon emissions to zero – scenarios created by a teamp of researchers from the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis (an Environment Canada research lab at the University of Victoria) and the University of Calgary.

Devon Energy shuts down oil sands wells after bitumen-laced steam leak

Nathan VanderKlippe
Calgary— Globe and Mail Update

Devon Energy Corp. has shut down seven wells at its Jackfish oil sands site after a failure at one of the wellheads sent a plume of bitumen-laced, high-temperature steam into the air for nearly 36 hours last weekend.

The leak began Saturday afternoon and was stopped Sunday at midnight.

“It’s what we would call a steam release leak and it did have bitumen in it,” spokeswoman Nadine Barber said. “That bitumen took the form of a mist or a spray.”

The Left-Green Movement of Iceland

The Left- Green Movement
(Vinstrihreyfingin - grænt framboð)

The party was founded on February 6th 1999 after a few months work, aiming to unite socialist and conservationist groups for the elections held on May 8th.

The prelude was a structural reorganisation on the left wing of Icelandic politics. On the one hand there were those who prepared the unification of three existing parties, The Social democrats (Alþýðuflokkur), The People's Alliance (Alþýðubandalagið) and The Women's Party (Samtök um kvennalista) in one social-democratic party. On the other side there were those who fought for the unification of social-, environmental and feminist politics into one party. These were to be found in the above mentioned parties, especially in the Peoples Alliance and the Women's Party and in an open leftwing forum newly founded, Stefna - a forum for left politics.

This movement joined forces with four MP's from The People's Alliance and The Women's Party who had the same views and had for some months formed an independent group within the parliament. In due time a new political party The Left-Green Movement was founded as a choice to the left of The Alliance (Samfylkingin).

The cornerstones of it´s policy are the following:

Read more HERE.

Slow death by carbon credits

Indigenous peoples can suffer from pollution compensation plan

By Dennis Martinez
The Boston Globe
January 10, 2011

FORGET ANY spin. In the end, the recent UN gathering on climate change in Cancún repeated Copenhagen’s failure in 2009. Again, the world’s industrial economies refused to set new binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, despite dire warnings by scientists. Instead, delegates again vaguely promised money for climate adaptation and mitigation: this time $30 billion to the developing world by 2012, and $100 billion more by 2020.

Once more, the industrialized countries appear to have pledged much of this money in a salvage measure dubbed “REDD’’ — Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Downstream: The video

Babelgum Film

The first original production by and for Babelgum, Downstream focuses on the controversy surrounding the development of Alberta's oil sands. This beautifully photographed documentary is an eye-opening investigation into one of the world's most polluting oil operations. It includes interviews with ecologists, Canadian politicians, local residents and a very dedicated doctor, discussing the environmental, economic and health issues surrounding the oil sands development.

Ecosocialism in South Africa

Conference of the Democratic Left
27 August 2010

The Conference of the Democratic Left is an exciting political and ideological journey to refind a left compass in post-apartheid South Africa. It boasts a broad array of left and grassroots forces, that shaped conversations at the recent Gauteng and Western Cape provincial conferences.

The themes of this conversation point to an anti-capitalist politics that is transformative. Such a politics is neither narrowly electoralist nor trapped in permanent opposition. Instead, it is about a visionary and values based transformative politics, drawing on anti-apartheid traditions of peoples power (but re-defined on the terrain of democracy). This stands in contrast to the mainstream state centric national liberation left. In parallel with this conversation on a new left orientation the content of democratic left politics is also being debated in earnest. What is the content of the ‘ideological pole of attraction’ of the Democratic Left? What does the Democratic Left stand for?

The Case for Eco-Socialism

The central conversation about alternatives within the CDL is organised around the idea of Eco-Socialism. The debate has centred on the case for an Eco-Socialist alternative for South Africa. In broad terms such an alternative places the needs of human and nonhuman nature before profits and unlimited growth. There are four key arguments being made for such an alternative.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ecosocialist Utopia

Michael Lowy
International Marx Congress
Sept. 6th, 2010

As it is known, the word utopia comes from Thomas More’s book Utopia (1500) - from the greek u-topos, “nowhere” - describing an imaginary island where human beings live within a harmonious society. The sociologist Karl Mannhein has given his “classic” - and still today the most pertinent - formulation of utopia: All the representations, aspiration or images of desire that move towards a rupture of the established order and exerce a “subversive function”.

The topology given by Mannheim permits to avoid certain conceptions that are too narrow or too vague and that make utopia an unrealistic or unrealizable dream: How are we to know in advance which aspirations will or not be “realizable” in the future? Was the abolition of slavery considered “realistic” in the 17th century? Did not democracy appear “unrealizable” in the middle of 18th century?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Peter Kent's Oily New Portfolio

Canada's new environment minister could have acknowledged the facts. Instead, we get slippery spin.

By Andrew Nikiforuk

Within hours of being sworn in as Canada's new environment minister, Peter Kent didn't talk about deformed fish, acid rain, disappearing woodland caribou, or large lakes of toxic mining waste.

Oddly enough, the former newscaster mostly avoided any mention of his ministerial mandate including water conservation or enhancing "the quality of the natural environment."

Instead, the Tory politician, sounding like a grossly overpaid oil patch lobbyist, declared bitumen, an extremely dirty hydrocarbon, a gift to morality and economy.