Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Indigenous Environmental Network tar sands campaign continues

An Interview with Ben Powless (9:25) 

By Mark

Ben Powless
I recently had the opportunity to interview Ben Powless, a young Mohawk from Six Nations in Ontario. Ben is a  member of the Indigenous Environmental Network and a Founder of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. Among other causes, he has been very active in the IEN’s tar sands campaign 

He also sits on the board of the National Council for the Canadian Environmental Network, is on the Youth Advisory Group to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, and is very involved in his local Aboriginal community.

In our interview he discusses the impacts of the tar sands on indigenous communities in northern Alberta, their campaign for a moratorium on future tar sands developments and how the IEN is trying to raise awareness internationally about what is going on in Alberta. He characterizes the tar sands as a violation of the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of First Nations people in Canada.

To download the interview, right click here and select ‘Save as’ or ‘Save target as’.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sun Come Up

Sun Come Up Film
First Screening in Canada

The Oscar-nominated film Sun Come Up follows the relocation of the Carteret Islanders, a peaceful community living on a chain of tranquil islands in the South Pacific, and now, some of the world's first environmental refugees. Small island communities contribute the least to climate change, yet they are among the hardest hit. The Carteret Islanders have secured new land, but now they need homes.

When rising seas threaten their survival, the islanders face a painful decision: they must leave their beloved land in search of a new place to call home.

The film follows a group of young Carteret Islanders led by Nick Hakata as they search for land in Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea 50 miles across the open ocean.

The move will not be easy as Bougainville is recovering from a 10-year civil war. Many Bougainvilleans remain traumatized by the “Crisis” as the civil war is known locally. Yet, Sun Come Up isn’t a familiar third world narrative. Out of this tragedy comes a story of hope, strength, and profound generosity.

Sun Come Up Trailer from Sun Come Up on Vimeo.

Harper's record on climate change

The Government of Canada's record on climate change (2006-present)

Climate Action Network Canada
News Release
March 25,2011

The current government has taken a reckless approach to one of the greatest challenges of our time. Despite the fact that the impacts of climate change have become increasingly obvious, the government has failed to take this crisis seriously. What follows lays out the government's record on climate change over the past five years.
Ongoing handouts to big oil
The current government provides over $1.3 billion in handouts to the oil industry every year, despite calls to end these subsidies from within the Department of Finance, former Environment Minister Jim Prentice, hundreds of organizations across Canada and major international organizations like the IMF and the OECD. The government’s 2011 federal budget proposed the elimination of less than 10% of these special tax breaks to the oil industry.
More information.

In the Wake of the Flood

Sphinx Productions

On the eve of her 70th birthday, Canadian writer Margaret Atwood set out on an international tour criss-crossing the British Isles and North America to celebrate the publication of her new dystopian novel, The Year of the Flood. Rather than mount a traditional tour to promote a book’s publication, Atwood conceived and executed something far more ambitious and revelatory—a theatrical version of her novel. Along the way she reinvented what a book tour could (and maybe should) be. But Atwood wasn't selling books as much as advocating an idea: how humanity must respond to the consequences of an environmentally compromised planet before her work of speculative fiction transforms into prophesy.

Atwood's odyssey is now captured in Ron Mann's new film, In The Wake of the Flood. Rendered as a fly-on-the-wall cinéma vérité, In The Wake of the Flood mixes new footage, archival materials and evocative animation in featuring Atwood on the road and at home as an aging but buoyant literary rock star spreading a message of warning and hope as she staged and participated in the novel production.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Science, Justice, Science Fiction: An Interview with Kim Stanley Robinson

Gerry Canavan
March 2011

Kim Stanley Robinson
The following interview with Kim Stanley Robinson appears in Polygraph 22: Ecology and Ideology, available now from The interview is also available as a PDF, as is the introduction written by the issue editors. Brief summaries of the other articles can be found here. Other contributors to the issue include Slavoj Žižek, Michael Hardt, John Bellamy Foster, Timothy Morton, Joachim Radkau, Imre Szeman, Kathy Rudy, and Ariel Salleh. The full table of contents can be found here; video from Kim Stanley Robinson’s January visit to Duke University can be found here and here.

Science, Justice, Science Fiction: A Conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson
- Gerry Canavan, Lisa Klarr, and Ryan Vu

Kim Stanley Robinson’s stature in the field of science fiction goes well beyond the usual sorts of accolades and distinctions. In a genre so often dominated by repetitive visions of dystopian surveillance states and inevitable robot apocalypses, Kim Stanley Robinson is among the proud few who still assert that most Utopian and most science fictional of dreams: that another world is possible.

The itsy-bitsy problem that doomed BP's well

By Steve Levine
Foriegn Policy
March 24, 2011

In a war zone, you have your vanguard. Then you have your tanks, your main body of troops, and your artillery. If all that fails, and you are being overrun, there is your rear guard. If they fail, and you cannot retreat, all is lost.

For the last 11 months, that has essentially been BP's explanation of what went wrong at the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, where a mighty explosion killed 11 men and spilled five millions of barrels of oil into the water over a three-month period before the company managed to seal it in with concrete. But all along there has been the question -- what about that rear guard, in this case a much-trumpeted piece of technology known as the blowout preventer?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Eco-socialism or capitalist catastrophe

By Emmett Durso, SA Auckland
Socialist Aotearoa
March 27, 2011

“So many problems, so little time” has become the catch-phrase of environmental scientists in many academic circles. What’s more frustrating is the fact that the intellectual and monetary resources are available to solve the world’s major sustainability issues, but governments and institutions are prioritizing propping up failing banks and funding military campaigns.

Environmentalist David Bellamy sums it up nicely when saying; “Environmental scientists know how to solve all the major environmental problems of the world, but too many people are still making too much money from doing things the wrong way”.

Ecology and Ideology: An Introduction

Introduction to Polygraph 22
Ecology and Ideology

What is really amazing and frustrating is mankind’s habit of refusing to see the obvious and inevitable, until it is there, and then muttering about unforeseen catastrophes.
—Isaac Asimov

How small the vastest of human catastrophes may seem, at a distance of a few million miles.
—H.G. Wells

Ecology as Critique    

From Hurricane Katrina to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the metastasizing specter of climate change, an initial foray into the rhetoric of “natural” disasters over the past decade finds surprise and shock as a primary theme. Whatever happens, “no one could have predicted” the results; ostensibly secular pundits have learned to comfortably and without contradiction invoke “acts of God” as the first line of defense against anyone ever being held responsible for anything.

Ignorance has become the ground for our relationship with Nature, precisely mirroring those official descriptions of terrorist violence in which “hatred” and “anti-modernity” provide instant and totalizing explanations for the actions of otherwise unrelated agents. Once Nature takes over, throwing off the economic function assigned to it, “we”—humanity—are all forced together onto the same side. Who, after all, could possibly be to blame for hurricanes, floods, volcanoes, and earthquakes? Who could possibly have the power to predict when and where disasters will erupt? Even in the case of BP’s irreparable destruction of the Gulf Coast—where the “culprits” seem clear and the potential consequences of deep-sea drilling eminently foreseeable—mainstream commentary finds itself gored on the horns of a false dilemma: because the spill was not purposeful, because no one wanted this to happen, it must therefore be a terrible “accident.”

Speaking simultaneously about the Deepwater Horizon spill and the recent Massey coal mine collapse in West Virginia, and by implication a host of other disasters past and future, an indignant Rand Paul, the current Republican Senate candidate from Kentucky, lamented “It’s always got to be someone’s fault instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen.” Here we see the paucity of options for critique in the neoliberal age: the profit-seeking hand of the market can never be faulted, not even in the face of incalculable catastrophe.

Read more HERE (PDF).

Roads to renewal

By Judy Deutsch
Canadian Dimension
March 14th 2011

Approaches to the climate emergency can roughly be broken down into four categories.

Plan A, “business as usual,” is more-or-less a euphemism for accelerated greenhouse gas emissions, for promoting market mechanisms in order to profit from climate change, and for practices that treat the majority of humans, to say nothing of non-humans, as expendable. For the global plutocracy, climate change is one more rationale for expanding the military in the name of “security.” Gated military and civilian communities and settlements are enclosures of survival for the elite, with exclusive entitlements to energy and water, transportation, police and fire services, etc.

Plan B is based on extensive information about human/environmental interactions and is the antithesis of Plan A. It aims to save civilization and to provide basic security through a sustainable economy. Plan B emphasizes a shift to renewable energy through improved technology, a shift to a no-growth global economy with more equitable distribution of wealth and energy.

The criminal tale of Monsanto

By Phil Shannon
Green Left
Sunday, March 27, 2011

The World According to Monsanto: Pollution, Politics & Power
Marie-Monique Robin
Spinifex Press, 2010
373 pages, $44.95 (pb)
Buy book HERE

“What counts for us is making money,” said a Monsanto vice-president to a new employee at an induction session in 1998, reminding the idealistic novice that there is a simple, and crude, capitalist philosophy at the heart of the US chemical and biotechnology giant.

All Monsanto's talk about the ecological and humanitarian miracles of its chemicals and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is so much hot air, says Marie-Monique Robin in The World According To Monsanto.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Radiation fears grow for low-paid heroes battling disaster

Safeguards at nuclear plant have failed emergency crews, and trust in the Japanese authorities is fading

Suzanne Goldenberg
The Observer
27 March 2011

Fukushima plant worker Tomotake Watanabe says he no longer trusts the nuclear authorities. Fukushima plant worker Tomotake Watanabe, who was inside reactor No 1 when the earthquake hit, says he no longer trusts the nuclear authorities. Photograph: Eric Rechsteiner/Panos Pictures

THE last time Tomotake Watanabe turned up for his shift at the No 1 reactor of the Fukushima nuclear plant, he was thrown to the ground by Japan's powerful earthquake and showered with broken glass and ceiling plaster.

Dr. Helen Caldicott on the nuclear disaster in Japan

By Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock 
March 25th, 2011.

Alex Smith: As Japan suffers multiple reactor accidents, with radiation of the land and sea, sadly, one woman is vindicated again. Dr. Helen Caldicott is a physician, author, and speaker known throughout the world for her clear warnings about the dangers of nuclear weapons, and nuclear power.

Helen Caldicott woke us up with the film and book "If You Love This Planet" - now the title of her own weekly radio show.

I'm Alex Smith, host of Radio Ecoshock. Dr. Caldicott I'm honored to welcome you to this program.

HC: Thank you Alex...

Hear the audio HERE.
Transcript HERE.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Geoengineering: Plan B for the Climate Crisis?

By Diana Bronson
Canadian Dimension
November 1st 2010

Most people have never heard of geoengineering and many of those who have don’t know quite what it is. Yet geoengineering is all the rage in some scientific circles and some climate policy circles in wealthy countries. Should you be worried? Definitely.

Geoengineers propose an array of speculative techniques by which humans might try to deliberately modify the Earth’s climate and weather systems to counteract global warming. Until now humans have altered the climate by accident. Now some scientists, buoyed by a faith in technological solutions and computer models, believe we know enough about climate systems to actually control them. Some are even advocating experimentation in the relatively short term, and some technologies (such as ocean fertilization) have already been tested on the open seas (unsuccessfully).

Surprise, Surprise: The Koch Brothers Have their Dirty Hands All Over the Tar Sands

Written by Mike G
The Understory
March 25, 2011

The secretive Koch Brothers — two billionaire oilmen who own Wichita, KS-based Koch Industries, the second largest privately owned company in the US — have been getting a lot of attention lately. And I’m willing to bet they’re not too happy about any of it. The latest revelation is that Koch interests process a quarter of the climate-destroying tar sands oil brought into the US.

The Kochs are notorious for their greed-driven efforts to block all sorts of environmental and climate policies that would cut into their bottom line. Naturally, their self-serving agenda is meeting with increasing protest.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to avoid action on climate change

The fine art of greenwash in Canadian politics

By Ian Angus
Editor, Climate and Capitalism
PDF here.

An interview with Naomi Klein

Rob Hopkins
Transition Culture
23 Mar 2011

At the end of Naomi Klein’s two-day visit to Totnes, which included a talk (film of which is still to come) and meetings with many of the key players in Transition Town Totnes, I managed to grab an hour with her for an interview. Here, in two parts, is the discussion we had.

You’ve spent two days here in Totnes and met lots of people, and I wondered what your reflections are? What will you take away with you from your time here?

I’m still processing it I guess, but it’s been an amazing two days. What’s most striking to me is just how decentralised this process is and the sense of ownership that so many people have over it. There isn’t that “no I can’t really talk about it”, there’s a tremendous amount of people that have enough confidence to talk about it. Even at the event we did last night…. there were a lot of people in that room and people get nervous talking to hundreds of people, but people weren’t nervous about giving little speeches, which was really interesting.

In the format of that event, where I gave a talk and took some questions and then we opened it and people broke into groups and reported back – I was really struck that people didn’t leave! In North America, mostly, people would hear a speech and maybe stay for a few questions, but when it came to, “now we’re all going to participate and take the conversation to another level”, I think half the audience would walk out.

  • Read part one HERE.
  • Read part two HERE.

The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth

Written by Elaine Graham-Leigh
Thursday, 24 March 2011

John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Richard York are among the leading writers on climate change in the US, and no one reading this latest collection of their essays could leave it in any doubt of the seriousness of the situation in which unchecked climate change is now placing us.

It’s enough, the authors argue, to place us in a whole new geological era, no longer the Holocene, the period of benign climate in which human civilisation developed, but the Anthropocene, the age of human-created climate. Beyond the lunatic fringe of climate change denial, this sombre message is little disputed, and the essays here do not spend much time on a recitation of the horrors awaiting the world without urgent action. The importance of this book lies in its discussion of how the workings of capitalism have created this situation, and of what we could do to change it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Barack Obama, Oscar Romero and Structural Sin

The Notion

In El Salvador, on the last leg of his Latin American tour, President Barack Obama paid a highly symbolic visit to the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero, shot through the heart as he raised the Eucharist chalice during a mass, in March 1980. His assassination was ordered by Salvadoran military officer Roberto D’Aubuisson, a School of the America’s graduate.

As El Faro—an important online source of independent Central American news—put it, Obama’s homage to Romero is a “truly extraordinary” gesture, since D’Aubuisson not only ran private-sector financed death squads but was a founder of ARENA, an ultraconservative political party that until 2009 had governed the country for two decades and enjoyed excellent relations with Washington.

The Nuclear Crisis at Fukushima

Damage Control and Newspeak
The attempt to transform the nuclear disaster in Japan into a manageable, not-to-worry event is well underway.

For the nuclear industry there are strong economic incentives to engage in careful and studied use of language to manipulate and define the tragic events unfolding in Japan. Clearly, there are billions and billions of dollars at stake.

There is also the thorny matter of denial. 

Kochs Profit from Canadian Eco-Nightmare

By Geoff Dembicki
March 22, 2011

What do Tea Party rallies, Republican victories, climate-change deniers, Wisconsin's anti-union push, and attacks on a cap-and-trade market for carbon emissions have in common?

They're all fueled in part by profits derived from Alberta, Canada's oil sands.

Those profits, flowing to a single company, are helping bankroll a libertarian offensive many observers think is shifting America's political culture profoundly to the right. One of the central tenets of that campaign is a disbelief not only in the pressing risks of climate change, but that humans are even causing it.

That article of faith is now being embraced by the American public, with only 51 percent concerned about global warming, compared to 66 percent three years ago.

Federal budget out of line with Canadian opinion on environment

Council of Canadians
March 23, 2011

(Ottawa/Toronto) – Yesterday’s budget indicates that environmental priorities will continue to be neglected, despite the opinions of Canadians.

“The budget announcement is one more example to add to the heap of evidence that the government of Canada refuses to take the climate crisis seriously,” says Andrea Harden-Donahue, Energy and Climate Justice Campaigner with the Council of Canadians.

In contrast, the results of an Environics Research poll indicate that the Canadian public understand the climate crisis requires a change in economic, social, and environmental priorities.

“The failure in the budget to prioritize investments in green job expansion and to continue an important renewable energy program just doesn’t make sense,” says Donald Lafleur, 4th National Vice-President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. “Reducing emissions and generating good jobs should be an easy choice to make.”

The Environics Research poll found that over 80 percent of Canadians believe the Canadian government should invest in “green jobs” and transition programmes for workers and communities negatively affected by a shift off of fossil fuels.

“This budget brings little change to the 20 to 1 ratio of National Defence spending versus spending on the Environment” adds Rick Arnold, Coordinator for Common Frontiers.

Here again the government is out of tune with Canadians.  Over 70 per cent of Canadians agree that money spent on wars and the military would all be better spent on efforts that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change, according to the Environics Research poll.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty did not directly refer the environment or climate change in his budget speech.  “Canadians understand that the interests of the economy and environment are interlinked, why doesn’t the Canadian government?” says Dorothy McDougall from KAIROS.

Over 80 per cent of Canadians agree that the root cause of climate change is too much focus on economic growth and consumerism and that we need to have an economy that is in harmony with nature, which recognizes and respects the planet.

The poll was commissioned by the Council of Canadians, KAIROS:  Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Indigenous Environmental Network, Common Frontiers, Public Service Alliance of Canada and Toronto Bolivia Solidarity.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Leading climate change and energy experts respond to the 2011 Federal Budget

David Suzuki Foundation 
March 22, 2011

Leading climate change and energy experts from diverse organizations in Canada have responded to the 2011 federal budget as follows:

"This budget fails to eliminate over a billion dollars in handouts to big oil. At the present rate ($15 million this year and $30 million next year) the $1.4 billion in subsidies will end in 2109! It seems like year after year, the Harper Government continues to out do itself in terms of neglecting environmental protection and the green economy."
  • Steven Guilbeault, Deputy Director, Equiterre — 514.605.2000

"The federal government still doesn't have a credible climate change plan for reducing carbon emissions from all sources. Although the Budget maintains some funding for clean air and climate change initiatives, investment in these programs is dwarfed by the $1.4 billion of special tax breaks to the oil and gas industry."
  • Ian Bruce, Team Lead, Climate Change & Clean Energy Program, David Suzuki Foundation — 604.306.5095

"The budget is mum on Canada's $400 million commitment to help communities overseas adapt to climate change. Let's hope this does not mean climate financing will be poached from the aid budget, diverting funds needed to fight poverty."
  • Mark Fried, Oxfam Canada — 613.668.4801

"This budget slashes clean energy programs and goes full-steam ahead with over a billion dollars in handouts to big oil. Despite a short-term lifeline for home energy retrofits, the overall trend is a disaster. Climate change is a serious problem and this country deserves a government that takes the problem seriously."
  • Graham Saul, Executive Director, Climate Action Network Canada — 613.558.3368

Cochabamba + 1 Conference Agenda


Protect the Great Lakes as a Commons, says Council of Canadians

Council of Canadians
March 22, 2001
World Water Day

As the federal government prepares to introduce its budget, the Council of Canadians is calling for the allocation of significant resources to protecting the Great Lakes as a Commons, a Public Trust and a Protected Bioregion. The Council of Canadians outlines how and why to do this in a new report today entitled Our Great Lakes Commons: A People’s Plan to Protect the Great Lakes Forever.

“The Great Lakes crisis is part of the global crisis, in which we are quickly running out of fresh water,” says Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, author of the report, which is available at “It's not a closed hydrological cycle like we were taught – we are losing clean water through irrigation, bottled water, virtual water trade and more.”

Our Great Lakes Commons is a call to understanding and a call to action on an exciting new proposal to designate the Great Lakes and its tributary waters as a lived Commons, to be shared, protected, carefully managed and enjoyed by all who live around them. The Great Lakes Basin Commons would need to be protected by a legal and political framework based on Public Trust Doctrine, underpinning in law that the Great Lakes are central to the very existence of those people, plants and animals living on or near them and therefore must be protected for the common good from generation to generation.

“It’s time for the federal government to step up their commitment to restoring the Great Lakes,” says Council of Canadians national water campaigner Emma Lui, “The Obama administration had originally proposed $475 million for Great Lakes clean up, even the Republican party supported $225 million for the Restoration Initiative. In the last budget, the Harper Government allocated a mere $8 million to protect the Great Lakes. The federal government needs to increase funding significantly in order to protect the Great Lakes as a commons, public trust and protected bioregion.”

In the water chapter on water in the Alternative Federal Budget, the Council of Canadians calls for $3.375 billion in new funding over five years, to clean up polluted lakes and rivers, protect Canada’s waterways from invasive species, and to clean-up the Great Lakes.

“Scientists say that the Great Lakes could be bone dry in 80 years,” Barlow adds, citing the case of the Aral Sea, the fourth largest lake in the world, but now just 10 percent of its former size. “The World Bank says that water demand is outstripping supply by 40%, producing great suffering.”

The long-term goal of the network proposing the Great Lakes Basin Commons – which includes the Council of Canadians, On the Commons and Food & Water Watch – is to eventually see a full treaty between Canada and the United States that declares the Great Lakes to be a lived Commons, Public Trust and Protected Bioregion, one that is also adopted by the states, provinces and First Nations of the Basin.

Ten principles for the Great Lakes Basin Commons, called for in Our Great Lakes Commons
(These principles are elaborated on beginning on page 31 of the report)

1. The waters of the Great Lakes belong to everyone and every living being that live on or around them.
2. Private interests of those with claims to the Great Lakes are subordinate to public rights.
3. The waters of the Great Lakes are a human right and must be equitably and justly shared.
4. Governments have an affirmative obligation to manage and protect the water of the Great Lakes as a Commons.
5. The Great Lakes Basin Commons recognizes the ecological rights of the watershed.
6. The Great Lakes Basin Commons will require constant and careful management.
7. The Great Lakes Basin Commons must encourage and empower decision-making at the local level.
8. The water systems of Great Lakes communities should remain under public management.
9. Public participation is key to the Great Lakes Basin Commons.
10. All decisions about the Great Lakes should be made with the involvement of all recognized nations and people, including local First Nations/American Indian tribes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

'The Nature of Things' milestone: the origin of the series dates back 50 years

By Cassandra Szklarski
The Canadian Press

TORONTO - The impending arrival of a milestone birthday has put David Suzuki in a reflective mood.

And for "The Nature of Things" host, who made his name as a geneticist before heading into broadcasting, there's no point in sugar-coating it.

"I'm in the death zone," Suzuki said late last year when discussing his 75th birthday, which arrives Thursday.

"I'm in the last part of my life and I think as an elder now it's an important responsibility to reflect back on a life and say, 'What the hell have I learned in 74 years? Are there things I'd like to leave as a legacy for other coming generations to think about?' That's what I've been thinking about a lot."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Big Differences In Public Opinion of Climate Change In Canada And The U.S.

T.J. Scolnick
20 March 2011

A fresh public survey and a new report [PDF] from the The Public Policy Forum and Sustainable Prosperity, confirms that a wide gap exists between Canadian and American perceptions of climate change.

In the fall of 2008, nearly three-quarters of Americans accepted the reality of global warming and for a time, it seemed that American and Canadians views of climate change were quite similar.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pete Seeger Classic: Garbage

Pete Seeger

Words and Music by Bill Steele; 4th verse by Pete Seeger and Mike Agranoff (1977) (c) William Steele. Copyright assigned 1992 to the Rainbow Collection, Ltd.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Unions Welcome Pathway to Green Economy in UN Environment Report


21 February 2011: A green economy can mean higher overall employment and better jobs, and is not just a luxury for wealthy countries, reveals the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in its Green Economy report released today. Supported by concrete examples from around the world, and a thorough macroeconomic analysis, the report underlines what the labour movement has maintained for several years: that a Green Economy, based on the right principles and properly planned, can deliver for workers and the poor.

“I am pleased to read that UNEP shares with workers around the world the deep belief that a green economy should work for the people and the planet, and not just for GDP growth and a few wealthy companies,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. “As the report signals, one of the challenges is to ensure a just transition that will steer transformation across all sectors of the economy and lead us towards the decent and sustainable jobs of tomorrow.”

Fight for the Forest

Fight For the Forest: Chico Mendes in His Own Words

MR Press
ISBN: 0-85345-866-9
$16.00 paperback
118 pp.

Log in to the Monthly Review Store before adding this item to your shopping cart and receive a 20% discount
Buy This Book

“Bound to become a classic. . . an excellent introduction to Brazil’s first modern rainforest folk-hero.”
Environment Brazil
“…an inspirational and chilling message.”
David Bellamy, the Observer
“A short but vivid study… This is a book to show your friends, to influence people with, and to campaign with.”
The Ecologist
“For a quick and informative read that deals with most of the important issues in a crisp fashion, you can’t do better than Fight for the Forest.”
New Internationalist

“They would have to kill us all to destroy our movement and they can’t. I don’t get that cold feeling anymore. I am no longer afraid of dying.”—Chico Mendes, November 1988

Chico Mendes, the charismatic founder of the Brazilian rubber tappers union, was murdered by a hired assassin on 22 December 1988. As a trade union leader, he won international acclaim for his role in the non-violent campaign to protect the Amazon rainforest, on which the rubber tappers depend for their livelihood.

In Fight for the Forest, Chico Mendes talks of his life’s work in his last major interview. He recalls the rubber tappers’ campaign against forest clearances and their struggle to develop sustainable alternatives for the Amazon.

In this updated edition, Tony Gross, environmentalist, expert on Amazonian affairs and a friend of Chico Mendes, follows the trial, conviction, and release of Chico’s assassins and examines Brazil’s environmental policy under President Fernando Collor de Mello.

Transport Workers and Climate Change

International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF)

Climate change conference Mexico City
The ITF is committed to playing an active role in supporting and coordinating trade union initiatives on climate change. As transport is a significant and growing source of carbon emissions it is key that transport unions are able to put forward their views on transport emissions and climate change.

ITF General Secretary David Cockroft has called for unions to discuss and coordinate a collective trade union response to climate change as an integral part of wider campaigns against neoliberal globalisation. The ITF’s work on climate change has been growing through research, development of policy papers,  education material, conferences and meetings.

The ITF’s first special conference on climate change was held immediately prior to congress in Mexico City in August 2010. The conference was highly successful and allowed for wide-ranging debate on climate change issues. It provided the opportunity for affiliates to discuss and agree ITF policy and future strategies on climate change and to ensure that the interests and needs of all categories of transport workers are represented. A discussion document on climate change was prepared for this conference and is available to download in six languages.

Read Document HERE.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

TEPCO: Profits of Death

By Carlos Latuff
TEPCO: Profits of Death

Carlos Latuff is a Brazilian cartoonist.  Cf. "Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, a Japanese environmental group, has documented previous safety problems and cover-ups by Tepco at the Fukushima reactor complex:
" (Nuclear Information and Resource Service, "Fact Sheet on Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant," 11 March 2011).

The No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change

New Internationalist
Purchase HERE

Want to get up-to-date on climate change? The No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change is an accessible and friendly pocket-sized overview of this complex mega-subject, combining all the basics with the latest facts and analysis.

Written by Danny Chivers - a climate change researcher, activist, educator and performance poet - the book aims to counter the recent wave of climate change nay-saying by explaining the science in a clear, step-by-step and jargon-free fashion, peppered with humour, quirky analogies and unusual examples.

It also aims to show how a zero-carbon world is both possible and desirable, and the kind of steps we'd need to take to get there. Taking a firm stance in favour of global justice, it covers climate targets, solutions, history, politics, and what action we can usefully take, all in one handy little guidebook. Ideal for beginners and experienced campaigners alike.

About the Author: Danny Chivers is a freelance carbon analyst and environmental writer. He recently created for The Guardian newspaper an online carbon calculator encapsulating all of the UK’s emissions – and is working on one that will do the same for the US. He is also a prominent performance poet.

The evidence from Fukushima: nuclear power means nuclear catastrophe

Daniel Tanuro
IV Online magazine
IV434 - March 2011

Once again the evidence shows that nuclear technology can never be 100% secure. The risks are so frightening that the conclusion is obvious: it is imperative to abandon nuclear energy, and to do so as quickly as possible. This is the first lesson of Fukushima, one which raises absolutely fundamentamental social and political questions, requiring a real social debate about an alternative to the capitalist model of infinite growth.

What has happened is entirely predictable: yet another major nuclear "accident". At the time of writing, it is not yet certain that it will take on the dimensions of a disaster similar to Chernobyl, but that is the direction in which things, alas, look set to evolve. But whether it develops into a major disaster or not, we are once again faced with evidence that the technology can never be 100% secure. The risks are so frightening that the conclusion is obvious: it is imperative to abandon nuclear energy, and to do so as quickly as possible. This is the first lesson of Fukushima, one which raises absolutely fundamental social and political questions, requiring a real debate throughout society about an alternative to the capitalist model of infinite growth.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ecotopia #128: Ecosocialism

Ecotopia on KZFR 90.1

Posted by Stephen
16 Mar 2011

On tonight’s program we’ll be talking about the concept of “ecosocialism,” which our guest Joel Kovel, argues is essential to saving the earth.

Capitalism, he says, just won’t do it, because the profit motive drives the capitalist system to exploitation of the earth and its inhabitants.

The Garden Path

Spurious schemes for combating climate change

Canadian Dimension
March 13th 2011

For many in the mainstream, the risks posed by climate change, while real, can be combated by a combination of new technology, market incentives to nudge industry towards greener production methods, and the greening of consumerism. Many ecologists, however, drawing on the findings of prominent climate scientists like James Hansen, dispute this view. They regard these stop-gap solutions as misguided and dangerous insofar as they engender a false sense of security and divert us from the kinds of structural changes that are necessary even to mitigate the damage already being wrought by spiraling greenhouse gas emissions.

Several of the sci-fi caliber techno-fixes increasingly being flogged by vested interests in the scientific and business communities are liable to do vastly more harm than good. Canadian Dimension takes a quick peek down these blind alleys and contrast them with the kinds of fundamental changes we believe are of the essence.

Canada urged to protect boreal forest watershed

Report cites untouched lakes, rivers and wetlands - says conservation efforts often overlook watershed

By Allan Dowd
Wed Mar 16, 2011

VANCOUVER, March 16 (Reuters) - Canada's northern forest harbors a vital freshwater reserve, but the environmental value of the resource is underappreciated and it needs more protection, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The boreal forest, stretching right across much of Canada from the Atlantic into Alaska contains the world's highest concentrations of large wetlands, lakes and rivers without dams, according to the report funded by an environment unit of the Pew Charitable Trust.

The region's wetlands and peatbogs have international importance in the battle against climate change by storing up to 25 year's worth of man-made carbon emissions, according to the report.

Much of Canada's boreal watershed remains pristine, but environmental conservation efforts for the region have often focused on the region's forests and wildlife and overlooked the need to protect the water itself, the report's authors said.

The study did not call for a ban on development in the region, but said there needed to be tighter regulations.

The scientists said billions of dollars are being spent around the world to restore damaged freshwater systems, but many rivers and lakes in the Canadian boreal region remain largely untouched.

"This area provides a real opportunity to get in front of the curve to protect those systems before they're lost," said Peter Raven, who chairs Division of Earth and Life Studies at the U.S. National Research Council and who helped review the study's findings.

Canada's boreal watershed has been less affected by development than those in Russia and Europe because much of it is less accessible, but the report's authors warn that technology is overcoming that natural protection.

The report cites the C$16.2 billion ($16.3 billion) Mackenzie River Valley gas pipeline, which was approved by Ottawa last week, as an example of pressures on the region, saying it will open up the "world wildest river valley to development."

The report also expresses concern about the amount of water demanded by oil sands production in northern Alberta.

The scientists said that while conservation efforts are underway, many environmentalists have focused on protecting trees and wildlife and overlooked the role freshwater plays in the broader ecosystem.

"In general, conservationists have had a higher focus on the role of tropical forests in storing carbon, whereas the vast boreal forests, not only in Canada but in United States and Siberia, are of extraordinary great importance," Raven said.

What Happened to the Icelandic Banks?

Gaian Economics
Wednesday, 16 March 2011

I have been following the story of Iceland on this blog for some time. Now an academic paper has emerged which tells in a better referenced form the story told by Gunnar Sigurdsson in his film Maybe I Should Have. It is a story of political corruption, as well as of greed, and of the co-option of regulators by politicians. It is, in microcosm, the story of the financial crises that have swamped Western democracies and left us facing economic depression and massive public-spending cuts.

The paper is by Robert H. Wade and Silla Sigurgeirsdottir and is published in the latest issue of the Post-Autistic Economics Review. Iceland is a classic case because it is so extreme: shortly before the crash the value of its banks was 11 times the size of its GDP. It was a huge financial pyramid standing on a tiny rock, and supported, unwittingly, by its 300,000 people.

Wade and Sigurgeirsdottir include some interesting details about how naive UK savers were sucked into filling the void left when the financial markets recognised the vulnerability of the Icelandic market and withdrew. The banks, Landsbanki and Glitnir, hoovered up the savings of UK investors who did not question the unfeasibly high interest rates and believed the words of the best-buy websites. When the banks went bust our government then repaid these savers for their risky behaviour, and has now sent the bill to Iceland.

There is corruption here as well as stupidity. Even after the collapse of Lehmans three UK local authorities invested £33 million in their Icesave accounts, 'as though their expensively paid finance directors were fast asleep' (p. 65). And as for corruption, following the rule that 'the best way to Rob a bank is to own it', in its last few months of life Landsbanki lent 36% of its capital to a few of its main owners, while Glitnir did the same with 17% of its capital. After years of avoiding the consequences of their actions, several Icelandic bankers are now facing prosecution.

The authors conclude:

'Iceland is the story of Icarus in modern dress. Icarus sought to escape from exile in Crete using a pair of wings fashioned from feathers and wax. He was warned not to fly too close to the sun. But overcome by the excitement of flying, he flew too close, the wax melted, and he tumbled into the sea. As of early 2011 his Icelandic counterpart is still in the water, paddling hard but a long way from land, and the direction of the current is unclear.'

The same conclusion could be drawn for all the post-bubble economies, and of course it is important that we 'learn the lessons of Iceland' in terms of crony capitalism and financial instability. But for a green economist the most important lesson is the need to reconnect finance with the real economy. When finance runs out of control the consequence in unsustainability as well as instability. An economy in a steady state would return money to its proper role as a medium of exchange. As Mary Mellor argues, it is this sort of money we should be moving towards to support a sustainable,

Canadians can't afford Candu complacency

Japan or Canada, a nuke is a nuke.

By Paul McKay
Tuesday, March 15 2011

Nuclear power operators sometimes joke that they function in a world that is 95 percent boredom and 5 percent terror.

The brave crews remaining at the stricken Fukushima power complex in Japan are now staring down terror 100 percent of the time, as they scramble to keep four nuclear furnaces cooled and prevent highly radioactive spent fuel from igniting. They are relying on makeshift fire hoses and sea water, while hydrogen explosions and radiation spikes surround them.

Canada has some two dozen Candu reactors, each with a radioactive inventory similar to those in Japan.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ecological Commons: Seeing the Environment as Our Common Heritage

James K. Boyce. “The Environment as Our Common Heritage,” for the Fair Sharing of the Common Heritage Award, February 2011

P2P Foundation

As introduced via David Bollier:

James K. Boyce
The post below is excerpted from James K. Boyce’s acceptance speech, “The Environment as Our Common Heritage,” for the Fair Sharing of the Common Heritage Award, presented by Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation in Berkeley, California. It originally appeared on the website, on February 10, 2011. Jim teaches ecological economics, among other things, at UMass Amherst, and has been a long-time defender of the commons.”

James K. Boyce:

” What does it mean to say that the environment is our “common heritage”? On one level this is a simple statement of fact: when we are born, we come into a world that is not of our own making. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the natural resources on which our livelihoods depend, and the accumulated knowledge and information that underpin our ability to use these resources wisely – all these come to us as gifts of creation passed on to us by preceding generations and enriched by their innovations and creativity.

UN's nuclear watchdog IAEA under fire over response to Japanese disaster

IAEA and Japanese secretary-general accused of ignoring lessons of Chernobyl and letting firms cut corners at Fukushima

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
Tuesday 15 March 2011

Inside Fukushima Members of the Fukushima assembly observing operations at the No 1 plant last year. Critics say the IAEA allowed the plant to cut corners. Photograph: Jiji Press/AFP
The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has come under fire for its response to Japan's nuclear crisis and its record in monitoring nuclear safety.

The scrutiny has focused on the agency's secretary general, Yukiya Amano, a Japanese diplomat who got the job in 2009 after energetic lobbying by Tokyo. Amano and his team have been blamed for long delays in issuing updates on the disaster at Fukushima.

Nuclear officials argued that the fault lay not so much with the agency in Vienna as with its largely toothless mandate, which leaves it dependent on member states for voluntary compliance and control of information.

The fiercest criticism came from a former Soviet nuclear expert who helped organise the clean-up after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Iouli Andreev said that corporations had deliberately ignored the lessons of Chernobyl in the pursuit of profit and had been abetted by the negligence of the agency.

"After Chernobyl, all the force of the nuclear industry was directed to hide this event, for not creating damage to their reputation. The Chernobyl experience was not studied properly because who has money for studying? Only industry. But industry doesn't like it," Andreev told Reuters news agency.

He once ran the Soviet Spetsatom agency involved in the Chernobyl clean-up. He now teaches on nuclear safety and has served as an adviser to Austria's environment ministry.

Andreev said that in order to cut costs, spent fuel rods at Fukushima had been too closely stacked in pools near the nuclear reactors. One of those pools caught fire, dispersing radioactivity into the atmosphere.

"The Japanese were very greedy and they used every square inch of the space. But when you have a dense placing of spent fuel in the basin, you have a high possibility of fire if the water is removed from the basin," Andreev said.

He said the agency was too close to the corporations to enforce standards properly. "This is only a fake organisation because every organisation which depends on the nuclear industry – and the IAEA depends on the nuclear industry – cannot perform properly ... It always will try to hide the reality."

Officials in Vienna said the criticism implied a misunderstanding of the agency's role. They said that it had a mandate to demand inspections and judge compliance when illicit nuclear weapons programmes are suspected, as in Iran and Syria. On nuclear safety, on the other hand, the agency does not have the right of inspection and cannot criticise member states' nuclear power industries. "The agency can facilitate the creation of a standard but cannot enforce that standard," an official said.

Amano was also criticised at a press conference for his agency's slowness in informing the public. The agency's briefings have frequently been several hours behind press reports in Japan. However, nuclear officials with knowledge of the agency's workings said that according to an internationally agreed convention on early notification of an accident, agency officials had to verify any information they disclosed with the country in which the incident had taken place. Over the past few days, they said, that had meant sending press releases to Tokyo for approval and often waiting hours for a response.

'No Fare is Fair'

A Roundtable with Members of the Greater Toronto Workers' Assembly Transit Committee

By Ali Mustafa 
New Socialist
Monday, 14 March 2011

The Greater Toronto Workers' Assembly (GTWA) is a promising new initiative aiming to build a united, non-sectarian, and militant anti-capitalist movement in the city among a diversity of rank-and-file labour unionists, grassroots community organizers, and youth alike. Since the GTWA's inception in early 2010, mass public transit has emerged as one of the organization's key political battlegrounds. In this in-depth roundtable discussion, members of the GTWA's transit committee Jordy Cummings, Lisa Leinveer, Leo Panitch, Kamilla Pietrzyk, and Herman Rosenfeld explore both the opportunities and obstacles facing the campaign Towards a Free and Accessible TTC.

Towards a Free and Accessible TTC became the first major campaign adopted by the GTWA. Why is mass public transit a key priority to the work and overall vision of the GTWA?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cochabamba+1 Conference - Register Now

Cochabamba+1: Climate Justice and Ecological Alternatives

Date: Friday, April 15, 2011 - 19:00 - Sunday, April 17, 2011 - 13:00
Location: University of Quebec at Montreal, J.A. DeSève Pavillion, local DS-R510; 320 St-Catherine Street East, Montreal
Organized by: Alternatives and Canadian Dimension magazine

An international conference focusing on:

  • Mobilizing against the effects of shale gas exploration and the tar sands;
  • Transition towards a carbon-free economy and industrial conversions;
  • Ecological crises and people's alternatives.
In short, a moment to build a climate justice movement.


  • Pablo Solon, Bolivian ambassador to the United Nations, climate negotiator, and initiator of the World People's Conference on Climate Change in Cochabamba (see video of Ambassador Solon here)
  • Maude Barlow, world-renowned activist on the right to water and Chairperson of the Council of Canadians
  • André Bélisle, President of the Quebec Coalition Against Atmospheric Pollution
  • Judy Rebick, founding publisher of and author of Transforming Power: From the Personal to the Political.


amidst an incredible list of experts and orators:

In partnership with:

Simultaneous translation will be available for all events in English and French.

Register HERE.

Québec’s Oil And Gas Industry Responds To BAPE Report On Shale Gas And Fracking Ban
March 14, 2011

On Monday, Québec’s oil and gas industry responded to the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) report made public last week. Lucien Bouchard, former Québec Premier turned spokesman for the Québec Oil and Gas Association addressed the media for the first time, acknowledging that the industry’s “new” fracking techniques deserve further scrutiny in order to avoid “mishaps” such as the 19 gas wells that have recently leaked pollution into Quebec’s air and water.

The BAPE commission rightly called for an extensive environmental impact assessment of the effects that shale gas drilling has on air and water quality. While the BAPE did not call for a shale drilling moratorium, Pierre Arcand, Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks did, however, ban the use of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) for at least a year and a half, and up to 30 months until this destructive technique can be studied further.

Bouchard was rather despondent in his comments, but at times critical of the BAPE, arguing the commission inappropriately applied concerns in places like Alberta to the Québec situation. This is somewhat odd since Québec had not studied the impacts of drilling at all, and therefore the commission was specifically convened to discuss how shale gas is being developed elsewhere in order to ensure its “harmonious development” in Québec.

On the whole, he said the industry accepts the BAPE findings. The fact of the matter is that the former Premier has little choice.

Well over half of Quebecers oppose shale drilling, and more than 128,000 people have signed an online petition calling for a moratorium on shale gas development. Given the public outcry, it is simply not possible for Liberal Premier Jean Charest to stand firm with this fossil fuel industry since his party’s support hovers around 27%.

The BAPE’s most important finding is that the industry has not provided nearly enough information about the environmental, health and safety impacts from shale gas extraction, or the particularly hazardous and destructive hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) drilling method, in order to alleviate very real concerns raised about this drilling activity.

On this point, when asked if it was a mistake for Québec to start exploring shale gas without following an in-depth impact assessment covering environmental and health effects, Bouchard bluntly stated:
“Maybe we all forgot that it was something new” ...since there was no culture of exploration.
This lack of expertise led to mishaps.
The extreme dangers that come with drilling for dirty fossil fuels using unproven methods like fracking (used in 18 of 31 gas wells in Québec) cannot be understated. Already, gas drilling ‘mishaps’ are destroying the environment and risking public health in the province, where experts found that 19 gas wells have leaked polluting chemicals into the air and water.

In light of the growing body of evidence confirming the dangers of shale gas fracking and drilling accidents, Québec’s politicians ought to stand firm on the fracking moratorium and ban shale gas development in the province as a whole.

Socialists say 'no' to Arctic drilling

News wires 
10 March 2011

Norway's Socialist Left party vowed today to reject any compromise that could lead to drilling off a pristine Arctic archipelago, setting the stage for talks that risk fracturing the Labour-led cabinet.

The untapped waters around the Lofoten and Versteraalen islands are regarded by the oil industry as the most promising that remain off Norway, whose output has fallen by a third in the past decade.

But allowing oil and gas activities in the fish-rich and unspoiled region is anathema for Norwegian green movements and political parties including the co-ruling Socialist Left (SV), Reuters reported.

Norway is due to decide within weeks whether to order an impact assessment study for drilling off the Lofotens, the first step toward possible drilling in the area that is home to Europe's largest cod stock and unique cold-water reefs.

Yesterday, Labour MPs asked Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to negotiate a way out of the stalemate with SV, possibly by changing the study's name or tweaking its scope.

But the Socialists rejected such notions.

"We can't accept any study that leads to opening the region for oil and gas activities," SV's energy spokesman Snorre Valen told Reuters. "We simply won't compromise on this."

SV has built its programme around keeping the Arctic region oil-free, believing exploration would "destroy the environment and create only a few jobs."

The coalition has survived for six years in part because it has delayed decisions regarding the Lofotens. But pressure from the powerful oil industry, unions and locals who support drilling in northern Norway is forcing Labour to take a stand.

Environment Minister Erik Solheim, a leading SV politician, talked down the possibility of the government falling apart over the Lofoten issue, the most divisive in Norwegian politics.

"I will not say anything about government discussions, but for some SV's case is clear -- it is unacceptable to produce oil off the Lofoten and Vesteraalen," Solheim was quoted as saying by daily Aftenposten.

"The government has for the past six years shown a phenomenal ability to survive. We have like Lazarus risen from the dead, and several times at that."

Norway's top trade unions back drilling and regard it as a way to bring jobs to northern Norway.

"I am very afraid Stoltenberg won't formally open an impact assessment study off Lofoten," Leif Sande, head of the powerful Industri Energi union, told Reuters. "Stoltenberg wants his coalition to hold until the (parliamentary) election in 2013."