Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Canada's Committment to Developing the Tar Sands

By John W. Warnock
May 29, 2012

Over the past few weeks politicians and the mass media have been ranting about the development of the Alberta tar sands. Thomas Mulcair, the new leader of the federal New Democratic Party (NDP), and a number of left leaning economists have argued that the massive investment in the development of the oil industry in Canada has been giving Canada a dose of the Dutch Disease. The influx of foreign investment has boosted the value of the Canadian dollar and has resulted in the steady decline of the manufacturing industry all across Canada. This is what happened to The Netherlands in the 1960s when its government stressed the rapid development of their offshore petroleum industry. In 2008 the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had warned Canada about this development.

There should have been a serious debate on the issue, but the politicians and the mainstream media, including the CBC, shot that down by posing the issue as a conflict between central and western Canada.

 But far more important is the question of whether or not the tar sands should be developed at all. It seems that no one in any position of authority in Canada wishes this issue to be opened up to a general, democratic debate.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Petroleum and Propaganda

The Anatomy of the Global Warming Denial Industry

By John W. Farley
Monthly Review
May 2012

James Lawrence Powell, The Inquisition of Climate Science (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 232 pages, $27.95, hardcover.

James Powell was inspired to write this important new book because of a remarkable paradox: among climate scientists, there is a near-unanimous consensus that global warming is occurring now, is largely human-made, and will cause very severe environmental problems if humanity continues business as usual. However, among the lay public the picture is much more mixed: only about half of the U.S. public agrees with the climate scientists. Why the enormous discrepancy?

Powell argues that “in the denial of global warming, we are witnessing the most vicious, and so far most successful, attack on science in history.” Although Powell himself is not a climate science researcher, he has an appropriate background to understand the field: he holds a doctorate in geochemistry from MIT and became a geology professor, teaching at Oberlin College for over twenty years. He has been a college president at three institutions, and served for a dozen years on the National Science Board. Powell’s book is a sharp attack on the global-warming denial “industry,” a network comprised of corporate funding, think tanks, popularizers, and propagandists, who all work with a compliant mass media.

Read more HERE.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Draining of world's aquifers feeds rising sea levels

Trillions of tonnes of water have been pumped up from deep underground reservoirs in every part of the world, says report

Water pumped from underground aquifers increases sea water levels : Irrigation in  Saudi Arabia
For three decades, Saudi Arabia has been drilling for water from underground aquifers. Engineers and farmers have tapped hidden reserves of water to grow grains, fruit and vegetables in the desert of Wadi As-Sirhan Basin. Photograph: Landsat/Nasa
Humanity's unquenchable thirst for fresh water is driving up sea levels even faster than melting glaciers, according to new research. The massive impact of the globalpopulation's growing need for water on rising sea levels is revealed in a comprehensive assessment of all the ways in which people use water.
Trillions of tonnes of water have been pumped up from deep underground reservoirs in every part of the world and then channelled into fields and pipes to keep communities fed and watered. The water then flows into the oceans, but far more quickly than the ancient aquifers are replenished by rains. The global tide would be rising even more quickly but for the fact that manmade reservoirs have, until now, held back the flow by storing huge amounts of water on land.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Marx’s Ecology and the Understanding of Land Cover Change

By Ricardo Dobrovolski
Monthly Review
May 2012
The spread of humans worldwide, especially in the last two hundred years, has been associated with the growing human domination of the earth. This domination has not only entailed an increasing world population, but also rising and unequal wealth—all of which has been accelerated by the regime of capital. 

Such domination of the environment is expressed by among other things: 

(1) the change in the flux of elements and substances on Earth, i.e., the global biogeochemical cycles (of which the most famous manifestation is the rising level of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases responsible for climate change);  (2) the growing threat of species extinction; and  (3) the huge land cover change (LCC)—the substitution of natural habitats such as forests, swamps, and grasslands by cropland, pasture, roads, and urban areas.

Modern natural sciences have made enormous inroads in understanding both ecological problems and the social drivers of LCC. However, they have been unable to generate a systematic understanding of how the regime of capital has governed LCC. Karl Marx developed more than 150 years ago, in the context of a social-science critique, an unparalleled theoretical approach to environmental crisis based on two concepts: differential land rent and the metabolic rift.

Read more HERE.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Harper and the Environment are Like Oil and Water

By Maude Barlow
Council of Canadians
Friday, May 18th, 2012

The Harper government is waging war on Canada’s freshwater.

We didn’t start with a strong record. Our national water laws are out-dated, we don’t properly enforce the ones we have and we chronically underfund source water and watershed protection. And consecutive governments refuse to consider the effect on freshwater when creating economic, industrial, energy or trade policies.

Yet the Harper government appears intent on systematically dismantling the few protections that have been put in place at the federal level to protect our freshwater heritage.

In its 2011 budget, the Harper government announced a reduction of over $222 million from the budget of Environment Canada and the elimination of over 1,200 jobs in the department. Programs to protect water, such as the Action Plan on Clean Water, which funds water remediation in Lakes Winnipeg and Simcoe among others, were particularly hard hit. Others targeted for deep cuts include the Chemicals Management Plan and the Contaminated Sites Action Plan, both of which are crucial to source water protection.