Sunday, January 31, 2010

Greens Decry Harper Government Moving to Even Weaker GHG

 - Green Party of Canada - Parti vert du Canada

Harper has done it again. Hiding behind the US weak greenhouse gas targets, Canada has now watered down our commitment again, setting a new base year of 2005 for greenhouse gas reductions. "After sabotaging progress in Copenhagen, the Harper government has now moved to an even weaker target," said Green Leader Elizabeth May.

In 2006, when the Harper Conservatives were elected, Canada was legally bound to reduce emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012. Under the Conservatives and the Liberals, our emissions have been rising. The Harper government has repudiated our legally binding commitments and cancelled all climate programmes. Now they have set a target which would leave Canada above 1990 levels by 2020.

"The Conservatives are playing with numbers and we still have no concrete plan on how to begin reducing emissions and how to shift us toward the new green economy of Canada's future. The North calls on our government to act," said John Streicker, Green Party Critic for Arctic and Northern Affairs.

“Our long-awaited 'Made in Canada' plan is once again 'Made in Houston'. Canada has no plan to reduce greenhouse gases, while Harper focuses on media spin to avoid bad press,’” said Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu, Green Climate Critic. “I would have thought a solution truly made in Canada would reflect the spirit of international cooperation and leadership Canadians want their country to show.”

The Copenhagen Accord requires Annex I Parties to enhance the emissions reductions beyond Kyoto, a requirement which will not be met by the current Conservative plan.

“It is unacceptable to continually lower our commitment to deal with the climate crisis and then hide behind the US target. The difference is the US has put $112 billion into Green energy choices and has a real plan, while Canada has killed green energy funding and has no plan," noted May.

Canada lowers targets they have no plans to meet

It is all too apparent that Harper and his oil-loving backers are looking for any excuse to lower, eliminate or just ignore any substantial committment to preventing climate change disaster. We need to continue to build a coalition that will bring down Harper and replace him with representatives with a commitment to the common good and our common survival.

Also, there is this new facebook group:
Canadians Against Canada's Climate Plan

The below is exerpted from the Globe and Mail (emphasis added)

The federal government formally notified the United Nations that Canada will cut its carbon emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels over the next 10 years as part of the Copenhagen accord on climate change, Environment Minister Jim Prentice said Saturday.

But a spokesman for Greenpeace says these targets will actually increase emissions, not lower them.

 The Canadian targets are similar to those of the United States, something the federal government planned all along, Mr. Prentice said.

“Throughout the Copenhagen negotiations we maintained that our clear policy was to support the outcome of Copenhagen and also to align our clean-energy and climate-change policies with those of the Obama administration,” he said.

Although reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 17 per cent will be challenging, Mr. Prentice said he believes it is attainable. He didn't offer any specifics about which actions would be taken to achieve those cuts.

“We'll deal specifically with the oil sands, we'll deal specifically with all sources of emissions, but today the objective of this announcement is to fulfill our obligations under the accord,” he said. “We know we can achieve that target, we're prepared to stand behind it and other countries will now have to do the same.”

While the government's previous emission targets, announced in 2006, would have resulted in a 3-per-cent reduction in emissions over 1990 levels, these latest targets will actually increase emissions by 2.5 per cent, said Dave Martin, a climate and energy co-ordinator with Greenpeace.

“We're heading in exactly the opposite direction that we need to head,” Mr. Martin said. “Not only have they reneged on the target that they adopted a couple of years ago, they have also failed to put in place the regulations that they promised last year.”

 He said the lack of details on how to achieve those emission cuts is indicative of the real problem the Conservative government has with the climate change issue.

 “I think they're really beholden to the oil and gas industry in Alberta and they don't want to address how to make serious reductions to protect the planet and the environment,” Mr. Martin said.

See commentary on this issue at Canadians for Climate Change Action.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

COP15 video

Climate Action Network undermines strong resolve of developing states

Below are two critiques of the "People's Submission" posted earlier reposted from Peace, Earth and Justice News. Comments are encouraged.

In January 29 CLimate Action Network sent the following to Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “A People’s Submission on Canada, Climate Change and the Copenhagen Accord”

Enclosed two responses submitted to the Climate Action Network website.

1. Comment and proposal Joan Russow, Global Compliance Research Project

While the criticism of Harper and his Conservative government, and of the Copenhagen Accord are important, the measures proposed in the above submission, are way below what is being advocated by progressive states such as Bolivia.

Implementation of UNFCCC; TIME TO BE BOLD

At COP 15, on December 17 and 18, presentations were made, by the head of states, to the Assembly. The majority of heads of states were calling for the global community to maintain the rise in temperature to well below 1.5 degrees. Sadly, it was clear at COP 15 that the demands of the majority of states were disregarded. On December 7, Papua New Guinea had proposed that, rather than descend to the lowest common denominator, the Parties should strive for Consensus with a fall back of 75%. Unfortunately, this proposal was summarily dismissed by the Chair.

If one counts the G77 representing 130 developing states along with some low lying states or small island states which were not members of the G77 along with some of the member states of the European union, then possibly over 75% of the signatories of the UNFCCC would have been prepared to sign and ratify a strong, legally binding agreement. While it could be argued, on the one hand, that this agreement would be irrelevant because the major greenhouse gas producers would have not signed on, but on the other hand, citizens in the major greenhouse gas producing states could use the agreement to pressure their governments to make commitments to stronger emissions reductions. Hopefully that in COP 16 in Mexico, the demands of the majority will be respected.

Signing of the Copenahagen accord currently in front of heads of states would undermine the actions necessary to make the drastic cuts necessary to fulfill the legal obligations under article 2 of the UNFCCC to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.“

Would your state, sign this document, if at least 75% of the states agreed to sign and ratifiy a strong statement.

We affirm that

The UNFCCC is ratified by 194 countries – representing near universal membership – it commands near universal support and its legitimacy is unquestioned. The UNFCCC stated: “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere must be at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. This level equates to a target of below 1°C, which is the point at which global systems on land, water and air will be so affected as to create vicious feedback cycles and destabilize many ecosystems and human societies.

and That

Because of the global urgency, there must be the political will to strive to contain the rise in temperature to less than 1°C above pre-industrial levels, and the parts per million to 300 ppm. Strict time frames must be imposed, so that overall global emissions will begin to be reversed as of 2010. There must be a global target of 30% below 1990 levels by 2015, 50% below by 2020, 75% by 2030, 85% by 2040 and 100% below by 2050, while adhering to the precautionary principle, and differentiated responsibility principle [the emission debt owed by Developed countries to developing countries has to be seriously addressed].and developed country parties agree to acknowledge their emissions debt to developing countries, to cancel their existing debt of developing countries, to implement the long-standing obligation of .7% of GDP for overseas development, to ensure new funding for climate change reparation. In addition, developed country parties will renounce war and reallocate military expenses.

2. Comment and analysis of the Climate Action Network Cory Moringstar

CAN states: Canada should commit to a science-based emissions reduction target of 25 per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2020 – “further strengthening” the government’s current target of 3 per cent below 1990 by 2020, as required by the Copenhagen Accord.

And this;

Over 150,000 Canadians have signed the KYOTOplus petition which calls for emission cuts of 25 per cent below 1990 by 2020; an effective national plan to reach this target; help for developing countries to reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change; and a fair, ambitious and legally-binding second phase of the Kyoto Protocol.

These targets are not fair and ambitious. They are incredibly outdated and they are now nothing more than a slap in the face to those most vulnerable. They fly in the face of true climate justice. This target is from an outdated campaign and should be abandoned immediately. This target itself is an embarrassment to Canadians. The targets CAN supports are not at all based on the current science. What a crime that such a weak, passive statement is being sent representative of so many NGOs.

In Copenhagen, the G77 & Bolivia called for targets of 1C, 52% by 2017, 65% by 2020, 80% by 2030 & well above 100 by 2050 (by developed countries). There can be no denying of what targets those most vulnerable have asked us to support. During COP15 CAN was in the room when Lumumba Di-Aping asked all NGOs, including CAN to support these targets. So why is CAN not supporting the targets needed for those most at risk to simply live.

We reviewed the recent CAN International Copenhagen policy paper. This is not a policy paper designed to prevent global climate catastrophe. It is in fact a global suicide pact.
CAN states (international policy paper):

1. It is a non global emergency policy (even though the paper says the survival of humanity and ecology is at stake)
2. States that 2C is the danger level. At 1.5 we lose small island states.
3. There is no mention of gov’t imposing a price on carbon and no carbon pricing is given to achieve goals.
4. The failed Kyoto process is the only assumed process.
5. No mention of carbon taxing – without which nothing can work.
6. No clear submission that we are beyond dangerous climate interference now, though it is inferred.
7. The introductory paragraph (and the paper) does not document the dangers; No mention runaway or Arctic methane feedbacks – the greatest danger to the survival of life on Earth. No mention of Arctic at all. There is no mention of the catastrophic dangers to agriculture – the greatest danger to survival of huge populations and humanity (excludingArctic).
8. Delaying global peaking up to 2017 has no rationale and is a crime.
9. Delaying something approaching virtual zero emissions till 2050 is insane certain catastrophe. CO2 emissions are cumulative so to stop further increase in atmospheric CO2 zero must be targeted and fast.
10. Delaying reaching atmospheric 350C02 eq to 100 years from now is insane. So long as CO2 is above 350ppm global warming and ocean acidification will continue.
11. No clear submission of a zero carbon emissions policy target – this receives one mention .
12. No mention of non CO2 GHGs
13. No mention of black carbon soot.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

'People's submission' hits Canada on climate change

A network of leading non-governmental organizations has made a People’s Submission to the United Nations (UN) on behalf of over 150,000 Canadians who have signed the KyotoPlus petition against Canada’s poor record on climate change.

The submission was made this week with the approach of the Jan. 31 deadline for countries to indicate what actions they are committed to taking under the Copenhagen Accord.

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is a member of the Climate Action Network of Canada (CANC).

“The Canadian government has been consistently out of step with the majority in parliament, the Canadian public and provincial governments when it comes to climate change,” says Dale Marshall of the David Suzuki Foundation.

“For this reason we feel that it is important to make a submission to the UN on what Canada really wants to do, which is contribute to a fair, ambitious and binding deal.”

The CANC believes that the accord is nowhere near the international deal that will be needed to prevent dangerous climate change. It says world leaders must use 2010 to negotiate a legally-binding agreement under a transparent UN framework that includes a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol.

In the meantime the submission by the groups is intended to be a symbolic gesture of where Canadians want their government to be on the issue.

"Canadians want the world to know our government does not represent our views on climate action,” says John Bennett, executive director of Sierra Club Canada. “Only through this People's Submission to the United Nations will we be heard."

Graham Saul of CANC says it is important to send a message the Harper government a message. "Do Nothing is not an acceptable position in the face of this global challenge,” he says .

The People’s Submission was submitted this week for consideration by the UN along with other submissions by individual countries. It proposes commitments to reach far more ambitious targets than now exist to reduce greenhouse gas pollution within Canada. It also says Canada should commit to taking responsibility for a fair share of the financing required to help poor countries adapt to climate change and to adopt clean energy technologies.

- People's Submission pdf

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Revolting History: an ode for Howard Zinn

by Mark Prime
Confession Zero

Howard Zinn dies of a heart attack at age 87

The wish for a coming revolt of the guards
Did not emerge with any expectant breath
Or a momentous rebellion of thunder.


It passed between the dreaming walls of our hope,
Silent and mortified.
It wove its way near the heart and fell away

We hungered for its branding mark to walk upon
Our shields. We’re ready for the next great one,
The next sun to etch its words on our caution.

We see ourselves as we imagine; a rescuer,
A warrior of unending good, a rebel without history
looking for a voice to call his own.

We’ve tossed our coins into the breathing fountain

And hidden our shame in the thankless gutter,
We’ve carried our bodies across our days

Like hand grenades;
Immigrants in a strange land of heavy skies.

© 2010 by mark prime

A People's History
Howard Zinn...
rest in peace.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Impossible Hamster

Raising the bar after Copenhagen

By Tom B.K. Goldtooth
Indian Country Today

The Indigenous Environmental Network took a delegation of 12 Native people from the United States and Canada to the 15th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change held in Copenhagen, Denmark the first two weeks in December. One message our delegation took to the international climate meeting called for stringent and binding emission reduction targets.

In accordance with the prescriptions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it requires all developed countries to take on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 in the range of 25 to 40 percent based on 1990 levels. The U.S., one of the developed countries is by per capita a leading contributor to the greenhouse gases. Currently, U.S. climate legislation in both the House and Senate fail to meet these demands with reduction levels of only 3-4 percent by 2020 based on 1990 levels. At COP 15 another goal of IEN was to campaign for the world leaders to agree on a post-Kyoto Protocol binding emissions reduction target agreement.

There was no international legally binding agreement. There were no agreements by the U.S. or other developed countries on targets for reducing carbon emissions. Climate negotiations in Copenhagen resulted in a no agreement called the Copenhagen Accord. This accord has no real requirements for any countries to have reduction targets. The failure to achieve a real deal lies on the shoulders of rich countries whose pollution has caused the climate crisis – especially the U.S., European Union, Denmark and other industrialized countries. Rich countries refused to budge from the grossly inadequate emissions reduction proposals they brought to Copenhagen.

One message our delegation took to the international climate meeting called for stringent and binding emission reduction targets.

Let me put some things in focus with a brief background of why there is a need for stringent emission reduction targets and binding agreements of developed countries to make commitments to take action.

A growing body of western scientific evidence suggests what Indigenous Peoples have expressed for a long time: Life, as we know it, is in danger. Western scientists tell us that climate change is accelerating, that changes are happening faster than expected. Western science tells us that global emissions need to peak within the next 10 years.

Parts per million is a way of measuring the concentration of different gases, and means the ratio of the number of carbon dioxide molecules per million other molecules in the atmosphere. For all of human history until about 200 years ago, our atmosphere contained 275 ppm of carbon dioxide. The modern world is taking millions of year’s worth of carbon, stored beneath Mother Earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere. This has been mainly through the mining and combustion of oil, coal, tar sands crude oil and natural gas. The planet now has 387 ppm CO2 – and this number is rising by about two ppm every year. Scientists are now saying that’s too much – that number is higher than any time seen in the recorded history of our planet – and we’re already beginning to see disastrous impacts on people and places all over the world. These impacts are combining to exacerbate conflicts and security issues in already resource-strapped regions.

The Arctic is sending us perhaps the clearest message that climate change is occurring much more rapidly than scientists previously thought. In the summer of 2007, sea ice was roughly 39 percent below the summer average for 1979-2000, a loss of area nearly equal to the size of five United Kingdoms. Scientists now believe the Arctic will be completely ice free in the summertime between 2011 and 2015, some 80 years ahead of what scientists had predicted just a few years ago. Propelled by the news of these accelerating impacts, including changes in ocean acidification, some of the world’s leading climate scientists have now revised the highest safe level of CO2 to 350 ppm. Objectives must be made to reach stabilization of GHG concentrations at well below 350 ppm and to limit temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees centigrade, based on pre-industrial levels, noting that emissions must peak in 2015.

A growing body of western scientific evidence suggests what Indigenous Peoples have expressed for a long time: Life, as we know it, is in danger.

The view from the ground in Copenhagen

Monday, January 25, 2010

Canada’s Long Road to Mining Reform

Written by Cyril Mychalejko
Toward Freedom

Rape. Murder. Corruption. Environmental contamination. Impunity. These are just some of the charges and incidents that have plagued Canadian mining operations abroad for years. Now one Canadian lawmaker has taken on the Herculean challenge of legislating mining reform in a country that has traditionally acted like a parent in denial.

"The mining industry in Canada is too powerful a lobby," said Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) John McKay.

Sixty percent of the world’s mining corporations come from Canada. According to a report by InfoMine, Canadian mining corporations listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange had 1,010 projects in South America, 578 in Mexico, 703 in Africa, 376 in Asia and 345 in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in 2009. Canada also accounts for 19 percent of global mining exploration spending, which totaled at $13.2 billion. Gold, silver, copper and nickel are among the minerals the industry scours the globe for. In Canada the industry employs 193 registered lobbyists.

McKay’s bill, C-300, would empower the Canadian federal government to investigate complaints of human rights and environmental abuses leveled against mining companies. If the Ministers investigating a company find it guilty of violating social and environmental standards laid out in the bill, the company, if receiving support from the Canada Pension Plan or Export Development Canada could lose funding from the respective organizations.

"It’s limited, but a positive step forward overall," said Sakura Saunders, editor of, a website that provides research and organizing information around mining issues, with a focus on Canadian Mining giant Barrick Gold. "But this bill is simply putting ethical guidelines on the investment and promotion of mining, oil and gas projects in developing countries. It treats the Canadian government as an investor rather than a government."

Dirty Business

Greens would cut taxes and balance the budget

- Green Party of Canada

This week, in a cross-country launch, the Green Party of Canada unveiled a series of key policies that together would work to bring Canada out of the current structural deficit and into a new green economy. “I am here on Parliament Hill, where all MPs should be, to continue the important conversation started by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Our country suffers from a triple deficit –- fiscal, ecological and democratic. It’s no time to shut down discussion,” said Leader Elizabeth May.

A key piece of the Green Party economic recovery plan is a tax cut in the form of lowering EI and CPP contributions and deductions. “In our plan, EI and CPP contributions/deductions will be cut by one third and replaced with revenues from the carbon tax,” said Deputy Leader Jacques Rivard. “This will put taxes on polluters and not on small businesses who want to hire people.”

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has released analysis showing that the Harper government has created a structural deficit. The Conservatives have pledged not to raise taxes; however, they do plan to raise payroll taxes. “Increasing the amount of EI deductions and contributions for employers and workers hurts Canada’s economic recovery and depresses new job creation. We need to make it easier to hire people, not harder,” said May. “The Green Party plan would reduce the deficit by $36 billion -- $5.2 billion more by 2012-2013 than the Harper government, without a job-killing increase on EI payments as planned by the Harper government for 2011.”

Harper's plan will leave a huge and structural deficit. “We need new ideas that will benefit all Canadians,” said Deputy Green Leader Adriane Carr. “The Green Party wants to open a national conversation based on the latest Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report. The government needs to hear what direction Canadians want the country to go in—and the Green Party believes that direction should make job creation a top priority.”

Employment for youth is a key policy in the Green vision. Greens would fund local Community and Environment Service Corps Youth Programs that would provide employment nation-wide for 40,000 youth per year, with the additional benefit of a $4,000 tuition credit for those who complete the program. “Young people just starting their careers face special challenges during a recession,” said Carr. “They don’t yet have the work experience to compete strongly for scarce jobs and yet need a job to become experienced. They are in a Catch-22. That is why they deserve special federal programs to ensure a solid start to their working life. This investment will only serve to strengthen our economy in the long run.”

The Greens also propose to cancel planned corporate tax cuts scheduled to come on stream from 2010-2012, thereby reducing current deficit projections by $3.3 million, $2.8 billion and $5.2 billion in successive years. “We are sharing our plan with Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page and welcome his response. We may not yet have all the right answers but we want to advance the collective effort of all Canadians to address the deficits that threaten our children’s future – fiscal, ecological and democratic.”

“We need now to climb out of this recession, but we shouldn’t do it by repeating the mistakes of the past. It is time for new, fresh and green ideas,” concluded May.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Scientists predict climate change will cause earthquakes (2006)

Reposted from Fare-Free Canada

Climate change could cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, scientists say.

"What happens is the weight of this thick ice puts a lot of stress on the earth," says Wu. "The weight sort of suppresses the earthquakes but when you melt the ice the earthquakes get triggered."

When a quake happens under water it can cause a tsunami. Wu said melting of the Antarctic ice is already causing earthquakes and underground landslides although they get little attention. He predicted climate warming will bring "lots of earthquakes."  - U.S. Climate Emergency Council

Friday, January 22, 2010

Glaciergate threatens a climate change

Peter Wilson
European correspondent for The Australian
January 23, 2010

Graham Cogley, the Canadian scientist who trekked a decade-old paper trail to expose the Glaciergate error in a crucial UN-backed document on climate change, says there is one certainty about what will happen next.

An expert on glaciers at Trent University in Ontario, Cogley is an instinctively cautious scientist who opposes any leaps to unproven conclusions but he is prepared to bet that climate change sceptics and deniers will pore over the report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change more closely than ever to try to find more errors.

"Sceptics have already started using this incident for their own purposes by saying that somehow the whole IPCC document is now in doubt," he tells Focus in a telephone interview from Canada.

It was Cogley's meticulous attention to detail and his resistance to "sexing up" research that exposed the wildly exaggerated claim in the IPCC's most recent assessment of climate change that Himalayan glaciers were likely to melt away as soon as 2035.

"I'm confident that the document as a whole is authoritative and the reliance placed on it by policy makers is not misplaced but I suppose you always had to expect that people would try to use this to shoot down the overall evidence on climate change."

Fred Pearce, a British environmental journalist who has found himself at the centre of the Glaciergate row, agrees with Cogley's prediction and says the stakes are now dangerously high for Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the Nobel Prize-winning IPCC.

"People who want to undermine the science on climate change will be crawling over the report looking for another mistake like this and if they do find another one it will be curtains for Pachauri," Pearce says. "The way he has handled this glacier issue means he's now a sitting duck if anything else turns up."

Having accused the Indian government of peddling "voodoo science" when it criticised the IPCCs glacier claims, Pachauri this week was forced into a humiliating apology and admission that instead of being solid, peer-reviewed science the 2035 claim had actually been "cut and pasted" from a WWF (formerly world wildlife fund) campaign document that, in turn, was based on a single-source news article written by Pearce in 1999.

The offending paragraph in the IPCCs 2007 assessment declared that "glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate".

Experts say the paragraph is unproven and it could take 300 years for those glaciers to melt.  n IPCC statement conceded this week the paragraph "refers to poorly substantiated estimates of rate of recession and date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. In drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly.

"The IPCC regrets the poor application of well-established IPCC procedures in this instance."

The IPCC, which is charged with bringing together thousands of scientific viewpoints into one credible, shared assessment of climate science, stressed the error did not change its general understanding that the world's glaciers are rapidly melting. It was just one paragraph in a 3000-page report, they argue, and it was not even reproduced in the more widely read summary for policy makers given to governments before Copenhagen.

Supreme Court of Canada gives public a voice on major industrial projects

Court ensures meaningful environmental assessments across country
Joint news release with Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association
Jan 21 2010

Today, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Canadian government has violated a national environmental law aimed at ensuring sustainable development. In a case centered on the proposed Red Chris mine in British Columbia, the Court ruled that the federal government cannot split projects into artificially small parts to avoid rigorous environmental assessments. The ruling also guarantees that the public will be consulted about major industrial projects, including large metal mines and tar sands developments.

“The Supreme Court has given Canadians back their voice and, with it, their ability to influence major industrial development across the country,” said Ecojustice lawyer Lara Tessaro, who represented MiningWatch Canada on the case. “This landmark decision confirms that the government can no longer shirk the environmental protection duties that Parliament has assigned to it.”

The Court ruled that the Canadian government acted unlawfully by excluding public input from its evaluation of the massive copper and gold mine proposed for Northern BC. Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, entire projects must be environmentally assessed, and the government “cannot reduce the scope of the project to less than what is proposed by the proponent.”

The Canadian government refused to carry out a comprehensive study of the project and its environmental effects, as required by the CEAA. Despite the significant environmental risks posed by this mine, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Natural Resources Canada limited their assessment to a fraction of the mine proposal, removing the actual mine and mill from its environmental review and rubber-stamping a provincial assessment.

The open-pit mine, proposed by Imperial Metals, is cause for serious environmental concern. It would be located adjacent to an area called the Sacred Headwaters, the birthplace of Northern BC’s three greatest salmon rivers – the Stikine, Nass and Skeena Rivers. If built, it would endanger wildlife, destroy three trout-bearing streams and risk toxic contamination of two watersheds. Perhaps most shockingly, the proposed mining project would wipe out pristine Black Lake by converting it into a “tailings impoundment area” – a dumpsite for toxic mine waste.

“These are serious issues where the public needs to be able to have a say. That’s what we thought the law said, and now the Court has backed us up,” said Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada. “If perfectly good lakes and streams are going to be turned into toxic waste dumps, we will have something to say about it.”

The public interest groups had argued that it was unlawful for the federal government to simply defer to the provincial environmental review. The Court agreed, observing that federal agencies “were free to use any and all federal-provincial coordination tools available, but they were still required to comply with the provisions of the CEAA pertaining to comprehensive studies.”

“We are pleased that the Court has affirmed the importance of public participation in environmental decision-making, and we hope this decision breathes new life into Canada’s environmental assessment law,” said Canadian Environmental Law Association lawyer Richard Lindgren, who represented six environmental groups participating in the appeal as interveners.

For more information, please visit

The Crisis of Capital: Economy, Ecology, and Empire

by John Bellamy Foster

How is it that we could be facing a crisis of empire, of imperialism, of war, of conflict internationally, we could be facing an environmental crisis on a scale that threatens the whole planet as we know it, and we could be facing at the same time being in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression? And how do we deal with all these problems simultaneously? Is it simply coincidental that all these problems arise at the same time?

I think that we have to consider the possibility -- in fact for me it's more than a possibility -- that what we are facing is the crisis of capital, the crisis of capitalism. I don't mean in the sense that we talk about capitalism as being crisis-laden; there are always business cycles, downturns in the economy are normal in capitalism, and they have been for several hundred years. We know that. And we are being told that this is simply another economic crisis and we're now in the midst of recovery, that kind of crisis, and we'll be out of it and everything will be fine. What I'm trying to suggest here is that we're facing something else.

It isn't simply a crisis in capitalism; it's a crisis of capitalism. We're in the midst of a structural crisis of our entire civilization, which begain, I would say, in the mid-1970s. We are in the middle of it; we are not at the end by any means. But the whole set of problems is getting worse and worse. I think that this is crucial to understand. The problems of empire, the problems of ecology, and the problems of economy are all related to this crisis of capitalism, the crisis of our civilizaiton as it exists.

The system that we know of as capitalism -- and we are forced back to the term capitalism, nobody really talks about "the free market" anymore, that metaphor is gone, and we're forced back to the reality of the society in which we live -- is facing both internal and external limits at this point, and we have to try to understand what these are.

John Bellamy Foster - The Crisis of Capital: Economy, Ecology and Empire from pdxjustice Media Productions on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Essays on Marxist Ecology

The following constitutes an extensive selection of twenty essays from the pages of Monthly Review.

The Paradox of Wealth: Capitalism and Ecological Destruction
John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark

Today orthodox economics is reputedly being harnessed to an entirely new end: saving the planet from the ecological destruction wrought by capitalist expansion. It promises to accomplish this through the further expansion of capitalism itself, cleared of its excesses and excrescences. A growing army of self-styled “sustainable developers” argues that there is no contradiction between the unlimited accumulation of capital—the credo of economic liberalism from Adam Smith to the present—and the preservation of the earth. The system can continue to expand by creating a new “sustainable capitalism,” bringing the efficiency of the market to bear on nature and its reproduction. In reality, these visions amount to little more than a renewed strategy for profiting on planetary destruction.…

November 2009

The Urban Agriculture of Havana
Sinan Koont

Over the last fifteen years, Cuba has developed one of the most successful examples of urban agriculture in the world. Havana, the capital of Cuba, with a population of over two million people, has played a prominent, if not dominant role, in the evolution and revolution of this type of agriculture. The phrase “urban agriculture in Cuba” has a somewhat different meaning, simultaneously more and less restrictive than might appear at a first glance. It is more inclusive, as it allows for large expanses, urban fringes, and suburban lands.…

January 2009

Rifts and Shifts
Getting to the Root of Environmental Crises
Brett Clark and Richard York

Humans depend on functioning ecosystems to sustain themselves, and their actions affect those same ecosystems. As a result, there is a necessary “metabolic interaction” between humans and the earth, which influences both natural and social history. Increasingly, the state of nature is being defined by the operations of the capitalist system, as anthropogenic forces are altering the global environment on a scale that is unprecedented. The global climate is rapidly changing due to the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. No area of the world’s ocean is unaffected by human influence, as the accumulation of carbon, fertilizer runoff, and overfishing undermine biodiversity and the natural services that it provides. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment documents how over two-thirds of the world’s ecosystems are overexploited and polluted. Environmental problems are increasingly interrelated. James Hansen, the leading climatologist in the United States, warns that we are dangerously close to pushing the planet past its tipping point, setting off cascading environmental problems that will radically alter the conditions of nature…

November 2008

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Climate Change a Crisis of Conscience for All Canadians

- United Church of Canada

Mardi Tindal, the Moderator of Canada’s largest Protestant denomination, The United Church of Canada, today issued an open letter to Canadians calling on them to consider climate change a crisis of conscience.

In the letter Tindal urges Canadians “to choose hope and action over despair and paralysis” in addressing what she calls “one of the most urgent moral challenges in human history.”

“I believe this is a unique time in humanity’s fretful reign on Earth, a rare moment that will have historic significance,” writes Tindal in the letter that was written after she returned from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this past December.

Tindal attended the conference as part of a World Council of Churches delegation, and was the only North American denominational church leader present.

She returned to Canada bitterly disappointed with the outcome of the negotiations.

“Our moment of opportunity came and then went, and here we are now, the fate of civilization and of millions of the planet’s life forms hanging by the frayed thread of inaction,” she writes in the letter titled “Where Is the Hope after Copenhagen?”

Tindal believes this is a transformative moment in the planet’s history and that “the world will be shaped by how we and our communities respond in the months to come.”

“We need each other. We are emphatically, biologically not alone. As the carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere rise, the planet will fail to provide for us. Life as we know it will die. Millions of human lives are on the line, rich and poor, old emitters and new, vulnerable and strong. There is no inoculation against this except all of us changing our behaviour all at once,” writes Tindal in the letter.

This is why Tindal says the issue of too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has moved far beyond being a political process. It has also moved far beyond being just a scientific issue. It is an ethical issue.

“Science has shown us that we have caused the chemical changes we can now track in the atmosphere and the ocean. Therefore, because climate change has been caused by our actions, we are ethically obliged to take responsibility for those actions,” writes Tindal.

She says that she believes we must look at issues like climate change through the lens of morality and faith.

“Science describes what is. Faith describes how things can and should be. On this issue science is not enough. We need more. And that is why ecological issues are also fundamentally moral, ethical, and theological concerns.”
The complete text of Tindal’s letter is posted on The United Church of Canada’s website.

United Church Climate Change page

Royal Dutch Shell Shell faces shareholder revolt over Canadian tar sands project

Investors call for review of oil production in Alberta
Terry Macalister
The Guardian
Monday 18 January 2010
Royal Dutch Shell group's dissident shareholders will press for a review of its tar sands project in Canada, at the oil firm's annual meeting in May.

Photograph: Jeff McIntosh/AP

Shell chief executive Peter Voser will be forced to defend the company's controversial investment in Canada's tar sands at his first annual general meeting, after calls from shareholders that the project be put under further scrutiny.

A coalition of institutional investors has forced a resolution onto the agenda calling for the Anglo-Dutch group's audit committee to undertake a special review of the risks attached to the carbon-heavy oil production at Athabasca in Alberta.

Co-operative Asset Management and 141 other institutional and individual shareholders raise "concerns for the long-term success of the company arising from the risks associated with oil sands."

A Darwinian Gentleman at Marx's Funeral

by Stephen Jay Gould
Natural History, September 1999
Let me now introduce another anomaly, not so easily resolved this time, about the death of Karl Marx in London. This item, in fact, ranks as my all-time favorite, niggling little incongruity from the history of my profession of evolutionary biology. I have been living with this bothersome fact for twenty-five years, and I pledged long ago to offer some resolution before ending this series of essays at the millennium. I think that I now have the basic answer, and not a moment too soon. Let us, then, return to Highgate Cemetery and to Karl Marx's burial on March 17, 1883.
Read the full article here.

Votes of no confidence

By Zoe Cormier
New Internationalist

Canadians have taken a real beating lately: first by the rest of the world at the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen, where the country was lambasted for being the single most obstructive nation to global progress.

But then - far more belittlingly - by our own Government when Prime Minister Stephen Harper single-handedly shut down Parliament on 30 December through a process known as proroguing. Ministers were to resume parliamentary proceedings on 25 January - now they will have to wait until 3 March.

The almost indisputable reason (certainly as speculated by every single newspaper in the country): because the Government wishes to evade allegations by Canadian diplomats of a cover-up of collusion in the torture of Afghan detainees. A topic the Government has been avoiding since November - and certainly not one they want tainting Canada's international brand image while Vancouver plays host to the Olympics in February.

Proroguing, a constitutional measure that suspends proceedings in the House of Commons (and scuttles all bills under consideration), can be done at the whim of the Prime Minister without being put to a vote by the House (or even his own party). All that is required is that he kindly ask the Governor General for permission - and in this case, he did not even do so in person, phoning in the request instead.

And all this when the Conservative Party of Canada holds a minority government, and by a man elected by only 34 per cent of Canadians voters.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Collective power and the responsibility to protest

By Dave Oswald Mitchell
Briarpatch Magazine
January/February 2010

“If civilization offers few forms of communal emotional connection other than those provided by the occasional televised war or celebrity funeral, it would seem to be a rather hollow business. . . . We pay a high price for this emotional emptiness. Individually, we suffer from social isolation and depression, which, while usually not fatal on their own, are risk factors for cardiovascular and a host of other diseases. Collectively, we seem to have trouble coming to terms with our situation, which grows more ominous every day. Half the world’s people live in debilitating poverty. Epidemics devastate whole nations. The icecaps melt, and natural disasters multiply. But we remain for the most part paralyzed, lacking the means or will to organize for our survival. In fact the very notion of the ‘collective,’ of the common good, has been eroded by the self-serving agendas of the powerful . . . .

“People must find, in their movement, the immediate joy of solidarity, if only because, in the face of overwhelming state and corporate power, solidarity is their sole source of strength.”
- Barbara Ehrenreich, “Reclaiming what makes us human,” In These Times

AS THIS ISSUE goes to press, three thousand rallies are taking place in communities around the world calling for action in Copenhagen on climate change. In February, anti-poverty and indigenous rights activists will take to the streets of Vancouver to protest the Olympics. And in June, Stephen Harper will host a gathering of the G20 in Toronto, and has announced he would use the platform to “urge members to put economic recovery before efforts to protect the environment.” Protests can be expected.

In all of these cases, demonstrators will be dismissed in the press as naïve, idealistic, unreasonable or irrational. But frankly, the need for such rude disruptions of the status quo is dire. Business-as-usual is no longer tenable, but our governance structures seem incapable of changing course. In the face of steadily rising greenhouse gas emissions, soul-destroying poverty for millions, and the accelerating devastation of the biosphere in the name of economic growth, popular movements the world over are continuing to raise their voices, but in most places their activism has yet to translate into the popular power capable of bringing real change.

Until that critical mass is reached, those calling for radical change are left with only impolite options: marches and protests, civil disobedience, direct action. Spoiling the party. Sowing the seeds of broader revolt. Speaking passionately about the need for a new paradigm, and building alternatives in whatever spaces are available. Mass demonstrations will play a critical role in this process. As Elaine Brière observes in this issue, “Demonstrations are a unifying experience in a culture that thrives on feelings of isolation and loneliness. . . . [They] empower us with their potent physicality and assure us that we are not alone; that many, many others share our convictions and our hopes for a better world.”

In the wake of the global convergence in Copenhagen and looking ahead to the anti-Olympic demonstrations in February, Briarpatch sets out in the following pages to assess the state of social movements today. Where are the emerging opportunities for collective action and popular empowerment? What have we learned in the ten years since Seattle? How do we translate the convergences in Copenhagen, Vancouver or elsewhere into ongoing political pressure and social transformation? There are no easy answers to these questions, but there is some urgency in their asking.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Marx’s theory of metabolic rift

This comment is taken from constellationDefiant - Notes from the ecology movement. Reproduced as posted - NYC.

i’ve wanted to start reading the works of John Bellamy Foster for some time now, and one of the ‘rads got me his first book on ecology, The Vulnerable Planet, for Christmas. Foster, along with Paul Burkett, have been credited with popularizing a Marxist approach towards ecology.

both Foster and Burkett have been important for Marxism because, for a time, Marx has been accused by elements within ecology movement as either having no position on the subject, being Promethean in his attitude to the natural world, or that Marx failed to recognize any natural limits to production.

i’ve just read Foster’s “Marx’s Theory of Metabolic Rift” (or, for the pdf) which provides a good introduction to Foster’s efforts, and takes up these criticisms.

metabolic rift and sustainability

“metabolism” is the term Marx uses to describe the relationship between human beings and the natural world. not missing a beat, Marx understands this material exchange and transformation between humanity and the natural world through the aspects of materialist and dialectical philosophy that permeate his work. he reasons that 1) human beings are constantly interacting with the physical/material/natural world, and 2) people are, themselves, physical/material/natural beings. every time we change their environment, we change the conditions in which we live, and subsequently ourselves in the process.

if the natural world is one set of material conditions for our existence, then it follows that it poses its own set of limitations in the form of scientific natural law and resource scarcity, and society poses its own set of limitations in terms of both technological capability and social organization of production (production for profit or freedom?). Marx understood the failure to recycle material back into production and the resulting environmental devastation as the metabolic rift between humanity and the natural world (see “Utilization of the Refuse of Production” in Capital vol. 3). Foster describes this as the estrangement of people from the natural conditions of their existence.

Reflections on Copenhagen

Don Kossick of Making the Links Radio interviews Rosa Kouri, a Canadian lead tracker for, about what happened in Copenhagen and what there is to go forward with. Rosa has a particular view as part of the global youth movement striving for climate justice. She has participated in the Montreal. Bali, Poznan and Copenhagen climate talks and offers a unique perspective.

Link here!

What if its all a hoax?

                                                From USA Today

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Green Jobs and Power

Building a New and Just Economy
By John Cartwright
Our Times

We often propose that green jobs and stronger public services are part of the solution to the economic crisis we face. But the question that keeps nagging at me is one of power: how will we achieve the political power needed to overcome the natural instincts of global capitalism? It's like we're architects who can imagine truly inspired designs, but have yet to bring together the skilled workforce and essential materials to turn the designs into reality.

What are the obstacles to a green, prosperous future? Some will say it is the industrial model, which seeks to conquer nature rather than complement it. Others will point to vested interests like big oil, the auto giants, or government bureaucracies. No doubt there is an element of truth in all those observations. But I believe the problem is something more fundamental: the relentless assertion of corporate power in Canada, and across the entire globe.

That power is nothing new. The first multinational joint-stock corporation was the Dutch East India Company. It was chartered in 1602 with the right to claim foreign lands, raise private armies, and make slaves of indigenous peoples. This business plan generated an 18 per cent annual profit for over two centuries. Its success was mirrored by the British East India Company, which, at one point, employed 100,000 private soldiers.

Collective Action

The point of relating this history is that global corporate rule has been around for a long time, and humankind has had to take some serious steps to curtail its worst impulses. There have been revolutions, colonial uprisings, and many gains made by people's collective action. Along the bumpy road, the Declaration of Universal Human Rights was an important marker. So was the Kyoto Accord. Now we need a new marker; one that points in the direction of a globaleconomy that is both sustainable and equitable.

There are inspiring examples of how we might green our world, from alternative energy generation to zero-footprint buildings to industrial design based on "bio-mimicry" emulating the rhythms of natural world. Europe is usually seen as the leader in this, but much is also happening in the global south that should not be ignored. The world's largest cities have carved out a special role in figuring out solutions, and unions are exploring how best to embrace a green agenda.

Teachers and Grocery Workers

The challenge is how to paint a picture of a sustainable future where all of us can see a place for ourselves. People who work in industry, resource extraction, construction; First Nations and newcomers; teachers and grocery workers; youth and people of colour. Everyone needs to be able to describe a green or greener job that they could be doing in years hence. A new ecological vision needs to be crafted that will become as widely embraced as today's social networking.

Attaining all this will require overcoming real obstacles. You only have to look south of the border to see the relentless Republican/Fox News assault on the Obama administration for daring to dream green. Van Jones, one of the most inspiring environmental leaders in the United States, was hounded out of the White House by a vicious smear campaign reminiscent of the McCarthy years.

Canada has its own demons to deal with, including a Prime Minister smitten with delusions of leading an energy superpower. For the last quarter century the Business Council on National Issues has shaped nearly all key government policy. That elite group of CEOs has changed its name to the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, but their main goals remain the same: free trade and continental integration.

The Crucial Question

Free market supremacy stands directly opposed to basic green principles such as local procurement - getting governments to require things they buy to be built locally. The CCCE boys want to be able to outsource the work and get what they need anywhere in the world, from the cheapest sweatshops available. They will only accept controls on greenhouse gases if money can be made in carbon trading schemes. Whether a greener economy provides jobs for the next generation of Canadians is irrelevant to them. But, for everyone else, this is a crucial question.

We have won some important victories around contracts for transit vehicles, and Ontario's Green Energy Act gives a nod in the right direction. But what about the materials needed for retrofitting thousands of buildings, or building fuel-efficient cars? Will young trainees get a true apprenticeship or only a limited skill set?

The challenge is not just to imagine an economy that provides good green jobs for all. The real challenge is how to force that to happen. I would suggest that the first step is to identify the potential benefits from greening every sector of the economy. The second step is to create a policy framework, for both the public and private sector, that will ensure living wages and true accountability. The third step will be to fight like hell to make sure those good jobs and benefits are shared by all.

John Cartwright is the president of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, which is part of the Good Jobs For All coalition of community, labour, social justice, youth and environmental organizations in the Toronto region. For more information visit or

This is just a sample of the kind of commentaries you'll find in Our Times. For more commentaries like this of solidarity and struggle, plus feature stories, poetry and reviews, subscribe to Our Times. You'll get 6 issues for just $25. Subscribe online, or mail your cheque, along with your name and address, to: Our Times, Ste. 407, 15 Gervais Drive, Toronto, Ontario M3C 1Y8.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Let's Keep the Blue Green Movement Moving!

By Ken Delaney for Blue Green Canada
Ken Delaney is the Assistant to the National Director of the United Steelworkers Union and Co-Chair of Blue Green Canada.

There is a lot of dissatisfaction among environmentalists and trade unionists with the outcome of the Copenhagen talks. World leaders did not get the job done and a lot of work remains.

But still, I could not not help but be moved by the number of environmental and trade union activists that showed up in Copenhagen. And I could not help feeling that a new emerging alliance between the labour and environmental movements has some real potential.

Together we have more credibility and a stronger voice that we do individually.

We did bring our message to Canadian provincial politicians, municipal politicians, and to representatives of the Government of Canada. We also forged relationships with environmentalists and trade unionists in the United States, and with other Canadian trade unionists and environmentalists. As we continue to advocate for effective climate change policies and green job strategies, these relationships will prove valuable.

It was a pleasure to work with people who believe that economic activity can and should be regulated in a way that both protects our climate and provides good jobs for all. It is that commonality of thought, and a shared belief that both goals can be achieved, that binds the alliance together and forms the foundation of a new partnership.

We have a lot of work to do. We have to hold governments accountable when they fail to act, and we have to acknowledge them when they do. We have to advocate effective policies, and we have to raise awareness of both the importance of addressing the issues and of the solutions we propose.

I think both trade unionists and environmentalists will be more effective in doing so if they can do it together.

Let's keep the Blue Green Movement moving!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Canadian Ecosocialists: A job still in progress

The following was written by Ian Angus in 2007. The challenges he outlined then still require much patient work (read the full article link).

The growing worldwide interest in ecosocialism is reflected in two political trends: 
  • Many people in the green movement are turning to Marxism to understand the ecological crisis and are concluding that only socialism offers a way out.
  • Many on the Left believe that socialism will succeed only if it is based on sound ecological practice - and that the fight against capitalism’s destruction of the environment (especially through global warming) will play a central role in the fight for socialism.
As these parallel developments illustrate, “ecosocialism” is not separate from the existing left and green movements, and it is not a structured movement on its own. Rather, it is a current of thought within existing socialist and green-left movements, seeking to win ecology activists to socialism and to convince socialists of the vital importance of ecological issues and struggles.

In Canada, ecosocialism is new, and still a distinctly minority current. Most progressive movements address ecological issues from time to time, but few have made them a key focus of their activity. And while socialist views are beginning to get a hearing in green circles, few ecology activists advocate anything more radical than the market-based “solutions” of the Kyoto Accord.

We might say that the central goal of ecosocialism today is to make the greens more left and the lefts more green. The path to this goal is still being worked out — we are learning as we go — but the time to accelerate the process is now...

The Time is Ripe

It is far easier to write socialist essays about climate change than to actively build movements against it. But, as Marx wrote, interpreting the world is not enough — the point is to change it.

The time is ripe for ecosocialists to move beyond criticizing capitalism — to supporting, building and learning from real movements for change. If we don’t do so, all of our words and theories will be irrelevant.

Ian Angus
Five Challenges for Ecosocialists in 2008
Canadian Dimension