Monday, July 31, 2006

Private Developers Invited Into 12 BC Parks

The BC Liberals are continuing with their parks privatization agenda by soliciting bids for the development of lodges and resorts in 12 provincial parks. The move is the latest business friendly policy for BC's parks system, with previous changes including the introduction of parking meters and the redrawing of the South-Chilcotin Park boundary to accommodate mining interests.

Like the issue of parking meters, there will be a great deal of differing opinion about whether or not private development within parks boundaries is a good idea. At present, the real issue is one of values and goals. Are BC's parks being managed for the sake of ecological integrity and the preservation of nature for future generations? Or are they being managed as a private business opportunity? Our answers to those questions will define the future of our parks system.

As history has shown, the needs of nature and the goals of business are in large part mutually exclusive, and to date the BC Government has failed to provide any overarching parks policy that guarantees the continued preservation of ecological integrity of BC's parks system. Given the threat that development poses to wilderness throughout the world, that should be the first and most basic element in place before allowing any development of provincial parks.

Here is a complete list of the twelve parks slated for development:
- Mount Robson (Robson Pass) - Omineca Region
- Elk Lakes - Kootenay Region
- Wells Gray (Stevens Lake) - Cariboo Region
- Cape Scott - northern Vancouver Island
- Mount Assiniboine - Kootenay Region
- Fintry - Okanagan Region
- Silver Star (Sovereign Lake) - Okanagan Region
- Myra Bellevue - Okanagan Region
- Nancy Greene - Kootenay Region
- Maxhamish Lake - Peace Region
- Foch-Giltoyees - Skeena Region
- Golden Ears - Lower Mainland

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Oil Sands Given Free Pass for Growth

Earlier this month the Supreme Court of Canada decided not to hear an appeal that sought a wider environmental assessment of the $5-billion Fort Hill oil sands project, ruling that the development could go forward on the basis of an impact assessment of one small creek, rather than the full 200 square kilometres affected by the project.

Now, with no risk of a Supreme Court precedent that would demand the proper environmental assessments of oil sands projects, Shell has announced its intention to proceed with an $11.2 billion expansion of the Athabasca Oil Sands.

The volume of water diversions currently authorized from the Athabasca River are already twice that used by the City of Calgary in a single year. With no end to increased production in sight, the strain on both climate and ecosystems will continue to spiral upward unless proper checks and balances are brought into place.

In an era of soaring energy prices, the scenario above encapsulates the struggle that will frame future of the planet - the uncomprehensible short-term wealth of oil production versus the inescapable long-term need for a sustainable world. So long as control of these decisions remains in the hands of those who stand to gain the most from short-term oil profits, the outcomes will continue to be alarmingly predictable.

Utilities Give Warming Skeptic Big Bucks

Here's a quick follow up to my previous post detailing the coal industry's propoganda drive for spreading disinformation about global warming.

The leaked memo discussed in that post was picked up by several news sources, including this article in Forbes detailing the coal industry fundraising drive to keep Pat Michaels well financed and firmly embedded in the business of distorting credible climate change science.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Greenpeace Crop Circles Reveal GE Fields

I'm rarely impressed with Greenpeace actions, but this is good. After the French courts demanded they remove the location of genetically engineered maize fields from their website, Greenpeace activists ensured the locations would remain in the public eye by carving out a giant crop circle in a GE feild in Southern France.

EU regulations demand that member states maintain public registers in order to inform their citizens about the locations of genetically engineered fields. But the French government has yet to make the EU's directive into national law, and subsequently forced Greenpeace to remove the information from their French website.

The maps are still available at their international site.

Conservative's Climate Change Censorship "Orwellian"

This blatant example of government censorship reported back in May on MyBlahg, and later here, is now being picked up by the Federal Liberals.

This week, Liberal Environment Critic Hon. John Godfrey accused Stephen Harper and the Conservatives of enganging in Orwellian tactics as they rewrite government websites to erase all mention of Kyoto and climate change.

“This is a government in denial about climate change,” says Mr. Godfrey. “They don’t like the science, and now they want to censor it. This is Orwellian.”

Mr. Holland (Ajax-Pickering MP) agreed, saying, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is tied closely to leading climate change skeptics in the United States and the petroleum industry. This government has a track record of listening to people with dubious views on the environment and climate change. They pretend to be interested in a ‘Made in Canada’ approach, but this is code for doing nothing.”

The Conservatives attempt at revisionist history is an undiluted example of propaganda and manipulation, and it is long overdue for the official opposition to hold them to account.

Original source:

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Leaked Memo Reveals Coal Industry Propoganda Plan

The latest global warming disinformation campaign is set to be launched by the coal industry, this time by throwing new money behind a an old propaganda campaign that had been discredited in the early 1990s. A leaked memo reveals that the coal industry, valued at $1 trillion annually, is paying climate change skeptic Pat Michaels $100,000 to help spearhead their campaign, which includes distribution of misleading information on global warming and a proposed film to counteract the enormous positive impact of An Inconvenient Truth.

False claims made in the industry sponsored memo include:

1) The primary cause of global warming is variations in orbit and solar output and plate techtonics, not carbon dioxide.

As recent data released from Antarctic core drilling reveals, there is an irrefutable correlation between C02 and global temerature increases over the past 400,000 years, with a overwhelming increase in C02 in just the last few decades:


2) There is no scientific consensus that global warming is caused by human activity.

This claim was thoroughly refuted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and their comprehensive review of 928 randomly selected peer refereed scientific articles on climate change. In that review not one article disagreed with the conclusion that the planet is warming and human generated C02 was to blame.

3) The memo also alleges an imbalance in global warming discussions and a need to stop the discussion from being "monopolized by extremists".

The public debate is actually been greatly skewed in favor of "skeptics" by the mass media. A 2004 study found that despite the IPCC findings above, 53 percent of the articles gave roughly equal attention to the views that humans contribute to global warming and that climate change is exclusively the result of natural fluctuations. That is a proportion of content granted to skeptics that is wildly out of line with reality.

Action on global warming will begin when the facts about the risks about its true nature are discussed in earnest, rather than spun in circles by well funded industry mercenaries.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

California Heat a Case Study in Un-Sustainability

California continues to be held in the grips of a devastating heat wave. For ten straight days temperatures have soared above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with the heat related death toll now up to 38.

Adding to this is the continued failure of the state's power system, with blackouts affecting 50,000 homes and businesses on Tuesday, down from 1,000,000 over the weekend.

Alongside the human strain are the rotting carcasses of thousands of dead cattle that have also succumbed to the record breaking heat, most of which remain decomposing in the fields because disposal facilities are overwhelmed by the volume of remains that need to be processed.

The story is similar throughout Europe where 40 have died in the past two weeks, and continued high temperatures are straining both power supplies and crops. Nuclear power stations in France and Spain have been forced to cut back production because river water normally used to cool reactors is now too warm, and low water levels in the Po River have impacted hydroelectric power in Rome, knocking out elevators and air conditioners.

However, the hardest hit may be Europe's farming community where estimated losses range from 20% for Poland to 50% in Germany.

None of these impacts are trivial or isolated. Through broad sections of the world human lives, water systems, livestock, farms and economies are paying the price for our continued inaction on global warming.

It begs the question, at what point did it become acceptable for dozens of people to die, for supply shortages to leave 1,000,000 homes to be without power, and for livestock to lie decomposing in the open air?

The facts point towards un-sustainability on a massive scale, and the breadth of that scale no longer exists in the unseen future. Millions of people now live within it's reality and are facing more than the immediate risks of heat, power shortages and limited water. With temperature increases now taking a toll on our food supply, the impacts are coming home to the very foundation of our survival. Nukes aren't going to solve our energy problems if there is no water to cool them, saving water to generate power won't help if our crops are drying up for lack of water, and more fossil fuel energy will only accelerate the effects of global warming we are already experiencing.

While soaring energy prices are driving the economy and making certain people wealthy, it is also eroding the foundations for our future prosperity and creating a debt to the planet - in CO2 - that we won't have a hope of repaying. We need to rethink our business model, before mother nature declares us bankrupt.

Alaska Glacier Photos - Past vs. Present

As a heat wave sinks its teeth into much of North America and Europe, here is a short photo essay offering present and past looks at several once mighty glaciers in Alaska.

Muir Glacier - Muir Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve.
1941 vs. 2004

McCarty Glacier - McCarty Fjords, Kanai Fjords National Park
1909 vs. 2004

Toboggan Glacier - Prince William Sound, Chucagh National Forest
1909 vs. 2000

Carroll Glacier - East Queen Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
1906 vs. 2004

Image source - National Snow and Ice Data Center

Monday, July 24, 2006

Greenland Ice-Melt Speeding Up

The latest research indicates a dramatic increase in the rate of melting in Greenland. NASA research in 2001 was recording a drop in height at the ice sheet margins of 1 metre per year. Now the latest research is recording drops as much as 10 metres per year - a ten fold increase. Sadly, at this rate global warming skeptics will not need to wait long to be proved wrong.

See my previous posts for more information and photos of the melting of Greenland.

Victoria Must Tackle Sewage Treatment

A quick update on my post from Friday announcing that Victoria has been ordered to stop dumping raw sewage into the ocean.

The link to the original press release has now been fixed, and in addition, here are two articles covering the story from the weekend.

"Under the Environmental Management Act, I have the authority to require them to bring a plan for me that will become legally binding and that's what I indicated today," Mr. Penner said in an interview.
"It's now time to stop talking about whether they need to treat sewage they are going to do it and I look forward to receiving their plan."
- Barry Penner, BC Environment Minister.

The announcement is a huge victory for the marine environment of the Georgia Strait, and for residents on both sides of the Canada-US border. It can also be seen as a pivotal environmental move from the BC Liberals who re-established the Ministry of Environment in their second term of office after scrapping it in their first.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Victoria Required to Clean Up Sewage

Barry Penner, BC's Environment Minister, announced today that Victoria will be required to provide a plan outlining a fixed schedule for sewage treatment no later than June 2007. The announcement should bring to a close the 15 year battle to stop Victoria from dumping millions of litres of raw sewage into the Georgia Strait each day.

Here is the announcement from Minister Penner:


For Immediate Release Ministry of Environment


July 21st, 2006


VICTORIA – Based on the recent Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) report presented to the Capital Regional District (CRD) and additional analysis by the Ministry of Environment, the CRD has been directed to provide a plan for sewage treatment to the provincial government no later than June 2007, Environment Minister Barry Penner announced today.

Currently, the CRD releases its sewage into the ocean untreated, relying on water dilution and the ocean currents. As recent analysis shows, including the SETAC report, historic and projected population growth in the capital region makes natural dilution unsustainable.

Therefore, in accordance with section 24 (3) (a) of the Environmental Management Act, the ministry is directing the CRD board to submit for approval no later than June 30, 2007, an amendment to the CRD Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan detailing a fixed schedule for the provision of sewage treatment.

Further, in accordance with section 24 (3) (b), the minister is requiring the CRD to provide an interim progress report on this amendment no later than December 31, 2006. The report should outline options relating to the type, number and location of facilities, preliminary costs of treatment, as well as a proposed implementation schedule.

To ensure value for taxpayers, the CRD is encouraged to consider new technologies and alternative financing and delivery options, including the potential for private sector involvement.


Media Contact Don McDonald
Communications Director
Ministry of Environment
250 387-9973

For more information on government services or to subscribe to the provinces news feeds using RSS, visit the Provinces website at

Al Gore on Conan O'Brien Tonight

Be sure the catch Al Gore on Late Night with Conan O'Brien tonight at 12:30a ET/11:30p CT.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

All Canadian Homes to be Zero-Energy by 2030

A Canadian company called the Net-Zero Energy Homes Coalition is looking to put their own stamp of leadership on the global warming battle. The group of homebuilders and renewable energy experts have made the bold claim that all new homes in Canada will be net zero energy consumers by 2030, while moving forward with design plans to make it a reality.

Lack of Net Neutrality is Bloggers Biggest Risk

The battle for net neutrality is continuing as the House of Representatives recently voted in favour of allowing telecommunications giants like AT&T and Comcast the right to charge web site owners additional fees in exchange for priority access to their high-speed networks. The initiative has the power to erase the free flow of information on the internet and place substantially more online power in the hands of high spending corporate interests - at the expense of bloggers, activists and free democratic debate. It is expected that the debate will continue in the US Government through September.

Add your voice to those pushing to keep the net neutral by signing the online petition, then kick back and watch Jon Stewart's assessment of the situation below:

"The internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not just a big truck. It's, it's a series of tubes."
- Senator Ted Stevens, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Orwell's Ghost Haunts Kyoto

The Conservatives are continuing their Orwellian rewriting of Kyoto policy. I first read about this issue a couple months back from My Blahg, which identified deleted pages from Government of Canada websites that mentioned Kyoto. Now there's further postings and confirmations of removing references to both Kyoto and climate change.

In a time where even the most trivial of details of cultural memory are forgotten within days, let alone years (how many people realize that Michael Mann, director of the Miami Vice film, got his start producing the TV series of the same name?) this action should elicit more than a mere raising of eyebrows.

Increasingly our cultural repository of information is found online and in virtual form. If current governments are willing to lie in order to pursue their policy goals, even at the risk of being exposed, what happens when those same people have the power to make inconvenient facts disappear at the click of a button?

VoW - Will Ferrel as George W. on Global Warming

Video of the Week - For anyone who hasn't seen it, Will Ferrel as George Bush is a must watch.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Population : One - One Person is One Pixel

Over population is one of the key drivers in an unsustainable world. Check out this graphic to see just how many of us there are.

Population : One - One Person is One Pixel

First Half of 2006 Hottest On Record

The title says it all. With half the year behind us, 2006 is looking set to become the hottest year on record, surpassing 2005 as the all time warmest. Al Gore must be seeing red.

Schwarzenegger/California in Global Warming Lead

Here is a press release that came my way outlining key points in California's plan to address climate change. In the next two months the state legislature, with the support of Governor Schwarzenegger, are set to enact two new laws that would make it North America's leader in addressing global warming. Key points include:
  • Strict targets for heavy industry, electric utilities and refineries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020.
  • Prohibiting all state utilities from signing long-term contracts with coal fired power plants.
Tabled by the Democrat controlled legislature, the laws are key elements in addressing Schwarzeneggers commitment of bringing California to 1990 emission levels by 2020.

13 Jul 2006 - California Gets Primed To Enact Greenhouse Gas Limits

By Mark Golden

SAN FRANCISCO (Dow Jones)--California is likely to enact two laws in the next two months that together would go far beyond anything any other state has done to address global warming.

Though details are still being worked out, the Democrat-controlled state legislature is expected to pass the bills when it reconvenes in August. One bill would force California's heavy industry, electric utilities and refineries to cut greenhouse gas emissions about 25% by 2020, the level in 1990. The other bill would effectively prohibit all of the state's utilities from signing long-term contracts for baseload power generated by coal-fired power plants, at least until such plants operate with equipment still under development to control carbon dioxide. California doesn't have any coal-fired plants, but its utilities get much of their power from coal plants in other states.

Though the proposals could be substantially rewritten by the end of August, people involved in the process expect Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to get bills on his desk that he can, and will, sign. Schwarzenegger, who faces re-election in the fall, has staked a claim to a national leadership position on the issue of combating global warming. While the bill on coal-fired plants is seen as almost a sure thing, sponsors of the broader greenhouse gas bill are still in talks with Schwarzenegger's staff.

"While not a done deal, the odds are good that the cap on emissions will pass both houses," said Jim Marston, head of state global warming efforts for the national group Environmental Defense. "We're making progress."

The 1990-level emissions cap would be the toughest greenhouse gas requirement nationwide, Marston noted. The limits on long-term contracts with coal-fired plants would match the most aggressive actions to date by some northeastern states.

Companies Fight For Changes

"These bills together or separately would be historic," said Wendy Pulling, director of environmental policy for PG&E Corp. (PCG), which is fighting for changes to both bills. PG&E, like Edison International's (EIX) Southern California Edison, would prefer action on global warming to happen at the national level, though PG&E recognizes California's leadership role on environmental issues. Still, the utility opposes the emissions cap bill unless it is amended to ensure there's a market-based approach. In addition, PG&E and other companies that have already voluntarily cut their emissions of greenhouse gases, want to ensure they get credit for that.

Proponents of the measures say California must lead the way in the face of the federal government's inaction on mandatory reductions of greenhouse gases.

Assembly Bill 32, the "Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006," is sponsored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblymember Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica. It matches the goal Schwarzenegger set in an executive order last year of reaching 1990 emission levels by 2020.

The governor is pushing for significant changes to Nunez's bill, which was approved by the Assembly and is now in the state Senate. Schwarzenegger wants an explicit commitment to a market for emission allowances. Also needed is "an economic safety valve" to make sure the plan doesn't hurt the state's economy, said Linda Adams, the governor's Secretary for Environmental Protection.

The bill has only loose commitments to these ideas, but the outlook for a compromise is positive.

"AB 32 could be an important tool in meeting the governor's aggressive greenhouse gas targets," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Bill Maile. "The administration is working closely with Speaker Nunez, Assemblymember Pavley and other key stakeholders to make sure the governor gets a bill he can sign into law."

Opponents See High Costs

The governor's office hasn't taken a public position on the other bill, which would prohibit new long-term contracts for power from plants that pollute more than a new, natural gas-fired plant. That bill mostly puts into law administration policies that are currently being implemented by regulatory agencies.

Both bills are opposed by some business groups. The California Manufacturers and Technology Association says that such a drastic cap on emissions would drive businesses and jobs from California to other states or countries. As a result, greenhouse gases may not be reduced much globally, said Joseph Lyons, CMTA's policy director for Energy.

The cap on emissions, "is going to be devastating, especially for oil refineries, the cement industry and electric power generation," said Lyons. "It's going to increase energy costs in California."

The CMTA is also opposed to the prohibition on utilities signing long-term supply contracts for power from older, dirtier power plants. Even coal-fired plants with cutting-edge technology won't be able to meet that standard, said Lyons. He added that the restriction would lead to higher electric bills.

PG&E, Schwarzenegger and others say new technologies would sufficiently clean up coal-fired plants to meet the standard.

The California Chamber of Commerce opposes the bills and has formed a coalition with some farm and other groups to assess what the 1990 emission cap would cost the California economy.

Supporters of the laws argue that the state's economy will benefit by putting California at the forefront of combating climate change. The state's technology companies, according to environmental groups and several Silicon Valley companies, will develop products that will be sold around the world to reduce emissions.

Good Faith Talks

The state's Democratic leadership and the governor are negotiating in good faith, rather than using the issue as a campaign weapon, people in the legislature, the governor's administration and industry said.

"My impression is that all the parties are open to a dialogue," said PG&E's Pulling, echoing the comments of others interviewed. "We're working with both the governor's office and the speaker's office."

If the laws are enacted, proponents hope that other states will follow California's lead. "A whole lot of other states will start following suit," said Marston.

To make it to the governor's desk, the bills must be voted out of committee and passed by both houses by August 31. The governor has until the first week of October to sign or veto bills passed by the Legislature.

-By Mark Golden, Dow Jones Newswires; 415-765-6118;

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 13, 2006 15:20 ET (19:20 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Global Warming Skeptics Go Nuclear

Possible proof that bad decision making is genetically hard wired. After spending nearly half a century shouting down the science of global warming as a sham, the right-wing skeptics concede that it is indeed real then embrace nuclear power as the only solution, all in the same day.

"The old right has been on an arduous journey, with most finally converted to the truth universally acknowledged, except by flat-earthers: the world is warming at life-on-earth threatening speed. When the climate-deniers' case collapsed, they retreated to an ideological redoubt claiming global warming was a natural phenomenon, not amenable to man-made remedy. But that fortress crumbled too, and even George Bush, last of the deniers, conceded. For some reason the old deniers, barely batting an eyelid, shifted over to nuclear as the only salvation, though those who have been so wrong owe a little humility when it comes to next steps."

Link via DeSmogBlog

My Blahg » Teaching the Next Generation to Hate

Courtesy of My Blahg. There are moments of pause where we need to consider the value of humanity in our natural world and recognize losses needlessly suffered at our own hands.


Spotted Owl Nest Destroyed

In a 'he said, she said' dispute, the Western Canada Wilderness Committe is accusing forestry officials and loggers of destroying a spotted owl nest. Only 22 spotted owls remain in Canada.

Regardless of the outcome of this accusation, the article correctly points out that, to date, the BC Government has done a non-existent job in ensuring the protection of this country's remaining owls. Instead of safeguarding the habitat required for the survival of the species, the BC Government has instead tabled a public relations campaign in the form of a temporary capture and release strategy that expires as soon as Vancouver's 2010 Olympic Games are over.

For survival, the spotted owl requires the protection of critical old-growth habitat, but while the BC government introduces band-aid solutions, they are continuing to log the forests these creatures need for survival.

G8 Energy Plan Relies on Oil, Nuclear & Renewables

I love headlines like this. It's a little like saying "a plant relies on water, nutrients and sunshine". It hits all the options square on but says nothing about the relative proportion of these three factors that is going to result in a healthy plant, or in the case of energy mix, in a sustainable ecosystem.

After last week's G8 summit, progress can best be measured through the following statement:

"They (the G8) also will support carbon sequestration projects to remove the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere where it is raising the planetary temperature..."

I can only assume that the next strategy will be to search out a part of the planet where CO2 is not raising temperatures and build our coal fired power plants there. Brilliant.

The issue is one of particular salience for Canadians. While the G8 leaders are giving lip service to sustainability, Stephen Harper is pumping up Canada's reputation as an 'energy superpower'. And with good reason. As one of only two energy exporting nations in the G8 (Russia is the other), and the owner of the world's largest known oil reserves, Canada stands to profit immeasurably from ignoring global warming as long as energy prices remain high. In the process, our ability to take on a meaningful role as a world leader (or even a follower) in sustainabilty is being set bucko in the hat.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Burrowing Owl Returns to Manitoba

A small post to give everyone a smile heading into the weekend. After being thought to have disappeared in Manitoba altogether, the burrowing owl has once again been found inhabiting the province's grasslands.

Wal-Mart's Sustainability Drive

Carrying on with my recent theme of recognizing environmental leadership in whatever form it takes, Wal-Mart announced aggressive new plans to move towards greater sustainability in all operations. Their plan focuses on three primary goals:

1) reducing waste to zero
2) moving towards the exclusive use of renewable energy and
3) offering more environmentally sensitive products

Included in the plans are new store designs boasting 30% to 50% gains in energy efficiency. As was the case with their commitment to expand organic food selection, Wal-Mart's market clout will be a huge boost to sustainable practices and energy efficiency throughout the retail sector. Their plans have gained Al Gore's attention. Let's hope they follow through.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Slamming the Climate Skeptic Scam

Anyone tired of the deceptive smear campaign against global warming being run by conservatives, corporations and PR professionals now have a champion and a manifesto:

There is a line between public relations and propaganda - or there should be. And there is a difference between using your skills, in good faith, to help rescue a battered reputation and using them to twist the truth - to sow confusion and doubt on an issue that is critical to human survival.

Jim Hoggan is a Vancouver public relations professional who is tired of seeing the works of his colleagues clouding the debate on climate change. He is publishing to help turn the informational tide in favour of meaningful action.

Also check out the front page article at The Tyee for a profile of Jim and his work.

An End to Victoria's Sewage Dumping?

Victoria, BC's practice of dumping raw sewage into the Georgia Straight is one step closer to being over. The clear recommendation from an independent scientific panel is that the Capitol Regional District's practice of dumping of 129 million litres of sewage every day is no longer an answer and that the city should consider options for sewage treatment.

The panel's report strongly criticized nearly every aspect of Victoria's sewage management including both monitoring and its ability to control current and emerging contaminants. Among these contaminants are PCBs, a bio-accumulative toxin found in sewage that is a significant factor in the rapid decline of the endangered southern resident orca population of the Georgia Straight.

Video of the Week - 3 out of 4 Conservative Agree

Check out the Video of the Week, courtesy of Can you guess which conservatives aknowledge global warming?

The Canary Project - What Global Warming Looks Like

Here is a good post for The Canary Project - a photo website demostrating the effects of global warming.

The Future of Free Trade and the Environment

For the past week, there has been increases reporting of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Otherwise characterized as "NAFTA plus", this initiative represents a growing threat to a host progressive values, and the discussions that are moving it forward are occuring largely behind closed doors.
"One thing we know Harper and Bush are up to is further integrating our economies. Under something called the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), they're redesigning our economies to reduce the regulatory power of government and enhance the power of business. And who better to make up the new rules than business itself? Accordingly, last March, they turned to business leaders from the U.S., Canada and Mexico to come up with plans for more fully integrating our economies."
In most people's view "free trade" is seen as an inherent good, as the free movement of goods and services between partner countries for the benefit of all. However, buried deep in the original NAFTA deal is single clause that reveals the real intent of such agreements - The Chapter 11 Clause:
For greater certainty, no Party may:
    (a) impose on an investor of another Party a requirement that a minimum level of equity in an enterprise in the territory of the Party be held by its nationals, other than nominal qualifying shares for directors or incorporators of corporations; or

    (b) require an investor of another Party, by reason of its nationality, to sell or otherwise dispose of an investment in the territory of the Party.

In lay terms this means that no country may create rules that stipulate a minimum amount of domestic (i.e. Canadian) ownership over a business enterprise and, most importantly, that a country cannot stop a foreign (i.e. American) company from continuing its business enterprises once it is established, regardless of its health, social or environmental impact.

Further it clearly specifies that:
Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed to prevent a Party from providing a service or performing a function such as law enforcement, correctional services, income security or insurance, social security or insurance, social welfare, public education, public training, health, and child care, in a manner that is not inconsistent with this Chapter.
Through Chapter 11, the foundation was laid for American control of Canadian police, health, education, and most importantly natural resources. When this provision was included, it was entirely unprecedented in the history of free trade and provided broad new rights and priveleges to corporations that had never existed before.

Now the SPP is being developed as an extension of the policies begun under NAFTA, but unlike the previous agreement, it is not being developed as a single law. Rather, it will be created through a range of intiatives not available for citizen review, that share the common aim of integrating North American security, immigration and trade while freeing corporations from government oversight.

Ironically, it is the right wing conservative organizations in the United States that have been the first to raise their voices against these policies, due to their potential impacts on immigration and sovereignty.

For the Canadian environmental movement, the SPP could be the equivalent of a slow death blow. By removing the ability for citizens and government to provide input and oversight to corporate activities and ownership, polluting industries and interests would be given a free reign to exploit the environment for their own profit, in addition to gaining greater access to other key industries such as education and health.

More on this as it develops.

To see a history of cases launched against the government of Canada under Chapter 11 click here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

New Act Could Ban Dangerous Pesticides

Great news for the health of all Canadians. The new federal Pest Control Products Act is set to come into force and would cause 61 dangerous pesticides to be reviewed, with the onus placed on the pesticide corporations to prove that they are safe for both the environment and human health:
According to the new Act, the federal Minister of Health is now obliged to initiate a special review of pesticides that contain active ingredients which have been banned by other member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) due to health or environmental concerns. Once the Minister initiates a review, the onus is on pesticide manufacturers to provide evidence that their products are not harmful.
The new act is a strong move that brings Canada in line with other nations and provides much stronger safeguards for all Canadians.

Hitting Us Where It Hurts

The humanity.......those who thought they could glaze over planetary concerns drink-in-hand is going to be hit where it hurts, whether they prefer chardonnay or to take their spirits neat.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Climate Change - Business Leads, Government Fails

A host of prominent Canadian corporations have been quietly moving ahead with their own plans for cutting CO2 emissions, despite no discernible leadership from Ottawa. It is easy to villainize industry and business, but in this case environmentalists should be proving their relevance in the public debate by seeking out these allies from the business sector and joining with them to push Ottawa for a coherent national plan on climate change.

Seeing the ultimate need and political necessity of addressing climate change, Alberta's TransAlta power, aerospace leader Bombardier, Shell Canada and aluminum giant Alcan are demonstrating foresight that has been absent in this country by committing to reducing their own CO2 emissions....for the simple reason that it makes business sense.

So how is it that a company that operates coal fired power plants, an airplane manufacturer, an oil company and an energy intensive aluminum producer - four business sectors that have the most to lose from any firm CO2 reduction targets - are capable of proactively moving forward to address climate change while our elected governments with a mandate from the people are paralyzed into inaction? Because they understand something that too many fat, lazy and spoilt industries do not - that their profitability and economic success requires robust and adaptive leadership in the face of change, and that the companies that fall short will ultimately be left behind in the wheels of progress.

It is time for our governments to start placing faith in the innovators and the true business and economic leaders of the country by working with them to create stability for both our climate and economy, rather than spoon feeding the corporate obese with perverse subsidies and pocket filling tax breaks.

"..the environment is real. You can smell it. In parts of Houston, you can grab hunks of it with your hands and use it to lube your car! And if there is a single face you might want to use to personify this evil, he was in the news this week: the retiring and handsomely-compensated chairman of Exxon Mobil, Lee "Fat Bastard" Raymond."

- Bill Maher, from Real Time Apr 21, 2006

Al Gore on The Daily Show - Part 2

Al Gore on The Daily Show - Part 1

A bit late, but here is Al Gore's appearance on Jon Stewart.

Chinese Claim 20% Boost to Wind Generation

Chinese scientists unveiled what is believed to be a key breakthrough in wind generating technology that could boost output by 20% while dropping the costs of generation below 5 cents (U.S.) per kilowatt-hour.

The advance comes through the worlds first permanent magnetic levitation wind power generator, a technology that allows greater gererating capacity at wind speeds as low as 1.5 metres per second.

China's War on Weather

Here is an environmental policy even George W. Bush could get behind. The Chinese government currently enlists 37,000 peasants to help produce rain for water hungry crops by using 1960s artillery to fire silver iodide into rain clouds. The chemical causes water to condense and fall as rain, with the reported impact being a 24% increase in rainfall over the past twelve years of testing. The program also makes use of air craft and rocket launchers to the tune of:

- 37,000 people, mostly part-timers - farmers and former soldiers
- 30 aircraft
- 4,000 rocket launchers
- 7,000 artillery pieces used to seed clouds with silver iodide

Now they are turning their guns towards the 2008 Olympics to ensure that the opening ceremonies are not interrupted by unwanted rainfall.

Schwarzenegger's Green Power Push

Arnie's pushing solar power in Cali to the tune of $3.2 billion.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Burning Fossil Fuels Erodes Coral Reefs

The effect of increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide were first reported, and largely ignored, 20 years ago. Today, those early findings are being vindicated as recent research shows that atmostpheric C02 is being absorbed by the ocean and is resulting in a more acidic environment that erodes corals and shellfish the way osteoporosis erodes human bone.

Coral reefs support 25% percent of all marine life. Add this research into the already known effects of coral bleaching due to increased water temperatures and you have all the proof you need that the effects of climate change go far beyond what is occuring on the visible surface.

Giant Cracks Appear in Brazilian Dam

The title says it all. I'll leave it to you to add the comments.

Ethanol Could Replace 30% of Gasoline

Could Corncob Bob soon be out of a job? The U.S. Department of Energy has released a research roadmap outlining the potential for replacing 30% of domestic gasoline consumption with cellulose ethanol from inedible plant fibre.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Oilcaholics Anonymous: Klein vs. Gore

We'll know that we're winning the climate change battle when the debate starts looking more like genuine public discourse and less like an AA meeting. Take the following exchange between Al Gore and outgoing Alberta premiere Ralph Klein:

Al Gore: For every barrel of oil they extract there, they have to use enough natural gas to heat a family's home for four days. And they have to tear up four tons of landscape, all for one barrel of oil.
Ralph Klein: I don't watch movies that much and I don't listen to Al Gore in particular because he's a Democrat, and not only that, he's about as far left as you can go."

AG: But you know, junkies find veins in their toes. It seems reasonable to them because they've lost sight of the rest of their lives

RK: I don't know what he (Gore) proposes the world run
on. Maybe hot air.
On our 'left' we have a well reasoned, scientifically defensible, and factual characterization of climate change and the impact of tar sands development. On our 'right' we have a so called free market champion who is incapable of responding to the same issue without sounding like an addict himself.

Through a range of political arenas, from Washington to Fort MacMurray, this is a style of discourse that too often is credited as 'leadership' and too rarely called out for its arrogance and absurdity.

What should the world run on? The enormous power of our collective will and ingenuity, not on tax breaks and hand outs to the oil industry; a tax structure that favours green power and conservation, rather than a corporate welfare system that props up polluting industries; and an understanding that our fate is tied to the fate of the planet, and that no amount of oil is going to change that fact.

The world is addicted to oil, and our biggest junkies are the people who profit the most from its extraction and the governments who protect their interests above all others. Breaking the cycle will be painful and involve some hard knocks, but when the gloves come off the safe money is on the sober fighter....not the guy still holding his drink.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Climate Change, errrr "Pine Beetles" Threatens Boreal

Log 'em, burn 'em but don't address climate change.

That is the ongoing message on how to stop the voracious pine beetle, now poised to wreck havoc on the northern boreal in Alberta. Unfortunately, as appealing as the idea of blaming smokey the bear and a slash & burn solution truly is, the only real relief is in addressing the root cause of the problem - climate change.

This is a delicate issue which has valid concerns on both the environmental side, in terms of climate change and sustainable forestry practices, and for the economy in terms of lost resources through the destruction of pine forests. Unfortunately, planning to eradicate pine beetles through logging is a little like trying to catch a terrorist by x-raying footwear - it is a knee jerk reaction to a symptom of a larger world problem.

Contrary to the belief of many, pine beetles are not an infestation that systematically spread from a single point source like a flu epidemic. Pine beetles are mainstays of the broader ecosystem and are capable of emerging over a host of separate areas whenever environmental conditions allow - as this map from Environment Canada demostrates.

So combine the fact that sustained temperatures of -40 degrees celcius are needed to wipe out pine beetle infestations, with the fact that the 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1990, and it is little wonder that we have had an ongoing problem. And as long as temperatures remain high the pine beetle will continue to spread.

We may be able to slow it through logging and controlled burns, but the only viable long-term strategy that will save our forests is to start taking meaningful action on climate change now. Without it we have two options 1) decimated forests, or 2) clear cutting every stitch of pine below the arctic circle. To me, a seat next to that shoe bomber guy sounds preferable to the ecological suicide of options 1 & 2.

Ottawa Adds to Toxic List

In an update to my previous post, Environment Minister Rona Ambrose and Health Minister Tony Clement are unveiling proposals to add polybrominated diphenyl ethers and perfluorooctane sulfonate to Canada's list of toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act - a move that is one of the most aggressive regulatory actions in the world against these compounds.

Scientific studies are increasingly linking low levels of these toxins to a range of conditions and symptoms including attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders in children, thyroid hormone disruption, decreased sperm counts, and in some cases death.

Designating them as toxic chemicals would give Ottawa the ability to make formal regulations restricting their use.

Full story link.

Video of the Week: Who Killed the Electric Car?

By now, most of you would have seen the Truth. Your next progressive movie date is Who Killed the Electric Car, now playing in New York and Los Angeles and opening at theatres throughout North America this summer.

Placing joint blame on the auto industry and oil companies, the film promises a searing indictment of who is to blame for both the death of the electric car and our continued reliance on fuel inefficiency and imported oil.

Read the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes then see the film for yourself.