Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Free Copies of Gore's Film Available First Come, First Serve

The 50,000 free copies of An Inconvenient Truth that were rejected by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) are being offered directly to teachers free of charge via Participate.net.

The DVDs are being donated on a first come, first serve basis to teachers across the country interested in using the film as a teaching tool in classrooms.

Educators interested in applying for their copy should visit the following link to request the DVD. Delivery time is 6-8 weeks. A free curriculum guide is also available for download.




PwC Puts Its Money Where Its Mouth Is

The Australian division of PricewaterhousCooper has announced a bold plan to become carbon neutral within 18 months.

PwC is the world's largest accounting firm, and has been a leader in measuring the economic implications of global warming and the costs of addressing climate change. In October, the firm produced a "green growth plus" strategy outlining how to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050 and stabilize global CO2 levels at 450 parts per million. It appears they are now putting that plan to test inside their own company.

In the process, they are also creating a stranglehold in the carbon accounting market and the potential for windfall profits in the coming decade as increasing numbers of businesses and governments turn towards carbon reduction strategies.



Al Gore Burned In The Onion

Even in light of looming disaster and outrageous spin campaigns, a look at the lighter side should always be welcomed. Readers in need of a laugh can get theirs in this week's edition of The Onion where right wing smear efforts against Al Gore are parodied.

DESPERATE MEASURES - Former vice president Al Gore takes a flamethrower to the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica to boost weekend ticket sales for An Inconvenient Truth.

Grant Greens Official Party Status

The Green Party of Canada has launched an online campaign aimed directly at the major media conglomerates to have them included in the next election's television debates.

The Green Party has been excluded from previous television debates despite running candidates in every one of Canada's 308 ridings for two straight elections. Last election the Greens garnered 660,000 votes, making them eligible to receive federal funding alongside other major parties, and current polling indicates that close to 10% of Canadians will vote Green this time around. However, control over who gets to attend the debates lays with the networks covering the events, not with Elections Canada, and not with the voting public.

Canadians who want to hear a Green voice in the next elections - or those who want the debates to be truly democratic regardless of their party of choice - can urge the networks to include Elizabeth May by signing the Green Party's online email petition.

Add your voice and tell a friend.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Australian Court Blocks Coal Mine on Climate Grounds

This is a story dating from a couple weeks ago but well worth bringing to attention.

A court in New South Wales Australia, has ruled that a proposed coal mine must take into account its impact on climate change in its environmental assessment before being allowed to go forward. The ruling could impact a wide range of Australia's mining, energy and manufacturing industries, as well offer a lesson to Canadian business leaders.

The ruling occurred despite the fact that Australia has not ratified Kyoto, and was made on the strength of Australia's existing public interest laws - something that will become an increasing factor as evidence grows about the harmful human impacts of unchecked global warming. Such precedents have already occurred here in Canada as well.

Three years ago BC Hydro planned to build the GSX pipeline, an underwater natural gas supply line to run along the floor of the Georgia Strait to Vancouver Island where it would fuel gas powered electricity generation. A federal review panel insisted that BC Hydro's proposal include a plan to offset the new greenhouse gas emissions caused by the project by 50% - the first ever decision of this kind in Canada. The project has since been abandoned, but the precedent remains in place.

Similar decisions will become more common in both countries, and as they do it will be increasingly in business' own interest to stop obstructing efforts to solve global warming and work with the rest of the world to establish clear rules to bring the change that inevitably needs to come.

Friday, December 15, 2006

So Called PM Tackles Perceived Threat to His Job

The clip says it all. Without further adieu, the visionary environmental platform of Stephen Harper.



Source: Cherniak on Politics

Harper Plans Green Sham III

After a year of a environmental hype followed by September's announcement of a oil friendly, non-action "approach" to the environment, Stephen Harper is planning to reshuffle cabinet in a renewed pitch to paint the Tories as a viable green option.

One of the first changes is expected to be the ousting of Environment Minister Rona Ambrose. In less than a year of heading the Harper government's environmental portfolio, Ambrose has been targeted in three separate lawsuits for failing at-risk species, failed to sell Harper's Clean Air Act to voters, and has made Canada a laughing stock on the international stage for actively opposing action on global warming. But I thought the Chronicle said it best:

Ambrose is generally thought to have been ineffective in flogging the Conservatives’ clean air plan.

But more to the point, she's been ineffective in guiding policy in the wake of a renaissance of environmental awareness.

With Dion casting himself as an environmental champion and the Green party seemingly poised to make electoral inroads, Harper may want to appoint a new minister to try to recapture the environmental agenda.

That is a no brainer, but Harper will face an up hill battle to recapture any green credentials he may once have held. Despite bold promises of action he has failed to acknowledge global warming, avoided any action on oil sands development, avoided addressing automobile emissions, and most hypocritically, done nothing to curb smog - a policy that has little to do with global warming, but one in which he touted as the foremost front he would achieve results on.

Canadians instead saw the Conservatives so-called "Green Plan II" dwindle to an "approach", and any meaningful action descend to mere lip service. Meanwhile, in the face of a growing tide of environmental awareness, Harper has once again stated that reducing greenhouse gases is not a priority.

Harper also reiterated that he doesn't intend to single out the country's energy industry as part of his plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

In the face of past inaction, a surging green party, and new liberal leadership founded on environmental principles, Harper will need to do far more than name a new group of Conservative cronies to his cabinet. What is needed is a new environmental plan that genuinely addresses global warming and gains the support of opposition parties. Otherwise he can start getting ready to move across to the aisle to the opposition side of the House of Commons, and take up his previous hobby of grimacing at the Liberal Prime Minister.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Three Gorges Drives Dolphin to Extinction

The Baiji, the rare freshwater dolphin of China's Yangtze River, has been declared extinct after a six week expedition failed to find any remaining signs of the species.

The dolphin had existed for 20 million years but was pushed to extinction in recent decades through habitat degradation, increased shipping traffic, pollution, over-fishing and ecosystem impacts of the Three Gorges dam project further up river.

"The baiji is functionally extinct. We might have missed one or two animals but it won't survive in the wild," said August Pfluger, a Swiss naturalist involved in the expedition. "We are all incredibly sad."

The loss represents the first time in decades that the world has lost a first large aquatic mammal to extinction. The last was over half a century ago when the Caribbean monk seal was killed off by hunting and over-fishing.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Toronto to Recycle 70% of All Garbage

Mayor David Miller of Toronto has unveiled bold new recycling and air quality targets that would divert 70% of the all city garbage away from landfills by 2010, and reduce smog causing pollutants by 20% over the next six years. He has also announced his intention to develop a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gases in the city.

Details of the plan include:
  • expanding the green bin program to include apartments and condominiums.
  • adding to waste allowed in recycling boxes.
  • enlarging blue boxes to make recycling easier.
  • building a composting plant.
  • developing incentives to encourage the construction of "green" buildings.
  • building community recycling centres for reusable goods such as mattresses or electronic components.
  • Potential "congestion" fees on vehicles entering the downtown core like those implemented in London, England.
Currently about 40% of the city's garbage is being diverted from landfills.

Host "An Incovenient Truth" House Party

On December 16th, Al Gore and the team behind An Inconvenient Truth are asking the public to host a viewing of the DVD at their homes and then join a national conference call with the former VP where he will be discussing global warming solutions and taking online questions.

At the time of this post 1601 groups had signed up for the event. To host your own party visit algore.com and register. You can also visit the site to search for parties in your area.

WHAT: Host or join a house party to watch An Inconvenient Truth, then join in a conference call with Al Gore, who will talk about the film and take questions live online.

WHEN: Saturday, December 16th, 7PM Eastern

HOW: Go to http://www.algore.com/ to sign up.


Ambrose Demands Audit of Dead Programs

In colossal waste of tax payer dollars - and another clear signal that the Tories intend to do nothing to curb greenhouse gas emissions - Federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose has asked the Auditor General to review the Liberal climate change initiatives that her Conservative Party has already cancelled.

The Minister made the announcement before the Commons environment committee, where she faced criticism for providing conflicting statements concerning the previous Liberal government and federal climate programs. Included among these was a statement that the Liberal's wasted $100 million on international emissions credits and then later backtracking saying that no credits have been purchased. She was also accused of ignoring an internal assessment by Natural Resources Canada indicating that the Liberal climate change initiatives were in fact working.

The news confirms a Conservative government that is staunchly opposed to addressing global warming, while brazenly providing false and conflicting information to the Canadian public.

In the future Rona, you might consider actually reviewing programs and doing a fact check before making decisions, let alone opening your mouth.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Elk Return to BC's Lower Mainland

Elk are alive and well in the Lower Mainland of BC for the first time in a century, following the transplanting of two separate populations two years ago, the BC Ministry of Environment is reporting.

Roosevelt elk introduced at Pitt River have multiplied from a herd of 23 animals to 40 in just two years, while a second herd at the top of Indian Arm has grown from 20 to 27 animals in a single season. Conservation officers are pleased with the success and now want to explore the possibility of reintroducing elk this winter in the Ashlu Creek/Elaho River area of the Squamish watershed, and to upper Stave Lake north of Mission.

Subsistence hunting led to the disappearance of elk from the Lower Mainland in 1900.



BC Accepts Four Bids for Park Development

In July, the BC Liberals announced its intention to accept development applications for permanent lodges and other infrastructure inside 12 Provincial Parks. They have now received applications for developments in four parks - Mount Robson, Elk Lakes, Maxhamish Lake and Cape Scott.

Details about the nature of the development have been difficult to come by. However, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee is reporting that the development in Maxhamish Lake will be a privately developed fly-in fishing lodge.

To date, 13 conservation groups including the The B.C. Wildlife Federation, which represents about 30,000 hunters and anglers in the province, have joined in condemning the Liberals policy.

Friday, December 08, 2006

NSTA's Truth is Full of Holes

The incriminating evidence regarding the National Science Teachers Association's relationship with big oil, and their refusal of 50,000 free copies of An Inconvenient Truth, is mounting in the face of public pressure and media scrutiny.

In an impeccably cited article at the Huffington Post, Laurie David, author of the op-ed that began the scandal, outlines new information about the NSTA, their Executive Director Gerald Wheeler, and the organizations relationship to big oil. Among the new evidence coming to light is:

1. Despite the fact that the NSTA said their 2001 policy prohibits them from distributing An Inconvenient Truth to its members, in 2003 they shipped 20,000 copies of a 10 part video funded by oil giant ConocoPhillips.

2. In a clear conflict of interest, the NSTA's Gerald Wheeler is listed as the Executive Producer of the ConocoPhillips film.

3. The NSTA has recently pulled online content from their website demonstrating partnerships with the American Petroleum Institute and other companies, including their joint "Science of Energy" website. (This was encountered here at the The Conscious Earth where cached Google pages were needed to reveal the pages in question).

To date, The Conscious Earth has focused on the facts surrounding the issue while taking the view that, in refusing free copies of An Inconvenient Truth, the NSTA was primarily guilty of a poor curriculum decision. However, new information coming to light is increasingly demonstrating that the NSTA is an educational body intimately tied to the oil industry and that is acting as an active partner in the distribution of anti climate change propaganda - to the detriment of the environment, quality of education and the reputation of the American school system as a whole.

Responsible Tar Sands Time Has Come

Stéphane Dion has an eye towards ending the perverse subsidization of Alberta's tar sands industry. The industry has been benefiting from tax breaks and subsidies totaling $1.4 billion throughout booming crude oil prices and record corporate profits, but Dion's energy and climate change plan would change this by allowing the tax breaks to continue only if tar sands projects go carbon neutral.

Dion proposes linking tax breaks to greenhouse-gas emissions and water usage. Those projects that demonstrate they are “carbon neutral and/or provide significant water usage improvements...based on third-party verification” would retain the 100-percent capital-cost allowance. Others would not qualify.

The move would be both timely and visionary while offering the business community an opportunity to become world leaders in solving global warming. A recent report from the Pembina Institute, a not-for-profit environmental research organization, places the cost of making tar sands operations carbon neutral between $1.76 and $13.46 per barrel. With oil prices holding around $60 per barrel, the industry could take on those costs and still be profitable. Allowing tar sands developments to keep current subsidies in exchange for carbon neutrality would be a win-win solution - one that would result in a Canadian oil industry that leads the world sustainable business, while ensuring their long-term profitability in the face of a looming environmental crisis for which they are largely to blame.

Dion won the Liberal leadership on the strength of his environmental platform, and that same platform will form the policies that the Liberals bring to voters. The tar sands industry would do well - both on the bottom line, and in the public eye - by supporting a plan that allows it to keep millions of dollars in tax breaks while ensuring Canada fulfills its moral obligation to address global warming.

That is value that green washing and climate change denial could never buy.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back for Amazon

This week's widely published good news from the environmental front lines was the Brazilian state of Pará's decision to protect 15 million hectares (an area the size of Illinois) of the Northern Amazon.

What was less intensively covered was a report from Peru revealing that their government has now signed away more than 39 million hectares of their remaining Amazon to oil and gas interests (an area equal to the size of California).

Until recently, Peruvian petroleum projects were resulting in massive quantities of contaminated wastewater, totaling 1 million barrels per day, being dumped directly into local rivers. Protests by aboriginal groups ended with new agreements to inject the contaminated water back underground as oil is extracted, but the threats to the water system continue.

Of the 39 active operations currently underway, all but 8 were launched in past three years. That rate of expansion is expected to continue, and will inevitably cause more water diversions, greater deforestation, and increased risks of spills and dumping that will threaten not only local waters, but the lower reaches of the river.

Peru is home to the very source of the Amazon, and any degradation of the river caused by Peruvian oil and gas will be carried down river to impact the health of downstream ecosystems potentially as far as Brazil, undermining more progressive conservation policies currently underway.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

ScottishPower Will Pay for Students to See the "Truth"

In an interesting follow-up to last weeks news of the National Science Teachers Association's rejection of 50,000 free copies of An Inconvenient Truth, ScottishPower, a major windfarm developer and operator of a coal fired power plant, has stated that they are "prepared to commit tens of thousands of pounds" towards ensuring every student in Scotland sees the film.

Granted, a windfarm developer obviously stands to gain from more climate friendly policy, but that ignores the fact that this particular company also stands to be liable for the greenhouse gases produced at their coal fired power plant. That aside, the most interesting part of the story is the response from Scotland's school system and government who, unlike the NSTA, is endorsing and seeking to support the initiative.

"The film certainly puts across a view about how the environment could be affected in the coming years, and climate change is something that is already being looked at in many areas of the curriculum." - David Eaglesham, general-secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association

"I entirely accept that the environmental issue is moving up the agenda, but I think it would be preferable that it was used as part of the curriculum, rather than taking an one-off, piece-meal approach." - Ronnie Smith, the general-secretary of the EIS teaching union

"(I am in favour of the) principle of greater environmental awareness, provided it is objectively done" - James Douglas-Hamilton, the Scottish Conservative's education spokesman

"We are aware of the film proposal from ScottishPower and are currently considering this." - Scottish Executive spokesperson


Those quotes are in stark contrast to the NSTA's response, in which they hid behind policy while stating "that the association cannot endorse any outside organization's products and/or messages to its members", and that accepting the DVDs would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters," one of whom is long time global warming denier and misinformation funder Exxon-Mobil.

Certain individuals and members of the NSTA were outraged at the anger directed at the organization for following its stated policy, while at the same time its work supporting students and teachers was ignored. Unfortunately for the NSTA and its members they took the hit for a corruption so widespread that people often do not see it for what it is.

When science educators reject free, scientifically sound resources while openly accepting money from corporations who actively support propaganda that flies in the face of the best principles of science we all have a problem. Sooner or later that conflict of interest cannot help but filter down into the minds of the students that NSTA members are responsible for educating.

Regardless of the good work they have done, the NSTA is facing a needed wake up call. A step in the right direction would be for them to start looking at what education leaders in other nations are doing.

In the meantime, I'm sure the team behind An Inconvenient Truth will be speaking to science teachers in Scotland. It sounds like they could make use of some free DVDs.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Lead Free Plasma TVs from Panasonic

Panasonic has become the first plasma TV manufacturer in the US market to feature lead-free plasma display panels.

Leveraging a new technology that eliminates the need for lead oxide glass, the electronics giant reports that they have been able to remove all of the roughly 70 grams of lead that go into the manufacture of a typical 37" screen. Spread across their production line, the new screens will result in the worldwide reduction of close to 300 metric tons of lead – the approximate weight of two 747 commercial airliners - each year.

The announcement was praised by The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), with their senior scientist, Noah Horowitz, stating “NRDC is very supportive of Panasonic’s longstanding record of consistently delivering some of the most environmentally friendly products in the market. Panasonic’s leadership in this area is noteworthy and we challenge the rest of the TV industry to implement similar improvements to their products.”

For those purchasing a flat screen monitor this Christmas, check out Panasonic's product line and pick up a copy of An Inconvenient Truth as a first watch.

Al Gore on Oprah Today

For those who can catch it today, Al Gore will be on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Visit Oprah's site for a video preview as well as tips you can bring into your own home to help stop global warming. You can also check your local listings for show times here.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Values Hoist Dion to Victory

On Saturday, Stéphane Dion became the unlikely winner of a Liberal leadership race where youth and a progressive new vision took centre stage over old school Liberal cronyism.

That assessment may seem both lofty and harsh, but the uncomfortable truth facing both Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae is that they surrendered early leads with both the public and Liberal party members because they sacrificed their campaign’s early message of renewal and change by revealing themselves to be more interested in Liberal power than a change in the status quo.

Meanwhile, the Liberal machinery did its work as it has for decades as the establishment lined its support behind the two front runners. But with typical Liberal arrogance, everyone ignored the fact that Dion and Kennedy carried more combined support than either one of the front runners, and baselessly assumed that the votes from the third and fourth place candidates would spill upward into their camp. When Gerard Kennedy emerged to throw his support behind Dion they didn't even see it coming.

Kennedy could have stayed in the race through another vote. He may have succeeded in gaining ground on Dion. But both Dion and Kennedy were running for more than victory. Dion table a daring and uncompromising and environmental platform, while Kennedy remained committed to renewal within the party. Both never flagged in their values or their platform while lesser candidates did.

And so when Kennedy threw his support in with Dion, it meant a renewal truer than most would have predicted - one that brought together the demands of young Liberals clamouring for change with a new and growing Canadians zeitgeist of environmental consciousness.

Too lofty of praise? Hardly. The election of Stéphane Dion was a full expression of the values of Canadians who have been saying for a decade that the time of Liberal arrogance and cronyism must end, and that it is the environment that will ultimately define our future prosperity. Dion’s platform most fully expressed those progressive values of renewal and sustainability, and he will get the chance to bring those values to the voters.

The question now is, will Dion will make a legacy of those values? or fall into a long line of Liberal leaders who paid them no more than momentary lip-service? We will find out soon enough.