Archive for September 2013

Creating a new story – Naomi Klein

"to see with the eyes of faith"

“to see with the eyes of faith”

There is an eloquent speech by Naomi Klein to the founding convention of UNIFOR (the fusion of the CanadianAutoworkers and the CEP). In this inspiring speech Klein calls on unions to join the struggle to create a new story that counters the narrative of what she refers to as “Extractivism”.

She says that climate change is not an issue to add to the list of things to worry about. It is a civilizational wake-up call. To read the full text of her speech, delivered September 1, see:


Climate Change denial – a response by David Suzuki

Attacks on climate change science hinder solutions

by David Suzuki

Alberta oil sands

Starting in late September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release its Fifth Assessment Report in three chapters and a summary. Not to be outdone, contrarians have unleashed a barrage of attacks designed to discredit the science before it’s released. Expect more to come.

Many news outlets are complicit in efforts to undermine the scientific evidence. Contrarian opinion articles have run in publications in Canada and around the world, from the Financial Post and Washington Post to the Australian and the U.K.’s Mail on Sunday.

In the Guardian, scientists Dana Nuccitelli and John Abraham point out that attacks cover five stages of climate denial: deny the problem exists, deny we’re the cause, deny it’s a problem, deny we can solve it and claim it’s too late to do anything.

One attack that’s grabbing media attention is the so-called Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change’s report “Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science.” It’s written by Fred Singer, a well-known tobacco industry apologist and climate change denier, with Bob Carter and Craig Idso, also known for their dismissals of legitimate climate change science, and published by the Heartland Institute, a U.S. non-profit known for defending tobacco and fossil fuel industry interests. Heartland made headlines last year for comparing people who accept the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused climate change with terrorists and criminals such as Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski!

Read Singer’s report if you want. But it’s full of long-discredited claims, including that carbon dioxide emissions are good because they stimulate life. It’s not the goal of deniers and contrarians to contribute to our understanding of climate change; they want to promote fossil fuel companies and other industrial interests, a point explicitly stated in the Heartland-NIPCC news release.

It claims the Singer report, which isn’t peer-reviewed, provides governments with “the scientific evidence they need to justify ending the expansion of ineffective alternative energy sources and other expensive and futile strategies to control climate. Then they can focus on supporting our most powerful energy sources – coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, and hydro-power – in order to end the scourge of energy poverty that afflicts over one billion people across the world.”

In other words, don’t worry about climate change, let alone health-damaging pollution or the fact that fossil fuels will become increasingly difficult to extract and eventually run out altogether. And even though mountains of solid evidence from around the world show climate change is and will continue to be most devastating for the world’s poorest people, the report feigns concern for those suffering from “energy poverty”.

Overall, the attacks on legitimate climate science are coming from people whose arguments have been debunked many times and who often have ties to the fossil fuel industry. Some, including Roy Spencer and Ross McKitrick, have signed the Cornwall Declaration, which states: “We believe Earth and its ecosystems – created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence – are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception.”

The declaration also states that “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming” and that renewable energy should not be used to replace fossil fuels. Their world view can’t accept the reality of climate change or its solutions no matter how much evidence is provided – something that offends many people of faith who believe we have a responsibility to care for the Earth.

The IPCC report, on the other hand, is a review of all the available science on climate change, conducted by hundreds of experts from around the world. It confirms climate change is happening, burning fossil fuels is a major cause and it will get worse if we fail to act. It also examines what appears to be a slight slowing of global warming – but certainly not a halt, as deniers claim – and offers scientific explanations for it. Upcoming chapters will also propose solutions.

Resolving the problem of climate change will cost, but it will be much more expensive to follow the defeatist advice of industry shills, whose greed and lack of care for humanity will condemn our children and grandchildren to an uncertain future.

Faith Into Action – Syria

Syria Refugee Appeal – United Church of Canada

The United Church of Canada is deeply concerned for the more than 6 million people who are now internal or external refugees, displaced by the fighting in Syria. As the numbers of refugees increase, the United Church has been asked to help. On September 5, 2013, the church launched an emergency appeal for donations that will be directed to our partners on the ground.


Donate Now

Please provide your support today. All donations received and designated for “Syria Relief” will be applied directly to support United Church partners in this work.

  • Online via our secure donation page.

  • Phone 416-231-5931 or toll-free 1-800-268-3781 and use your Visa or MasterCard.

  • Send a cheque, money order, or Visa or MasterCard information with donation amount to:

    • The United Church of Canada

      Philanthropy Unit – Emergency Response

      3250 Bloor Street West, Suite 300

      Toronto, ON M8X 2Y4

    • Please be sure to note “Emergency Response—Syria Relief” on the face of your cheque.

Note: As part of the United Church’s Emergency Response Fund, 85 percent of your donation will go directly to Syria relief, while 15 percent will be used to support emergencies that do not receive intense media coverage and response. No administration fees will be deducted from your donation. Regular donations to the Mission and Service Fund enable the United Church to absorb staffing and administration costs of emergency response work.

What we’re missing on Syria – Jim Wallis

Respond, But How? What We’re Missing On Syria

When a head of state is responsible for the deaths of 100,000 of his people and has used chemical weapons against innocent civilians — the world needs to respond. In one massive attack, the evidence appears to show that 1,429 people, including 400 children, suffered horrible deaths from chemical weapons banned by the international community. That is a profound moral crisis that requires an equivalent moral response. Doing nothing is not an option. But how should we respond, and what are moral principles for that response?


Syrian refugees arrive in Turkey in Hatay on Aug. 31. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

For Christians, I would suggest there are two principles that should guide our thinking. Other people of faith and moral sensibility might agree with this two-fold moral compass.

  1. Our first commitment must be to the most vulnerable and those in most jeopardy. Two million Syrian refugees have now had to leave their country and fully a third of the Syrian people are now homeless in their own country. Lebanon, a country of 4 million people, now has nearly 1 million Syrian refugees. Humanitarian organizations are calling this the worst crisis in two decades.

    Our Scriptures tell us that our first and deepest response should always be to the most vulnerable who are so often forgotten by the world. The world must respond to those millions of vulnerable and jeopardized people. Faith communities all over the world must respond and call upon our governments to do so as well. The U.S., U.K., and other concerned nations must do that — immediately. And the international faith community should lead the way for a global response to millions of people in deep distress and danger.

  2. The other task for people of faith and moral conscience is to work to reduce the conflict. Conflict resolution is always the first goal of peacemakers, whom Jesus calls us, as Christians, to always be. How do we act in ways that could lessen violence rather than escalate it? How do we unite the world community against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, put him on trial in absentia to prove that he used chemical weapons against innocent civilians, bring his criminality to the United Nations and other international bodies, and then surround him with global rejection, isolation, and punishment? How do we use this opportunity of his criminal behavior to pressure and even embarrass those nations who have supported him to support him no more?

These two principles make many of us in the faith community wary of the proposed military strikes that are now being considered by the White House, Congress, and others. Why?

Military options always have unintended consequences. We have seen that time and time again, as we have so recently and painfully learned in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. What are those possible consequences?

  • Entering into the tactics of war can easily bring other players and nations into the war.

  • Threats of retaliation and counter-retaliation are always a consequence of military actions.

  • Assad himself could respond with even more brutality, which would require another U.S. response that deepens the conflict and creates a familiar cycle of violence.

  • Tomahawk missiles and other weapons are not as reliably accurate as are often suggested. Military attacks always have civilian casualties. One errant U.S. missile killing more Syrian civilians would be the international story, replacing the one of Assad’s alleged chemical attacks.

  • The strikes that are being proposed would not eliminate Assad’s chemical weapons capacity and might not deter further attacks. Nor might they significantly hurt his military forces or cripple his political power. Rather, they could help rally more of his people around him, as often happens when countries are attacked by outside forces. None of the purposes of the proposed military attacks are clear.

While the world wants to remove Assad’s regime, will military strikes deter his power? The political alternatives seem very dangerous since terrorist groups lead much of Assad’s opposition. Complicated political situations do not yield to easy military solutions. Political solutions are required — beginning with ceasefires and careful diplomatic negotiations, which many, including Pope Francis, are now calling for.

By traditional just war standards, striking Assad has just cause and just intention, but its probability of success and proportionality is still very unclear, and the just war criteria of last resort is still a ways away.

Jesus’ call to be peacemakers takes us in a different direction than missile strikes. I believe the just cause being laid out against Assad is indeed a moral case, and I trust both President Barack Obama and Secretary John Kerry’s intentions around that cause. But I believe that the military strikes now being proposed are not the best moral response to this moral crisis — and they could ultimately undermine both our moral case and the moral intentions.

The jump we often make from just causes and moral cases to military actions reveals our dependence on old habits of war as our only response to conflict and injustice. It also reveals our lack of imagination for finding better responses. Many Democrats, who sometimes question our rush to war, seem to be lining up behind the White House; the Republicans, who often favor military responses, are still struggling with their response in light of their general opposition to the president. But the political submission to the military strikes seems to be increasing. At the same time, religious opposition to a primary reliance on military responses seems to be growing.

Pope Francis said this week, “War brings on war! Violence brings on violence.” And he supports a negotiated settlement of the Syrian civil war, calling upon people of faith around the world to pray and fast for peace this Saturday, Sept. 7. (Join Sojourners in taking his call to prayer.)

Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO of the World Evangelical Alliance, pointed out the negative effect military strikes would have on Christians in the Middle East. New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in a letter to Obama that strikes would be “counterproductive” and “exacerbate an already deadly situation.” And the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore echoed the concerns, saying, there are just-cause principles missing “both to justify action morally and to justify it prudentially.” (Read full statements below.)

The Christian community is raising questions about military strikes. But the risks of military strikes should not result in doing nothing in response to Assad. The clear moral case for intervention requires a more imaginative moral response than military action. The complications of the Syrian situation must not lead to a passive response but to a more creative one. We need to create a unified international strategy to hold the Assad regime morally accountable for its actions.

Assad’s use of chemical weapons could be used to open up more international cooperation, even with Syria’s allies, who strongly disapprove of chemical weapons. And supporting more moderate forces in Syria should become a more urgent priority. It’s time to punish Assad without further punishing his people, his neighbors, the stability of the region, and the security of the rest of the world. We must hold Assad accountable, pressure the world to join, protect the vulnerable, and ultimately find a political solution.

A moral crisis does require a moral response. The faith community and others must speak and act to make sure that our response prioritizes the most moral ­— and the most effective — actions as possible.

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good, is now available. Watch the Story of the Common Good HERE. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

Posted September 9, 2013 by allanbaker in Christian Faith, Peacemaking

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Extreme Weather

Patrick Bond presents a viewpoint on “extreme weather / climate change” from his perspective in South Africa.

Source Website:



There is ample evidence from around the world of extreme weather conditions arising from the devastating effects of climate change. But there is still plenty of denial among those who design and implement environmentally sensitive projects.

The northern hemisphere summer has just peaked and though the torrid heat is now ebbing, it is evident the climate crisis is far more severe than most scientists had anticipated. The latest report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – a notoriously conservative research agency – will be debated in Stockholm next month, but no one can deny its projections: “widespread melting of land ice, extreme heat waves, difficulty growing food and massive changes in plant and animal life, probably including a wave of extinctions.”

Even worse is coming, for a giant Arctic Ocean ‘belch’ of 50 billion tonnes of methane is inexorably escaping from seabed permafrost, according to scientists writing in the journal Nature. North Pole ice is now, at maximum summer heat, only 40 percent as thick as it was just forty years ago, a crisis only partially represented in the vivid image of a temporary ‘lake’ that submerged the pole area last month.

The damage that will unfold after the burp, according to leading researchers from Cambridge and Erasmus Universities, could cost $60 trillion, about a year’s world economic output. Global warming will speed up by 15-35 years as a result.

With these revelations, it is impossible to mask the self-destructive greed of fossil fuel firms and their carbon-addicted customers. The ruling crew in the United States, Russia and Canada will enthusiastically let oil companies exploit the soon-to-be ice-free Arctic summers with intensified drilling, joined by unprecedented bunker-fuel-burning in the newly-opening shipping lanes.


But the extreme weather that necessarily results has just hit China, whose world-record CO2 emissions – mainly a result of producing junk purchased by wealthier countries which have outsourced their industrial emissions to East Asia – generate as a byproduct not only thick layers of smog in the main cities. There were also scores of heat-related deaths early last month. Shanghai suffered ten straight days above 38C, with temperatures in some places high enough to use a sidewalk to fry eggs and prawns.

In the second biggest greenhouse gas emitter (and biggest historically), the western United States is suffering a brutal drought, so severe that 86 percent of New Mexico’s water supply evaporated, extreme wildfires broke out – this week, for example, scorching Yosemite Park’s legendary redwoods and threatening San Francisco’s water supply – while California’s Death Valley temperatures soared to 50C.

The effects are highly uneven, with environmental-justice research now proving that as climate change hits US cities, the wealthy turn up the air conditioner while the poor – and especially black and Latino people – suffer in ‘heat islands.’ Likewise, poor people in the Himalayan mountains died in their thousands as a result of last month’s floods.

In Alaska, a source of enormous oil extraction, record temperatures in the 30s left thousands of fish dead. The effect of global warming on the oceans is to push marine life towards the poles by 7 kilometers each year, as numerous species attempt to find cooler waters.

The impact here in South Africa, from East London to Durban, was a disaster for the local fishing industry last month, as billions of sardines which annually swim to shore stayed away due to warmer waters.


And here along the Indian Ocean, more local climate damage comes from – and is also visited upon – the shipping industry. In the world’s largest coal export site, South Africa’s Richards Bay harbor, an idiot captain of the China-bound MV Smart (sic) tried to exit the port in 10 meter swells on August 20 with a load of nearly 150 000 tonnes of coal and 1700 tonnes of oil. He promptly split the huge ship in half on a sandbank.

This followed by hours the strategic offshore sinking of a Nigeria-bound cargo ship, Kiani Satu, which had run aground a week earlier, further down the coast, close to a nature reserve and marine protected area. As plans were made to extract 300 hundred tonnes of oil from the boat, more than 15 tonnes spilled, requiring the cleaning of more than 200 oil-coated seabirds.

The maniacs whose ships now rest at the bottom of the Indian Ocean can identify with the fly-by-night owners of the MT Phoenix, after that ship’s willful self-destruction off the Durban North Coast holiday resorts exactly two years ago. Taxpayers spent $4 million pumping out 400 tonnes of oil and then towing the Phoenix out deeper to [url=]sink[/url]. A few weeks ago, that salvage operation’s contested audit resulted in the [url=x]implosion[/url] of the SA Maritime Safety Authority.

These are just some surface-level indications that our shipping industry is utterly ill-prepared for the rise of both overall sea levels and the ‘monster waves’ which accompany climate change. The Columbia University Earth Institute now projects “sea-level rise of as much as six feet globally instead of two to three feet” by 2100, with higher amounts (three meters) possible if further ice sheets crack from their foundations.

As one of Oprah’s producers, Susan Casey, wrote in her book, The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean, “Given that 60 per cent of the world’s population lives within 30 miles of a coastline, wave science is suddenly vital science, and the experts are keenly aware that there are levees, oil rigs, shorelines, ships and millions of lives at stake.”

Her experts need to visit South Africa, because ours are apparently asleep at the wheel, as they now plan an extreme makeover of Durban’s harbour. The shipping mania that made China such a successful exporter – and wiped out so much of South Africa’s manufacturing industry – has generated vessels that can carry more than 10 000 containers (which in turn require 5800 trucks to unload), known as ‘super post-Panamax’. They are so named because the Panama Canal’s current limits allow only half that load, hence a $5.25 billion dig will deepen and widen the canal by 2015, with a $40 billion Chinese-funded competitor canal being considered in nearby Nicaragua.

Most ports around the world are following suit, including here where $25 billion is anticipated from national, provincial and municipal subsidies and loans for South Durban’s port/petrochemical complex – the origin of our status as the most polluted African suburb south of Nigeria. The project is mainly managed by Transnet, a huge (but hot-to-privatize) transport parastatal agency, and is the second main priority in the country’s National Development Plan which claims that from handling 2.5 million containers in 2012, Durban’s productivity will soar to 20 million containers annually by 2040 – though these figures certainly don’t jell with the industry’s much more conservative projections of demand.

More examples of state planning hubris: Transnet’s $2.3 billion doubling of the Durban-Johannesburg oil pipeline is still not complete, but already massive corruption is suspected in the collusion-suffused construction industry, given that early costings were half the price. And notwithstanding their ‘aerotropolis’ fantasies, Durban’s King Shaka International Airport and the speedy Johannesburg-Pretoria-airport Gautrain are both operating at a tiny fraction of the capacity that had been anticipated by state planners. The 2010 sports stadiums are such blatant white elephants that even arrogant local soccer boss Danny Jordaan felt compelled to apologise.


One reason they breed is that climate is not being factored into any of these carbon-intensive white elephants, as I have learned by fruitlessly offering formal Environmental Impact Analysis objections. As a result of a critique I offered last November, Transnet’s consultants finally considered prospects that sea-level rise and intense storms might disrupt the Durban port’s new berth expansion.

But Transnet’s study on sea level rise by Christopher Everatt and John Zietsman of ZAA Engineering Projects in Cape Town is as climate-denialist as the consultancy report last year by the SA Council on Scientific and Industrial Research’s Roy Van Ballegooyen. Look, I do understand that – like the dreaded AIDS-denialism of a decade ago – the allegation of climate-denialism is a strong insult these days. But what else would you call a November 2012 report (mainly by Everatt) that cites five studies to claim we will suffer only a maximum 0.6 meter maximum sea level rise this century, but based on data from 1997, 2004, 2006 and 2008 reports. Five years old information is, in this field, ridiculously outdated.

In South Africa, de facto climate denialists are now led by a Communist Party leader: Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies. Last week, Davies pushed through Cabinet approval to build yet another coal-fired power plant plus permission to frack the extremely water-sensitive Karoo, “Land of the Great Thirst” in the original inhabitants’ San language.

Awful precedents Davies tactfully avoided mentioning include the massive environmental damage and the corruption, labour-relations and socio-ecological crises at South Africa’s main coal-fired powerplant construction site, Eskom’s $10 billion Medupi generator which at 4800 MegaWatts will be the world’s third largest. Medupi was meant to be generating power in 2011, but due to ongoing conflict, may finally be finished only in mid-2014.

Eskom’s main beneficiary, also unmentioned by Davies, is BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining house, a firm at the centre of South Africa’s crony-capitalist nexus dating to apartheid days. Eskom now subsidises this Australian company with $1.1 billion annually by gifting it the world’s cheapest electricity.

Another de facto climate denialist is the German development aid minister, Dirk Niebel, an opponent of Ecuadoran civil society’s plan to save the Yasuni National Park from oil exploitation. According to Niebel, “Refraining from oil drilling alone is not going to help in forest preservation.” Of course not, but it could have been a vital step for Germany to make a downpayment on its huge climate debt to the victims of extreme weather.

The Yasuni campaign to “leave the oil under the soil” is excellent, and while there, deep in the Amazon on the Peruvian border two years ago, I witnessed the Oilwatch network mobilizing to expand the idea (even to Durban where oil prospecting recently began offshore). Oilwatch generated a ‘Yasunization’ strategy for other fossil fuels, also promoted by the Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade scholar-activist network based in Barcelona. Network leaders Joan Martinez-Alier and Nnimmo Bassey are also heartbroken at Yasuni’s apparent demise.

But stupidly, the government of Rafael Correa – trained in the US as an economist, sigh –always had the intention to sell Yasuni into the global carbon markets, a self-defeating strategy given the markets’ tendency to both fraud and regular crashing; carbon prices today only about a quarter of what they were two years ago.

So now, because the erratic Correa doesn’t have his hands on the cash yet, in part because he failed to address world civil society to put pressure on governments, Ecuador’s PetroAmazonas and China’s PetroOriental will go ahead and drill. A fresh campaign has been launched to halt the extraction, starting with one letter after another from Accion Ecologica, the eco-feminist lobby that initiated the project, joined by the eloquent leader of the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador, Carlos Perez Guartambel.


Yasuni is a critical place to draw the line, for it is probably the world’s most biodiverse site. But there are other vulnerable points of counter-power, too, as across the world, many more defenders of nature come forward against rapacious fossil-fuel industry attacks.

South Africa has not been particularly climate-conscious, because the thousands of recent social protests are mainly directed against a state and capitalists which deny immediate needs, from municipal services to wages. Still, in Johannesburg, the Anglo American Corporation and Vedanta coal-fired power plant witnessed a protest of 1000 community and environmental activists last month.

Surprisingly, a Pew Research Centre poll found that 48 percent of South Africans worry ‘global climate change’ is a ‘major threat’, followed by ‘China’s power and influence’ (40 percent) and ‘international financial instability’ (34 percent). Across the world, 54 percent of people Pew asked cited climate change as a major threat, the highest of any answer (in second place, 52 percent said ‘international financial stability). Only 40 percent of the US populace agreed, putting it at seventh place.

Yet even in the belly of the beast, more people seem to be mobilizing, and there are growing connectivities in the spirit that what happens in Yasuni is terribly important to the First Nations activists of western Canada (one of the finest blog sites to make these links is

For example, fossil fuel projects have been fought hard in recent weeks by forces as diverse as Idaho’s Nez Perce Native Americans, Idle No More, and Wild Idaho Rising Tide; by Nebraska farmers; by activists from the filthy oil city of Houston who are contesting a new coal terminal; and in Utah where not only have conservationists sued to halt drilling of an 800 000 acre tar sands field stretching into Colorado and Wyoming, but 50 activists physically blocked tar sand mining and construction at two sites last month.’s Bill McKibben recently mentioned the ‘Summerheat’ rebirth of US climate activism, “from the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, where a tar-sands pipeline is proposed, to the Columbia River at Vancouver, Washington, where a big oil port is planned, from Utah’s Colorado Plateau, where the first US tar-sands mine has been proposed, to the coal-fired power plant at Brayton Point on the Massachusetts coast and the fracking wells of rural Ohio.”

The growing movement has had results, says McKibben, in part through civil disobedience: “In the last few years, it has blocked the construction of dozens of coal-fired power plants, fought the oil industry to a draw on the Keystone pipeline, convinced a wide swath of American institutions to divest themselves of their fossil fuel stocks, and challenged practices like mountaintop-removal coal mining and fracking for natural gas.”

This is encouraging partly because summertime is a lull when it comes to challenging power in many parts of the world. Meanwhile, our political winter was mostly spent wondering whether the crucial Congress of SA Trade Unions would remain aligned to the government or split in half. The more enlightened wing would logically move towards environmental, community and social struggles, leaving behind the likes of Rob Davies, just as US progressives (should) have shed any last illusions about slick Barack Obama.

But not far from Durban, 100 years ago next month, Mahatma Gandhi began preparing a non-violent mass assault on a white-owned coal mine in support of both Indian women’s right to cross a regional border and workers’ wage demands. The idea known as satyagraha (truth force) went from theory to practice, as militant passive defiance gained concessions that, 80 years later, helped free South Africa from apartheid. This time, there’s no 80-year window; we all have to rise to the challenge as fast as do the thermometer and the greenhouse gas emissions.

Patrick Bond directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society and authored ‘Politics of Climate Justice’ (UKZN Press, 2012).


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Conservative government duplicity

According to research from the Green Party in Canada, the Conservative government in Ottawa is reducing funding for environmental research while, at the same time, spending $100 million to assist a large corporation prepare an environmental assessment.


Green Party reveals over $100 million federal spending supporting Enbridge tanker plans

Published on Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Today, Dr. Andrew Weaver, MLA (Oak Bay-Gordon Head) and Deputy Leader of the Green Party of British Columbia and Elizabeth May, MP (Saanich-Gulf Islands) and leader of the Green Party of Canada held a joint press conference to review the federal and provincial issues at play in relation to new information received by the party.

“Documents obtained from Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans reveal that at a time when core science is being cut across the Government of Canada, tax dollars are being spent to do Enbridge’s homework for them,” said Andrew Weaver.

The Federal Government is moving forward over the next two years with a $100 million plus, ‘Complementary Measures Project’ (now called ‘World Class’) to research and model the complex waterways in the Kitimat and Hecate Straights region. In essence this is a federal government subsidy to the Northern Gateway Project, as they are unable to satisfy basic safety, environmental and regulatory requirements. In fact documents from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans identified that: “Behaviour models specific to dilbit spills do not exist, and existing commercial models for conventional oil do not allow parameter specific modifications.”

On the federal level contrary to what Stephen Harper has said about awaiting the evidence and panel results, the Government of Canada has been pushing ahead with spending over $100 million to support what should be industry based research. This comes at a time of major cuts to science funding for climate change, marine contaminants and ELA.

In fact, documents show that the Government of Canada has been spending taxpayer’s money to support this project, going as far as to name the DFO’s work “the Northern Gateway Project”.

The BC Green Party and Andrew Weaver acknowledged that the BC Government had submitted a very thorough review of BC concerns to the NEB Joint Review Panel. “Today, we call on call on the BC Government to follow through on the concerns they raised in their JRP submission, “said Dr. Weaver. “In particular, we ask that Premier Christie Clark :

  1. Give an emphatic no to the Northern Gateway Project without ‘needless delay’.

  2. Given the evidence available today the BC Government should implement an immediate moratorium on heavy oil tankers in BC coastal waters.”

In the House of Commons, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has claimed that the federal government was waiting for the NEB panel’s advice. In fact, in answer to a question from Elizabeth May in June 6, 2013 Question Period, Stephen Harper said,

“… the project in question, of course, is subject to a joint review panel process. Obviously, we believe in the rule of law and in adjudicating these things based on scientific and policy concerns. The government will obviously withhold its decision on the matter until we see the results of the panel and its work.” (emphasis added.)

“It appears to be an inescapable conclusion that the prime minister has misled the House,” said Ms. May. “If the project were approved, the spending on better weather forecasting along tanker routes and a developed understanding of how dilbit behaves in case of an oil spill would be minimum steps. Nevertheless, the project is not approved and tens of millions of dollars are being spent as though the process was a mere formality on the way to getting the dilbit boarded on super tankers through some of the most hazardous waters on earth.”

Interim Green Party of BC leader Adam Olsen added, “British Columbians need to be very aware that the federal government is talking out of both sides of its mouth in claiming to be waiting for the results of the review. The BC government looked at the evidence and found Enbridge has not completed even rudimentary science to understand what dilbit does when it is spilled. It is shocking to find that Ottawa is using our tax dollars to help Enbridge win approval for a project most British Columbians oppose.”


  1. PDF of presentation.

  2. PDF of documents (onetwo and three)

Posted September 5, 2013 by allanbaker in Environment, Politics

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Regina fights to keep water public

Regina fights to keep water public

WaterThe latest fight against privatization of our vital municipal services is heating up in Regina, Saskatchewan. After more than 24,000 people signed a petition calling for a referendum on plans to privatize the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant, citizens of Regina will vote on September 25 on whether to keep the city’s wastewater system in public hands or to turn it over to private control in a 30-year public-private partnership (P3).

The campaign to say “Yes” to public water in the referendum is being led by Regina Water Watch (RWW), a coalition of concerned citizens dedicated to ensuring Regina’s water resources remain entirely in public hands. The Regina Chapter of the Council of Canadians has been an active member of RWW since it was founded, and Council of Canadians National Chairperson Maude Barlow will be speaking at a public forum in Regina on September 11.

Forcing municipalities across Canada to privatize their public services by making P3s a condition to receive federal funding is a key strategy of the Harper government. In late 2011, residents in Abbotsford, B.C. voted overwhelmingly to reject federal funding tied to the privatization of their municipal water system.

For more news and information on the campaign to keep Regina’s water public, visit:

This information originally posted by the Council of Canadians

Posted September 3, 2013 by allanbaker in Canadian society, Politics

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Labour Day

This is a post from Ted Schmidt:

Labour Day: the Search for the Lost Heart

September 1, 2013


Each year I walk in the Labour Day parade. The reason is simple. It protects me from amnesia. This annual pilgrimage from downtown Toronto to the Dufferin Gates is a gentle reminder of the Story which gives me meaning. It reminds me that I owe solidarity to workers struggling today for a decent life

This age old story reminds me that i am part of creation, that my labour is an essential part of building God’s reign. It reminds me  that the work I did and do,  that of teaching is holy work. It reminds me that much of labour today is exploited and devalued. It reminds me that labour unions which fought and are fighting still for worker dignity are in full retreat today and need our support. This past week I saw American workers at fast food outlets demanding a living wage. The Walmartization of workers occurs in the wealthiest country in the world which is also deemed “the most religious.” What kind of religion is this?

This is why i walk on Labour Day

I was invited awhile back to speak at city council about the need for a living wage not a minimum wage. Forces at City Hall were attempting to cut the wages of those largely female municipal cleaners from $19.00 an hour to $13,00.

“God love them, they’re nice people but they don’t deserve $19.00” said  councillor Doug Ford, he born with a silver spoon in his mouth

I was enraged at this lack of respect for these workers.

I was haunted by the women who preceded me, one Irish and one Jamaican who spoke so movingly about the pride they had in their work. They both said they could not survive on $13,00 an hour.

I came as an adult educator who has taught thousands of Catholic teachers about Social Ethics, the extraordinary teaching of the Roman Catholic Church as it relates to the Common Good of the broader community. This teaching began with Pope Leo Xlll in 1891 and is built on the inherent dignity of each human person. It broadly resembles the call to compassion and justice at the heart of all religions.

The right to unionize and collectively bargain was vigorously promoted by the Church and this created stable communities and secure families based on living wages. Sadly the last 30 years has seen the advent of  market fundamentalism, the neoliberal nightmare which has shredded organic communities and facilitated a race to the bottom.

The wonderful Toronto Labour Council mounted an effective challenge and the motion to cut was defeated. Decency, common sense and justice prevailed.

When Catholics moved out of the economic straightjacket of poverty in the post-war years, something was lost. The  rush to the suburb and the middle class life played havoc with our call to solidarity with the poor. We substituted charity for justice. We began to vote for parties which defended our economic interests. This embrace of “a life of pitiable comfort” of course was not unprecedented.

Philosophers  had warned us of the consequences.

Mang tzu (370-286 BCE), known to the West as Mencius, was  probably the greatest interpreter of Confucius. He reminded his countrymen and us that we must pity “the man who has lost his path and does not follow it and who has lost his heart and does not know how to recover it. …The principle of self-cultivation consists in nothing but trying to look for the lost heart.”

Jesus of course in his crucified cry for the kingdom reminded us  of “the Way” of “the heart”—radical solidarity with all of creation.

Organized religion, Catholicism included, seems to have lost “the Way” The real social justice tradition of the prophets has been muted. Bishops are decidedly absent from the front line struggles for justice today.

In March of 1965 on the historic march from Selma to Montgomery the great rabbi Abraham Heschel was seen walking arm in arm with Dr.King. He knew that this march was not simply a political occasion. It was a religious event.


Heschel shook the Jewish establishment’s ‘comfortable pew”. he challenged his co-religionists to “re-member”, to knit the body scarred by segregation, back together again. “For many of us,” he said,”  the march from Selma to  Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are  not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our  legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march  was worship. I felt my legs were praying.”

There will be no religious leaders  walking hand in hand with with unionists  in the Labour Day parade. That is the sad reality. Our religion is still searching for its lost heart.

For many of us, like Heschel, this is not merely a secular  parade and Labour Day is not simply a holiday. It is indeed a holy day. It is a sacred pilgrimage. Our goal is not a modern Canterbury but a simple act of solidarity with brothers and sisters, workers all, whose dignity is under attack.

It is always inspiring to see many Catholic educators flying the flag of solidarity this day. I am happy to join them.