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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Harper’

bear

Since Europeans first arrived in North America, the history of Canada has been one of exploitation and greed. Beavers were among the first victims of a ruthless no-holds-barred attack on the natural world. Beavers were hunted to the edge of extinction, with beavers completely extirpated from many regions. Fortunately for beavers, the craze for felted beaver-pelt hats fell out of fashion in Europe just in time to save them. Beavers have been able to stage a comeback. Fortunately for us, too, as beavers are a keystone species whose constructions are essential to providing vital habitat for many other species.

Beavers build wetlands. We, on the other hand, recklessly destroy them. In Ontario, over 70 per cent of southern Ontario’s large inland wetlands (over 90% in some regions) have been lost, drained or converted to other land uses, and this loss continues at an alarming rate.

Nothing much has changed in Canada since the early days of European colonization. Canadians don’t respect their land. Canada has one of the worst environmental records in the developed world. Consider this passage from Dr. David R. Boyd:

That Canada has become an international laggard in environmental policy and practice is now an incontrovertible fact. In 2009, the Conference Board of Canada ranked Canada 15th out of 17 wealthy industrialized nations on environmental performance. In 2010, researchers at Simon Fraser University ranked Canada 24th out of 25 OECD nations on environmental performance.

Yale and Columbia ranked Canada 37th in their 2012 Environmental Performance Index, far behind green leaders such as Sweden, Norway, and Costa Rica, and trailing major industrial economies including Germany, France, Japan, and Brazil. Worse yet, our performance is deteriorating, as we rank 52nd in terms of progress over the 2000-2010 period. Even Prime Minister Harper has candidly admitted, “Canada’s environmental performance is, by most measures, the worst in the developed world. We’ve got big problems.”

You can read the full account linked here: Little Green Lies: Prime Minister Harper and Canada’s Environment.

Things have only gotten worse since the Harper Conservatives came to power. Through a series of omnibus bills (C-38, C-45) the Conservatives have removed what little protection once existed. The goal is to allow industry, especially Big Oil, full and unencumbered access to all and any resources they fancy. Canada has effectively become a subsidiary of TransCanada and Embridge and the oil companies they serve as cronyism and monopoly capitalism are given free rein.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, we now have the Ontario Liberals following the Conservative lead. Ontario’s Endangered Species Act is being rewritten and you can bet that what the government euphemistically terms ‘streamlining’ isn’t being done for the benefit of any species but humans. You can read more at the Sierra Club Canada website, linked here.

When land isn’t protected, when vital habitat is destroyed, endangered species have nowhere to go. Extinction is forever.

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350-chart_0

Scientists say that 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity. We're at 387.

As the UN Climate Summit to take place in Copenhagen grows nearer, people around the world are uniting to show political leaders the we’re ready and able to deal with climate change. Saturday, October 24th is International Day of Climate Action. At 350.org, you can find the location of an event near you. If you find yourself near Ottawa, Ontario, you can join the Fill the Hill event.

Canada’s political leaders made it clear that they need to hear from Canadians who care about the future of the planet, as the Liberals joined forces with the Conservatives to vote down the Hyer Bill, Bill C-311. The bill would have allowed Canadians to go to Copenhagen with some semblance of integrity intact. Here is a news report about the lack of progress on Canada’s Climate Change Accountability Act. The news report is reproduced in part below:

OTTAWA – Liberal and Conservative MPs today joined forces to stall the only legislation addressing climate change before the House of Commons. Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act, is MP Bruce Hyer’s private member’s bill that commits Canada to firm science-based greenhouse gas pollution targets. More than 40 Canadian conservation & environmental organizations including Nature Canada, the Jane Goodall Institute, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Council of Canadians sent an open letter yesterday to all MPs urging against delay.

It is feared that without passage of C-311 before the Copenhagen global climate treaty negotiations this December, the Conservative government would be free to arrive on the world stage without a plan, and hold back a climate agreement from being reached. “Adopting this bill will not only reflect the sentiments of the majority of Canadians who are deeply concerned about climate change, it would also signal the commitment of Canada to do its part,” said Bruce Hyer, the New Democrat Deputy Environment Critic. “Today’s vote was a chance for Liberals to join the rest of the opposition to direct the government on Canada’s stance for Copenhagen. Instead, they have chosen to side with Conservatives and delay action.”

The vote comes on the heels of testimony by leading climate scientists at the Environment Committee, who voiced strong support for the Bill’s science-based greenhouse gas pollution targets and urged the passage of the Bill in advance of Copenhagen.

Canada’s “leaders” seem determined to reduce Canada to third-world status. I can understand that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is obsessed with winning the next election, no matter the cost. What I can never understand is why he doesn’t care about the world his own children will inherit.

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stupidtothelast

Stupid to the Last Drop by William Marsden. Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2007.

I assume that when author William Marsden came up with the title for his book, he thought that “Greedy, Self-interested, Irresponsible, Exploitive, Suicidal, Environmentally-devastating and Just Plain Crazy to the Last Drop” would be a bit too long, although all those adjectives could surely be applied to Tar Sands projects. On the other hand, his subtitle of How Alberta is bringing Environmental Armageddon to Canada (and Doesn’t Seem to Care) does run on impressively. It’s hard to argue with him.

It’s impossible to hear anything about global warming, environmental disasters or the end of cheap oil without also hearing about Alberta’s tar sands. I decided it was time I learned a bit more about the topic, and Marsden’s book offers a good, readable introduction. He looks at some of the history to the development, how oil is extracted, and provides some of the relevant facts and figures. His first-person interviews of people impacted by the tar sands in various ways, from employees and managers out at Fort McMurray to First Nations residents in Fort Chipewyan, lends the book a human face.

The strangest thing about the tar sands is the way in which the people of Alberta have been complicit in their own sell-out. If you have a supply of a product that everyone in the world wants, it pretty much follows that you can name your price. And when extracting that product is going to devastate the very land you live in, pretty much forever and ever, you better be building up one hell of a reserve for the future. Instead of that, Albertans have sat by while their government sold off their one-time resource to the lowest bidder.

Compare Alberta’s situation to that of Norway. Alberta’s Heritage Fund, begun in 1976, contained only $15.4 billion 30 years later in 2006. Norway didn’t begin receiving oil revenue until 1996, and just ten years later Norway’s fund contained nearly $306 billion. In addition to charging much higher royalties than Alberta does, Norway ensures that a state-owned company controls more than 50 percent of North Sea oil production. And that doesn’t even address the government subsidies and tax breaks Albertans happily dish out to oil companies. For this boondoggle, Albertans rewarded the Ralph Klein government by re-electing them several times. Incredible!

Consider the spectacle of citizens of this oil-rich province having to stage demonstrations just to get adequate health care. Last weekend, the Globe and Mail reported that hundreds of Albertans held just such a demonstration in front of Premier Ed Stelmach’s riding office in Fort Saskatchewan to protest the shortfalls and poor management of Alberta’s health-care system.

The aspect of the tar sands projects that I found most disturbing relates to the devastation of the watershed. The prairies are naturally dry. Alberta’s rivers are fed by a network of streams that have their source in the snowpacks and glaciers of the Rocky Mountains. With climate change, glaciers are receding and there is evidence that suggests precipitation will decline in the future. Somehow, Albertans have been convinced that oil is the most valuable of liquids. Of course, that’s silly. Water is the most valuable of liquids, regardless of how many dollars a barrel of oil may fetch. You can live without oil. You can’t live without water. Alberta has about 70% of the irrigated farmland in Canada. Yet the province has failed to protect wetlands and water supplies. The flow of the South Saskatchewan River has been reduced by 84% since the early 1900s.

The extraction of oil from the Tar Sands requires huge amounts of water, from 2 to 6 barrels for every barrel of oil produced. The water is mostly drawn from the Athabaska River. The water cannot be returned to the river, however, because the mining process poisons the water. Instead, huge tailing lakes of contaminated waste water are held behind one of the worlds’ largest dam systems, second only to China’s Three Gorges project. The effects of the resulting contamination, as water leaks into the Athabaska watershed, isn’t well understood because the government deals with problems in a “shoot-the-messenger” way, with severe cut-backs to the Environmental department, thus limiting investigation of problems. And that doesn’t even get into the problem of private wells poisoned by coal bed methane (CBM) drilling.

The prevailing Albertan view has reached other Canadians in the form of an Imperial Oil exectuive’s son and climate-change denier, Stephen Harper. I can’t stand the Conservative Party’s attack ad campaign and enjoyed this parody, produced by Environmental Defense. Watch it here.

stephen

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