#Fearless Summer: Healing Journey In The Heart Of Darkness

I’m leaving for northern Alberta early Wednesday morning, to make the 24-hour drive to Fort McMurray, the heart of tar sands country. Mordor. The 4th Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk, organized by Keepers Of the Athabasca, is happening on Saturday and I’m lucky enough to have the time, resources, and a traveling companion, to make this trip. I can’t think of any place on earth more in need of healing than this place.

The Keepers Of The Athabasca describe the event this way:

The tar sands are growing out of control, destroying the climate for all Canadians and poisoning the water of everyone living downstream.

On July 5th and 6th, people will come together from coast to coast to join First Nations and Metis in the Healing Walk, a gathering focused on healing the environment and the people who are suffering from tar sands expansion.

Let’s call on the Alberta and Canadian governments to stop the reckless mismanagement of these resources. We need our governments to work with First Nations and bring people together to make wise choices about stewarding the land in ways that are sustainable and fair.



Can’t go? Click here for some ideas for what you can do from home, including inviting Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, and Alberta Premier Alison Redford, to the walk.

Healing Walk 2013

Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein To Join Tar Sands Healing Walk

Fearless Summer Movement Launches Months of Intense Climate Protest

Mother Nature, Pumped Up By Warmer Atmosphere, Swamps Alberta

graphic: 350.org
photo: 350.org


“If you think mitigated climate change is expensive, try unmitigated climate change.” Dr Richard Gammon


The City of Calgary, home riding of Canada’s climate-change-denying, scientist-muzzling Prime Minister, ordered the evacuation of the entire downtown earlier today because of catastrophic flooding from the Bow and Elbow Rivers. Approximately 75,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Calgary as water levels rose sharply after torrential rainfalls related to an “upside-down” jet stream. The Weather Network put it this way:

An upside-down weather pattern took shape across western North America earlier in the week. By ‘upside-down’ we’re referring to a jet stream pattern that causes warmer temperatures to the north than the south. Dramatically, this was exemplified on Thursday (when the flooding began) with Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories being the hottest place in all of Canada at 31 C. Meanwhile, Calgary only reached 17°C. Click here to read full article.

Hmmm – a broken jet stream, a melting Arctic, a modern-day “Mordor” in the tar sands, a planet full of politicians reluctant to act decisively on climate change, and increasingly frequent extreme weather events. Any connection, ya think?

Calgary’s mayor is warning that the worst flooding is yet to come.



My sympathies are with the unfortunate people in Calgary and surrounding areas who are feeling the devastation of this flash flooding. This shouldn’t happen to anybody, any time.  As a climate activist, I hope that Canadians see this – finally – as a wake up call. There are millions of people around the world –  in Bangladesh, in the Philippines,  in Africa, and in South America – who have been feeling the devastating effects of climate change for years. The global poor have already been impacted by climate change, often losing their homes, their source of food and even their lives because of unstable weather events related to climate change, caused by carbon dioxide emissions to which they have contributed almost nothing.

“Unmuzzled” climate scientist Paul Beckwith from the University of Ottawa has this to say about the connection between extreme weather events and climate change:

Torrential rains in some regions are causing massive floods while in other locales record droughts are occurring with higher frequency and severity and areal extent around the globe. Global food production is being hit hard, leading to large price increases and political instability. Areas under drought are experiencing numerous massive forest fires of incredible ferocity. The statistics of extreme weather events has changed for the worst due to changes in the location, speed, and waviness of the jet streams which guide weather patterns and separate cold and dry northern air from warm and moist southern air. The jet streams have changed since the equator to north-pole temperature difference has decreased due to the huge temperature rise in the Arctic. The huge temperature rise in the Arctic is due to a collapse in the area of highly reflective snow and ice, which is caused by melting. The melting is from warming from the increase of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel burning. The Arctic sea ice and spring snow cover will vanish within a few years and the weather extremes will increase at least 10x.

Beckwith goes on to give this advice:

What can you do? Go talk to your politicians and friends about climate change and the need to slash fossil fuel emissions. Immediately. Cut and paste my comments above and post them on facebook, send them to newspapers, and educate yourself on the science behind all the above linkages. Leave my name on or take it off and plagiarise all you want, just get this knowledge out there…

Folks, unless we act together and demand better from our elected representatives, the worst is yet to come.


source: I Heart Climate Scientists
source: I Heart Climate Scientists


More links:

10 Signs Global Warming is Happening Now

Alberta Floods: Why is there so much rain?

Climate catastrophes Like Alberta Floods Have The Potential To Shatter Political Careers

Photogallery: Calgary Streets Before And After The Floods

Internalizing the Externalities of Fossil Fuels

It’s time to internalize the externalities of the fossil fuel industry. For far too long, the extremely high price we all pay in the pollution of our “commons” – air, water, and climate, which also affects the health of far too many of us, has been ignored by governments and the fossil fuel industry. Putting a steadily increasing price on carbon would be an excellent place to start to change this, as well as ending the taxpayer subsidies to dirty energy. Imagine your first carbon-dividend cheque; citizens benefiting from addressing climate change, while the polluter pays.

graphic: Citizens Climate Lobby Canada
graphic: Citizens Climate Lobby Canada


The question isn’t if, but when, Canada puts a price on carbon. That we are getting close is clear by this news article in the Globe & Mail yesterday, about the Alberta government considering a significant carbon levy (it currently has a negligible $15 per tonne on industry carbon that exceeds certain levels). From an article in yesterday’s Globe & Mail, Alberta’s Bold Plan to Cut Emissions Stuns Ottawa and the Oil Industry:

The Alberta government has quietly presented a proposal to sharply increase levies on carbon production and force large oil-industry producers to slash greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 40 per cent on each barrel of production, a long-term plan that has surprised Ottawa and industry executives with its ambition.

It may not be time to get out the dance shoes yet, as Alberta’s Minister of the Environment, Diana McQueen, responded to the G & M article by saying Alberta is a “long way” from imposing higher carbon levies on the oil industry:

We are currently in the early stages of exploring a variety of options through a collaborative process with industry, the federal government and our department experts,” she said in a statement.

“These discussions are ongoing and revised targets have not yet been finalized.” (via Huff Post).

If you live in Alberta, please call or write Ms. McQueen or Premier Redford to show your support for pricing carbon (contact info listed below).

In the meantime, while I was typing this, a movement in our front yard caught my eye, and it turned out to be a beautiful red fox visiting. Before she disappeared into the bush, I snapped the picture below. I’m going to take it as a message to get off my computer and out into this beautiful sunny northern Ontario morning. Hope all of you  have a wonderful weekend, full of sunshine and connections with people and activities you love.

My Friday visitor
My Friday visitor


More links/info:

Premier Alison Redford’s contact info: 780-427-2251, Alberta Minister of the Environment Diana McQueen: 780-427-2391. Or click on this link to send your Alberta MLA an email.

IMF, Citing $1.9 Trillion in Government Subsidies, Calls For End To Energy “Mispricing”

The Wall Street Journal: Climate Change Is The Risk that Intensifies All Others

Need more inspiration to take action? Remember the Exxon-Mobil pipeline rupture in Mayflower, Arkansas this week, and the shocking scenes of Alberta bitumen flooding residential neighbourhoods:


dont worry arkansas
Graphic: Mike Rilestone

Oil & Gas Consultant: “No Healthy Community On the Planet Would Allow Hydraulic Fracking”

“No healthy community on this planet would allow hydraulic fracturing.” – Jessica Ernst

Jessica Ernst is a scientist who has worked in the oil and gas industry. She discovered first hand the consequences of hydraulic fracturing in her town of Rosebud, Alberta, Canada. 

This interview was conducted while Ms. Ernst was visiting Michigan to warn communities of the dangers of fracking.



For more information visit: http://banmichiganfracking.org/

Fun at Calgary’s Oil and Bank Towers

I am away from my computer for two weeks, as my husband and I explore more of one of our favourite places in Canada, Newfoundland (AKA “The Rock”). While I’m away 350orbust will be featuring guest writers and some of my favourite columns revisited, as well as some random stuff that  I think is important or makes me happy and I want to share.

source: Wikimedia Commons

Today’s guest blogger is Sharon Howarth. Sharon is the mother of two daughters in their mid-twenties who lives in  Toronto, Canada. She, like me, is a volunteer with Citizens Climate Lobby Canada. I invited Sharon to write about her recent trip west, after hearing via the CCL grapevine that she had done the entire trip by bus, and had adventures on the way, as only a climate activist on a mission in oil country can!

At the beginning of August this year, I was on my way home from B.C.  The trip was a combination of  visiting my daughter and working on my issue,  which is the solution to Climate Change.  Hearings on the Northern Gateway Pipeline took place in Prince George on July 9th and 10th which I attended and will write on that a little later.

I traveled by bus from Toronto, which took 3 full days, as I could not in good conscience take an airplane with the huge individual carbon footprint.  On my return journey, the bus made a  4 hour stop in Calgary.    Being in ‘oil town’ was  an opportunity I could not allow to slip through my fingers.

A security guard pointed me in the direction of the city centre.  I was told about and found the very busy pedestrian street which held the ‘Home Oil’ tower on one side of the street and the ‘Bank Hall’ tower  on the  other.   Needless to say, the suits were crossing from one tower to the next and I was in the mood for sharing important information and having fun.

I stood in the middle of this suit traffic and, as someone was coming towards me,  I looked at them and said, “Stop Climate Change with Carbon Fee and Dividend”.   I then pulled out the flyer, which I was holding at my side,  and handed  it in their direction.

People are so, well, good.    I’m sure most  were thinking, “This poor woman needs directions”, God bless them.  Although a large  number did not accept the handout, they all heard what I had to say, and that has tremendous value.    And  yet,  ALL the 120 handouts I had were taken and in very short order.  I found I could have used a whole  lot more but, unfortunately, I did not have the memory stick with me which held the template of the flyer.   Still, what a hoot.

And some say that people are not concerned about climate change  !!

With Love and LOTS  of Hope,


If you want to get inspired to take action to work for action on climate change, visit the Citizens Climate Lobby website or email  350orbust@gmail.com.


Dear Mr. Harper

Canada’s Prime Minister Harper has been receiving messages about halting the expansion of the Alberta tar sands from far and wide this week.  First, it was the 400 Canadians who gathered on Parliament Hill this past Monday, 200 of whom put themselves on the line to get arrested, speaking out loudly and clearly for our children and grandchildren’s future.

On Thursday, Archbishop Desmond Tutu along with seven other Nobel Peace Laureates, wrote a letter to Harper calling on him to stop the tar sands expansion. On the same day, the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy, an arm’s-length government agency with nary a climate scientist among them, warned that Canadians face a high economic cost from the impact of a warming global climate, and the country should act quickly to reduce the financial price by investing in adaptation measures.

Also on Thursday, a group of Canadian researchers released a report which outlined a huge loss of ice in the Canadian Arctic this summer.

Two ice shelves that existed before Canada was settled by Europeans diminished significantly this summer, one nearly disappearing altogether, Canadian scientists say in newly published research.

The loss is important as a marker of global warming, returning the Canadian Arctic to conditions that date back thousands of years, scientists say. 

Individually, these messages are loud and clear.  Together, they are impossible to ignore. The question remains: is Stephen Harper listening?

More links:

Media Release: Nobel Peace Laureates Call on Harper to Stop Tar Sands Expansion

Canadian Ice Shelves Breaking Up At Record Speed: Region lost almost half its ice shelves in last six years

Economic Cost of Climate Change Will Be High

NRTEE’s Report: Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change For Canada

Hundreds Gather on Parliament Hill to Say “No” To Tar Sands

First Nations Women Arrested For Protesting Hydraulic Fracking On Their Land, Charged with “Intimidation”

lle-Máijá Apiniskim Tailfeathers, one of the women arrested this weekend for peacefully protesting the plan to “frack” on Blood Reserve land, released this statement yesterday:

On September 9, 2011, we gathered peacefully on the road leading to a newly built Murphy Oil well on the Blood Reserve.  After nearly a year of doing everything in our power to stop hydraulic fracturing from occurring on our land, we felt that time was no longer on our side.  With the imminent threat of hydraulic fracturing about to begin on Blood Tribe land, we decided that we had to act immediately. Over the last year, we have written letters and created petitions, we have tried to raise awareness both within our community and beyond including founding Kainai Earth Watch and the Protect Blood Land website, we have repeatedly contacted the Blood Tribe Chief and Council, Kainai Resources Incorporated, the gas and oil companies, the media, the Energy Resources Conservation Board, and various levels of government including Indian and Northern Affairs Canada but still our rights were violated. Countless times, we were told that this was a matter between members of the Blood Tribe and the Blood Tribe Chief and Council. But as members of the Blood Tribe, we were never asked whether or not we wanted these wells built in the first place.

…I do not feel as though what we did was heroic.  We were a handful of people, including a couple of children, who gathered for a common purpose; to prevent any further desecration of the land.  For us, this place is more than just land; it is the place that has given life to our people since time immemorial. Our culture, our language, our identity comes from the land and it is to the land that we owe our very existence…How can we look our children and grandchildren in the eye and say that we have let such a thing happen? We are nothing without this place

…I want to believe, more than anything, that those behind our arrest knew in their hearts that treating the earth this way is wrong.  And I want to believe, more than anything, that their actions were motivated by fear; which may explain our criminal charges of “intimidation”.  I look back on the last year and am still in disbelief that it came to this point.  From the actual signing of the gas and oil agreement on the Blood Reserve to the arrest and imprisonment of three unarmed Blood Tribe women.  It feels much like a bad dream but somehow this is our current reality.


To read the full press release, click here.

Their court date has been set for September 19, 2011 at 10 am at the Provincial Court Building in Cardston, Alberta.

For donations, please contact:

Ingrid Hess, Barrister
More links:

The Radicals Are The People Who Are Fundamentally Altering The Composition Of The Atmosphere

From Tar Sands Action, an update on Day 4 of the two-week action in Washington DC against the Keystone XL pipeline project:

Montana residents and Hollywood stars will be featured at Day 4 of the Tar Sands Action at the White House. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which 162 Americans have been arrested protesting this week, would run through Montana and six other states.

Among those planning on being arrested today are film-star Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in four Superman movies, and actress Tantoo Cardinal, an iconic Cree actress who appeared in Dances with Wolves, Legends of the Fall, Smoke Signals and more. Cardinal, who was born in Ft. McMurray, Alberta, the capitol of the tar sands, was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2009.

Cardinal will risk arrest to stop the destruction of her homeland and push President Obama to help shut down the tar sands by denying a permit for the Keystone XL.

Everyone who has participated in the Tar Sands Action thus far is out of police custody.

Here’s a video from Josh Fox, Academy Award-nominated director of Gasland, about the tar sands action:


More links:

Tar Sands Action

Climate Mama: Kids In Tow, Tar Sands Pipeline Protest Here We Come

Dozens Arrested Outside White House During Oil Sands Protest

Big Oil Bankrolls Meeting on Canada’s Energy Future

At least it’s clear who’s setting the agenda at this weekend’s meeting of Provincial and Federal Ministers of Energy and Mines. It turns out the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Oil Sands Developers Group are the major sponsors of the annual meeting of energy and mines ministers in Kananaskis, Alberta. On the agenda is  Canada’s energy future and the path towards a national energy strategy.

It is unusual to allow any corporate sponsorship of these meetings, never mind to the tune of nearly $200,000. The last energy ministers meeting held in Western Canada in 2008 received a total of $3000 from one corporate sponsor, and when the ministers met last year in Montreal the organizers chose not to accept any funding from the private sector. In contrast, oil companies are bankrolling this weekend’s meeting to the tune of $180,000, roughly 1/3 of the entire conference costs.

In the second decade of the 21st century, Canadians are facing a choice between an energy future built around a rapid expansion of the Alberta tar sands and an alternative vision that would serve all Canadians (not just those with investments in the tar sands), one that would make Canada a leader in clean energy and ensure that Canada does its fair share to reduce global warming pollution.  What are the chances that a clean, renewable future will be chosen when this meeting is paid for by Big Oil?

Take action – David Suzuki Foundation: Tell your energy minister to stand up for a clean energy future. Better yet, after you’ve sent an email, pick up the phone and call your energy minister and tell him you’re not happy that Big Oil is setting the agenda for Canada’s energy future.

More links:

Energy Ministers Must Prove They Are Not Captives Of Their Oil Industry Sponsors

Corporate Sponsorship For Energy Meeting Slammed

Big Oil Sponsors Energy Meeting

Sponsorship page for 2011 Energy and Mines Ministers Conference

From boreal forest to tar sands wasteland, brought to you by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

Alberta Tar Sands Destruction: Haven’t We Killed Enough Indigenous People On This Continent?

With everything in my heart I said I don’t want the death of the Lubicon and Chippewayan Cree on my hands. Haven’t we killed enough people on this continent already?”

This was the question posed to a Republican Congress Person during a meeting in Washington, D.C. this week during the 2nd annual Citizens Climate Lobby meeting. Cathy Orlando, who asked it, is the leader of the Sudbury Citizens Climate Lobby Group and a Climate Project Presenter. Cathy’s day job is the Science Outreach Coordinator at Laurentian University.

Al Jazeera featured a story yesterday by filmmaker Tom Radford on Fort Chipewyan, one of the First Nations communities most severely affected by the tar sands:

I shot my first film, Death of a Delta, in Fort Chipewyan in 1972…Death of a Delta documented the fight of Fort Chipewyan to have a voice in the construction of a massive hydroelectric project on the Peace River, the W.A.C. Bennett Dam. At stake was not only the survival of the oldest community in Alberta, but the protection of a World Heritage site, the Peace Athabasca Delta, a convergence of migratory flyways and the greatest concentration of waterfowl on the continent.

In the David and Goliath struggle that ensued, David won. Water was released from the dam and water levels in the Delta returned to normal. The unique ecology of the region was saved. The town survived.

Today, that same David, the collective will of the thousand residents of Fort Chipewyan, is fighting an even more imposing Goliath. The Alberta oil sands is arguably now the world’s largest construction project. Its expansion will have an estimated $1.7 trillion impact on the Canadian economy over the coming decades. An area of boreal forest the size of Greece will be affected by industrial activity.

Once again the issue is water, but this time it is not just the flow of the river, but the chemicals the current may be carrying downstream from the strip mines and bitumen upgraders. In recent years, according to the Alberta Cancer Board, Fort Chipewyan has experienced an unusually high rate of cancer. Local fishermen are finding growing numbers of deformed fish in their nets. Residents and John O’Connor, the community doctor, worry there could be a connection to the oil sands.

Here is Radford’s documentary on the David and Goliath struggle Fort Chipewyan is in the middle of, To The Last Drop:


More links:

Citizens Climate Lobby Canada

To The Last Drop

Indigenous Environment Network