What do you call an industry that is planning to cook the planet? An industry responsible for destroying land, polluting the air and water, and violating the rights of people around the world? An industry who’s business model means burning over three times the amount of carbon our planetary carbon budget can handle?
Today is Fossil Fools’ Day, a time to put the spotlight on the people and industry that put profits before people, and the planet. The divestment campaign is growing on university campuses around North America. This campaign questions why institutions that prepare the next generation for the future are putting their money into an industry that is destroying that future. Last week students on 15 campuses across Canada led actions to bring attention to this issue.
Withdrawing funding from the industry whose business plan is based on the destruction of our planet, and our children’s future, sounds like a good idea to me. To find out more, head over to GoFossilFree.ca if you’re Canadian, or to 350.org’s global endfossilfuelsubsidies.org. Divestment from South Africa resulted in the dismantling of apartheid, and divestment from fossil fuels can change the suicidal course we’re on. What an opportunity and a privilege those of us alive today have, to participate in changing the course of the earth’s history!
The times, they are a-changin’! Not only did President Obama speak clearly about the need to act on climate change in his State of the Union address earlier this week, yesterday on CBC Radio’s flagship supper-hour news show, As It Happens, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobsen was interviewed about Canada’s lack of action on climate change in light of President Obama’s commitment to action. Sadly, the same show also featured a conversation about an American scientist crying foul about the Canadian government’s attempt to muzzle him and his arctic research. the issue of government censorship is something that should concern all Canadians, not just climate activists; but let’s focus on the renewed energy on the part of the Obama administration to tackle the premier issue of our times (and yes, that pun was intended). This couldn’t have been predicted even during the election campaign, as there was a cone of silence over the whole issue of climate change. But all of us who want a stable climate, and clean air and water for our children and grandchildren, should be very vigilant – the dirty energy forces opposing the shift to clean renewable energy are powerful and will fight to the death to preserve their financial monopoly over energy production, no matter what the cost to humanity or the global ecosystem. Todd Smith’s new music video reminds us of this:
Casy answered him. “It’s ever’body,” he said. “Here’s me that used to give all my fight against the devil ’cause I figgered the devil was the enemy. But they’s somepin worse’n the devil got a hold a the country, an’ it ain’t gonna let go till it’s chopped loose. Ever see one a them Gila monsters take hold, mister? Grabs hold, an’ you chop him in two an’ his head hangs on. Chop him at the neck an’ his head hangs on. Got to take a screw-driver an’ pry his head apart to git him loose. An’ while he’s layin’ there, poison is drippin’ an’ drippin’ into the hole he’s made with his teeth.”
Yes, there is oil in the ground – we just can’t afford it. The folks over at the Post Carbon Institute have just put out this video on the propaganda Big Oil is busy spreading in response to the peak oil crisis:
In recent months we’ve seen a spate of articles, reports, and op-eds claiming that peak oil is a worry of the past thanks to so-called “new technologies” that can tap massive amounts of previously inaccessible stores of “unconventional” oil. “Don’t worry, drive on,” we’re told.
But as Post Carbon Institute Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg asks in this short video, what’s really new here? “What’s new is high oil prices and … the economy hates high oil prices.”
We can fall for the oil industry hype and keep ourselves chained to a resource that’s depleting and comes with ever increasing economic and environmental costs, or we can recognize that the days of cheap and abundant oil (not to mention coal and natural gas) are over.
Unfortunately, the mainstream media and politicians on both sides of the aisle are parroting the hype, claiming — in Obama’s case — that unconventional oil can play a key role in an “all of the above” energy strategy and — in Romney’s — that increased production of tight oil and tar sands can make North America energy independent by the end of his second term.
I’m back from a short canoe trip on a small lake just an hour’s drive from our house. The weather was warm & dry, the conversation lively, the food delicious (despite not catching any fish) and we only had to flee from the mosquitoes around dusk.
Here’s what’s coming across my desk as I catch up on the week’s climate change news:
Bill McKibbon published a hard-hitting article in Rolling Stone magazine this week, Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math: Three Simple Numbers That Add Up To Global Catastrophe – And Make it Clear Who The Real Enemy Is. Here’s an excerpt:
If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.
Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.
…To make a real difference – to keep us under a temperature increase of two degrees – you’d need to change carbon pricing in Washington, and then use that victory to leverage similar shifts around the world. At this point, what happens in the U.S. is most important for how it will influence China and India, where emissions are growing fastest. (In early June, researchers concluded that China has probably under-reported its emissions by up to 20 percent.) The three numbers I’ve described are daunting – they may define an essentially impossible future. But at least they provide intellectual clarity about the greatest challenge humans have ever faced. We know how much we can burn, and we know who’s planning to burn more. Climate change operates on a geological scale and time frame, but it’s not an impersonal force of nature; the more carefully you do the math, the more thoroughly you realize that this is, at bottom, a moral issue; we have met the enemy and they is Shell.
Meanwhile the tide of numbers continues. The week after the Rio conference limped to its conclusion, Arctic sea ice hit the lowest level ever recorded for that date. Last month, on a single weekend, Tropical Storm Debby dumped more than 20 inches of rain on Florida – the earliest the season’s fourth-named cyclone has ever arrived. At the same time, the largest fire in New Mexico history burned on, and the most destructive fire in Colorado’s annals claimed 346 homes in Colorado Springs – breaking a record set the week before in Fort Collins. This month, scientists issued a new study concluding that global warming has dramatically increased the likelihood of severe heat and drought – days after a heat wave across the Plains and Midwest broke records that had stood since the Dust Bowl, threatening this year’s harvest. You want a big number? In the course of this month, a quadrillion kernels of corn need to pollinate across the grain belt, something they can’t do if temperatures remain off the charts. Just like us, our crops are adapted to the Holocene, the 11,000-year period of climatic stability we’re now leaving… in the dust. Click here to read the full article.
Feel like jumping off a cliff after reading that? Here’s some links to great editorial cartoons, a little bit of humour to help you through the rest of your day:
And some good news for Canadians: the court challenge brought by the Council of Canadians with regard to seven ridings where the election results in the last federal election were close enough to have been affected by the robocalls made to NDP and Liberal voters has been given the green light to proceed, despite being opposed by the seven Conservative MPs who won those seats. Read the full story on CBC.ca If you want to learn more about election fraud and Canada, you can read an interesting article, Vote-moving Canadian Election Fraud, on Rabble.ca.
This week, Greenpeace and The Yes Men got some more fun out of their Arctic-Ready website, a parody of Shell that pokes (well-deserved) fun at their environmental record and their plans to drill in the pristine Arctic. The first stage of the campaign was launched several weeks ago when a video was released, purporting to be taken during a Shell Arctic launch gone wrong (see here). That was revealed as a spoof, but the activists weren’t done getting attention and mileage out of this action:
Not to be discouraged, Yes Labs released a fake press release from “Shell” threatening to take legal action against the campaign’s originator.
It was sent from the email address firstname.lastname@example.org, included a false quotes from a real company spokesperson and warned journalists against the “counterfeit website” at ArcticReady.com.
This was first posted on July 28, 2010. Unfortunately, it remains just as accurate a year later, despite the promise of the leaders at the 2009 Pittsburgh G8 to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. President Obama is expected to make a decision on whether or not a second Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil to refineries in Texas, can go ahead. People are gathering in Washington DC over the next few weeks to send Obama a clear message – President Obama, just say no to releasing the carbon bomb of the tar sands!
Is anybody else getting tired of being told that we have to continue on the destructive oil-dependent path we’re currently on? There seems to be a large and vocal part of the population that believes because this is way we’ve been doing things for the last 100 years or so, give or take a few decades, it is the only possible path to maintain our standard of living. The truth is, unless we take a sharp turn and start living and doing business sustainably, our standard of living is going to come crashing abruptly and painfully down. You just can’t live indefinitely like there are 5 more planets like earth, like we currently do in North America, when in fact there is only this one.
If you aren’t convinced that oil is a dirty fuel after the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, one that is getting filthier all the time due to our growing dependence on the Alberta tar sands, go to Wikipedia.org’s “list of oil spills” page. It is a reverse-chronological list of oil spills that are currently happening, and that have happened since the early 1900s. Hundreds of thousands of tons of oil have been spilled in 2010 already (remember we’re only halfway through the year) by seven spills around the globe.
Yet, it turns out, it didn’t have to be this way. Henry Ford’s Model T came right from the factory, in 1911, with flex-fuel capacity; it could run on alcohol and gas. And in the 1930s and 1940s, Henry Ford developed a car body that was made from hemp fiber that also ran on hemp biodiesel. According to the YouTube video clip that features it, the resulting material was “lighter than steel, but could withstand ten times the impact without denting”. It seems clear that Henry Ford did encourage hemp cultivation to use as a fuel and as a manufacturing material. This was before hemp growing was banned in the U.S. in a strange twist in their war on drugs (hemp has no hallucinogenic properties although it is related to the marijuana plant).
Here are some videos that demonstrate how we could have gone down a different path to fueling and making our vehicles, and how, if we act quickly enough, we might still be able to change direction:
Take Action and become a fossil fuel abolitionist:
Participate or organize a “Moving Planet” event on Sept. 24th. Initiated by 350.org, people all around the world will be rallying to demand solutions to the climate crisis, and a move beyond fossil fuels.
Join or start a Citizens Climate Lobby group in your community. CCL is focused on creating the political will for a stable climate, and empowering individuals to have breakthroughs in exercising their personal and political power.
Every year, $1.4 Billion of Canadian tax payer’s money goes to line the pockets of the richest companies in the world. That is $1.4 billion a year that is not going towards creating good, green jobs. It is more dollars taken out of public services like health care and education, and more dollars that aren’t going into making post-secondary education affordable. In fact, $1.4 billion could pay off two-thirds of all students loans taken out last year.
In 2009, while attending the G8 conference, Stephen Harper pledged to end these oil subsidies. Unfortunately, he seems to have forgotten that promise. Let’s remind him of it on May 2nd.
Cameron Fenton from the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition developed this helpful diagram to illustrate the dramatic way the Harper government is shifting taxpayer’s money. In the upside-down world of our current federal government, funding is slashed to programs that benefit all Canadians, like environmental monitoring. Instead, this government prefers to keep padding the pockets of their corporate pals, and to carry on a concerted campaign to turn Canada’s criminal justice system into a clone of the dysfunctional America one by increasing spending on jails by over $500 million. This, at a time when statistics show the Canadian crime rate is dropping, and after this government cut funding to rehabilitative programs like prison farms.
Here’s Cameron’s diagram, reposted with permission. Take a good look at it, fellow Canadians. This is our future if we continue to have Harper as our Prime Minister:
In early March 2011, the federal government of Canada announced that it would be cutting over $10 billion dollars in spending in the upcoming 2011 annual budget. This includes massive cuts to environmental monitoring bodies like Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada. Also included in these cuts is a $2.6 billion cut to employment insurance recipients.
At the same time, spending for the national security apparatus is ballooning, with the military expenditures projected to cross the $20 billion mark this year. The March announcement also included a 10% increase in spending across the board for public safety departments and national security agencies, building on the $7.9 billion forecast to be spent last year. This includes a 21%, or $521.6, million increase in spending on prisons and a 14%, or $227 million, increase in spending at Canadian Border Services.
All the while, the government is also giving away $1.4 billion each year to oil and gas companies, the majority of which goes directly into the Alberta tar sands.
Check out this new video from Citizens Climate Lobby (Toronto) on the same topic:
“I understand that prison is a very horrible place, but I have been scared for my future for a long time and I think the scariest thing that I see is staying on the path that we are on now. Obedience, to me, is far scarier then going to prison.”
Yesterday in Salt Lake City, Utah, environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was found guilty for taking a stand and blocking a bogus auction of oil leases in that state during the waning days of the Bush administration. Here are his words, and the video of his speech after the verdict. Watch it now, and whenever you are feeling in need of inspiration. DeChristopher is a moving speaker whose words come from his heart. From 350.org:
What the world wanted to see was how you would react. And you have reacted with joy and resolve. You’ve shown that your power will not be intimidated by any power that they have, and that’s the most important thing that’s happened here this week.
Because everything that happened inside that building tried to convince me that I was alone and that I was weak. They tried to convince me that I was like a little finger out there on my own that could easily be broken. And all of you out here were the reminder for all of us that I wasn’t just a finger all alone in there, but that I was connected to hand with many fingers that could be united together as one fist, and that fist could not be broken by the power that they have in there.
That fist is not a symbol of violence. That fist is a symbol that we will not be mislead into thinking that we are alone. We will not be lied to and told that we are weak. We will not be divided and we will not back down. That fist is a symbol that we are connected and that we are powerful. It’s a symbol that we hold true to our vision of a healthy and just world and that we are building the self empowering movement to make it happen. All those authorities in there wanted me to think like a finger but our children are calling to us to think like a fist.
And we know that now I’ll have to go prison, we know that now that is the reality. But that’s just the job that I have to do. That’s the role that I face. Many before me have gone to jail for justice and if we are going to achieve our vision many after me will have to join me as well.
No one ever told us that this battle would be easy. No one ever told us that we wouldn’t have to make sacrifices. We knew that when we started this fight.
Every wave on the ocean that has ever risen up and refused to lay back down has been dashed on the shore, but it is the very purpose of a wave to rise up, because once it rises up above the horizon it finally has the perspective to see that it’s not just a wave, that it’s a part of a mighty ocean. And the sharpest rock on the wildest shore can never break that ocean apart, they can never wear that ocean down, because it’s the ocean that shapes the shore.
That’s what we’re starting to do here today. That’s what we’re starting to do here this week. With wave after wave after wave crashing against that shore, we shape it to our vision. Thank you all for being a part of that.