What The Hell Are We Thinking?

This articulate teenager, presenting recently at the hearings of the Northern Gateway Review Panel, asks all of us a question we need to ponder in our hearts:

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/58767940]


What will we answer, when our children and grandchildren ask us this question?



Looking for a way to answer this question?  Go to citizensclimatelobby.org – a grassroots group organized around creating the political will for a sustainable climate.

The Denial Tango: As The Waters Rise Around Me, I’ll Just Hold My Breath And Say It Isn’t So

I’m on vacation this week on the beautiful West Coast. On Saturday I attended TEDx Victoria, which had a line-up of interesting and thought-provoking speakers who spoke for 10 minutes about their special area of interest. Raffi Cavoukian inspired the crowd with his discussion of childhonouring: “being earth-friendly is the same thing as being child-friendly.” The last speaker, however, moved the crowd to tears with his stunning and disturbing pictures of the boreal forest and the destruction of the tar sands. Professional photographer Garth Lenz, whose Tar Nation exhibit is currently on display in Los Angeles, spoke passionately about the land and the people that the tar sands are destroying, and reminded us that we are all downstream, in this age of global climate change. He closed with the statement “there is nothing ethical about this”, and a call to action for everyone seated in that auditorium.

But more on the conference later. For today, as the Durban Conference on Climate Change approaches and there’s news that “Lord” Monckton and his traveling circus of oil-industry funded deniers are planning to attend, here’s a little ditty by an Australian group, Men With Day Jobs, The Denial Tango:



More links:

Tar Nation: Garth Lenz’s Photographic Exhibit

Centre For Child Honouring: Respecting Earth And Child

TEDx Victoria

BackPocketRecords.com: Men With Day Jobs

Take Time To Renew Your Spirit

“Action is the antidote for despair.”

~ Joan Baez


Monday, September 26, 2001: Ottawa Tar Sands Action

There comes a time when you need to take a stand. When sending letters and signing petitions isn’t enough. When together we must say, “enough is enough — not on our watch”.

That time is now. We must act together for the health of our planet, our air, our water, our climate, and our children.

Click here for more info

Canada, A PetroState? The Face Of Climate Corruption in Canada

From The Mark News:

Energy ministers from across Canada have just returned from an all-expenses-paid tour of the tar sands, given to them by the oil companies themselves. Now, they are sitting down to debate the future of energy policy in Canada at a meeting in Kananaskis, Alberta. This is the face of climate corruption in Canada.

Canada is at a crossroads, and it appears that our leadership has been seriously compromised. While much of the world is investing heavily in the clean, safe, and reliable energy of our future, the Canadian government, along with some provincial support, is insisting that Canada watch from the sidelines while we cling desperately to a resource that is responsible for creating the greatest challenge of our time. I am, of course, talking about fossil fuels and global climate change. Read the full article here.

Meanwhile, if we required more evidence of complicity and collusion between our representatives and Big Oil, it turns out that unelected Senator Pamela Wallin is a director of Oil Sands Quest, a tar sands exploration company. Ms. Wallin helped kill Bill C311, The Climate Accountability Act, which had been passed by the elected House of Commons. Ms. Wallin referred to Bill C311 as a “nuisance” bill that would “destroy Canada’s economy”. Oil Sands Quest, which Senator Wallin dismissed as “conducting small operations with small footprints” according to it’s website, is not so insignificant:

With over 800,000 acres of land —
Oilsands Quest Inc. is exploring and developing oil sands permits and licences, located in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and developing Saskatchewan’s first global-scale oil sands discovery. It is leading the establishment of the province of Saskatchewan’s emerging oil sands industry.

Whose economy is Ms. Wallin concerned about – Canada’s, or her own?  It turns out Ms. Wallin’s total compensation from Oil Sands Quest has ranged from $136, 885 last year to $442,083.00 in 2009.  It’s time Canadians say enough is enough – we want our politicans out of bed with the fossil fuel industry (remember, the federal government hands out $1 Billion of taxpayer’s money in tax breaks to oil, coal, and gas companies EVERY YEAR) and serving the best interests of all Canadians, especially our children, who deserve a safe and stable climate and ecosystem.

Meanwhile, from The New York Times, the President of Nauru, a Small Island Nation, speaks out on climate change, a “threat as great as nuclear proliferation or global terrorism”. Read On Nauru, A Sinking Feeling.

Take Action:

To contact Senator Wallin and let her know you think she’s in a conflict of interest, call 1-866-599-4999 and ask to speak to Senator Wallin. Let her know that Canada doesn’t need the tar sands to prosper, and that in fact leaving the oil in the ground is the best thing to do for the health and prosperity of Canadians. Make sure you follow up your call with an email to Senator Wallin: wallinp@sen.parl.gc.ca. And contact your own MP as well.  Canadians deserve better.  If you are on Facebook, you can join the group Canadians Demanding the Resignation of Senator Pamela Wallin.

Thanks for taking action, and (as my friend and fellow climate hawk Cathy Orlando likes to say) joining us on the journey from me to we!

More links:

University of Guelph chancellor Wallin defends her dual role

Senate ethics rules need to be tightened up, says Senate ethics officer

The Face Of Climate Corruption in Canada

Canadians Demanding The Resignation of Senator Pamela Wallin

Vote For Harper Cause He Doesn’t Care About “So-Called” Greenhouse Gases

Another response to Rick Mercer’s challenge to the youth of Canada to surprise our politicians and vote – beautiful!


We’ve got a shot to start a movement
We’ve got a chance to make the whole world lose it
We can start a moment of change
An opportunity to keep the pride in our name

We need to wake up and watch what were doing
Bush was a bitch and the whole world knew it
But now we’re just as guilty as him
Environmental crime is good if you’re a crooked PM

But we’ve got a shot to start a movement
And we’ve got a chance to make the whole world lose it
We can choose who’s in demand
And we can change fate with the swipe of a pen

Vote for Harper if you don’t want trees
Vote for Harper if you don’t like green
Vote for Harper ’cause he doesn’t really care about
So-called Greenhouse Gases

Vote for Harper if you don’t want lakes
Vote for Harper if you don’t like change
Vote for Harper ’cause he doesn’t know a thing about
So-called Greenhouse Gases

We’ve got a problem, we’re on a slippery slope
So what’s it gonna take to get the youth to the polls
We’ve got a choice to make ’cause we can sway the vote
And if we want a change we have to take control

We can change every single thing that we hate
We can be the boss and take control of our fate
History will be whatever we wanna make
And we’ll still party at the end of the day

All we gotta do is get ourselves out of bed
All we gotta do is write an X with a pen?
All we really want is a planet to live
A cold beer in our hands and a river to swim

More links:

Deserts in Bloom

Find which party’s values match up with yours:  Vote Compass on CBC.ca

Help Regenerate Canadian politics: LeadNow.ca

Donuts Or the Planet? What Would Alberta Health Minister Liepert Choose?

The creative folks over at TruthFool.org have put out an excellent video that underlines the cartoonish proportions of the destruction and deadly legacy that the relentless pursuit of “black gold” has brought to northern Alberta.  Unfortunately for the people of Fort Chipewyan, who are hardest hit by the toxic development that is the Alberta tar sands, this is not a cartoon, it is their every day reality.

I’m certain the feeling of living in some kind of alternate reality hits the citizens of Fort Chipewyan when they hear their Provincial Health Minister, Ron Liepert, stand in front of a microphone with a straight face and assure them that the Alberta government will help those affected by high cancer rates but that those efforts will not focus on the environment.

We need to work with the community to ensure that there may be other factors such as lifestyle and those sorts of things that probably aren’t helping matters any.

Perhaps he should have kept it to “Duhhh”.


More links:

Stand With Fort Chipewyan on Facebook


Canadian Politicians Quietly Cancel 18-Month Investigation Into Tar Sands Pollution, Tear Up Draft Report

From the Montreal Gazette yesterday, this very alarming story:

Federal politicians from the government and opposition benches have mysteriously cancelled an 18-month investigation into oilsands pollution in water and opted to destroy draft copies of their final report, Canwest News Service has learned.

The aborted investigation comes as new questions are being raised about the Harper government’s decision to exempt a primary toxic pollutant found in oilsands tailings ponds from a regulatory agenda.

The government is in the process of categorizing industry-produced substances that could either be toxic or harmful, but has excluded naphthenic acid — a toxin from oilsands operations — from the list, and left it off another list of substances that companies are required to track and report.

The exclusion is “alarming” according to a letter sent Tuesday to Environment Minister Jim Prentice and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, since the federal and Alberta governments have already identified it as a primary source of pollution in liquid waste dumped into ponds after companies extract oil from the region. (Click here to read the full story)

Apparently this happened very quietly on June 17, and it took until now for the media to alert Canadians to the proceedings of the federal Environment Committee.  If our federal government was doing its job, they would be more concerned about the health of Canadians living around the toxic tar sands than the health of the oil industry’s bank balance. And if Opposition politicians were doing their job, it wouldn’t be up to CanWest News Service to let Canadians know, after a three week delay, when their government has failed in its job.

Conservative MP James Bezan chairs the Environment Committee. He expressed his “disappointment”  that MPs were unable to agree on the final report, but asserted a curious belief that the committee’s aborted investigation “has still brought important information into the public domain through the hearings and testimony from expert witnesses that have resulted in several independent reports and commentary.”

According to Canada.com, Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia said

“I . . . have no intention of letting go this subject that should be part and parcel of the true national water strategy Canadians demand and deserve. The Conservative government has a lot of answering to do for its persistent lack of leadership on water in general and on oilsands and water in particular. The Conservative government’s record on water and oilsands has been one of constant denial and foot-dragging.”

The exclusion by the Harper government of naphthenic acids from the list of toxic substances, particularly in light of the fact the United States has recently moved forward with specific reporting requirements for the substance, is hard to understand. The Harper/Prentice mantra about taking action on the environment has, for several years now, been that “we’ll do what the Americans do“. Apparently, this is only true when the Americans aren’t doing anything. Matt Price from Environmental Defense wrote:

Naphthenic acids are one of the main pollutants responsible for the toxicity of tarsands tailings to aquatic organisms, and have been shown to harm liver, heart and brain function in mammals. Naphthenic acids are also very long-lived, taking decades to break down.”

Price also said in the letter that the federal and provincial governments are already allowing some of the toxins to leak into groundwater and surface water.

“It is therefore urgent that all tailings pollutants, and naphthenic acid in particular, be properly assessed and managed to minimize the risk to human and environmental health,” he wrote.

When did it become okay for the Canadian government to blatantly cater to industry and cease looking after the health and well-being of Canadians, and our natural resources?  If this is NOT okay with you, please take action. Write a letter (or an email, but a letter is more effective) or phone your MP, and then contact the MPs on the Environment Committee.

Click on the MP’s name to go to their contact info:

Chair, Environment and Sustainable Development Committee

James Bezan, Conservative MP for Selkirk-Interlake, Manitoba,

email:  Bezan.J@parl.gc.ca,


Bernard Bigras, Bloc Quebecois, Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, Quebec

David McGuinty, Liberal, Ottawa-South, Ontario

Members of Environment and Sustainable Development Committee:

Francis Scarpaleggia, Liberal MP for Lac-Saint-Louis, Quebec

Linda Duncan, NDP MP and Environment Critic, Edmonton-Strathcona, Alberta

Scott Armstrong, Conservative, Cumberland-Colchester-Mosquodoboit

Christian Ouellet, Bloc Quebecois, Brome-Missisquoi, Quebec

Blaine Calkins, Conservative, Wetaskiwin, Saskatchewan

Justin Trudeau, Liberal, Papineau, Quebec

Mark Warawa, Conservative, Langley, B.C.

Jeff Watson, Conservative, Essex, Ontario

Stephen Woodworth, Conservative, Kitchener Centre, Ontario

More links:

Contact info for all Members of Parliament

Satellite Photos of Alberta Tar Sands Tailing Ponds

Indigenous Environmental Network

“Bigger Issues Than Ducks” Alberta Environment Minister tells Middle East Audience

4 Billion Litres a Year: Tar Sands’ Toxic Leakage

Weak, Ineffective Government Policies Behind Canada’s Low Ranking On Environment

In 2009, Canada was at the bottom of 57 industrialized countries in the Climate Change Performance Index (only  Saudi Arabia was ranked lower). A ranking of Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries by environmental record places Canada at the bottom, ranking 24th out of 25 countries, ahead of only the United States. The top ranking countries are Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

In a new study conducted by Simon Fraser University and the David Suzuki Foundation that examines the reasons behind Canada’s poor environmental record shows that weak government policies are behind Canada’s poor environmental record, not the country’s cold climate and large size. The news release states:

The study is one of the first ever to examine the reasons for Canada’s poor environmental performance. Factors such as Canada’s cold climate, large size, and heavy reliance on natural resource industries were examined and found that none explain Canada’s poor performance.

“The traditional explanations for Canada’s poor performance are simply not valid,” says Dr. Thomas Gunton, lead author of the study. “These so-called natural disadvantages are offset by a major natural advantage we have over other countries — the availability of low polluting hydro power.”

The research shows that if Canada’s environmental policies were strengthened to the level in other developed countries such as Sweden and Denmark, Canada’s environmental ranking would move from 24th to 1st.

So what are we waiting for?  It’s the 21st Century – let’s move towards the future with hope, secure in the knowledge that we are being good stewards of this beautiful country. We need to formalize in government policies the reality that endless growth is not possible on a finite planet. Nor is endlessly pouring toxins into our environment possible without paying a high price sooner or later. Right now, there are 170 square kilometres of toxic tailing ponds sitting in Alberta’s boreal forest, generated by the dirtiest project on earth, the tar sands. Where, oh where, are politicians and leaders with vision?


Canada’s Cold Climate No Excuse For Poor Environmental Record.

The full report, “The Maple Leaf in the OECD” is available by clicking on the title.

Jeff Rubin: The Bar Has Fallen So Low Now Big Oil Is Pushing Alberta Tar Sands As “Green”

Originally from The Huffington Post and then re-published in The Globe and Mail, economist Jeffrey Rubin, author of “Your World is About To Get a Whole Lot Smaller”, had this to say about the recent attempts by the governments of Alberta and Canada, as well as Big Oil, to rebrand the dirtiest project on earth, the Alberta tar sands, as “green” in the face of the Gulf oil catastrophe:

It’s funny how it’s taken the worst ecological disaster in U.S. history to suddenly make other forms of oil extraction and processing look green. Only months ago, the carbon trail from the massive planned expansion of tar sands production made Canada a pariah at the world environmental summit in Copenhagen. But now tar sands producers and others are promoting tar sands oil as an ecologically friendly alternative to the environmental risks of another deep-water oil spill.

How low the bar has fallen.

There’s nothing clean about the production of synthetic oil from tar sands. The production of a single barrel of synthetic oil pollutes some 125 gallons of fresh water and emits over 200 pounds of carbon dioxide, principally as a result of the combustion of the natural gas, over 1,000 cubic feet of it, needed to generate the heat to separate the oil from the sand and then process it.

Click here to read the full article on The Huffington Post.

More Links:

“Syncrude Pleads Not Guilty in Deaths of 1,606 Ducks

Click here to play the game “Tar Nation”, where you can take out some of your frustration on the lack of action on climate change by spraying Stephen Harper or Micheal Ignatieff with oil.

The Pembina Institute’s Tar Sands Watch is one of the best places to get data on what is happening in the Alberta tar sands. Click here to go to their site.

Bill C311, The Climate Accountability Act, Needs Support From Canadians

Bill C311, The Climate Accountability Act, was moved by Senator Grant Mitchell of Alberta to its second reading in the Senate yesterday, Canada’s Clean Air Day. Unfortunately it seems that the debate in the senate has been quite partisan, and the Conservative senators, who outnumber the Liberals, may vote against it in a block.  Senator Marjorie LeBreton, in a letter to a concerned Canadian, wrote:

“There is no doubt that anthropogenic Climate Change is an important matter for all Canadians. This is why I am very proud to say that our Government has already created effective and efficient measure to deal with Climate Change….Therefore, our Government is not supportive of this bill, and we will continue to move forward in the right direction in conjunction with President Obama and the United States.”

The rest of the world has recognized that Canada is a laggard, not a leader, in addressing climate change.  International leaders, during visits to this country, have recently questioned Canada’s commitment to this issue, including EU President Jose Manuel Barroso, U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon, and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Please take the time to contact our senators, particularly the Conservative ones, and tell them its time to put partisan politics aside and do what is right for our children and grandchildren, as well as the planet.  To find out how to do this, go to the “How To Contact Senators re: Bill C311, The Climate Accountability Act” in the side column. Emailing is good, fax is better, phoning is even better (or do all three!).

To read the debate in the Senate yesterday, click here.

For information on what the international community thinks of the current government’s policy on climate change, check out these links:

“Mexico’s President Pushes Ottawa to Act on Climate Change”. Globe & Mail

UN Chief Presses Harper On Climate Change” CBC.ca

“EU head urges Canada to Act on Climate Change“. CBC.ca