TED Talk Thursday: Poverty, Crime, And Greenhouse Gas Emissions

From TEDx Manitoba is Shaun Loney, founder and Executive Director at BUILD Inc. and Warm Up Winnipeg where he leads an innovative approach to promote social enterprise as a no-cost way to cut poverty rates. In this talk, Mr. Loney makes surprising connections to poverty, crime and greenhouse gas emissions, and in doing so offers a humane and do-able response to climate change:



Shaun Loney is also the co-chair of the Winnipeg Citizens’ Coalition where he authored “Growing Green”, an economic blueprint for the city of Winnipeg. He also sits on the board of directors of Manitoba Green Retrofit. From 2002 to 2008 Shaun was the Director of Energy Policy for the Government of Manitoba. During this time Manitoba went from being last place in Canada in energy efficiency to first, holding this place for three years running. Shaun holds a Master’s Degree in Economics from the University of Manitoba.

More links:

Build: WarmUpWinnipeg

“Maybe the Truth is, Without A Healthy Environment, There Is No Economy”

From My Green Conscience blog, a fabulous visual essay review of the book “Climate Wars” by Eric Pooley. As My Green Conscience states:

Franke James merges science, art and storytelling to inspire people to take action and “do the hardest thing first” for the planet. Franke uses her skills as an artist, photographer and writer to create visual essays on environmental and social issues. She is the author of two award-winning books, Bothered By My Green Conscience and Dear Office-Politics, the game everyone plays.

Here are a few of the vivid and evocative images from Ms. James’ essay:

Go to “Ending the Climate Wars” to view/read the full essay.

More links:

The Climate War: True Believers, Power Brokers, and The Fight to Save The Earth, by Eric Pooley, Deputy Editor of Bloomberg Businessweek.


David Suzuki asks “What’s the Real Bottom Line?”

David Suzuki,  a Canadian scientist, broadcaster, and tireless environmentalist who was recently voted the person Canadians most trust, has a new CBC radio show on Sundays between 11:00 and noon. The 10-part show,  The Bottom Line, premiered last week.  The first two hours have been fascinating listening. The show describes its goal as:

“Exploring the disconnect between our modern values and the natural world. Environmentalists are often told by politicians and corporate executives that without a strong growing economy we can’t afford to do the kind of things they are demanding, that the economy is the bottom line. This series is a celebration of the earth, the atmosphere, water, soil, and energy of the sun that work in tandem to sustain life on this planet. The true ‘bottom line’.”

The first episode featured discussions between Mr. Suzuki and Jim Prentice, Canada’s Environment Minister while they were in Haida Gwaai marking the expansion of a federal park. Suzuki pushes Prentice on the false dichotomy that still persists in this government’s attitude between the environment and the economy. The old “we can’t do anything about the environment unless we have a strong economy” argument. Suzuki clearly presents the urgency of climate change and environmental degradation, and Prentice doesn’t “get it” at all. His responses to Suzuki’s questions include such platitudes like: “It’s about balance.” “We are taking steps forward.”We’ve set a goal of reducing emissions to 17% below 2005 levels.” “I’m proud of the scientists we have at Environment Canada.” “We need technology to address these issues over time.

Really Mr. Prentice?!The former Chief Economist at the World Bank has said that if the world doesn’t deal in a heroic way to reduce emissions, the consequences of climate change are economically catastrophic. The risk to humanity from climate change is second only to the threat of nuclear war. And yet this is the anemic response Canadians get from our government – “we hope that some technology comes along to save us eventually because we can’t possibly find ways to reduce our emissions, the highest per capita in the world”! Good grief. It’s pathetic.

Anyway, The Bottom Line is worth listening to, just to hear Suzuki and Prentice offer their very different points of view. And Mr. Suzuki is pretty gentle on Mr. Prentice, considering that the Environment Minister’s responses were so inadequate.

Also in the first episode is an interesting interview with Lord Nicholas Stern, former Chief Economist at the World Bank and author of a report on climate change and economics for the British government. Stern says that the current view that separates the economy and the environment is “a basic analytical and intellectual mistake.” In the future, he asserts, the two will be seen as working together. And in response to David Suzuki’s questions about the lack of urgency in the world’s response to this looming disaster, Stern states that Britain and the rest of Europe know from their experience with two World Wars last century that the inability to cooperate internationally leads to disaster, and hopefully this experience will assist in addressing the problem of climate change:

We’ve got to use the rationality that developed with evolution to anticipate these problems. We’ve got the ability, we’re going to have to use that. If we wait for experience to tell us we’re in trouble it’s going to be almost impossible to get out of it. People need to understand the great dangers, but we need to go beyond that and talk about the great opportunities that we’ll create if we go the sensible route.

“Sensible route”? Sounds good to me! Are you listening, Mr. Prentice and Mr. Harper?

Listen to “The Bottom Line”.

More links:

David Suzuki Looks Back With a Hint of Regret. Globe and Mail

“The Bottom Line” on Facebook

The Global Deal: Climate Change and the Creation of a New Era of Progress and Prosperity by Nicholas Stern.

“We’re Not Doomed, We’re Just In Big Trouble” – Gwynne Dyer On Global Instability And Climate Change

“Recent scientific evidence has…given us a picture of the physical impacts on our world that we can expect as our climate changes. And those impacts go far beyond the environmental. Their consequences reach to the very heart of the security agenda.”

Margaret Beckett, former British foreign secretary

This is the quote that opens Gwynne Dyer’s book, Climate Wars. Mr Dyer is a London-based independent Canadian journalist, syndicated columnist and military historian. In 2010 he received the Order of Canada. His website summarizes his career this way:

Born in Newfoundland, he received degrees from Canadian, American and British universities, finishing with a Ph.D. in Military and Middle Eastern History from the University of London. He served in three navies and held academic appointments at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and Oxford University before launching his twice-weekly column on international affairs, which is published by over 175 papers in some 45 countries.
His first television series, the 7-part documentary ‘War’, was aired in 45 countries in the mid-80s. One episode, ‘The Profession of Arms’, was nominated for an Academy Award.  His more recent television work includes the 1994 series ‘The Human Race’, and ‘Protection Force’, a three-part series on peacekeepers in Bosnia, both of which won Gemini awards.  His award-winning radio documentaries include ‘The Gorbachev Revolution’, a seven-part series based on Dyer’s experiences in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in 1987-90, and ‘Millenium’, a six-hour series on the
emerging global culture.

So, what does Climate Wars have to say about the challenges the world faces in the coming decades, thanks to the grossly inadequate response of most governments to the threat that it poses? Some of the expected consequences of runaway climate change in the decades ahead are dwindling resources, massive population shifts, natural disasters, spreading epidemics, drought, rising sea levels, plummeting agricultural yields, devastated economies, and political extremism. Any one of these could tip the world towards conflict. Mr. Dyer points out that the military forces of both the United States and Britain have taken this threat seriously for years, although under George W. Bush’s presidency,  it was dangerous to one’s career to be seen treating climate change as a real and serious phenomenon. Despite that, the Pentagon hired the CNA Corporation to study the geopolitics of climate change. The resulting report, produced by the CNA Corporation in collaboration with eleven retired three- and four-star generals, was issued in April 2007 and is titled National Security and Climate. In that report, General Anthony C. Zinni, former commander-in-chief, U.S. Central Command, wrote:

You already have great tension over water [in the Middle East]. These are cultures often built around a single source of water. So any stresses on the rivers and aquifers can be a source of conflict. If you consider land loss, the Nile Delta region is the most fertile ground in Egypt. Any losses there [from a storm surge] could cause a real problem, again because the region is so fragile.

We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll. There is no way out of this that does not have real costs attached to it.

For more of Gwynne Dyer on climate change, check out these videos or go to CBC’s website to listen to Climate Wars.



President Obama: “We Can’t Afford Not To Change How We Produce And Use Energy”

In his first address to Americans from the Oval Office, last night Barack Obama discussed the BP catastrophe in the Gulf, promising that BP would pay for their “recklessness”, and then he went on to say that the time to embrace clean energy is now:

So one of the lessons we’ve learned from this spill is that we need better regulations, better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling. But a larger lesson is that, no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk.

After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean: because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.

For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.

Time and again, the path forward has been blocked, not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean-energy jobs and industries that should be right here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.

We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean-energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny.

This is not some distant vision for America. The transition away from fossil fuels is going to take some time. But over the last year- and-a-half, we’ve already taken unprecedented action to jump-start the clean-energy industry.

It’s a hopeful sign, and could signal stronger leadership from the White House on clean energy. Obama, after all, is a father to two young daughters who are going to have to live with the consequences of his leadership, or lack of it, on this issue. What is certain, though, is that Obama can’t do it without the support of the majority of Americans – and Republicans are already massing on the side of Big Oil – so hopefully there will be a groundswell of support for the President that can’t be ignored. I, for one, will be watching with great interest from north of the border, as this unfolds over the next months.  Could the Gulf disaster be the tipping point that finally gets North Americans to kick our fossil fuel habit? And does this mean that Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is going to start talking about weaning Canadians off our addiction, including shutting down the tar sands? After all, for months, he and his Environment Minister Jim Prentice have been repeating that they can’t formulate their own policy, they have to wait and take the lead from the Americans.  It looks like President Obama is leading, Mr. Harper. The question is, are you going to follow?

More Links:

For the full text of President Obama’s speech, click here. For video, click here.

For analysis, go to “A Clean Energy Future is Now: But Mr. President, How Do We Get There?” on The Huffington Post.

Disappointingly, from my perspective as a Canadian, the coverage of the speech on the CBC website focuses almost exclusively on his remarks on BP and the Gulf, which was the first half of the speech, without mentioning the last half of his speech, which was all about transitioning to clean energy (click here to check for yourself).

The Globe and Mail does cover the speech in more depth, although you wouldn’t know it from the headline. Click here to read “Obama Lashes Out At BP in Oval Office Address”.  And the headline in the Toronto Star read “Barack Obama Calls Gulf Clean-up a ‘National Mission’ ” (click here to read article).

And, via the FB group 1,000,000 Strong Against Offshore Drilling, a request to add your votes to their clean energy questions for the White House’s Press Secretary tonight. “Its a long-shot, but please add your quick votes if you haven’t yet (it’s as easy as clicking the green thumbs). We’re close to the top of the list. Click here to do just that.

Notes From the Gulf: “Tell Everyone What Is Happening Here And Pray For Us”

Today’s posting is by Lois Nickel, Director Regional Relations and Programs, Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS). MDS is a volunteer network through which North American Anabaptist churches can respond to those affected by disasters in Canada and the United States. Lois wrote this reflection last Wednesday, June 9, during a visit to the coast of Louisiana.

A Day Spent in Plaquemine’s Parish

Yesterday I had the privilege of spending a day on the Gulf Coast southwest of New Orleans in Plaquemine’s Parish (like a county or municipality), Louisiana USA.  Six Hesston College students, two Canadian Mennonite University students, and I were led by Mennonite Disaster Service volunteer Paul Unruh (Newton Kansas) on a tour of the area.

We began our day in Port Sulphur and met John – our boat captain – and two other shrimp fishers who travelled with us in the bayou.  We skimmed along the water until we reached the houses that MDS had built and picked up Rosina and Ruby.  Our group was now 15 in a small boat with nearly enough life jackets.  We cruised up close to the marsh grasslands and touched the healthy grasses, listened to the birds singing, smelled the clean air.  Miles and miles of marsh where fish spawn and live.  An ecosystem that is so precious to our earth and to these Bayou peoples.  They believe God has asked them to be its caretakers.  They’ve done that for generations, they want to do so for generations to come.  But that may not be possible.

We sped further out into the wetlands and it was not long until we could start to see a six inch line of black oil film on the grasses.  We could smell kerosene-like toxins in the air at points and we saw the gorgeous pelican birds covered in black oil.  One was trying to fly and was unable to.  We were assured by the next boat we met that the animal rescue folks were on their way to pick this pelican up.  It was explained later that day, though, that not nearly all the birds survive after being washed clean of the oil.  Many have ingested it and get sick and die anyway.  The line of black oil on the grasses grew in inches the further into the Gulf we drove.  We took a container out of the boat and scooped up some of the brown globs oil to show those back on land.  We saw the white booms that BP has placed as borders before the marsh grasses to soak up the oil and saw how they weren’t working and the oil was going under and around these booms and reaching far into the grasses anyway.

Eventually we turned around and came back to Rosina’s home.  She invited us in for conversation and sweet tea.  We sat in a circle and listened to her passionately talk about her corner of the earth and this new threat that may end her family’s way of life.  She and others in her family explained that Katrina was bad, but it was a natural event that came and went and both nature and humans rebuilt in the few years since.  It could be overcome.  The oil spill’s effects cannot yet be known and are affecting both humans and the entire ecosystem of the wetlands.  Shrimpers are out of work – they cannot shrimp.  Many of the local folks don’t know what they will eat – they are used to eating seafood much of the year.  They are now considering container gardening for vegetables and raising chickens.  They will need to diversify.

The Bayou people did not express anger.  They expressed grief and mourning.  Rosina agreed with my confession that we don’t want to give up the products that oil affords us.  We want to drive gas driven boats and cars, etc.  Her frustration with BP is not leading her and her people to wish for all oil drilling to stop.  Many of the Gulf coast people work for BP and the other oil companies.  These companies provide jobs that are needed.  Some families have one person in the shrimping business and one person working for BP and sometimes a person will do both.  Her frustration with BP is that they and other oil companies are not putting people first.  Economics and profit drive these large corporations and in this case (and others that have not had such an accident just yet) BP failed to follow all safety regulations as suggested.  This accident could have been avoided, but money and greed allowed it to happen.

Now, Rosina says, the people in the Gulf are held hostage by BP.  They can’t try to clean up the oil themselves, nor can the state or the parish.  Everyone must leave it alone while BP takes responsibility and cleans it up.  If anyone interferes, then BP can blame anything that doesn’t work or goes wrong on someone else who was involved.  The people who live there are restricted in going and even looking at the damage – they can get fined for doing so.  They also need work.  They can register with BP and be hired by BP to help clean up the spill.  But again if BP sees them so much as wearing a nose/mouth mask or spitting into the water, they are fired.

What can we do?  Rosina believes that each voice that carries the message to the world that we need oil companies to be safer and make human life and ecosystems priority over profit will make a difference.  She asked us to tell everyone what is happening there and to pray for them.  They want to live there and work there and have the earth healthy there.  They feel like they can’t fix this, they can’t do much, but they can tell their story.

Later in the day we met with a Vietnamese shrimper who had been waiting for weeks to hear from BP about a job as his boat sat idle.  He found out on Tuesday evening that he was hired.  We toured his shrimp boat after he pulled into his berth for the night.  He was smiling from ear to ear he was so very very happy that he had work.  He did not believe that the booms (white long strips of batting that are put in the water to soak up and stop the oil) he was placing where BP told him were helping any, but it meant he could pay his bills and feed his family.  The pay is good and he was happy to work.  Another fellow on the docks was waiting for that call from BP – he has registered too – and was so hoping it was him that would get a job next.

There is much more I could write yet and I may yet, but this is it for today.  I’m including a few pictures to show an example of what I saw.  I have many mixed emotions – of anger, frustration, sadness, loss, and also of not completely understanding the scope and magnitude of it all.  Paul has written a most moving poem about all this that I also will share with you (click here to read “Grieving Again”).

Healthy marsh grasses. Photo by Lois Nickel
Oil soaked marsh grasses. photo by Lois Nickel
Globs of oil in marsh. Photo by Lois Nickel
BP cleanup booms not working. Photo by Lois Nickel
Shrimp boat working for BP. Photo by Lois Nickel
MDS group visiting Plaquemine Parish. Photo by Lois Nickel

More links:

Mennonite Disaster Service

“Grieving in Louisiana”

Canada’s Climate Bill Passed By Majority of Parliamentarians May Be Blocked By Unelected Conservative Senators

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has long been a proponent of an elected senate.  In the Canadian system, senators are selected by the Prime Minister. Traditionally, the Senate has been referred to as the “chamber of sober second thought”, but it has the same powers as the House of Commons except that it can not introduce legislation related to the raising or spending of money. Although the approval of both the Senate and the House of Commons is necessary for legislation, historically the Senate rarely rejects bills passed by the directly elected Commons.

Now that Mr. Harper finds himself in the position of being able to appoint senators, although he’s the PM of a minority, not a majority, government, he has made over 30 senate appointments, changing the face of the upper chamber.  The Conservatives now hold a plurality in the senate, and are poised to be one senator away from a majority when Harper replaces independent Senator Micheal Pitfield, who retired last week.

And that means Bill C311, The Climate Accountability Act, which was passed by the majority of Members of Parliament in the House of Commons in May, may be voted down by unelected senators who represent a minority government.  It doesn’t sound very democratic, does it?

If you agree, please take the time to send senators a message about respecting the wishes of Canadians.  A nanos research poll from early May shows that Canadians ranked global warming as the number one issue they wanted addressed at the G8/G20 meetings in Toronto in a few weeks.  Yet we have a minority Prime Minister who says that the economy trumps “everything”, almost as if he doesn’t recognize that we, or more accurately our children, have to live on the planet once we’ve trashed it in the name of “the economy”. And his Senate House Leader, Senator Marjorie LeBreton, has said that the Conservative government isn’t supportive of this bill because they have already addressed concerns about climate change, which is more Conservative PR spin with no substance.

What is a Canadian who is concerned about the environment, and who would like to ensure their children’s future is secure and bright, to do?  The most important thing that you can do right now is to contact Canadian senators, particularly Conservative senators, and let them know you that you want them to pass Bill C311.  For contact info and sample letters, and more steps to take, go to my “Action Not Apathy” page for information and links.

More links:

Ontario Senator Pitfield resigns. CBC.ca

Nanos G8/G20 Poll

The BP Disaster Illustrates The Problem is Oil, The Solution Is to Break Our Addiction

It’s time we kick the fossil fuel habit – melting ice caps, global weather weirding, and now the BP oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico make this clear.  And then there’s the economy, which, according to our esteemed Prime Minister Stephen Harper, trumps everything, as if there isn’t a planet to live on when we’re finished extracting resources like we were liquidating a business!   With all due respect, Mr. Harper, it’s time to start fighting climate change now while we still have an economy to fight it with!

The Daily Kos put it this way:

[Louisiana Governor] Jindal probably likes the sound of his voice when he says he has a solution to dealing with this leak, but the fact that his solution is such utter nonsense underscores this one central, immutable fact: oil is dangerous, and there’s no way to make it safe. Yes, we’re addicted to it. No, we’re not going to stop using it overnight. But we must break that addiction. And if don’t learn that lesson from this tragedy, we’re going to be taught it again, and again. And each time the consequences will keep on getting worse.

Click here to read the full Daily Kos post.

Here is a video on how badly BP has dealt with the protecting the Gulf coast after the disaster – with a warning, there is very crude language in this video but many of us feel that kind of outrage when we see the @!!@@ mess in the Gulf – all done in the name of making an almighty dollar!


Read more:

Conservative Economics, The Windmill Technique, and Climate Change“. Father Theo’s Blog.Wordpress.com

Join the FaceBook Group “1,000,000,00 Strong Against OffShore Drilling”

Click here to go to the Live Oil Spill Camera.

How Are We Going to Kick Our Ugly Fossil Fuel Habit? Tom Rand Has An Answer

Tom Rand is a Canadian engineer, philosopher, author and venture capitalist who is working hard to convince our leaders that renewable energy is ready for the big time.  He says this about the current situation:

We’ll eventually kick our fossil fuel habit. We have no choice. If peak oil doesn’t dictate the terms and timing, then climate change will force our hand. And recent events in the Gulf of Mexico reveal more immediate dangers.

Yet our response to these threats remains tepid, insufficient by any measure. Serious action is aggressively opposed by those who hold out an irrational hope that business-as-usual might continue. We seem content to let nature decide the terms and conditions on which we kick the habit. Why?

I believe there is an assumption, often implicit, that underpins the North American energy debate: clean, renewable energy is just not up to the job. For the lights to stay on, and factories to hum, we need coal and oil. This assumption is why Stephen Harper talks up the tar sands as Canada’s contribution to North American energy security. This assumption is why Canada plays possum on climate change.

But this assumption is flat-out wrong.

Click here to read the full article in The Mark.

In this video Mr. Rand discusses how we can “Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit”:


For more, check out Rand’s website, kickthefossilfuelhabit.org or join his Facebook group of the same name.