Wolves Fall Prey to Canada’s Rapacious Tar Sands Business September 18, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Animal Protection, Canada, Energy, Environment.
Tags: alberta tar sands, animal rights, Canada, caribou, conservation, ecology, environment, keystone xl, oil industry, paul paquet, peter kent, pipeline, roger hollander, tar sands, wolves
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On the pretext of protecting caribou, wolves are threatened with a cull. But the real ‘conservation’ is of oil industry profits
Wolves are routinely, baselessly and contemptuously blamed for the demise of everything from marmots to mountain caribou in western Canada. Given that attitude, we at Raincoast Conservation Foundation are appalled, though not surprised, by Canada’s proposed strategy to “recover” dwindling populations of boreal forest caribou in northern Alberta’s tar sands territory. Essentially, the plan favours the destruction of wolves over any consequential protection, enhancement or expansion of caribou habitat.
Clearly, the caribou recovery strategy is not based on ecological principles or available science. Rather, it represents an ideology on the part of advocates for industrial exploitation of our environment, which subsumes all other principles to economic growth, always at the expense of ecological integrity. Owing to the breadth of the human niche, which continues to expand via technological progress, the human economy grows at the competitive exclusion of nonhuman species in the aggregate. The real cost of Alberta’s tar sands development, which includes the potential transport of oil by Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines is being borne by wolves, caribou and other wild species.
Consistent with Canada’s now well-deserved reputation as an environmental laggard, the caribou recovery strategy evolved over several years and many politicised iterations, carefully massaged by government pen pushers and elected officials who did their very best to ignore and obscure the advice of consulting biologists and ecologists. So, the government should quit implying that the consultation approach provides a scientifically credible basis for decisions. Apparently, scientists can lead federal Environment Minister Peter Kent to information, but they cannot make him think.
Egged on by a rapacious oil industry, the federal government has chosen to scapegoat wolves for the decline of boreal caribou in a morally and scientifically bankrupt attempt to protect Canada’s industrial sacred cow: the tar sands. Yet, the ultimate reason why the caribou are on the way out is because multiple human disturbances – most pressingly, the tar sands development – have altered their habitat into a landscape that can no longer provide the food, cover and security they need.
The relentless destruction of boreal forest wilderness via tar sands development has conspired to deprive caribou of their life requisites while exposing them to levels of predation they did not evolve with and are incapable of adapting to. Consequently, caribou are on a long-term slide to extinction; not because of what wolves and other predators are doing but because of what humans have already done.
Controlling wolves by killing them or by the use of non-lethal sterilisation techniques is biologically unsound as a long-term method for reducing wolf populations and protecting hoofed animals (ungulates) from predation. Lethal control has a well documented failed record of success as a means of depressing numbers of wolves over time. Killing wolves indiscriminately at levels sufficient to suppress populations disrupts pack social structure and upsets the stability of established territories, allowing more wolves to breed while promoting the immigration of wolves from nearby populations.
At the broadest level, the caribou strategy favours human selfishness at the expense of other species. Implicit is the idea that commercial enterprise is being purchased by the subversion of the natural world, with one set of ethical principles being applied to humans and another to the rest of nature. The strategy panders to the ecologically destructive wants of society by sacrificing the most basic needs of caribou. In doing so, it blatantly contradicts the lesson Aldo Leopold taught us so well: the basis of sound conservation is not merely pragmatic it; is also ethical.
Simply, the caribou strategy is not commensurate with the threats to the species’ survival. What is desperately needed is a caribou strategy designed to solve the problem faster than it is being created. Protecting limited habitat for caribou while killing thousands of wolves as the exploitation of the tar sands continues to expand will not accomplish this goal. Against scientific counsel otherwise, though, politicians have decided that industrial activities have primacy over the conservation needs of endangered caribou (and frankly, all things living).
Tar sands cheerleaders try hard to convince Canadians that we can become an “energy superpower” while maintaining our country’s environment. They are, of course, wrong. Thousands of wolves will be just some of the causalities along the way. Minister Kent and his successors will find more opportunity to feign empathy as Canadians also bid farewell to populations of birds, amphibians and other mammals, including caribou, that will be lost as collateral damage from tar sands development. How much of our country’s irreplaceable natural legacy will Canadians allow to be sacrificed at the altar of oil industry greed?
Paul Paquet is senior scientist with Raincoast Conservation Foundation. An international consultant and lecturer, with numerous university affiliations, he is an internationally recognised authority on mammalian carnivores, especially wolves.
‘No Tar Sands’: Margot Kidder Marches on Washington August 20, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment.
Tags: alberta tar sands, Canada, canada actress, carbon emissions, environment, environmental disaster, margot kidder, martin knelman, naomi klein, oil pipeline, pipeline, protest, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, tantoo cardinal, tar sands
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Margot Kidder became Hollywood’s most famous Canadian by playing Lois Lane in four Superman movies.
Actor Christopher Reeve, as Superman, and Margot Kidder, as Lois Lane, appear in a scene from the 1978 movie ‘Superman. But later, when she was orchestrating a comeback after a series of disasters, she took on a gig doing the voice of a character named Earth Mother in the cartoon show Captain Planet.
Among the lines she delivered: “Hold on, Planeteer, I hate to interrupt your eco-argument, but there’s a nuclear waste spill on the ocean.”
Next week Kidder will be playing Earth Mother for real — doing whatever it takes to get herself arrested in front of the White House while trying to persuade Barack Obama not to sign a deal allowing a new pipeline carrying oil from the Alberta tar sands to Texas.
One of her partners in crime is another celebrated Canadian-born actress and dear old friend, Tantoo Cardinal, an Aboriginal from northern Alberta.
Theirs will be only two faces among the thousands taking part in a large-scale protest, but they will bring a bit of showbiz glitter to the event while showing there are Canadians as well as Americans appalled by the horrifying danger of spreading poison from Alberta all over North America.
(A number of other prominent Canadians are also involved in the protest, including Naomi Klein.)
“This is not just about oil,” Kidder explained this week in a phone interview from her home in Montana. “It’s about climate change and irreversible damage to the environment.”
These days, at 62, Kidder works occasionally, doing such acting gigs as her appearance a year ago at Toronto’s Panasonic Theater in Nora Ephron’s Love, Loss and What I Wore.
But most of the time, she lives quietly, simply and happily in Montana, close to her daughter and grandchildren.
Being at the center of the Hollywood circus may be a distant memory, but Kidder still has the ebullient spirit, charmingly goofy smile and twangy voice that made her a popular favorite.
And she’s still the fearless adventurer and reckless maverick who was born in Yellowknife and grew up in northern mining camps, the daughter of a rambunctious mining engineer from Texas known as Happy Kidder.
Her old friend Norman Jewison, who cast her in her first Hollywood movie in the 1960s, recalls that even back then, “she was a woman of causes, passionate and not afraid to stand her ground.”
That has not changed. Though she has been a U.S. resident for decades, Kidder has proudly held onto her Canadian citizenship. But she became a dual citizen so that she could vote against George W. Bush in 2004 — and so she could take part in protests against the Iraq war without being at risk of deportation.
“Tantoo and I are both northern Canadian babies who believe that the North is a beautiful place worth saving.
“The tar sands have caused a lot of damage already in Alberta, where a lot of people have a weird new kind of cancer. The kind of oil being extracted is thick and corrosive, like molasses, and it has to be pumped at a high heat, emitting poisonous carbon.”
There is already one pipeline running from Alberta to Texas, and there have been disturbing leaks. According to Kidder, the proposed new pipeline would destroy the freshwater rivers and other natural wonders of Montana, because it’s bound to leak.
“We already have experts who warn that if the tar sands industry is allowed to expand and build another pipeline, the damages will be irreversible and the long-term consequences horrendous,” warns Kidder. “In fact this is the most serious climate changer we have on the planet.”
So why are political leaders in Ottawa and Washington in favour of expanding the tar sands?
“In his 2008 campaign, Obama made a promise to stand up to oil companies and Wall Street,” says Kidder, “but now he is being pressed to sign this agreement between now and November, and those who worked for Obama are so discouraged. A lot of people are dismayed that democracy is losing out to huge corporations that contribute billions to political campaigns.”
Kidder and other demonstrators hope to persuade Obama to stand up to the oil companies and refuse to sign the pipeline deal. In the process of making the point, she expects to land in a Washington jail, if only briefly.
As for Canada, she laments: “Stephen Harper is more interested in short-term profit than long-term consequences. But I have two beautiful grandchildren, and I would like them to live on a beautiful planet.”
Tags: alberta, Canada, carbon emissions, civil disobedience, climate change, danny glover, david suzuki, emissions, environment, epa, greenhouse effect, james hansen, keystone, keystone pipeline, keystone xl, Maude Barlow, naomi klein, pipeline, tar sands, tar sands oil, tom goldtooth, wendell berry, wes hackson
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This will be a slightly longer letter than common for the internet age—it’s serious stuff.
The short version is we want you to consider doing something hard: coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will likely get you arrested.
The full version goes like this:
As you know, the planet is steadily warming: 2010 was the warmest year on record, and we’ve seen the resulting chaos in almost every corner of the earth.A coalition of clean energy advocates march from the Canadian Embassy to the White House to condemn a proposed pipeline that would bring tar sands oil, allegedly toxic, from Canada to the United States, in Washington D.C. in July 2010. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
And as you also know, our democracy is increasingly controlled by special interests interested only in their short-term profit.
These two trends collide this summer in Washington, where the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a certificate of ‘national interest’ to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth. These corporations want to build the so-called ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries.
To call this project a horror is serious understatement. The tar sands have wrecked huge parts of Alberta, disrupting ways of life in indigenous communities—First Nations communities in Canada, and tribes along the pipeline route in the U.S. have demanded the destruction cease. The pipeline crosses crucial areas like the Oglalla Aquifer where a spill would be disastrous—and though the pipeline companies insist they are using ‘state of the art’ technologies that should leak only once every 7 years, the precursor pipeline and its pumping stations have leaked a dozen times in the past year. These local impacts alone would be cause enough to block such a plan. But the Keystone Pipeline would also be a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.
How much carbon lies in the recoverable tar sands of Alberta? A recent calculation from some of our foremost scientists puts the figure at about 200 parts per million. Even with the new pipeline they won’t be able to burn that much overnight—but each development like this makes it easier to get more oil out. As the climatologist Jim Hansen (one of the signatories to this letter) explained, if we have any chance of getting back to a stable climate “the principal requirement is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground.” In other words, he added, “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.” The Keystone pipeline is an essential part of the game. “Unless we get increased market access, like with Keystone XL, we’re going to be stuck,” said Ralph Glass, an economist and vice-president at AJM Petroleum Consultants in Calgary, told a Canadian newspaper last week.
Given all that, you’d suspect that there’s no way the Obama administration would ever permit this pipeline. But in the last few months the president has signed pieces of paper opening much of Alaska to oil drilling, and permitting coal-mining on federal land in Wyoming that will produce as much CO2 as 300 power plants operating at full bore.
And Secretary of State Clinton has already said she’s ‘inclined’ to recommend the pipeline go forward. Partly it’s because of the political commotion over high gas prices, though more tar sands oil would do nothing to change that picture. But it’s also because of intense pressure from industry. TransCanada Pipeline, the company behind Keystone, has hired as its chief lobbyist for the project a man named Paul Elliott, who served as deputy national director of Clinton’s presidential campaign. Meanwhile, the US Chamber of Commerce—a bigger funder of political campaigns than the RNC and DNC combined—has demanded that the administration “move quickly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” which is not so surprising—they’ve also told the U.S. EPA that if the planet warms that will be okay because humans can ‘adapt their physiology’ to cope. The Koch Brothers, needless to say, are also backing the plan, and may reap huge profits from it.
So we’re pretty sure that without serious pressure the Keystone Pipeline will get its permit from Washington. A wonderful coalition of environmental groups has built a strong campaign across the continent—from Cree and Dene indigenous leaders to Nebraska farmers, they’ve spoken out strongly against the destruction of their land. We need to join them, and to say even if our own homes won’t be crossed by this pipeline, our joint home—the earth—will be wrecked by the carbon that pours down it.
And we need to say something else, too: it’s time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces.
We don’t have the money to compete with those corporations, but we do have our bodies, and beginning in mid August many of us will use them. We will, each day through Labor Day, march on the White House, risking arrest with our trespass. We will do it in dignified fashion, demonstrating that in this case we are the conservatives, and that our foes—who would change the composition of the atmosphere are dangerous radicals. Come dressed as if for a business meeting—this is, in fact, serious business. And another sartorial tip—if you wore an Obama button during the 2008 campaign, why not wear it again? We very much still want to believe in the promise of that young Senator who told us that with his election the ‘rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet start to heal.’ We don’t understand what combination of bureaucratic obstinacy and insider dealing has derailed those efforts, but we remember his request that his supporters continue on after the election to pressure the government for change. We’ll do what we can.
And one more thing: we don’t want college kids to be the only cannon fodder in this fight. They’ve led the way so far on climate change—10,000 came to DC for the Powershift gathering earlier this spring. They’ve marched this month in West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal; Tim DeChristopher faces sentencing this summer in Utah for his creative protest. Now it’s time for people who’ve spent their lives pouring carbon into the atmosphere (and whose careers won’t be as damaged by an arrest record) to step up too. Most of us signing this letter are veterans of this work, and we think it’s past time for elders to behave like elders. One thing we don’t want is a smash up: if you can’t control your passions, this action is not for you.
This won’t be a one-shot day of action. We plan for it to continue for several weeks, to the date in September when by law the administration can either grant or deny the permit for the pipeline. Not all of us can actually get arrested—half the signatories to this letter live in Canada, and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred. But we will be making plans for sympathy demonstrations outside Canadian consulates in the U.S., and U.S. consulates in Canada—the decision-makers need to know they’re being watched.
Winning this battle won’t save the climate. But losing it will mean the chances of runaway climate change go way up—that we’ll endure an endless future of the floods and droughts we’ve seen this year. And we’re fighting for the political future too—for the premise that we should make decisions based on science and reason, not political connection. You have to start somewhere, and this is where we choose to begin.
If you think you might want to be a part of this action, we need you to sign up here. As plans solidify in the next few weeks we’ll be in touch with you to arrange nonviolence training; our colleagues at a variety of environmental and democracy campaigns will be coordinating the actual arrangements.
We know we’re asking a lot. You should think long and hard on it, and pray if you’re the praying type. But to us, it’s as much privilege as burden to get to join this fight in the most serious possible way. We hope you’ll join us.
p.s.—Please pass this letter on to anyone else you think might be interested. We realize that what we’re asking isn’t easy, and we’re very grateful that you’re willing even to consider it.