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Drilling Towards Disaster: Ecuador’s Aggressive Amazonian Oil Push April 11, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Energy, Environment, Latin America, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: Like all so-called leftist governments, with virtually no exceptions (Chile under Allende, and we saw what happened there), as stewards of the capitalist state they supposedly rule, it becomes expedient if not necessary, to move to the right, which means to accommodate the basic needs of capital.  In the case of Correa’s Ecuador, the proposed destruction, ecological and cultural, of the rain-forest, is justified as an anti-poverty endeavor.  In the face of falling oil prices, it is virtually a suicidal move (for the country, if not for the ruling elite).  Exchanging US (IMF/World Bank) debt for Chinese debt will ensure the impoverization of the county in the long run.  This while contributing to global warming and the possible of genocide of the self-imposed isolated indigenous tribes in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

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Last week, the Ecuadorian government announced that it had begun constructing the first of a planned 276 wells, ten drilling platforms, and multiple related pipelines and production facilities in the ITT (Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini) oil field, known as Block 43, which overlaps Yasuní National Park in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. Coupled with the recent signing of two new oil concessions on the southern border of Yasuní and plans to launch another oil lease auction for additional blocks in the country’s southern Amazon in late 2016, the slated drilling frenzy is part of a larger, aggressive move for new oil exploration as the country faces daunting oil-backed loan payments to China, its largest creditor.

Yasuní National Park is widely considered one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. It has more species per hectare of trees, shrubs, insects, birds, amphibians, and mammals than anywhere else in the world. It was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989, and it is home to the Tagaeri-Taromenane, Ecuador’s last indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation.

The controversial drilling plans were met with protest at the headquarters of state-run Petroamazonas’ Quito office, the company charged with developing the field. Ecuador averaged a spill per week between 2000 and 2010, which doesn’t bode well for drilling in a national park.

Despite touting the new perforation, the government is on the defensive, trying to downplay impact on the park. It points to the fact that the well site, Tiputini C, is technically outside of Yasuní’s limits. But, as the first wildcat well of hundreds planned, the government’s rhetoric is misleading at best.

Correa also boldly claimed that drilling in the adjacent Block 31 concession was not inside the boundary of Yasuní National Park, which was followed by a press conference from Environmental Minister Daniel Ortega who reiterated that claim. But activists are crying foul.

“The government is lying,” said Patricio Chavez, a member of Yasunídos, a national collective dedicated to defend Yasuní National Park. “They have no idea what they’re talking about. We’re not sure whether they make these statements because they honestly don’t know their own country or they’re trying to intentionally confuse people.”

In fact, Block 31 is in the heart of Yasuní National Park, with the two oil fields clearly in the middle of the block. The Ministry of Hydrocarbons’ own map shows a pipeline extending to the Apaika field – in the middle of the block and the heart of the park.

Conveniently for the government, though, both Block 31 and Block 43 are highly militarized and entrance by the public is forbidden. But satellite images and investigative undercover missions into the area not only show oil activity underway but also the construction of illegal roads in violation of the environmental license.

But don’t be fooled. In fact, there are currently eight oil blocks that overlap Yasuní National Park, which calls into question the relevance of its “national park” status with so much drilling either underway or planned.

“The park and its indigenous peoples are under siege,” said Leo Cerda, a Kichwa youth leader and Amazon Watch Field Coordinator. “If this is how a national park is treated, imagine what drilling in an ‘unprotected’ area looks like.”

Expanding drilling activity in the park has left the nomadic Tagaeri-Taromenane virtually surrounded. Recent conflicts between the two clans and their Waorani relatives has led to several killings and other inter-ethnic violence. While there are different theories as to the roots of the confrontations, dwindling territory, scarce resources, noise from oil activity, and encroachment by outsiders are all likely factors. Regardless, so much pressure on the park and its inhabitants is having predictable and tragic consequences.

The drilling plans have been a flashpoint since 2013 when President Rafael Correa pulled the plug on the Yasuní-ITT initiative, a proposal to permanently keep the ITT fields – an estimated 920 million barrels of oil – in the ground in exchange for international contributions equaling half of Ecuador’s forfeited revenue.

The initiative failed to attract funds, in part because Annex I countries were unwilling to contribute to an untested supply-side proposal to keep fossil fuels in the ground instead of more traditional demand-side regulations and carbon offsets. Essentially, northern countries – the most responsible for climate change – were unwilling to cough up cash to protect one of the world’s most important places if they weren’t going to get anything in exchange.

Scientists now agree that we need to keep at least 80 percent of all fossil fuels in the ground to avoid a catastrophic 1.5℃ rise in global temperature, so Ecuador’s proposal was apparently ahead of its time. The world dropped the ball, but the blame for the initiative’s stillbirth is shared.

The Correa administration mismanaged the initiative from the outset. It took several years to establish a trust fund where people and governments could contribute. But more detrimental was the administration’s simultaneous tender of multiple oil blocks in the country’s southern Amazon. Why pay to keep oil in the ground in one place if the host country government merely opens up new areas to compensate for lost revenue? Correa’s have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too politics were not very convincing to potential donors.

Public outrage and protest met Correa’s unilateral decision to scrap the initiative. A six-month national mobilization to force a ballot initiative on drilling plans garnered over 700,000 signatures, far more than the required 400,000. But almost half were nullified by Ecuador National Election Council in a process littered with secrecy and fraud.

“When the Yasuní-ITT initiative was launched, the idea was that leaving the oil in the ground would help address environmental and economic problems on the local, national, and global level,” said Esperanza Martinez, President of Ecuador’s Accion Ecologica and founder of the Oilwatch network. “The abandonment of the initiative has come with an aggressive push on Yasuní – on its borders to the north, south, east, and west. But the decision to drill now comes at a time when the world is talking about breaking free of fossil fuel dependence and agreeing on targets to avoid the rise of global temperature.”

Martinez continued, “It makes no sense to drill now – at great biological and cultural risk – when economically Ecuador is losing money with each barrel extracted. There is no justification that drilling in Yasuní is in the economic interest of the country.”

Indeed, it costs Ecuador $39 to produce a barrel of oil. But current market price for its two types of crude are in the low $30s, so Ecuador is losing money on each barrel being pulled from the ground. And when the aboveground ecosystem is one of the most important in the world and drilling activities threaten the ethnocide of isolated peoples, drilling at a loss is bewildering. Of course, there is no price per barrel that would justify drilling in such an environmentally pristine and culturally sensitive area with the extinction of a people at risk.

A major factor in Ecuador’s drive to expand drilling in Yasuní and beyond, despite the current oil market context of abundant and cheap oil, is the country’s outstanding debt to China. According to a Boston University/Inter-American Dialogue Database, Ecuador has obtained 11 loans, totalling about $15.2 billion, much of which must be paid back with petroleum.

But the move into Yasuní coincides with an equally aggressive push to open new areas south of Yasuní in a large, roadless pristine swath of forest that extends out to the Peruvian border.

Two blocks, 79 and 83, were recently concessioned, and drilling deals were signed with Andes Petroleum, a Chinese state-run firm. Faced with adamant opposition from both the Sápara and Kichwa peoples whose legally-titled territory overlaps these oil blocks, the government has sought to divide the indigenous communities.

Speaking at an Inter-American Human Rights Commission hearing on Monday, Franco Viteri, President of CONFENAIE (Confederation of Amazonian Indigenous Peoples of Ecuador), described efforts of the government to divide the legitimate indigenous organizations with the aim of circumventing resistance to resource extraction and advancing Andes Petroleum’s drilling plans.

“The objective of the government is to create acceptance – or the appearance of acceptance – of resource extraction. That’s what the government wants because we are resisting resource extraction projects like oil and mining throughout the Amazon region.”

Manari Ushigua, President of the Sápara federation, whose territory is almost totally engulfed by Blocks 79 and 83, also addressed the government’s intentions.

“The goal of the Ecuadorian government is to divide us and open our land to oil extraction. We live in peace, with the natural world, with our spirits. But our elders are few. We are on the verge of extinction.”

The government has also announced plans to launch a new oil licensing round in late 2016 which would sell off several other oil blocks in Ecuador’s southern Amazon. However, the last auction, known as the 11th Round, was a widely recognized failure. Offering thirteen blocks, the government only received four bids, two of those from the same company – Andes. Clearly, the Chinese state-run firm wants to make sure that its sole shareholder, the Chinese government, gets paid back for its generous lending to Ecuador. And because the payments are in oil, it explains why Ecuador is forced to expand drilling, even if it’s at a loss. China can then turn around and sell the barrels of oil in the open market for a substantial profit.

Ecuador’s new oil boom is ill-timed. While several years ago the country was the vanguard of what is now a worldwide movement to #keepitintheground, Correa’s “Drill, baby, drill!” policies place its frontier forests and indigenous peoples at great risk. As I’ve written before, Ecuador’s pipe dream of prosperity from perforating wells like ITT have failed to pan out, instead trapping the country in a downward spiral of debt, dependency, and environmental destruction.

However, the movement to #keepitintheground in Ecuador is growing. Ecuador’s 11th Oil Round failed mostly because communities on the ground vowed resistance and indigenous leaders traveled to every oil expo at which the government sought to sell its Amazon oil blocks to the highest bidders – including Quito, Houston, Paris, and Calgary – and let any interested company or investor know that their lands were not for sale. Indigenous peoples across Ecuador’s Amazon have again vowed to keep the companies out and they are asking for our solidarity. Let’s join them!

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Governments Giving Fossil Fuel Companies $10 Million a Minute: IMF May 19, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment.
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Roger’s note: this sentence says it all: “governments worldwide are spending $10 million every minute to fund energy companies—more than the estimated public health spending for the entire globe.”

by

Energy companies receive $5.3 trillion a year in funding from governments worldwide, says financial powerhouse

 

fossilfuels

Governments are failing to properly tax fossil fuel consumption, with enormous environmental costs, the IMF reports. (Photo: Andrew Hart/flickr/cc)

The fossil fuel industry receives $5.3 trillion a year in government subsidies, despite its disastrous toll on the environment, human health, and other global inequality issues, a new report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published Monday has found.

That means that governments worldwide are spending $10 million every minute to fund energy companies—more than the estimated public health spending for the entire globe, IMF economists Benedict Clements and Vitor Gaspar wrote in a blog post accompanying the report (pdf).

“These estimates are shocking,” Clements and Gaspar wrote. “The number for 2015 is more than double the US$2 trillion we had previously estimated for 2011.”

Subsidies occur in two ways, IMF Fiscal Affairs Department directors Sanjeev Gupta and Michael Keen explained in a separate blog post published Monday:

[P]re-tax” subsidies—which occur when people and businesses pay less than it costs to supply the energy—are smaller than a few years back. But “post-tax” subsidies—which add to pre-tax subsidies an amount that reflects the environmental, health and other damage that energy use causes and the benefit from favorable VAT or sales tax treatment—remain extremely high, and indeed are now well above our previous estimates.

The damages from energy use include “premature deaths through local air pollution, exacerbating congestion and other adverse side effects of vehicle use, and increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations,” the report states.

“Energy subsidies are both large and widespread. They are pervasive across advanced and developing countries,” Clements and Gaspar write. The worst offenders are China, which gave a $2.3 trillion subsidy to its domestic fossil fuel industry, and the U.S., which spent $699 billion.

Following those countries are Russia ($335 billion), India ($277 billion), and Japan ($157 billion).

“In China alone, the World Health Organization estimates there are over one million premature deaths per year due to outdoor air pollution, caused by the burning of polluting fuels, particularly coal, and other sources,” Clements and Gaspar continued.

“Whether the total is $1 trillion or $6 trillion is not really the point. The point is that our tax dollars need to immediately stop aiding the industry that is most responsible for driving climate change.”
—Steve Kretzmann, Oil Change International
Lord Nicholas Stern, an eminent climate economist at the London School of Economics, told the Guardian on Monday, “This very important analysis shatters the myth that fossil fuels are cheap by showing just how huge their real costs are. There is no justification for these enormous subsidies for fossil fuels, which distort markets and damages economies, particularly in poorer countries.”

If anything, the report’s findings are “conservative,” Steve Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International, told Common Dreams. “[I]t doesn’t include direct subsidies to fossil fuel producers, and it doesn’t include things like the cost of military resources to defend Persian Gulf oil.”

“But whether the total is $1 trillion or $6 trillion is not really the point,” Kretzmann continued. “The point is that our tax dollars need to immediately stop aiding the industry that is most responsible for driving climate change. There are more than enough studies out now that prove this is an industry that relies on substantial amounts of corporate welfare.  We don’t need more studies—what we need is the political courage to end all fossil fuel subsidies once and for all.”

Coal gets the highest subsidies, the report states, “given its high environmental damage and because (unlike for road fuels) no country imposes meaningful excises on its consumption.”

The report follows a Guardian investigation which found that fossil fuel projects operated by Shell, ExxonMobil, and Marathon Petroleum in 2011 and 2012 each received between $78 million and $1.6 billion in taxpayer funding, “all granted by politicians who received significant campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.”

In light of these staggering numbers, subsidy reform would be a “game-changer,” Clements and Gaspar wrote.

According to the report, “Eliminating post-tax subsidies in 2015 could raise government revenue by $2.9 trillion (3.6 percent of global GDP), cut global CO2 emissions by more than 20 percent, and cut pre-mature air pollution deaths by more than half. After allowing for the higher energy costs faced by consumers, this action would raise global economic welfare by $1.8 trillion.”

“The icing on the cake is that the benefits from subsidy reform—for example, from reduced pollution—would overwhelmingly accrue to local populations,” said Clements and Gaspar. “Even if motivated purely by national reasons, energy subsidy reform would have favorable effects globally.”

“By acting local, and in their own best interest, policy authorities can contribute significantly to the solution of a global challenge. The path forward is thus clear: act local, solve global.”

US Department of Defense is the Worst Polluter on the Planet April 23, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, War.
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Roger’s note:  we know of the massive destruction of human life and infrastructure that results from the US military adventures around the globe, and the disastrous effects of the bloated “defense” (sic) trillion dollar budget.  What is less obvious is the major contribution by the US military to environmental catastrophe.  It is documented here.  A sad case of adding insult to injury.

The US military is responsible for the most egregious and widespread pollution of the planet, yet this information and accompanying documentation goes almost entirely unreported. In spite of the evidence, the environmental impact of the US military goes largely unaddressed by environmental organizations and was not the focus of any discussions or proposed restrictions at the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. This impact includes uninhibited use of fossil fuels, massive creation of greenhouse gases, and extensive release of radioactive and chemical contaminants into the air, water, and soil.

Student Researchers:

  • Dimitrina Semova, Joan Pedro, and Luis Luján (Complutense University of Madrid)
  • Ashley Jackson-Lesti, Ryan Stevens, Chris Marten, and Kristy Nelson (Sonoma State University)
  • Christopher Lue (Indian River State College)
  • Cassie Barthel (St. Cloud State University)

Faculty Evaluators:

  • Ana I. Segovia (Complutense University of Madrid)
  • Julie Flohr and Mryna Goodman (Sonoma State University)
  • Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)
  • Julie Andrzejewski (St. Cloud State University)

The extensive global operations of the US military (wars, interventions, and secret operations on over one thousand bases around the world and six thousand facilities in the United States) are not counted against US greenhouse gas limits. Sara Flounders writes, “By every measure, the Pentagon is the largest institutional user of petroleum products and energy in general. Yet the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements.”

While official accounts put US military usage at 320,000 barrels of oil a day, that does not include fuel consumed by contractors, in leased or private facilities, or in the production of weapons. The US military is a major contributor of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that most scientists believe is to blame for climate change. Steve Kretzmann, director of Oil Change International, reports, “The Iraq war was responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) from March 2003 through December 2007. . . . That war emits more than 60 percent that of all countries. . . . This information is not readily available . . . because military emissions abroad are exempt from national reporting requirements under US law and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

According to Barry Sanders, author of The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism, “the greatest single assault on the environment, on all of us around the globe, comes from one agency . . . the Armed Forces of the United States.”

Throughout the long history of military preparations, actions, and wars, the US military has not been held responsible for the effects of its activities upon environments, peoples, or animals. During the Kyoto Accords negotiations in December 1997, the US demanded as a provision of signing that any and all of its military operations worldwide, including operations in participation with the UN and NATO, be exempted from measurement or reductions. After attaining this concession, the Bush administration then refused to sign the accords and the US Congress passed an explicit provision guaranteeing the US military exemption from any energy reduction or measurement.

Environmental journalist Johanna Peace reports that military activities will continue to be exempt based on an executive order signed by President Barack Obama that calls for other federal agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Peace states, “The military accounts for a full 80 percent of the federal government’s energy demand.”

As it stands, the Department of Defense is the largest polluter in the world, producing more hazardous waste than the five largest US chemical companies combined. Depleted uranium, petroleum, oil, pesticides, defoliant agents such as Agent Orange, and lead, along with vast amounts of radiation from weaponry produced, tested, and used, are just some of the pollutants with which the US military is contaminating the environment. Flounders identifies key examples:

– Depleted uranium: Tens of thousands of pounds of microparticles of radioactive and highly toxic waste contaminate the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Balkans.

– US-made land mines and cluster bombs spread over wide areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East continue to spread death and destruction even after wars have ceased.

– Thirty-five years after the Vietnam War, dioxin contamination is three hundred to four hundred times higher than “safe” levels, resulting in severe birth defects and cancers into the third generation of those affected.

– US military policies and wars in Iraq have created severe desertification of 90 percent of the land, changing Iraq from a food exporter into a country that imports 80 percent of its food.

– In the US, military bases top the Superfund list of the most polluted places, as perchlorate and trichloroethylene seep into the drinking water, aquifers, and soil.

– Nuclear weapons testing in the American Southwest and the South Pacific Islands has contaminated millions of acres of land and water with radiation, while uranium tailings defile Navajo reservations.

– Rusting barrels of chemicals and solvents and millions of rounds of ammunition are criminally abandoned by the Pentagon in bases around the world.

The United States is planning an enormous $15 billion military buildup on the Pacific island of Guam. The project would turn the thirty-mile-long island into a major hub for US military operations in the Pacific. It has been described as the largest military buildup in recent history and could bring as many as fifty thousand people to the tiny island. Chamoru civil rights attorney Julian Aguon warns that this military operation will bring irreversible social and environmental consequences to Guam. As an unincorporated territory, or colony, and of the US, the people of Guam have no right to self-determination, and no governmental means to oppose an unpopular and destructive occupation.

Between 1946 and 1958, the US dropped more than sixty nuclear weapons on the people of the Marshall Islands. The Chamoru people of Guam, being so close and downwind, still experience an alarmingly high rate of related cancer.

On Capitol Hill, the conversation has been restricted to whether the jobs expected from the military construction should go to mainland Americans, foreign workers, or Guam residents. But we rarely hear the voices and concerns of the indigenous people of Guam, who constitute over a third of the island’s population.

Meanwhile, as if the US military has not contaminated enough of the world already, a new five-year strategic plan by the US Navy outlines the militarization of the Arctic to defend national security, potential undersea riches, and other maritime interests, anticipating the frozen Arctic Ocean to be open waters by the year 2030. This plan strategizes expanding fleet operations, resource development, research, and tourism, and could possibly reshape global transportation.

While the plan discusses “strong partnerships” with other nations (Canada, Norway, Denmark, and Russia have also made substantial investments in Arctic-capable military armaments), it is quite evident that the US is serious about increasing its military presence and naval combat capabilities. The US, in addition to planned naval rearmament, is stationing thirty-six F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets, which is 20 percent of the F-22 fleet, in Anchorage, Alaska.

Some of the action items in the US Navy Arctic Roadmap document include:

– Assessing current and required capability to execute undersea warfare, expeditionary warfare, strike warfare, strategic sealift, and regional security cooperation.

– Assessing current and predicted threats in order to determine the most dangerous and most likely threats in the Arctic region in 2010, 2015, and 2025.

– Focusing on threats to US national security, although threats to maritime safety and security may also be considered.

Behind the public façade of international Arctic cooperation, Rob Heubert, associate director at the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, points out, “If you read the document carefully you’ll see a dual language, one where they’re saying, ‘We’ve got to start working together’ . . . and [then] they start saying, ‘We have to get new instrumentation for our combat officers.’ . . . They’re clearly understanding that the future is not nearly as nice as what all the public policy statements say.”

Beyond the concerns about human conflicts in the Arctic, the consequences of militarization on the Arctic environment are not even being considered. Given the record of environmental devastation that the US military has wrought, such a silence is unacceptable.

Update by Mickey Z.

As I sit here, typing this “update,” the predator drones are still flying over Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, the oil is still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, and 53.3 percent of our tax money is still being funneled to the US military. Simply put, hope and change feels no different from shock and awe . . . but the mainstream media continues to propagate the two-party lie.

Linking the antiwar and environmental movements is a much-needed step. As Cindy Sheehan recently told me, “I think one of the best things that we can do is look into economic conversion of the defense industry into green industries, working on sustainable and renewable forms of energy, and/or connect[ing] with indigenous people who are trying to reclaim their lands from the pollution of the military industrial complex. The best thing to do would be to start on a very local level to reclaim a planet healthy for life.”

It comes down to recognizing the connections, recognizing how we are manipulated into supporting wars and how those wars are killing our ecosystem. We must also recognize our connection to the natural world. For if we were to view all living things, including ourselves, as part of one collective soul, how could we not defend that collective soul by any means necessary?

We are on the brink of economic, social, and environmental collapse. In other words, this is the best time ever to be an activist.

Update by Julian Aguon

In 2010, the people of Guam are bracing themselves for a cataclysmic round of militarization with virtually no parallel in recent history. Set to formally begin this year, the military buildup comes on the heels of a decision by the United States to aggrandize its military posture in the Asia-Pacific region. At the center of the US military realignment schema is the hotly contested agreement between the United States and Japan to relocate thousands of US Marines from Okinawa to Guam. This portentous development, which is linked to the United States’ perception of China as a security threat, bodes great harm to the people and environment of Guam yet remains virtually unknown to Americans and the rest of the international community.

What is happening in Guam is inherently interesting because while America trots its soldiers and its citizenry off to war to the tune of “spreading democracy” in its own proverbial backyard, an entire civilization of so-called “Americans” watch with bated breath as people thousands of miles away—people we cannot vote for—make decisions for us at ethnocidal costs. Although this military buildup marks the most volatile demographic change in recent Guam history, the people of Guam have never had an opportunity to meaningfully participate in any discussion about the buildup. To date, the scant coverage of the military buildup has centered almost exclusively around the United States and Japan. In fact, the story entitled “Guam Residents Organize Against US Plans for $15B Military Buildup on Pacific Island” on Democracy Now! was the first bona fide US media coverage of the military buildup since 2005 to consider, let alone privilege, the people’s opposition.

The heart of this story is not so much in the finer details of the military buildup as it is in the larger political context of real-life twenty-first-century colonialism. Under US domestic law, Guam is an unincorporated territory. What this means is that Guam is a territory that belongs to the United States but is not a part of it. As an unincorporated territory, the US Constitution does not necessarily or automatically apply in Guam. Instead, the US Congress has broad powers over the unincorporated territories, including the power to choose what portions of the Constitution apply to them. In reality, Guam remains under the purview of the Office of Insular Affairs in the US Department of the Interior.

Under international law, Guam is a non-self-governing territory, or UN-recognized colony whose people have yet to exercise the fundamental right to self-determination. Article 73 of the United Nations Charter, which addresses the rights of peoples in non-self-governing territories, commands states administering them to “recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants are paramount.” These “administering powers” accept as a “sacred trust” the obligation to develop self-government in the territories, taking due account of the political aspirations of the people. As a matter of international treaty and customary law, the colonized people of Guam have a right to self-determination under international law that the United States, at least in theory, recognizes.

The military buildup, however, reveals the United States’ failure to fulfill its international legal mandate. This is particularly troubling in light of the fact that this very year, 2010, marks the formal conclusion of not one but two UN-designated international decades for the eradication of colonialism. In 1990, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 1990–2000 as the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. To this end, the General Assembly adopted a detailed plan of action to expedite the unqualified end of all forms of colonialism. In 2001, citing a wholesale lack of progress during the first decade, the General Assembly proclaimed a second one to effect the same goal. The second decade has come and all but gone with only Timor-Leste, or East Timor, managing to attain independence from Indonesia in 2002.

In November 2009—one month after “Guam Residents Organize Against US Plans for $15B Military Buildup on Pacific Island” aired—the US Department of Defense released an unprecedented 11,000-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), detailing for the first time the true enormity of the contemplated militarization of Guam. At its peak, the military buildup will bring more than 80,000 new residents to Guam, which includes more than 8,600 US Marines and their 9,000 dependents; 7,000 so-called transient US Navy personnel; 600 to 1,000 US Army personnel; and 20,000 foreign workers on military construction contracts. This “human tsunami,” as it is being called, represents a roughly 47 percent increase in Guam’s total population in a four-to-six-year window. Today, the total population of Guam is roughly 178,000 people, the indigenous Chamoru people making up only 37 percent of that number. We are looking at a volatile and virtually overnight demographic change in the makeup of the island that even the US military admits will result in the political dispossession of the Chamoru people. To put the pace of this ethnocide in context, just prior to World War II, Chamorus comprised more than 90 percent of Guam’s population.

At the center of the buildup are three major proposed actions: 1) the construction of permanent facilities and infrastructure to support the full spectrum of warfare training for the thousands of relocated Marines; 2) the construction of a new deep-draft wharf in the island’s only harbor to provide for the passage of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers; and 3) the construction of an Army Missile Defense Task Force modeled on the Marshall Islands–based Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, for the practice of intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In terms of adverse impact, these developments will mean, among other things, the clearing of whole limestone forests and the desecration of burial sites some 3,500 years old; the restricting of access to areas rich in plants necessary for indigenous medicinal practice; the denying of access to places of worship and traditional fishing grounds; the destroying of seventy acres of thriving coral reef, which currently serve as critical habitat for several endangered species; and the over-tapping of Guam’s water system to include the drilling of twenty-two additional wells. In addition, the likelihood of military-related accidents will greatly increase. Seven crashes occurred during military training from August 2007 to July 2008, the most recent of which involved a crash of a B-52 bomber that killed the entire crew. The increased presence of US military forces in Guam also increases the island’s visibility as a target for enemies of the United States.

Finally, an issue that has sparked some of the sharpest debate in Guam has been the Department of Defense’s announcement that it will, if needed, forcibly condemn an additional 2,200 acres of land in Guam to support the construction of new military facilities. This potential new land grab has been met with mounting protest by island residents, mainly due to the fact that the US military already owns close to one-third of the small island, the majority of which was illegally taken after World War II.

In February 2010, upon review of the DEIS, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rated it “insufficient” and “environmentally unsatisfactory,” giving it the lowest possible rating for a DEIS. Among other things, the EPA’s findings suggest that Guam’s water infrastructure cannot handle the population boom and that the island’s fresh water resources will be at high risk for contamination. The EPA predicts that without infrastructural upgrades to the water system, the population outside the bases will experience a 13.1 million gallons of water shortage per day in 2014. The agency stated that the Pentagon’s massive buildup plans for Guam “should not proceed as proposed.” The people of Guam were given a mere ninety days to read through the voluminous 11,000-page document and make comments about its contents. The ninety-day comment period ended on February 17, 2010. The final EIS is scheduled for release in August 2010, with the record of decision to follow immediately thereafter.

The response to this story from the mainstream US media has been deafening silence. Since the military buildup was first announced in 2005, it was more than three years before any US media outlet picked up on the story. In fact, the October 2009Democracy Now! interview was the first substantive national news coverage of the military buildup.

Sources:

Sara Flounders, “Add Climate Havoc to War Crimes: Pentagon’s Role in Global Catastrophe,” International Action Center, December 18, 2009,http://www.iacenter.org/o/world/climatesummit_pentagon121809.

Mickey Z., “Can You Identify the Worst Polluter on the Planet? Here’s a Hint: Shock and Awe,” Planet Green, August 10, 2009, http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tech-transport/identify-worst-polluter-planet.html.

Julian Aguon, “Guam Residents Organize Against US Plans for $15B Military Buildup on Pacific Island,” Democracy Now!, October 9, 2009, http://www.democracynow.org/2009/10/9/guam_residents_organize_against_us_plans.

Ian Macleod, “U.S. Plots Arctic Push,” Ottawa Citizen, November 28, 2009, http://www.ottawacitizen.com/technology/navy+plots+Arctic+push/2278324/story.html.

Nick Turse, “Vietnam Still in Shambles after American War,” In These Times, May 2009, http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/4363/casualties_continue_in_vietnam.

Jalal Ghazi, “Cancer—The Deadly Legacy of the Invasion of Iraq,” New America Media, January 6, 2010, http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article _id=80e260b3839daf2084fdeb0965ad31ab.

For more information on the military buildup:

For more information on Guam’s movement to resist militarization and unresolved colonialism:

  • The Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice: Lisa Linda Natividad, lisanati[at]yahoo.com; Hope Cristobal, ecris64[at]teleguam.net; Julian Aguon, julianaguon[at]gmail.com; Michael Lujan Bevacqua, mlbasquiat[at]hotmail.com; Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, victoria.lola[at]gmail.com
  • We Are Guahan—We Are Guahan Public Forum:www.weareguahan.com
  • Famoksaiyan: Martha Duenas, martduenas[at]yahoo.com;http://famoksaiyanwc.wordpress.com

 

 

It’s Time To Free the Arctic 30 & Stand Up Against Fossil Fuel Extraction Everywhere November 16, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, Russia.
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All around the globe, record numbers of people from all walks of life are being thrown into jails because they are standing up to protect the most basic of human needs — uncontaminated water, unpolluted lands, and a liveable climate free from the ramifications of extreme fossil fuel extraction. If the greed-driven fossil fuel extraction corporations — and the governments that do their bidding to assure sustained record profits — don’t stop endangering our critical and already-compromised life support systems, there is little doubt that the numbers of individuals standing up will grow exponentially. People are increasingly recognizing the critical necessity to safeguard our communities and our ecosystems, and growing numbers around the world are taking that bold step to engage in the time-honored tradition of peaceful civil disobedience as a means of alerting others to the dangers that threaten us all. This map from The Public Society shows some of the major protests against fossil fuel extraction in the past year alone, and the reach is staggering.

From Washington D.C. to Mauritania to the Yukon, people are rising up.

Those of us who choose civil disobedience as a tactic, often of last resort, do so not because they are looking to get away with a crime, but because we are seeking to shine a light on laws that allow for injustice to prevail. No one wants to go to jail. But the history of righting terrible wrongs is first a history of individuals putting their bodies on the line, risking arrest, facing uncertain circumstances and sometimes going to jail (or worse), long before the nation or the world awakens to the realities of what amounts to legalized decimation, injustice, and oppression.

There were times in our history here in the United States of America where the law of the land allowed slavery, prohibited women the right to vote, left children unprotected by labor laws, and didn’t guarantee the civil rights of all citizens. In the USA’s many hard-fought movements of great social progress — the abolitionist movement, women’s suffrage, labor and civil rights movements, as well as the free speech, peace, and environmental justice movements — there have always been those who were out in front, laying their bodies on the line and leading the way — well before the lawmakers followed with new legislation designed to make this a “more perfect union.”

The climate movement is well underway, and thousands of peaceful protesters and interventionists have already put their bodies and freedom on the line. As the world grapples with how to recognize the first of its climate refugees, and as it becomes desperately clear that carbon pollution must be urgently addressed, the quest for more difficult to access and dirtier oil and gas has never been more furious. In the states, lawmakers in the pocket of extraction industry make the pillaging easier and the public health concerns more profound by allowing exemptions from the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act. So, in the US alone, over 76,000 have pledged to engage in dignified acts of peaceful civil disobedience if the debacle that is the KeystoneXL pipeline is allowed to proceed through our country’s heartland.

The third largest threat to our planetary climate — third only to mining nearly all of China and Australia’s coal — would be drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic, where oil companies plan to take advantage of melting sea ice in this most sensitive region on earth. If their plan were to succeed, despite the technical obstacles and enormous environmental risks, the drilling would add 520 million tons of carbon pollution to the atmosphere per year, as much as all of Canada’s annual global warming pollution.

That’s why Greenpeace activists and independent journalists determined to bring this urgent threat to humanity to light journeyed to the Russian Arctic to protest the first ever offshore Arctic oil drilling project. On September 19th, consistent with the tradition of peaceful direct action, Greenpeace activists scaled a Gazprom oil platform to hang a banner off of the side. They hoped to bring awareness of the frightening risks of runaway climate change and the devastating effect of oil spills that Arctic drilling could bring to the world.

The Russian Federal Security Services responded with force, firing 11 warning shots into the water just inches away from the Greenpeace small inflatable boats. Two activists were taken by the knife wielding agents, while the other 28 activists and journalists remained on the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise.

The next day, in international waters, 15 masked Russian troops rappelled on to the Arctic Sunrise from a helicopter, held all 28 civilians onboard at gunpoint, and seized the ship.

The Arctic 30 have been in Russian custody since.

While even President Putin said the activists and journalists were “obviously not pirates;” the Russian authorities detained and charged all 30 with piracy – a crime that carries a 15 year jail sentence in Russia. A few weeks ago, they added “hooliganism,” charges which carry even more disproportionate penalties of up to 7 years in jail. The illegal arrests on international waters and the outrageous charges have been condemned by governments and many human rights groups, including Amnesty International, while people in 220 cities from Jakarta to Hong Kong to California marched, calling for the release of the Arctic 30.

The disproportionate Russian response is like unleashing attack dogs on a sit-in.

History has shown us that peaceful activism is vital when all else fails to respond appropriately to the most pressing issues of our time. The great practitioners of non-violent direct action as a means of achieving social change knew this and practiced it only with love in their hearts. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr both said in so many words, “if a law is unjust, it is your responsibility to break it.” MLK once said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That one profound statement of moral genius succinctly exemplifies why the world must not be silent until the Arctic 30 are once again free.

Please stand in solidarity with those who were willing and compelled to go to the front lines on behalf of all future generations. The risks that these activists have taken, and the cost to them personally and to their loved ones, need you to relentlessly demand that Russia free the Arctic 30 — and of course that the world move swiftly, urgently and in earnest to a planet powered by clean energy.

Corroding Our Democracy: Canada Silences Scientists, Targets Environmentalists in Tar Sands Push September 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Canada petroleum, Energy, Environment, Science and Technology.
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http://www.democracynow.org, 24 September 2013

Five years ago this month, the firm TransCanada submitted a permit request to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would bring tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The project has sparked one of the nation’s most contentious environmental battles in decades. The Obama administration initially appeared ready to approve Keystone XL, but an unprecedented wave of activism from environmentalists and residents of the states along its path has forced several delays. Among those pressuring Obama for Keystone XL’s approval is the Canadian government, which recently offered a greater pledge of reduced carbon emissions if the pipeline is built. We’re joined by one of Canada’s leading environmental activists, Tzeporah Berman, who has campaigned for two decades around clean energy, and is the former co-director of Greenpeace International’s Climate Unit. She is now focused on stopping tar sands extraction as a member of the steering committee for the Tar Sands Solutions Network. Berman is also the co-founder of ForestEthics and is the author of the book “This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge.” Berman discusses how the Canadian government is muzzling scientists speaking out on global warming, quickly changing environmental laws, and why she believes the push for tar sands extraction has created a “perfect storm” of grassroots activism bring together environmentalists, indigenous communities and rural landowners.

GUEST:

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Five years ago this month, the firm TransCanada submitted a permit request to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would bring tar Sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The project has sparked one of the nation’s most contentious environmental battles in decades. The Obama administration initially appeared ready to approve Keystone XL, but an unprecedented wave of activism from environmentalists and residents of the states along its path has forced several delays. In the summer 2011, 1200 people were arrested outside the White House. Well, on Saturday, protests were held once again around the country in a national day of action urging President Obama to reject Keystone’s construction. President Obama also faces continued pressure from backers of the Keystone XL. In their latest push for the project, House Republicans have announced plans to tie the pipeline’s construction to the upcoming vote on raising the nation’s debt ceiling. Well, on Monday, delegates at the 2013 International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit held in Sufferin, New York called on Obama to reject the Keystone XL, saying, “There is no single project in North America that is more significant than Keystone XL in terms of the carbon emissions it would unleash… As women who are already seeing the tragic impacts of climate change on families on indigenous peoples, and on entire countries, we urge you to choose a better future by rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.” At the conference, Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation, described the impact that massive oil and gas extraction has had on her family and its traditional land in northern Alberta.

MELINA LABOUCANMASSIMO: I come from a small northern community, it’s Cree, Nēhiyaw, is, in our language, what we call it. There is nothing on — that compares with the destruction going on there. If there were a global prize for unsustainable development, the tar sands would be a clear winner. Not that there’s a competition going on or by any means, but, I just think that world-renowned people, experts are really seeing this as one of the major issues and that is why it is one of the biggest — you know, the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and why Canada pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol.

So, this is what it looks like. very viscous. It’s, you know, not fluid, so it takes a lot more energy a lot more water, produces a lot more byproduct. So, it’s equaling to — why it is such a big area, it’s 141,000 square kilometers — equal to that of destroying, you know, England and Wales combined, or the state of Florida for American folks. The mines that we’re dealing with are bigger than entire cities. So, there’s about six, seven right now, could be up to nine. And this is — Imperial Oil, for example, will be bigger than Washington, D.C. alone. So, that’s just a mine. And this is some of the biggest dump trucks in the world. A lot of the issues of toxicity we’re talking from the air, so these are some of the biggest dump trucks in the world. And a lot of the issues for toxicity that we’re dealing with is, and which relates to the water, are these huge tailing ponds; they’re called ponds, but they’re actually big toxic sludge lakes. They currently spend 180 square kilometers just of toxic sludge that’s sitting on the landscape. So, every day one million leaders are leaching into the Athabasca Watershed, which is, you know, where our families drink from. I’m from the Peace Region, but it connects to the Athabasca and it goes up into the Arctic Basin, so that is where all the Northern folks will be getting these toxins, and these contain cyanide, mercury, lead, polyaromatic hydrocarbin nythetic acids. So, there are a lot of issues that we’re dealing with healthwise.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Melina Laboucan-Massimo, member of the lLubicon Cree First Nation in northern Alberta. All of this comes as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently sent President Obama letter, offering a greater pledge of reduced carbon emissions of the Keystone Pipeline is built to bring tar sands oil from Canada to the United States. Well, for more I’m joined by one of Canada’s leading environmental activists, Tzeporah Berman. She’s campaigned for decades around clean energy and is the former Co-director of Greenpeace International’s Climate [Unit]. She is now focused on stopping tar sands extraction as a member of the steering committee for the Tar Sands Solutions Network. Tzeporah Berman is also the Co-founder of Forest Ethics and the author of the book, “This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge.” Welcome to Democracy Now! it’s great to have you with us Tzeporah.

TZEPORAH BERMAN: Thank you, it’s great to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what tar sands means for you in Canada and how it has affected your whole country.

TZEPORAH BERMAN: The tar sands are the single largest industrial project on earth. The scale is almost incomprehensible, if you’ve never been there. They are not only the single reason that Canada’s climate pollution is going up, that we will not meet even the weak targets, even the weak targets, that have been set, but they’re also the most toxic project in the country; they’re polluting our water and air. The tar sands produces 300 million liters of toxic sludge a day that is just pumped into open pit lakes that now stretch about 170 kilometers across Canada. And, you know, one of the important things about what is happening in Canada right now is that Canadian policy on climate change, on environment, on many issues is being held hostage to the goal that this federal government, the Harper government and the oil industry have, of expanding the tar sands no matter what the cost. Oil corrodes, it is corroding our pipelines and leading to spills and leaks that are threatening our communities, but it is also corroding our democracy. What we’re seeing in Canada is, the, literally, the elimination of 40 years of environmental laws in the last two years in order to make way for quick expansion of tar sands and pipelines. I mean, the Keystone is not the only pipeline this industry is proposing. It is a spider of pipelines across North America so that they can try and expand this dirty oil as quickly as possible.

AMY GOODMAN: And why is it so dirty?

TZEPORAH BERMAN: It’s really dirty because it’s — the oil is mixed with sand. So, in order to get that oil out, they have to use natural gas. More natural gas is used in the tar sands than all homes in Canada. It’s — so, they use natural gas and freshwater to actually remove the oil from the sand, and the result is that each barrel of oil from the tar sands has three to four times more emissions, more climate pollution than conventional oil.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain how this pipeline would traverse Canada and the United States and where it goes, what it is for. Does the U.S. benefit from the oil going through the pipeline?

TZEPORAH BERMAN: No, this is an export pipeline. What the industry wants is, they want to get this oil off the continent because they’ll get a better price. And so, all of the pipelines that are currently being proposed are in order so that the industry can export the oil. So, the Keystone, for example, will go all the way from Alberta straight down through the United States and out to the Gulf, and it’s not for U.S. consumption. The majority of that oil is destined to — the U.S. is really just in the Canadian oil industry’s way. The result is that this is a pipeline that is — presents enormous risk to the American people as a result of the terrible records of oil spills and leaks. And not a lot of benefit.

AMY GOODMAN: Tzeporah, you have been meeting with a number of scientists. This week in the New York Times had an interesting editorial called, “Silencing Scientists” and it said “Over the last few years, the government of Canada — led by Stephen Harper — has made it harder and harder for publicly financed scientists to communicate with the public and with other scientists.” What is going on?

TZEPORAH BERMAN: First of all, the government has shut down the majority of scientific research in the country that had to deal with climate change. This is a government in denial and they do not want to talk about climate change. So, last year they shut down the atmospheric research station, which was one of the most important places in the world to get climate data. They shut down the National Round Table on Environment and Economy, they fired hundreds of scientists, and the ones that are left are being told that they can’t release the research to us, even though it is a tax payer’s funded research. They’re also being told they can’t speak to the press unless they have a handler and it’s an approved interview; they have to have a handler from the prime minister’s office. So, the scientists that I’ve talked to, they’re embarrassed, they’re frustrated, they’re protesting. Last week in Canada we had hundreds of scientists hit the streets in their lab coats protesting the federal government because they can’t speak. They are being muzzled. To the extent that the, quiet eminent, journal Nature, last year, published an editorial saying it is time for Canada to set its scientists free.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, this is an amazing story. We know that in the United States, under the Bush Administration, you had James Hansen who was Head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA who had a handler who hadn’t graduated from college, he was — I think his credential was that he been active on the Bush campaign committee, re-election campaign committee, and James Hansen had to go through him to deal with the media.

TZEPORAH BERMAN: Right, well — but, and James Hansen’s still got to speak deal with — to speak to the media. Most of the scientists that I’m talking to in Canada can’t speak to the media at all. And if they want to talk about climate change, they’re definitely not going to get those interviews approved. But, it is not just the scientists that are being muzzled and the climate research that’s being shut down and people that are being fired, we have also seen an unprecedented attack on charitable organizations that deal with environmental research. The Canadian Government has the majority of environmental organizations under Canadian revenue audit, and so, the result is you have the majority of the country’s environmental leaders not able to be a watchdog on what the government is doing. And secret documents revealed through freedom of information this year showed that the government eliminated all these environmental laws in Canada at the request of the oil industry because the environmental laws were in their way. The Embridge Northern Gateway Pipeline crosses 1000 streams and that would normally trigger in of environmental assessment process. Well, when you have no laws, you have no environmental assessment, so when they eradicated all the environmental laws 3000 environmental assessments for major industrial projects in Canada were canceled. Now those projects are just approved without environmental assessment.

AMY GOODMAN: What does it mean, the activism for you and Canada in the United States, when clearly President Obama has been forced to delay the decision, the Keystone XL because of the massive protest against it?

TZEPORAH BERMAN: I think that what we’re seeing, not only in the United States, but also in Canada, is an unprecedented climate movement. I think that, you know, these pipelines have provided a tangible focus for communities on the ground, and the oil industry and the government have, in a sense, created their own perfect storm. Because, while before it might have been people who were concerned about climate change that would get involved in tar sands or pipeline issues, now it is people worried about their groundwater, it’s first nations and indigenous people across North America who are protesting their rights. It’s land owners. So, now you have this perfect storm.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, the legendary Canadian musician, Neil Young, spoke out against the extraction of tar sands oil in Canada and its export to the U.S. through the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. He was speaking to a National Farmers Union rally and Washington, D.C. Neil Young described his recent visit to a tar sands community in Alberta, Canada.

NEIL YOUNG: The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima. Fort McMurray is a wasteland. The Indians up there and the Native peoples are dying. The fuel’s all over, there’s fumes everywhere. You can smell it when you get to town. The closest place to Fort McMurray that is doing the tar sands work is 25 or 30 miles out of town, and you can taste it when you get to Fort McMurray. People are sick. People are dying of cancer because of this.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the legendary musician Neil Young. I don’t know how many people here in the U.S. know that he is Canadian, but, he is. The significance of him coming, and also what did the climatologist, the scientist, James Hansen, call the tar sands?

TZEPORAH BERMAN: Dr. Hansen has referred to the Keystone XL Pipeline as the fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet. And he says that his studies are showing that if we allow the tar sands to expand at the rates that the government and industry want it to expand, then it’s game over for the planet.

AMY GOODMAN: Tzeporah Berman, I saw you at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit in Sufferin and you talked about your son having to respond to a question of his. We only have a minute, but explain.

TZEPORAH BERMAN: One night at dinner my son, who was eight at the time, turned to me and said, mommy, why does the government think you are a terrorist? Which is not really the conversation you want to have with your son. Because he had heard on the radio, that on the Senate floor, the Harper government was proposing that we change the definition of the term “domestic terrorism” in Canada to include environmentalism.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what does that mean for you and what does that mean for environmental activists? Where are you headed now? What are you going to do around tar sands?

TZEPORAH BERMAN: Canadians who care about these issues are under attack by our own government, and we are being told that if we — that what we do is not in the national interest unless we support the oil industry’s agenda. But, I think this government has overreached and we are now finding — our phones are ringing off the hook. People are joining the campaign and stepping up. And let’s be clear, Canadians want clean energy. Canadians, many of them, are very embarrassed about what our government is doing internationally, so our movement is growing, and so far, we have slowed down all of these pipelines and the expansion.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the alternative?

TZEPORAH BERMAN: Well, the alternative for Canada is not only clean energy, renewable energy, which now we can build at scale, we know that, but it’s also supporting other aspects of our economy, because when you support only one aspect of your economy, the most capital-intensive sector in the country, then it starts to destroy your manufacturing base, your service industry, your tourism industry. We need a diversified economy in Canada, and that’s not — and that’s entirely possible.

AMY GOODMAN: Tzeporah Berman, I want to thank you for being with us; leading environmental activist in Canada. She’s campaigned for decades around clean energy; former Co-director of Greenpeace International’s Climate Unit, now focused on stopping tar sands extraction.

’24 Hours of Reality’: Reality Show Worth Watching September 11, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment.
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Published on Sunday, September 11, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

  by  David Suzuki

Most reality TV has little to do with the real world. But here’s an online show that will reflect what is happening in and to our world: 24 Hours of Reality will feature 24 presenters in 24 time zones talking about the climate crisis in 13 languages. It starts September 14 at 7 p.m. local time in Mexico City and wraps with a live multimedia presentation from New York City by Nobel laureate and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore at 7 p.m. on September 15.

Climate change is reality. It’s happening in front of our eyes, and massive volumes of research from climate scientists around the world confirm that it will get worse if we fail to do something about it. The facts are no longer in dispute. Greenhouse gas emissions, mainly caused by humans burning fossil fuels, are warming the planet. And the consequences aren’t pretty: health problems caused by pollution; increasing extreme weather events leading to floods, droughts, and storms; shrinking glaciers and related impacts on water supplies and agriculture; insect infestations; conflict over dwindling resources; threats to the survival of plants and animals… the list goes on.

Some people don’t recognize how serious the problem is, delaying efforts to resolve it. And the longer we put off finding and implementing solutions, the harder and costlier it will be to overcome the impacts. Former World Bank chief economist Lord Stern estimated that keeping heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions below levels that would drive climate change to catastrophic levels could cost up to two per cent of global GDP, but failure to act could be economically disastrous.

People accuse me and other environmentalists and scientists of being “alarmist.” But the situation is alarming, and it’s even more alarming that some people ignore it, perhaps believing it will go away – or that the crisis doesn’t even exist. In part, this disconnect with reality is because industrial interests spend billions of dollars sowing doubt and confusion, continually promoting discredited theories – just as they’ve done with issues including the dangers of tobacco smoke and the harmful effects of chlorofluorocarbons on the ozone layer. They tell us climate change doesn’t exist, or that it’s caused by volcanoes or the sun, or that it’s part of a natural cycle – even that God will regulate the climate to the advantage of humans.

But as Al Gore points out, “The deniers may have millions of dollars to spend, but we have a powerful advantage. We have reality.”

That reality includes mountains of published, peer-reviewed research by close to 98 per cent of the world’s climate scientists, as well as real-time observation.

The David Suzuki Foundation’s executive director in Quebec, Karel Mayrand, will deliver the 24 Hours of Reality French presentation at 7 p.m. French Polynesia time (midnight Montreal time). He’ll be joined by two more Canadians, Peter Schiefke in Victoria at 7 p.m. Pacific Time on Sept. 14, and Carl Duivenvoorden from New Brunswick at 7 p.m. Greenland time (6 p.m. New Brunswick) on Sept. 15. They and others will show there is no debate among scientists and knowledgeable people over the existence of human-caused climate change. If there is to be debate it should focus on what to do about it. Doing nothing, as some of the industry shills argue we should, is not a viable option.

Solutions exist, although the cost and severity of the challenge is greater now than in 1988 when climatologists first called for emissions reductions. As more people become aware of the problem and its causes, and learn about the motives of the deniers, it becomes more likely that we’ll find ways to reduce the consequences and put humanity on a path to healthier lives on a healthier planet. We can’t argue with people who deny reality. All we can do is to make sure the voice of reason speaks louder and that those of us who care about humanity join together to find better ways to live on our Earth. Please visit ClimateRealityProject.org to find out how you can tune in to 24 Hours of Reality. Choose the presentation and time zone you want, or take part in the entire event. You can even set up viewing parties with family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. And spread the word. We need to speak up for the future of humanity.

The time to act is now.

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David Suzuki

David Suzuki is a well-known Canadian scientist, broadcaster and environmental activist.

The Military Assault on Global Climate September 8, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, War.
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Thursday 8 September 2011
by: H. Patricia Hynes, Truthout         | News Analysis

War and the Tragedy of the Commons, Part 7

By every measure, the Pentagon is the largest institutional user of petroleum products and energy … Yet, the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements … Any talk of climate change which does not include the military is nothing but hot air, according to Sara Flounders.

It’s a loophole [in the Kyoto Convention on Climate Change] big enough to drive a tank through, according to the report ” A Climate of War.”

In 1940, the US military consumed one percent of the country’s total energy usage; by the end of World War II, the military’s share rose to 29 percent.(1) Oil is indispensable for war.

Correspondingly, militarism is the most oil-exhaustive activity on the planet, growing more so with faster, bigger, more fuel-guzzling planes, tanks and naval vessels employed in more intensive air and ground wars. At the outset of the Iraq war in March 2003, the Army estimated it would need more than 40 million gallons of gasoline for three weeks of combat, exceeding the total quantity used by all Allied forces in the four years of World War 1. Among the Army’s armamentarium were 2,000 staunch M-1 Abrams tanks fired up for the war and burning 250 gallons of fuel per hour.(2)

The US Air Force (USAF) is the single largest consumer of jet fuel in the world. Fathom, if you can, the astronomical fuel usage of USAF fighter planes: the F-4 Phantom Fighter burns more than 1,600 gallons of jet fuel per hour and peaks at 14,400 gallons per hour at supersonic speeds. The B-52 Stratocruiser, with eight jet engines, guzzles 500 gallons per minute; ten minutes of flight uses as much fuel as the average driver does in one year of driving! A quarter of the world’s jet fuel feeds the USAF fleet of flying killing machines; in 2006, they consumed as much fuel as US planes did during the Second World War (1941-1945) – an astounding 2.6 billion gallons.(3)

Barry Sanders observes with a load of tragic irony that, while many of us assiduously reduce our carbon footprint through simpler living, eating locally, recycling and reusing, energy conservation, taking public transportation, installing solar panels, and so on, the single largest institutional polluter and contributor to global warming – the US military – is immune to climate change concerns. The military reports no climate change emissions to any national or international body, thanks to US arm-twisting during the 1997 negotiations of the first international accord to limit global warming emissions, the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. To protect the military from any curbs on their activities, the United States demanded and won exemption from emission limits on “bunker” fuels (dense, heavy fuel oil for naval vessels) and all greenhouse gas emissions from military operations worldwide, including wars. Adding insult to injury, George W. Bush pulled the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol as one of the first acts of his presidency, alleging it would straitjacket the US economy with too costly greenhouse emissions controls. Next, the White House began a neo-Luddite campaign against the science of climate change. In researching “The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism,” Sanders found that getting war casualty statistics out of the Department of Defense (DoD) is easier than getting fuel usage data.

Only recently has the momentous issue of military fuel use and its massive, yet concealed role in global climate change come to the foreground, thanks to a handful of perspicacious researchers. Liska and Perrin contend that, in addition to tailpipe emissions, immense “hidden” greenhouse gas pollution stems from our use of gasoline. This impact on climate change should be calculated into the full lifecycle analysis of gasoline. When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compares gasoline and biofuels for their respective atmospheric pollution, the greenhouse gas emissions calculated for gasoline should include the military activities related to securing foreign crude oil, from which gasoline is derived. (But they do not, thanks to the Kyoto Accords military exemption.) Oil security comprises both military protection against sabotage to pipelines and tankers and also US-led wars in oil-rich regions to assure long-term access. Nearly 1,000 US military bases trace an arc from the Andes to North Africa across the Middle East to Indonesia, the Philippines and North Korea, sweeping over all major oil resources – all related, in part, to projecting force for the sake of energy security. Further, the “upstream emissions” of greenhouse gases from the manufacture of military equipment, infrastructure, vehicles and munitions used in oil supply protection and oil-driven wars should also be included in the overall environmental impact of using gasoline. Adding these factors into their calculations, the authors conclude that about “20 percent of the conventional DoD budget … is attributable to the objective of oil security.”

A corresponding analysis by researchers at Oil Change International quantifies the greenhouse gas emissions of the Iraq war and the opportunity costs involved in fighting the war, rather than investing in clean technology, during the years 2003-2007. Their key findings are unambiguous about the vast climate pollution of war and the lockstep bipartisan policy of forfeiting future global health for present day militarism.

  1. The projected full costs of the Iraq war (estimated $3 trillion) would cover “all of the global investments in renewable power generation” needed between now and 2030 to reverse global warming trends.
  2. Between 2003-2007, the war generated at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)(4), more each year of the war than 139 of the world’s countries release annually.(5) Rebuilding Iraqi schools, homes, businesses, bridges, roads and hospitals pulverized by the war, and new security walls and barriers will require millions of tons of cement, one of the largest industrial sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. In 2006, the US spent more on the war in Iraq than the entire world spent on renewable energy investment.
  4. By 2008, the Bush administration had spent 97 times more on military than on climate change. As a presidential candidate, President Obama pledged to spend $150 billion over ten years on green energy technology and infrastructure – less than the United States was spending in one year of the Iraq war.

Just how much petroleum the Pentagon consumes is one of the best-kept secrets in government. More likely, observes Barry Sanders, no one in DoD knows precisely. His unremitting effort to ferret out the numbers is one of the most thorough to date. Sanders begins with figures given by the Defense Energy Support Center for annual oil procurement for all branches of the military. He then combines three other non-reported military oil consumption factors: an estimate of “free oil” supplied overseas (of which Kuwait was the largest supplier for the 2003 Iraq war), an estimate of oil used by private military contractors and military-leased vehicles and an estimate of the amount of bunker fuel used by naval vessels. By his calculation, the US military consumes as much as one million barrels of oil per day and contributes 5 percent of current global warming emissions. Keep in mind that the military has 1.4 million active duty people, or .0002 percent of the world’s population, generating 5 percent of climate pollution.

Yet, even this comparison understates the extreme military impact on climate change. Military fuel is more polluting because of the fuel type used for aviation. CO2 emissions from jet fuel are larger – possibly triple – per gallon than those from diesel and oil. Further, aircraft exhaust has unique polluting effects that result in greater warming effect by per unit of fuel used. Radiative effects from jet exhaust, including nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, soot and water vapor exacerbate the warming effect of the CO2 exhaust emissions.(6) Perversely, then, the US military consumes fossil fuel beyond compare to any other institutional and per capita consumption in order to preserve strategic access to oil – a lunacy instigated by a series of executive decisions.

Short History of Militarizing Energy

Ten of 11 US recessions since World War 11 have been preceded by oil price spikes … Maintaining low and stable oil prices is a political imperative associated with modern petroleum-based economies.

In 1945 the US military built an air base at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, the start of securing permanent American access to newly discovered Middle East oil. President Roosevelt had negotiated a quid pro quo with the Saudi family: military protection in exchange for cheap oil for US markets and military. Eisenhower possessed great prescience about the post-World War II rise of a permanent war-based industry dictating national policy and the need for citizen vigilance and engagement to curb the “military-industrial” complex. Yet, he made a fateful decision on energy policy, which set our country and the world on a course from which we must find our way back.

The 1952 blue-ribbon Paley Commission Report proposed that the US build the economy on solar energy sources. The report also offered a strong negative assessment of nuclear energy and called for “aggressive research in the whole field of solar energy” as well as research and development on wind and biomass. In 1953, the new President Eisenhower ignored the report recommendation and inaugurated “Atoms for Peace,” touting nuclear power as the world’s new energy miracle that would be “too cheap to meter.” This decision not only embarked the country (and world) on a fateful course of nuclear power, but it also affixed the centrality of oil, gas and coal within the US economy.

By the late 1970s, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian Revolution threatened US access to oil in the Middle East, leading to President Carter’s 1980 State of the Union warmongering doctrine. The Carter Doctrine holds that any threat to US access to Middle East oil would be resisted “by any means necessary, including military force.” Carter put teeth into his doctrine by creating the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, whose purpose was combat operations in the Persian Gulf area when necessary. Ronald Reagan ramped up the militarization of oil with the formation of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), whose raison d’etre was to ensure access to oil, diminish Soviet Union influence in the region and control political regimes in the region for our national security interests. With growing reliance on oil from Africa and the Caspian Sea region, the US has since augmented its military capabilities in those regions.

In 2003, Carter’s doctrine of force when necessary was carried out with “shock and awe,” in what was the most intensive and profligate use of fossil fuel the world has ever witnessed. Recall, too, that as Baghdad fell, invading US troops ignored the looting of schools, hospitals and a nuclear power facility as well as the ransacking of national museums and burning of the National Library and Archives holding peerless, irreplaceable documentation of the “cradle of civilization.” The US military did, however, immediately seize and guard the Iraqi Oil Ministry Headquarters and positioned 2,000 soldier to safeguard oilfields.(7) First things first.

Many factors have converged and clarified over time to support the proposition that, at its core, the Iraq war was a war over oil. Eliminating weapons of mass destruction, deposing a tyrannical dictator, rooting out terrorism linked to 9/11, employing gunboat diplomacy to instill democracy and human rights – all were largely foils for oil. Alan Greenspan put it squarely: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everybody knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”(8)

As we near peak oil production, that is, the point of diminishing returns for oil exploration and production and higher oil prices, OPEC countries’ share of global production “will rise from 46 percent in 2007 to 56 percent in 2030.” Iraq has the third-largest reserves of oil; Iraq and Kazakhstan are “two of the top four countries with the largest [petroleum] production increases forecast from 2000 to 2030. The Middle East and Central Asia are, predictably, epicenters of US military operations and wars. A 2006 report on national security and US oil dependency released by the Council on Foreign Relations concluded that the US should maintain “a strong military posture that permits suitably rapid deployment to the [Persian Gulf] region” for at least 20 years. US military professionals concur and are preparing for the prospect of “large-scale armed struggle” over access to energy resources.

Where We Stand

Our national security has been reduced in large part to energy security, which has led us to militarizing our access to oil through establishing a military presence across the oil-bearing regions of the world and instigating armed conflict in Iraq, sustaining it in Afghanistan and provoking it in Libya. The air war in Libya has given the new US Africa Command (AFRICOM) – itself another extension of the Carter Doctrine – some spotlight and muscle. A few commentators have concluded that the NATO war in Libya is a justifiable humanitarian military intervention. The more trenchant judgment, in my view, is that the air war violated the UN Security Council Resolution 1973, the US Constitution and the War Powers Act; and that it sets a precedent and “model for how the United States wields force in other countries where its interests are threatened,” to quote administration officials. The air war in Libya is another setback to non-militarized diplomacy; it marginalized the African Union and it sets a course for more military intervention in Africa when US interests are at stake. Air war a model for future wars? If so, a death knell for the planet. This insatiable militarism is the single greatest institutional contributor to the growing natural disasters intensified by global climate change.

Postscript

In August 2010, as I was conceiving this series “War and the True Tragedy of the Commons,” wildfires caused by drought and heat wave were consuming huge swaths of Russia and choking Moscow with air pollution. A member of the Russian Academy of Sciences warned that fire-induced winds could carry radioactive particles hundreds of miles from the burning forest around Chernobyl, reaching cities in Russia and even in Eastern Europe. The same risk exists for regions elsewhere contaminated with radioactive waste and jeopardized by uncontrollable wildfires. At the same time as the Russian fires, more than one in ten Pakistanis were uprooted, rendered food dependent and endangered by disease from the worst floods in recorded history, floods which engulfed one-fifth of the country from the northwest region to the south. Pakistan – a highly militarized nuclear power with tense relations with its nuclear neighbor India, whose border area with Afghanistan is a war zone, and within whose boundaries the CIA is conducting a drone war – prioritizes militarism over development. It ranks 15 in global military strength and 141 out of 182 countries in the Human Development Index.

In summer 2011, as I was completing this series, forest fires burned almost 50,000 acres in and around the nuclear weapons production and waste storage facilities at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Among the endangered radioactive materials and waste were as many as 30,000 55-gallon drums of plutonium-contaminated waste stored in fabric tents above ground, awaiting transport to a low-level radiation dumpsite in southern New Mexico. Two months later, Vermont suffered its worst ever floods and flood damage, with no part of the state untouched, from Tropical Storm Irene – considered to be one of the ten costliest disasters in US history.

Coincident with these environmental tragedies intensified by global warming, is the ongoing tradeoff in the US federal budget between militarized defense and genuine human and environmental security. The United States contributes more than 30 percent of global warming gases to the atmosphere, generated by five percent of the world’s population and US militarism. The pieces of the US federal budget pie that fund education, energy, environment, social services, housing and new job creation, taken together, receive less funding than the military/defense budget. Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has called the military budget a taxpayer-supported jobs program and argues for reprioritizing federal spending on jobs in green energy, education and infrastructure – the real national security.

The United States has the wealth (currently larding the defense budget) and the technical capacity to revolutionize our energy economy and turn it within a few decades into an economy based on efficiency and renewable energy sources, thus removing a critical demand factor of our Goliath military. How costly would it be to eliminate underlying causes of war and injustice, such as poverty and gender inequality, and to restore the natural environment? In his most recent book “Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization,” Lester Brown estimates that eradicating poverty, educating women, providing reproductive resources and restoring forests worldwide would cost one-third of the US 2008 defense budget. The issue is not public monies.

Another ferocious demand factor is the octopus of defense industry companies that have spread their tentacles to nearly all of the states and control the majority of Congressionals. Thus, another vital scarce resource – some mineral in a contested seabed, for example – could replace petroleum and become the next flashpoint for more military build-up and response, unless that military-industrial complex is neutered.

Perhaps the most elusive driving factor of war is the values that underpin the tradition and habit of militarized solutions. War mirrors the culture of a country. US militarism – from its training, tactics and logistics to its reasons for going to war and its weapons of war – is distinctly shaped by core elements of American identity. These determining cultural forces are, according to military historian Victor Davis Hanson: manifest destiny; frontier mentality; rugged individualism and what he calls a “muscular independence”; unfettered market capitalism; the ideal of meritocracy (no matter what one’s class, one can rise to the top in the US military); and a fascination with machines, modernity and mobility. All converge to generate bigger, better and more destructive war technology. He adds that the integration of military into society is smoothed through the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

This cultural competence for high-tech war, with its origins in our past annihilation of Native Americans, may be our society’s nemesis unless we do critical soul searching about our cultural and personal values and actively engage in transforming them. There are a plentitude of cross currents in our society that have profoundly challenged the dominant cultural profile limned by militarist Hanson: the women’s and civil rights movements, the anti-war and peace movements, public intellectuals and progressive media, peace and justice studies, progressive labor and health workers, the coop and Transition Town movements and the handful of progressive politicians, among others. The challenge is how to build voice, social cohesion and public influence for our shared values of a sense of community, connection to nature, concern for the exploited and thirst for equity and justice against the dominant market messages of wealth, social prestige, image, power through dominance and meeting conflict with force.

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” -Martin Luther King

Resources for Education and Action

Bring the War Dollars Home, a growing movement at the state and city/town level, uses the National Priorities Project data to make the case for ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and redirecting defense spending to genuine domestic security. See here and here.

National Priorities Project is a think tank and advocacy group that provides research designed to influence US federal spending priorities. Includes data on costs of wars, local taxes for war and tradeoffs.

Progressive Caucus Budget for 2012, also known as The People’s Budget, is an alternative budget offered by the 81-member Congressional Progressive Caucus that takes steps toward a saner role for government while reducing the deficit more and faster than either Ryan’s “Plan for Prosperity” or Obama’s plan.

Peace and Conflict Studies Programs: Two hundred and fifteen accredited peace and conflict studies graduate programs and grad schools on the leading graduate school web site.

Peace and Justice Studies Association

War Tax Resistance: See the web site of War Tax Resistance/War Resisters League

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) was founded in 1915 during World War I. WILPF works to achieve, through peaceful means, world disarmament, full rights for women, racial and economic justice, an end to all forms of violence.

Footnotes:

1. Barry Sanders (2009), “The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism,” Oakland, California: AK Press, p.39.

2. Barry Sanders (2009), “The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism,” Oakland, California: AK Press, p.51.

3. Barry Sanders (2009), “The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism,” Oakland, California: AK Press, pps.50,61 for data in this section.

4. Units of carbon dioxide equivalent to combined greenhouse gas emissions.

5. This figure is conservative because there were no reliable numbers on the military consumption of naval bunker fuels for the transport of fuel and troops. Nor was there data on the use or release of intensive greenhouse gas chemicals in war, including halon, an ozone-depleting fire extinguishing chemical banned in the US since 1992 for civilian production and use, but allowed for DoD “critical mission” use.

6. George Monbiot (2006), “Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning,” cited in Sanders, p.72.

7. Chalmers Johnson (2010), “Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope,” New York: Metropolitan Books. pp.40-51.

8. Quoted in Liska and Perrin, p.9.

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H. Patricia HynesH. Patricia Hynes is a retired professor of environmental health at Boston University School of Public Health and chair of the board of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice in western Massachusetts.

 

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                  Showing 3 comments

  • Jan                                            1 comment collapsed                                    CollapseExpand
            How much petrol is consumed by the jets during their aerosol spraying of chemicals into our once-blue skies day after day?

  • slashpot                                            1 comment collapsed                                    CollapseExpand
            The FOUR years of WWII???
    The allied forces you mention were at war from September 1939 until July 1945. Does this oh so very typical American view suggest that the tens of thousands from several nations who were violently killed, particularly during the blitz in England, are to be found alive somewhere having done a Rip van Winkle for 70 years?
    Of course the ugly fact is, if America had done what allies are supposed to do in 1939 a huge number of people might never have died at all. So why did America ignore the constant pleas from it’s most fervent allies, including England, France & Australia? For the most part, it was because those with the most influence were too busy making vast profits from the Nazi build up or too firmly in support of Hitlers anti-Semitism and the ideology of fascism. American firmness could have prevented both Japan and Germany from launching the most horrific wars the world has ever seen, but then waiting for everyone else to beat themselves senseless and stepping in at the right moment made the USA the superpower it is today.
    Gee, that worked out well!

  • R                                            1 comment collapsed                                    CollapseExpand
            One has to wonder what the endgame result is to be–who wins in a sick world??

“Planetary Emergency:” Hansen Joins Tar Sands Protest August 29, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment.
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Published on Monday, August 29, 2011 by Talk Radio News Service

  by Elianna Mintz

As President Obama’s deadline to approve or disapprove licensing of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline draws closer, NASA’s lead climatologist, Dr. James Hansen, addressed reporters at the National Press Club to explain the grave consequences of approving such a project.

James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, addresses a crowd of protesters at a White House climate change rally in October 2010. “We have a planetary emergency,” Hansen, an adjunct professor at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and at Columbia’s Earth Institute, told reporters Monday.  (Credit: Chesapeake Climate) “We have a planetary emergency,” Hansen, an adjunct professor at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and at Columbia’s Earth Institute, told reporters Monday.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is a proposed 1,700 mile pipeline system that would be utilized to transport crude oil from Canada to oil refineries in the midwestern region of the US. Environmentalists, including some in Congress, oppose it on the grounds that it could disrupt and taint domestic clean water supplies, and could jeopardize efforts to shift to clean energy sources.

Hansen argued that if humans continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, 20-40 percent of species on the planet will become extinct by the end of the century. The hydraulic cycle, he said, has become more extreme, resulting in extreme floods and drought intensification. Coral reefs are being destroyed, sea levels are lowering and glaciers are receding, causing rivers to run dry, he added.

Hansen warned that if the next phase of the Keystone pipeline is approved, America will continue to feed its “oil addiction” and will continue to burn fossil fuels, further destroying the environment.

“Fossil fuels are finite,” Hansen stated. “We’ll have to move to clean energy at some point so we may as well do it before we burn all the fossil fuels and ruin the future of our children.”

Hansen was among the first group of scientists to spread such warnings of global warming 30 years ago. Frustrated that his cries over the threat of climate change was going unheard, Hansen turned to civil disobedience in 2009. He has been arrested twice for protesting mountaintop removal coal mining, once in West Virginia and once outside the White House.

Following his remarks at the NPC, Hansen joined more than 60 religious leaders outside the White House to spread awareness of the environmental dangers of the Keystone XL pipeline as part of a civil disobedience act that has been going on for weeks.

© 2011 Talk Radio News Service

Arrested at the White House: Acting as a Living Tribute to Martin Luther King August 25, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Environment.
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Thursday 25 August 2011
by: Bill McKibben, TomDispatch                 | News Analysis

Writer and climate activist Bill McKibben was among several dozen arrested outside the White House on August 20 at the start of more than two weeks of planned demonstrations by activists opposed to the construction of an oil pipeline carrying petroleum from the Canadian “tar sands” to the US. (Photo: jaymallinphotos)

I didn’t think it was possible, but my admiration for Martin Luther King, Jr., grew even stronger these past days.

As I headed to jail as part of the first wave of what is turning into the biggest civil disobedience action in the environmental movement for many years, I had the vague idea that I would write something. Not an epic like King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” but at least, you know, a blog post. Or a tweet.

But frankly, I wasn’t up to it. The police, surprised by how many people turned out on the first day of two weeks of protests at the White House, decided to teach us a lesson. As they told our legal team, they wanted to deter anyone else from coming — and so with our first crew they were… kind of harsh.

We spent three days in D.C.’s Central Cell Block, which is exactly as much fun as it sounds like it might be. You lie on a metal rack with no mattress or bedding and sweat in the high heat; the din is incessant; there’s one baloney sandwich with a cup of water every 12 hours.

I didn’t have a pencil — they wouldn’t even let me keep my wedding ring — but more important, I didn’t have the peace of mind to write something. It’s only now, out 12 hours and with a good night’s sleep under my belt, that I’m able to think straight. And so, as I said, I’ll go to this weekend’s big celebrations for the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial on the Washington Mall with even more respect for his calm power.

Preacher, speaker, writer under fire, but also tactician. He really understood the power of nonviolence, a power we’ve experienced in the last few days. When the police cracked down on us, the publicity it produced cemented two of the main purposes of our protest:

First, it made Keystone XL — the new, 1,700-mile-long pipeline we’re trying to block that will vastly increase the flow of “dirty” tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico — into a national issue. A few months ago, it was mainly people along the route of the prospective pipeline who were organizing against it. (And with good reason: tar sands mining has already wrecked huge swaths of native land in Alberta, and endangers farms, wild areas, and aquifers all along its prospective route.)

Now, however, people are coming to understand — as we hoped our demonstrations would highlight — that it poses a danger to the whole planet as well.  After all, it’s the Earth’s second largest pool of carbon, and hence the second-largest potential source of global warming gases after the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. We’ve already plumbed those Saudi deserts.  Now the question is: Will we do the same to the boreal forests of Canada. As NASA climatologist James Hansen has made all too clear, if we do so it’s “essentially game over for the climate.” That message is getting through.  Witness the incredibly strong New York Times editorial opposing the building of the pipeline that I was handed on our release from jail.

Second, being arrested in front of the White House helped make it clearer that President Obama should be the focus of anti-pipeline activism. For once Congress isn’t in the picture.  The situation couldn’t be simpler: the president, and the president alone, has the power either to sign the permit that would take the pipeline through the Midwest and down to Texas (with the usual set of disastrous oil spills to come) or block it.

Barack Obama has the power to stop it and no one in Congress or elsewhere can prevent him from doing so.  That means — and again, it couldn’t be simpler — that the Keystone XL decision is the biggest environmental test for him between now and the next election. If he decides to stand up to the power of big oil, it will send a jolt through his political base, reminding the presently discouraged exactly why they were so enthused in 2008.

That’s why many of us were wearing our old campaign buttons when we went into the paddy wagon.  We’d like to remember — and like the White House to remember, too — just why we knocked on all those doors.

But as Dr. King might have predicted, the message went deeper. As people gather in Washington for this weekend’s dedication of his monument, most will be talking about him as a great orator, a great moral leader. And of course he was that, but it’s easily forgotten what a great strategist he was as well, because he understood just how powerful a weapon nonviolence can be.

The police, who trust the logic of force, never quite seem to get this. When they arrested our group of 70 or so on the first day of our demonstrations, they decided to teach us a lesson by keeping us locked up extra long — strong treatment for a group of people peacefully standing on a sidewalk.

No surprise, it didn’t work.  The next day an even bigger crowd showed up — and now, there are throngs of people who have signed up to be arrested every day until the protests end on September 3rd.  Not only that, a judge threw out the charges against our first group, and so the police have backed off.  For the moment, anyway, they’re not actually sending more protesters to jail, just booking and fining them.

And so the busload of ranchers coming from Nebraska, and the bio-fueled RV with the giant logo heading in from East Texas, and the flight of grandmothers arriving from Montana, and the tribal chiefs, and union leaders, and everyone else will keep pouring into D.C. We’ll all, I imagine, stop and pay tribute to Dr. King before or after we get arrested; it’s his lead, after all, that we’re following.

Our part in the weekend’s celebration is to act as a kind of living tribute. While people are up on the mall at the monument, we’ll be in the front of the White House, wearing handcuffs, making clear that civil disobedience is not just history in America.

We may not be facing the same dangers Dr. King did, but we’re getting some small sense of the kind of courage he and the rest of the civil rights movement had to display in their day — the courage to put your body where your beliefs are. It feels good.

Copyright 2011 Bill McKibben

Over 160 Arrested in Ongoing Civil Disobedience Against Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline August 23, 2011

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Bill McKibben, part of Tar Sands Action and founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org. He is the author of many books, including his most recent, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

 

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Bill McKibben of 350.org Calls House Vote on Global Warming “One of the Most Embarrassing Votes Congress Has Ever Taken”

 


 

AMY GOODMAN: Fifty-two environmental activists were arrested Monday in front of the White House as part of an ongoing protest now underway being called—it’s calling on the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed 1,500-mile pipeline would deliver tar sands oil 1,700 miles from Canada to refineries in Texas. Demonstrators are calling on Obama to reject a permit for the pipeline and instead focus on developing clean energy.

An estimated 2,000 people have signed up to hold sit-ins and commit other acts of civil disobedience outside the White House every day for the next two weeks. More than 162 people have been arrested since Saturday. Among those arrested was prominent environmental activist Bill McKibben. He and 65 others were released Monday after spending 48 hours in jail. Dr. Sydney Parker of Maryland was arrested Sunday.

DR. SYDNEY PARKER: We are here because this is not just an environmental issue, it’s also a very big health issue. And that’s why we’ve come out today, and that’s why we’re so committed. So, personally, I have never been arrested before. I’m not—you know, I don’t do this for fun. I’m here because I think it is such an important issue that it really demands this kind of action, and it demands that level of commitment from myself.

AMY GOODMAN: Also headed to Washington to join the protest are indigenous First Nations communities in Canada and landowners along the Keystone XL pipeline’s planned six-state route from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

An editorial in Sunday’s New York Times joined in calling on the State Department to reject the pipeline. It noted the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse emissions than conventional production.

Meanwhile, oil industry backers of the project are emphasizing what they say are the economic benefits of the $7 billion proposal. Republican Congress Member Ted Poe, whose home state of Texas hosts the refineries that would receive the tar sands oil, urged President Obama to back the pipeline.

REP. TED POE: To me, an easy choice for this administration: either they can force Americans to continue to rely on unfriendly foreign countries for our energy, like Venezuela and the Middle Eastern dictators, by depriving Americans of a reliable source of oil at a time when gas prices are around $4, or they can work with our friends in the north to supply over 1.4 million barrels of oil per day. Pipelines are the proven and safe, efficient source of energy. Best of all, this project creates thousands of jobs at a time when unemployment in this country is 9.2 percent.

AMY GOODMAN: As the Obama administration remains undecided on the Keystone XL pipeline, we turn now to one of the leading environmentalists opposed to its construction, Bill McKibben, from Washington, D.C., just released from jail after spending two nights there along with others as they kicked off the pipeline protests, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org. His latest book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Bill, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain why you were arrested.

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, we really felt like this was the issue, Amy, the best chance for the President to make the statement he hasn’t really made so far in his administration about the fact that we’ve got to get off oil, that we don’t need one more huge source of oil pouring in, instead we need to make the tough decision that we’re going to try and power our lives in new ways. And so, there are people flooding into D.C. from all 50 states and Puerto Rico, lining up to get arrested over the next couple of weeks. It’s pretty powerful to see.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill, last week I asked Cindy Schild of the American Petroleum Institute why her group and TransCanada are pushing so hard for the pipeline. She denied having any financial interests in having the project approved, saying API is looking out for the country’s “energy security.” This is an excerpt of what she had to say.

CINDY SCHILD: API doesn’t have a financial interest in the pipeline. I mean, we’re looking out for, again, energy security, national security. We also see supply flexibility and reliability benefits to being able to bring the third-largest resource base from Canada, and our number one trading partner, down to our largest refining center in the Gulf.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the spokesperson for American Petroleum Institute. Bill McKibben, who stands to benefit from this project?

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, they may not have any—they may not have—you know, the institute, whatever it is, may not have a financial interest, but the oil industry sure does. There’s a couple of trillion dollars worth of sludge sitting up there that they desperately want to sell. That’s why they’re lobbying like crazy to get Washington to approve this thing. But, you know, I mean, let’s be serious. This is the second-largest pool of carbon on earth. America’s foremost climatologist and NASA scientist, Jim Hansen, said a few weeks ago, if we begin tapping into this, it’s—and I quote— “essentially game over for the climate,” unquote. I don’t know what more one more needs to say about security than that. I’m not quite sure what kind of world, you know, what kind of security they’re talking about, once we push global warming past whatever tipping points remain.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you feel are the problems with the tar sands, and exactly what route this will take, where it will go, the pipeline.

BILL McKIBBEN: So, the problems fall into two categories, really. One is along the pipeline. Start in Alberta, where it’s an environmental debacle. They’ve scraped off huge—I mean, when I say “huge,” I mean huge; this tar sands covers an area the size of the United Kingdom—scraped off huge amounts of boreal forest, wrecked native lands and native lives, which is why indigenous people have been at the core of this organizing effort. Now they’re proposing to stick it in a pipeline and send it 1,700 miles to Texas. The 1,700 miles goes through some of the most sensitive and beautiful and important agricultural land in this country. It crosses the Ogalalla Aquifer, a source of water for 20 million people, one of the great pools of fresh water on the planet.

You know, I mean, the precursor, small precursor pipeline of this thing has had 12 leaks in a year. You know, part of our job here is to prevent a terrestrial BP spill, OK? But even if all that oil makes it safely to Texas, OK, every drop of it that didn’t spill into the land or water is going to spill into the atmosphere. If we burn that oil, we increase dramatically the amount of global warming gases in the atmosphere. And after a year that’s just seen the highest temperatures ever recorded on this planet, after a year we’ve seen incredible weather extremes of all kinds, that’s just folly. You listen to the senator from Texas, and you want to say to the guy, “Have you noticed that your state is in the worst drought—worse than the Dust Bowl—the worst drought ever recorded? Get real!”

And that’s why—it’s why it’s so great that there are people just showing up at the White House, saying, “President Obama, you can actually block this thing. You don’t have to ask Congress a thing. It’s up to you. You can simply say, ‘No, we’re not going to give the permit for this dog of a project. We’re, for once, really going to stand up.’”

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of Texas politicians, Bill McKibben, I wanted to play a comment of Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, who recently claimed global warming is a hoax. This is what Perry said at a news conference in New Hampshire.

GOV. RICK PERRY: The issue of global warming has been politicized. I think that there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. And I don’t think, from my perspective, that I want America to be engaged in spending that much money on still a scientific theory that has not been proven and, from my perspective, is more and more being put into question.

AMY GOODMAN: That was presidential candidate Perry, the governor of Texas. Bill McKibben?

BILL McKIBBEN: Rick Perry’s response to the drought so far has been to have a statewide day of prayer. Now, I’m a Methodist Sunday school teacher, so I’m completely down with prayer. That’s good. But in most theologies, prayer works a little better if you aren’t at the same time trying to think of every policy you can do to make matters worse. It’s astonishing that someone is able to make George Bush look relatively smart about scientific things. The Governor is completely wrong, of course, about the science. It’s not only strong, it grows stronger with every passing heat wave and every year of record temperature. There’s no scientific doubt.

The only reason that anybody is even considering building this pipeline is because it’s going to make a few big corporations an immense amount of money. And that’s why those corporations and the Koch brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are lobbying like crazy for it. We don’t have the money to compete with those guys. All we have, the only alternative currency we have, is our bodies. And that’s what we’re using.

It was interesting to be in jail this weekend and reflect—listen to some of the people on the cell block reflecting on the fact that the last time they were, you know, lying on the ground like this was in some church basement while they were out campaigning for Barack Obama in that fevered fall of 2008. We’re incredibly hopeful that if the President does the right thing here, it will remind a lot of us why we were so enthusiastic about him and send a real jolt of electricity through people that are a little, frankly, discouraged at the moment.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill, you have been an environmentalist for decades and acted on that, but now you’re getting arrested. Why have you chosen to participate in the civil disobedience? And also, why in front of the White House now, when President Obama is on vacation?

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, we’ll be here when he gets back, too. We’re staying for two weeks, every day. This is the first real civil disobedience of this scale in the environmental movement in ages—I mean, as long as I can recall. And even before he gets back, I’m virtually certain they’ve established a phone connection between the White House and Martha’s Vineyard. I’m pretty sure he knows we’re there, because everybody else seems to. When we came out of jail, they handed me that New York Times editorial, one of the strongest editorials I’ve ever seen in the paper, just saying, “Mr. President, block this pipeline.” I think the message is getting through.

And I think the message needs to get through, because this is one place where President Obama has no obstacles to acting. Congress isn’t in the way. He has no obstacles to acting and no excuse for not acting. It will be the biggest test for him, environmentally, between now and the next election. It’s emerged as the single, premier environmental issue right now, that people from every organization and every group are coming to Washington to help with. And the good news is that after trying to treat us pretty harshly in order to deter this protest from happening, the police are now backing off under orders from a judge, and so the subsequent three waves of arrestees have been treated much more civilly than we were. And so, I think that it’s going to only grow.

AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, the alliance of environmentalists and labor unions that is growing right now, can you talk about the significance of this?

BILL McKIBBEN: Absolutely.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein just tweeted, “This is a major breakthrough in green+labour alliance: 2 big unions oppose.”

BILL McKIBBEN: She was talking about the fact that two of the big unions, last week, came out against this pipeline, even though the argument for it, theoretically, is that it’s going to create jobs. It will create a few. You can’t build a pipeline this big without, but at nowhere near the number that the proponents have been claiming, as it turns out. More to the point, by continuing our addiction to oil, it will send billions of dollars a day north into Canada and not give us the incentive that we need to put people to—far, far, far more people to work doing the wind and solar work that will actually repower our lives. That’s where the jobs are, and those jobs won’t be wrecking the future.

AMY GOODMAN: We have just 15 seconds, but, Bill McKibben, you’re right there in front of the White House. You and a number of students waged a campaign to get solar panels put back on the White House roof, that President Reagan had taken down. Then there was a big announcement of the victory, that President Obama had agreed. But they haven’t been put up.

BILL McKIBBEN: No, we were looking closely, as we were being arrested, and there’s no sign of them up there on the roof. But you know what? President Obama, right now that’s job number two. Job number one is blocking this incredible pipeline. Let’s get the nation’s house in order, and then it would be good if you’d go to work on your own, too.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, thanks so much for being with us, spokesperson for TarSandsAction.org.

BILL McKIBBEN: Thank you so much.

AMY GOODMAN: Just came out of jail after two days, nonviolently protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. He is the founder of 350.org.