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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.”

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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.”

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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

 

 

‘A Great Victory’: Controversial Brazilian Dam Construction Halted August 15, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Latin America.
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Published on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 by Common Dreams

 

Brazilian Federal court finds Belo Monte hydro-electric dam licenses invalid, indigenous peoples were not consulted

– Common Dreams staff

(photo: International Rivers via Flickr)

A victory came to activists in Brazil on Tuesday when a federal judge halted construction on the controversial Belo Monte dam in the Amazon, saying that the indigenous peoples had not been consulted.

The impacts of the dam, which would have been the third largest hydro-electric dam in the world, had long been slammed by indigenous groups and environmental activists who said that it would have displaced thousands and wreaked havoc upon the ecosystem while contributing to greenhouse gases.

When the Brazilian Congress gave approval for the dam in 2005, there were no consultations with the indigenous peoples about the environmental impacts, a fact that Judge Souza Prudente found in violation of the Brazilian Constitution.

“A study on the environmental impact of the project was required before, not after, work on the dam started. The legislation is flawed,” Judge Souza Prudente told O Globo newspaper.

“The Brazilian Congress must take into account the decisions taken by the indigenous communities. Legislators can only give the go-ahead if the indigenous communities agree with the project,” he said.

Souza Prudente remarked at a press conference that “only in a dictatorial regime does a government approve a project before holding consultations.”

Indigenous groups lauded the court ruling. “It’s a historic decision for the country and for the native communities,” said Antonia Melo, coordinator of the Xingu Vivo indigenous movement.

“It’s a great victory which shows that Belo Monte is not a done deal. We are very happy and satisfied.”

Zachary Hurwitz of International Rivers writes that “the decision supports the arguments that the affected tribes have been making over the lifetime of Belo Monte: tribes will face downstream livelihood impacts as a result of a reduction in the flow of the Xingu River on the 100-km stretch known as the Volta Grande or ‘Big Bend,’ and were never properly consulted, much less gave their consent.”

Hurwitz adds that the economic rationale dam proponents pushed is fundamentally flawed. “Economic rationale for the dam is based on a projected economic growth of 5% or more a year, but over the past few quarters, GDP has been lucky to grow at even a measly rate. As far as Belo Monte’s importance to Brazil’s economic race, this is really a case of the horse following the wagon.”

“And, as illustrated by this historic court decision, the wagon has been trampling on indigenous people and their rights, along the way,” writes Hurwitz.

Showing 4 comments

  • webwalk 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    Brave act by Judge Souza Prudente. And praise to the International Rivers organization for their relentless solidarity work.

    Now we need to flip the economy and replace the neoliberal capitalist system with an Earth-centered and people-centered economy, so that victories like this are not isolated and temporary!

    show more show less

     

     
  • future4the 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    Congratulations to the judge and the people of Brazil who are standing up for the rights of our earth and all living creatures.

    show more show less

     

     
  • julea bacall 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    Finally some really good news!! More even than the stopping of the dam construction is the fact that Leaders in Power listened to the People! This should be broadcasted all over the world as a model for all Presidents,dictators and Leaders!

    Peace can only follow Justice.

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  • Chris Randolph 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    “At the site of the protest, visited by Al Jazeera on Wednesday, the
    tribesmen were carrying clubs and spears and had built rudimentary
    sleeping quarters in what has essentially become a non-violent sit-in.”

    It’s amazing how clubs and spears can keep an occupation from being beaten by police. Will there be any anti-Black Bloc comments about how the locals were ruining Occupy Brazil with their macho terror tactics..?

    show more show less

     

’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.

<!–

–>

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??

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.

 

 

Canadian Government Accused of ‘Unprecedented’ Tar Sands Lobbying August 5, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment.
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Published on Friday, August 5, 2011 by The Guardian/UK

Friends of the Earth Europe claims ministers have attempted to undermine European fuel legislation that would affect exports

  by Terry Macalister

The Canadian government has been accused of an “unprecedented” lobbying effort involving 110 meetings in less than two years in Britain and Europe in a bid to derail new fuel legislation that could hit exports from its tar sands.

Mining trucks carry loads of oil-laden sand in Canada. “The overriding message,” say campaigners against the tar sands, “is that… the dirtiest fuel on the planet is being sold as clean, stable and secure.”(Photograph: Jeff Mcintosh/AP)

The allegation comes from Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE), which claims Ottawa ministers have attempted to mislead European decision-makers by underplaying the carbon-heavy nature of their crude in assessing new petrol standards.

Canada is worried that proposed European legislation would penalise imports of oil derived from its tar sands and so restrict access to the European market for Canadian oil. This might in turn embolden US legislators to do similar. To prevent this, FoEE says that Ottawa has been conducting an intensive lobbying campaign aimed at preventing the British government and the European commission from watering down the legislation.

“The Canadian government must disclose the genuine GHG [greenhouse gas] footprint of tar sands and stop making false promises. It should take serious measures to address the negative nature of tar sands,” recommends FoEE in a new report entitled Canada’s dirty lobby diary – undermining the EU fuel quality directive.

The lobbying effort, which includes dozens of meetings between Canadian and British government “representatives” and oil executives, was triggered by the release of a consultation document in July 2009 by the European commission, which attempted to definitively assess the “well-to-wheels” carbon intensity of different oils.

The document attributed a “default” carbon value for traditional fuels of 85.8g of carbon dioxide per mega joule of energy for traditional oil and 107gCO2/MJ for fuel derived from tar sands.

The Canadians have managed to delay the EU’s original deadline of January 2011 for confirming baseline default values despite new peer-reviewed studies to support the European position.

Darek Urbaniak, extractives campaign coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “It is unprecedented that a government of one of the most developed countries can devise and implement a strategy that involves undermining independent science and deliberate misleading of its international partners.”

“The Canadians are asking for further research and further delays. This tactic is reminiscent of the tobacco industry in its attempt to delay action on health,” said the FoEE report.

Relatively little fuel from the Alberta tar sands currently ends up in Britain or on the continent, but the Canadians have made clear their real concern is that European legislation will encourage the US to take a tougher line.

A pan-European oil sands advocacy plan was established by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade last year. The main aims were to protect and advance Canadian interests in Europe and to ensure “non-discriminatory market access for oil sands-derived products”, according to documents seen by FoEE.

The Canadians are also said to have set up a special lobbying team in London and identified Shell and BP – two big tar sands investors – as “like-minded allies” in the struggle to have tar sands accepted.

Shell’s chief executive, Peter Voser, made clear last week at the company’s half yearly financial results that tar sands was one of the key areas of the business that was delivering production growth – both now and more in future. BP has also made no secret of its determination to pursue its interests in Alberta.

But FoEE is angry because it believes the Canadians are deliberately marketing tar sands as an environmentally friendly product by making references to initiatives – such as carbon capture and storage – to reduce the CO2 emissions. During the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Canadian government spoke out about the safer operations in Alberta while the country’s democratic credentials have been compared with less savoury regimes where oil is extracted, argues FoEE.

“The overriding message is that Canada is not exporting dirty oil, but clean energy. One of the dirtiest fuels on the planet is being sold as clean, stable and secure.”

The Canadian government was contacted by the Guardian but did not comment.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited

When Breaking the Law Is Justified June 10, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Democracy, Environment.
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Published on Friday, June 10, 2011 by The Toronto Star

The recent bad news about climate change thundered through the scientific community like those twisters through the U.S.

First, the International Energy Association (IEA) announced global greenhouse gas emissions hit record highs in 2010, threatening to catapult Earth over the 2C rise in temperature that, scientists predict, will lead to cataclysmic changes.

 More than 100 Arrested at White House Demanding End to Mountaintop Removal

We’re already up one degree, attributed to human causes. That’s enough to cause widespread drought, wildfires, flooding, extreme weather — and shrinkage of the polar ice caps.

Says Nobel Prize-winning meteorologist Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State: “Their eventual melting would lead to more than 20 feet (6 metres) of global sea level rise — by any assessment, a catastrophic outcome.”

The other climate bombshell came when the U.S. government’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory announced that this year world greenhouse gas emissions are climbing even higher than last year.

On a per-capita basis, Canada has much to answer for. Population and economic growth, oil and gas exports and our love of light trucks have been among the key drivers of our rising emissions.

Then there’s Alberta oilsands mining, which, according to Environment Canada, spews more greenhouse gases than all the cars on our roads combined.

Earlier this month, the government quietly tabled its annual report on how Canada is doing in meeting its targets under the Kyoto Protocol and other international obligations. It isn’t, not by a long shot, say critics.

“Unfortunately, far too many are in denial and political action is at a standstill,” observes Kevin Trenberth, Distinguished Senior Scientist at the Boulder, Colo.-based National Center for Atmospheric Research.

“Once the problem is so obvious to everyone, it is far, far too late to do anything about it,” says Trenberth.

That sense of urgency is why a growing number of scientists are advocating non-violent civil disobedience to shake up governments, industry and media.

Although there is some political disagreement, the general scientific consensus is that in order to head off mass extinctions, huge migrations of climate refugees and, yes, global warring, carbon dioxide emissions should be cut back to 350 parts per million from the current 390 or so.

“We need to do (civil disobedience) on a mass scale,” says leading American environmentalist and activist Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. “And we need to do it in a way that makes one thing clear to all onlookers: in this fight, we are the conservatives. The radicals are the people who want to alter the composition of the atmosphere.”

The idea is spreading.

“Non-violent civil disobedience is justified when there is a history of long-standing harm or violation of people’s fundamental rights, when legal and policy means have failed to reduce the harms and violations, and when there is little time remaining to address the problems,” wrote University of New England professor John Lemons and Penn State’s Donald Brown in April in the online version of Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics.

“Simply put, people do not have the right to harm others who have not given their consent to be harmed, and this is exactly what the U.S.A. and other countries continue to do,” Lemons told the Star.

Environmental activists have long engaged in civil disobedience. Greenpeace, to name one group, has specialized in it.

In 2009, 20 activists were arrested after they scaled Parliament’s West Block and covered it with banners demanding government action on climate change. On June 2, two members were arrested and removed from an “Arctic survival pod” suspended from an oil rig off the coast of Greenland in which they had camped out for four days in an effort to stop a Scottish oil firm from drilling.

Noted Australian climate advocate Clive Hamilton (Affluenza: When Too Much is Never Enough, Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist The Truth About Climate Change) insists that the moral obligation to act now clearly trumps obedience to the law.

“Those who engage in civil disobedience are usually the most law-abiding citizens — those who have most regard for the social interest and the keenest understanding of the democratic process,” he emails from Britain, where he is a visiting professor at Oxford.

Civil disobedience has a proud tradition. It helped bring about civil rights in the U.S. and an end to the Vietnam War. It delayed mass logging in B.C.’s Clayoquot Sound. African-Americans boycotted and defiantly drank out of “whites-only” water fountains, young men burned their draft cards, and thousands blockaded roads to keep pulp and paper companies out of old-growth forests.

The member-supported Council of Canadians has engaged in all sorts of civil disobedience, including sandbagging towns and provincial legislatures to point out how rising sea levels would affect them.

“It’s not an action to be taken lightly,” says Andrea Harden-Donahue, the Council’s energy and climate justice campaigner. “We do believe that all other democratic means should be pursued first and continue to be pursued, even with a civil disobedience strategy.

“But we feel that it is justified to address climate change, especially given that the Harper government has refused to take action, and because of the urgency.”

Most lawmakers — and even most people — don’t seem to think much of the tactic. Witness police actions against non-violent stunts such as teddy bear catapults at global summits, or citizen complaints of tied-up traffic during demonstrations.

How many Canadians say that last year’s peaceful protesters at the Toronto G20 Summit should have just stayed home if they didn’t want to be tackled, cuffed with plastic cables and tossed into cages without charges.

“People from across the political spectrum love to praise civil disobedience — as long as we’re talking about past social movements,” argues U.S. journalist Will Potter, author of Green is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement under Siege. “For instance, on the very same day that members of Congress were breaking ground for a new memorial honouring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his activism, a bill was passed labelling civil disobedience as ‘terrorism’ if it is done by animal rights and environmental activists.”

“Most people are divorced from the history of social change,” notes Greenpeace Canada’s climate and energy campaigner, Mike Hudema, author of An Action a Day Keeps Global Capitalism Away. “From the eight-hour workday to women’s right to vote to the end of slavery — all of these involved good people willing to break the law.”

One much talked-about recent case of civil disobedience within the scientific community is that of NASA climatologist and Columbia University professor James Hansen, who along with others was charged with obstructing police and impeding traffic in West Virginia while protesting mountaintop coal mining.

Hansen, who calls climate change “the great moral challenge of this century,” has been helping other activists who get into legal trouble, including six Greenpeace members tried in Britain in 2008 for scaling and painting slogans on a coal power station’s smokestack.

With Hansen’s expert testimony, they convinced the court that, despite the expensive havoc they wreaked, even greater damage — climate change — was being prevented.

The acquittals shocked both government and industry. The activists were found not guilty by reason of “lawful excuse” — a judgment that opens the door for more climate justice civil disobedience.

In Canada, we have a similar “defence of necessity.” Conceivably, it could be used here.

More than 3,000 delegates from 183 countries are currently in the midst of the two-week session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn.

The reports from there have not been encouraging.

The world’s 21 developed nations have not fulfilled their promises or financial pledges to the parts of the world that will most suffer from climate change.

“Now, more than ever, it is critical that all efforts are mobilized toward living up to this commitment,” said UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres. “We are getting into very risky territory.”

“I don’t think most people realize how little time we have left,” warns Lester Brown, founder of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute and author of the just-published World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse. “The cliff is not that far away.”

© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2011

Antonia Zerbisias

Antonia Zerbisias is a columnist for the Toronto Star. In addition to her Star columns, you can read Antonia – and talk back to her – on her blog Broadsides.

Canada Tries to Hide Alberta Tar Sands Carbon Emissions June 1, 2011

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Published on Wednesday, June 1, 2011 by The Guardian/UK

Greenhouse gas emissions from the tar sands are on the rise, but try finding that in Canada’s official report to the UN

  by Suzanne Goldenberg

Barely a day goes by it seems when someone from Stephen Harper‘s government is not touting the benefits of the Alberta tar sands.

Emissions from tar sands mining, such as this pit in Alberta, were left out of Canada’s carbon emissions reporting. (Photograph: Jiri Rezac/eyevine) But when it came to counting up the carbon emissions produced by the tar sands – big and growing bigger – a strange amnesia seems to have taken hold.

The Canadian government admitted this week that it deliberately left out data indicating a 20% rise in emissions from the Alberta tar sands when it submitted its annual inventory to the United Nations.

The deliberate exclusion does not amount to an attempt to deceive the UN about Canada‘s total emissions. Emissions from the tar sands were incorporated in the overall tally in the report. But it does suggest that the government is anxious to obscure the source of its fastest-growing source of climate pollution: the Alberta tar sands.

Greenhouse gases from the tar sands grew by 21% in the last year reported, despite the economic receission. Even more troubling, the tar sands is becoming even more carbon intensive, with emissions per barrel of oil rising 14.5% in 2009. And overall production is set to triple by 2020, according to some projections.

So that’s an increasingly significant share of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions – 6.5% now and rising.

“It is not as if they were left out of the total, but no matter where you looked in the report you couldn’t find out what sector the emissions were from,” said Clare Demerse, director of climate change at the Pembina Institute, an environmental think tank.

Environment Canada told reporters it was just fulfilling UNFCC reporting requirements.

It’s not entirely clear what motivated the decision to obscure the data. The government reported GHG from the tar sands last year. But here are some possibilities:

International image. The tar sands are becoming increasingly high profile and are a growing source of embarrassment to Canada in the international arena. No matter how popular the industry in Harper’s native Alberta, it is probably not pleasant being called a climate villain or a carbon bully several times a year at Bonn and the other fixtures of the UN climate change negotiations.

Timing. The government may have been concerned about jeopardising an important pipeline deal. Canadian firms are awaiting final approval from the State Department for a pipeline that would carry up to barrels of a oil a day from Alberta to the refineries of Texas. Opposition from landowners along the 1,700-mile route has already delayed the project til later this year. Last week, a group of legislators from Nebraska asked Hillary Clinton, who has final say, to delay a decision until 2012 to give them time to put environmental safeguards in place. Members of Congress are said to be preparing a similar protest letter.

The PR consultant told them to. Mike De Souza, the same reporter who broke the story on the GHG reporting, has written another story suggesting that the Canadian government last year considered hiring a PR firm to help promote the tar sands. It also weighed the benefits of tar sands tourism: paid-for trips for European journalists and elected officials.

“Consideration should be given to hiring a professional PR firm to help the Pan European Oil Sands Team further develop and implement a serious public advocacy strategy,” the report was quoted as saying.

That’s my current favourite theory. The provincial and federal governments have made an enormous effort to lobby US officials on the tar sands. So what’s the big deal then in burying a little factoid or two even deeper in a 567-page technical report to a bunch of UN bureaucrats?

Except of course that those kind of dodges reek strongly of the faith-based/anti-reality views of the George Bush presidency, when political considerations repeatedly took precedence over evidence-based standards.

As environmental groups and others have regularly noted, Harper has been too focused on the tar sands as an image problem, rather than an environmental one. Now it seems as if that approach has infected government institutions, with Environment Canada aiding the effort to obscure irksome figures and facts

“It’s a consistent pattern that we have seen on the part of the Harper government to really attempt to spin the tar sands,” said Andrea Harden-Donahue, energy campaigner at the Council of Canadians, the country’s biggest citizens’ group.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited