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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Arctic 30 have been in Russian custody since.

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

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

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

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

Canada’s environmental activists seen as ‘threat to national security’ February 16, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Environment.
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Police and security agencies describe green groups’ protests and petitions as ‘forms of attack’, documents reveal

 

Roger’s note: Canada’s own J. Edgar Harper

Environmental activists opposed to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project protest

Canadian government agencies have been accused of conflating extremism with peaceful protests, such as the ongoing campaign against Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Monitoring of environmental activists in Canada by the country’s police and security agencies has become the “new normal”, according to a researcher who has analysed security documents released under freedom of information laws.

Security and police agencies have been increasingly conflating terrorism and extremism with peaceful citizens exercising their democratic rights to organise petitions, protest and question government policies, said Jeffrey Monaghan of the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

The RCMP, Canada’s national police force, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) view activist activities such as blocking access to roads or buildings as “forms of attack” and depict those involved as national security threats, according to the documents.

Protests and opposition to Canada’s resource-based economy, especially oil and gas production, are now viewed as threats to national security, Monaghan said. In 2011 a Montreal, Quebec man who wrote letters opposing shale gas fracking was charged under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act. Documents released in January show the RCMP has been monitoring Quebec residents who oppose fracking.

“Any Canadians going to protest the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington DC on Sunday had better take precautions,” Monaghan said.

In a Canadian Senate committee on national security and defence meeting Monday Feb 11 Richard Fadden, the director of CSIS said they are more worried about domestic terrorism, acknowledging that the vast majority of its spying is done within Canada. Fadden said they are “following a number of cases where we think people might be inclined to acts of terrorism”.

Canada is at very low risk from foreign terrorists but like the US it has built a large security apparatus following 9/11. The resources and costs are wildly out of proportion to the risk said Monaghan.

“It’s the new normal now for Canada’s security agencies to watch the activities of environmental organisations,” he said.

Surveillance and infiltration of environmental protest movement has been routine in the UK for some time. In 2011 a Guardian investigation revealed that a Met police officer had been living undercover for seven years infiltrating dozens of protest groups.

Canadian security forces seem to have a “fixation” with Greenpeace, continually describing them as “potentially violent” in threat assessment documents, said Monaghan.

“We’re aware of this” said Greenpeace Canada’s executive director Bruce Cox, who met the head of the RCMP last year. “We’re an outspoken voice for non-violenceand this was made clear to the RCMP,” Cox said.

He said there was real anger among Canadians about the degradation of the natural environment by oil, gas and other extractive industries and governments working for those industries and not in the public interest. Security forces should see Greenpeace as a “plus”, a non-violent outlet for this anger, he argued. “It is governments and fossil fuel industry who are the extremists, threatening the prosperity of future generations.”

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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.

Greenpeace Claims Sweet Victory Over Nestle May 17, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Agriculture, Environment.
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(Roger’s note: Nestle has a long history of anti-social practices.  At one time they were actively promoting the use of their baby formula in third world countries where there was only access to contaminated water for mixing.  More recently, they have been in effect legally stealing ground water in Guelph, Canada.  It is good to see them get their comeuppance for a change.)

Published on Monday, May 17, 2010 by The Age (Australia)by Stuart Washington

Environment group Greenpeace has claimed social media led to its success in a campaign that linked global food giant Nestle’s chocolate bar KitKat to deforestation in Indonesian rainforests and the destruction of orang-utan habitats.

[A Greenpeace activist dressed as an orang-utan protests outside the Nestle head office in Sydney April 22, 2010. The activists were protesting Nestle's use of palm oil from Indonesia in their products, destroying the habitats of orang-utans. (REUTERS/Greenpeace/Dean Sewell/Handout) ]
A Greenpeace activist dressed as an orang-utan protests outside the Nestle head office in Sydney April 22, 2010. The activists were protesting Nestle’s use of palm oil from Indonesia in their products, destroying the habitats of orang-utans. (REUTERS/Greenpeace/Dean Sewell/Handout)

Today in Malaysia, Nestle announced a partnership with not-for-profit organisation The Forest Trust (TFT), promising to adhere to responsible sourcing guidelines for palm oil. 

In a Greenpeace report titled Caught Red-handed, launched on March 17, Greenpeace exposed Nestle’s use of Indonesian logging company Sinar Mas and subsidiaries including Asia Pulp and Paper to obtain palm oil.

Palm oil is used as an ingredient in Nestle chocolate products, including its well known KitKat chocolate bars.

Greenpeace said Sinar Mas was implicated in rainforest destruction and the destruction of orang-utan habitats as it planted plantations for palm oil and pulp.

An accompanying video posted on YouTube went on to record more than 1 million views – in part because Nestle had attempted to have it removed, Stephen Campbell, the head of campaigns for Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said today.

“[Social media] played an enormous role,” Mr Campbell said. “Within 24 hours the campaign was global because of the web video.”

By March 31, Nestle had agreed to stop dealing directly with Sinar Mas and its subsidiaries.

Today’s announcement and the involvement of TFT marks a further step, in that it commits Nestle to no longer source Sinar Mas products indirectly through third-party suppliers.

Nestle said it would “focus on the systematic identification and exclusion of companies owning or managing high risk plantations or farms linked to deforestation”.

Mr Campbell said Nestle had shown a misunderstanding of the role of social media.

“It’s no longer about broadcasting, it’s about interaction,” he said.

Copyright © 2010 Fairfax Digital

Helen Caldicott Slams Environmental Groups on Climate Bill, Nuclear Concessions December 22, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment.
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Tuesday 22 December 2009

by: Art Levine, t r u t h o u t | Report

Dr. Helen Caldicott, the pioneering Australian antinuclear activist and pediatrician who spearheaded the global nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s and co-founded Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), has joined with left-leaning environmental groups here in an uphill fight to halt nuclear power as a “solution” to the global warming crisis. “Global warming is the greatest gift the nuclear industry has ever received,” Dr. Caldicott told Truthout.

The growing rush to nuclear power was only enhanced, experts say, by the weak climate deal at the Copenhagen 15 climate conference. The prospects for passage of a climate bill in Congress – virtually all versions are pro-nuclear – were enhanced, most analysts say, because it offered the promise that China might voluntarily agree to verify its carbon reductions and it could reassure senators worried about American manufacturers being undermined by polluters overseas. But at the two-week international confab that didn’t produce any binding agreements to do anything, Caldicott and environmental activist groups were marginalized or, in the case of the delegates from Friends of the Earth, evicted from the main hall.
The upshot of the latest trends boosting nuclear power – although no nuclear reactor has been built in America since the 1970s – are indeed grim, she said. “Nothing’s going to work to stop them but a meltdown,” she said, fearing the prospects of such a calamity. “I don’t know how else the world is going to wake up.”
Her fears may sound apocalyptic, but as Truthout will explore in more depth in part II of this article, the dangers of a meltdown, terrorist attack and radiation damage are far greater than commonly known. That’s because of what federal and Congressional investigators, advocacy groups and medical researchers say is a culture of sloppy security, health and safety oversight by a cozily pro-industry Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (An NRC spokesman denied those allegations in a written statement to Truthout.) The quasi-independent agency is funded primarily by fees from nuclear power plants. On top of all that, the Obama administration is planning to offer about $20 billion in loan guarantees to fund two new uncertified and risky reactors designs that have faced safety and cost overrun problems overseas.
Despite nuclear energy’s apparent dangers, Dr. Caldicott was a Cassandra crying out at the Copenhagen conference with little or no attention from the major government and media players there. Caldicott, who was featured on major American TV news shows and magazines during the 80s, who met one on one with President Reagan and addressed about a million people opposing nuclear weapons in New York City in June, 1982, found herself speaking to groups as small as 50 people in Copenhagen. Although still an active lecturer, author and radio broadcaster, she was essentially ignored by the media, even with the six minutes or so she was given to speak to an outdoor rally of 100,000 protesting the global leaders’ inaction inside the main hall. “It was a shemozzle,” she said of her time in Copenhagen.

In her brief speech outdoors in bitterly cold weather, you can see her speaking more slowly than in her usual lecture, so that not one word or grisly fact is missed by her international audience. But you can almost sense her frustration at boiling down into just over six minutes all that she knows about the dangers of atomic weapons and nuclear plants. While inside the Bella Center, no official who really counted was bothering listening to her – or the protesters:

She told the crowd:

The Earth is in the intensive care unit, it is acutely sick. We are all now physicians to a dying planet …
The nuclear power industry has used global warming to say “we’re the answer.” All the money to go into nuclear power, 15 billion dollars per power plant, is being stolen from the solutions to fix the earth – solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, conservation.
The nuclear power industry is wicked. The nuclear power industry was formed by the bomb makers – it’s the same thing. Nuclear power plants are bomb factories – they make plutonium. Two hundred and fifty kilos a year of plutonium that lasts for 250,000 years. You need five kilos to make a nuclear bomb. Any country that has a nuclear power plant has a bomb factory.
If the Second World War were fought today in Europe, none of you would be here; Europe would be a radioactive wasteland because all the nuclear power plants would melt down like Chernobyl. So, war is now impossible in Europe. Do the politicians understand that?
Nuclear power produces massive quantities, hundreds of thousands of tons of radioactive waste, which will get into the water, concentrate into the fish, the milk, the food, human breast milk, fetuses, babies, children. Radioactive iodine causes thyroid cancer. Twelve thousand people in Belarus had thyroid cancer. Radioactive Strontium 90 causes bone cancer and leukemia, [it] lasts for 600 years. Cesium 137 – all over Europe now – in the reindeer, in the lands, in the food, lasts for six hundred years, causes brain cancer. Plutonium, the most dangerous substance on Earth, 1 millionth of a gram cause cancer, lasts for 250,000 years. Causes lung cancer, liver cancer, testicular cancer, damages fetuses so they are born deformed.
Nuclear power, therefore, nuclear waste for all future generations will cause cancer in young children because they are very sensitive, [will cause] genetic disease, congenital deformities. Nuclear power is about disease, and it’s about death. It will produce the greatest public health hazard the world has ever seen for the rest of time. We must close down every single nuclear reactor in Europe and throughout the world…
That’s hardly the spirit of acceptance granted the nuclear industry as part of a hoped-for climate deal by world governments and environmental groups.
She was there for the first week as a guest of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and a science adviser to the Spanish government. But for a woman whose organization, PSR, won the Nobel Peace Prize and who has been cited by the Smithsonian as one of the most influential women of the 20th century, she was still unable to wangle even a three-minute opportunity to address the delegates. After she returned home to Australia, she saw the dreary news about the chaotic final days of the conference and the loophole-laden climate “accord.”
“I was deeply depressed,” she said. “I hadn’t done anything, and the world hadn’t done anything in the face of an impending catastrophe.”
It also reinforced her anger at those environmental groups that haven’t strongly opposed nuclear power while they’re supporting legislation that sees nuclear energy as a vital element in reducing carbon emissions. “They’ve sold their souls,” she said bluntly, while attacking the ties of some key groups to the energy industry, especially in such alliances as the US Climate Action Partnership that includes such outfits as Duke Power and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The well-funded coalition is widely credited as having set the template for both the main House and Senate climate bills that have passed the full House and the Senate Environment Committee – all containing provisions for nuclear energy.
Al Gore’s advocacy group, RePower America, also includes environmental and industry groups; a spokesperson said it hasn’t issued any statements on nuclear power and declined to answer charges that by failing to actively oppose nuclear power, it was allowing the spread of nuclear plants to undermine renewable solutions to global warming. (In his writings and some interviews, Al Gore has offered some criticisms of nuclear power, but the Nobel Prize winner hasn’t used his international platform to attack its role in pending legislation or potential treaties.)
In her interview with Truthout, she ripped into those environmental groups that didn’t take strong, public stands against climate bills that included nuclear power, even while she, in turn, has been derided as a Luddite or politically naive. “Some of the people within these organizations are not well educated about the biological effects of radiation and mutation, and what actually happens in the human body and the food chain,” she said. “So, they’ve gone soft on opposing nuclear power, and because they’re all very worried about global warming, they’re about to leap from the global warming frying pan to the nuclear fire.”
She continued, “You don’t replace one evil with another. Anyone who promotes an industry that will induce a global nuclear war that will mean the end of most life on earth, the final epidemic of the human race; or anyone who promotes an industry that down the time track will induce hundreds of thousands of cases of childhood cancers and leukemia, and babies being born grossly deformed; or anyone who would promote an industry that actively promotes disease when we’re so worried about cancer and spend all this money trying to cure it – well, they have sold their souls as far as I’m concerned.”
I noted, “They say they’re not promoting it,” they’re just not actively opposing it.
“If you don’t actively oppose it, it will get through. They know that,” she responded – “especially with all the advertising being spent on by the nuclear industry which is a bunch of lies.” She added, “If you talk to the average person, they believe all this stuff. The power of propaganda is enormous.”
But environmental groups contacted by Truthout deny her claim that they’ve “sold their souls” or failed to vigorously criticize the nuclear industry, pointing to letters and testimony to Congressional committees. Tom Cochran, the senior scientist at NRDC’s nuclear program and perhaps the leading progressive expert on nuclear reactors in the country, pointed out, “Our position is that we’re opposed to additional federal subsidies for the construction of new nuclear plants, but NRDC is in favor of getting climate legislation through the House and Senate. In terms of process, we’re happy to move the process along.” He noted, for instance, “We don’t support all the principles of Kerry-Graham-Lieberman,” the most pro-industry proposal so far. “Our position is clear: we do not support additional subsidies.”
When I asked at what funding amount of subsidies the NRDC might be willing to draw a “line in the sand” and oppose the legislation, he replied, “I’m not going to negotiate through your publication.”
Caldicott and other experts say that even the claims that nuclear power is “clean air energy” fall apart when examined carefully. They have pointed out how over the full fuel lifecycle of a plant – from mining uranium to shipping it to “decommissioning” a plant – the nuclear process emits far more carbon and other greenhouse gases than the industry and its cheerleaders (and environmentalist enablers) admit. Indeed, according to one major study she cited, because of the need to find more uranium as higher-grade uranium disappears, using the poorer quality ores would “produce more C02 emissions than burning fossil fuels directly.”
Even so, “there’s a push for nuclear power,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth US. He noted that there were no limits on nuclear power in this latest nonbinding climate agreement – unlike the earlier Kyoto treaty, which the US didn’t sign, that restricted subsidies for nuclear power. And grassroots groups largely aren’t fighting back in a high-profile way against the industry’s drive for a $100 billion bailout in federal subsidies. “Right now, the environmental community wants a climate bill,” said Pica, whose group, along with Greenpeace and a few others, hasn’t supported the legislation moving through Congress, asserting it’s too industry-friendly.
In continuing her decades-long crusade against the health, financial and environmental dangers posed by nuclear energy, Caldicott and her outgunned allies are opposing an array of powerful institutional forces.
They include the Obama administration and its top scientists; an industry that has successfully sold itself as “clean air energy;” the tacit acceptance or muted opposition of such major environmental groups as the Sierra Club and the relative silence on the issue by most influential environmental journalists. All of them are joined in what critics view as a near-”conspiracy of silence” about nuclear power in order to advance the goal of supporting a purportedly carbon-reducing climate bill that can pass Congress.
Indeed, neither most grassroots environmentalists nor members of the broader progressive movement have been engaged to fight a nuclear bailout of $100 billion, if not trillions, in loan guarantees for nuclear plants that would, critics say, dry up funds for renewable industries that could be up and running quickly. In contrast, it takes as long as 10 years to build nuclear plants while the perils of global warming – from rising ocean levels to drought – have already begun.
The largely indifferent response to nuclear power has been in part because activists have taken their cues from leading national environmental organizations and progressive media outlets. And with a few exceptions, such as Mother Jones or Greenpeace, they have not aggressively opposed the advancement of nuclear energy in their eagerness for a climate bill. That stands in sharp contrast to the grassroots environmentalist opposition that coalesced against including a $50 billion bailout in 2007 energy legislation, including a superstar rock video. Despite new petitions today, the organizing against nukes is woefully outdone by supporters of the current climate legislation.
Yet, Helen Caldicott’s passion for stopping nuclear power hasn’t eased, and although she’s older now, she still brings the same fervor and implacable determination to explain the dangers of nuclear energy that she did as a glamorous activist in her 40s speaking to a larger global audience. It was well captured in an Oscar-winning documentary short,If You Love This Planet,”now the title of her syndicated radio show and updated book:

Art Levine, a contributing editor of The Washington Monthly, has written for Mother Jones, The American Prospect, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate.com, Salon.com and numerous other publications. He wrote the October 2007 In These Times cover story, “Unionbusting Confidential.” Levine is also the co-host of the “D’Antoni and Levine” show on BlogTalk Radio, every Thursday at 5:30 p.m. EST. He also blogs regularly on labor and other reform issues for In These Times and The Huffington Post.

The Amazon is Dying June 8, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Environment.
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Published on Monday, June 8, 2009 by The Guardian/UK

The Brazilian government is legalising deforestation and western superbrands are benefiting from it. This needs to stop now

by John Sauven

Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, writing in the Guardian in March, offered us these words of hope: “No country has a larger stake in reversing the impact of global warming than Brazil. That is why it is at the forefront of efforts to come up with solutions that preserve our common future.” Lula’s words are fine. But we are still waiting for real action.

For the last 10 years, Greenpeace has been working in the Amazon alongside communities to protect the rainforest. Last week, Greenpeace released a report which was the result of a three-year investigation into the role of the cattle industry in driving illegal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. The report, Slaughtering the Amazon, reveals the devastating impacts cattle ranching is having on the climate, biodiversity and local communities.

Cattle ranching is the biggest cause of deforestation, not only in the Amazon, but worldwide. The report reveals that the Brazilian government is a silent partner in these crimes by providing loans to and holding shares in the three biggest players – Bertin, JBS and Marfrig – that are driving expansion into the Amazon rainforest.

Greenpeace is now about to enter into negotiations with many of the companies that have either found their supply chain and products contaminated with Amazon leather and beef or who are buying from companies implicated in Amazon deforestation – big brands such as Adidas, Clarks, Nike, Timberland and most of the major UK supermarkets. Meanwhile, back in Brazil, the federal prosecutor in Para state has announced legal action against farms and slaughterhouses that have acted outside of the law. It has sent warning letters to Brazilian companies buying and profiting from the destruction. Bertin and JBS are in the firing line – companies part-owned by the Brazilian government.

While this is a positive step, it’s clear that we can’t bring about real change and win an end to Amazon destruction for cattle without real action from the government and from big corporations in Europe and the US, who are providing the markets.

Another, worrying example of the widening chasm between rhetoric and reality is a new bill that has just passed through the Brazilian senate. If Lula gives his consent, it will legalise claims to at least 67m hectares of Amazonian land – an area the size of Norway and Germany put together – that is currently held illegally. A second bill, before the Brazilian congress, proposes to more than double the percentage of Amazon rainforest that can be cleared legally within a property. If passed, the effect of both these bills will be to legalise increased deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

Lula’s decision to fund the cattle ranching industry with public money makes no sense when its expansion threatens the very deforestation reduction targets that Lula champions. The laws now waiting for his approval will represent a free ride for illegal loggers and cattle ranchers. It is clear that Brazil now faces a choice about what sort of world leader it wants to be – part of the problem or part of the solution.

Protecting Brazil’s rainforest is a critical part of the battle to tackle climate change and must be part of a global deal to protect forests at the climate change talks in Copenhagen at the end of the year. But while world leaders are making speeches, we are losing vast tracts of rainforest. We must also tackle the dirty industries that are driving deforestation if we are to protect the Amazon and the climate for future generations.

© 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited

John Sauven is director of Greenpeace

Coal Industry Tries to Hide Dirty Facts Behind ‘Clean’ Claims March 5, 2009

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Misleading and duplicitous ads on ‘clean coal’ cannot camouflage the stench of fossil fuels

Greenpace activists disrupt coal loading in Newcastle, New South Wales 
Greenpeace activists disrupt coal loading at the world’s largest coal port at Newcastle, Australia Photograph: EPA

 

The fightback begins here. Well, we can hope. The misleading and downright duplicitous ads against clean coal chronicled here are now being contested by – you guessed it – an ad.

Last week the Academy-award winning movie producers Joel and Ethan Coen began airing their commercial on cable TV in the US. It is a spoof air freshener advert with a suburban housewife spraying her home with a coal-black aerosol from a can called Clean Coal. Explaining the magic ingredient, the presenter says that “Clean Coal harnesses the awesome power of the word clean”.

It ends with the caption for anyone with a comedy bypass: “In reality, there is no such thing as clean coal.”

Meanwhile, a thick spray of the white stuff in Washington DC couldn’t prevent some 2,000 protesters gathering at the Capitol Hill power plant to protest that the plant burns coal to provide steam heating for the federal legislature’s cavernous halls.

The snow did allow a mocking Fox News to report that the scene was “reminiscent of a day in January 2004 when Al Gore made a major address in New York – on one of the coldest days in the city’s history.” They really can’t get over Gore, can they?

But we all have our obsessions, and I fear that the alliterative power of “clean coal” is destined to reoccur in this column. It is just so pervasive and so toxic. It seems capable of camouflaging every stench of the industry. And even the distant prospect of it is just so damned convenient for politicians caught between coal and environment lobbies.

In Britain, the prospective “clean coal” technology known as carbon capture and storage looks like it is being lined up as a fig leaf for the construction of new coal-burning power plants. How else can one explain contradictory messages from ministers in recent days?

This week the word from Whitehall has been that a decision on the Kingsnorth power plant, likely to be the first of several such plants, had been delayed until the autumn, while the cabinet minister responsible for both energy and climate policy, Ed Miliband, conducted a review of coal policy because of climate concerns.

But I am having trouble reconciling that with last week’s speech by energy minister Mike O’Brien at a coal industry conference in London where he said “we will need new fossil fuel plants, including coal” to meet a “generation capacity gap by 2015″.

Which is it to be? Watch out for “clean coal” to bridge the climate gap. But we may be asked to glossed over the fact that, as O’Brien helpfully explained, Britain’s first project to see if it can make the technology work at an actual power station won’t begin its first tests until 2014 – a bit late to plug an energy gap a year later.

The doublespeak is in overdrive right now in Australia, from where reader Patrick has sent me updates on the launch of the Australian Coal Association PR campaign New Generation Coal. It has a multi-million dollar media budget for promoting clean coal.

We should be grateful that, like its counterparts round the world, the ACA now concedes that climate change has to be beaten. And unlike many countries, the Australian $40-billion coal industry is spending a few tens of millions of dollars a year on R&D into carbon capture and storage.

But it is small stuff that they are selling big. And one snappily-titled project, Zero-Gen in Queensland, is reportedly on the brink of collapse because of a funding dispute between industry and government.

The Australian industry’s claim that carbon capture and storage will be “commercially viable by 2017″ is far-fetched to say the least.

Nobody else in the world thinks that is possible. And that, I’d guess, includes the Australian government, which recently snubbed UN climate negotiators by setting itself a derisory target of reducing domestic CO2 emissions by just 5% by 2020.

Australia is built on coal. It gets 80% of its electricity from burning the stuff. But domestic emissions are just the start. It is also the world’s largest exporter. As another reader Dave points out, Newcastle in New South Wales is the world’s busiest coal exporting terminal, sending abroad 80 million tonnes of the black stuff every year, mostly to fast-growing Asian economies like China and Thailand.

So not only are Aussie greenhouse gas emissions among the world’s highest (per head of population, more than twice those of Britain) they are also doing their best to bump everybody’s up as well.

Until its Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, starts doing something about that, his claimed green credentials will be just greenwash.

• How many more green scams, cons and generous slices of wishful thinking are out there? Please email your examples of greenwash to greenwash@guardian.co.uk.

Forests Pay the Price for America’s Love Affair with Really Soft Toilet Paper February 28, 2009

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By Tara Lohan, AlterNet. Posted February 27, 2009.

Why the best use of 300-year-old trees might not be in the bathroom.

Americans have been long chastised for our environmental footprints (and for good reason). But the latest report from environmental groups including Greenpeace should give us major reason to pause. The Guardian could not have said it any better:

The tenderness of the delicate American buttock is causing more environmental devastation than the country’s love of gas-guzzling cars, fast food or McMansions, according to green campaigners. At fault, they say, is the US public’s insistence on extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply products when they use the bathroom.

The numbers are shocking: More than 98 percent of the toilet paper we use in the US is from virgin forests, the Guardian reports. Across the world, people are struggling to save our forests from deforestation, and instead of helping out, we’re wiping are butts with our best defense against climate change. And until the time comes when Obama gets Congress to pass a TP Act, Greenpeace has some help for consumers, with a handy guide for getting some good toilet paper that won’t harm the environment.

The New York Times explained why it is we insist on only the finest trees:

…Fluffiness comes at a price: millions of trees harvested in North America and in Latin American countries, including some percentage of trees from rare old-growth forests in Canada. Although toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel, and most large manufacturers rely on them.

The Guardian explains why this phenomena is not worldwide, but seems to be an American experience:

Dave Dixon, a [Kimberly-Clark] company spokesman, said toilet paper and tissue from recycled fibre had been on the market for years. If Americans wanted to buy them, they could.

“For bath tissue Americans in particular like the softness and strength that virgin fibres provides,” Dixon said. “It’s the quality and softness the consumers in America have come to expect.”

Longer fibres in virgin wood are easier to lay out and fluff up for a softer tissue. Dixon said the company used products from sustainbly farmed forests in Canada.

Americans already consume vastly more paper than any other country — about three times more per person than the average European, and 100 times more than the average person in China.

Greenpeace launched a campaign to draw attention to why this might be a significant problem. The Times writes,

Still, trees and tree quality remain a contentious issue. Although brands differ, 25 percent to 50 percent of the pulp used to make toilet paper in this country comes from tree farms in South America and the United States. The rest, environmental groups say, comes mostly from old, second-growth forests that serve as important absorbers of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming. In addition, some of the pulp comes from the last virgin North American forests, which are an irreplaceable habitat for a variety of endangered species, environmental groups say.

Greenpeace, the international conservation organization, contends that Kimberly Clark, the maker of two popular brands, Cottonelle and Scott, has gotten as much as 22 percent of its pulp from producers who cut trees in Canadian boreal forests where some trees are 200 years old.

There are solutions. As Graham Hill says in the Huffington Post, “Shouldn’t we take a hint from Islamic culture and ask ourselves, ‘If there’s **it anywhere on our body would we prefer to wipe it away with paper or wash it off with water?’”

And if that route won’t work. Hill has another idea — government action.

Instead of waiting decades for carbon-soaking forests to stop being decimated by our need for t.p., this is an area where the government should step in. Someone needs to step up and tell us that next year or in two years or three, all toilet tissue will be 20 percent recycled fibers (for example).

Yes, Kimberly-Clark will scream and cry, and yes, it seems like a somewhat trivial matter. Yet enforced cultural change is hard. We keep buying the soft stuff that strips the forests because it’s there on the shelf. So this might not be the place where we can afford to wait for every last human consumer to decide that recycled t.p. is okay. We need the forests and their CO2 absorption now.

So instead of letting demand drive forest decimation, let’s get Euro and demand manufacturers put increasing amounts of recycled fiber into their squares. If we did I’ll just bet they’ll find another technique to eventually give us soft and recycled. In the meantime we all suffer the relative indignity of the new rough and tough toilet paper era together.

It’s all a matter of perspective really. Sure, soft toilet paper may be a sweet luxury you don’t want to part with, but I’ll take an old-growth forest any day and the possibility that rising seas might not actually wipe out my coastal abode.

Rhetoric and Reality Clash on Obama’s First Foreign Visit February 20, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Canada, Environment.
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 Chris Arsenault

www.ipsnews.net, February 20, 2009

VANCOUVER, Feb 20 (IPS) – On his first foreign visit as U.S. president, Barack Obama’s rhetoric of “hope” and “change” came face to face with the hard, divisive policy realities of climate change from Canada’s tar sands, a growing insurgency in Afghanistan and the sputtering world economy.

Some 2,500 spectators lined the streets of Ottawa to watch the president’s motorcade make its way to Parliament Hill, a marked contrast to the thousands of protestors who greeted former President George W. Bush during his last Canadian visit. While the Canadian public catches Obama fever, environmentalists and some aboriginal groups say they’ve been left in the cold by his energy policies.

“Obama must ask Canada to clean up its tar sands and to respect the rights of our aboriginal First Nations,” said Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipweyan First Nation, a community near the Alberta tar sands, the world’s largest energy project.

While promising to press ahead with “carbon reduction technologies,” Obama did not mention the tar sands directly during his visit. Extracting oil from the tar sands creates three times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude.

At the press conference following closed door meetings between President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and their aides, the two leaders promised a “clean energy dialogue” focusing on plans to trap carbon dioxide underground and improvements to North America’s electricity grid.

Standing in front of Canadian and U.S. flags, as the pomp and circumstance of international diplomacy dictates, Obama called climate change and the need to develop clean energy sources “the most pressing challenges of our time.”

The Natural Resources Defence Council dubs tar sands crude, “the world’s dirtiest oil.” Canada is the largest foreign supplier of oil to the U.S., sending more than 1.2 million barrels per day to its southern neighbour.

Trade between the two countries is worth more than 1.6 billion dollars per day, making it the world’s largest trading relationship. In addition to energy and the environment, the two leaders discussed bailsouts for North America’s auto industry and the general economic downturn.

“How we produce and use energy is fundamental for our economic recovery and also for our security and our planet,” said Obama at the press conference.

Prior to Obama’s Canadian visit, aboriginal and environmental groups placed a full-page add in the newspaper USA Today, stating that the tar sands “stands in the way of a new energy economy.” The day before the presidential visit, activists from Greenpeace scaled a bridge in Ottawa to hang a banner reading: “Climate Leaders Don’t Buy Tar Sands.”

During his election campaign, Obama vowed to end the U.S.’s addiction to “dirty, dwindling, and dangerously expensive” oil. His campaign’s energy guru, Jason Grumet, said greenhouse gas emissions from Canada’s tar sands were “unacceptably high.”

In an apparent about-face from his campaign promises, Obama refused to characterise tar sands crude as “dirty oil” in a pre-summit interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. While acknowledging that the sands creates “a big carbon footprint,” Obama argued that technologies, including a plan from Alberta’s provincial government to store carbon dioxide underground, could solve the problem.

The idea of sequestering and storing greenhouse gases underground, known as carbon capture, has yet to be implemented at any tar sands operations and critics are sceptical that it can work. The tar sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Presently, tar sands oil extraction pumps 29.5 million tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere every year, equivalent to the exhaust from more than 5 million cars.

Even if carbon capture technology does prove to be effective, the sands create a host of other environmental challenges, water depletion being the most significant. Producing one barrel of tar sands oil requires at least three barrels of water; there is enough toxic water in tar sands tailings ponds to fill 2.2 million Olympic sized swimming pools.

“The devastation of our homelands in this short period of time is perplexing to my people since it is only a fraction of the time that these impacts have occurred compared to the thousands of years we have inhabited these lands,” said George Poitras, former chief of the Mikisew Cree, another aboriginal community close to the tar sands.

In addition to energy and the economy, Obama and Harper also discussed the increasing violence in Afghanistan, where Obama has pledged to send 17,000 more U.S. troops as part of a “surge.” Canada currently has 2,500 combat troops stationed around Kandahar who are set to leave in 2011.

Obama stated explicitly that he was not requesting more troops or money from Canada for the Afghan occupation.

A chorus of military leaders, including a top German general and Britain’s ambassador in Kabul, have stated that the war cannot be won.

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