Opinion

Dear Dalhousie and Queens: Please Divest So I Don't Have to Rip Up My Degrees on Camera

divestment

At least 75 per cent of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change, but not only are fossil fuel companies committed to burning all of those reserves, they’re spending billions searching for more. Wrecking the climate in exchange for money is officially the worst business model. Truck Nutz, you’re off the hook.

Every time we read another bowel-loosening article on climate change it’s easy to feel powerless because fossil fuel companies are so deeply entrenched in our economy and politics. But one way people are pushing back is divestment. If institutions remove their investments from fossil fuel companies, it sends the industry a message in a language it understands — money — that its business model is no longer acceptable. We don’t like you anymore. You’re losers.

I Hate to Break it to You, B.C., But You're Not a Climate Leader

This is a guest post by Jens Wieting, forest and climate campaigner with the Sierra Club B.C.

If you live in British Columbia you might think that our province is a climate champion, because you heard it from our government. Last month, for example, the provincial government sent out a bold press release touting B.C. as a world leader in climate action. The release highlighted B.C.'s carbon tax and the accomplishment of “meeting our 2012 GHG reduction target.”

However, just a few days later, the Canadian government released its latest greenhouse gas emissions data showing that B.C.'s emissions actually increased by 2.4 per cent in 2013 (to 63 million tons of greenhouse gases, from 61.5 in 2012). This is a big deal, because the threat of global warming has reached a point at which we cannot afford our annual emissions to continue to increase.

In March, the monthly global average concentration of carbon dioxide passed 400 parts per million. When the concentration of greenhouse gases was last this high, temperatures were several degrees warmer and sea level many metres higher.

Alberta Election Was a Referendum on Entitlement

It was the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae of entitlement.

On Monday, the day before the Alberta election, the province’s four largest newspapers — the Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun, Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun — endorsed the Progressive Conservatives.

Now, newspapers endorsing parties is nothing new, but every major newspaper in Alberta being owned by one company is new. (Postmedia acquired the Calgary Sun and Edmonton Sun this March when the Competition Bureau signed off on the purchase.)

What else appears to be new is that the Edmonton Journal (which did not endorse in 2012) was asked to endorse not by local management, but by head office in Toronto, according to editor-in-chief Margo Goodhand.

Asked by Canadaland who chose to endorse the PCs, Goodhand responded: “The owners of the Journal made that call.”

China’s Disastrous Pollution Problem Is A Lesson For All

V.T. Polywoda via Flickr CC

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Beijing’s 21 million residents live in a toxic fog of particulate matter, ozone, sulphur dioxide, mercury, cadmium, lead and other contaminants, mainly caused by factories and coal burning. Schools and workplaces regularly shut down when pollution exceeds hazardous levels. People have exchanged paper and cotton masks for more elaborate, filtered respirators. Cancer has become the leading cause of death in the city and throughout the country.

Chinese authorities, often reluctant to admit to the extent of any problem, can no longer deny the catastrophic consequences of rampant industrial activity and inadequate regulations. According to Bloomberg News, Beijing’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says that, although life expectancy doubled from 1949 to 2011, “the average 18-year-old Beijinger today should prepare to spend as much as 40 percent of those remaining, long years in less than full health, suffering from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis, among other ailments.”

China’s government also estimates that air pollution prematurely kills from 350,000 to 500,000 residents every year.* Water and soil pollution are also severe throughout China.

The documentary film Under the Dome, by Chinese journalist Chai Jing, shows the extent of the air problem. The film was viewed by more than 150 million Chinese in its first few days, apparently with government approval. Later it was censored, showing how conflicted authorities are over the problem and its possible solutions. The pollution problem also demonstrates the ongoing global conflict between economic priorities and human and environmental health.

Rather than seeing China’s situation as a warning, many people in Canada and the U.S. — including in government — refuse to believe we could end up in a similar situation here. And so U.S. politicians fight to block pollution-control regulations and even to remove the power of the Environmental Protection Agency, or shut it down altogether! In Canada, politicians and pundits argue that environmental protection is too costly and that the economy takes precedence.

VIDEO: Canada Has a Troubling Definition of 'Threat'

CSIS, C-51

The government defines a threat completely differently than a citizen does.

We think of threats as violence, things that could physically hurt us. But to a government that also includes anything that could reduce its power.

So currently the definition of threats in the CSIS Act includes ‘foreign influenced activities detrimental to the interests of Canada.’

That doesn’t sound violent. That could describe a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band in Hamilton.

Watch me break it down in this video:

Oiling The Machinery Of Climate Change Denial And Transit Opposition

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Brothers Charles and David Koch run Koch Industries, the second-largest privately owned company in the U.S., behind Cargill. They’ve given close to US$70 million to climate change denial front groups, some of which they helped start, including Americans for Prosperity, founded by David Koch and a major force behind the Tea Party movement.

Through their companies, the Kochs are the largest U.S. leaseholder in the Alberta oilsands. They’ve provided funding to Canada’s pro-oil Fraser Institute and are known to fuel the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory, which claims a 1992 UN non-binding sustainable development proposal is a plot to remove property rights and other freedoms.

Researchers reveal they’re also behind many anti-transit initiatives in the U.S., in cities and states including Nashville, Indianapolis, Boston, Virginia, Florida and Los Angeles. They spend large amounts of money on campaigns to discredit climate science and the need to reduce greenhouse gases, and they fund sympathetic politicians.

Climate Change is Not a Left-Right Issue

This is a guest post by Kai Nagata, energy and democracy director at the Dogwood Initiative. 

Climate change shouldn’t be a left-wing versus right-wing political issue. I might take some flak for saying this, but “progressives” who claim only they have the correct ideas to fix the world are guilty of terrible hubris. And for “conservatives” to align themselves uncritically with global oil corporations betrays either intellectual laziness or cowardice.

All of us have a moral obligation to leave things better off for our kids. We might have different priorities or policy ideas, but at the end of the day we have to share this country — and parliament. And whether you believe in climate change or not, its social and economic impacts will eventually affect all of our lives.

The choice we face is whether to hunker down into polarized political camps, or reach out and find ways to work together.

Water Is Life; We Can’t Afford To Waste It

This is a guest post by David Suzuki. 

How long can you go without water? You could probably survive a few weeks without water for cooking. If you stopped washing, the threat to your life might only come from people who can’t stand the smell. But most people won’t live for more than three days without water to drink. It makes sense: our bodies are about 65 per cent water.

Canada Will Miss Its Climate Target And We’ll All Miss Out

I don’t think anyone in Canada expects our good country to meet its climate target — even with the imminent pressure of the UNFCCC meeting in Paris later this year weighing down on our collective shoulders.

We have no reason to harbour that expectation given that our own federal government via Environment Canada has been telling us for years that Canada is running off the climate track and — because of growing emissions largely from the oil and gas sector — we are getting farther and farther away from meeting our government's self-imposed climate targets.

Because of that climate failure, Canada is holding all of us back from prosperity, jobs and better health.

That’s according to a new study of benefits from international emission pledges made in the lead up to December’s UN climate summit.

Developed countries around the world — with the exception of Canada and Japan — are unveiling their individual climate plans, which are due today.

Who Says a Better World is Impossible?

This is a guest post by David Suzuki

Cars, air travel, space exploration, television, nuclear power, high-speed computers, telephones, organ transplants, prosthetic body parts… At various times these were all deemed impossible. I’ve been around long enough to have witnessed many technological feats that were once unimaginable. Even 10 or 20 years ago, I would never have guessed people would carry supercomputers in their pockets — your smart phone is more powerful than all the computers NASA used to put astronauts on the moon in 1969 combined!

Despite a long history of the impossible becoming possible, often very quickly, we hear the “can’t be done” refrain repeated over and over — especially in the only debate over global warming that matters: What can we do about it? Climate change deniers and fossil fuel industry apologists often argue that replacing oil, coal and gas with clean energy is beyond our reach. The claim is both facile and false.

Facile because the issue is complicated. It’s not simply a matter of substituting one for the other. To begin, conservation and efficiency are key. We must find ways to reduce the amount of energy we use — not a huge challenge considering how much people waste, especially in the developed world. False because rapid advances in clean energy and grid technologies continue to get us closer to necessary reductions in our use of polluting fossil fuels.

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