Opinion

Tue, 2015-03-24 17:58Guest
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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.

Fri, 2015-03-20 11:55Scott Vrooman
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What's More Worrying? Bill C-51 or the Fact That So Many People Don't Know What's In It?

Far more disturbing than what’s in Bill C-51 is the fact that most Canadians don’t seem to care about it. I don’t know if they’re scared, or uninformed, or think Earth will soon be knocked off its axis by a rogue planet sending us all hurtling into the sun so nothing matters anyway. In any case, here are a few reminders.

Free speech is important. Once you allow speech you don’t like to be criminalized, you’re allowing the government to create a list of illegal ideas. That list will expand no matter which party is in power. Once a state outlaws a few kinds of speech, it gets all jacked up and has to keep that buzz going and before you know it they’ve snorted up a whole pile of them and have you cornered at a party talking your ear off about politics.

Tue, 2015-03-17 10:00Emma Gilchrist
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Do Review on Site C, Says Joint Panel Chief

This piece originally appeared in the Times Colonist.

At a cost of $8.8 billion, the construction of the Site C dam would entail the largest outlay of taxpayer money in B.C. history.

That’s 18 times the cost of B.C.’s fast ferries, or 11 times the cost of a sewage-treatment facility for the Capital Regional District. Heck, it’s the most expensive infrastructure project currently proposed in all of Canada.

Yet a BC Hydro survey in July 2014 found only six in 10 British Columbians had even heard of the project.

Perhaps that’s because Site C, proposed for near Fort St. John, is out of sight, out of mind for the vast majority of British Columbians. The dam — given the green light by the province a week before Christmas — would be the third on the Peace River and, if built, would flood the river valley for 107 kilometres, affecting 13,000 hectares of agricultural land.

The province has capitalized on the “out of sight, out of mind” factor to try to get away with ignoring recommendations made by its own expert panel.

Mon, 2015-03-16 14:03Guest
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Raven Coal proposal May Not Be Gone For Good, But We’re Winning the Social Licence Battle

This is a guest post by Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, an organization working with local groups and individuals to stop the Raven Coal Mine.

Monday, March 2nd was a tense day for those of us monitoring the Raven Coal Mine proposal. After a 30-day screening period, the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) was set to announce whether or not the application to mine close to 30 million tonnes of coal and rock in the Comox Valley would advance to final environmental review.

Then, just hours before the announcement, proponent Compliance Energy abruptly withdrew its application.

Frankly, this took us by surprise. The company’s first proposal was rejected by the EAO in May 2013 because it was missing hundreds of pages of required information. When Compliance made its resubmission earlier this year, the company stated it was confident that all previous shortcomings had been addressed and the application was complete.

But as we’ve seen with other controversial, ecosystem-threatening proposals  from the Northern Gateway pipeline to the New Prosperity Mine in Tsilhqot’in Territory  projects don’t move ahead if they don’t have social licence.

And on that front, Compliance Energy isn’t even close.

Tue, 2015-03-03 17:32Guest
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Let’s Not Sacrifice Freedom Out Of Fear

burnaby mountain, zack embree, C-51, RCMP, David Suzuki

This is a guest post by David Suzuki

A scientist, or any knowledgeable person, will tell you climate change is a serious threat for Canada and the world. But the RCMP has a different take. A secret report by the national police force, obtained by Greenpeace, both minimizes the threat of global warming and conjures a spectre of threats posed by people who rightly call for sanity in dealing with problems caused by burning fossil fuels.

Mon, 2015-02-23 11:03Sean Holman
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The Tyranny of the Talking Point

Dear government spin doctor,

I am working on a story about how the job you’re doing is helping to kill Canada’s democracy.

I know that your role, as a so-called communications professional, is to put the best spin on what the government is or isn’t doing.

That means you often don’t respond the questions I ask, you help elected officials do the same thing and you won’t let me talk to those who actually have the answers.

While this may work out very well for you, it doesn’t work out so well for my audience who, by the way, are taxpayers, voters and citizens.

So your refusal to provide me with information is actually a refusal to provide the public with information.

And if the public doesn’t know what their government is actually doing, it can continue doing things the public wouldn’t want it to do.

That just doesn’t seem very democratic to me. Does it seem democratic to you?

Thu, 2015-02-12 09:53Scott Vrooman
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Canada Paid $180,000 for Mining Responsibility Counsellor That Doesn't Exist

The government spent over $180,000 dollars last year to run the office of a corporate social responsibility counsellor for the Canadian mining industry even though there was no counsellor. Which is actually a fitting metaphor for what this office does: nothing.

It has no power to investigate problems or issue reports. Just look at the title, it’s not corporate social responsibility enforcer, it’s counsellor. “Hey man, there’s no judgment here. Think of me as a coach. How can I help you to help yourself to not murder activists, forcibly evict people and set their homes on fire? Yeah, help yourself to the jelly beans. Those are for everyone.”

Tue, 2015-02-03 11:21Guest
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Why (and How) the PICS Divestment Report Misses the Point

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This is a guest post by Cam Fenton, Canadian tar sands organizer with 350.org.

Last week the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions released a report criticizing the fossil fuel divestment movement. While the report came as a surprise, the arguments didn’t, especially given that they were based more on building a straw man to support the report’s conclusions than actually understanding the movement.

At best the report fails to accurately reflect the demands and the theory of change of fossil fuel divestment movement, and at worst it fails to understand the true role and power of organizing, action and social movements.

The report gets a lot wrong and a little bit right, but most of its problems are undercut by three assumptions at the core of its argument – assumptions which seem to have been cherry-picked by the authors to support their own conclusions rather than reflecting those articulated by the movement. In fact the divestment movement has only ever been founded on one assumption that “if it’s morally wrong to wreck the climate, it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.”

Fri, 2015-01-30 05:00Guest
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Federal Leadership Critical for Climate Action

This is a guest post by Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence. It originally appeared on the Toronto Star.

It was troubling last week when Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau seemed to suggest that provinces could just do their own thing on climate action without much federal involvement other than hand holding. Government action addressing climate change is evolving quickly at the provincial level but that does not absolve the federal government of its responsibility to set a level playing field and spur action.

It would have been great had the federal government implemented a pan-Canadian climate change plan eight years ago — when it promised to. Or better yet 13 years ago, when the Canadian government ratified the Kyoto Protocol. But it’s not too late for the federal government to act, especially given the big advantages to doing so: fairness and effectiveness.

Thu, 2015-01-29 07:45Guest
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Canada is Trading Away its Environmental Rights

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

In 1997, Canada restricted import and transfer of the gasoline additive MMT because it was a suspected neurotoxin that had already been banned in Europe. Ethyl Corp., the U.S. multinational that supplied the chemical, sued the government for $350 million under the North American Free Trade Agreement and won! Canada was forced to repeal the ban, apologize to the company and pay an out-of-court settlement of US$13 million.

The free trade agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico was never designed to raise labour and environmental standards to the highest level. In fact, NAFTA and other trade agreements Canada has signed — including the recent Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China — often take labour standards to the lowest denominator while increasing environmental risk. The agreements are more about facilitating corporate flexibility and profit than creating good working conditions and protecting the air, water, land and diverse ecosystems that keep us alive and healthy.

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