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Tue, 2014-12-09 21:20Steve Horn
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Like Canada's Harper Government, Obama Administration Muzzling Its Scientists

In recent years, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for disallowing scientists working for the Canadian government to speak directly to the press

An article published in August by The New Republic said “Harper's antagonism toward climate-change experts in his government may sound familiar to Americans,” pointing to similar deeds done by the George W. Bush Administration. That article also said that “Bush's replacement,” President Barack Obama, “has reversed course” in this area.

Society for Professional Journalists, the largest trade association for professional journalists in the U.S., disagrees with this conclusion. 

In a December 1 letter written to Gina McCarthy, administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the society chided the Obama administration for its methods of responding to journalists' queries to speak to EPA-associated scientists. 

“We write to urge you again to clarify that members of the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the twenty other EPA science advisory committees have the right and are encouraged to speak to the public and the press about any scientific issues, including those before these committees, in a personal capacity without prior authorization from the agency,” said the letter.

“We urge you…to ensure that EPA advisory committee members are encouraged share their expertise and opinions with those who would benefit from it.”

Wed, 2014-11-26 14:28Warren Bell
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Digging Deeper into Vivian Krause’s Disingenuous Anti-Environment Witch Hunt

vivian krause environmental charities

Canadians are inundated with ads from Enbridge, Cenovus, Kinder Morgan, Shell and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

But we’re also targeted by a more insidious type of PR brought into the spotlight by the New York Times scoop on a speech Richard Berman gave to the Western Energy Alliance.

In that speech, Berman told the group’s members — mostly oil and gas companies — they had to be prepared to “win ugly” in an “endless war” against environmentalists. 

We are now finding out we are also subjected to secretly funded propaganda from groups like the “Environmental Policy Alliance” (whose self-conciously chosen initials are EPA, the same as the U.S. government’s Environment Protection Agency), or the more obviously biased “Big Green Radicals.”

Fri, 2014-04-25 12:56Jeff Gailus
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Climate Denier Grabs Earth Day Headline in Vancouver Sun

It is always difficult to know what to publish on Earth Day. It’s been around for 34 years, which means that much of what’s worth writing about has already been covered. Then there’s the question of whether to inform your readers with facts, inspire them with positive stories about solutions or just overwhelm them with the beauty and wonder of nature.

Despite the challenge, it’s still a little perplexing why one of Vancouver’s two major newspapers published, on Earth Day, a column about climate change that is so poorly written, so haphazardly argued, so lacking in any genuine concern for the truth, that had a freshman submitted it in one of the university courses I teach, I would have given it an F.

The column to which I refer, “Earth Day is cult indoctrination,” was published by The Vancouver Sun on April 22 as a “guest editorial” by Michelle Stirling-Anosh. Nothing I read in the mainstream media shocks me anymore, and most of it doesn’t even deserve a response, but Stirling-Anosh’s contribution to the climate change debate is worth some critical attention, if only as a warning to others.

Wed, 2014-03-12 09:27Carol Linnitt
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Alberta Partners with Major Oilsands Companies to Develop Kindergarten to Grade Three Curriculum

Government of Alberta student, Suncor, Syncrude curriculum

The province of Alberta has recently released a development plan for public schools that enlists Suncor Energy and Syncrude Canada in the creation of future Kindergarten to grade three curriculum. Oil giant Cenovus will partner in developing curriculum for grades four to 12.

The oil and gas industry’s involvement in the province’s educational development is creating concern among opposition parties and environmental organizations.

NDP Education Critic Deron Bilous called granting partnership status to industry “appalling.”

Kindergarten to grade three is a very formative time in a child’s education where their minds are still developing. It is outrageous and appalling to have oil and gas companies involved in any way in developing curriculum for Alberta’s youngest students,” he said.

Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema said “it’s definitely very disturbing that the Alberta government would see oil giants Syncrude and Suncor as key partners in designing Alberta’s K to three curriculum. Big oil doesn’t belong in Alberta’s schools.

He added, “It’s time that the Alberta government realizes that what’s good for the oil industry isn’t what’s good for the rest of Alberta and especially not our children. While oil may run our cars for now it shouldn’t run our government or our schools. Ever.”

Fri, 2013-06-21 12:13Jim Hoggan
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Locked in The Progress Trap: Interview With Author Ronald Wright

The Progress Trap by Will Brown

Ronald Wright, the award-winning author of A Short History of Progress, says North Americans are the greatest “villains” when it comes to climate change. While Europe has put forward some serious money and strategies to try to combat it, Canada and the U.S. are dragging their heels.

Wright’s comments are particularly noteworthy after Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s recent visit to Europe, where he tried to sell Canada’s approach to oil sands to a skeptical audience. Europe is considering imposing a tax on Canadian bitumen because of its emissions.

I sat down with Wright on Salt Spring Island, B.C. to talk about why society can’t seem to change its way of thinking. He blames what he calls, “The Progress Trap.”

This is the first of two parts of my conversation with Wright.

Jim Hoggan: Why, despite mounting evidence and calls for urgent action from experts in the atmospheric, marine and life sciences, are we doing so little to address environmental problems like climate change, the declining health of our oceans and mass species extinctions?

Fri, 2013-04-05 09:33Jeff Gailus
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Greenwashing the Tar Sands, Part 2: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Last week, I wrote a short history of the greenwashing campaign being waged by tar sands promoters, including (and especially) the Canadian and Alberta governments. It’s clear that as the battle over the future of tar sands development has intensified, so has the greenwashing necessary to promote it in the age of climate change and increasing environmental literacy. The more people know about the dangerous costs and risks associated with tar sands development, the more time, effort and money its promoters must invest in the alchemy of disingenuous propaganda.

The frustrating part for Canadians concerned with this egregious abuse and misuse of language is that there doesn’t appear to be any recourse. Tar sands supporters seem to disseminate their little black lies with impunity, and there is no way, in a democracy where free speech is sacrosanct, to stop the flood of tar sands bullshit sullying the airwaves.

Tue, 2013-03-19 10:23Jeff Gailus
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A Short History of Greenwashing the Tar Sands, Part 1

This is Part One of a three-part series on the political greenwashing of the tar sands in Canada.

When I hatched the idea to write a book about the use of spin and propaganda in the battle over the tar sands, a close friend of mine suggested I avoid the term “tar sands.” His logic was simple: using this term, which has become a pejorative, would turn some people off, people who might benefit, he said, from reading my book.

His recommendation was meant to be helpful, but it speaks to the power of manipulating language to make people believe something appears to be something that it is not. “Greenwashing” refers to the strategy of intentionally exaggerating a product’s environmental credentials in order to sell it, and nowhere has greenwashing been more generously used than in the promotion of the tar sands and the new and bigger pipelines that proponents hope will carry it around the world.

Greenwashing is fairly recent phenomenon—it was only added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1999—but it has become commonplace as public concern has grown over the spate of environmental problems we now face, and as consumers demand “greener” products as a means of solving them. The most recent analysis by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing found that although the number of green products is growing, the marketing of more than 95 per cent of them still commits one the seven sins of greenwashing.

Thu, 2013-02-07 06:00Jeff Gailus
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When War is Peace and Dirty, Clean

Every communications expert knows that truth is rarely self-evident. Indeed, no matter how hare-brained or incredulous an idea is, if it serves the interests of a particular group of people who want it to be true, they’ll ignore any and all evidence to make it so.

Paul Krugman, an influential economist and columnist for the New York Times, recently wrote about this problematic phenomenon in the American military, where it is known as “incestuous amplification.” “Highly dubious ideas become certainties,” he wrote, “when a closed group of people repeat the the same things to each other – and when accepting the group’s preconceptions itself becomes a necessary ticket to being in the in-group.”

He refers, as an example, to the early days of what he calls the Iraq debacle, “where perfectly obvious propositions – the case for invading is very weak, the occupation may well be a nightmare – weren’t so much rejected as ruled out of discussion altogether; if you even considered those possibilities, you weren’t a serious person, no matter what your credentials.”

If this sounds eerily familiar, you might be thinking of the protracted campaign by Big Oil and the Alberta and Canadian governments to brand tar sands oil as a “clean, responsible and sustainable” source of energy. Earlier this week, I visited the Alberta government’s oil sands website to read about “Alberta’s clean energy story,” where we learn that Albertans “are doing our part to move the world towards a clean energy future.”

Tue, 2013-01-29 11:47Jim Hoggan
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Ethical Oil Doublespeak Is Polluting Canada's Public Square

“Like any other tool, language can be abused, used not to build but to destroy, not to communicate but to confuse, not to clarify but to obscure, not to lead but to mislead.” 
- William Lutz⁠

Retired American linguist Dr. William Lutz spent much of his career at Rutgers University studying how language is abused in public conversations. He pointed to government and industry as the worst offenders in a practice known as Doublespeak, which Lutz described as “language designed to evade responsibility, to make the unpleasant appear pleasant … language that pretends to communicate but really doesn’t. Language designed to mislead while pretending it doesn’t.” 

Dr. Lutz worried that doublespeak has invaded public discourse about important issues. When killing innocent men, women and children is called 'collateral damage', torture becomes 'enhanced interrogation' and the dirtiest fossil fuel becomes 'Clean Coal', public conversations lose meaning. We struggle to make sense of things. These euphemisms sanitize language and steer important issues below the public’s radar. 

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