Opinion

How Propaganda Works to Divide Us

Trump protest in London

Political propaganda employs the ideals of liberal democracy to undermine those very ideals, the dangers of which, not even its architects fully understand.

In the early years of DeSmog’s research into anti science propaganda, I thought of energy industry PR campaigns such as “junk science,” “clean coal,” and “ethical oil” as misinformation strategies designed to dupe the public.

Although that’s obviously true, I now understand that propaganda is far more complex and problematic than merely lying about the evidence. Certainly propaganda is designed to deceive, but not in a way you might think. What’s more, the consequences are far worse than most people who produce and consume it realize.

My deeper understanding evolved after I interviewed Jason Stanley and read his important book How Propaganda Works. The American philosopher and Yale University professor will speak about the history and dangers of demagogic propaganda at UBC’s Point Grey Campus in Vancouver on April 27 (7 p.m. Buchanan A210, 1866 Main Mall).

Are B.C. Taxpayers Paying $3.5 Billion for Massey Bridge to Make Room for Coal, LNG Exports?

Massey Bridge

This article originally appeared on The Tyee.

There are places one can sit and consider the past and future with equal clarity. On this October day, Harold Steves, 79, an outspoken environmentalist and Richmond city councillor, looks from the riverbank at the end of Richmond’s Rice Mill Road.

Directly in front of him is the Fraser River, and directly below his feet lies Highway 99’s George Massey Tunnel. Given a $22-million seismic upgrade a decade ago, it was said by then-B.C. transportation minister Kevin Falcon that the tunnel was safe and a future twinning would eliminate the twice-daily commuter bottleneck.

But if today’s B.C. government has its way, work will start late this year on a massive $3.5-billion bridge, financed through a Public-Private Partnership (P3), to be completed by 2022.

Which means a stiff toll to pay off private creditors in the years ahead. Which will also mean that the perfectly safe, perfectly good tunnel will be removed.

Canada Has the Longest Coastline in the World. Guess How Much of it is Protected?

Canada Marine Protected Areas

The federal government recently created two marine protected areas in the Pacific region and has committed to increase ocean protection from one per cent to 10 by 2020. But will this be enough?

Canada has the longest coastline of any nation, but our country doesn’t end at its ocean shores. With a 200-nautical-mile economic zone and international obligations, Tweet: Canada is responsible for 3M sq/km of ocean (BC, AB, Sask & Manitoba combined http://bit.ly/2nyKGPC #bcpoli #cdnpoli #bcelxn17 #YVR #YYJCanada is responsible for almost three million square kilometres of ocean, an area roughly the size of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba combined.

Although that’s a big area, thinking of the ocean in square kilometres is just skimming the surface. The ocean isn’t just a cold, wet seascape blanketed by howling winds. Below the surface, life thrives throughout the water column, top to bottom, warm or cold, winter or summer.

Three Ways to Improve Alberta’s Toothless Energy Regulator

Alberta Energy Regulator

By Barry Robinson, Ecojustice.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) is Alberta’s one-stop regulatory body for the oil and gas industry. When it was created in 2013 by the merging of the former Energy Resources Conservation Board and parts of Alberta Environment and Parks, the AER made bold claims about transparency, enforcement and becoming a “world-class” regulator.

Unfortunately, the AER has failed to live up to its promises. The AER has shown over and over again that it is either unable or unwilling to enforce its own laws, directives and orders. The AER has become a toothless regulator.

As a public interest lawyer I see first-hand how the AER’s failures affect Albertans.

Four Decades and Counting: A Brief History of the Site C Dam

Arlene Boon

This is a guest post by Ray Eagle.

Many British Columbians may not realize that the $9 billion Site C dam, currently under construction on the Peace River, has a 46-year back-story.

B.C. Hydro began engineering studies for Site C back in 1971. In the early 1980s B.C. Hydro went before the newly formed British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC), created “to ensure that ratepayers receive safe, reliable, and nondiscriminatory energy services at fair rates from the utilities it regulates, and that shareholders of those utilities are afforded a reasonable opportunity to earn a fair return on their invested capital.”

In November 1983, the BCUC issued a 315-page summary that stated the dam was not needed at that time, while at the same time criticizing B.C. Hydro’s forecasting ability.

Tweet: “The Commission examined the methodology of @BCHydro's forecasting…” and it didn’t go so well in 1983. Or now still http://bit.ly/2nhohVbThe Commission examined the methodology of Hydro's forecasting … and concluded that, while significant improvements have been made, further improvements can and should be made to improve reliability,” the report read.

4 Reasons the ‘Oil to Tidewater’ Argument is Bunk

Oil tanker

Access to world markets for Canadian oil has been available since 1956 when the Westridge dock was constructed in Burnaby, B.C., and linked to the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The dock’s export capacity has rarely been used to its full potential in more than 60 years — yet the oil industry and politicians continue to make the argument that Canada needs new pipelines to get oil to world markets. 

Here are four reasons that argument doesn’t fly.

Four Things You Need to Know About How Coal Affects Human Health

Woman with respirator

By Benjamin Israël for the Pembina Institute.

In November 2016, the Government of Canada announced its intention to phase out coal as a source of power. Since then, many voices have misrepresented or questioned the impact that coal emissions have on Canadians’ health and our environment.

In order to clear the air, we’ve answered four of the biggest questions being asked about the link between an accelerated phase-out of coal-fired power and human health.

Cutting Through The Spin on Ontario's Electricity Prices

Transmission line

What do electricity prices have in common with the rain? Politicians don’t control either. However, hearing the Ontario Conservatives and NDPs slamming the Liberals this week for rising electricity costs and pretending they somehow have the answer, you’d hardly know it. But the fact is, Tweet: Any politician who promises low electricity rates is selling a lie — one we all end up paying for http://bit.ly/2myQ6WD #cdnpoli #onpoliany politician who promises low electricity rates is selling a lie — one that all of us end up paying for sooner or later.

Ontario’s electricity woes stem back to the late 1970s and, over the past 40 odd years, all three parties have had a hand in them. It started with the building of the Darlington nuclear station, which the Bill Davis Tories approved and the David Peterson Liberals saw through to completion — 10 years late and almost $12 billion over budget. No one could afford to pay the real cost of Darlington, so Ontarians carried that debt for the next three decades.

Over that time, electricity — like cars, and coffee, and just about everything else we buy — didn’t get cheaper, it got more expensive. And when the recession hit in 1993, and electricity prices were rising, people got angry. The party in power at that time, the NDP, did the popular thing; it froze electricity rates, halting investment in the power system.

We Need to Admit the Limitations of Science When it Comes to Pipeline Decisions

Winter Coast Salish Gathering. Photo by Zack Embree.

With federal decisions on major oil pipeline and tanker projects in the headlines, many suggest our elected officials should lean more on science to make these kinds of decisions.

Those exhortations sound very reasonable. But they reveal an enormously important misunderstanding about the role of science in making decisions on major resource projects.

Take the case of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project on the West Coast.

On one side, you have staunch opposition from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and other coastal and Fraser River First Nations, West Coast municipalities like Vancouver, Burnaby and Victoria, and a sizable percentage of B.C.’s voting public.

On the other side, you have staunch support from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, the mayors of Calgary and Edmonton, and a sizable percentage of Alberta’s voting public.

Tweet: 'Is one side simply too dumb to understand the science — or simply willing to flatly ignore it?' http://bit.ly/2ly7haN #bcpoli #cdnpoliIs one side simply too dumb to understand the science — or simply willing to flatly ignore it?

Of course not.

It's High Time For Canada to Address First Nations' Water Woes

Drinking Water

Neskantaga First Nation in Ontario has had to boil water since 1995.

We’re over 20 years already where our people haven’t been able to get the water they need to drink from their taps or to bathe themselves without getting any rashes,” Neskantaga Chief Wayne Moonias told CBC News in 2015. Their water issues have yet to be resolved.

They’re not alone. In fall last year, 156 drinking water advisories were in place in First Nations in Canada. More than 100 are routinely in effect — some for years or decades. According to a 2015 CBC investigation “two-thirds of all First Nation communities in Canada have been under at least one drinking water advisory at some time in the last decade.”

Water advisories vary in severity. A “boil water advisory” means residents must boil water before using it for drinking or bathing. “Do not consume” means water is not safe to drink or consume and a “do not use advisory” means water is unsafe for any human use.

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