Society

Christmas in the Technosphere: How to Lift the Weight of the World

How much stuff will you give and receive this holiday season? Add it to the growing pile — the 30-trillion-tonne pile. That’s how much technology and goods humans have produced, according to a study by an international team led by England’s University of Leicester. It adds up to more than all living matter on the planet, estimated at around four trillion tonnes.

Scientists have dubbed these times the “Anthropocene”, because humans are now the dominant factor influencing Earth’s natural systems, from climate to the carbon and hydrologic cycles. Now they’re labelling our accumulated goods and technologies — including houses, factories, cars, roads, smartphones, computers and landfills — the “technosphere” because it’s as large and significant as the biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. Researchers estimate it represents 50 kilograms for every square metre of Earth’s surface and is 100,000 times greater than the human biomass it supports.

Canada Isn't Immune to Trump-ism

By Sarah Boon from Watershed Moments.

In the days following the U.S. election, two former Canadian ambassadors to the U.S. had some advice for Canadians worried about the future of Canada-U.S. relations.

Calm down,” they said. “Change the channel and watch some hockey.”

This paternalistic statement not only played on the worn cultural stereotype that all Canadians like hockey, Tweet: Nope, sorry. A ‘head in the sand,’ ‘everything will be fine’ mentality is NOT a good way to deal with Trump, Canada http://bit.ly/2gwbt7Ebut it suggested that a ‘head in the sand,’ ‘everything will be fine’ mentality was a good way to deal with Trump.

In truth, Canadians have every reason to worry.

A Surprisingly Simple Solution to Canada’s Stalled Energy Debate

If you feel exhausted by Canada’s fevered debates about oil pipelines, liquefied natural gas terminals, renewable energy projects and mines, there just might be relief in sight.

Right now, the federal government is reviewing its environmental assessment (EA) process. Yes, it’s reviewing its reviews. And while that might sound kinda boring, it could actually revolutionize the way Canada makes decisions about energy projects.

My highest hope is that Canada will take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity … and take a really visionary approach to environmental assessment,” said Anna Johnston, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law.

That could include implementing something called “strategic environmental assessment,” which creates a forum for the larger discussions about things like oil exports, LNG development or all mining in an area.

So instead of the current environmental assessment process, in which pipeline reviews have become proxy battles for issues such as climate change and cumulative effects, there’d actually be a higher-level review designed specifically to examine those big-picture questions. 

Alberta’s Carbon Tax Doesn’t Equal ‘Social Licence’ for New Pipelines, Critics Say

Implement an economy-wide carbon tax, attain “social licence,” score a federal approval for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

That’s been the advertised logic of the Alberta NDP since the introduction of its Climate Leadership Plan a year ago. Nearly every mention of carbon pricing and associated policies — a 100 megatonne oilsands cap, coal-fired power phase-out and methane reduction target — has been accompanied by a commitment to “improve opportunities to get our traditional energy products to new markets.”
 
Such a sentiment was reinforced with Premier Rachel Notley’s retort on Oct. 3 to the announcement of federally mandated carbon pricing: “Alberta will not be supporting this proposal absent serious concurrent progress on energy infrastructure.”

But for some, Tweet: #Alberta NDP’s rhetoric represents a fundamental misunderstanding of #sociallicence http://bit.ly/2fzLs7Y #ableg #bcpoli #cdnpolithe Alberta NDP’s rhetoric represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the point of social licence, with the government assuming that moderate emissions reduction policies allows it to ignore serious concerns about Indigenous rights and international climate commitments.

Laws Needed to Protect Citizens from Industry, Government SLAPP Suits: B.C. Civil Liberties Association

Allowing wealthy corporations or powerful government agencies to launch baseless court cases against citizens who speak out against them is putting a chill on free expression in B.C. and there is a growing need for legislation against SLAPP suits, says the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

It is time to fight back against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), which aim to intimidate and silence critics by landing them with the often-unmanageable cost of defending themselves against an unwarranted lawsuit, said Micheal Vonn, BCCLA policy director, who believes SLAPP suits are undermining B.C.’s democratic health.

BCCLA is aiming to put pressure on the provincial government to bring in anti-SLAPP legislation, similar to changes introduced last year in Ontario, to help those threatened with legal action to defend themselves against those with powerful financial interests and deep pockets.

Feds Appoint Chair of B.C. Industry Group to Panel Reviewing Environmental Assessment Process

The federal government has appointed the founding chair of a vocal B.C.-based industry advocacy group to a four-member panel tasked with reviewing Canada’s environmental assessment process.*

The panel is part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attempt to make good on his campaign promise to restore credibility to environmental reviews of major energy projects — but the appointment calls into question the credibility of the panel. 

Tweet: New EA review panel member leads an industry advocacy group w close ties to @BCLiberals http://bit.ly/2cH6u5H #bcpoliThe appointee, Doug Horswill, is the founding chair of Resource Works, an industry advocacy group with close ties to the BC Liberals that aggressively advocates for the interests of extractive industries in B.C.

David Suzuki: Cultural and Ecosystem Diversity Key to Resilience

It’s been shocking to watch news of the Brexit vote in Britain, Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. and the ongoing threats and violence against ethnic minorities in many parts of the world. I’m not a political or social scientist, but my training as a biologist gives me some insight.

When I began my career as a scientist, geneticists were starting to analyze the molecular properties of single genes within a species. When we started looking at highly evolved species such as fruit flies, we thought we would find that their genes had been honed through selection over time, so they would be relatively homogeneous within single species. Examining one kind of protein controlled by a specific gene, we expected to find them all pretty much the same. Instead, we learned there was a great deal of heterogeneity, or diversity. A gene specifying a protein could exist in a number of different states.

This is now called “genetic polymorphism” and is considered to be the very measure of a species’ health. Inbreeding or reduction of a species to a small number reduces genetic polymorphism and exposes harmful genes, thereby rendering the species more susceptible to sudden change. In other words, genetic polymorphism confers resilience by providing greater possibilities as conditions shift.

New Public Interest Law Office to Fight B.C.’s Biggest Environmental Battles

There just aren’t enough lawyers in B.C. to fight all the environmental battles First Nations, individuals and groups face on a regular basis in the province, according to University of Victoria lawyer Chris Tollefson.

As a solution, Tollefson, the founder of the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, and a handful of legal experts and litigators recently launched a new public interest environmental law outfit that will take on some of the most powerful forces in B.C., from Malaysian-owned Petronas to government ministries to BC Hydro.

The new legal non-profit, the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL), will focus on environmental litigation, legislative reform and, as Tollefson describes it, “training up the next generation of young public interest environmental lawyers.”

Tollefson, who served as a former president of Ecojustice, one of Canada's most prominent environmental legal non-profits, Tweet: There is more work than existing environmental law organizations can handle http://bit.ly/2aBXcoG #bcpolisaid there is more work than existing organizations can handle.

That sentiment is echoed by Bob Peart, executive director of Sierra Club BC, and one of the centre's first clients. 

“I think litigation is vital and it's so hard to move this government in any other way,” Peart told DeSmog Canada. “You can build up the wall of public noise as much as you like but litigation seems to be a lever they at least half listen to.”

What if We Could Map All the Fossil Fuel Corporate Powers in Canada? These Researchers Are Trying

We’ve all seen a chart like it: logos of corporations connected by thin lines to other logos, linking dozens of subsidiaries to spin-offs of even larger companies.

But such diagrams — whether they attempt to illustrate the concentration of media ownership or linking music record companies to arms manufacturers — rarely involve Canada or the fossil fuel companies that dominate lobbying and other political efforts.

The Corporate Mapping Project, co-directed by Shannon Daub of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and William Carroll of the University of Victoria, aims to remedy that.

We need to have a conversation about how these forms of concentrated power can be problematic for democratic processes in terms of decision-making and the citizenry collectively determining its future,” says Carroll, sociology professor at the University of Victoria.

To the extent that you have very strong concentrations of corporate power in key sectors of the economy, it limits the boundaries of permissible discourse: what can be said, what can be discussed openly.”

Why I Wrote a Book About How to Clean Up Toxic Debates

I wrote my last book, Climate Cover-Up, because I wanted to take a deeper look at the science propaganda and media echo chambers that muddied the waters around climate change, fuelled denial of facts and stalled action. The book was a Canadian best seller, was reprinted in Spanish and Mandarin and became the basis of many lectures, panel discussions and presentations I have given around the world since it was published in 2009.
 
I continued to be perplexed and frustrated by the spin doctoring swirling around the global warming issue, making it easy for people to refute the reality of what’s going on and ignore this critical collective problem. But as time went by I became even more concerned and alarmed by the crazy state of debate today in general — the toxic rhetoric that seems to permeate virtually all of the important issues we face, whether it’s a discussion about vaccinations, refugee immigration, gun control or environmental degradation.

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