Sunday, March 31, 2019

"The Sun is Setting on Justin Trudeau"

It's clear that prime minister Justin Trudeau has lost whatever goodwill he and his government once had with Canada's First Nations. It's over and that will be felt as the Liberals try to force their Trans Mountain pipeline to the coast.

Be Grateful. Better Yet, Act Like You're Grateful.

One of the climate scientists I've dealt with in recent years is Camilo Mora, head of the Mora climate lab at the University of Hawaii. Mora's team made the papers in 2014 when it published a paper predicting a climate change phenomenon, "climate departure," would bring an abrupt and dramatic change to how we experienced climate change. It's a point at which you move from an historic climate with plenty of variability into a new climate that has only one setting - "hot."

Most of Canada will pass the climate departure threshold by 2047. We'll be among the last and least impacted. The first areas to feel the sting of climate departure will include some Caribbean and Central American nations and that's expected to start around 2023.

Mora was born and raised in Colombia but received his university degrees in Canada and the United States. It is his Third World upbringing, however, that allows him to give us an understanding of what climate change will mean to less advantaged countries. With any luck we might stop taking this threat seriously and appreciate what we stand to lose through complacency.

From YaleEnvironment 360, July, 2014:

I grew up in a country where there has been a long history of violence. We have been in war for 50 years, and one thing people don’t realize is what it means to be in a place where anyone can get shot at any moment, where people are starved to death, where there is not enough food to feed people. In the first world, people don’t know how rich they are, and they don’t realize what is happening in the rest of the world. And for me that’s a driving force. It’s scary to think about climate change because when we start damaging physical systems and the carrying capacity of physical systems to produce food, people will react to this in a terrible way. I’m telling you, I have seen it in my own country. It’s very negative the way in which people react to hunger. And that’s one of the things that’s most frightening to me with this large-scale analysis — the fact that I know we’re on our way to some very disturbing scenarios if we go down this pathway of damaging physical systems in the ways that we are today.
Mora and his team have not been afraid to break an informal taboo among many climate scientists - overpopulation. He published a paper on overpopulation in the journal, Ecology and Society.
Well, it’s paramount because people need food. And the planet is limited in the amount of resources that it can produce. We already have calculated that the planet has on the order of 11 billion hectares that can be harvested in a sustainable manner. Of course we can increase the number by increasing technology, but that’s been happening for the last three decades. The worldwide population is 7 billion people, and we know that to sustain a human being you need on the order of two hectares per person. That means that the world human population every year consumes on the order of 14 billion hectares. The planet only has eleven to give to us. Every year, we consume in excess of three billion hectares. What I’m suggesting is to inform people about the environmental and social costs of having a child. And for governments to allow people those choices. Today we have on the order of 200 million women who want access to family planning that don’t have it. So for me the solution is right there.
It seems amazing, but friends of mine recommended to me not to publish that paper. They said, “This paper is going to be damaging to you. You don’t get it. You don’t need it.” What is remarkable, though, is that after the paper got published, I had multiple people calling me to endorse it.
The callers endorsed Mora's paper but not publicly.
No, just to me. This is really the problem. But why we don’t take it on? I have no clue. Because the data are very clear. I guess the problem is that it can backfire. We have seen, historically, situations in which a scientist has taken on an issue and there are people who have been fired, or attacked by interest groups. So I guess the problem is fear of retaliation.
We need to heed messages like Mora's. We need to absorb his science in an effective way and start incorporating all of this knowledge in our planning and policy-making. But we don't have time for that. Our leaders are engrossed in the pursuit of perpetual, exponential growth. They boast of what they've done and where they want to take us, heedless of the costs and the risks they will bequeath us in the years to come.

Major climate change will unfold in the course of the 2020s. That has already begun. How will we respond? Will we be grateful it's them and not us? Or will we act like we're grateful we have a little more time and begin restructuring our society to meet reality?

Britain Braces for "Hottest Spring Ever" What's Coming Our Way?

Yesterday Alaska set a record for the earliest 70 degree day ever recorded.

Parts of the UK hit 90 F. Next up for the Brits is a blast of Arctic air followed by what is expected to be the hottest spring ever.

Now, as Canadians are just emerging from a protracted winter, it's good to refresh our understanding of what lies ahead for the next four years. IT'S GONNA BE HOT, VERY HOT.

[Last] summer's world-wide heatwave made 2018 a particularly hot year. As will be the next few years, according to a study led by Florian Sévellec, a CNRS researcher at the Laboratory for Ocean Physics and Remote Sensing (LOPS) (CNRS/IFREMER/IRD/University of Brest) and at the University of Southampton, and published in the 14 August 2018 edition of Nature Communications. Using a new method, the study shows that at the global level, 2018-2022 may be an even hotter period than expected based on current global warming.

Warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions is not linear: it appears to have lapsed in the early 21st century, a phenomenon known as a global warming hiatus. A new method for predicting mean temperatures, however, suggests that the next few years will likely be hotter than expected. 
The system, developed by researchers at CNRS, the University of Southampton and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, does not use traditional simulation techniques. Instead, it applies a statistical method to search 20th and 21st century climate simulations made using several reference models (1) to find 'analogues' of current climate conditions and deduce future possibilities. The precision and reliability of this probabilistic system proved to be at least equivalent to current methods, particularly for the purpose of simulating the global warming hiatus of the beginning of this century. 
The new method predicts that mean air temperature may be abnormally high in 2018-2022 -- higher than figures inferred from anthropogenic global warming alone. In particular, this is due to a low probability of intense cold events. The phenomenon is even more salient with respect to sea surface temperatures, due to a high probability of heat events, which, in the presence of certain conditions, can cause an increase in tropical storm activity. 
Think back to last summer - heatwaves, drought, wildfires especially the Paradise disaster. Out here on the Pacific, that heat translates into wildfires and severe smoke pollution, the pm 2.5 stuff.

I had to rig my house with air purifiers last year to keep the air inside safe to breathe. This year it'll be new blinds to block the afternoon sun. I don't want to resort to air conditioning.

This is probably a good time to begin planning for what you'll need for the summer and the summers that are coming after that.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Alaska - Another Climate Record

Alaska has just logged another record - its earliest 70 degree day.

Parts of the state have had their earliest 70-degree readings on record. Klawock, a town in southeastern Alaska, reached 70 F on March 19 -- the earliest any spot in the state has hit that high. 
More records are expected to be broken this weekend, with temperatures soaring as much as 50 degrees above normal in the fastest-warming state
Meanwhile, Northeastern cities such as Boston are still awaiting a 70-degree day more than a week after spring officially began.

Democracy on Trial - In the United Kingdom

The New York Times headline reads, "‘We’re in the Last Hour’: Democracy Itself Is on Trial in Brexit, Britons Say."

As I'm going through the article, over on LBC radio, London, callers are having their say on whether the UK needs electoral reform, an end to "first past the post." Here's what NYT reports:
The whole world of Britain’s Parliament — its effete codes of conduct, its arcane and stilted language, its reunions of Oxbridge school chums — seemed impossibly remote from the real, unfolding national crisis of Brexit, the process of extricating the country from the European Union.
Over the past weeks, as factions within the British government have grappled for control over the country’s exit from the bloc, the mood among voters has become dark.

Those Britons who wished to remain are reminded, daily, that a risky and momentous national change is being initiated against their will and judgment. More striking is the deep cynicism among those who voted to leave, the group that Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to satisfy. They are now equally bitter and disillusioned, as the government’s paralysis has called into question whether Britain will ever leave.
In interviews, many Britons expressed despair over the inability of the political system to produce a compromise. No one feels that the government has represented their interests. No one is satisfied. No one is hopeful. 
It has amounted to a hollowing out of confidence in democracy itself. 
“I don’t think the central institutions of government have been discredited like this in the postwar period,” said William Davies, who teaches political economy at Goldsmiths, University of London.
...The referendum question has divided Britain into warring tribes, unable to settle on any shared vision of the future. An ancient, robust democracy is groaning under the weight of conflicting demands — on the executive, to carry out the will of the people; and on the members of Parliament, to follow their conscience and to act in what they believe to be the people’s interest. 
In such a situation, the country might have united in its resentment of the European Union, which had vowed to make Britain’s withdrawal painful. But that has not happened. Britons are blaming their own leaders. 
“I think people have totally lost confidence in democracy, in British democracy and the way it’s run,” said Tommy Turner, 32, a firefighter. He was perched on a stool at the Hare & Hounds, a working-class pub in Surrey, where nearly everyone voted to leave the European Union. Among his friends, he said, he sensed a profound sense of betrayal that Britain was not exiting on March 29, as promised.

Suddenly Greenhouse Gas Emissions Don't Seem Quite as Bad

Most days I use my spare time to follow and explore environmental issues, climate change foremost among them. That means delving into unpleasant issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, what they're doing and what they're going to do, and campaigners such as Greta Thunberg.

This stuff builds up and I needed a break. That led me to focus more attention on politics, especially the unfolding clusterf#@k known as Brexit. Then there was the summary of the Mueller report and SNC-Lavalin. Fiascos abound, everywhere. Chaos ensues.

At home, the Liberals' ox is gored. The voting public, it seems, has had its fill of the Dauphin. He's now a millstone round his party's neck with general elections months away.  Trump continues to drive the US and America's historic allies into a ditch. Then there's Theresa May's debacle, Brexit.

The cadaverous prime minister has failed to sell her "deal" to Parliament. The EU's deadline for UK approval has passed.

Many Tories want Theresa May out - now. Yet the names commonly bandied about to replace her are the very greasy, Boris Johnson, and the even greasier, Michael Gove.

Now a dark cloud has formed over those two.  Johnson and Gove were participants in the Vote Leave campaign. Gove was co-convenor of Vote Leave while Johnson was its figurehead.

Vote Leave was found by Britain's Electoral Commission to have broken campaign funding laws involving hundreds of thousands of pounds spirited in and out of the campaign. A good chunk of that dark money apparently made its way into the coffers of Victoria, BC's Aggregate IQ that has been tied to Cambridge Analytica.

Vote Leave appealed the decision. Gove and Johnson sheltered behind the appeal to avoid answering difficult questions. However Vote Leave has now abandoned its appeal, throwing Johnson and Gove back into the spotlight. With their focus now on becoming Britain's next prime minister that's the equivalent of vampires dragged out into the noonday sun.

Anna Soubry, the former Tory MP who joined the Independent Group, called for a full explanation from both men, and dismissed the claim the appeal had been dropped for financial reasons. 
“The one thing we do know, all these people have access to considerable amounts of money, so to say they are dropping it for lack of funds is absolutely ludicrous,” she said. 
“Johnson and Gove should be providing a full and proper explanation to the British people following the dropping of this appeal.” She added she expected to one day see a “public inquiry into what happened and how we got into this terrible mess”. 
Gove and Johnson played key roles in Vote Leave, Gove as co-convener and Johnson as a figurehead for the official Brexit campaign. A series of other senior government or Tory figures also sat on its committee, including Liam Fox, Iain Duncan Smith, former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and the former international development secretary Priti Patel. 
Labour MP David Lammy called for an update on a police investigation into the campaign. The commission has shared its files with the police to investigate if any other offences had been committed outside its remit. 
“There are profound questions for our democracy about whether senior cabinet ministers are now above the law. The Metropolitan police and National Crime Agency need to act urgently to update the public on the extent and breadth of their investigation,” he said. “It’s also deeply worrying that the political establishment seems mute on law-breaking at the highest level.”
For a country already neck deep in turmoil, the Gove-Johnson scandal can only make the waters murkier if that is even possible. With the National Crime Agency (akin to the FBI) looking into Vote Leave's financing and the evidence showing criminal acts, this can only get worse.

How does any of this possibly end well?

Friday, March 29, 2019

Coincidence, Or Have We Lost All the Real Leaders?

Donald Trump, Theresa May, Justin Trudeau - what has happened to the leaders of western liberal democracies? Is there no A-list talent left?

Macron seems to have made a botch of it in France. Angela Merkel, today's leader of the Free World, will be packing it in within a couple of years.

Even the pols in waiting - think Andrew Scheer or Jeremy Corbyn - aren't exactly inspirational.

Authoritarians are running the show - in America, the Philippines, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Turkey, Brazil and they're not out to safeguard liberal democracy. These are xenophobes and bigots. Many of them are actively working to undermine action to thwart climate change.

Britain has been wrecked by Brexit. Theresa May has utterly failed to lead the UK to some workable accommodation with the EU. The country is deeply divided. Canadians are being warned by their own government to steer clear of dangerous demonstrations and the prospect of terrorism in Britain. Say what?

Trump, armed with a pretend "get out of jail free" letter from his Attorney General vows revenge on traitors. Now he's threatening to seal the US-Mexico border, even to the point of cutting off trade.

At home, Justin Trudeau looks like a one-man "gang who couldn't shoot straight." He's in a quagmire largely of his own making. One scandal (at least in the public's eye) is followed by the next. Even the resignation of Butts and the clerk of the Privy Council, Wernick, hasn't done him any good. Few seem to be rushing to his side even as what appears to be a slow-moving coup - akin to the take down of Diefenbaker, Joe Clark, John Turner and Stephane Dion - appears to be underway.

I've been following events in Westminster and Brussels lately and it's almost enough to plunge you into a double migraine. Here the Brits are, about three years since the referendum, and still no one has any idea what Brexit is or even if it is.

Trump - chaos. Theresa May - chaos. Trudeau - chaos.

Is this really a trans-national coincidence? Have we suddenly run out of leaders?

Are we watching something unfold that we might not, as yet, recognize? Are these democratic spams a sign of a different, more dangerous order setting in? Who can tell?

Monbiot - Crime and Punishment for Climate Harm

With the Earth on the cusp of tipping into catastrophic climate change is it not time that major polluters be tried and jailed for ecocide?

The Guardian's eco-scribe, George Monbiot, makes the argument.

I want to tell you about the world-changing work of Polly Higgins.
She is a barrister who has devoted her life to creating an international crime of ecocide. This means serious damage to, or destruction of, the natural world and the Earth’s systems. It would make the people who commission it – such as chief executives and government ministers – criminally liable for the harm they do to others, while creating a legal duty of care for life on Earth.
...It would radically shift the balance of power, forcing anyone contemplating large-scale vandalism to ask themselves: “Will I end up in the international criminal court for this?” It could make the difference between a habitable and an uninhabitable planet. 
There are no effective safeguards preventing a few powerful people, companies or states from wreaking havoc for the sake of profit or power. Though their actions may lead to the death of millions, they know they can’t be touched. Their impunity, as they engage in potential mass murder, reveals a gaping hole in international law.
Last week, for instance, the research group InfluenceMap reported that the world’s five biggest publicly listed oil and gas companies, led by BP and Shell, are spending nearly $200m a year on lobbying to delay efforts to prevent climate breakdown. According to Greenpeace UK, BP has successfully pressed the Trump government to overturn laws passed by the Obama administration preventing companies from releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The result – the equivalent of another 50m tonnes of CO2 over the next five years – is to push us faster towards a hothouse Earth.
When governments collaborate (as in all these cases they do), how can such atrocities be prevented? Citizens can pursue civil suits, if they can find the money and the time, but the worst a company will face is a fine or compensation payments. None of its executives are prosecuted, though they may profit enormously from murderous destruction. They can continue their assaults on the living planet. international summits, where perpetrators share platforms with states that should hold them to account, we ask them nicely not to slaughter our children. These crimes against humanity should not be matters for negotiation but for prosecution. 
Until 1996, drafts of the Rome statute, which lists international crimes against humanity, included the crime of ecocide. But it was dropped at a late stage at the behest of three states: the UK, France and the Netherlands. Ecocide looked like a lost cause until Higgins took it up 10 years ago.
Monbiot reveals that Ms. Higgins has recently been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and has been told she has just weeks to live. Her movement, however, will continue her work.

It's not enough, however, to bring the force of law down on major emitters. Politicians need a taste of the same lash. In Canada, superior courts including the Supreme Court of Canada have upheld the "precautionary principle" as the law of our land.
"The precautionary principle or precautionary approach states if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is [not] harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action. ...The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. These protections can be relaxed only if further scientific findings emerge that provide sound evidence that no harm will result."
"Sound evidence" - i.e. not just Trudeau's word for it. He says they've "done the science" but the feds have never produced it. If this government had done the science they would have produced it long ago to quell their critics. Worse yet, both the Royal Society of Canada and Trudeau's own Environment Canada say this supposed science hasn't been done. Trudeau is lying.

In 2015, the Federal Court of Canada upheld the precautionary principle as part of the substantive law of our country. The Supreme Court of Canada has also applied the precautionary principle. Whether Trudeau likes it or not, it's the law and it sets the test he and this pipeline project must meet.

The prime minister, just like his predecessor, has clearly shown that they can't be trusted, especially not with the future of today's young people.

Theresa May's Third Strike

Britain's House of Commons has handed Theresa May's Brexit deal a third defeat. Parliament voted 344 to 286 to reject the withdrawal agreement for a third and, possibly, final time.

May says she'll now pursue "alternative options." Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn says the governing Tories have an obligation to call a general election.

The European Commission weighed in quickly, pointing out that the buffer provisions in the withdrawal agreement will not be on the table in the event of a hard Brexit.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

If Liberals Really Want to Stop Andrew Scheer

Maybe Justin Trudeau can pull a "Harper" and wait for the SNC-L scandal to die a natural death over the summer holiday. Maybe not.

Here's a surefire way to stop a Scheer Tory government in its tracks - electoral reform. 

If Scheer was to have his way with Canada he would need a "false majority" of the same sort that brought Harper and Justin Trudeau to majority power. What if Scheer did manage to get 40 per cent of the vote but that only translated into 40 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons? Minority Tory government - worst case scenario. Or it could lead to some sort of coalition government of Liberals, New Dems and Greens. Sure Justin might have to mend his neoliberal ways but we would probably be better off for it.

Maybe the Greens, in exchange for their support, could steer the coalition's environmental policy. Why not? Justin can't get off the fence - carbon taxes, pipelines, carbon taxes, pipelines. His head is spinning so fast it's no wonder he always seems dizzy. He isn't even on track to meet Harper's miserly emissions targets. Maybe Mr. Trudeau isn't the right guy on climate change. Perhaps he should stick with sincere apologies and selfies.

Wouldn't that be something if every vote really counted and every Canadian's voice was heard? A type of informed consent of the people to be governed instead of ruled as we are under this current FPTP regime.

Just an idea.

Yes, At Last, Calling out Canada's Media for Moral Cowardice

Canada's mainstream media are colour blind, at least when it comes to white nationalism and racist bigotry.

It was refreshing to read an article, in Mclean's no less, calling out the Canadian media for being soft on racism. I wish it had been written by a white journalist but, no, it comes from Andray Domise, columnist, community activist and former would-be politician. I suppose the white journalists that dominate our major papers, especially the rightwing majority, were too busy giving Andrew Scheer a makeover.

In January, after I wrote a column asserting the MAGA hat is a symbol of hate, a deluge of racist emails poured into my inbox. Normally I expect hate mail whenever I write about right-wing white populism, but this was not long after I’d received death threats (that, strangely enough, stemmed from another article I’d written years ago), so something about this iteration of being called a “subhuman,” a “savage,” and a “n–ger piece of s–t” got under my skin. It was followed by a brigade of harassment spurred by a Rebel Media reporter (with his own ties to white nationalism), who took one of my tweets and turned it into a streeter for Yellow Vest supporters in Sudbury.
I’ve spoken often with my fiance, family members, and friends about prioritizing my family’s safety over writing and community work. We’ve been recognized in public and approached, and while it’s so far been in a friendly manner, the threats and hate mail I’ve received are never far from the imagination when a stranger comes up to us to say hello. The thing is, while my fiance, children, and I are quite obviously Black (and therefore potential targets for hate crime), we’re also Christians. Our racialization isn’t further complicated by visible markers of religious affiliation—she doesn’t wear a hijab, and I don’t wear a topi cap. My beard grows free and styled according only to my own tastes. Nobody bats an eyelash when we say grace before meals when we dine out.

This isn’t the case for Bashir and other members of the Somali community in Edmonton, a city which is quickly becoming a cancerous node in the spread of overt white supremacy throughout Canada. This also isn’t the case for someone like Ginella Massa, a visibly Muslim anchor for CityNews Toronto, who recently needed to ask security to escort her to her vehicle after a Peterborough-based neo-Nazi made a “hypothetical” open call for the killing of media figures and anti-racism organizations. It wasn’t the case for the Muslim family confronted by a drunk and belligerent white man at Toronto’s Harbourfront, who shouted slurs and told them to “get out of my province,” nor for a Muslim man subjected to a “citizens arrest” on the way out of a London-area Sobeys. 
...Too many of my white colleagues in journalism still seem to believe their profession and the assumed stance of objectivity places them at a distance from white supremacy. 
This, to me, is a different tier of moral cowardice.
...In Alberta, the United Conservative Party continually finds itself dealing with members who espouse bigoted views (including the recent resignation of Calgary-Mountain View candidate Caylan Ford and Calgary-South East candidate Eva Kiryakos), or have direct ties to white supremacist organizations. For his part, Kenney himself repeatedly reminds people why his reputation for homophobia was well-earned. Yet Kenney and his party somehow continue to deliver press conferences and policy announcements without being pressured to answer how the party could possibly serve all Albertans when bigotry has so clearly infected its ranks. 
The people behind the bylines and headlines in Alberta’s media class are, as with the rest of the country, very white. They carry with them the sensibilities that often insulate white supremacy, even if inadvertently (as with the Calgary Herald headline that uncritically repeated Kiryakos’s claim that she was the victim of a ‘smear’ campaign). That is, of course, when they aren’t outright mainstreaming white supremacist smear campaigns against refugees in European countries, as talk radio host and former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith recently did during a segment on her program
Scheer Audacity
Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer has also surrendered political principles for the bigot’s vote, presiding over a party willing to virtue-signal anti-immigrant sentiment to supporters whose “Canada First” mantra places them firmly in our country’s white nationalist tradition. There was the empty grandstanding around and misrepresentation of the UN Migration Pact, often reported by media as if the pact were legitimate cause for sovereign concern, with only a nod to the fact that the pact is non-binding. There was also an infamous tweet sent out by the party, meant to stoke further fear and paranoia over asylum-seekers crossing into Canada from the U.S., that just so happened to echo this country’s history of migration pessimism where Black refugees are involved. 
Despite this abysmal record, Scheer is given leave to credibly present the Conservatives as a viable governing party that will act in all Canadians’ interests, while retaining the services of staffers who include Georgeanne Burke (who co-founded a political organization which, regardless of its stated purpose, effectively keeps the fear of Sharia in the headlines of right-wing publications) and Hamish Marshall (a former corporate director at Rebel Media). Scheer doesn’t acknowledge the problem of white nationalism in Canada, or within the party ranks, because there is no media pressure on him to do so. Not even when he speaks at the same Ottawa rally promoted and attended by far-right hate groups. That’s simply not the way things are done in this country. 
...Again and again this happens in Canada, where political figures and movements flirt openly with the very same white nationalist figures and rhetoric that have been cited by multiple anti-racism organizations as catalysts for the surge in hate crimes and mass violence in recent years. But they are only held to account by journalists for as long as their latest faux-pas can carry a headline. After the news cycle has passed, we’re back to square one. This interminable loop not only puts the onus of writing and talking about this problem on journalists of colour, but exposes us and our communities to the opprobrium, and too often the violence, that is increasingly being legitimized under the shifting auspices of normal political dialogue and free speech in this country. 
...There should, therefore, be thousands of helping hands willing to break this media cycle on white nationalism. But there are hardly any to be found. Instead, we’re faced with a wall of white silence, as if the wave of hate crimes and terrorism in recent years hasn’t been aided by the bigoted rhetoric from acquaintances and even family members they’ve muted in group chats. 
Already, we are moving towards the typical both-sides conversation that swings the glare away from white supremacists, and back towards establishing terror-inducing violence as the sole province of people of colour. The expressions of horror and sympathy for the victims of the shooting in Christchurch are quickly fading; the platitudes for peace and tolerance were forgotten almost immediately. As always happens with this sort of thing, enough temporal distance from a terrorist incident causes the incandescent urgency of confronting white supremacist violence to gutter out. 
The question I would pose to my professional colleagues, then, is this: knowing that your co-workers, your peers, and people you claim to be your friends are facing danger in our homes, in the streets, and in our places of worship, what will it take for you to do something?\ 
Because our cancerous political climate, and all of the attendant bigotry that arrived with it, is what happens when you do nothing.

Squamish Nation - Trudeau Lied, Again

While some Alberta First Nations chiefs are backing the Justin Trudeau Memorial Pipeline for financial reasons, in British Columbia, coastal First Nations are having none of it.

Squamish nation councillor, Khelsilem, writes in The Guardian

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is no ordinary pipeline. This project, which the government of Canada has just decided to nationalise, will travel more than 1,000km from northern Alberta through unspoiled wilderness to end at the port of Vancouver. The port is on the Salish Sea, part of the hereditary territory of the Squamish People. The Salish Sea is home to some of the world’s largest wild salmon runs. Majestic orcas swim in the waters and feed on the abundance.
...The decision by the government of Canada to take over the Trans Mountain pipeline Expansion Project is yet another example of indigenous rights being ignored in Canada. The prime minister, Justin Trudeau, promised to do things differently than his predecessors. He promised indigenous peoples that our rights would be respected, and he has broken that promise, yet again. He promised us he would put pipeline expansion through a brand-new review, and instead the government is spending billions of dollars to buy it and, if necessary, complete and operate it over our objections.
By the way, the original pipeline carried 150,000 barrels of oil per day, which was primarily for domestic use. Today it carries 300,000 barrels, achieved by adding more pumping stations and pushing through more oil. So when the megapipe, with an estimated daily load of 800,000 barrels, is built, that capacity is only the beginning: it could double in capacity, with very little anyone could do about it. 
If this pipeline is completed, these pristine waters will become the sailing grounds for more than 21,000 huge oil tankers over the next 50 years, carrying the world’s most toxic oil – diluted bitumen – from the Alberta tar sands. That is the minimum number of oil tankers; it could be more. A single incident would render the beautiful beaches of the city, surrounding islands and Vancouver Island uninhabitable. It would kill the Salish Sea and destroy our Squamish territory. All it takes is just one incident – and no one, from industry experts to the government, can guarantee that won’t happen.
Why risk it? We are told that “world-class” measures will be in place to prevent a spill and deal with one if it happens. A “world-class” standard for oil spill cleanup is that 10% to 15% is successfully recovered from the ocean. Of the remaining 85% to 90%, what doesn’t evaporate will destroy the beaches or sink to the bottom of the ocean to kill everything that now lives there, forever. That is the reality no one wants to talk about. It will destroy the Salish sea.
...We know that financial constraints could make government or companies cut back on spill mitigation or prevention. In Canada we have seen cash-strapped governments close coast guard bases, lighthouses and weather stations, and allow search and rescue fleets and aircraft to age without being properly replaced. Governments cut back on oversight of all industries on a regular basis, only to express surprise when something goes wrong. And those are just the things we can control. What about the quality of the mega-tankers which will now enter our port? Will they be in top mechanical order? Who knows? Certainly, the Canadian government will never inspect them. 
If you know this port, it has a very narrow opening, aptly called First Narrows. Medium-sized cruise ships barely fit. The current is powerful and unpredictable. For a mega-tanker it is exceedingly tight – and then they have to go through the [even more treacherous] Second Narrows before arriving at the terminal.
The decision to risk billions of taxpayer dollars and to pursue completion of a pipeline that threatens Squamish Nation territory and our people is appalling, and a continued betrayal of promises made to us by Trudeau. He told Canada’s indigenous people that our rights would be respected and upheld. He has broken that promise. He promised us he would put the pipeline expansion through a brand-new review. He has broken that promise as well. And this same government promises it will have our best interests in mind if the pipeline proceeds. You can see why we don’t trust them.

Game Over - Really? Is the Era of "Deep Adaptation" Upon Us?

A report so grim it has caused readers to seek therapy and yet it has now gone viral.

The report discusses how we should adapt to climate catastrophe but with a difference.

The purpose of this conceptual paper is to provide readers with an opportunity to reassess their work and life in the face of an inevitable nearterm social collapse due to climate change. 
The approach of the paper is to analyse recent studies on climate change and its implications for our ecosystems, economies and societies, as provided by academic journals and publications direct from research institutes. 
That synthesis leads to a conclusion there will be a near-term collapse in society with serious ramifications for the lives of readers. The paper reviews some of the reasons why collapse-denial may exist, in particular, in the professions of sustainability research and practice, therefore leading to these arguments having been absent from these fields until now.
Bendell begins with the proposition, which is by no means novel, that we've already lost the ability to avert "near term climate collapse" and have embraced a new type of denialism, "collapse-denial."

Before reading Bendell's paper you might want to watch his introductory remarks.

BBC linked to Bendell's report in an article on how to spot and what to do about "eco-anxiety."  I think many of us have some measure of anxiety over climate change impacts that have now become part of our ordinary existence. Climate scientists certainly wrestle with this sort of anxiety. The article also links to a report in Psychology Today, "Coming to terms with ecoanxiety."

Bendell argues we're doing ourselves a disservice by averting our gaze from what is actually occurring here and now.

I won't go on any further. If you don't want to know you will have already left and if you do want to lift the carpet and see what's underneath you'll do far better to read Bendell's paper and the BBC and Psychology Today articles for yourself.

Vimeo, meanwhile, offers a video on how to reduce eco-anxiety.

How to Reduce Your Eco-Anxiety from Helen Edwards on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Theresa May Stay

Theresa May might not be stepping down after all. Her promise to go was based on a Commons vote approving her withdrawal agreement with the EU.

It now looks as though her deal is still dead in the water. Northern Ireland's DUP has announced it will not support a third motion on the agreement which is expected to leave May short of votes.

That said, Speaker Bercow has ruled again that the government may not bring the agreement back for a third vote without some substantial change.

It's now thought that this parliamentary meltdown may lead to a general election in which the public may punish the Tories for bringing the UK to this impasse. An election would be a vote on which party the British people want to negotiate a new trade deal with the EU.

Theresa May Falls on Her Sword

Only just not yet. Theresa May, desperate to win the support of the Boris Johnson faction for her Brexit "deal" has said she'll resign as prime minister as soon as the UK is out of the EU.

May's Tory insurgents want her out of the way before the government has to negotiate the next part, a future trade agreement with the EU.

Nigel Farage is on the air at the moment on LBC radio. He's beside himself, furious. He contends that May's "deal" will leave the UK at the mercy of the European Council for years and may result in the loss of Northern Ireland.

Farage's callers are lambasting Theresa May for betraying their country. They're  no more generous toward Boris Johnson who they think is selling them out to May to improve his chances of becoming prime minister.

Can You Trust A.G. Barr's Summary on the Mueller Report? Mueller Won't Vouch For It.

It seems there's something about Attorney-General  Barr's summary that's not sitting well with the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

HillReporter reached out to the special counsel this morning, asking them if they “believe that William Barr’s letter adequately describes the overall findings of Mueller’s report with no impartiality?” 
The spokesman for the special counsel, Peter Carr did not wish to provide an answer one way or another, instead simply saying, “Thanks. We’ll decline to comment.”

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Mr. Trump, Attorney-General Barr - There's a Chris Wylie On the Line. He'd Like a Word.

So, Trump didn't do it. No playing footsie with the Russians.  The Trump  campaigners, despite all their convictions and sentences, were clean, spotless.

There's a young guy, Vancouver Island born and bred, who thinks that's bullshit.

He's Chris Wylie of Victoria, the bright light who blew the whistle on Robert  Mercer's Cambridge Analytica and the Trump guy, Steve Bannon, who ran it as it worked to rig the Brexit referendum and might - just might, possibly, perhaps - have worked, with the Russians, to tip the scales in the 2016 elections.
Few people are more versed on Russian espionage than Christopher Wylie, who worked for Cambridge Analytica. And Wylie has found reason to find fault with Barr’s apparent exoneration of Trump and his staff.
Wylie tweeted late last night, “Whatever this report says, here’s what I know: when I was at Cambridge Analytica, the company hired known Russian agents, had data researchers in St Petersburg, tested US voter opinion on Putin’s leadership, and hired hackers from Russia – all while Bannon was in charge.”
As the former Director of Research for Cambridge Analytica, Wylie became intimately aware of how mined information could be used to impact elections. Wylie became a whistleblower in March of 2018, explaining to The Guardian how Steve Bannon and others utilized his firm’s services. 
He told Carole Cadwalladr, “I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool.” The company had mined Facebook to create over 230 million profiles of the American electorate. Wylie also spoke of relationships with Republican mega-donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer.
Wylie's information is certainly not conclusive. That said, when he addresses the 2016 vote manipulation operation - owned by a far right billionaire and run by, entirely coincidentally, Steve Bannon and you take that in conjunction with the infamous "Steele Dossier" of which 1) several issues have since been confirmed and 2) none has to date been disproven. That comes down to a good many, "yes, that's true," and a few "not yet proven." And then, look at those Mueller has indicted and convicted and virtually all of them were nabbed for concealing (lying) about something to do with Russia. That's public record. Wylie's claims rest atop all of that. 

When It Comes to the Climate Crisis, the NDP Never Fails to Disappoint

Back when the BC Liberals ran this province they introduced a carbon tax. A small gesture, to be sure, but it aligned the province with Washington and California.

The provincial NDP, the party of the people? They weren't having it. Their members needed their trucks and SUVs, not extra taxes on gas at the pump.

Since then we've seen Alberta's outgoing premier, Rachel Notley, don the armour and sword of a true petro-warrior, threatening Ottawa and British Columbia alike in her desperate bid to keep the oil patch happy.

And now we have an NDP government in British Columbia that also desperate to cling to power has accommodated the Green MLA's who hold the balance of power, something that translates into, for now, opposition to the Justin Trudeau Memorial Pipeline.

We haven't seen the NDP tackle coal but they have shown a willingness to join forces with the BC Liberal adversaries on promoting LNG, liquid natural gas.
That has led BC Green Party leader and climate scientist, Andrew Weaver, to accuse Horgan's NDP government of committing a "generational sellout."
“Continuing to push for LNG development is short-sighted and works directly against CleanBC objectives,” Weaver stated in a party news release. “After years of criticizing the B.C. Liberals for their generous giveaway of our natural gas resources, the B.C. NDP have taken the giveaway to a whole new level. The legislation brought forward by this government is a generational sellout. 
“We have only identified a pathway to take us only 75 percent of our 2030 emissions goals, yet we know that LNG Canada will emit an additional 3.45 megatonnes of greenhouse gases every year within our province alone, contributing massively to this gap," Weaver continued. "Government is demonstrating hypocrisy by supporting both LNG and CleanBC. They want to have their cake and eat it, too."
The NDP responded with the, by now standard, weasel words.
Finance Minister Carole James, on the other hand, insisted that this legislation will benefit the province. 
“British Columbians are counting on us to attract LNG investment that meets strict conditions: delivering jobs and financial benefits to B.C., creating economic partnerships with Indigenous peoples, and protecting our clean air, land and water,” she said in a news release. “This legislation completes the process of creating a fiscal framework that invites investment while supporting those conditions.”
Oh, Carole. She was a bullshitter when she was opposition leader and now, as finance minister, she's the same old bullshitter.
Peter McCartney, climate campaigner for the Wilderness Committee, has accused Premier John Horgan of "talking out of both sides of his mouth on climate change". 
“British Columbians are all doing their part to cut carbon pollution while at the same time he’s giving $6 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to construct the most polluting project in the province,” McCartney said in a news release.
It doesn't matter if it's Notley or Horgan or Jagmeet Singh. You cannot trust the NDP to show any spine when it comes to climate change. They talk a good game but when it's crunch time they're just bullshitters.

Harbour Air Goes - Gasp - Electric

For decades they've been a staple of transportation on the west coast. Harbour Air, with its brightly painted fleet of DeHavilland Beavers, Otters and
Twin Otters seemed to be everywhere.  All on floats, naturally.

If you were in Vancouver and had a trial date in Victoria, you often bundled yourself into one of those Twin Otters for a quick hop across the Georgia Strait, inner harbour to inner harbour.

Now, Harbour Air is going a different route - electric. They're not scrapping the all-Canadian fleet either. They're switching the engines for electric motors.

Seaplane operator Harbour Air, which regularly shuttles B.C.'s political class to and from Victoria, is looking to become the first all-electric fleet of commercial planes in Canada – but the company head says passengers have nothing to fear. 
Greg McDougall, founder of the company that bills itself as North America’s largest seaplane airline, said Monday that “I’ll be the first guy to fly one. I’ll be the test pilot of it.” He was referring to an electric-powered prototype the company will test within months as a prelude to electrifying the fleet within about two years. 
By November, the company is planning to be testing a de Havilland Canada DHC 2 Beaver, a six-passenger aircraft equipped with an all-electric motor developed by magniX, a company based in Redmond, Wash. MagniX has been crafting the technology on the ground, but has yet to operate it in an aircraft.
The DH-C2 Beaver, first flown in the 50s, is a much sought after aircraft along the west coast from Alaska to California. A company outside Seattle restores them. The rights to the Beaver, Otter and Twin Otter were recently bought by Viking Air operating out of Victoria airport.

Electric, wow!! Could this be yet another lease on life for Canada's most famous airplanes?

Monday, March 25, 2019

A Question For Us All. Defending Our Food Security.

Californians, now just recovering from a multi-year drought, are debating the merits of a foreign resource grab, in this case water.

At the center of this issue is a tract of farmland belonging to Fondomonte Farms, a subsidiary of a Saudi food giant. Fondomonte grows alfalfa that is then exported to feed cattle in Saudi Arabia.
Fondomonte operations in Arizona
With the Saudi Arabian landscape there being mostly desert and alfalfa being a water-intensive crop, growing it there has always been expensive and draining on scarce water resources, to the point that the Saudi government finally outlawed the practice in 2016. In the wake of the ban, Almarai decided to purchase land wherever it is cheap and has favorable water conditions to produce enough feed for its 93,000 cows.

In 2012, they acquired 30,000 acres of land in Argentina, and in 2014, they bought their first swath of land in Arizona. Then, in 2015, they bought 1,700 acres in Blythe – a vast, loamy, agricultural metropolis abutting the Colorado river, where everything but the alfalfa seems cast in the hue of sand. Four years later, the company owns 15,000 acres – 16% of the entire irrigated valley. 
But what business does a foreign company have drawing precious resources from a US desert to offset a lack of resources halfway around the globe?

It's called "virtual water." The water consumed to produce crops and other goods. Israel, at one point, had to curb its production and export of the excellent jaffa oranges because, in each case, it was exporting water it could not afford to lose.

In an increasingly food insecure world, affluent have-nots are looking for access to food sources in other nations, especially those that can offer irrigation.  They're often willing to pay premium prices beyond the means of the local population.

This is nothing new. The developed nations have been doing this for decades. Even in highly food insecure Third World countries the best farmland is often taken by multinational food giants.

A good example is a case study that I learned about in an online course. The course was ostensibly about global food security but from a British perspective.  It focused on how fresh strawberries were kept year round on grocery shelves. They called the policy "following the sun." During the British growing season they sold British-grown strawberries. As that season ended the food producers shifted production to southern Europe. After that it was on to Africa. More strawberries.

What wasn't addressed in the course was the state of food security for the peoples of those African nations and how the food industry got control of the best farmland. Some of these countries routinely faced severe food insecurity bordering on famine. These were countries that the international community periodically has to provide massive food relief.  Starvation is the sword of Damocles over their heads.

That led to a look at how these companies, European, Middle Eastern and Asian, effected these land grabs.  In many cases it came down to the absence of any land registry system. People who farmed or ranched on lands that had been in their families for generations, centuries held no demonstrable title to the land. There was no land title. That allowed unscrupulous officials to sell their land to these foreign land grabbers and they, indeed, received enforceable title. The locals were simply driven off their land.

It was sometimes the case that food, good food, was plentiful on local grocery shelves but at prices that the local population could not afford. That is something that we have to start thinking about.

A few years ago there was some sort of disease that swept through shellfish in Asia. No problem. They came to the Canadian market. In no time spot prawns were $40 a pound - the Asian price. Restaurants took prawns off the menu, they were too costly. Local buyers gave them a pass.

Now here's the thing. Is this a threat to our own food security? Can we allow foreign buyers to drive our market prices out of reach? Can we allow foreign land grabs of our best agricultural land?

The fishery example is even worse. The commercial fleet doesn't produce that seafood. They merely harvest it. Before they have it in their holds those fish are public property. They belong to the state or province. Do we need to control how much of their catch they may sell abroad and how much should be kept for domestic consumption to ensure both access and reasonable prices?

The moment has surely arrived to have a serious national discussion on maintaining Canada's own food security. The recent Chinese stunt of leaving Canadian canola producers high and dry by canceling orders shows how these countries are willing to weaponize food production and supply. That's an entirely hostile act by the same country that pursues our land.

We know what's coming. Food production faces a perilous future. Four years ago the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, reported what leading agronomists had been warning about for years - arable farmland is becoming seriously degraded even in Canada. As the FAO put it, we have 60 harvests remaining - a rather inelegant way of saying our food production capacity is falling off even as our global population burgeons.

In 2011, Oxfam warned that global food prices for most staples will probably double by 2030.

To put the global problem in perspective, here's the 2013 Maplecroft food security risk index.  All the regions in yellow, orange and red face serious food insecurity. What's left? North America, Australia and western Europe, the green territories. Only Canada is the darkest green, which probably makes us the prime target for the food insecure.

Canada and the US total somewhere in the vicinity of 350 to 360 million. An eyeball guess of western Europe and Scandinavia is probably around 450 million.  Australia adds about 25 million. All in we're probably in the 800 to 850 million range. In a world nearing 8 billion strong that leaves 7 billion facing food insecurity. We're way outnumbered and we have to come to grips with how we'll respond to this disparity of something no human can do without - food. Water? That's another critical resource that threatens many of these same food insecure nations.

Isn't it about time we thought about our own food and water security and how we preserve as much as necessary for future generations?  These are genuinely strategic questions and we need to realize we can't rely on the invisible hand of the marketplace any longer.

Another Mad Week for Westminster

The meltdown continues. I expect to spend a few hours this week watching live stream coverage from the UK House of Commons.

Prime minister, Theresa May, just acknowledged that her controversial television address last week was a tantrum, an act of frustration.  May went directly to the British people and lay the blame for her bungling on MPs, that seemed to fuel a lot of death threats and, in one case, an assault. May continues to refuse to apologize to the House for her broadcast while saying she regrets the blowback.

It's thought that May's stunt will undermine her chances of a "third time lucky" meaningful vote on the UK-EU withdrawal agreement.

An opposition backbencher called the Brexit squabbles a "psychodrama inside the Conservative government." There's some truth to that.

Oh dear, parliament is scheduled to recess at the end of next week.

The Guardian's Nick Cohen writes that Westminster's Brexit chaos has at least united the public - under a sense of national humiliation.

May says her government will entertain a series of non-binding 'indicative votes' to gauge the will of parliament, perhaps to explore alternatives or tweaks to her withdrawal agreement but that doesn't seem to be going over well.

Earlier, May admitted she does not have the votes to put her "deal" to a third vote.  May desperately needs the backing of the DUP MPs from Northern Ireland, the party that is propping up the minority Conservatives. That got May a "hard no" from Democratic Union party leader, Arlene Foster.

It's pretty clear that a political autopsy is underway in the House with the opposition parties positioning themselves to stick the blame where it largely belongs - on Theresa May and the Tories.


The House of Commons has narrowly passed an amendment giving Parliament control of the Brexit process, another loss for  Theresa May. Earlier May's business and industry minister, Richard Harrison, resigned, saying the government was playing roulette with the future of Britain.

“At this critical moment in our country’s history, I regret that the government’s approach to Brexit is playing roulette with the lives and livelihoods of the vast majority of people in this country who are employed by or otherwise depend on business for their livelihood."


Coal "On the Way Out" - Sort Of...

Both solar and wind power electricity has so undercut the cost of thermal coal that even American coal producers agree the original fossil fuel's days are winding down.
Around three-quarters of US coal production is now more expensive than solar and wind energy in providing electricity to American households, according to a new study. 
“Even without major policy shift we will continue to see coal retire pretty rapidly,” said Mike O’Boyle, the co-author of the report for Energy Innovation, a renewables analysis firm. “Our analysis shows that we can move a lot faster to replace coal with wind and solar. The fact that so much coal could be retired right now shows we are off the pace.”
...Coal plants have suffered due to rising maintenance costs, including requirements to install pollution controls. Meanwhile, the cost of solar and wind has plummeted as the technology has improved. Cheap and abundant natural gas, as well as the growth of renewables, has hit coal demand, with the EIA reporting in January that half of all US coalmines have shut down over the past decade. 
“Coal is on its way out,” said Curtis Morgan, the chief executive of Vistra Energy, a major Texas-based coal plant owner. “More and more plants are being retired.”
There are two main varieties of coal: thermal coal that is burned to produce electricity and metallurgical or coking coal that is needed to produce iron and steel.

In Canada, thermal and metallurgical coal are produced in roughly equal amounts.  More than 90 per cent of our coal exports to the US is metallurgical coal.

Even metallurgical coal may be phased out as more electric arc furnaces come on line in steel smelters.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Myth of Canada's "Liberal Media":

Fight's On

US attorney general, William Barr, won't win any fans with this one.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has released a summary of Robert Mueller‘s long-awaited report into Donald Trump‘s 2016 election campaign and allegations of Russian interference.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler said just after 3:30 p.m. Sunday that members of Congress have received a “very brief letter” on the investigation.

“The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Nadler quoted the summary as saying.

Instead of Whinging About Boomers, Explain Yourself.

Millennials and Gen-Xers are fond of blaming the Boomer generation for their woes. Cheap talk from people who vote for parties that keep the Canadian petro-state locked into fossil fuels. That means young-ish Conservative supporters, and young-ish Liberal supporters, their NDP counterparts to boot.

Don't complain about your condition, don't blame others, if you wish to support those who have delivered your fate.  The Liberals we Boomers supported are not the wet cardboard Liberals of today. We supported the Liberal Party of Laurier, St. Laurent, Pearson and Pierre Trudeau, not this sham of a party that now holds power.

So many of this new bunch like to brand themselves "progressives" but there's nothing remotely progressive in supporting those parties, not with the looming danger of plunging the world into catastrophic climate change just 12 years off.

What is progressive in a leader who lavishes solemn promises to win votes only to discard them, one by one, after he has succeeded in duping a hopeful public?

A broken promise is bad enough in private life. It is worse in the field of politics. No man is worth his salt in public life who makes on the stump a pledge which he does not keep after election; and, if he makes such a pledge and does not keep it, hunt him out of public life.

If there is one overarching progressive principle it is to improve the well being of the people, now and in the future. Wrapped up in that is the duty to leave the country a better place than you found it. Even Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, espoused that much. So did this guy:
- Of conservation I shall speak more at length elsewhere. Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us. I ask nothing of the nation except that it so behave as each farmer here behaves with reference to his own children. That farmer is a poor creature who skins the land and leaves it worthless to his children. The farmer is a good farmer who, having enabled the land to support himself and to provide for the education of his children, leaves it to them a little better than he found it himself. I believe the same thing of a nation.
Of that generation of men to whom we owe so much, the man to whom we owe most is, of course, Lincoln. Part of our debt to him is because he forecast our present struggle and saw the way out. He said:"I hold that while man exists it is his duty to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind."
It is inevitable in neoliberalism that the loyalty the elected owe those who put them in office, the voting public, is instead to various degrees given to others, powerful interests, special interests, the corporate sector - firms such as KPMG, SNC-Lavalin, any of the fossil fuel giants of Athabasca.
- For every special interest is entitled to justice, but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office. The Constitution guarantees protection to property, and we must make that promise good. But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation.
- The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power. The prime need to is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which it is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise. We grudge no man a fortune which represents his own power and sagacity, when exercised with entire regard to the welfare of his fellows.
At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress. In our day it appears as the struggle of freemen to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will. At every stage, and under all circumstances, the essence of the struggle is to equalize opportunity, destroy privilege, and give to the life and citizenship of every individual the highest possible value both to himself and to the commonwealth. 
"Job Churn" - carrying the burden of the special privileges of another beggars us all.  Morneau, the prime minister's very affluent finance minister, has the audacity to tell our people that we, and especially our children, will just have to accept a future of job churn, lifetime membership in the new precariat. Wealth for the few, insecurity and worse for most. That the man was brazen enough to say that and not be rebuked or contradicted by this man Trudeau, speaks volumes for this government's supposed progressive nature.
Practical equality of opportunity for all citizens, when we achieve it, will have two great results. First, every man will have a fair chance to make of himself all that in him lies; to reach the highest point to which his capacities, unassisted by special privilege of his own and unhampered by the special privilege of others, can carry him, and to get for himself and his family substantially what he has earned. Second, equality of opportunity means that the commonwealth will get from every citizen the highest service of which he is capable. No man who carries the burden of the special privileges of another can give to the commonwealth that service to which it is fairly entitled.
- No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered-not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means.
- The right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted. Let us admit also the right to regulate the terms and conditions of labor, which is the chief element of wealth, directly in the interest of the common good. The fundamental thing to do for every man is to give him a chance to reach a place in which he will make the greatest possible contribution to the public welfare.  ...No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so after his day’s work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load.
These passages capture the spirit of progressivism. This is not some Communist Manifesto. It is, instead, taken from a speech given by Teddy Roosevelt to a farmer's gathering in Osawatomie, Kansas in 1910. In this speech, Roosevelt drew heavily from the words of Abraham Lincoln.
The object of government is the welfare of the people. The material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so long as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens. Just in proportion as the average man and woman are honest, capable of sound judgment and high ideals, active in public affairs,-but, first of all, sound in their home, and the father and mother of healthy children whom they bring up well,-just so far, and no farther, we may count our civilization a success. 
These passages are not an exhaustive compendium of progressive thought. They simply convey the focus and spirit of progressivism, once powerful influences that have long been purged from this modern politic and, by its absence, the decline of liberal democracy.

Simply being somewhat to the left of the Conservatives doesn't earn you the laurel of progressive. Being a progressive is about the relationship between government and the public, government and the individual, government and the corporate sector and other special interests. It is not compatible with the neoliberal order embraced on both sides of the aisle in our House of Commons.

The Liberal Party may be slightly, very slightly progressive socially but not to the extent that pries loose the grip of neoliberalism that pervades the party.

Don't sing the praises of those young people around the world striking for action on climate change if you intend to support the very politics they march against. You can't be on their side and work against them at the same time.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Once Again, Ottawa Fails the Coast

British Columbia's salt water fishery is controlled out of Ottawa by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. That's the same bunch that bungled the east coast fishery leading to the severe collapse of the once bountiful cod stocks.

Now DFO is screwing up the west coast, starting with our herring stocks.

Those herring play a vital role in maintaining the upper tiers of our food chain. They're the food stock for baleen whales and our prized salmon. Those salmon, in turn, sustain the resident orca population.  Our salmon are now endangered. So too are those magnificent orcas, who may soon also have to cope with Trudeau's armada of bitumen laden supertankers.

Why then is Mr. Trudeau's DFO still allowing our herring to be pillaged?  Ask Ian McAllister, executive director of Pacific Wild.

Pacific Wild, just a day earlier, had posted a video in which McAllister said, among other things, “We really should be leaving this fish in the water ... This is basis for the food supply of the entire Salish Sea, the basis of our coastal economy, and yet we’re turning this wild herring into fish farm pellets and cat food. This fishery should not ever have been allowed.”
...There is an echo here of the infamous standoffs on logging roads in Haida Gwaii, Clayoquot Sound, the Kootenays, the Stein Valley, the Skagit, pick your spot — and of the enduring faceoffs over tarsands pipelines and mines and dams and fish farms and tanker bans, among other so-called policy “choices” that we leave to the least qualified people in the world, politicians, to adjudicate, based on what they piously claim to be reliable science that supports their even more reliable need to shore up their prospects of re-election with evidence of economic growth and jobs for middle-class Canadians. 
Jonathan Wilkinson, our federal fisheries minister, personifies the Trudeau-era cabinet-minister-as-dittohead. “It’s in the national interest. It’s in the national interest,” they all chant about the orca-killing Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project, all evidence to the contrary. In the case of the herring fishery, “We make our decisions based on science,” Minister Wilkinson says reassuringly, if credulously.
And so this year, while all that science-based management has led to the closure of commercial fisheries in four other major areas of the coast — Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, the central coast and the west coast of Vancouver Island — the minister took the advice of his boffins and approved the extraction of 21,493 tonnes of herring in the Strait of Georgia. By Pacific Wild’s calculation, that’s 130 million fish. As of Saturday, the seine fleet had successfully killed about half that number; over the weekend, the gillnet fleet was on target to finish the job.
...At some point, you have to wonder how many fisheries scientists can dance on the head of a pin. Rightly or wrongly, Ottawa thinks the fleet can take 130 million fish out of the water without making a dent in the stock’s “long-term” ability to reproduce. Locally, confidence in that decision is low. 
Grant Scott, who chairs Conservancy Hornby Island, says his community first put on a herring festival two years ago as a seasonal celebration of the herring spawn. Within a year it had dawned on them that the festival might better be used to publicize how dire the prospects for herring are. This year, an online petition calling for the fishery to be closed has attracted close to 72,000 signatures and counting.
...To the south of the fleet, another long-term resident and observer of the Salish Sea, Stephen Hume, writes, “If science is so good at predicting abundance, why are 80 per cent of herring sites now closed? 
“We’ve fished stocks to collapse before, amid repeated assurances that the fisheries science shows harvests to be sustainable,” he reminds. “In the 1950s, overfishing of Japan’s herring led to a collapse. In the 1960s, the California sardine fishery collapsed. Herring fisheries in Alaska and B.C. were closed in the 1960s after overfished stocks collapsed. Overfishing destroyed herring stocks off Iceland, Norway and Russia around the same time. In 1972, the overfished Peruvian anchovy fishery collapsed. In 1992, Canada’s Atlantic cod went the way of the herring, sardines and anchovies. Cod stocks that had supported Newfoundland fisheries for 500 years suddenly fell to one percent of what it had been at its maximum biomass.” 
“One common factor in these serial fisheries disasters,” Hume writes, “is that regulators were convinced harvests were sustainable — until they suddenly weren’t.”
... Pacific Wild has produced an analysis — Top Ten Arguments against the Strait of Georgia commercial seine and gill net herring fishery — and, going to some lengths to reference its conclusions to available science, ends up citing DFO on almost every page. Whether that science can be trusted or not is hardly Pacific Wild’s responsibility; whether its interpretation of DFO science can be trusted, is. But one of the failings of our resource management system now, especially after the Harper years but even now in the Trans Mountain era, is that our agencies are so deeply distrusted because they are so deeply conflicted
Agencies like DFO and the National Energy Board have tremendous research budgets and their conclusions are backed by authority of law, but they’ve become what environmental lawyer Eugene Kung has referred to as “captured regulators.” They can no longer be trusted to interpret their research in the public interest because of the pressure of private interests: respectively, commercial fishing and fish farm industries, and in the case of the NEB, powerful energy interests.

Why should coastal British Columbians see the federal government as other than a predatory scourge? Instead of protecting our coast and our endangered marine life they unleash their captured regulators, the National Energy Board and DFO, and scream "national interest, national interest" to stifle anyone who stands up to them.

And, before Trudeau's fan club dismiss us as "Trudeau haters" remember this: when Trudeau wanted to fast track his Trans Mountain pipeline, before he actually bought the damned thing, he gathered top officials of all relevant ministries to assess the project. Then, before they submitted their assessments, they were all gathered together in a room and told by Trudeau's envoy those independent evaluations had better support Trans Mountain. And, voila, that's just what they did. That's not just a stacked regulator, that's a stacked PMO and it's stacked against us and our coast.