Friday, August 31, 2018

Some Refreshing Leadership

Now that Canada's plan to increase its greenhouse gas emissions and further threaten coastal waters has been dealt a massive blow by the Federal Court of Appeal, I suggest it is time to adopt an approach that embraces the future, not the past.

Such an approach is to be found in California. With a population roughly equivalent to Canada's, the state has made a bold, visionary and necessary decision that serves to show all of us what is possible when leaders have vision and a concern for future generations:
California lawmakers approved a measure mandating that all electricity come from wind, solar and other clean-energy sources by 2045, marking the state’s biggest step yet in the fight against global warming.

The Assembly voted 43-32 in favor of the legislation Tuesday. It would eliminate the reliance on fossil fuels to power homes, businesses and factories in the world’s fifth-largest economy, accelerating a shift already under way. The state currently gets about 44 percent of its power from renewables and hydropower.
Unlike other jurisdictions, California has come to the realization that fossil fuels demand too dear a price, while alternative sources of energy are quickly becoming cost-competitive:
“It’s already happening for economic reasons,” said Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James Financial Inc., who noted that solar and wind are the cheapest sources of electricity in some regions.
Bold state initiatives that buck the Trump-led efforts to role back environmental protections are also helping in this transition:
Earlier this year, California became the first U.S. state to mandate solar rooftop panels on almost all new homes. It would be the second state to require 100 percent carbon-free power after Hawaii.
Success, it would seem, rests on two related foundations: decreasing costs of batteries and increasing their prevalence. The following explains how this is likely to happen:

So Canada, like so many other countries, has a choice to make: continue to chase after white elephants or take a bold leap of faith and technology into the future.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

UPDATED: Please Watch This, Catherine McKenna

As Minister of Environment and Climate Change, I think it is important for you to see what the practice of real integrity, as opposed to the mouthing of inane platitudes, looks like.
French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot has resigned on live radio, in a dramatic announcement that caught even President Emmanuel Macron by surprise.

The former TV presenter and green activist said he had quit after a series of disappointments in attempts to address climate change and other environmental threats.

Mr Hulot said he felt "all alone" in government.

The decision was taken on the spot and, he added, even his wife did not know.

"I am going to take... the most difficult decision of my life," the minister said in an interview on France Inter radio.

"I am taking the decision to leave the government."

UPDATE: Meanwhile, 'Minister' McKenna, I guess you have more important things to do with your time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Pray For Jimbo

Apparently, crazed televangelist evangelical Jim Bakker has enemies that are legion.
“I don’t dare wear a Trump hat. The evil in this country is so bad if I was a Republican — which I have been my whole life — I couldn’t wear a hat with my candidate on it without concern about being murdered in the street,” Bakker said.

Monday, August 27, 2018

These Are Brave Ladies

When you are young, it is easy to find heroes, people whose daring exploits elicit awe and wonder. When I was a kid, Superman was my comic book hero. Although fictitious, he was an exemplar people could admire. Indefatigable, strong and incorruptible, Superman, although an alien, showed the best qualities humanity is capable of.

And that, to me, is the essence of a hero.

In my adult life, Nelson Mandela, about whom I have written on this blog, was my hero. His grace, dignity and refusal to compromise during all his years of imprisonment showed us the best that human nature has to offer.

Now that Mandela is gone, it is hard to find real inspiration in this fractured world, a world in which avarice, dissension, hatred and pettiness have seized centre stage, a world in which real leadership seems absent.

In Canada, our politics is one of opportunism and hypocrisy, something we were all reminded of during this past weekend's Conservative Party convention in Halifax. And the Liberal Party, despite the bright promise they seemed to present during the last election, have proven they learned nothing during their years in the wilderness. Justin Trudeau's betrayal of his environmental promise, in my view, was the coup de grâce to optimism about the future.

And yet ....

There are those brave and principled souls who refuse to be consumed by despair and yield to forces much bigger than themselves. People who know that their obligation goes beyond themselves and their immediate families. People who care about the generations that will come along after they are gone. People like the 'sinister seniors'. People like Charlotte Gyoba:
Gyoba was one of the protesters who broke a court injunction filed by Kinder Morgan that set limits on how close people could be from the gates. The protesters stood right in front of the gates at one of the Kinder Morgan facilities at the Burnaby Mountain tank farm.

Of the group of nine that faced initial jail time for convictions on July 31, the first to be sentenced was 70-year-old grandmother Laurie Embree. Indigenous elders have also been arrested at the gates.

Meanwhile, the penalties for defying the injunction continue to increase, with the people arrested this week facing a sentence of 14 days in custody from the B.C. Supreme Court.
Gyoba herself wound up spending four days behind bars with four other protesters, all over the age of 65, and she has no regrets:
“I won’t be here much longer, but I worry about what kind of planet the next generation will inherit from us,” the 74-year-old said. “People have to stand up when they see an injustice. If they don’t, then democracy doesn’t work for anybody.”
The thought of incarceration frightens the hell out of me. Am I capable of such courage? I don't know. But as long as there are people like Gyoba and the others profiled in the above-linked article, it is clear that heroism is not dead, and there is still some hope for humanity.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Memo To The Press

As usual, Robert Reich is spot-on in his insights. Here, he offers some solid advice to real journalists on how they should cover Trump:

Friday, August 24, 2018

About That Odour In The Air

While The Great Pretender and his faux Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, continue to utter platitudes about climate-change action while visiting formerly Beautiful British Columbia, smoke is not the only pollutant in the air. The unmistakable stench of a steaming pile of bovine excrement is also becoming decidedly pronounced, its source not hard to detect for anyone not blinded by unthinking allegiance to the Liberal Party of Canada.

Letter-writer Mike Ward, of Duncan B.C., believes he has found its source and offers up a solution to the miasma:
B.C. and Alberta are engaged in a carbon trading scheme of sorts, and it is to no one’s advantage.

Alberta sends carbon-rich bitumen to British Columbia, which, when added to the atmosphere, contributes to global warming.

Global warming in turn produces the warmer winters that allow pine beetles to thrive, together with the longer, hotter, drier summers during which B.C.’s disease-stricken forests ignite.

Prevailing winds spread this suffocating carbon smoke throughout both provinces, choking the tourism industry, impacting people’s health, threatening towns and destroying the livelihood of communities dependant on forestry and fishing.

It hurts to think that the new normal for our children may be smoky white summer skies, breathing masks and the eerie light of an orange sun.

Further investment in this perverse carbon trading scheme, such as in the proposed Trans Mountain expansion, defies reason as it can only accelerate global warming and amplify the enormous economic, social and health consequences we are already experiencing.

Clearly, it’s time for change. The cost of our stubborn reliance on fossil fuels has simply become too great a price to pay.
Also, your mendacious self-congratulatory rhetoric notwithstanding, this is no time to take a victory lap, Catherine.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

It's All Connected

Humans are a lamentably short-sighted species. Sure, we understand some of the basic underlying principles that govern our existence, but that knowledge seems to have little overall impact on the way we conduct ourselves.

Take, for example, cause and effect. We understand that if we hit our hand with a hammer, pain and possible fractures will ensue. Similarly, we know that if we toss a match into flammable material, a fire will follow. Ergo, unless there is something really wrong with us or our intent is to build a bonfire, we tend to avoid such behaviours. Beyond understanding such immediate consequences, however, our thinking tends to get a tad fuzzy.

Take, for example, the ever-increasing occurrences of forest fires. We know beyond a doubt that climate change is greatly exacerbating their threat, the fire season starting earlier and, in some cases becoming a year-round phenomenon. Yet when we think of the consequences of forest fires, we tend to think only of their relatively short-term effects: property destruction, carbon release and future mudslides, the absorption capacity of the land having severely been compromised.

As the following report shows, however, there are much more insidious cnsequences, ones that remind us that when we talk of ecological systems, everything is interconnected.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Days Of Outrage

The expression of outrage can serve a useful purpose, no doubt. It can promote new awareness that facilitates change; it can lead to levels of engagement that ultimately may improve the lives of many; it can change how we look at the world.

Or it can simply be an exercise that begins and ends on social media, a self-limiting foray that may make the participant feel virtuous but accomplishes little or nothing in the real world.

Today, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is no doubt celebrating what it must see as a massive victory:
After more than a century behind bars, the beasts on boxes of animal crackers are roaming free.

Mondelez International, the parent company of Nabisco, has redesigned the packaging of its Barnum's Animals crackers after relenting to pressure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The redesign of the boxes, now on U.S. store shelves, retains the familiar red and yellow coloring and prominent "Barnum's Animals" lettering. But instead of showing the animals in cages - implying that they're traveling in boxcars for the circus - the new boxes feature a zebra, elephant, lion, giraffe and gorilla wandering side-by-side in a grassland. The outline of acacia trees can be seen in the distance.
This change has come about as a result of pressure by the animal rights' organization. Forgive my cynicism, but this changes virtually nothing. It is cosmetic and, as most efforts at spin are, profoundly shallow. We continue to eat animals; big-game hunters, although under significant pressure, seem indefatigable in their bloodlust; homeless animals still abound. In other words, while people may feel virtuous over PETA's 'victory,' the status quo continues.

And that gets to the crux of the matter, in my view. We have entered an age where remote participation in causes has become a substitute for real involvement. Instead of people going out in the streets to protest, making principled boycotts of businesses, writing actual letters to CEOs, they instead merely sign online petitions, send out heartfelt tweets, post on Facebook, etc. (all of which I am guilty of, I might add.) While such 'spooky action at a distance' may promote short-term feelings of virtue, for far too many, they become ends in themselves.

The thoughtful reader may object. Isn't some involvement, however transitory or shallow, better than none? In my view, it is far too late for such gestures. The natural world is collapsing while we tweet our outrage. Temperatures around the world are rising; Arctic ice is rapidly melting; floodwaters are rising; drought is widespread; forests are aflame, and feedback loops are fully operational. Yet we still drive our cars everywhere and idle them with abandon in parking lots so we can have our air-conditioning to insulate us from some inconvenient truths.

Taking real action is hard, demanding time, commitment and real resolve. Expressing outrage is easy, and serves, if anything, as a powerful distraction from the real problems confronting our sorry world.

Monday, August 20, 2018

George Orwell Meets Rudy Giuliani

"Truth isn't truth," proclaims the increasingly zany and demented uncle known as Rudy Giuliani. Start at the 1:20 mark to take the full measure of the man, the man he represents, and the fulfillment of George Orwell's direst warnings:

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Jack Dorsey, Hypocrite

I am posting less these days, likely because I am losing faith in the possibility of positive change. I realize now, more than ever, that our fate is not in our hands, but rather in those of the powerful that have captured government and will protect and enhance their profits until the bitter end.

While this fact is most evidenced by the refusal of national governments to enact measures to meaningfully combat the ever-growing peril of climate change (disaster capitalism is alive, well and thriving!), it is also seen in less obvious ways. To get a taste of this truth, watch the following interview with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, conducted by Lester Holt. The interview initially revolves around Twitter's suspension (cutely called a 'time-out' by Dorsey) of hate-monger Alex Jones. The suspension itself, of course, is hardly a brave or principled stand, given Jones' removal from other social-media platforms already.

Dorsey's moral vacuity, bottomless hypocrisy and capacity for spin are pretty obvious here. And the fact that the CEO, a stand-in for so many other 'movers and shakers', will not let the public good interfere with his ceaseless march for greater and greater profits becomes very clear in the second part of the interview, when Holt asks him about Donald Trump and his Twitter account.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

On Canadian Hypocrisy

While many (but not our strangely silent allies) have cheered Canada's tweet critical of Saudi Arabia's abuse of human rights' activists, it has not escaped others that the gesture has the stench of hypocrisy about it. The Star's Tony Burman reminds us:
that it was this Liberal government that approved the $15-billion deal to sell military vehicles to Saudi Arabia originally worked out by the previous Harper government. There is reason to believe that some of these vehicles have been used by the Saudis to crush the very internal dissent that Canada embraces.

If the Middle East has taught us anything, it is that talk is cheap.
Similarly, Star letter writers offer some critical thinking:
The Canadian admonition of the Saudi government is evidently hypocritical, and lacks moral integrity.

Hamid S. Atiyyah, Markham

So Canada will have to stop selling weapons of war to the Saudi Arabians for them to use against their own people and against civilians in Yemen.


Alan Craig, Brampton

A year ago it was reported that Canada was Saudi Arabia’s second largest arms supplier. While Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland expresses outrage at Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses, she conveniently turns a blind eye to scathing reports by UN officials and a long list of civil society groups over Canada’s lucrative weapons trade in defiance of international norms.

Joe Davidson, Toronto
My guess is, had Canada known the kind of overreaction its tweet would provoke from the Saudis, it would not have issued such a public castigation of the dictatorial state. On the other hand, I'm sure there is a bright side to the whole situation, as a government and a prime minister hoping for reelection can now once more assert to a largely uncritical world that Canada is back; it certainly worked wonders for Justin Trudeau's image when he declaimed thus after winning the last election.

Lord knows, given the massive disappointment he has been on so many fronts, a little prolonged diversion may be just what the spin doctor ordered.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Hothouse Earth

Hot on the heels of the news that Justin's folly will now cost taxpayers at least another $1.9 billion comes widespread acknowledgement that we may indeed be reaching the climate-change point of no return. For specific details about this, check out The Guardian and The Mound's post yesterday. As well, Owen's post is well-worth the read.

Also, you can watch the following newscast to get a greater sense of our peril:

Still, our politicos fiddle while the world burns. This is the inevitable outcome of the plague known as captured governments, of course.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

I Don't Know Why

... but I never tire of watching lunatics like Jim Bakker and his brethren. Guess I am just desperate in these trying times for some comic relief, and believe me, the good pastor and his cretinous cohorts deliver it in abundance:

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Betrayal With Far-Reaching Implications

Despite the inspiring persona he peddled to win the last election, Justin Trudeau has turned out to be just another politician. As hard as that might be to accept, his betrayal of his promise to be something else, something better, is undeniable. For me personally, the sting of his failure to enact meaningful measures to combat climate change hurts the most.

And I am not alone in recognizing the fraud he perpetrated. Both The Toronto Star's editorial board and columnist Thomas Walkom offer lacerating assessments of the prime minister's perfidious antics. His most recent decision, to scale back the carbon tax, is emboldening the retrograde Doug Ford, Ontario's new premier with some very old (think 1950's) ideas:
... in scaling back one element of the national plan to put a price on carbon, Justin Trudeau managed to weaken an already too tepid program, and hand some provincial premiers — who are determined to oppose any carbon tax — more ammunition to fight in the court of public opinion, never mind, possibly, in the courts of law.

Emission-intensive industries that compete with companies in jurisdictions without a carbon tax, were already set to receive credits worth 70 per cent of what an average firm in their sector would pay under Ottawa’s plan.

Now, most won’t have to pay the carbon tax until their emissions reach 80 per cent. And four industries deemed to face particularly high competitive risks — iron and steel manufacturing, cement, lime and nitrogen fertilizer producers — won’t pay until they hit 90 per cent.
The Ontario government is running with this retreat:
Already, Ontario’s Environment Minister Rod Phillips is crowing about how this change is proof that his government was right to kill Ontario’s cap-and-trade plan, and right to fight Ottawa’s carbon tax in court.
All of which, of course, panders to a public that is far more eager to embrace willful ignorance than confront harsh reality, a hint of which was recently released by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, which revealed
2016’s record-breaking year of damage caused by natural disasters such as wildfires, floods and ice storms across the country cost $4.9 billion. And that was just in “insurable” damage.
Thomas Walkom comes at this issue from a different perspective but with the same underlying premise, that Trudeau's weak carbon tax will accomplish little:
Before Ford became Ontario premier, Trudeau was in danger of being outed as a fraud on the all-important climate change file. But Ford is such a laggard in this area that no matter how little the Liberal prime minister does, he seems active by comparison.

Ford’s decision to challenge Trudeau’s carbon tax in court serves to obscure the reality of the proposed federal levy, namely that it is too low to be effective. And it allows Trudeau to continue pretending that his climate change strategy is vastly different from that of former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper — when in fact it is not.
And Walkom offers compelling evidence that the emperor has no clothes, nor any real climate-change convictions as he echoes the old Harper way of doing things, such as mirroring U.S. behaviour:
In 2016, he very publicly matched Obama’s decision to reduce methane emissions. A year later, after Donald Trump reversed that Obama move, Canada’s Liberal government quietly announced it would delay implementation of its new methane rules until 2023.

Last week, Ottawa announced even more quietly that it plans to ease proposed carbon tax rules for big industrial polluters in order to match the new laissez-faire attitude of the Trump regime.
But surely Trudeau's carbon tax marks a bold departure from American inaction? Well, not so much:
Ottawa’s fallback carbon tax — set to start at $20 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions next year and rising to $50 per tonne by 2022 — is too low. If carbon taxes are to work, they must be high enough to discourage consumers from using products, like gasoline, that create greenhouse gas emissions.

Experts I’ve talked to say that, to be effective, carbon taxes must be set at about $30 per tonne now, rising to $200 a tonne by 2030.

There is no indication that the Liberal government is willing to be so audacious.
Supporters of the Trudeau government will argue that something is better than nothing, and that economic realities constrain Trudeau's hand. The only problem with that thinking is that it is much, much latter than we like to think, and smiles, rhetoric and half-hearted measures will not slow the tide of the earth's inexorable march to a new normal, one that already is proving decidely unpleasant and deadly for millions of people.

Friday, August 3, 2018

In The Realm Of Canadian Political Whoredom

I nominate Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine Mckenna as Queen:

And here is what she had to say after news of the Trudeau climate betrayal emerged:

Prostitutes are renowned for weaving fantasies. In that regard, McKenna is clearly and most eminently qualified.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Speaking Of Neoliberal Tools

It is never nice to shatter someone's illusions, but sometimes it is necessary. That is exactly what iPolitics is doing as it reports a not unexpected but nonetheless egregious betrayal of the environment and climate change mitigation as it dawns on our perfidious prime minister that an election is coming up next year:
Bowing to concerns about international competitiveness, the Trudeau government is scaling back carbon pricing guidelines for some of the country’s heaviest energy users, and signalling that more easing could come before the plan takes effect in 2019.

Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued new guidelines that increase the emissions threshold at which polluters will have to pay a carbon tax.

... after meeting with industry stakeholders, it determined that four industries in particular – cement, iron and steel, lime and nitrogen fertilizer producers – face a high competitive risk and will have their carbon price thresholds adjusted.

Draft regulations issued in January indicated a benchmark for when industries would start to pay the carbon tax at 70 per cent of average emissions.

However, the new rules set to take effect in the new year will increase the carbon tax threshold to 80 per cent of emissions intensity.

The four sectors assessed in the high competitive risk category will not have to pay the tax until they reach 90 per cent of emissions.

The government says other sectors may see adjustments to their greenhouse gas output measures, depending on further review of the impact of carbon pricing on their domestic and international competitiveness, with revised draft standards expected by fall.
Those who follow politics closely will not be surprised by this. Those who place their faith in sunny ways, pearly smiles and nice hair, however, will likely be shocked and seek solace in government propaganda justifying this sabotage of what already was a wholly inadequate plan.