Pipelines: Which side are you on, planet or profit?

Since the Northern Gateway pipeline hit the news, the regina mom has read more posts about science than ever before.  And it’s not because science claims a place in her higher reading order.  Rather, it’s because the HarperCon response to public outrage about the pipeline has forced her to know wtf she’s talking about.  Or try to, anyway.

 

David Suzuki says that’s a good thing, that “science literacy is good for society.”  So there.  trm is doing it for the good of society!  Suzuki also says,

 

In an open society, leaders who have nothing to hide and who base their decisions on the best available evidence should have no reason to muzzle scientists, or anyone else. Just as parents should help children find relevant facts and encourage exploration, governments have a responsibility to make sure we have access to good information.

 

Having answers to our children’s questions is not enough. If we want societies that provide the maximum benefit for the most people over the longest time, and if we want to find solutions to the challenges and problems we’ve created, we must teach our children and ourselves how to find and evaluate answers objectively. Making science education a priority is an important part of that.

 

Did the HarperCons have poor science education?  Because it’s clear they’re not responding to science or the very real dangers this project would create, unless to twist it for political points.  What interest, then, does it serve the HarperCon government in ignoring all this?  That question was answered when trm read US environmentalist and Distinguished Scholar, Bill McKibbon’s dispatch:

 

The open question is why the industry persists in denial in the face of an endless body of fact showing climate change is the greatest danger we’ve ever faced.

 

Why doesn’t it fold the way the tobacco industry eventually did? Why doesn’t it invest its riches in things like solar panels and so profit handsomely from the next generation of energy? As it happens, the answer is more interesting than you might think.

 

Part of it’s simple enough: the giant energy companies are making so much money right now that they can’t stop gorging themselves. ExxonMobil, year after year, pulls in more money than any company in history. Chevron’s not far behind. Everyone in the business is swimming in money.

 

Still, they could theoretically invest all that cash in new clean technology or research and development for the same. As it happens, though, they’ve got a deeper problem, one that’s become clear only in the last few years. Put briefly: their value is largely based on fossil-fuel reserves that won’t be burned if we ever take global warming seriously.

 

And that’s it, isn’t it?  The HarperCons are the party of big business, of the corporate sect that lined the Conservative Party coffers for the last election and they now have the ear of government.  Why, the CEO of Enbridge accompanied the PM on the trip to China!  That certainly doesn’t make the HarperCons look impartial to the pipeline now, does it?  Enbridge’s big  boss seems emboldened by the gesture, asserting that he has already offered enough to First Nations who would be impacted by his pipeline. “We think the financial package we’re offering is very, very strong, so we don’t have any intent (or) consideration on changing that,” is what he told the Reuters news agency.

 

No doubt he’s been crunching numbers.  He couldn’t offer more; it’d cut into his bottom line.  Make no mistake, that’s what this is all about, the bottom line.  Back to McKibbon for a moment.  He reminds trm that oil is a finite resource.  Oil execs and their minions, aka our governments, are racing to beat the pending disaster  inherent in continued GHG production, the distaster science is telling us we must avoid.  But keeping oil reserves in the ground, he says, would impact the oil industry’s bottom line by $20 trillion.  And that, in McKibbon’s words,

 

…would be a disaster, first and foremost for shareholders and executives of companies like ExxonMobil (and people in places like Venezuela). If you run an oil company, this sort of write-off is the disastrous future staring you in the face as soon as climate change is taken as seriously as it should be, and that’s far scarier than drought and flood. It’s why you’ll do anything — including fund an endless campaigns of lies — to avoid coming to terms with its reality.

 

NDP Member of Parliament Megan Leslie gets it.  She is not afraid to look at the reality of the situation and look to a solution.

 

We must recognize our fossil fuel stock as a precious resource that we can use strategically to provide jobs today, but also ensure longer-term job security by using the short-term wealth they create to transition us towards new industries. We need to stop denying the writing on the wall, and develop prudent strategies to find ways to transfer the skills and knowledge that the workers in the oilsands have toward green energy industries.

 

A green jobs strategy would include extending the ecoENERGY home retrofit program, which the Conservatives have just cancelled, because it has created economic spinoffs of $10 for every $1 invested by the government while simultaneously reducing our carbon footprint. Jobs can be created through investing in green infrastructure projects, enhanced public transit and green research and development, all of which will spur economic development in every community in Canada.

But the HarperCons aren’t set on taking us there.  So, what do we do?  McKibbon:

 

 

Telling the truth about climate change would require pulling away the biggest punchbowl in history, right when the party is in full swing. That’s why the fight is so pitched. That’s why those of us battling for the future need to raise our game.

 

We’ve started, that’s for sure.  But we need to pump it up a few notches if we want the attention of the HarperCons.  Make no mistake about it, we can do it!

 

 

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What will the neighbours think?

One part of the brain can work something out while another part is doing something else, or so it seems.  the regina mom stayed up all night.  When that happens, it’s usually because she’s been engaged in a good read or a good write.  This time it was neither.  And it wasn’t a party, either.  No, this time trm‘s eyes were glued to the screen catching up on episodes of The Young and The Restless and The Colbert Report, shows she watches only occasionally these days.  It’s as though her brain needed a time out from the case of overload she’d contracted by consuming a wealth of information about the tarsands.

What’s weird, though, is that she ended her viewing with the Mercer Report and got right back into it.

From Mercer, then to Twitter and to another story about the long-overdue tarsands monitoring plan the governments of Canada and Alberta have cooked up.  While reading this piece, though, trm thought of her dad.  Born in Canada to parents of Germanic descent just before WWII, he grew up with the “what will the neighbours think” mantra. What trm realized is that her dad is not alone.  Many Canadians care about what the neighbours think, particularly on the international stage. Combine that with Canadians’ concern for the environment and an insult or two about it and the response is huge, so huge that it appears to have forced the government’s hand.

Ottawa and Alberta are hoping a new monitoring plan will curb criticism that the province’s massive oilsands fields are a dirty source of energy, but environmentalists say it will take a lot more to clean up Canada’s reputation.

“It can help send a signal that the government is starting to pay attention to the issues, but it doesn’t actually fix the problems that are causing the black eye to our reputation,” said Gillian McEachern, a Climate and Energy expert at Environmental Defence.

By the time trm got to the end of the article, she was recalling NDP MP Megan Leslie’s comments that this latest exercise was nothing but a PR stunt, a way to pacify audiences and is subject to spin.  trm agrees and suggests this tactic it’s not only for short term gain.  Note the timeline.

The new plan … to be rolled out over three years, will mean the governments will be monitoring more frequently and for more contaminants.

In three years’ time, Canada will be on the verge of an election and the HarperCons will undoubtedly point to this project as a demonstration of their shared concern for the environment. Never mind that it’s not what the scientists they consulted recommended, that it doesn’t go far enough, that a filthy addiction pollutes Earth’s air, waters and communities or that it’s harming real people downstream and upwind and around the globe or that the continued expansion of the tarsands over the next three years could do irreparable harm, the HarperCon government  has created its next “action plan.”

And we must continue to challenge that plan.