It’s taken decades for dumpster diving to nudge from the fringes to the mainstream. Hell, ten years ago, it wasn’t even the explicit goal of the practice.

When it was mentioned in the media, dumpster diving has always been something of a caricature: a bit part in stories of folk on society’s edge: the homeless, the penniless student, or the militant environmentalist.

Well, like local chicken and artisan popcorn, dumpster diving might have been bound to hit hipsterdom–or even possibly policy debates–once it got the prescient Portlandia’s treatment.

Pardon the pun: when it comes to vegetable-burdened garbage vehicles, 2014-15 has been the tipping point

From the reach of European Ugly Fruit & Veg campaigns to global glee when French banned supermarket waste.

The prominence of food waste might have reached the pinnacle last week: UN delegates were served a haute cuisine tasting menu of dumpster fare—prepared by elite American chefs, notably Dan Barber himself.

The delegates, including Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, munched on Landfill Salad, which, to quote the menu, consisted of:

  • vegetable scraps
  • rejected apples
  • …chickpea water

Next up, “BURGER & FRIES,” elegantly described in the roped menu: “off-grade vegetables, repurposed bread…cucumber scraps…”

The food was no doubt fascinating and faultlessly executed; witness:

“cocoa husk custard” dessert created with parts of cocoa beans usually discarded when making chocolate

Though food waste has long been a global crisis, its recent win seems due to piggybacking on something much more glamorous: climate change. Now that the two are finally seen as utterly inseparable issues, world leaders and mainstream media have a safe bet trumpeting the cause.

To what end?

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It’s hard to know if it’s too late, or if such events are anything more than fun food writer fodder. Certainly scholars and academics seemed markedly split. Some saw it as gimmicky or simply elitist, while others welcomed the PR for its far-flung benefits.

However we should be wary that it remains to be seen what really happens from this stunt.

European leaders, for example, who dined on Barber’s dumpster bites were likely unphased: they’ve been part of the swift sweep of the food waste over their political and industrial landscape—from the supermarket waste ban in EU debates to corporate responsibility measures in many of its largest supermarket chains.

Here in Canada, it’s much less obvious what effect—if any—such food waste celebrity status will have.

For someone small-minded like me, my mind goes to dumpsterized celebrity chef speculation. Who would be our nominee to stage similar recycled meals for Canadian leaders?

Perhpas Chuck Hughes digging through empty wine bottles in an Old Montréal alley, spinning out some renewed mullusk-shell bisque laced with dregs of private imports from his bacs de recyclage. Or a blazer-clad Mark McEwan scrubbing still-crisp carrots from the bins of his high-end Toronto store, repurposing them in day-old baguettes from his in-house bakery, all with a skeptical scowl.

Of course, none of this would happen here. If anything, we can hope for more events like Metro Vancouver’s mass free lunch of “rescued” food. In true low-key Canadian fashion, the 5000 people this event fed got one tenth the press ink of Chef Barber’s 20 precious plates.

Downplaying splashiness, however, goes hand in hand with Canada’s habit of downplaying food security altogether, to the point that we’re embarrassingly lagging behind other industrialized countries. Lest you jump to CPC-blaming, know that it’s far from just a diplomatic problem. It’s just as seriously a societal and cultural one. Old illusions of boundless natural resources and agricultural surpluses remain firm, not to mention the fact that most Canadians are urban-concentrated, downplaying rural and remote food crises: “out of sight, out of mind.”

Food Secure Canada, the leading umbrella group of scholars, advocates and policy coordinators when it comes to food issues, have been trying to hammer the severity of the issues for years.

With elections looming, it’s even more striking that the UN & Dan Barber style mega-attention on food waste remains mostly lacking here. Campaigns such as Eat, Think Vote, an initiative meant to bring citizens and their riding candidates together for a meal to discuss Canadian food issues, have helped nudge the issue forward, evidenced by some discussion at this Monday’s debate.

The nefarious effects of cosmetic produce took years longer to come to Canada after Europe, and even to this day, has trickled to market in frustratingly tentative fashion. My previous notes on the our slow-moving supermarket industry is helped by, for example Moisson Montréal’s widened food recuperation operations in Québec. Yet these are drops in the bucket, largely outside the mainstream mind or political debate.

It remains to be seen how this UN splash will speed up the Canadian progress on food waste

Oh, supermarkets, what are we going to do with you?

It seems you’re embroiled in a certain love-hate relationship with many of us.

Think of those farmers: they stock many of your vast shelves, yet often remain resentful for being squeezed. Or the upwardly-mobile, who slag you off in public, all while filling your coffers. Even food waste activists, perhaps your most virulent critics, have also been known to sing your praises.

However you slice it, dear supermarkets, it seems we just can’t take our eyes off of you.

Here in Canada, for example, you recently roused our spirits by bringing ugly fruit to your shelves, all while appropriating it as a new, cost-saving “brand” promising to quell food waste.

Meanwhile, in Denmark, you waded into the edible insect trade, only to pull them from the shelves two days later without telling us why.

In Alberta, you convinced the Blood Tribe of your merits, who hope to leverage your model on their land.

Yet this nagging question remains: do you really help us gain access to food? Or do you just stand in the way—-you big, boxy bully?

Over in the Bronx, a recent high-profile study seems to suggest the latter.

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The NYU report investigated the effects of a 17 000 square foot Associated Foods supermarket in a known food desert, Morrisania, a neighbourhood with high rates of: “heart disease, obesity, diabetes…depression, infant mortality, mental illness and HIV…”

Its $1.1M 2010 opening costs were incentivized to the tune of $449 000 (about 40%).

However, the team reported no “significant changes in household food availability” to neighbourhood children, with an equal dearth of improved “dietary intake.” Don’t dismiss this as a one-off, supermarkets: the study’s vast sample size (about 2000 children) and lengthy duration (before, during and after the opening) suggest that even your government-fuelled spinoffs might fail to offer tangible benefit to those most in need.

Another recent article goes even further, claiming that you might be causing some of these problems to begin with.

In “Supermarkets are the problem,” Deborah A. Cohen at Slow Food USA surveys research on impulse purchases at the cash register alongside nefarious-sounding “slotting contracts” in your end-of-aisle displays. In a decisive verdict, she holds you structurally accountable for obesity and chronic disease.

Now listen up, supermarkets, because what I’m going to say might surprise you. I think we should cut you some slack.

First, determinist conclusions like the latter should be taken with a grain of your finest No Name salt.

It’s not only deceptive to pluck out and blame you from within a living, breathing, increasingly-complex wider food picture, it’s dangerous. By over-emphasizing government regulation as an ultimate cure, it effectively disempowers us everyday eaters of the education, choice, and agency we already possess—the type of things we really should be encouraged to strengthen.

If for no other reason than you’re not going anywhere soon, we’ve no doubt got a lot to negotiate.

Practically speaking, we all find ourselves in your aisles from time to time. Sometimes we’ve driven a long distance to greet you. Other times, we’ve just met you halfway.

Other times, for many of use, we just get squeezed for options and feel almost forced to wander your aisles. Yet rather than praying to be saved or averting our gaze, it would be better to simply open our eyes.

Back in January, I speculated that Canada’s world-leading habit of food waste might soon become too embarrassing to ignore. Following the (real) experts, I pointed towards supermarket waste reform in particular as a key to stemming this horrid tide.

It seems that last week, one food giant stepped up to the plate.

Well, sorta.

Though it didn’t touch on the waste problem directly, Loblaws announced that it will roll out the sale of blemished produce.

So, in what is perhaps a first for Canadian corporations, a supermarket giant acknowledged that un-cosmetic produce was actually fit for human consumption.

Sure, it’s a damn small victory. And despite the welcome news, Canada is a latecomer to the ugly fruit game as far as supermarkets go. UK chains began the practice in 2012, while France’s Intermarché giant scored a hit with their Inglorious vegetables campaign last year.

What’s more, if you’re reading Forget the Box, you probably get your fruit from farmer’s markets, “Good Food” boxes, overpriced épiceries, dépanneurs, or hell, any other store than a supermarket. So, you’ll probably be quick to chastise Loblaws that this particular brand of “responsibility” is about ten years too late.

Still, could it help our society, in some tiny way?

Let’s look at what we do know.

The Loblaws produce will come packaged under the label “Naturally Imperfect,” and will stand alongside its picture-perfect cousins, boasting near-equivalent taste. The brand will apply only to apples and potatoes at first, though others are said to be on the way.

Those deeply-discounted apples in the saran wrap (think pink 50% off sticker), will not be affected due to this change.

Rather, couched in packaging that hearkens back to their popular, 90s-era “Green” and “No Name” brands, the cut-rate, yellow-bagged produce will stand as its own brand, buffered by similar rhetoric that brought the latter to fame.

“If you were to grow produce in your backyard,” says Loblaws senior Director Dan Branson in the Financial Post, “there’s a lot that would grow that wouldn’t look as pretty as what you would see in a grocery store.”

He goes on, reminding us that even “Mother Nature doesn’t grow everything perfectly.”

You can almost feel the spirit of Arlene Zimmerman rising from this golden marketing-speak.

I imagine her leaping from her Dragon’s Den armchair, blemished McIntosh in hand, telling a would-be entrepeneur, “I’m in. Knotted, ugly vegetables are 100% on-trend.”

So while “Naturally Imperfect” promise a return to the mass market for tonnes of neglected apples and potatoes, it is also a new “product” in its own right.

The homely castaways seem expertly engineered to cash in on a portion of the market that—for some insane reason—other chains have been afraid to tap.

The product is already selling PR-wise. Loblaws’ official announcement last week was a runaway media success, with nearly every single mainstream news organizations picking up the press release—most funnelling it through largely untouched. Even hip restos got behind the announcement, sharing it in droves.

You have to wonder why an influential brand like Loblaws waited so long to cash in.

All hype aside, I truly do hope this will have some meaning.

Perhaps the trend will ripple through other chains.

Or, at the very least, perhaps a sheltered Canadian child might get to see what normal vegetables look like—possibly for the first time in their lives.

 

Another year, another round of increasing challenges–and opportunities–when it comes to feeding the world. Closer to home, we can see many of our most salient national issues (healthcare, climate change, aboriginal rights) refracted through the eye of a handful of food questions.

Food is just that: a flashpoint around which all else swirls. Here are a few simple food questions to keep tabs on this year. As you’ll see, they speak volumes on wider issues we face from sea to sea.

Can school lunches stem an obesity epidemic?

Though five provinces already offer lunch (or breakfast) programs, Canada’s one of the last holdouts among industrialized nations when it comes to a fully fleshed-out national program. It’s not just a question of quelling hunger. Could a properly-designed school lunch program help stamp out childhood obesity, thus reducing affiliated diseases and quashing healthcare costs?

A coalition of food organizations seems to think so. The proposal for a national program will be a bumpy ride, however: getting all provinces–and politicians–to agree on details, not to mention the parliamentary maneuvering needed to pass something of such magnitude.

Finnish_school_lunch

However, the longer a potential fight, the more hastily one should get in the ring so as to not avoid eventual burnout… as we learned from our neighbours to the South.

It’s up to us. What do we want our elected officials to focus on? Prevention? Exercise? Mental health? Could something like this help the next generation of Canadians enjoy a healthier childhood and a longer life?

Read an interview about it in the Tyee.

Canada: world’s biggest tossers?

That’s not a character judgement. I’m talking about household waste. We allegedly threw out the most garbage in the world per capita in 2013. We continue to be one of the planet’s most egregious food wasters, squandering enough to feed a small country. Or maybe a large one.

Discarded_bagels

There’s also that pesky issue of the emissions caused by moving around so much wasted food. Oh, and the $31B we’re flushing down the drain. How stupid. And sad. And avoidable.

If we don’t begin to turn this around quickly, the economic and environmental impacts may well see us drowning in our own waste. On a more hopeful note, campaigns like UK’S “Love Food, Hate Waste” are coming to our soil this year, and programs like Second Harvest are helping to make a difference. More is needed however.

Beyond handy checklists, we need to lobby lagging local governments (such as Montréal) to adopt compost pickup or to punish supermarkets or large restaurant chains for the added strains they are putting on the system.

Yet, if the real problem is with chains, how can we really stop them wasting so much food? We can’t. However, they can only waste food if they have customers to produce it for. Avoiding the big chains in favour of farm boxes, other delivery schemes, growing food in community garden plots, etc. are tiny ways to stem the flow.

Can we solve food insecurity in the North?

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A chronic problem, it’s one about to grow in 2015. With the population of places such as Iqaluit growing quickly, an already-difficult situation is being compounded by one of the youngest populations in the country. Less and less people are hunting. Food prices continue to spike and food banks can barely keep up.

Parliament exploded with this issue late in 2014 (after the UN got involved in 2012), yet very little action can be deciphered. Let’s hope 2015 sees that happen.

Follow this column for writing on food issues (and hopeful initiatives!) both in Montréal and worldwide.

Thousands of Montrealers braved the rains yesterday to speak up about climate change. This was one of many demonstrations held around the world leading up to UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon’s World Climate Summit to be held in New York City.

FTB’s Gerry Lauzon was at the Montreal march and brings us these pictures

(CLICK THE FIRST IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY)

Climate Change March Montreal

For over eight weeks, photographer Robert Van Waarden travelled from Hardisty Alberta to Saint-John New Brunswick in order to talk with and photograph residents living along the projected path of TransCanada’s EnergyEast pipeline. He has chronicled his many stops and is now in the process of curating his images and short films for an upcoming travelling exhibit that will revisit the communities he visited along the pipeline’s route.

While travelling the country by car, he has witnessed first-hand the generosity and hospitality of countless Canadians. Van Waarden has been able to discuss at length with those who will bear the brunt of the risk if ever the pipeline is built, and says that the main concerns residents have with the project is water safety, spills and climate change. These are legitimate concerns.  Gaspé is fighting Petrolia over regulations that would protect the town’s drinking water from harm caused by hydraulic fracturing while in Alberta, the lakes surrounding the oil sands are being polluted at an alarming rate.

//www.youtube.com/embed/ccvD1Nx_hvA

TransCanada’s EnergyEast pipeline is slated to cross the Nipigon River which flows into Lake Superior, the world’s largest fresh-water lake that millions of Canadians and Americans rely on for drinking water.  Van Waarden interviewed Keith Hobbs, mayor of Thunder Bay and Chair of the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities, an opponent of  the EnergyEast pipeline.   

Despite environmental concerns, some see the pipeline as a positive economic force that will create jobs and stimulate Canada’s economy. Some figures seem to back them up: in the last year, nine out of ten new jobs in Canada were created in Alberta, and while countries across the globe still struggle to reboot their economy, Canada’s export markets has become an engine of growth.

Some people are ready to take on the immediate environmental risk to their community (let alone the global reach of tar-sands pollution) for the promise of some direct or trickle-down economic gain. It’s unfortunate that people are being put in this situation and that the discussion is constrained to tar-sand jobs vs. no jobs when in fact, green energy initiatives have the potential to create even more jobs , stimulate technological innovation and sustainable growth with less risk for both people and the environment.

Van Waarden also met with First Nations people who have opened their homes and hearts and shared their experience among them Kanesetake Grand Chief Serge Simon who discussed his community’s oppositions to the pipeline.

Along the Pipeline | Serge Simon, Grand Chief Kanesatake, Quebec from Robert van Waarden on Vimeo.

If First Nations have often been sidelined when it comes to natural resources development and extraction, the recent Supreme Court decision in favour of the Tsilhqot’in in British Columbia will no doubt shake things up a bit. Van Waarden says that the “First Nations could stop this pipeline and that they are taking it seriously. From what I have seen and heard they are going to be a force to reckon with.”

“We live in a beautiful country and there is an incredible amount of land and people that would be impacted by this pipeline. There are many strong voices and opinions in this country and the common thread throughout is that Canadians and First Nations are questioning the direction we are headed. It has been an honour to listen to and photograph so many diverse individuals and communities”

For more images and video, please visit link http://alongthepipeline.com

You may have heard of the controversies surrounding the Canada-US Keystone XL pipeline which would bring Alberta’s oil  all the way down to the Gulf Coast. The resistance to that project is fuelling the push to bypass the US and create a homegrown version, Trans Canada’s Energy East pipeline, whereby 1.1 million barrels a day of diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oil-sands would be pumped through 4600 kilometers of pipes; Canadian refineries in the east would then process it after which it will be exported abroad.

By allowing  this pipeline to pass through their lands, communities across the country will be supporting further development of Alberta’s oil-sands. Conversely Canadians, who may feel powerless against Alberta and our federal government’s pro-oilsands position, can now mobilize against the Energy East project and directly curb the expansion of the tar-sands.

robert van waarden serge simon

Joining his voice to the choir of activists is Canadian photographer Robert Van Waarden who is setting out on an eight-week Canada-wide journey to capture in words and on film the many faces of those who will live along the pipeline’s proposed route. For his Along the Pipeline project, Van Waarden will meet, discuss with, and photograph those who would shoulder the brunt of the risk associated with living in close proximity to the pipeline as well as those who may benefit from job opportunities it would create along the way (a claim challenged by major environmental groups).

We have all seen images of Alberta’s tar-sands intended to shock us into action and expose us to the reality of where the oil, that we all use on a daily basis, comes from. But these shock-and awe images are a double edged sword: we are simultaneously faced with the devastating environmental consequences of living in an oil-dependent society and dwarfed by the system that has consented to its destruction. The scale of the environmental degradation runs parallel to the economic and political power that allow the oil-sands to exist.

By focusing on the people directly affected by the pipeline, Van Waarden is seeking out “individuals working on change, pushing our world towards a more sustainable place [and whose] story is one of inspiration, empowerment and co-operation.” Since this mighty piece of privately-owned infrastructure will link people and communities on a national scale it seems worthwhile to understand what meanings this connection holds to those concerned. By humanizing those affected by the pipeline and highlighting the interconnectedness of the human experience,  the struggle becomes more relateable; as more pockets of resistance come to the surface, the challenge seems less herculean.

Forget The Box is pleased to follow Van Waarden as he travels across the country chronicling the stories of those affected by the Energy East pipeline. With preparations underway, Van Waarden is seeking help from the public to support his project though his indigogo crowdfunding initiative which comes to a close on April 6. Photographs and multimedia pieces will be published throughout his travels on his website and you can follow him via Twitter and Instagram.

robert van waarden bernard organic farmer

If VanWaarden is on a tight schedule, so too is TransCanada. They must file their project application by this summer, after which the National Energy Board has fifteen months to make a decision. Understandably, they are lobbying hard. Town meetings are sponsored all along the pipeline’s route to convince residents to not block their $12-billon project.

Here in Quebec, the Fédération québécoise des municipalités will gather its members in Drummondville on April 8 to discuss the impacts of the pipeline weighing envrionmental concerns with potential economic benefits. One look at the FQM meeting’s agenda and it becomes clear that TransCanada is targeting all political decision-makers and potential opponents with their lobbying efforts.

It’s not because we benefit from and are dependant on oil that we forfeit the right to object to the expansion of the oil-sands. Why do some people support the pipeline? What acts of resistance, large and small, are being carried out against it?

Through the medium of photography Van Waarden will contribute to the ongoing discussion and will capture not only what the Energy East project “means to this nation but what sort of community, country, and world we want to live in.”

Images courtesy of Robert Van Waarden. You can help make Along the Pipeline happen by donating to his crowdfunding campaign

 

 

This past Thursday and Friday, a wide range of accomplished doers and thinkers gathered for the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada and the University of Alberta’s Petrocultures Conference. Presentations took many interesting turns, from Brenda Longfellows’ interactive documentary Offshore to Lynn Millers’ discussion of how to save oil-soaked birds. Most presenters focused on the current and future state of Canada’s energy-producing resources as well as on the cultural, social, political and economic implications of shifting toward a sustainable green economy.

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Tzeporah Berman, the former co-director of Greenpeace International’s Global Climate and Energy Program, Executive Director and Co-founder of PowerUp Canada and Co-founder and Campaign Director of ForestEthics

For some, technology was advanced as the solution. Cenovus Energy, one of Canada’s “green” oil  companies sees technological solutions remedying the array of problems plaguing their industry, from reducing air-born pollutants to minimizing the impact of drilling by using helicopters to access remote wells.

For others, technology is no panacea. Darin Barney, Canada Research Chair in Technology & Citizenship at McGill instead sees politics as the arena where problems will be resolved. His talk focused on the prevailing discourse that  promotes oil-sands through a nationalist and especially a technological-nationalist discourse. Though this is viewed as a last resort strategy on the part of oil-advocates, appealing to nationalist sentiment nonetheless remains effective in quieting dissent and excluding alternative opinions by delegitimizing opponents as radicals and un-Canadian.

This nationalist veil also serves to mask the fact that, far from being a country-wide project benefiting all Canadians, it is the people who shoulder both the risks and costs while subsidies and profits flow directly into private coffers. Barney stated that while only 13% of oil reserves world-wide are privately owned, 51% of those are in Alberta.

Every year, oil industries benefit from over $1.4 billion in government subsidies. If you think this cash contributes to impressive job-creation stats you would be mistaken. Equiterre’s Steven Guilbeault stated that for every $1 million invested in the oil industry only 2 jobs are created, compared to 15 jobs in the green energy sector.

According to Tzeporah Berman, investing $1 million in any other sector yields more jobs than investing that same amount in Canada’s petroleum industry. Berman, a leading Canadian environmental activist, delivered one of the most memorable, informed and impassioned speeches reminding us that safety and health must trump the current trend of subsidies, production and pollution.  “We have a right to debate,” she said “and a right to the right debate.”

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Sun News’ Ezra Levant talking about “ethical oil” (image published over the objections of the author who thinks this man gets too much free publicity already)

Preceding Berman’s talk, Ezra Levant, our national court jester, appeared as his usual brash and boring self. While he was light on the reasoned argument front, he scored points nonetheless for giving the loudest speech (yet not loud enough to cover the audible derisive snickers from the audience). It was a wise decision on the part of the moderator to quash Levant’s question period; he was the only speaker to merit the distinction. Let’s give him another point for that too.

While Levant may have been the loudest, the students involved in Divest McGill were the most persistent. They came armed with relevant and hard-hitting questions, such as when Lily Schwarzbaum asked Gerald Butts, former President and CEO of WWF-Canada and current Trudeau advisor who also sits on McGill’s Board of Governors, why the university had not agreed to divest the $50 million it has invested in tar sands, fossil fuel and Quebec’s Plan Nord. He declined to answer, thus delivering a slap in the face to his fellow panellists and audience members who repeatedly called for more dialogue and openness throughout the conference.

Perhaps the most thought-provoking speech came from University of Alberta’s Imre Szeman who, echoing Mike Hulme’s Meet the Humanitiesadvocated for the inclusion of humanistic disciplines, the energy humanities, in discussing and solving the ongoing climate crisis. One of the main difficulties inherent in discussing pertrocultures is that we are all deeply imbedded in it; our daily lives are so dependant on energy that we have all become petro-subjects. Our identity and culture have developed in tandem with cheap available energy making it very difficult to untangle ourselves from that on which we have become so reliant. It has also made for easy targets; just think of when Al Gore was skewered because he would fly to speaking engagements.

The bright minds engaged in the energy humanities can help us conceptualize and move toward a viable “after-oil”  society that hard scientists, governments, and industries have been unable and unwilling to put forward. Part of the solution must involve the study of values, power, psychology, mobilities, meanings and institutions in order to finally get society to act on the mountain of facts about climate change it already possesses.

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Tenelle Starr ‘s controversial hoodie was one of the subjects discussed during Pretrocultures’ co-director, Sheena Wilson’s presentation

The Pertrocultures Conference may be perceived by some as a room full of white men, inherently conservative and exclusionary, and to some degree the accusation is warranted. Nonetheless, the conference brought together some of the smartest and most engaged players who both advocate for and act toward a cleaner and greener future. Hopefully new partnerships between allies were formed during this two-day event. Partnerships dedicated to bridging the chasm that currently exists between knowing and acting.

Perhaps the one line of thought all participants and attendees could agree on comes from Cenovus’ spokesperson: “The status quo is not acceptable.”

* photos by Jay Manafest, see the complete album on our Facebook Page

This week, the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada is partnering with the University of Alberta to host a two-day conference titled PetroCultures: Oil, Energy and Canada’s Future.

On Thursday and Friday, academics, industry, journalists and activists will gather to discuss and debate the social, cultural and political implications of Canada’s most controversial natural resource. Équiterre’s Steven Guilbeault will precede Sun New’s Ezra Levant while former Oilsands Developers Group Chair Ken Chapman will speak alongside lawyer Katherine Koostachin, specialist in Aboriginal, environmental and natural resource law.

The safety, health and environmental concerns surrounding the extraction and transportation of oil and gas has made for some bleak headlines these past few months. The Keystone XL pipeline project and the Lac Mégantic train disaster show the perils of having to move immense amounts of energy resources. Alberta’s landscape can attest to this and now we’re even talking about a Quebec petrol manifesto.

Conflicts over energy sources are of course not new; my generation grew up with wars being fought over the stuff. But with environmental disasters not only stemming from the production but also the use of fossil fuels, the repercussions go beyond our borders and are no longer a cause célèbre only for the left.

Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, one of the US’s top military officers, believes that climate change in the Asian-Pacific region poses the biggest long-term security threat to the area. Similarly, experts believe that sustained droughts exacerbated the underlying problems leading to Syria’s bloody civil-war.

Canada is not there yet, but our energy consumption and production habits are rightfully at the center of ongoing social debates.

Petrocultures 2014: Oil, Energy, and Canada’s Future runs Thursday and Friday at the McGill Faculty Club (3450 McTavish). For tickets and other information, see the Facebook event page or visit petrocultures.com

This week some political and economic heavyweights (B. Landry, M. Jérôme-Forget, J. Facal among others) came out with a pro-petrol manifesto titled Manifeste pour tirer profit collectivement de notre pétrole a distinctly Quebec version of the GOP’s Drill Baby Drill. Quebec needs money and we can get some by digging some homegrown oil, so this group claims. And when I say digging, I mean fracking.

And while the public is being subjected to this soft-ball persuasion, the Association pétrolière et gazière du Québec is actively lobbying the government to make sure it has a safe and well remunerated place in Quebec’s energy future.* Meanwhile, Petrolia (one of the major benefactors of this project) is trying to block municipalities from legislating against oil projects. Petrolia claims only the Province has that right.

The group behind the manifesto has been rebuffed in today’s Le Devoir by retired professor, engineer and geologist Marc Durand. Durand attacks their shoddy logic, limp sources, and their utter failure to grasp the economics behind the hypothetical venture.

Though brief, their argument is that oil exploration would enrich Quebec’s economic situation by “l’amélioration de notre balance commerciale” and by creating jobs. Note, that they did not say that Quebec would enrich its coffers by being in charge of the whole operation. Likely because the rights to the lands have already been sold to private petroleum companies.

The deal would see Hydro-Quebec profiting only after 10 million barrels of oil have been produced. And though there is said to be 30-40 billion barrels-worth underground, according to Durand, only about 1,2% of those could be extracted by wells. The monetary figures, as economic windfall for the state are all of a sudden much less rosy.

Even the document the Manifeste cites to argue for a positive commercial export/import rate in Quebec advances domestic oil exploration as the last and most controversial remedy. In fact, this HSBC document seems to advocate for a reduction in consumption (gasp) as an avenue to fix our commercial deficit.

As such, even if their manifesto opens with the good-old quiet revolution prayer and a nod to Hydro-Quebec, this venture is the antithesis of an economically (not to mention ecologically) sound projet de société.

* From the Registre des lobbyistes: Représenter les intérêts des membres de l’Association pétrolière et gazière du Québec auprès des différents titulaires de charge publique relativement à l’élaboration et la modification de dispositions législatives et réglementaires et orientations reliées aux hydrocarbures. Les représentations de l’Association visent notamment les amendements projetés à la Loi sur les mines et ses règlements, la nouvelle loi sur les hydrocarbures que projette d’adopter le gouvernement du Québec et la nouvelle stratégie énergétique du Québec, de sorte que ces dispositions législatives et réglementaires et orientations prévoient un régime de redevances compétitif pour les entreprises exploitant des hydrocarbures au Québec et des modalités favorisant le développement sécuritaire de l’industrie des hydrocarbures au Québec, dans le respect de l’environnement, et que les hydrocarbures occupent une place plus importante dans la nouvelle stratégie énergétique du Québec.

This post originally appeared on TaylorNoakes.com, republished with permission from the author

Everyone’s favourite evil multi-national corporation, British Petroleum (BP) has been given the green-light to dump large quantities of mercury directly into Lake Michigan, about 20 times over federal limits for the Great Lakes.

Now here’s where things get interesting (to me at least).

The Great Lakes empty into the Atlantic Ocean principally via the Saint Lawrence River.

To say we Montrealers get our drinking water from the Saint Lawrence is to say the very least; it further sustains the massive agricultural plain that Montreal happens to find itself in the middle of. In layman terms, it’s fucking important we don’t contaminate it anymore than it currently is.

I’d like to know the state of our water treatment plants. The recent city-wide boil water advisory lasted about a day and affected 1.3 of Montreal’s 1.8 million residents. It was caused by routine maintenance.

Sediment was stirred up from the bottom of the Atwater Treatment Plant when water levels unexpectedly dropped by a considerable degree. It took officials a day to figure out what happened, though in the end they realized there was no danger of contamination.

That was over a month ago – I still have too much bottled water.

Generally speaking we don’t have much in the way of water problems: occasional boil water advisories and seasonal watering bans happen and it’s impossible to completely get away from this. But we also know that most of our water and sewerage pipes are old, very old in fact, and have been known to burst, rather dramatically, in wintertime. Not to mention the fact that we have to use large amounts of chlorine to treat our water, all the while dumping raw sewerage back into the river.

aquaduct_mtl

With all this mind, it seems that we have managed to figure out a solution to a problem we’re contributing to, but with an infrastructure that might not be able to handle any new problems. Like contamination by mercury, or worse, heavy crude from Western Canada.

Mercury contamination led to birth defects amongst the James Bay Cree (not to mention the highest mercury rates amongst a First Nations community) as a consequence of the flooding of 11 000 square kilometers of the Taiga.

And consider the kind of damage that could occur with a burst pipeline anywhere in the Greater Montreal region: it’s not just the contaminated soil, but the potential for contamination of our aquifer and all the numerous waterways all around us. We’re on an island after all.

It’s a difficult situation; we would doubtless benefit from Western Canadian oil flowing to our city. It could result in the redevelopment of the East End refineries, not to mention likely result in improvements and the potential aggrandizement of our port facilities. And all of this means more jobs and money.

But private interests simply can’t be trusted to develop fail-safe pipelines. All too often they bend and break environmental rules to cut overhead costs.

And any new potential industrial development throughout the Great Lakes region bears with it the potential for new environmental dangers. Some of these problems are completely out of our control, such as the State of Indiana authorizing massive dumps of mercury into Lake Michigan.

But there are local measures that could be taken to dramatically improve the quality and durability of our water treatment and water distribution systems, not to mention the natural aquifer.

There’s an interesting intersection between natural water treatment and the maintenance and development of green spaces. Consider, as an example, Riparian buffers, which use ‘forested waterways’ to provide naturally treated water into agricultural lands (the presence of so much green also shades the water to reduce natural water evaporation. Natural beaches and swamps can further assist in natural water treatment.

Up until now I feel we’ve benefitted from these natural methods without doing much, if anything, to stimulate them. We’d be wise to consider the biological, as well as mechanical means to treat and distribute water systems throughout the metropolitan region.

But despite the universal necessity of water, our North American ways have made it that few politicians could successfully campaign on a ‘clean water’ platform without being uselessly labelled a environmentalist fringe candidate. We think water pollution is something that either happens in a developing country, or else happened here many moons ago.

Besides, you can buy bottled water anywhere, right?

 

This post originally appeared on QuietMike.org, republished with permission from the author

canada_harper_3_14_2012It’s bad enough with all the scientific proof to the contrary that we still have climate change deniers in Canada, but I would argue having one of them as our Prime Minister makes it exponentially worse.

Now, I know Stephen Harper has never come out publicly and denied the existence of climate change; he doesn’t need to, his actions have spoken for him. After playing the common Canadian voter for fools for five years as a minority government, the veil has come off to reveal what Harper really thinks of the environment we all share.

Canadian voters who didn’t know any better might not have clued in to the big picture, but the signs were there. During his first minority run starting in 2006, Harper pretended to give a damn, albeit very little.

In 2006 the Conservatives introduced the Clean Air Act. The act was supposed to cut greenhouse gasses by about half of the 2003 levels by 2050. Environmentalists claimed these targets were inefficient, but the Prime Minister convinced Canadians that these targets were a more realistic than the ones set out in the Kyoto Protocol.

With the exception of Rona Ambrose, the Prime Minister appointed seemingly competent MPs to the Environment Minister post. By competent, I mean John Baird and Jim Prentice kept their mouths shut as much as possible.

For the following five years the Tories were kept in check by the Liberals and NDP and remained fairly silent on the issues of climate change. Some comments were made accidentally with the slipping of some Tory tongues and Harper himself called Kyoto a “socialist scheme” but by the time the election of 2011 came around they were all long forgotten.

Harpers-Habitat1

When Harper gained his majority (with less than 40% of the vote), the curtain came down and the assault began. In the last two years Harper has been doing everything he can to reverse environmental protections and hide climate science.

No one was really surprised when he started by withdrawing Canada from the Kyoto Protocol, but the Prime Minister didn’t replace it with anything. The Clean Air Act Conservatives introduced in his first term was reduced to nothing as they lowered its targets by as much as 90%.

Harper named ex-journalist Peter Kent as the new environment minister. Kent seemed to care about the environment thirty years ago, but these days his decisions have come from an economic view rather than an environmental one.

The first Conservative Budget under a majority slashed Environment Canada’s budget by $53.8 million a year. The Conservatives scrapped the National Round-table on the Environment and Economy, a group that provides advice on the environment.

At the same time, they moved to fast track the current process for the environmental assessment of resource-based projects. In addition, they have made it more difficult for charities, such as environmental groups, to engage in so-called political activities. To sum it up: no talking, no protesting and more digging.

Harper has also started to silence Canadian scientists. He has instructed Environment Canada to forbid federal scientists from speaking to the media and has defunded or threatened to defund those who do. It wasn’t long ago when we encouraged our scientists to speak out in order to know where the problems were.

Muzzle

Last year, the Prime Minister stopped funding the Environmental Lakes Area, the famous fresh water research facility. The pioneering Canadian contribution to global environmental science was instrumental in the fight against acid rain and has studied water pollution for 40 years. The funding was expected to run dry on March 31st 2013. The savings to Canadians is a mere $2 million, a tiny drop of clean water in the bucket.

Lately you may have heard about the 194 countries around the world that supports the United Nations anti-drought convention. Well that number has been reduced by one as the Conservative government of Canada has decided to withdraw from it. Conservatives claimed only 18% of funds go toward drought research and called the process a “talk fest.” Canada spent $291 000 on the convention last year, a grain of sand in the desert.

In the meantime, while Harper has turned his back on global warming and environmental science, he has continued to expand fossil fuel development across the country. “Over the next decade, more than 500 large new development projects will be proposed across the country, representing investments worth more than $500 billion” Harper said. I would imagine they’ll still be getting the same tax breaks they receive now.

The Prime Minister’s disdain for the environment is now known worldwide and he may end up shooting himself in the foot with his policies. Harper has been pressing US President Barack Obama to OK the Keystone XL Pipeline for years now and it’s not crazy to think Obama may reject it again for not wanting to be associated with him. After all, the US is awash with oil and gas these days.

Harper’s policies were adopted from the American conservative philosophy that small government is what’s best for the people. He believes the environment is not the responsibility of the federal government. However, by not taking steps to protect it, they are helping to destroy it instead.

The Prime Minister and his Conservative Party have been exposed as the anti-climate change party they are and it’s showing in the polls. Let’s hope that when Canadians vote again in a couple years that Idle No More, Canadian scientists and environmentalists don’t let the people forget.

Doing nothing to prevent climate change is the same as not believing in it.

Not since Confederation has a nation-building project determined so much of Canada’s future, divided Canadians and equaled the endeavor of CP Rail, than Alberta pipelines. Several projects have been proposed but nothing perhaps more politically contentious than the Keystone XL, which would run pipelines from Alberta to parts of central United States. While Northern Gateway would transport bitumen from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia and then ship it to Asian markets.

Canadians must decide whether it would be better off becoming gas station of the world or global leaders combating climate change. Petroleum is a dangerous market and there are potential socio-economic and environmental risks facing Canadians. Outside factors are influencing whether Canada takes on those risks.

Despite some financialists, think-tanks and environmental expert warnings, PM Stephen Harper has vowed continuing support for Canada’s future in crude oil. Consequently, Conservatives have enforced gag orders on climate change scientists from speaking to the media and further removed environmental protections through Bill C-45, opposed by Idle No More.

Harper would ensure risks of environmental catastrophes from pipeline projects including clear-cut forests, depleted wildlife and risks of oil spillage into nearby bodies of water, poisoning communities. Even the most optimistic pipeline job projections, according to Cornell University, appear to be pipedreams. 85 to 90% of the people hired to do the work would be non-local and predominately temporary workers.

Oil venture in Canada is also up against time and technology. There is the impending deadline of Congress facing President Barrack Obama on whether to approve Keystone. If Obama rejects the deal, Canada would scrap Endbridge. There is also the rapid pace of American petroleum technology innovations.

Obama will likely announce a national synthetic oil technology policy. Synthetic oil is a greener, cheaper technology which could be harnessed in the United States. Its production utilizes a combination of non-food crops, natural gas and coal. The result of which is a much more sleeker and finer product.

keystone-pipeline

Princeton University concluded it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% if non-food crops are used to produce that fuel. A national program would require further assessments and thereby extend Keystone’s deadline further down the road, effectively putting Alberta’s already uncertain future in the cruder, harsher tar sand oil in the stone ages with the dinosaurs.

This is the likely reason why Obama neglected to mention Keystone in his State of the Union address. Instead, the president emphasized cutting climate change, harkening back to his 2008 campaign promise to achieve American energy independence within ten years. All signs appear to point in this direction with John Kerry’s appointment to Secretary of State, Kerry being the most outspoken Democrat on tackling climate change.

Should American backing fall through, Alberta should not rely on its Chinese state-owned oil partner, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), to be its safety net. A Chinese ambassador to Canada has revealed that Beijing would not wait on Canada if Alberta-BC issues are not resolved in a timely manner.

Alberta oil is only lucrative to Chinese investors so long as it will have pipeline clients. Alberta currently trades at a $40 discount per barrel of oil to the US. Since there are no pipelines to cancel out high transport costs to distant clients this is done to maintain interest. This means negative dividend returns for Alberta.

Currently, Premier Alison Redford’s government is bleeding $6 billion. China is only willing to cover the cost of cargo shipments to keep Alberta oil afloat until Canada could find other larger markets to invest in pipelines. BC’s blockade of Alberta’s Gateway deal would deny access to Asian markets. A ThreeHundredEight poll suggests a BC NDP victory this May with leader Adrian Dix promising to kill Northern Gateway. Northern Gateway is expected to be complete by 2017 or 2019.

Although Canada may be a politically stable source of oil, China could secure its oil supply by other means. China could diversify its clients while further weaning itself off of dirty oil towards sustainable energies. Unlike Washington, Beijing is not beholden to whomever it does business with. This ensures China’s access to petroleum could come from multiple markets.

Bottom line, Canadians could see themselves sitting on surplus black gold sold at red dot prices. In the end, Canada could be left holding the bag. Not quite the Dutch Disease prophesy, but still a crude awakening for Canadians.

Some may see the growing Idle No More movement as simply an aboriginal issue, but in truth it is also a stand against Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s environmental policies. The movement was born in Saskatchewan by four women complaining about bill C-45, the Conservative’s second omnibus budget bill that threatens existing First Nation treaties.

These four women started organizing events throughout Saskatchewan culminating in a national day of action across Canada. It was on that day of action that Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario announced in Ottawa that she would be starting a hunger strike. The strike has garnered national attention and has helped to push the protest movement to the forefront of news cycles. Spence has survived solely on tea and fish broth and the hunger strike is now entering a fifth consecutive week.

If you wanted to find the crux of the protests you could undoubtedly go back centuries, but I believe that the real heart of the problem may lie in the Conservative’s failure to pass the Kelowna Accord. The Kelowna Accord was a series of agreements between the Government of Canada (led then by Prime Minister Paul Martin), Provincial Premiers and five national aboriginal organizations.

The Accord was a five billion dollar plan to improve the education, employment and living conditions for First Nation people. Stephen Harper who was elected soon after the agreement was made, quietly disposed of it. Following his defeat, Paul Martin introduced a private members bill to ensure the agreement was implemented, but in 2007 the Conservative Party voted against it and didn’t try to replace it with anything.

2013_01_02_idlenomorehuffpoThe problematic truth of the aboriginal situation in Canada is that many first nation communities across the country look more like third world countries. Many don’t have basic grade schools, proper housing or even clean drinking water. Unemployment is also extremely high and substance abuse is rampant. I can’t understand why any Canadian would tolerate how we treat the original Canadians of this country.

I’m sure these issues are in the backs of the minds of the Idle No More Movement, but like I said before the main sticking point was bill C-45. This Conservative Government Budget Bill actually changed the legislation contained in 64 existing acts and regulations including the Indian Act, the Navigation Protection Act and the Environmental Assessment Act.

The changes to the Indian Act (done without the approval of first nation communities) effectively streamline’s the designation of First Nation land for leasing. Previously, if corporate interests wanted to lease land on a reserve it would have required the majority vote of all those on the reserve. Now it requires just those who attend the meeting about the lease. This can open the door to bribery, corruption and leave thousands without a say on who occupies their land. Also, during negotiations the Aboriginal Affairs minister can ignore a resolution from the reserve’s council that opposes a decision at the meeting.

The Navigation Protection Act and the Environmental Assessment Act are the other two sore points for the Idle No More movement. Both could have a profound impact on Canada’s environment and should be of concern to all Canadians.

The Navigation Protection Act removes a requirement for major pipeline and power line project backers to prove their development plan won’t damage or destroy the waterway it crosses. This means that even the most incompetent energy companies can get their projects approved. These companies could still be sued if something goes wrong, but by then the damage will have been done. The act effectively removes protection for 99.9 percent of our lakes and rivers.

The Environmental Assessment Act was first implemented back in 1992. It required federal departments, including Environment Canada, to conduct environmental assessments for proposed projects that involves federal funding, permits, or licensing. In 2012 the Conservative Government repealed and re-wrote the law to the point where the name itself has lost all meaning.

The new version no longer requires environmental assessments of projects proposed or regulated by the federal government unless the Environment Minister demands it. By design, the current post belongs to Conservative Peter Kent who is more business friendly than environmentally friendly.

Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence - Sean Kilpatrick/CP
Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence on Dec. 6 Sean Kilpatrick/CP

I find it awe-inspiring to know that despite the awful living conditions on some First Nation reserves, many of the people who live there are still more concerned with our environment. The same environment we’ve been destroying since we took their land all those years ago.

Prime Minister Harper for his part finally decided to meet with Theresa Spence and other First Nation Leaders in the coming days. Hopefully for everyone’s sake, it won’t be a simple lip service from Harper. Keep in mind that Idle No More is a grass roots movement just like the carre rouge in Quebec or the Occupy Movement that preceded it. Idle No More doesn’t need to answer to anyone and like their name suggests, they won’t be going away until substantial change is seen.

I’m sorry to inform everyone that this will be my last Quiet Mike’s Mumblings article for Forget the Box. While I might continue to contribute periodically, I have decided to put most of my energy into my own site quietmike.org. I would like to take this occasion to thank Jason, Chris and the rest of the Forget the Box family for helping me get started and giving me an audience for over two and a half years.

It has been a pleasure writing for you and I implore everyone who routinely read my column to keep visiting the site. Forget the Box is without a doubt the best blog in the great city of Montreal. Thanks everyone… for everything.

Last week, Superstorm Sandy devastated the east coast with high winds, record storm surges and rain. The storm left millions without power, thousands homeless and over a hundred dead, if there was anything positive to come out of this calamity it was that climate change was finally front page news again.

Unfortunately the only time climate change is mentioned by the powers that be or the media is in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster. We saw it after Hurricane Katrina and after the Tsunamis in the Indian Ocean and the Coast of Japan, but talk of climate change didn’t last a month after these events. With the general election in the US this Tuesday, I suspect talk of climate change this time will barely last a week.

Even when politicians and the media report on climate change, it has little to do with ways to solve it, instead the conversation is concentrated on the debate of its existence. People won’t start to grasp the truth so long as we keep referring to the “debate” about climate change… there is no debate.

Almost 98% of scientists (with credentials) say climate change is real and man-made. That is a huge percentage to be betting against, but roughly 30-40% of Americans do just that. In a year that has seen massive wildfires, long nationwide droughts, a record hot summer and an autumn super storm, too many people continue to live in denial.

North America contains two of the world’s most industrialized countries. During World War II, The United States and Canada were at the forefront against Nazi tyranny, but now with global warming being man’s most dangerous threat to its existence, they’re scarcely in the background.

It is so taboo of a subject that during the four American presidential debates climate change wasn’t discussed even once for the first time in twenty four years. In Canada, our conservative government not only avoids debate and action, but it has spent its first year of majority rule scaling back environmental protections and research. At the same time, the government has done what it can to speed up contract approval for the extraction of fossil fuels and creation of oil pipelines.

The reason for the lack of a real strategy on both sides of the border is largely due to conservative ideology; Corporate influence, free market principals even religious theories all have a part to play.

Big oil in Canada and the United States plays a big part in the propaganda and misinformation being distributed to the people on television and through our (mainly conservative) politicians. With hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on advertising, lobbying and political support every year, it’s virtually impossible to counter. Even in Canada, I can’t go a day without seeing a pro-tar sands commercial claiming it’s clean, safe and good for the economy. Seeing them on Canadian news networks angers me greatly.

I don’t call the GOP the “Grand Oil Party” for nothing, but lobbyists aren’t the only driving force behind the right wing denials about climate change. The combination of god and economic opportunity also plays a part.

As far as religious conservatives are concerned, the increased occurrence of natural disasters and droughts are often chalked up to God’s will and therefore can’t be avoided, so why not profit from it? Conservative principle is that of free enterprise at its extreme. To many, their dreams won’t be realized until everything from our roads to our water is in the hands of for-profit corporations and unfortunately there are no lines being drawn when it comes to profiting from disasters and human suffering.

Disaster capitalism is well documented (see The Shock Doctrine). Governments and corporations have long been exploiting natural, economic and political disasters for either financial gain or as an excuse to privatize industries.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is one such capitalist who spoke about FEMA last year during a primary debate; “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.” Anybody familiar with Romney’s business history knows he’s not above profiting from those who end up suffering as a consequence.

It just goes to show the mindset of those who keep doubts about climate change alive. The right in the United States has done an extraordinary job of disseminating their mendacity to the public, convincing moderates and those who don’t know better to stand at their side. It is the only way to explain why nearly half the country denies that our climate is changing.

Canadians are supposedly not so easily fooled. A poll conducted last august suggests that only 2% of Canadians deny that climate change is real, even in the conservative stronghold of Alberta the denial rate is only 21%. But while we all believe in climate change we went and elected a government that doesn’t. Perhaps Canadians aren’t as foolish so much as they are stupid.

A conservative used to refer to someone who conserves, that includes the planet. In my opinion, the real battle to counter the effects of climate change won’t be able to start until more people start speaking out and present day conservatism is put to rest. So long as there are people who persist on denying its existence or continuing the farcical debate, no amount of tsunamis, hurricanes or super-storms will help to bring about action.

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It probably comes as no big surprise, but Canada may be drastically off its emission targets, despite contrary promises from the government.

Though the Harper government says Canada is halfway to reaching its 17 per cent emissions reduction target by 2020, critics say the country has only cut emissions by as little as 3 per cent.

The devil, it seems, is in the details, according to CTV.  The Montreal based environmentalist group Équiterre says the government is skewing the data to make it look more palatable.

Canada’s 2020 emissions target of 607 megatonnes is based on the projection that 850 megatonnes of harmful gases would have been released into the atmosphere had the federal government done nothing to reduce emissions.

By using that projection as a starting point, instead of the roughly 750 megatonnes of greenhouse gases Canada emitted in 2005, the government can say it’s halfway toward reaching the goal. However, emissions are currently down only three per cent from 2005 levels, at 720 megatonnes.

Other projections have placed Canada’s 2020 emissions as much as 19 per cent higher than its goal. This is good news, though, according to The Province, but only because its emissions targets have been so bleak.

Environment Canada’s previous estimates from 2011 projected the country’s annual emissions would be 29 per cent above Harper’s 2020 target, set under the 2009 Copenhagen climate change agreement.

Perhaps the contributing factor is the government’s lax stance on emissions from the tar sands. The Environment Minister Peter Kent said the government doesn’t want to inhibit job growth. This winter Canada also earned some well-deserved international ire when the country pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, joining the United States, Afghanistan, Andorra, and South Sudan.

However, with global warming in full swing, Alberta can expect to be scorched anyway by 2100. Maybe the seat of the Conservative Party will have to acknowledge the “climate change” problem by then?

*Photo by Guy Gorek (Creative Commons)