Twinkle, twinkle little plastic shards, how I wonder how many of you there are?

I have always defended glitter when someone called it herpes! I have always been the person who outshines everyone by bathing in gazillions of tiny little sparkles. I am an asshole, a shiny, shiny turd.

This is not something I am proud of in retrospect. There have been times that I literally wore only glitter, then it seemed glorious, now I feel every speck cutting the throats of children drinking a glass of water, digesting in the bellies of my friends and family, and balling up in the ocean.

I am embarrassed by the amount of glitter pollution I alone have caused, let alone all of the glitter dripping sparkletastic burlesque dancers out there. The aftermath of one of my shows sent millions of microscopic pieces of glimmering plastic down the drain and into the water supply and tainting the food chain for years to come.

This must stop! I challenge all of you, every dancer and party girl, every gay activist that wants to glitter bomb a nazi or fascist politician, every drag queen with eyes on fleek, and everyone with little kids who are about to make holiday crafts: JUST SAY NO TO GLITTER!

The planet cannot suffer for fashion. My shine is NOT more important than the Earth and either is yours. It is so fucked up and sad how much plastic is out there because of vanity.

In every single sip of water we drink there are solar systems worth of micro particles that are too small for any filter. It’s horrifying! When I think of that the choice is easy to ban glitter. My hot scientist partner tells me I shine without it, I don’t need the synthetic brilliance. She inspires me to do better.

The NY Times recently posted an article about banning glitter. We cannot filter out this problem! Scientists studied the effects of plastic in the great lakes and had a huge part in the ban on plastic microbeads. I can’t imagine how much glitter and micro toxins I have ingested while wearing glitter on my lips. Cosmetic glitter is crazy and unnecessarily in a lot of products.

Artist Lara Buckley’s current show Alters of Erie is a lifelong collection of found discarded trash and natural materials mixed together harmoniously. It is currently up at the BOX Gallery in Buffalo NY.

Beauty in the decay. It looks like entire decorated Christmas trees and holiday wreaths from a distance and then you look close to see that it is just perfectly arranged garbage, fish heads on baby doll bodies with plastic rhinestone eyes, invasive plants also fill the room, discarded rubbish on a pedestal, hanging all around the gallery, floating and dancing, things that the world forgot now have new life as eye opening art.

Found pieces of man made bullshit that are polluting our world can be free art supplies. It is also incredible to pick up all of the straws, broken toys, streamers, and other broken bits from the ground and water. We can all get together, pick up rubbish, and make our Earth cleaner while making cool art in the process.

As an artist I need to be more sustainable. Every single painting I have ever painted has glitter on it. I was obsessed. But like anything, once you realized something is wrong abort immediately. Once you know about something and continue doing it even though you know it iss wrong, then you are the problem! You can’t play ignorant. People can grow and change, we call it evolution.

I have so much back stock of glitter I think I want to put it all in resin so it never has the chance to escape into this world. Make one final piece to immortalize the horrific craft herpes that I have loved for so long and now despise.

I never thought glitter would make me cry. It is not a harmless craft supply or fun makeup, it is pure evil in masquerade.

Ending this plastic nightmare is important for the sustainability of this beautiful planet. Plastics do not make it possible! Plastic is toxic and it is not fully known what the last 100 years of exposure have truly done to us.

Humans are killing the Earth at a astounding rate, climate change is real, so many animals are becoming extinct, and yet that little piece of glitter will still be here for the next 100 years no matter what.

I am going to fully make the change to non toxic biodegradable glitter. It is sold on Etsy and other places in the internet like Ecostardust, but I bet it is mad easy to make.

That way I can have my twinkle and be kind to mother earth too! Yay! It’s a win win.

All that glitters is not necessarily good. We have to take every step to make things safer and healthier, our health and the future of our world depend on it.

First we ban glitter, then who knows! Let’s learn from our mistakes and get better for it! Break the tradition and start new sustainable trends. Let’s all become eco friendly sparkle warriors!

The sixth mass extinction will hit harder than expected, according to a collaborative study between Stanford and the University of Mexico. 32% of all vertebrate species are steadily decreasing, even if one third of them classify as low concern species.

We already knew that animals and plants are going extinct 100 to 1 000 times faster than what is normal  (and those are the most conservative estimates). If we stay on this course, the general consensus is that around 30% of all species will be gone by 2050. The scientific community went from asking if the next mass extinction is underway to asking if it’s going to be worse than the last one – which, keep in mind, killed most of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

Now, researchers say that assessments based on species extinctions, alarming as they may be, might be underestimating the problem. According to the article published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States:

“Our data indicate that beyond global species extinctions Earth is experiencing a huge episode of population declines and extirpations [EN: local extinctions], which will have negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization. We describe this as a “biological annihilation” to highlight the current magnitude of Earth’s ongoing sixth major extinction event.”

This huge study is based on a sample of 27 600 vertebrate species (which is roughly half of them). All of the 177 mammal species among them have seen their natural range significantly shrink, 40% of them have seen their populations decrease by 80% or more.

The article concludes: “we emphasize that the sixth mass extinction is already here and the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most…”

*Featured image by Robert Young under Creative Commons

Philippe Tanguy, a top executive from the multinational oil corporation Total, is set to become the new director of Polytechnique, and more than a few people are concerned. The school board has recommended Tanguy for the job despite the growing pushback and it’s now up to Education minister Hélène David to give the final and formal approval. The minister’s office only stated that they took notice of the recommendation and cannot comment further until a decision is rendered.

A group of students and employees called the Regroupement de Poly contre Total Éducation (RPCT or Poly Coalition against Total Education in English) argue that their beloved engineering school should not be so tightly associated with a company like Total – which apart from being the actual definition of the frightfully influential Big Oil, has a spectacular record of human rights abuses, environmental disasters and tax evasion.

“We fear that this nomination will publicly associate Polytechnique with a corporation that media and authors criticize and accuse of heavy environmental and human casualties,” pleaded the RPCT in an open letter cosigned by multiple environmental groups, as well as Québec Solidaire and the federal and provincial Greens.

Total: A history of scandal

Total, as one of the seven biggest oil companies in the world, has an unsurprisingly long list of scandals. Their most notable exploits include spilling roughly 20 000 tons of oil in French waters and paying bribes to Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq through the infamous oil-for-food program. They were also sued for literally using slaves to build a pipeline in Myanmar in the 90s*. Quebec author and authority on tax evasion Alain Denault recently eviscerated the company in an essay entitled De quoi Total est-elle la somme? in which he describes fiscal shams and political power worthy of the best conspiracy theories.

Tanguy started working for Total in 2009 and he is now one of its Vice Presidents. He is expected to resign to become Polytechnique’s director, but that is not enough to appease the critics.

“To some extent, working that long for a company and getting to such a high position means endorsing the company’s methods,” thinks RPCT spokesperson Philippe Bouchard-Aucoin. “And with Total being Total, … It’s very worrisome to have someone who can have this sort of mentality heading a university.”

One too many footholds for the private sector at Polytechnique

The RPCT is not too happy with Polytechnique being directed by someone from the private sector and even less with that someone being from the oil industry. They urge their school to follow the lead of other universities who have started to distance themselves from the fossil fuel industry, including Stanford, Oxford and even Québec’s Université Laval.

“In Quebec, in Canada and internationally the private sector has an increasingly strong hold on universities and the industry has an increasingly strong influence on research,” remarked Bouchard-Aucoin.

He is not wrong. According to IRIS, the private sector’s share in Quebec universities’ financing has almost tripled in the last 30 years, going from 7,5% in 1988 to 21,5% in 2015.

Philippe Tanguy has made it very clear that he wants Polytechnique to continue down this path. Like many other directors, he has nothing but good things to say about public-private partnerships in research. In fact, it was a vital part of his job at Total as VP for Research and Development. In 2015, Total had more than 800 such contracts with various universities across the world.

But having a director so keen on mixing corporate interests and university research has its dangers, underlines Philippe Bouchard-Aucoin:

“If studies don’t go in a direction [that helps the industry] , will they be done anyway? Will they have a budget? Will professors be able to publish the results of a research made for an oil company if it demonstrates that it’s bad?” questioned the physics engineering student.

He admits that there is very little chance that the Minister rarely, if ever, rejects the school board’s recommendations in such cases. Philippe Tanguy is 99% sure of becoming the new Polytechnique General Director.

The RPCT vows to ”make sure that Total doesn’t meddle with the school’s decisions, and that the oil industry doesn’t edge in Polytechnique; make sure that investments in the industry don’t take up the majority of the school’s investments and that the professors still have an intellectual liberty.”

“There will be a lot of us watching Mr Tanguy’s actions very closely, to make sure that our fears don’t become reality,” promises Philippe Bouchard-Aucoin.

*A previous version of this article stated that Total had to settle a lawsuit in this case, but the truth is more complex. It’s their american partner in the project, Unocal, who had to settle in american courts. Total, a French company, was brought to justice in France and Belgium, but the suits had to be dropped in both cases.

* *Featured image by Laurent Bélanger under Creative Commons

In 2015, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre announced that the concert space on the western end of Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Sainte-Hélène is getting a redesign. The municipal and provincial government will invest a total of $73 million to expand the space used by promoter Evenko to stage events like Osheaga, Heavy Montréal and ÎleSoniq every summer.

While originally planned for Montreal’s 375th anniversary, it won’t be ready until next year. This means Osheaga will have a new home for the summer and Heavy Montréal will take a year off.

Capacity would increase from 45 000 to 65 000, though it will remain an open-air ampitheatre. At the time of the original announcement, the Mayor assured people that some of the budget would be spent on reducing the sound that made its way across the water to the South Shore where St-Lambert residents had been filing noise complaints for a few summers. This would presumably mean that Evenko could stage more concerts in the space.

This week, the environmental impact of the project went public. 1000 trees will have to be cut down to make it possible. While Coderre promised $18 million to plant new trees, Projet Montreal, the official opposition party in City Hall, is not happy to say the least.

Calling it a “chainsaw massacre” of Montreal’s shared greenspace to benefit one private promoter, they argued that a more environmentally-friendly version should have been considered. They also decried the lack of public consultation on the project.

With so many issues at play here, we decided to turn to you, our readers and not just make it a straight Yes or No question. In this poll, please let us know whether or not you support this project and why. If none of the answers fit what you think, you can add your own:

How do you feel about the current plan to build a new ampitheatre in Parc Jean-Drapeau?
  • Bad idea through and through 30%, 25 votes
    25 votes 30%
    25 votes - 30% of all votes
  • Any plan of this scope needs public consultation. Period. 30%, 25 votes
    25 votes 30%
    25 votes - 30% of all votes
  • I like the idea of a new ampitheatre but cutting down that many trees is unjustifiable 14%, 12 votes
    12 votes 14%
    12 votes - 14% of all votes
  • The area was in great need of repairs and a place able to welcome all the events happening an the Parc.* 10%, 8 votes
    8 votes 10%
    8 votes - 10% of all votes
  • The old concert space was fine and doesn't need to change 8%, 7 votes
    7 votes 8%
    7 votes - 8% of all votes
  • We need a new ampitheatre and this is the right way to make it happen 6%, 5 votes
    5 votes 6%
    5 votes - 6% of all votes
  • I don't care (well, I care enough to answer the poll, but that's it) 1%, 1 vote
    1 vote 1%
    1 vote - 1% of all votes
  • I live in St-Lambert (or have friends who live there) and am fine with any plan that curbs the noise 0%, 0 votes
    0 votes
    0 votes - 0% of all votes
Total Votes: 83
April 1, 2017 - May 1, 2017
Voting is closed

Panelists AG and Jerry Gabriel discuss Donald Trump’s travel ban and Pride Toronto’s decision to not allow uniformed police to participate in the next parade with host Jason C. McLean. Plus News Roundup. Community Calendar and Predictions!

News Roundup Topics: Françoise David’s farewell, Keystone back on the table, Ireland divesting from fossil fuels


AG: Communications sales rep and political observer

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor

Host: Jason C. McLean

Producers: Hannah Besseau (audio), Enzo Sabbagha (video)

Reports by Hannah Besseau

Recorded Sunday, January 29th, 2017 in Montreal



Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

The provincial government is officially on board with Anticosti joining UNESCO’s World Heritage list.  Although this would permanently ban oil exploitation on the Island, Petrolia’s oil exploration contract still stands, says Quebec.

The minister of Energy and Natural Resources Pierre Arcand announced that Quebec is endorsing Anticosti’s and Saguenay Fjord’s bids for the World Heritage list in a press briefing on Wednesday. As the government is well aware, oil exploitation is forbidden on UNESCO-protected sites, which has a particular significance for Anticosti, where Petrolia is in the early phase of a colossal project. “There won’t be any petroleum on Anticosti if they get the status” confirmed Arcand, as quoted by La Presse.

However, Anticosti’s application still has to be approved first by the federal government and then by UNESCO itself. Best case scenario: they get their status in 2020. Meanwhile, Petrolia is free to continue its exploration.

“For us it doesn’t change much of the project” Arcand told the press. “We always said, since the beginning, that we will respect the contract.”

In this case, respecting the contract means allowing Petrolia to continue digging wells and begin hydraulic fracturing, and giving them $57 million of public money to help. This is all for the first, “exploration” phase, the one where they look for shale gas and petroleum that they hope to extract. This phase includes massive investments, which will return no benefit until the “exploitation” phase – a phase that will never happen if Anticosti gets its protected status.

While Arcand was insistent that the government wasn’t backing out of its contract, a letter expressing Quebec’s support to the municipality had a slightly more reassuring tone.  The letter, signed by Christine St-Pierre, minister of International relations, and Luc Blanchette, minister of Forests, promises that the government is already working on ensuring that they will be able to protect the entire Island in 2020.

With the province’s blessing two days before the deadline, Anticosti’s application can now be evaluated on the federal level. Ottawa, which has been conspicuously noncommittal on the matter so far, will decide in December if they will submit Anticosti’s candidacy to the UNESCO or not. There are currently 18 Canadian sites listed as World Heritage, including Vieux-Québec and Nahanni National Park Reserve.

A few weeks ago, there were reports that US President-Elect Donald Trump had been refusing daily intelligence briefings. His response was basically that he is a smart guy already:

“I don’t have to be told — you know, I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.”

Forget, for a moment, that he completely missed the point of daily intelligence briefings and weirdly took the story personally and got defensive about it. Let us assume that he is “like, a smart person” who knows what he’s doing.

Now consider a presumably unrelated story about how the incoming administration is handling its Environmental Protection Agency transition and the full picture becomes much clearer.

Trump isn’t building a wall, he’s building a bubble.

This isn’t the famous Washington Bubble, the one that led all the insiders to believe that another Clinton was the right choice for the Democratic nomination and a surefire winner in the race to the White House, especially if she wasn’t running against a Bush. The same bubble that said a candidate with a big enough scandal couldn’t survive in a House or Senate race, let alone be elected President.

No, he burst that bubble. And while many establishment types on both sides of the aisle are trying desperately to rebuild it, the President Elect is busy building a completely different bubble.

No Daily Intelligence Briefings

Trump isn’t the first incoming President to reject daily intelligence briefings. George W. Bush did that, too. The neocons he surrounded himself with were’t thrilled with the constant talk of Al Queda when they “knew” the real threat was from Iraq (How did that work out?) .

Maybe Trump doesn’t want to hear any intelligence briefings that would contradict his belief and much argued campaign talking point that the biggest threats to America are Muslim immigrants and undocumented Mexicans. He doesn’t need some stuffy CIA operatives telling him that the real threat is elsewhere, maybe even with someone he is doing business with.

Instead, he’ll listen to Alex Jones and his incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn is someone who very well may listen to Jones himself. A noted Islamophobe, he once claimed that he personally saw signs in Arabic along the US/Mexico Border, which, of course, do not exist.

Trump wants the information he gets to mirror the half-truths and complete falsehoods he campaigned on. The only way for that to happen is if he gets his info in a bubble, a bubble he is helping to build.

When the Science Doesn’t Fit, Change the Scientists

Trump appointed Climate Change denier and man who sued the EPA twelve times, Scott Pruitt, as the agency’s new head. Then he put the man who couldn’t remember the name of the Energy Department but still wanted to dismantle it, Rick Perry, in charge of it.

Those antagonistic picks are in keeping with most of Trump’s cabinet choices so far. They’re really just the tip of the iceberg, though (assuming there still are icebergs in a few years).

A couple of weeks ago, Trump’s transition team asked for the names of Energy Department employees and contractors who “have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output.” Fortunately, the Energy Department did deny the request, but it looks like a purge is what Team Trump is going for.

If a purge is imminent, it will signal not only that Trump really does believe, as he once tweeted, that climate change is a scam invented by China, but that he doesn’t want to hear any expert opinion that contradicts that talking point.

It’s not just threats to the country that can’t enter the bubble, it’s threats to the planet, too, apparently.

What Happens When the Bubble Bursts?

Ask any economist and they will tell you that bubbles burst. Come to think of it, anyone who has tried, as a kid or youthful adult, to catch a bubble and keep it whole can tell you the same thing. Trump’s bubble is no different.

Just because Trump doesn’t want to hear about Climate Change doesn’t mean the climate will stop changing. Just because he doesn’t get to hear someone telling him every day that his plan to fight terror will only cause more of it, doesn’t mean it won’t.

At some point, the Trump bubble will burst. The question is will he realize it and change his ways or at least his policies and the people he has around him, or will he stay the course and instruct his acolytes to rebuild the bubble at all costs?

George W. Bush’s bubble burst twice. The first time was on 9/11. At first, it seemed, he started listening to outside voices. But soon enough, Bin Laden was a job for the next guy and he was going to war with Iraq.

The bubble was rebuilt, even Katrina couldn’t puncture it. The financial crisis of 2008 did burst it again, but by that point, he didn’t care. It was a problem for the next guy to deal with.

While all indications are that Trump will behave in a similar fashion, we can all (and I mean the whole world) only hope that when the bubble he is building does burst, he will surprise us all again (the way he did when he won) and do the right thing.

Unlikely, sure. But the alternative (think nukes) could be catastrophic.

A young Inuit woman addressed the assembly at the UN Conference on Climate Change on Canada’s behalf this past Wednesday in Marrakesh.

Maatalii Okalik, president of the Inuit Youth Council, accompanied the Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna to the 22nd Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 22) where she pleaded for the world leaders to take native communities into account.

“With your continued leadership that will define our future on climate action, I am hopeful that it is done in cooperation with Indigenous peoples,” Okalik said.

Okalik’s brief allocution was showcased in Canada’s national statement. The Minister introduced her as “an incredible young leader for the Canadian Arctic and a strong voice for Inuit youth.”

The liberal government seems determined as ever to display its good intentions to include indigenous communities in its decisions, at least on social media. On Tuesday, McKenna shaed a picture of Okalik on a stage with several indigenous leaders on Snapchat. The picture was captioned “Amazing panel on Indigenous role on climate action. I want Canada to be a leader on this.”


According to National Post, the Canadian delegation in Marrakesh comprises around 17 representatives from various indigenous groups.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) decided to send its own delegation to Marrakesh. Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart and Elder Francois Paulette of the Dene Nation are both attending. Their mission is to ensure that First Nations have “a strong voice” in the plan for climate action.

“First Nations are in a unique position to be leaders in climate change initiatives because of our knowledge of the sacred teachings of the land. We must not be situated as passive recipients of climate change impacts. We must be agents of change in climate action,” Elder Paulette declared in a communiqué.

Chief Hart, who is also co-chair on the Chiefs Committee for Climate Change, insisted on the importance of indigenous rights and responsibilities being fully recognized.

Both he and Okalik alluded to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Although the Canadian government officially supports this treaty, the Trudeau administration deemed it “unworkable” as a Canadian law.

Although Trudeau is not attending this year, Canada sent a sizable delegation. Several provincial Premiers and environment ministers are there, including Quebec’s Philippe Couillard and David Heurtel. Union representatives as well as environmental advocacy groups like Equiterre and Ecojustice Canada are also there.

Where does Canada stand in Marrakesh?

COP 22 is a two week long event that will end on Friday the 18th. Its purpose is to form strategies to reach the goals set one year ago in Paris for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

In November 2015, freshly-elected Justin Trudeau arrived at the COP 21 with nothing but the timid goals set by the Harper government: bring GHG emissions down to 30% under 2005 levels before 2030. But according to the grapevine, Canada will revise its ambitions upwards. Greenpeace Canada told La Presse Canadienne that Canadian officials in Marrakesh said that the new goal was to bring GHG emissions 80% below 2005 levels before year 2050.

The measures to be deployed in that regard are vastly unknown. Last month, the federal government announced that all provinces and territories will have to implement a carbon tax of at least 10$/ton by 2018, to reach 50$/ton in 2022. Canada had already promised $2.65 billion over five years to help developing countries access and create clean technologies.

On Wednesday, the government announced a contribution of $2.5 Million to the Climate Technology Centre and Network to that effect. The CTCN is an agency created by the UN to help emerging countries access and develop new technologies, both to fight climate change and to deal with its effects.

The government also promised an investment of $1.8 Billion to “mobilize” the private sector to do the same.

A more detailed national strategy is awaited in the next couple of days.


A little over a week before the 2016 US Presidential Election and the Hillary Clinton campaign finds itself in the midst of another potentially damaging email scandal. Yesterday, FBI Director James Comey wrote a letter to several congressional committee chairs informing them that the bureau learned of the existence of new emails pertinent to the now closed investigation into Clinton’s private email server.

It turns out that they were investigating allegations Anthony Weiner (remember him, Carlos Danger) sexted a fifteen year old girl. They were looking at one of his computers and found emails to and/or from his now ex-wife, current Clinton Campaign co-chairwoman and former State Department Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin.

The emails are related to Abedin’s boss in some way, but Comey won’t say how. He also won’t say if they are potentially damaging or merely irrelevant communications that need to be logged for procedural reasons.

This has, of course, led to speculation that it could shift the result of the election in Donald Trump’s favour as much as it has led to anger at Comey and Weiner (some of the anti-Weiner tweets are actually quite funny). It has proven to be quite the distraction.

I’m not talking about distracting from whatever Donald Trump has been saying or new revelations from his past proving again he is exactly the creep we all thought he was. I mean it has, but that’s not the point.

The biggest Clinton scandal in the past few days isn’t Friday’s letter about emails, it’s what happened Thursday in Brooklyn.

Clinton Silent on Standing Rock

Water protectors from Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires, and the Standing Rock Sioux Nation entered her campaign headquarters demanding that Clinton break her silence and speak out against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“We are coming directly to Hillary at her headquarters because as the future president, she is going to have to work for us,” Gracey Claymore said, “and we want her to uphold the treaties and her promise to protect unci maka (Mother Earth).”

Line of riot cops at Standing Rock (Screenshot: Atsa E'sha Hoferer/Facebook)
Line of riot cops at Standing Rock (Screenshot: Atsa E’sha Hoferer/Facebook)

Despite the size of the demonstration and the way that Claymore treated a Clinton victory as a foregone conclusion, campaign staff refused to even take a letter the protectors had written to the candidate. Around the same time this was happening in New York, militarized police started moving in on the protectors in North Dakota.

Trying to Keep Things Quiet

In case you haven’t been following this story, and it’s understandable given the mainstream media’s focus on political scandal, the largest convergence of Native American tribes has been happening near the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota for months. They are there to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline’s planned route through unceded Sioux territory.

Building this section of the $3.8 billion pipeline would mean destroying sacred burial grounds. It also poses a huge risk to the community’s drinking water (and that of other communities downstream as well, it is the Missouri River, after all) in the event of a spill. And spills happen quite a bit in North Dakota, even when they aren’t reported, as the Associated Press found out.

In early September, Energy Transfer Partners, the firm behind DAPL, used private security to attack water protectors with dogs and pepper spray. Local authorities decided to respond by issuing an arrest warrant for…wait for it…the journalist who broke the story by filming the attack.

Tresspass charges against Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman were dropped in favour of “riot” charges before she was ultimately acquitted. Emmy-winning documentarian Deia Schlosberg may not be so fortunate, as she still faces 45 years in prison for filming a protest.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has also been fighting the pipeline through legal channels. At first they won an injunction, but that was overturned by a Federal Appeals Court.

President Obama did order construction stopped on all federally owned land until environmental impact could be fully assessed, but the results are still weeks away. So with the injunction overturned for now, construction resumed and the protectors decided to move directly in the path of the pipeline instead of just nearby.

Massive Police Escalation

Last Monday there were over 100 arrests and then, on Thursday, local and state police in full riot gear and armored vehicles equipped with sound cannons descended on the protest. They were joined by law enforcement from six other states brought in through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), something that is designed to be used for disaster relief.

Man identified as an agent provocateur by Tribal Law Enforcement at Standing Rock
Man identified as an agent provocateur by Tribal Law Enforcement at Standing Rock (via Facebook)

And just what state of emergency prompted North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple to activate EMAC? Potential loss of revenue by a private pipeline company.

Yes, there were reports of gunfire, but Tribal Law Enforcement apprehended and photographed the man with the rifle and identified, through insurance documents, that he exited a vehicle owned by Dakota Access Pipeline.

Agent Provocateurs, the proverbial oldest trick in the book. But these water protectors have read that book, too and know how to spot people who clearly don’t have the best interests of their community at heart.

Police also used pepper spray and rubber bullets on the peaceful protectors and made 141 arrests. There are now reports that those taken into custody were held in dog kennels, strip searched and had numbers written on their arms.

At least it looks like the water protectors do have some backers. Namely some wild buffalo who decided to pay a visit.

The Big Picture

Let’s put this all in perspective:

  • A company wants to build a pipeline on land that belongs to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
  • The tribe, not wanting their sacred burial sites destroyed and not wanting to drink oil-soaked water (and also not wanting others to drink oil-soaked water) oppose the pipeline and invite other tribes and non-native allies to join them.
  • The company hires private security to attack water protectors with pepper spray and dogs.
  • Local authorities charge journalists for reporting on what happened.
  • The Governor declares a state of emergency and sends in militarized police from his state and other states to stop peaceful protectors.
  • Armed agent provocateurs are used
  • Human beings standing up for everyone’s water are held in dog kennels to protect the profits of a private company.

This is happening now. Silence from Clinton is disturbing and sad. Silence from Trump, well, that’s probably a good thing. The last thing we need is some speech about how he would make “the best pipelines” before digressing to talk of China.

It’s quite unfortunate that the Clinton Campaign is more concerned with a handful of emails than their silence on Standing Rock and DAPL. The real sad thing, though, is that they’re probably doing the politically smart thing.

As long as the electorate is privileged and ignorant enough to care more about emails than the treatment of their fellow human beings and the future of the planet they live on, too and the water they drink, too, what’s happening at Standing Rock won’t be the top story.

It is, though, what’s really being hidden by Hillary’s emails. So this post did deliver on its click-bait and switch headline after all.

It happened. Justin Trudeau has gone from the Selfie Prime Minister to the Photobombing PM. At least that’s what it seemed like yesterday.

He was speaking (and I use that term liberally, he really didn’t get to talk much) at a Youth Labour Forum in Ottawa. Most of the assembled crowd, though, seemed less interested in Trudeau’s platitudes then they were in speaking up on his inaction or potentially wrong action on several fronts.

They were upset over what his signing onto the Trans-Pacific Partnership would mean for their job prospects and the effects of “precarious work” which Trudeau said is now a fact of life. They also challenged Trudeau on his broken election promises, saying “we don’t have dialogue with liars.”

At one point, a group of attendees literally turned their backs on the PM because they felt he had turned his back on them. This led to the image you see at the top where it looks very much like Trudeau is an unwanted part of the photo.

Overall, it hasn’t been a great couple of weeks for Trudeau. On Monday, about 200 protesters showed up on Parliament Hill upset with the prospect of our Prime Minister approving the Kinder-Morgan Pipeline. Close to 100 of them were arrested.

Last week, just after celebrating one year in office, Trudeau made the argument that the fact that he won the last election meant electoral reform was no longer urgently needed. The irony of this stance wasn’t lost on many, including Hill Times cartoonist Michael De Adder:


Trudeau Had a Long Honeymoon

Up until a few weeks ago, things had been running real smoothly for our PM. Sure, there were attacks, but most of the ones which garnered major media attention came from the right and were over ridiculous things like him posing for shirtless selfies or progressive things like an MP (who has since passed away) trying to make the lyrics to O Canada gender-neutral.

The only time the NDP made a go at him that garnered mass coverage, it failed. It was supposed to be about his strongarm political tactics, but it ended up being about the physical movements of his actual arm, or elbow, when in Parliament.

That’s not to say there weren’t valid progressive reasons to criticize Trudeau over the past year. This self-proclaimed feminist let the previous Harper Government’s arms sale to Saudi Arabia go through and even relaxed our policy to make it possible.

Meanwhile, the Trudeau Government’s attempts to “modernize” the National Energy Board have amounted to nothing more than committees studying problems with no concrete action. The NEB, of course being the organization that Harper had chosen to evaluate pipeline proposals after abolishing the Environmental Assessment Agency.

So, progressive criticisms of Trudeau, until recently, have been focused on Harper policies that the Liberal Government has been ineffective in getting rid of. Not nearly enough to ruin Trudeau’s mainstream progressive cred at home, given the fact that his government has made some significant improvements on what the previous administration was doing.

It also hasn’t been anywhere close to something that could spoil his rep abroad. I constantly see Facebook friends living in the US and other countries as well as foreign progressive media jealously praising our Prime Minister and wishing he could be their head of state.

I always want to burst the bubble, but then think better of it, because at least his rhetoric is better than what 90% of politicians they have to deal with spout. Fortunately, Jesse Chase wasn’t as cautious when he wrote about Canada and our superstar PM in The Guardian.

While I don’t think Trudeau’s honeymoon with the world will end anytime soon, especially given the nastiness in the US Presidential Election, his sunny ways love-in with progressive Canadians may be about to come to an end. The downfall started when when he clearly stated that a $15/hr minimum wage was not a currrent goal of his administration.

Think about that for a second. This is now part of the official Democratic Party platform in the US. Sure, Bernie Sanders forced the issue and pushed Hillary Clinton in that direction, and there’s no proof that she will actually fight for it if elected. But if a corporate centrist running to be leader of a centre-right country can be cajoled into running on a $15/hr minimum wage, then what business does the self-billed progressive global heartthrob leader of a centre-left country have in rejecting it?

It was a long honeymoon for Trudeau, but is it now really over, or at least ending? Does the Emperor now really have no clothes, and not in a fun shirtless selfie kinda way? Maybe.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

Now, I’d like to shift gears and speak directly to our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Take a look around you, sir. The people turning their back (literally) on you and the people being arrested for getting a little too close to your place of business aren’t Conservatives. They aren’t even jaded lefties like me who vote NDP, sometimes while holding our noses because the leader is not progressive enough.

These are your people. People who voted for you in hopes that you would change things. They wanted to get rid of Harper and his rhetoric, which you have done, but, most importantly, they wanted to throw his policies away, too, and you, sir, have failed to do that.

Does your feminism include arms sales to Saudi Arabia because it’s 2016? Are Kinder-Morgan and Harper’s NEB part of your sunny ways? Have you given up on improving the condition of workers in this country? Can you really use your government’s popularity as an excuse to backpedal on electoral reform when that popularity seems to be waning, or rather plummeting, among former ardent supporters?

I’ll admit I was skeptical of you from the start and I’m sad to report that you have justified my skepticism. I’m a lost cause for you, but it’s not too late, though, for you to win back your former voters and live up to the false impression many have of you. It’s not that hard, either.

Just make your policies match your rhetoric and you can continue the honeymoon until the next election. Otherwise, the honeymoon’s over and things are gonna be kinda awkward before they’re downright unpleasant.

The National Energy Board cannot be allowed to review any projects until it’s completely reformed, pleaded 50 organizations in a letter sent to the Prime Minister on Wednesday. Signatories argue that the NEB has lost the legitimacy to approve massive pipelines like TransCanada’s Energy East or Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain.

“We are calling on you to put aside the fundamentally flawed work that has been done by the NEB to date. Overhaul the NEB, renew the confidence of Canadians in the federal government’s pipeline review process and, only after this has been accomplished, assess these projects in an atmosphere that is not plagued by the legacy of the Harper era.”

The letter is signed by multiple environmental activist groups, as well as the WestCoast Environmental Law Agency and the Aboriginal People’s Council.

Last week, the NEB was forced to suspend consultations on the Energy East Pipeline when it became clear that the concerns over the neutrality of its commission board were not about to die down.  The National Observer had previously revealed that two of the three commissioners on the board had covertly met with Jean Charest, then acting as a lobbyist for TransCanada.

The NEB first denied that it happened, then apologized for it but allowed the review to continue with all commissioners still on board. Last week, after protesters successfully disrupted the consultation in Montreal, the NEB agreed to suspend the Energy East consultations while they decide what to do with the two problematic commissioners.

A Band-aid over a bullet hole, claim the harsher critics of the NEB.

“Of course the board members who acted inappropriately should recuse themselves, but this will not solve the credibility gap that is plaguing the pipeline review process in Canada,” argues the letter.

The Problematic History of  the NEB

Misconduct of commissioners is not the NEB’s biggest problem; its entire history is. The National Energy Board Act is a 1985 reworking of legislation from the early sixties. It was meant to evaluate the safety and the practical matters of energy infrastructures. This only changed four years ago when Stephen Harper abolished the Environmental Assessment Agency and assigned the NEB to take over part of its duties.

It’s now clear that the NEB’s structure has failed to adapt to its new mission.

Commissioners of the NEB are politically appointed and many of them have been employed by oil businesses at some point in their careers.

Their public consultations are often criticized for their lack of accessibility. Anyone who wants to be heard must prove that they are directly affected by the project in question and register several months in advance.

The scope of their assessment is limited to direct consequences, which is in itself an archaic concept. Modern environmental assessments cannot refuse to consider impacts of oil production or tar sands development or of an increasingly oil-dependant national economy. All these matters are classified as upstream activities or downstream effects and as such, they are not considered by the NEB.

All of this might explain why the National Energy Board only rarely rejects a project. It had even approved (under 200 or so conditions) the Northern Gateway Pipeline, despite overwhelming opposition from the communities near its path. In fact, the appeals court later reversed their decision, judging that aboriginal communities had not been adequately consulted.

The NEB’s credibility is more than a little compromised. A CBC poll from last march suggests that 51% of Canadians have little or no confidence in the National Energy Board. People from Quebec and British Columbia, respectively affected by the Northern Gateway and Energy East, were most skeptical.

Just a couple of days ago, Ipolitics’ Chris Wood published a particularly scathing opinion piece on the matter: “The NEB is obsolete, an anachronism, a captive service agency for one particularly toxic, last-century industry, rather than a police force for the public interest. Increasingly, it’s also a laughingstock.”

“Modernization” in progress

The government recognized that the National Energy Board review process was facing a crisis of confidence long before the mess of the Energy East consultations. In fact, “restoring the population’s trust in the National Energy Board” was a key promise of the Liberal electoral platform.

An expert panel is already mandated to examine the National Energy Board’s functioning as part of a large review of environmental regulations launched this summer. They should provide the Ministry of Natural Resources with a report full of recommendations about how to modernize the NEB by January. These recommendations, if the government decides to listen to them (which is not a sure thing, history tells us), should be implemented by June 2018. Interim measures have been defined, but they do not seem to alter much of the process.

Meanwhile, the assessments of Energy East, Trans Mountain and other projects mostly piloted by NOVA Gas Transmission and Enbridge are allowed to go on unimpeded.

Environmental groups are pressing Trudeau to be consistent. Now that he has recognized that the NEB needs to be modernized, he should not allow it to take such major decisions until it is.

* Featured image from More Canada! Twitter

As the Sioux of Standing Rock persevere in their legal battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the promoters are resorting to violence to disperse peaceful protesters.

Energy Transfer Partners’s private security attacked the protesters with pepper spray and dogs on Saturday, near the camp set up by indigenous activists in Southern North Dakota. The same day, the company bulldozed sacred burial grounds on private land.

A video report from Democracy Now! shows a group of persons trying to disperse the crowd with dogs and pepper spray. We can see several protesters who have clearly been maced in the face and a man showing the bloody dog bite on his arm.

Activist Martie Simmons, who was present, tweeted that six protesters, including a pregnant woman were bitten. Four private security guards and two guard dogs were injured, according to the local Sheriff’s Office (Morton County). The nature of the injuries suffered by the dogs and the guards were undisclosed but eyewitnesses affirm that the dogs were out of control, and bit the guards too.

Police say they received no reports of injured protesters.The sheriff’s office confirmed there was no officers present at the confrontation.

Indigenous resistance to the DAPL

Standing Rock’s Sioux tribe has organized opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline ever since the project first became public two years ago. The trajectory of the pipeline is set to skim their reserve and cross the Missouri River twice, causing concerns about water contamination and protection of cultural heritage sites.

Thousands of indigenous people from the US and Canada responded to the call of the Sioux of Standing Rock and set up camps near the Missouri River. Over a hundred tribes are represented in what became known as the oil protest camps, what could be one of the biggest assemblies of Indigenous Peoples this century. Non-native activists also joined the ranks.

Meanwhile, the Sioux of Standing Rock are suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for fast-tracking construction permits without consulting them.

The DAPL is a $4.88 billion pipeline that should conduct half a million barrels of crude oil per day from the Bakken Oil fields of North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline will be just under 1900 km long and run through four states.

According to the Chairman of the Sioux Tribe of Standing Rock, Dave Archambault II, the pipeline threatens the lives of the people on the reserve and of the millions of people living downstream on the Missouri River, as well as ancestral Sioux sites.

“We never had an opportunity to express our concerns. This is a corporation that is bulldozing through,” Archambault told Democracy Now!.

His tribe is currently challenging the permits of Energy Transfer Partners in federal court on the grounds that the promoters did not adequately consult First Nations. They called for an emergency, temporary stopping of the construction on Tuesday, claiming that the company is already desecrating their burial sites. The federal court will announce its verdict on September 9th.

A Canadian Company

The DAPL is co-piloted by the American company Energy Transfer Partners and the Calgary-based Enbridge. Enbridge is no stranger to controversy, as it was recently forced by Canada’s federal court to give up on the Northern Gateway pipeline for similar reasons.

The $7.9 billion pipeline meant to export Albertan petroleum to the west coast had first been authorized by the Conservative government, despite the strong opposition of the native communities near its trajectory. However a federal appeal court revoked the permits in July, ruling that the Enbridge had not adequately consulted the affected aboriginal communities.

In 2015, Enbridge broke records by racking up $264 000 in fines from the National Energy Board, mostly because of safety and environmental hazards. However, the NEB ended up cancelling most of the fines due to lack of evidence.

Enbridge incidentally made the news today for acquiring Spectra Energy. The $37 billion transaction, if it is approved by appropriate authorities, could make Enbridge the biggest player on the North American market of energy infrastructure.

On Tuesday, the National Energy Board (NEB) announced the suspension of all their consultations on the Energy East Pipeline after opposition to both the pipeline and the assessment process hit a new high in Montreal.

The first of the three scheduled panel sessions in Montreal was aborted as soon as it started on Monday morning after protesters irrupted the proceedings in the Centre Mont-Royal.

A few people disrupted the assembly, brandishing banners and chanting for about thirty minutes before the police forcefully removed them. Three people were arrested. In a communiqué published later that night, the NEB called the incident “a violent disruption […] which threatened the security of everyone involved.”

Multiple activist groups, MNAs and Mayor Coderre himself have been asking for the National Energy Board assessment of Energy East to be suspended since concerns over the integrity of two commissioners have been raised. It was recently revealed that Lyne Mercier and Jacques Gauthier had secretly met with a TransCanada lobbyist – who happened to be none other than Ex-Premier Jean Charest- in early 2015.

The Front Commun Pour la Transition Énergétique (FCPTE) organized a “greeting committee” for the Montreal consultations on Monday. Environmentalists, but also some political representatives (namely from Québec Solidaire) were present.  Carole Dupuis, member of FCPTE and general coordinator of the Regroupement Vigilance hydrocarbures, described the protest as coloured and joyful.

In a short phone interview, Mrs Dupuis said that her organization had no plans to interrupt the session. According to her, the incident was the initiative of a lone individual that gathered spontaneous support:

“Actually a man ran to the front and then others joined him to chant slogans.”

After the no-go session of Monday, the NEB announced the postponement of the session scheduled Tuesday, citing security concerns. Finally, on Tuesday afternoon, they stated that all consultations are suspended until they decide what to do with the two commissioners who met with Charest:

“Given that two motions have been filed asking for the recusal of Panel Members, and given that the Board has invited written comments by September 7, 2016 on the these motions, the Board will not proceed with further Panel Sessions until it reaches a decision.”

What’s the problem with the National Energy Board?

A couple of days before the NEB arrived in Montreal, Coderre joined the calls for the suspension of the consultations. He said he was “ill at ease” with the fact that two of the three commissioners had met with Jean Charest.

Lyne Mercier and Jacques Gauthier, along with the director of the NEB, met with Charest while he was working for TransCanada, in January 2015.  The NEB first did not disclose that it had a meeting with a TransCanada lobbyist.

When it was discovered, they insisted that the subject of Energy East had not come up in the discussion. But thanks to the Access to Information Act, the National Observer got hold of some documents that proved the exact opposite. Handwritten notes from one of the participants included mentions such as “safety of the pipeline”,  “economy needs investment” and “what profits for Quebec?”.

The NEB apologized for lying but refused to remove Gauthier and Mercier from the Energy-East committee, until now. All appearance of partiality aside, the deficient French platform and the lack of accessibility of the NEB’s consultation have also been criticized.

Prior to 2012, the NEB had no experience whatsoever with public consultations. It’s only when the conservatives adopted a mammoth law abolishing the Canadian Environmental Assessment agency that the NEB’s role was redefined.

The National Energy Board is an independent federal organisation. Its purpose is to regulate the oil, gas and electricity projects that have international or inter-provincial reach. Although it often gets heaped with organisations like BAPE (Quebec’s Bureau of Environmental Public Hearings), its mandate is fundamentally different.

The NEB is foremost mandated to evaluate the safety and the practical aspects of the projects.

In 2014, it ruled that it did not have to consider upstream activities or downstream results in its assessment of a project. In other words, the consequences of EE on climate change, oil dependency or tar-sands development will not be examined by the NEB.

The Energy-East Pipeline: A Quick Rundown of the Facts

Energy-East pipeline is a TransCanada project destined to transport oil from Alberta to New Brunswick. The idea is to convert 3000 km of an old gas pipeline and extend it by 1600 km, to have a brand new 4600 kms of pipeline transporting 1.2 million oil barrels daily. It’s worth $15,7 Billion.

Eshko Timiou, Wiki creative commons
Eshko Timiou, Wiki creative commons

It will run through six provinces and under 860 watercourses, including the Outaouais River and the Saint-Lawrence River.

The divisive aspect of the pipeline climbed to new levels as other pipeline projects (namely Keystone XL) fell through, leaving EE as the last route to export Alberta’s massive oil production.

Supporters of the project argue that it would allow Alberta to boost up the exploitation of its tar sands and at the same time allow the rest of Canada to drastically reduce its oil imports from Europe, the Middle-East and Africa. TransCanada is also promising the creation of numerous – if temporary- jobs throughout the country.


Associated Minor Scandals

However, the oil travelling through the pipeline is not destined for Canadian consumption. Only a meager percentage of the product would be treated in Quebec’s refineries and the rest would be exported overseas from New Brunswick.

BAPE public consultations have also taught us that the oil will be extracted partly from Alberta’s tar-sands and partly from North Dakota. As Alexandre Shields once pointed out, Energy East will, to some extent serve to transport US oil to other US territories.

Environmental groups have raised red flags about the rivers affected by the pipeline’s trajectories. One of the primary sources of concern is the form of the oil in transition: a substance called dilbit. Dilbit is diluted bitumen that is easier to transport than crude oil, but it is very difficult to clean up in the event of a spill.

It is especially risky in rivers, where it rapidly sinks to the bottom before it can be recuperated. A detail that might be even more challenging in the often iced water of the Saint-Lawrence.

I personally believe this pipeline is an overall terrible idea and I could easily write another 6000 words about all the reasons why this project has been a complete trainwreck so far. Now I know this has been dragging on, so let’s take a moment to revisit some of TransCanada’s greatest moves:

  • Trying to build a port in an endangered species’ nursery
  • A leaked “press strategy” that erred somewhere in the area of barely-legal-and-definitely-unethical.
  • Refusing to comply with Quebec’s environmental law
  • Failing to provide proper documentation in French
  • Providing such unreadable gibberish in lieu of the documentation required by federal law that the NEB had to ask them to start over.
  • Responding that they will have something ready by 2018 when commissioners of the BAPE pointed out that they had no clear strategy in the case of an oil spill in the Saint-Lawrence.

* featured image from ÉcoQuébec’s twitter account: “greeting committee” for the NEB consultations on Monday

A panel of experts has been mandated to review Canada’s environmental assessment process. On Monday, Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna presented the four members of the committee in charge of this effort to modernize our environmental laws.

The committee is tasked with producing a report “in early 2017.” To do so, they will “engage broadly with indigenous groups, the public and a wide range of stakeholders across Canada,” according to the government’s website.

Who is on This Committee?

The chairwoman of the committee is Johanne Gélinas, a leading consultant on environmental law. She was the Canadian Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development from 2000 to 2007 and also served ten years in the Environmental Public Hearings Office (better known as BAPE) in Quebec.

Also sitting on the Panel are René Pelletier, a lawyer from the Maliseet community who specializes in Aboriginal rights and environmental law, and Rod Northey, another prominent environmental lawyer. The last member is Doug Horswill, who previously served as Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources of BC and as chairman of two Mining Associations.

What Will Happen Now?

The committee presented by McKenna will get input from Canadian citizens and organizations during September. People can already communicate their opinions via the internet. Dates for in-person hearings should be decided shortly.

By early 2017, the panel will present a summary of the input received along with its conclusions and recommendations. The Ministry of Environment will then “consider” the recommendations and “identify the next step to improve federal environmental assessment processes.”

Promises, Promises…

This is a step towards making the process more “open, transparent and inclusive,” according to a press release from Minister McKenna.

The review of the environmental assessment process is one of the three parts of the Liberal plan to improve environmental regulations that was officially launched this summer. The two other parts are modernizing the National Energy Board and restoring the protections under the Fisheries Act and the Navigation Act that were lost under the Harper government.

The Liberal environmental platform is mostly defined by two key points repeated ad-nauseam since 2015: restoring the population’s trust in the environmental assessment process and insuring that their decisions are based on “evidence, facts and science” (because redundancy sounds much more inspiring).

During and since the elections, they have advertised their intention to involve the population, and especially the aboriginal communities, more directly in the approval of projects that could be dangerous to the environment.

Indeed, they have launched and publicized many public consultations. They also announced up to $223 000 of funding for Indigenous participation to Federal Government reviews of Environmental Assessment Processes and National Energy Board Modernization.

They will hear the opinion of Canadians and they will “consider it.”

Consultation after consultation, the government is working to make the population feel more involved and to restore their trust in the system. But is it working to insure that this trust is warranted? They have yet to take any concrete action to put science and research at the base of their policies on environmental issues.

* Featured image of Squamish River by James Wheeler via Flickr Creative Commons

Fort MacMurray and large swaths of Northern Alberta have been burning for a few days. Homes and communities have been destroyed and people have died, too.

This is a time for everyone in Canada and beyond to come together and try to stop the fires and assist those who have been forced to evacuate as much as they can. That has been happening. There have been stories circulating of everyone from the people of Lac Megantic, Quebec to recent Syrian refugees pitching in.

Politically, though, there has been a fire of a different sort. At first, there were those online suggesting that the fires were directly caused by the oil being pulled out of the ground, but when it was clear that the fires did not start at the extraction site and had no specific correlation to the most prominent industry in the region, those rumblings gave way to a political argument about whether or not the wildfires were the result of climate change.

Ottawa Weighs In

Green Party leader Elizabeth May fired the first shot, so to speak, when asked if the fires were linked to climate change:

“Of course. It’s due to global emissions. Scientists will say we know with a destabilized climate, with a higher average global temperature, we will see more frequent, more extreme weather events … due to an erratic climate, due to our addiction to fossil fuels.”

Later in the same day, she walked that statement back a bit, saying there was no specific correlation and that “no credible climate scientist would make this claim, and neither do I make this claim.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got the question next and responded like this:

“It’s well-known that one of the consequences of climate change will be a greater prevalence of extreme weather events around the planet, however any time we try to make a political argument out of one particular disaster I think there is a bit of a shortcut that can sometimes not have the desired outcome.

Pointing at any one incident and saying, ‘Well this is because of that,’ is neither helpful nor entirely accurate. What we are focussed on right now on is giving the people of Fort McMurray, and across Alberta, the kind of support that they need.”

Now, I, for one, am loathe to agree with Trudeau anything, let alone on environmental issues. He is, after all, the one who seems to think pipelines will lead to our green future. I also believe that most of Alberta’s oil should stay in the ground. In fact, I experienced quite the dilemma a few paragraphs back in this article. I absolutely refuse to use the term “oil sands” but thought that “tar sands” was a little too hardcore a term to use for the “coming together” point I was trying to make.

That dilemma is nothing compared to the one faced by people whose homes have recently burned to the ground. In fact, not all of those fleeing the wildfires are oil company executives, very few are. These are workers, their families, activists opposed to pipelines, First Nations communities and others who, a week ago, were fighting against the destruction the oil industry would bring to their home, and now are fleeing from their home.

With that in mind, I have to agree with Justin Trudeau. This is not the right time to be talking climate change.

Put the Fires Out First

Are these fires the result of climate change? Maybe. Could they also have been caused by inconsiderate campers? Maybe. Are wildfires a natural occurrence in the area? Yes. Do these fires have no other explanation? Maybe. These are all good questions that can be answered later.

Right now shit is burning and stopping that and helping those affected has to be our first and only concern. There will be time to talk cause and assign blame later.

When a spree killer is chasing you down the hall, you don’t stop running, turn around and pontificate on the lack of gun control or our failing mental health system, you get the hell out of there and hope the killer is stopped before he gets to you. If you survive, there will be plenty of time to talk about and hopefully stop the root causes of what happened.

Right now, metaphorically, we’re still running down the hall. The fires are still raging and we need to stop them and find a way out.

It’s fine to criticize the government at a time like this, but only on things they aren’t doing or could be doing better to deal with and hopefully end the situation (like not letting the Russians help). Linking the disaster to climate change at this point isn’t one of them.

I know that I may be annoying some people whom I otherwise agree with and may agree with on this issue, except that I don’t think this is the right time to be on a soapbox about it. I don’t really care, because, here in Montreal, I still have a roof over my head, which is more than some in Alberta, Manitoba and now Ontario can say.

When your soapbox is burning, run away.

This week will go down in history as the week in which our Canadian government discovered the solution to climate change: an increase in CO2 emissions will save the planet! The brilliant idea  is that the growth of the oil and gas sector will pay for our Green Transition. 

Climate Change shenanigans were all a problem of perspective. For so many years we were just looking at it the wrong way. It’s now obvious that the biggest polluters in the world were just asking for a concrete way to contribute and a listening ear.

Thankfully our new prime minister was capable of enlightening us all, and bridging public and private interests together. After all, it’s a known fact that problems are always best resolved by the initiative and the savvy of the private sector.

Case in point, one of the biggest problems multinational Canadian mining and energy corporations were confronted with was named Berta Cáceres, a renowned political leader and Honduran environmental activist. Her struggle to uphold indigenous rights, to put a hold on the destruction and pillage of Honduras, was put to a brutal end this week.

In this case the ingenuity, the constant push for innovation, private initiative and all those buzzwords at the heart of what makes the private sector the most competent problem solver, were missing. Apparently within the entrepreneurial world , simplicity is virtue: hire a bunch of thugs to ransack the person’s house, use the centuries old technique of cold steal and assassinate a dissenting voice in cold blood. Problem solved.

Although the death of Berta Cáceres, her activism and the struggle she ultimately gave her life for, unfolded thousands of kilometers from Canada, her death couldn’t be closer to home. The implications of her life struggle and its brutal end weigh heavily on the Canadian government and Canadian foreign policy.

Her blood indelibly stains Canada’s conscience, like the deaths of so many other activists killed in the name of private interests. First of all, it was Canadian corporate interests that she was at odds with and campaigned against.

The role of the previous Harper administration in the Honduran coup which ousted Manuel Zelaya, who was in favor of redrawing jurisdiction around foreign mining interests in the country, is unclear. One thing is certain, though: Canadian multinational companies have benefited the most from the trade deal that was signed between the military junta and the Canadian government in 2014.

Careces’s death and struggle sheds light on the unbearable lightness and lethal naïvité manifest in the idea that Climate Change is merely a “scientific” problem. This enables the idea that with the right equations, calculations, mechanisms put forward by the private sector the question of Climate Change will be resolved.

The abstraction of the talk about climate change revolving around targets and fancy conferences, with standing ovations, blueprints filled with buzzwords like “incentives” and “corporate solutions” and “private sector initiatives” omits the most important factor of climate change: its inherent violence. Climate change when disembedded from the social and geopolitical factors is seen at a fraction of its face value, as a scientific phenomenon, at best an environmental process, but not as a whole, as an environmental process that enables and fosters a social and geopolitical process.

The violent death of Berta Careces and the 100 plus deaths of environmental activists in Latin America, Africa and Asia are the figurative manifestations of the violence inherent to Climate Change. We know that indigenous communities and populations within the “global south” will be tenfold affected by the disasters brought about by environmental deregulation. It is also embodied by large scale violence employed in the commodification of resources and diverse natural environments.

Yet the discourse of Trudeau & co, of the COP 21 and similar conferences, sanitizes the horrific violence that is at the heart of Climate Change. It creates an unintelligible discourse that silences and ostracizes the voices of those most affected by it.

This “scientific” discourse that sees Climate Change merely as a warming of few degrees here and there, a rise in sea levels, a destruction of ecosystems, doesn’t take notice of the underlying social-historical structures, systemic racism and neocolonialism that make the bed for Climate Change as an environmental phenomenon to exist.

Without tackling the power structures that feed-off Climate Change: neocolonialism, racism, imperialism, there will be no solution.

The vision Trudeau champions, that the private sector offers the best solution to climate change, is the direct cause of Berta Cáceres’ death and the death of several hundred environmental activists and entire communities throughout the globe.

Justice for Berta Cáceres! protest in Washington, DC (image by Slowking4 via WikiMedia Commons)
Justice for Berta Cáceres! protest in Washington, DC (image by Slowking4 via WikiMedia Commons)

The private sector solution to Climate Change is that of giving a price to nature. The idea is as simple as it is flawed: a price tag to everything in nature, to the natural beauty of beach, the existence of species, the natural habitat of an indigenous community, will somehow help to preserve it.

This opens the door to the commodification of nature which allows for speculation, the creation of derivatives and other innovative financial products. Ultimately the usefulness, the value, of a given ecosystem or a species or the livelihood of a community, of a culture will be determined by how it fairs on the stock exchange.

This idea of “price tagging” nature coexists alongside two other private sector innovations: cap and trade, which relies on the dispossession on a massive scale of communities within the global south to function and the continued pillage of resources to satisfy the cult of perpetual and masturbatory growth.

As long as the cult of growth is upheld, so will the constant commodification of all living things, the massive disenfranchisement and continued violence, the continued mobilization of neocolonial, racist and imperialist attitudes and ideologies be upheld as well. A poignant example is the racist rhetoric used by the “decayists” of pseudo-intellectual European right, towards Syrian refugees.

In Disaster Apartheid: A World of Green Zones and Red Zones, the last chapter of The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein refers to the idea that the neoliberal shock doctrine is reshaping the world in its image, dicing up the world into Green Zones (reference to the Green Zone in Baghdad) and Red Zones. There’s a relationship of domination between these zones; for Green Zones to exist there must be Red Zones.

For Canada and the rest of the “global north” to theorize a way to salvage the capitalist system and the cult of growth, many more Berta Cáceres’ must die. For the corporate Green Transition to work, the disenfranchisement of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities within Canada must continue, the denial of their rights to auto-determination must be upheld.

Cáceres’ blood wasn’t shed in vain. Like the hundreds of environmental activists that have died before her, Cáceres knew that within the struggle against Climate Change exists the extraordinary potential to dissolve the toxic power structures, the structures of domination, of oppression, that are the biggest polluters in the history of humanity.

* Featured image: