Sunday, October 28, 2007

Climate woes threaten human survival: UN

Caption: Portraits of the plight of humanity due to climate change

Caption: the responsible way to avoid a disasterous future

UN report says some progress, but not enough in cliamte change, extinction or destruction of oceans

October 25, 2007 / Peter Gorrie, Environment Reporter

Earth’s environment has tumbled downhill to the point where “humanity’s very survival” is at stake, a branch of the United Nations said today.

In the 20 years since the first major report urging sustainable development, progress has been achieved on a few “straightforward” problems such as air and water pollution, according to the latest “Global Outlook” from the United Nations Environment Program.

Despite many conferences and negotiations, “there are no major issues raised (in the 1987 document) for which the foreseeable trends are favourable,” the report warns, citing failures in areas such as climate change, extinction of species and destruction of ocean fish stocks.

Today’s 540-page report is the fourth issued by the UNEP since a commission headed by former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland published the groundbreaking call to action, “Our Common Future,” two decades ago.

Brundtland’s commission recommended that, since they are so closely linked, the environment, economic and social issues must be integrated into any decisions about development, so it occurs in a way that protects the environment.

That hasn’t happened. The result, states the new Outlook, is not only that “in too many countries, environmental policy remains secondary to economic growth,” but also that environmental degradation is undermining economic development and “threatens all aspects of human well-being.”

The report’s authors state that their aim “is not to present a dark and gloomy scenario, but an urgent call for action.” But because the main environmental concerns are complex and there’s little appetite for anything that upsets the status quo, solutions will be hard to come by they say: “The scale of the challenge is huge.”

Among changes since 1987 that have impacted the environment:

Earth’s human population has grown by 34 per cent, from 5 billion to 6.7 billion. That has led to destruction or depletion of water, soil, forests, species and almost every one of the planet’s resources.

International trade has tripled. Its benefits are offset by its contribution to the spread of invasive species in the Great Lakes and almost every other water body.

The world’s average per capita income has risen by 40 per cent, but the gap between rich and poor continues to grow.


Caption: Our glorious leader

"We need an energy bill that encourages consumption." -President Bush, Sept. 23, 2002, Trenton, New Jersey, speech

"First, we would not accept a treaty that would not have been ratified, nor a treaty that I thought made sense for the country." -President Bush on the Kyoto Climate Change Treaty, Washington Post, April 24, 2001

"Natural gas is hemispheric. I like to call it hemispheric in nature because it is a product that we can find in our neighborhoods." -President Bush, Austin, Texas, Dec. 20, 2000

It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it."

Air quality has improved in some places, most noticeably in the rich developed countries, but often because polluting industries have moved to poor nations. Although measures to control ozone-depleting substances are considered a success, the ozone hole continues to grow. And bad indoor or outdoor air is estimated to kill 2 million people each year.

Greenhouse gas emissions have risen by a third, leading to much higher concentrations in the atmosphere and the threat of catastrophic climate change.


Caption: Emissions created by planes - a growing problem.

Caption: Streets Are For People activist liberates trees from concrete enclosure, allowing more rain water to seep into the ground.

The yield from an average hectare of cropland has increased to 2.5 tonnes, from 1.8 tonnes in 1987, but “unsustainable land use is causing degradation, a threat as serious as climate change.”

Intensive ocean fishing is devastating some species very quickly and, increasingly further down the food chain. Worse, the demand for fish is expected to increase by about 1.5 per cent a year.

By 2025, nearly 2 billion people will live in countries faced with absolute shortages of water.

A major obstacle to progress is the resistance to change by governments and large polluting industries, the report states.

Negotiations on environmental agreements frequently fail because of disputes over who is responsible for problems and who should pay for solutions.

That, the report states, is part of one of the major environmental issues: justice.

“The question of justice is perhaps the greatest moral question emerging in relation to environmental change and sustainable development,” the report states.

“Growing evidence indicates that the burden of environmental change is falling far from the greatest consumers of environmental resources, who experience the benefits of development.”

Meanwhile, “people living in poverty in the developing world, suffer the negative effects of environmental degradation.” And, “costs of environmental degradation will be experienced by.....future generations.

“Profound ethical questions are raised when benefits are extracted from the environment by those who do not bear the burden.”

Caption: As oil prices rise and resources become scarce, totalitarianism will become worse. The role of citizens in standing up for human and environmental rights is therefore necessary.

The report is not as certain about solutions as it is about problems.

“We appear to be living in an era in which the severity of environmental problems is increasing faster than our policy responses,” it states. “To avoid the threat of catastrophic consequences in the future, we need new policy approaches.”

Caption: In the wake of a Tsunami. Natural disasters caused by weather increase in frequency and intensity as a result of climate change caused by human activity. They are, in a sense, no longer "acts of God."

The basic aim must be to move environmental concerns from the edge to the centre of decision-making. As well, instead of trying to cope with the impacts of environmental damage, the focus should be on reducing the causes, including economic and population growth, resource consumption and social values.

That can be done through measures such as “green” taxes and economic measures that take into account the value of Earth’s resources and the cost of pollution and other damage.

“Determined action now is cheaper than waiting for better solutions to emerge,” the report states.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Science vindicates Gore, finds UK judge in error

According to climate scientists, UK judge's verdict on Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth is in error on several points:

first Vindication of Gore".

second vindication of Gore.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

D8 is coming! Global Climate Day of Action

Next organizing meeting for U of T:

Fri. Oct. 26, 6:00 p.m. Hart House (room TBA).

Main message (now decided on by city-wide group) ...


Global climate rally

Green energy. Mandatory emissions reductions.

Sat. Dec. 8th. 12 noon. Dundas Square (Dundas & Yonge)

Friday, October 19, 2007

The 11th Hour: help get this important film out on DVD!

This film is not in the theatres anymore and not yet available on DVD (as of this writing). Warner Bros. is not sure if they're going to put it out. Please email them and urge them to issue it on DVD immediately! Go to their customer site at
and fill in comment page with something like the following "I'd like to request that you issue The 11th Hour on DVD. I would buy a copy and I know many others, who are concerned about the environment, who would as well. Thank you!"

Film Review By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

The 11th Hour
Directed by Leila Conners Petersen, Nadia Conners

The 11th Hour boldly takes us way beyond An Inconvenient Truth with its incisive and cutting-edge examination of the global environmental crisis. It explores the larger picture of what's happening in all areas of the planet — climate change, species extinction, soil degradation, loss of forests, pollution of the oceans, and more. But it doesn't stop with the bad news. This documentary ends on a real note of hope, offering a visionary road map to a sustainable future. We may be in the 11th hour, the last moment when change is possible, but change is possible.

The documentary's directors. Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners, interviewed 50 leading scientists, thinkers, designers, historians, and leaders, then created a film collage of their knowledge and commentaries on the present-day crisis and their sound ideas for saving the planet from a catastrophe which may result in the extinction of human beings. Producer and narrator Leonardo DiCaprio challenges us to change our consciousness and transform our lives by living lightly upon the earth in harmony with nature. The 11th Hour is a deeply spiritual film that proclaims the evolutionary importance of love, compassion, mindfulness, reverence, and connectedness with all living beings.

An ancient Chinese proverb states: "If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed." David Suzuki, an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster, says in one segment of the documentary: "It was the human mind that was the key to our very survival. Now when you think that we evolved in Africa about a hundred and fifty thousand years ago, and compared to the other animals that must have been born on the plains of that time, we weren't very impressive. We weren't very many, we weren't very big, we weren't gifted with special senses. The one thing, the key to our survival and our taking over the planet, was the human brain. But because the human mind invented the concept of a future, we're the only animal on the planet that was able to recognize: we could affect the future by what we do today."

But over time, and especially since the industrial revolution, we have separated ourselves from nature. Add to the mix the belief in continuing progress understood as limitless growth and limitless expansion, the population explosion, and new technology, and the results have been breakdowns in the ecosystems — floods, hurricanes, drought, deforestation, desertification, and the melting of the polar ice caps. Recent disasters have created more than 150 million environmental refugees, and that's only counting humans.

Wangari Maathai, who won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the Greenbelt Movement in Kenya, appears in the documentary. She says, "In my own part of the world, I keep telling people, 'Let us not cut trees irresponsibly. Let us not destroy especially the forested mountains. Because if you destroy the forests on these mountains, the rivers will stop flowing and the rains will become irregular and the crops will fail and you will die of hunger and starvation.' Now the problem is, people don't make those linkages." She and the other commentators calls for a change in our consciousness. The entire human population is now confronted with a convergence of crises which require us to work together. Instead of living in denial or sinking into despair, we can act in concert with others to save the planet.

Caption: compassion for one another and the Earth is the answer

Real change will require our understanding the motivations and confronting the forces and institutions that resist change, including corporations, government, economies, and cultural influences. For example, American children, exposed to television ads daily, may recognize 1000 corporate logos and not known the names of any native plants in their backyard. Psychologist James Hillman observes that "We have lost the beauty of the world so we try to possess the world." Bioneers founder Kenny Ausubel puts it bluntly: "We have the possibility of blowing it on a global scale."

But humans also have caring, compassionate, and inventive sides — capacities desperately needed in these times. In a transformative moment in the documentary, author, environmentalist, and green entrepreneur Paul Hawken says that this is actually an exciting time to be alive because we get to "reimagine everything we do. This generation gets to completely change this world." Wade Davis of the National Geographic Society agrees: " All of these forces sweeping over the planet are the forces created by human beings. And if human beings are the source of the problem we can be the foundation for the solution." A number of scientists then present very pragmatic things that individuals can do and also big ideas that could reverse such problems as soil degradation. The ozone layer, once thought to be permanently damaged, is healing, and the rest of the ecosystem can recover as well. But it will take the application of our technology and ingenuity to new ways of living.

All this will require a change of perspective and concerted ethical action similar to the civil rights movement of 40 years ago in America. And it would be wise to remember the words and deeds of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said: "Love is humankind's most potent weapon for personal and social transformation."

Love for the Earth and all living beings will stir us to drive less, be more frugal, eat organic and local, and clean up trash and our other messes. Love for the Earth will encourage us to redesign urban environments and regulate corporations that are terrorizing the earth. Love for the Earth will help us restore the notion of the commons and compel us to work together with people everywhere on our fragile yet resilient planet.

Why nuclear energy is not the solution to climate change

Tim Flannery and George Monbiot are fine environmentalists -- both have written influent books on climate change -- but both are wrong to consider nuclear energy viable. The pro-nuclear position is logically and morally bankrupt and cannot, in good conscience be supported, if you consider the following:

The waste storage problem has not been solved and will not be solved. Right now there is no way properly store the waste, which is lethal to human beings and remains so for at least 25,000 years. This negatively effects 8,000 generations of human beings for the sake of 3 or 4 generations of energy users.

Our governments are told by the nuclear lobby that they will find the technology to safely dispose of the waste -- this is based on a blind faith in technological process -- the same faith that is responsible for much of the world's ills.

Why take the risk in case they will fail? I see them pushing ahead blindly with no consideration for future generations, unable to deliver on their promise. And if our opposition to climate change is based on the moral argument that it is wrong to kill human beings (not to mention biodiversity) the argument for nuclear power is logically inconsistent because there is no way that the risk to future generations can be guaranteed.

If you start playing utilitarian games -- that the lives of this group is worth more than that group and so that group has to be sacrificed -- you fall into the trap that the nation-states and corporate giants are already in: justifying harm to some based on the argument of a 'greater good' being served.

The more just position is that all human lives are equally valuable and that any technology which causes irreparable harm is not justified, especially when truly clean, safe alternatives exist.

Renewables might not produce as much energy as the industrialists want to fuel their 24 hour factories for making good that none of us need, but I'd rather do without these factories and these useless goods than sacrifice the lives of future generations.

Caption: Victim of Hiroshima / Nagasaki bombings

It is logical to assume that this civilization will collapse under its own weight (aided by climate change and peak oil, leading to rising energy prices and increasing wars over scarce resources) leaving 8,000 future generations with the legacy of radioactive waste.

Furthermore, when you consider that main demand for nuclear power is coming from big industries which want cheap power for the manufacturing and processing base, and that this furthers a society of unnecessary consumption and waste, the argument for nuclear energy appear to be little more than a ploy by industrialists and nuclear lobbyists to use the climate crisis for their own ends, at the expense of the public who are being asked to pay the enormous costs of building the reactors.

This cost, by the way, comes at the expense of the true solution to the energy crisis: renewables and conservation. The money that could be spend on these things is instead spent on nuclear. In Ontario the provincial government plans to spend $43 billion in public funds on nuclear energy, which will benefit the big industrial energy users, who represent 1.2% of the user base and consume 55% of the energy in Ontario and get it for a cheaper rate (3.2 cents per kilowatt hour) than the public (a fluctuating price of 4 to 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour).

The same $46 billion could have been spent on renewables and conservation -- but these received only token funding because it is mistakenly believed that they cannot meet "base load" demand. The government had a choice: investment in decentralized renewables or investment in centralized nuclear. They chose nuclear based on the "base load" argument.

Caption: Almost every news outlet in Ontario purposely chose to ignore debate on the question of nuclear energy, despite the fact that it was the single largest expenditure in the world ($46 billion). Instead, we were inundated with information about religious funding for schools - the average Ontarian did not question what they were told (or not told) or did not care - not unlike the proles in Orwell's 1984.

Dr. Keith Stewart of the World Wildlife Fund produced a report called "Renewable is Doable" that showed three possible scenarios in which Ontario could achieve base load demand without nuclear or coal, depending on the dates for coal phaseout. He projected a possible coal phaseout in 2009 as opposed to the McGunity government's 2014 (which is suspect).

The point is that the world has enough potential wind and solar power to meet base load if we combine that with cogeneration methods and a massive conservation push -- and this would hurt ONLY the big industrialists who rely on cheap energy, and the nuclear lobby. But in fact a more just sustainable society would also help them by forcing them not harm other human beings ... they would have less money and would have to live like the rest of humanity and this ultimately, would benefit them as well as us.

Ontario and other governments are choosing nuclear because it doesn't serve the needs of the industries they cater to and renewables and conservation -- which actually solve the problem -- require a new sort of thinking, one that does not favour endless consumption and production and blind faith in technology.

Furthermore consider that drinking water is contaminated by miniscule leaks from the power plants into drinking water -- traces of tritium are in the drinking water as we speak -- in Canada the allowable level is 100x more than in the EU.

I haven't even gone into the risk posed by nuclear power plants -- the fact that they make great targets for terrorists and that the risk of fallout from such an attack is that we have another Chernobyl. Now, if the world were a kind and loving place and terrorism was not being stimulated by likes of George Bush and Osama bin Laden, this would be no concern, but it is naive to think that such an attack will not occur this century.

Wind and solar power, on the other hand, are decentralized and do not make good targets. And they give municipalities and individual users "energy sovereignty" so they don't have to rely on a centralized grid.

Tim Flannery and George Monbiot are fine environmentalists but they haven’t thought their way through this issue thoroughly. To sum up:

The waste disposal problem is unsolved and will remain unsolved, renewables and conservation can meet the base load demand if we eliminate wasteful production and consumption (which is also a good in itself!), nuclear energy usurps limited funding for renewables, and the fact of drinking water contamination -- all point to logical reasons for why nuclear is not a good idea -- unless you believe that the benefit to a few capitalists outweighs the good of 8,000 generations of human beings.

Caption: Nuclear energy feeds nuclear weapons proliferation, now and for thousands of years to come, long after the current governments (and civilizations that bred them) are gone.

The whole argument for nuclear is premised on the continuation of a system of endless consumption and production without consideration of finite resources, and faith in technology - that the waste problem will be solved. Where does this faith come from?

Cheap energy has allowed us burn through the renewable natural resources more quickly resulting in overfishing and deforestation, as well as the overconsumption of less renewable natural resources such a healthy topsoil and fresh water. Nuclear energy would allow that to continue and leave us with a legacy of radioactive poison.

No fresh water, no oil, no trees, no biodiversity, no arable land, useless waste products leeching poisons into the ground, toxic mine tailings -- this is why E.O. Wilson and others say (correctly) that "future generations will not forgive us."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Protect human rights and the environment by regulating Canada's extraction industries

Attn: Toronto Burma Roundtable

We represent a group of volunteer activists in Toronto trying to raise awareness of the necessity of implementing government regulations of Canadian extraction companies operating abroad. This includes mining, oil and natural gas extraction.

We spoke breifly at the first Free Burma rally at City Hall, referring to Barrick Gold. We would like to speak with the Toronto Burma Roundtable representatives about urging the Canadian government to change the law with regard to mining and oil interests. This would represent a positive step towards isolating the military junta in Burma, who depend on funds from the mining corporations. Apparently, they were given 50% of a joint venture with Ivanhoe.

Now Ivanhoe has apparently suspended its operations in Burma temporarily, but in order to effect a permanent solution -- meaning getting that company out of Burma permanently -- Canada needs to enforce international human rights and environmental standards of Canadian companies operating abroad. The most relevant document to refer in this regard to is the Halifax Initiative. See For an overview of Ivanhoe and Burma see

We know that the Harper government is not likely to change the law willingly, since that government is openly cooperative with Barrick and the open-pit mining industry. The mining industry favours voluntary (not mandatory) compliance with human rights laws. What this really means is that they are interested in ignoring those laws as much as they can. The claim of voluntary "corporate social responsibility" is, in our opinion, really a way of skirting the law. That is why regulations as suggested by participants in the Halifax Initiative are necessary.

The opposition leaders in Ottawa can demand a change in the law and make this a platform issue vis-a-vis the question of Burma. Pushing through government regulation in Canada will hurt the dictatorship by requiring that Canadian companies not do business in Burma while the illegal regime is in power. Along with an arms embargo, there is no better way to non-violently disempower this regime than by taking away their sources of funding. This would not only go a long way towards solving the problem in Burma, by helping to cut off support for the military who profit from unsustainable extraction industries, but it would also help tens of thousands of people in other countries, such as Chile, Ecquador, South Africa, Phillipines, etc. Currently 60% of the world's major mining corporations are in incorportate in and have head offices located in Canada. Oil extraction and refining is another major source of pollution that needed law reform would address. These industries not only pollute local environments; they also add to global warming through CO2 emissions. Much good would be served by regulating them.

It is also important to note, in a few words, why open-pit mining is problematic. It uses up all the fresh water in a region, depriving local farmers and villagers of needed water, and it produces toxic mine tailings which then poison the region and the local people, with horrible results. The employment provided by the mines is temporary and dangerous and not worth the health risks and environmental damage.

We were glad to see that Jack Layton and Olivia Chow are involved. Perhaps they can bring this matter up in Parliment: specifically the need to impose mandatory regulations on Canadian extraction industries operating abroad in accordance with the recommendations in the Halifax Initiative. This would be a concrete way of dealing with the military regime.

Sincerely, Paul York and Pieter Basedow

Letter to Ontario's mass media, regarding their failure to report on energy issues in the provincial election

This letter is addressed to the major mass media players (newsprint and television) in Toronto and Ontario.

All of your editors had ample opportunity to air public debate over the most important issue in the provincial election, the world's single largest investment of nuclear energy $46 billion), which affects the health and pocketbooks of all Ontarians and will have a huge negative impact on the environment.

The voters could have and should have been told what the issues were, but they weren't. There was no shortage of press releases, protests, all-candidates debates and citizens' forums on this issue, so that wasn't the problem.

The problem was not the environmentalist and activists and people of good conscience. No, the problem was you: you didn't show up to anything and you ignored the issue from the outset. Coverage, if there was any, was biased and one-sided in favour of nuclear energy.

For example, it was scientifically demonstrated that 100% of Ontario's energy needs could be met by renewables and conservation (by Dr. Keith Stewart of WWF), and yet this was never reported. There was a protest of nuclear energy at Queen's Park. There were pickets againt coal power. There were dozens of well-organized public meeting and debates and forums on the issue. There were dozens if not hundreds of press releases. This was a massive failure of journalistic responsibility.

This silence and bias by the mass media in Ontario effectively sanctions lethal smog (which kills 1700 per year). It sanctions the dumping of nuclear waste on native lands, affecting 8,000 generations (25,000 years of radioactive waste leeching into ground water). It sanctions lack of investment in renewables and conservation because $46 billion spent on nuclear was $46 billion NOT spent on renewables -- this consequently hurt the environment and furthers inaction on climate change. It sanctions a massive tax burden over twenty (or more) years to pay the bill for nuclear energy so that a few big industries can have cheap power at the expense of the rest of us and the environment. Don't believe me? Read the article below.

So my only conclusion is that your editors and newsdesks are guilty of silencing debate and sanctioning this evil. I used the word "evil" because it is appropriate to describe murder -- climate change and radioactivity kill and inaction against them adds the casualties overseas and in the future. The provincial Liberals will not be here in 10,000 years to ensure that nuclear waste they plan to create will not poison children. We now know that nuclear energy actually hurts our chances of fighting climate change, which is already lethal. By not reporting the truth, you the media, became complicit with those who guilty of killing future generations through radioactive waste and climate change.

To all editors and reporters who shirked their moral obligation to report the facts in an unbiased manner and whose implicit or explicit endorsement of nuclear energy has led to this gross betrayal of the public good and the voters' right to be informed of the real issues at stake: shame on all of you!

Why isn't nuclear energy an election issue?
The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge And Waterloo)
Friday, October 5, 2007
Page: A15
Section: Insight

The most important and least discussed issue of the upcoming election is
the province's energy crisis. If Ontario remains on its "business as usual"
trajectory of energy use, demand will soon dangerously exceed supply.

While the NDP and the Green party support alternative options, both the
Liberals and Progressive Conservatives prefer the easy way out by continuing to
rely on nuclear energy as a major source of our electricity. These pro-nuclear
parties adhere to the view that nuclear is cost effective, reliable, and an
environmentally friendly option to fight climate change. These claims are

Calculations that show nuclear energy to be cheaper than alternatives rely
on favourable assumptions regarding construction costs and performance rates,
as well as omitting costs of handling nuclear waste and decommissioning
reactors. Ontario's past offers more of the real-world experience.

The actual costs of constructing Ontario's five existing nuclear reactors
were, on average, 100 per cent over the original estimates, while their
performance rates have been about half of what was expected, and
unforeseen shutdowns meant increased reliance on coal plants.
The $19.4 billion debt Ontario Hydro suffered, largely due to its nuclear
investments, was then off-loaded on to consumers who continue to pay
it off on every energy bill.

Such results are not isolated to Ontario. Globally, most investors and
governments have been avoiding the technology. Investment in new
capacity has dropped off steadily since peaking in the 1980s, with more
megawatts of wind power now being added worldwide than nuclear.
The average age of the 442 reactors in operation in the world today
now corresponds with the average age a reactor is shut down.
An Massachusetts Institute of Technology study concluded
that with current policies nuclear power "is just too expensive" and The
Economist found that it is "too costly to matter" as a potential energy
supply option.

Because the full lifetime of a reactor, from initial planning to final
decommission, could be over a century, committing to nuclear power for
base load supply determines the future mix of the energy supply far into the future.
As revealed by the 2003 blackout, nuclear plants have difficulty reacting to
emergency shutdowns. The United States has suffered from 51 reactor
shutdowns that have lasted for over a year. Additionally, a fire in a reactor after
Japan's recent earthquake and the flooding of a reactor in India after the
2004 tsunami show that nuclear power is vulnerable, especially to increasingly
erratic weather.

Nuclear advocates often describe nuclear power as "green" because the
fission reaction that takes place in a nuclear reactor releases no direct carbon
dioxide (CO2) emissions. The Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) claims that nuclear
energy "emits no pollutants into the air." But life-cycle analysis, which
includes emissions from relevant uranium activities and reactor
construction, show that Canada's nuclear system releases between 468,000 and
594,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. In fact, so much energy is used during
supporting processes that a recent study for the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change concludes a reactor built today is likely to consume more
energy, mostly carbon-based, during its lifetime than it produces. That makes
nuclear energy an inefficient investment to fight climate change.

Uranium mining to fuel nuclear power in Canada is also responsible for
100,000 tonnes of radioactive tailings, the leftover sludge, 2.9 million tones of
waste rock, and associated contamination of groundwater and surrounding
environments. Nuclear reactors are huge water users, with the Darlington and
Pickering facilities alone estimated to use 8.9 trillion litres per year. As well,
they are sources of routine and accidental releases of radionuclides, sulphur
dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrazine into the air. And "green" nuclear
power also generates radioactive wastes including highly-toxic substances such as
plutonium, which has a half-life of 24,300 years.

As of 2003, 1.7 million used fuel bundles were in temporary storage in
Canada, and that number is growing. More than 50 years after Canada decided to
develop nuclear power there is no long-term management plan in place. Although
burying the waste deep underground has been proposed by the Nuclear Waste
Management Organization (NWMO) and is the favoured response globally, no such
facility yet exists anywhere in the world. Such facilities must be designed to last for
approximately a million years and to secure the waste not only from the
outside environment, but also from people who might use the material for weapons,
or other destructive purposes. The NWMO estimates its proposal would cost $24
billion and take 300 years to be fully implemented.

Moving the radioactive waste from temporary storage at the different
reactors to a central storage site would require 50 truck trips per month, for 30
years. The potential for an accident or sabotage during transportation, with resulting
health and environmental damage, makes the plan risky. But most of the
risk is deflected to future generations, who must carry the burden of our
generation's electricity generation in the form of hazardous waste.

Better options exist. In order to ensure flexibility, many energy experts
favour a diverse, decentralized energy supply combined with strong demand
reduction and management programs. This is the "soft" path.

Nuclear energy, in contrast, is heavily centralized, has long lead times
and high capital costs, requires remote locations, and relies on projections of
rising demand to justify expenditures. It epitomizes the inflexible "hard"
path option.

A sustainable energy future would be based on a diverse supply -- including
wind, solar, geothermal, heat and power cogeneration, biomass, small hydro,
natural gas, efficiency -- and demand management.

A recent study by the Pembina Institute has shown that investing $18.2
billion in Ontario over 15 years could reduce projected energy demand by 41 per
cent, and the vast majority of that cost would be recovered by consumers through
energy savings. The same study found that those energy savings combined
with wind, solar, biomass, hydro, could meet 79 per cent of Ontario's projected
energy needs in 2020. With improved technology and lower costs, that
percentage would continue to grow, leaving little room for the inflexibility of
nuclear power.

Institutions around the world are showing us how, with more aggressive and
empowering policies. Spain has mandated solar PV and hot water heating in
all new construction. California has set a target of a million solar roofs by
2017. And in Austria and Sweden over a quarter of energy is supplied through
renewable sources. Germany has recently passed legislation requiring its public
utilities to buy a fixed amount of renewable energy, with the aim of replacing at
least 20 per cent of the supply by 2020. The costs of wind, solar, and geothermal
systems have all dropped exponentially over the past few decades, with a
corresponding rise in installed capacity, even in the face of receiving only a taste of
the public subsidies given to nuclear power.

Ontario is at a difficult juncture in its energy future. But that juncture
represents an opportunity for a new direction. Instead of choosing what we
know doesn't work, let's learn from other's successes and try something that
does. Instead of choosing the easy way, let's choose the smart way.

Dave Campanella is a recent graduate from University of Waterloo's
environment and resource studies program .

Warming happening faster than expected

Warming is happening faster than expected because of increased industrial activities around the world. That means the target of 94% emissions cut by 2030 (Monbiot, circa 2005) is no longer good enough. Many are calling for 100% reductions of GHG emissions by 2020. The reality is that barring a miracle we will not acheive it. Another disaster of epic proportions, such as Katrina, will be needed to wake the world out of its stupor enough to DEMAND that governments start acting. Even then it is uncertain if they will act: the media will try to spin the story in a direction consistent with the interests of the wealthy elite that own them, and peaceful mass protests may very well be met with riot police. Greenwash and voluntary measures appear to be the strategy of choice for avoiding mandatory binding targets. Canada and other industrial nations are on a collision course for disaster on several fronts: peak oil, climate change, waste production and natural resource depletion. See

Letter to CTV-TV regarding anti-environment stance of broadcaster

Attn: CTV News and editors

It concerns me that CTV broadcaster Lloyd Robertson two weeks ago stated on TV, in response to the APEC climate talks, that "Stephen Harper doesn't really want climate change. Doesn't he have a point? Canada produces only 2% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Why should we hurt ourselves economically [by complying with Kyoto?]"

Needless to say I was shocked by this commentary. This is hardly an objective or balanced point of view, especially when you consider that Canadians are among the highest emitters of CO2 in the world.

Furthermore, Canada's international reputation is now tarnished by Mr. Harper's climate change denial and position at the climate talks in favour of the Bush Administration's position -- which is effectively support Exxon Mobil, Shell and the oil and coal industries.

In fact, it seems that Mr. Robertson acted as a de facto apologist for the Harper government and the oil industry which that government has decided to represent against the wishes of the majority of Canadians. I would call this biased reporting.

If Mr. Robertson cannot relay the news regarding the APEC climate conference without adding biased comments which misrepresent the issues, his journalistic credentials are highly suspect.

And earlier this week CTV interviewed climate change denier Tim Ball, implying that he represented one side of a "debate among scientists" on the issue of global warming, but failing to inform us that Ball is funded by Exxon Mobil and that his views are overwhelmingly rejected by the vast majority of climate scientists worldwide.

Nor were we informed by CTV that Mr. Ball's "research" has never passed muster in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, whereas the emperical evidence that global warming is caused by human activity and is already resulting in global catastrophe (which will only get worse) is peer-reviewed by every major scientific body addressing the issue in every industrialized nation. The peer-reviewed consensus on climate change is overwhelmingly indisuptable. CTV, by airing Mr. Ball's interview, falsely portrayed a debate where none exists and is therefore (again) biased and irresponsible.

Additionally, I found an online article at your site on climate change denial, reprinted from the from the Canadian Press

Again, it is an altogether biased article in that it fails to mention that their work is not peer-reviewed and is therefore entirely without scientific merit) and fails to articulate the peer-reviewed scientifically accurate account of what is actually happening.

Additionally, I have reviewed CTV's online coverage of the issues at

This is far more balanced than the other online piece, and it is a shame that Mr. Robertson and the editors of the CTV News do not reflect this more balanced perspective.

Even so, I have a few words of criticism for this article. I find that it focuses far too much on the idea that there be will some great economic burden placed on Canada by complying with Kyoto targets. This is an idea advanced largely by the Harper government, but it fails to acknowledge 1) the argument for a thriving market based on green technology, as exemplified by California, 2) the economic costs of not acting, as illustrated by the Blair government's famous Stern report (which applies to global economies), and 3) it fails to mention the rather obvious point that economic benefit will mean very little if human civilization collapses as a result of catastrophic climate change. These are well known points that the article
could have covered.

The economic argument, used in this way, is the result of a narrow-minded worldview -- that of some economists and politicians -- and to suggest that it should be the primary consideration of news commentary is misleading. Of course the new media tends to focus on conflict and the economic debate is where the conflict is, but if so then at least present an alternative economic perspective, as exemplified by the Stern Report.

Lastly, your online article mentions George Monbiot's suggested target of 90% by 2030, but does not mention that he illustrates that it is both possible and necessary to do this. Please read the first few chapters of the book to understand why this is so.

I am writing primarily to ask that your new broadcasters not continue with biased reporting in faviour of Stephen Harper's position or in defense of continued action on global warming, since that is not good journalism and nor is it socially or morally or environmentally repsponsible.

Paul York
on behalf of Students Against Climate Change, U of T


Caption: The U.S. mass media has climate change deniers on TV and in print everday. They are all paid by the fossil fuel industry. CTV appears to be part of the much larger climate change denial industry. To see videos of Republicans in Washington D.C. who employ this rhetoric, see the Think Progress website.

Exxon Mobil: the world's largest and most evil corporation, contributing more than any other entity (besides the United States government) to inaction on climate change, by funding the climate change denial (and skepticism) industry. This illustration equates Exxon with crucifixion - an appropriate symbol for killing life on Earth (See Matthew 25:40 for Biblical support for justice for "the least of mine")

Global Warming Sucks! For U o T life science students

Caption: A "moulin" ice-melt river in the Greenland ice mass. It is melting faster than scientists first anticipated, leading to fears that rising ocean levels will displace tens of millions of people by 2050 AD.

Caption: victim of Katrina

Caption: Our violent culture, killing one another and the natural world. Perhaps Freud was right, that we human beings are possessed by a "death instinct" (Thanatos)? Or is it the technological culture we have created? Non-violence and justice must go hand in hand with sustainability - both require a shift in our ethics and culture, at a fundamental level.

Caption: Greenland ice melt illustration

Caption: According to one measurement, 35 million cars have so far been produced in 2007. See World Clock, which also measures global temperature increase.

Caption: as flights decrease in price, worldwide, more and more people are flying. There is no known technology to make aviation emit fewer GHGs now being implemented. The only way to drastically reduces CO2 and water vapour (a GHG) is to not fly.

Caption: native American protestor being brutalized by police. Non-violent native protests over land claims are an emerging facet of what is now termed "climate justice" and "climate racism." Protests at Sharbot Lake, Caledonia, and the tar sands have demonstrated a clear link between the struggle for indigenous rights and environmental preservation from development.

Caption: Asulan Glacier National Park showing receeding ice due to global temperature increase. Dozens of glaciers across the world are melting. They supply water to hundreds of millions of people. Drought and diseases caused by lack of fresh water will be the number one source of famine and death in this century and the next.


We are living on this planet as though we have another one to go to

Peer-reviewed science confirms the effects of man-made climate change:

• Catastrophic loss of both human and non-human life
• Loss of 15 to 37% of all species / loss of biodiversity
• Economic and social collapse / wars over scarce resources
• Man-made climate already kills 150,000 + per year
Source: United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Canadians are morally and politically obligated to act:

• Canadians emit 17.9 tonnes of CO2 per person per year, or
about 100 times more than the average person in Africa
• Alberta tar sands is a major supplier to the U.S. oil market
• The Harper government has continually hindered critical
progress at international climate talks and is now considered
a member of the “Axis of Evil” (Canada, U.S. and Australia)

Are you sick and tired of political inaction by corrupt politicians?
You can do your part by helping us organize and educate on campus.

Global Climate Change Day of Action, December 8th (D8)

Demand the following:

• That Canada abide by its Kyoto obligations
• Invest heavily in clean safe renewable energy, not fossil fuels
• Invest in public transportation and conservation programs
• An end to public subsidies of the tar sands and their expansion
• An end to oil exploration in the Arctic and wasteful militarization
• Better protection for boreal forests and endangered species
• And closer to home: demand that U of T stop investing in Exxon Mobil
which finances climate change denial) and others fossil
fuel corporations

Canadians want real action and tough laws on the environment!
Students should be leading the climate fight. It is our future at stake!

Brought to you by Students Against Climate Change at U of T
Tel: 416-922-0035 / Email:

Caption: illustration showing gasoline use. The U.S. consumes more gas than many other nations combined. Most of the tar sands oil is exported south of the border to feed the U.S. war machine and car culture.

Caption: Energy Autonomy by Dr. Hermann Scheer, outlining his solution for Germany. There is no reason Canada cannot emulate this model. The reality is that, despite the rhetoric of politicians here, we have not even begun to try. Suburbs which cannot be heated 100 years from now are still being built, the auto industry is still be subsidized at the expense of public transportation, renewables are not being invested on a scale they deserve, and conservation is non-existant.

Caption: A real danger of the climate crisis, beyond the disasterous effects caused by climate change itself, is that it will be used as a pretext for totalitarianism by centralized states, working with corporations. The U.S., with its Patriot Act and infringement on civil liberties, is headed toward a future not unlike that depicted in Orwell's 1984.

The students have to be leaders ...

This article appeared in "The Underground," a U of T newspaper, Sept. 04

U of T students take one step at a time
by Anthony Geremia

“The students have to be leaders; there’s a lot riding on this."

Sarah Dover, environmental lawyer and member of Greenpeace, is aware of the hardships that come with being an environmentalist. “If you feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and powerless,” she said, “you are having a healthy reaction to the fact of environmental crisis in our time.”

University of Toronto activists,Students Against Climate Change (SACC), had one of their weekly meetings on July 20 at the St. George campus.

The group, in the words of one of its founders, Paul York, was created out of “a need among the student population. What’s shocking [to] me is that we don’t have mass movement on campuses across the country.”

SACC recently joined the Closed Doors Campaign, which travels to downtown Toronto to convince retailers to shut their doors in the summer to reduce air conditioning.

Sarah Dover, who said she leads a funky professional life where she does environmental campaigning, was present that night to discuss the dilemma of nuclear energy in Ontario, warning about the crisis to come.

“Our nuclear system is aging and failing,” she said. “The lie or liability of nuclear power is being revealed.”

With an Ontario provincial election on Oct. 10, this becomes even more important, Dover said. She said the fate of power generation in Ontario literally rests on its outcome, one of the key components of the election being the direction Ontarians move in, nuclear or otherwise.

“Globally, the nuclear industry is dying and its great hope for breakthrough is Ontario,” Dover said.

Dover talked about the Vote for Clean Energy campaign, describing it as a group devoted to taking direct action, keeping the voters informed, and hoping to influence the election for the better.

According to Paul York, people are still skeptical that air and windpower can provide the province with enough energy, and that nuclear power is the only way to keep the lights on. In reality, he said, Ontario has more than enough renewable resources to keep things running smoothly, it is just that people have not taken advantage them.

“If we’re not working on it, I can guarantee you no one else is,” York said. “You can’t count on [the governments] to do anything, they have to be lobbied constantly, and they’re followers, not leaders. The students have to be leaders...building a clean, safe, renewable future, and there’s a lot riding on this.”

Caption: the nuclear industry got a 'sweetheart deal' with McGuinty's promise to hand over $46 billion in taxpayers' money.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

We should all be doing more than we are ...

Al Gore, James Hansen, and Civil Disobedience

by Gordon Clark, September 01, 2007

In his recent global warming op-ed in the New York Times ("The Big Melt," August 16, 2007) , Nicholas Kristof reported on a conversation with Al Gore in which the former Vice-President said: "I can't understand why there aren't rings of young people blocking bulldozers, and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants." His comment was a reaction to the ever- quickening pace of polar ice meltoff, with all its catastrophic implications, and the huge role played by coal-fired power plants in advancing our demise through global warming.

Gore's comment was also strikingly similar to a recent quote from Dr. James Hansen, the top climate scientist at NASA: "It seems to me that young people, especially, should be doing whatever is necessary to block construction of dirty (no CCS) coal-fired power plants."

What does it mean when one of the top scientific leaders ringing the alarm on global warming, along with a top political leader, both suggest, in so many words, nonviolent direct action (or civil disobedience) to confront the challenge of climate change?

Clearly both men must realize the importance of nonviolent resistance in social change efforts of this magnitude and agree, if only subconsciously, with historian Howard Zinn's observation that "Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy. It is absolutely essential to it." (Dr. Hansen, for his part, goes on to quote the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution at some length.)

Gore and Hansen must both know that nonviolent direct action has been a significant catalyst in nearly every major social change movement in U.S. (and world) history, starting in this country with the Boston Tea Party and extending through the anti-slavery, woman's suffrage, labor rights, civil rights, environmental and anti-war movements. Nonviolent direct action can dramatize an injustice or danger to the general public as few other actions can. It both provokes other people to act and speak - often people who had previously been silent - and it opens up political space for them to do so. Nonviolent actions are acts of courage that inspire others to follow. They are acts of leadership.

The twin quotes also reflect the extraordinary urgency of our predicament. As Jay Gulledge, senior scientist at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, notes in Kristof's column, "Over and over again, we're finding that models correctly predict the patterns of change but understate their magnitude."

Or their speed. According to the May 2007 report from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, polar ice is melting significantly faster than computer models of climate calculate, and the Arctic Sea could be free of summer ice by 2020 - 30 years earlier than the recent prediction by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Clearly, we are running out of time.

What is strikingly curious about the quotes, however, is the suggestion by both men that "young people" need to be doing this. Clearly young people will have to suffer the disastrous effects of global warming longer than older people. But that does not make the responsibility any less on the older heads among us to take any and all actions necessary to stop the planet-destroying calculus of carbon emissions. Indeed, one would think that those who are older are more culpable for the current condition of our planet than those who are younger, and therefore more responsible for taking dramatic action to confront the crisis.

I would also imagine that young people (and I can only imagine, being middle-aged myself) are, while grateful for recognition of their vital role in the movement, probably less than enthusiastic to have this particular imperative dumped on them and them alone.

Personally, I pray for and will gladly follow leadership from any quarter and age group. But I expect it from those in the climate change movement who are older, more experienced, and more influential. Especially when it comes to nonviolent resistance. I know, for instance, that when I or younger activists organize nonviolent direct actions, a relative few people will hear and join us, and we are lucky to get more than a few stories outside the independent media. If Al Gore were to actually call for and lead such an action it is likely that thousands would join him, and the story would be splashed across the mainstream media for all of America to see.

None of this should be read as criticism of Mr. Gore's incredible efforts on global warming. He has arguably been the single most effective (and active) person on the planet in raising the clarion call. But perhaps now his leadership is requiring even more of him. After all, if you truly recognize the extreme emergency and catastrophic danger inherent in global warming, how long can one wait before taking the most dramatic, effective and necessary actions in response - as opposed to wondering out loud why those younger and less influential than yourself aren't doing so?

Of course, this is a question that everyone who understands the reality of global warming needs to be asking themselves right now. How long can any of us wait? As with all revolutionary changes, forging a new, sustainable society will require us to take risks, make sacrifices, and endure suffering - all hallmarks of nonviolence. And nonviolent blockades of coal-fired power plants, Mr. Gore and Dr. Hansen are correct in noting, would be an excellent place to start.

Gordon Clark is the convener of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance,