Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bali conference a success?

Caption: Canada won the "Fossil Award" at the Bali conference 25 times, matching U.S.A. for "Fossil of the Year" award. See

There is so much to report from Bali, it is hard to know where to begin.

See Globe & Mail coverage for an overview:

Warning: the G & M report puts a positive spin on Bali, which masks the problem of agreeing to limit emissions with no mechanisms in place for doing so.

One one level Bali was a success in that it helped acheive some degree of international solidarity against the Axis of Evil (which now includes Canada). But it was also a failure insofar as binding targets of 80% or more were not committed to. The agreement is only as good as the willingness of the participants to enforce it. A strong criticism of the Bali talks can be found at Monbiot's site:

Canada (through John Baird) obstructed the entire proceeding, but then at the last minute backed down in the face of international solidarity against the United States' intransigent position. What it means is that yet again Canada as signed onto something they have no intention of keeping. Would the Liberals do better? It remains to be seen.

The Baird/Harper deference to the fossil fuel industry is criminal and easily comparable to the Holocaust in terms of its implications for human life (a comparison first made famous by Monbiot).

Caption: Young environmentalists at D8 warn of the ill health effects caused by climate change: malaria is predicted to come to Canada in their lifetimes due to rising temperatures. Toxic fungi are also expected to flourish in the 40 degree Celsius temperatures.

The reality of the urgency of global warming is now forcing world leaders towards solidarity against the Axis of Evil: Japan, Saudi Arabia, United States and Canada. Real mechanims for change exist but are not being put into place on a wide scale. The key issue is implementation. Signing on and implementing these promises are two different things.

Meanwhile, Germany's latest reforms (40% by 2020 based on 1990 levels) and strong enforcement mechanisms puts Canada to shame. The German government appears to take its committment seriously; clearly we need a government in place that will do the same.

Despite the failings of the Liberals (hypocrisy, corruption, inactoin) Dion seems committed; at this point Canada could not do worse than it has in recent years under Harper.

The sooner we have an election in Canada the better. This will require the Canadian people to think and act conscientiously; it is not entirely certain whether they will do so. Canadians are among the most wasteful people on the planet. It will take more than an election or an international agreement to change them: it will likely take a sharp increase in the price of commodities and fuel to spark real change.


Caption: Photo of Streets Are for People organizer Michal Johnson playing his trumpet in front of 2,500 Kyoto Now activists at Dundas Square on Dec. 8, 2007.

Why do we not protest?

The Toronto D8 rally last Saturday had about 2,500 to 3,000 people participating in it, but the media only reported 500 (To. Sun) and "hundreds" (NOW mag). Why? I can understand the Sun, but not NOW. It is strange, probably reflective of the bias of a single reporter.

The Toronto D8 was a relatively big environmental rally because it pulled in a lot of labour and peace activists. In Toronto it was the result of a lot of volunteer organizing by non-environmentalists and environmentals working together. Around the world, some 70 nations participated, making it the biggest worldwide rally for the environment in history.

The fact that it was not 100,000 to 1 million in Toronto alone (which it ought to be, given the gravity of climate change) is simply a result of the fact that Canadians, and especially Torontonians are for the most part politically inactive as compared to western Europeans for example. Have you ever wondered why? Here are three answers:

1) The government is to blame. George Monbiot says in one of his columns, "I looked up from the paper [warning of immanent global catastrophe], almost expecting to see crowds stampeding through the streets. I saw people chatting outside a riverside pub. The other passengers on the train snoozed over their newspapers or played on their mobile phones. Unaware of the causes of our good fortune, blissfully detached from their likely termination, we drift into catastrophe."

Monbiot, in the rest of the column, blames the government for this predicament (see He suggests that the UK government misleads the public by promising to address climate change and failing to do so. That is certainly true here as well (i.e. Harper's greenwash), but not the entire picture. Citizens are responsible, ultimately and they must hold governments accountable. As Al Gore says, "political will is a renewable resource."

2) Technology and capitalism are to blame. A deeper answer is that entertainment through television (as an instrument of unsustainable capitalism) is to blame: according to several theorists, we are continually distracted from the reality of our collective condition by ads, Internet, tv, and entertainment masquerading as news. See Jerry Mander's _Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television_. Or see this video in which Mander addresses future generations and compares corporate hegemony and sustainable societies.

Al Gore has made the connection between inaction on climate change and the distraction that television provides in his book The Assault on Reason. In it he diagnoses the failure of American participatory democracy, which includes "low voter turnout, rampant voter cynicism, an ill-informed electorate, political campaigns dominated by 30-second television ads, and an increasingly conglomerate-controlled media landscape."

Thomas Berry notes that "The time has come to lower our voices, to cease imposing our mechanistic patterns on the biological processes of the earth, to resist the impulse to control, to command, to force, to oppress, and to begin quite humbly to follow the guidance of the larger community on which all life depends."

3) Activists are too optimistic. Ross Glebspann, in a recent article, offers another point of view, which starts out unfairly critical of the "hollow optimism" of climate activists to promoting the idea that we can solve the climate crisis. Perhaps he is referring to the glib kind of environmental activism which is a kind of hobby.

For example, the climate talks represent a delusional sort of thinking: agreements are made which are not kept; the public is satisfied but little is accomplished.

In any case, Glebspann provides a thought-provoking and honest meditation on the state of the climate crisis, emphasizing that we are entering "uncharted territory": Glebspann has to be given credit for saying that we have to face up to the reality that much is already lost. Perhaps if we acknowledged the gravity of the situation the public would start to pay attention?

4) Human nature is tragically flawed. Freud advances this idea with his concept of Thanatos, the "death-instinct." We are predisposed to self-destruction, he essentially says. Perhaps this true, I don't know. A good post-apocalyptic meditation is provided native elder Oren Lyons. He turns the thesis that the Earth is fragile on its head: we human beings are fragile and instruments of our demise. Humanity may become extinct, but the Earth will eventually "regenerate. The rivers, the waters, the mountains; everything will be green again. Because the Earth has all the time in the world. But we don't." To see all the interviews ("time capsules") from that movie go to

Conclusion: whether or not we disappear from the face of the Earth, we do have to keep trying to do what is morally just by living more sustainably. In a way, the D8 experience is a microcosm of the course that humanity needs to embark on: an attempt, despite difficult circumstances, to make things right. There will be difficulties along the way but in the end we have no choice but to work with one another towards a life-affirmative socially just solution.

Caption: Photo of Streets Are for People "petition car" at D8 rally, Toronto.


Caption: Photo from D8

Thoughts occasioned by calling the PM's office on the last day of the Bali talks

I just called the PM's office over the climate talks, as suggested by Barbara Hayes of CYCC. I was transferred to automated voice mail which did not take a message because the machine was full. I called back and was transferred again and this time left a message.

I urged Minister Baird to stop blocking progress at Bali and to work with the rest of the world (Japan and the U.S. excluded) towards targets that are absolute and science-based (not intensity-based), based on 1990 levels (not 2005 levels) and which exceed 20% by 2020. Germany just announced a plan to go for 40% by 2020, based on 1990 levels. Why can't Canada move in that direction?

It is fairly obvious to any and everyone inclined towards rational thought that the PM is intransigent on this issue, and needs to be voted out of office (or better yet impeached). He had his chance and blew it. Baird's performance at Bali is nothing less than criminal.

It is entirely possible that in the distant future Canada will be remembered for only one thing: our role as climate criminals. In this sense, Baird is somewhat like Adloph Eichmann: an unremarkable man in a position of great power who is using that power to commit a great evil for the sake of self-interest and careerism.

With the exception of CYCC and other such activists, the vast majority of Canadians sit by while our representatives help the fossil fuel industry to destroy irreplaceable biodiversity, murder billions of human beings, and endanger life on this planet.

In this sense Canadians are comparable to a majority of Germans in the 1930s in terms of their complicity in allowing murder to occur in their name. I do not think the Holocaust comparison (first made by George Monbiot and echoed by Elizabeth May) is too strong if you consider that 1) people are already dying in droves due to c.c., 2) many millions more will die before this century is over. We may very well see the equivalent of a Nuremburg Trial for climate criminals in our lifetimes.

Let us hope that we can correct this mess before it comes to that. Like you I am not overly optimistic, but we have to keep trying. After all, what other options are there?

Caption: Photo of DianneLynn Cartwright, clown activist, at D8. Dianne was helped in the student march from U of T on Dec. 8th.

Photo of environmentalist Angela Bischoff in a reflective moment

Posting from Angela Bischoff from last week

"When you warn people about the dangers of climate change, they call you asaint. When you explain what needs to be done to stop it, they call you acommunist." -

George Monbiot


The Canadian wilderness is set to be invaded by BP in an oil explorationproject dubbed ... 'The biggest environmental crime in history' -- the tarsands.


Quebec is the first Canadian province to adopt California's stringentauto-emissions standards for cars and light trucks (including mini-vans). The new standards will come into effect between 2010 and 2016. Manufacturers will have to reduce emissions by 30 per cent. Will otherprovinces follow suit? Can your premiere and ask him to follow the lead ofQuebec!



US, Canada now tied for first place in running for "Fossil of the Year" Third prize:

CANADA Canada takes third for walking out of a high-level negotiation meeting long before the end of a crucial discussion. Yesterday, a "Friends of the Chair" meeting brought together 40 key ministers to work through tough issues that officials had not been able to resolve. In the midst of this, Canadian Environment Minister John Baird abruptly got up and left. Where was he going? He was spotted moments later holding a drink at a negotiation-free cocktail reception.

Second prize: UNITED STATES of AMERICA The United States seizes second place for taking 20 of its alotted 5 minutes at this morning's high-level roundtable on technology transfer -- and using the time to talk about, well, anything but technology transfer. (Highlights included a discussion of the joys of nuclear energy and "clean coal.") Throughout the COP, the USA has praised technology, but prevented progress on funding its spread through the developing world. On climate change, the USA is all tech, no transfer.

Dishonourable Mention for AUSTRALIA Australia wins a rare "dishonourable mention" for claiming leadership onclimate change -- yet staying silent as the US, Canada, Japan, and Russiastrip the Bali road map of the one piece of truly critical substance: the emissions cut range of 25-40% by 2020. As the saying goes, all it takesfor Bush to flourish is for good prime ministers to do nothing. Australia:leading through silence.

First prize: USA, CANADA, JAPAN, and RUSSIA The USA, Canada, Japan, and Russia share top honours--er, bottom dishonours--for relentlessly blocking any reference to the 25-40% cuts by 2020 in the Bali road map. The science couldn't be clearer that cuts in this range are necessary to avert the worst of the climate crisis. Russia initiated the removal of the targets several days ago, and the USA, Canada, and Japan have fought to ensure that they don't come back in. It's like they're piloting the Titanic, refusing to change course; except instead of merely hitting icebergs, they're melting them.

The Fossil-of-the-day Award is given nightly at 6pm at to countries that block progress at the United Nations climate change negotiations. The winners are chosen by a vote of the Climate Action Network, which comprises more than 400 NGOs from every world region, each afternoon. The awards are presented by the international youth delegation and MC'd by Ben Wikler of, an international online advocacy group. find past winners listed at:



Just after 6:30 pm, Wednesday, December 12, Santa and several of his elves were arrested for trying to deliver lumps of coal to Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper. ACT for the Earth is calling for their immediate release and an end to Canada’s sabotage of the UN climate talks in Bali, Indonesia.

At the UN Climate Talks in Bali, Canada has become an international pariah. For it's actions at the crucial negotiations to determine a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the Canadian government has been harshly criticized by diplomats, environmentalists, the European Union and many others, including Rajendra K. Pachauri, chair of the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“Not only were there no milk and cookies, but I wasn’t even able to deliver little Stephen’s gift,” said Santa in a statement relayed from an Ottawa jail by Donner and Blitzen, after he and his elves were arrested for engaging in non-violent civil disobedience. “If anyone has broken the law it is Stephen,” the statement continued, noting the Canadian Prime Minister’s disregard for Canada’s legal obligations internationally to the Kyoto Protocol and domestically to the Kyoto Implementation Act. Santa who has drawn a line in the Tarsands is calling on all good Canadians to tell Stephen Harper to stop being naughty in Bali. “It istime for Canada to stop blocking the climate consensus in Bali that could save the North Pole and the rest of the world,” Santa concluded.

Caption: Santa and an elf in the police paddy wagon, Dec. 12th.


Stephen Harper at the House of Commons (613) 992-4211 Stephen Harper's Constituency Office (403) 253-7990 John Baird: 613-990-7720 Prime Minister’s Privy Council Office: 613-957-5153

To send messages of support to Santa and his elves contact:

Caption: the fate of many a good activist trying to improve the world.


MEDIA RELEASE For Immediate Release

December 12, 2007


In an open letter to the Prime Minister and opposition leaders, Greenpeace, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Ecojustice(formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund) today urged federal Members of Parliament not to override the decision by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to shut down the nuclear reactor at Chalk River. Thegroups are calling for a public investigation of mismanagement by AtomicEnergy of Canada Limited (AECL) in failing to commission replacement reactors for the fifty-year-old NRU reactor, and its failure to adhere to CNSC safety regulations.

“Canada’s Parliament has sent a clear signal to the nuclear industry: Canada's nuclear safety regulator has no teeth or authority,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Energy and Climate campaigner with Greenpeace. Last night, all parties agreed to fast-track Bill C-38, which will allow AECL to bypass the requirements of the CNSC and restart the National Research Universal (NRU) Reactor at its Chalk River Laboratories, 100 km north-west of Ottawa.

In November, CNSC staff discovered that AECL had failed to install emergency power systems to the 50 year-old reactor aspromised, and required AECL to meet safety requirements before restarting the reactor, causing the cessation of radioisotope production. "The Harper government and the opposition parties have put the fox incharge of the hen house,” said Stensil. “The CNSC is typically a lap dogto nuclear industry.

When it says a reactor should be shut down, there is clearly a significant threat to public safety." Canadians are rightfully outraged by the current shortage of radioisotopes due to AECL's failure to properly maintain safety standards at the NRUreactor, but an independent regulator is needed to ensure nuclear safety. Any solution to the current radioisotope shortage must include a public investigation of the root cause - AECL’s failure to build two new reactorson time and on budget. This forced AECL to ask the regulator to extendthe life of NRU, which was set for shutdown in 2005 and shares design flaws with the Chernobyl reactor design.

"The bargain Canadian society has made to operate highly risky nuclear technology is that there is oversight by an independent regulator. Whilefar from perfect, it is the only assurance the public has that nuclear plants are being held to a set of safety standards. Bypassing the CNSC onserious safety issues completely undermines the basis for nuclear plantoperation in Canada," said Theresa McClenaghan, executive director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “The existence of an independent expert regulator to oversee nuclear operations is essential,” said Ecojustice lawyer Hugh Wilkins.

“An immediate resolution of the radioisotope shortage is crucial, but it must not come at the expense of the independence and credibility of theregulator or the safety of Canadians.”


For more info, please contact: Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Greenpeace, cell (416) 884 7053 (English/French)Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel, CELA (416) 662 8341 Jode Roberts, Ecojustice (416) 368 7533 ext 25

Caption: photo of tar sands from Tar sands edition of The Dominion out of Halifax.

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