Opinion

Wed, 2015-04-15 12:49Guest
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China’s Disastrous Pollution Problem Is A Lesson For All

V.T. Polywoda via Flickr CC

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Beijing’s 21 million residents live in a toxic fog of particulate matter, ozone, sulphur dioxide, mercury, cadmium, lead and other contaminants, mainly caused by factories and coal burning. Schools and workplaces regularly shut down when pollution exceeds hazardous levels. People have exchanged paper and cotton masks for more elaborate, filtered respirators. Cancer has become the leading cause of death in the city and throughout the country.

Chinese authorities, often reluctant to admit to the extent of any problem, can no longer deny the catastrophic consequences of rampant industrial activity and inadequate regulations. According to Bloomberg News, Beijing’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says that, although life expectancy doubled from 1949 to 2011, “the average 18-year-old Beijinger today should prepare to spend as much as 40 percent of those remaining, long years in less than full health, suffering from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis, among other ailments.”

China’s government also estimates that air pollution prematurely kills from 350,000 to 500,000 residents every year.* Water and soil pollution are also severe throughout China.

The documentary film Under the Dome, by Chinese journalist Chai Jing, shows the extent of the air problem. The film was viewed by more than 150 million Chinese in its first few days, apparently with government approval. Later it was censored, showing how conflicted authorities are over the problem and its possible solutions. The pollution problem also demonstrates the ongoing global conflict between economic priorities and human and environmental health.

Rather than seeing China’s situation as a warning, many people in Canada and the U.S. — including in government — refuse to believe we could end up in a similar situation here. And so U.S. politicians fight to block pollution-control regulations and even to remove the power of the Environmental Protection Agency, or shut it down altogether! In Canada, politicians and pundits argue that environmental protection is too costly and that the economy takes precedence.

Fri, 2015-04-10 09:40Scott Vrooman
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VIDEO: Canada Has a Troubling Definition of 'Threat'

CSIS, C-51

The government defines a threat completely differently than a citizen does.

We think of threats as violence, things that could physically hurt us. But to a government that also includes anything that could reduce its power.

So currently the definition of threats in the CSIS Act includes ‘foreign influenced activities detrimental to the interests of Canada.’

That doesn’t sound violent. That could describe a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band in Hamilton.

Watch me break it down in this video:

Tue, 2015-04-07 16:56Guest
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Oiling The Machinery Of Climate Change Denial And Transit Opposition

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Brothers Charles and David Koch run Koch Industries, the second-largest privately owned company in the U.S., behind Cargill. They’ve given close to US$70 million to climate change denial front groups, some of which they helped start, including Americans for Prosperity, founded by David Koch and a major force behind the Tea Party movement.

Through their companies, the Kochs are the largest U.S. leaseholder in the Alberta oilsands. They’ve provided funding to Canada’s pro-oil Fraser Institute and are known to fuel the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory, which claims a 1992 UN non-binding sustainable development proposal is a plot to remove property rights and other freedoms.

Researchers reveal they’re also behind many anti-transit initiatives in the U.S., in cities and states including Nashville, Indianapolis, Boston, Virginia, Florida and Los Angeles. They spend large amounts of money on campaigns to discredit climate science and the need to reduce greenhouse gases, and they fund sympathetic politicians.

Fri, 2015-04-03 12:07Kai Nagata
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Climate Change is Not a Left-Right Issue

This is a guest post by Kai Nagata, energy and democracy director at the Dogwood Initiative. 

Climate change shouldn’t be a left-wing versus right-wing political issue. I might take some flak for saying this, but “progressives” who claim only they have the correct ideas to fix the world are guilty of terrible hubris. And for “conservatives” to align themselves uncritically with global oil corporations betrays either intellectual laziness or cowardice.

All of us have a moral obligation to leave things better off for our kids. We might have different priorities or policy ideas, but at the end of the day we have to share this country — and parliament. And whether you believe in climate change or not, its social and economic impacts will eventually affect all of our lives.

The choice we face is whether to hunker down into polarized political camps, or reach out and find ways to work together.

Wed, 2015-04-01 12:16Guest
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Water Is Life; We Can’t Afford To Waste It

This is a guest post by David Suzuki. 

How long can you go without water? You could probably survive a few weeks without water for cooking. If you stopped washing, the threat to your life might only come from people who can’t stand the smell. But most people won’t live for more than three days without water to drink. It makes sense: our bodies are about 65 per cent water.

Tue, 2015-03-31 14:51Carol Linnitt
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Canada Will Miss Its Climate Target And We’ll All Miss Out

I don’t think anyone in Canada expects our good country to meet its climate target — even with the imminent pressure of the UNFCCC meeting in Paris later this year weighing down on our collective shoulders.

We have no reason to harbour that expectation given that our own federal government via Environment Canada has been telling us for years that Canada is running off the climate track and — because of growing emissions largely from the oil and gas sector — we are getting farther and farther away from meeting our government's self-imposed climate targets.

Because of that climate failure, Canada is holding all of us back from prosperity, jobs and better health.

That’s according to a new study of benefits from international emission pledges made in the lead up to December’s UN climate summit.

Developed countries around the world — with the exception of Canada and Japan — are unveiling their individual climate plans, which are due today.

Tue, 2015-03-24 17:58Guest
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Who Says a Better World is Impossible?

This is a guest post by David Suzuki

Cars, air travel, space exploration, television, nuclear power, high-speed computers, telephones, organ transplants, prosthetic body parts… At various times these were all deemed impossible. I’ve been around long enough to have witnessed many technological feats that were once unimaginable. Even 10 or 20 years ago, I would never have guessed people would carry supercomputers in their pockets — your smart phone is more powerful than all the computers NASA used to put astronauts on the moon in 1969 combined!

Despite a long history of the impossible becoming possible, often very quickly, we hear the “can’t be done” refrain repeated over and over — especially in the only debate over global warming that matters: What can we do about it? Climate change deniers and fossil fuel industry apologists often argue that replacing oil, coal and gas with clean energy is beyond our reach. The claim is both facile and false.

Facile because the issue is complicated. It’s not simply a matter of substituting one for the other. To begin, conservation and efficiency are key. We must find ways to reduce the amount of energy we use — not a huge challenge considering how much people waste, especially in the developed world. False because rapid advances in clean energy and grid technologies continue to get us closer to necessary reductions in our use of polluting fossil fuels.

Fri, 2015-03-20 11:55Scott Vrooman
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What's More Worrying? Bill C-51 or the Fact That So Many People Don't Know What's In It?

Far more disturbing than what’s in Bill C-51 is the fact that most Canadians don’t seem to care about it. I don’t know if they’re scared, or uninformed, or think Earth will soon be knocked off its axis by a rogue planet sending us all hurtling into the sun so nothing matters anyway. In any case, here are a few reminders.

Free speech is important. Once you allow speech you don’t like to be criminalized, you’re allowing the government to create a list of illegal ideas. That list will expand no matter which party is in power. Once a state outlaws a few kinds of speech, it gets all jacked up and has to keep that buzz going and before you know it they’ve snorted up a whole pile of them and have you cornered at a party talking your ear off about politics.

Tue, 2015-03-17 10:00Emma Gilchrist
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Do Review on Site C, Says Joint Panel Chief

This piece originally appeared in the Times Colonist.

At a cost of $8.8 billion, the construction of the Site C dam would entail the largest outlay of taxpayer money in B.C. history.

That’s 18 times the cost of B.C.’s fast ferries, or 11 times the cost of a sewage-treatment facility for the Capital Regional District. Heck, it’s the most expensive infrastructure project currently proposed in all of Canada.

Yet a BC Hydro survey in July 2014 found only six in 10 British Columbians had even heard of the project.

Perhaps that’s because Site C, proposed for near Fort St. John, is out of sight, out of mind for the vast majority of British Columbians. The dam — given the green light by the province a week before Christmas — would be the third on the Peace River and, if built, would flood the river valley for 107 kilometres, affecting 13,000 hectares of agricultural land.

The province has capitalized on the “out of sight, out of mind” factor to try to get away with ignoring recommendations made by its own expert panel.

Mon, 2015-03-16 14:03Guest
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Raven Coal proposal May Not Be Gone For Good, But We’re Winning the Social Licence Battle

This is a guest post by Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, an organization working with local groups and individuals to stop the Raven Coal Mine.

Monday, March 2nd was a tense day for those of us monitoring the Raven Coal Mine proposal. After a 30-day screening period, the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) was set to announce whether or not the application to mine close to 30 million tonnes of coal and rock in the Comox Valley would advance to final environmental review.

Then, just hours before the announcement, proponent Compliance Energy abruptly withdrew its application.

Frankly, this took us by surprise. The company’s first proposal was rejected by the EAO in May 2013 because it was missing hundreds of pages of required information. When Compliance made its resubmission earlier this year, the company stated it was confident that all previous shortcomings had been addressed and the application was complete.

But as we’ve seen with other controversial, ecosystem-threatening proposals  from the Northern Gateway pipeline to the New Prosperity Mine in Tsilhqot’in Territory  projects don’t move ahead if they don’t have social licence.

And on that front, Compliance Energy isn’t even close.

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