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Sun, 2014-03-30 14:06Carol Linnitt
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Why, When We Know So Much, Are We Doing So Little?: Jim Hoggan on the Polluted Environment and the Polluted Public Square

jim hoggan, the polluted public square

Speak the truth, but not to punish.”

These are the words the famous Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh told DeSmogBlog and DeSmog Canada founder, president and contributor Jim Hoggan one afternoon in a conversation about environmental advocacy and the collapse of productive public discourse.

Over the course of three years Hoggan has engaged the minds of communications specialists, philosophers, leading public intellectuals and spiritual leaders while writing a book designed to address the bewildering question: “why, when we know so much about the global environmental crisis, are we doing so little?”

Hoggan recently recounted some of the insights he has gained into this question when he spoke at the Walrus Talks “The Art of Conversation.”

He begins with the basic axiom shared by cognitive scientist Dan Kahan, “just as you can pollute the natural environment, you can pollute public conversations.” From that the logic follows – if we’re serious about resolving our environmental problems, we are going to have to attend equally to the state of our public discourse.

In Canada, says Hoggan, we face particular challenges when it comes to polluted pubic conversations, especially with the heightened tenor of rhetoric regarding environmentalism and energy issues surrounding the oilsands and proposed pipelines.

The ethical oil, foreign funded radicals campaign,” he says, “has made Canadians less able to weigh facts honestly, disagree constructively, and think things through collectively.”

Wed, 2014-02-26 09:55Russell Blinch
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Harper‘s Support for Democracy Falls Short at Home

obama harper north american leaders summit

Do democracy and freedom begin at home for Prime Minister Stephen Harper?

Recently the Prime Minister told Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych he will be judged on his actions, not words, as violence against the country’s pro-democracy protesters steadily escalates. Harper signed a joint statement at the North American leaders summit in Toluca, Mexico, saying “[the leaders] agreed they will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure that actions mirror words.”

The Prime Minister also called for an emergency debate in Parliament this week, saying “we understand that this violence is occurring because the majority of the population is very worried about the steps taken by their government that very much remind them of their anti-democratic and Soviet past.”

While Canadians will no doubt be relieved to see the country and its leadership take a meaningful stance against the oppression and violence of President Yanukovych’s regime, there’s sure to be some cognitive dissonance associated with Harper as a ‘democracy-for-the-people’ spokesperson here at home.

Mon, 2013-12-23 13:32Guest
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Are You an Eco-Jihadist?

This is a guest post by Kai Nagata, creator of DeepRogueRam and author of KaiNagata.com.

I’m not. In fact, I don’t think it’s accurate to call me an “environmentalist.” But I am a citizen opposed to exporting bitumen by supertanker from the B.C. coast. And that makes a lot of people, including National Post columnist Kelly McParland, very upset.

Here’s what he wrote yesterday, following the National Energy Board’s conditional approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline (emphasis mine):

Enbridge Inc. has already set out plans for unprecedented levels of precautionary measures to guard against accidents. Nonetheless, activist spokespeople were already denouncing the report as it was released, pledging an all-out jihad against the project, including legal challenges, political action and street-level protests.”

It is easy to dismiss such zealotry, but the environmental lobby has more than adequately displayed its expertise in martialling popular support for its campaigns, no matter how ill-informed. It bases its clout on its ability to generate noisy backing and large amounts of cash from a community of well-meaning people who sympathize with its desire to protect the natural world and are easily gulled by its skilled propaganda and the emotion-charged misinformation campaigns at which it excels. People who get their opinions from the entertainment news and mistake celebrity for credibility or expertise are not likely to be swayed by the judgment of a three-member NEB panel, no matter how conclusive.”

Tue, 2013-09-10 20:46Carol Linnitt
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The Polluted Public Square: How Democracy Suffers from Mistrust and Disengagement

The Polluted Public Square Jim Hoggan

Recently DeSmogBlog.com and DeSmog.ca founder Jim Hoggan spoke with Pamela McCall on CFAX 1070 about his upcoming participation in an workshop series put on by The Walrus Talks called The Art of Conversation

Jim has written extensively about what he calls the “Polluted Public Square,” a concept he is refining for his upcoming book of that title. Jim's expertise in the world of public relations puts him at a particular advantage when parsing out just how public conversations are used and abused to shape public perception, especially on controversial topics. But more crucially, he sees the way the public is disengaging from the social fora our democratic institutions rely upon. The answer to the question Jim has been seeking - why when we know so much are we doing so little? - has to do with a widespread case of social mistrust that points back to the fundamental problem of the polluted public square.

Jim had the opportunity to delve a little more into his research and how it all ties into the upcoming event The Art of Conversation in his discussion with Pamela McCall. Listen below or scroll down for a transcript of the interview.

Thu, 2013-08-22 10:09Guest
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How the Oil Sands Industry is Distorting Canada's Economy

alberta tar sands by kris krug

This is a guest post by Thomas Homer-Dixon, professor of global governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, University of Waterloo. It originally appeared in the Globe and Mail and is republished here with permission.

By 2030, Canada’s output from the oil sands will reach about five million barrels a day, more than twice today’s output. Yet, by 2030, chances are also good that the world will have placed a price on carbon emissions to spur energy innovation and wean humanity off carbon-based fuels.

By then, climate change’s impact on global food security will have become starkly obvious. Already, heat waves and droughts in major grain-producing regions have caused food-price shocks and political unrest around the world.

On a planet with a rapidly changing climate, Canada should be figuring out now how to wind down carbon-intensive resource extraction. Otherwise we may soon find that we’re producing masses of stuff we can’t sell.

Mon, 2013-07-22 14:54Kevin Grandia
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Harper's Audit-the-Enemy Strategy Fulfills Nixon's Dream

Harper's Enemy List part of Nixon style strategy

Last week it was revealed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office created an “enemy list” to include in briefing books for newly appointed Cabinet members. 

Pundits were quick to point out that US President Richard Nixon also had such a list of enemies that his office maintained.

However, the enemy list was only a small part of a much larger strategy that Nixon dreamed up and, as history shows, he was never able to fully execute his plan. Unfortunately for the many Canadians on Harper's list, the Prime Minister and his office are now fulfilling Nixon's dream. 

Nixon's list was dubbed the “opponents list” by his political staffers and was part of a larger strategy they called the “Political Enemies Project.” This disturbing strategy came to light during the Senate Committee hearings looking into the Watergate scandal that eventually forced President Nixon to resign in disgrace in August, 1974.

Wed, 2013-06-12 09:30Guest
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How Harper Treats Differences of Opinion

Stephen Harper

This is a guest post by Gerry Caplan, a Canadian academic, public policy analyst, commentator and political activist.

Soon after the 2011 election, with his majority government at last in hand, Prime Minister Harper decided that nothing, but nothing, was more important to Canada's entire future than a pipeline to carry oil from Alberta to the Pacific. This came as a shock to many Canadians, first because it hadn't been raised in the election, second because many believe that to combat global warming we must reduce, not expand, our reliance on fossil fuels.

In some countries, those who disagree with their government's policies are vilified, demonized, accused of being unpatriotic and operating under the influence of malign foreign influences. In Turkey, for example, Prime Minister Erdogan blames anti-government protests on terrorists and extremists supported by “foreign conspirators.”

The same is true in Egypt, as Deepak Obhrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, informed the House just this week. An Egyptian court had convict 43 non-profit workers of illegally using foreign funds to foment unrest in the country and sentencing them up to five years in jail. This was unacceptable, Mr. Obhrai said.

Tue, 2013-02-19 08:00Guest
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The Resurgence of an Evolving Climate Movement, Part 2

Ken Wu is executive director of Majority for a Sustainable Society (MASS) and co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance

For Part 1 of this article, click here.

In the first part of this article, I described what specific challenges the climate movement faces when confronting its own limiting tendencies as well as industry funded public relations campaigns. In this second part I outline what I think are four essential ways the climate movement must evolve in order to overcome these obstacles.

FIRST, we must become a lot more political, in the sense that it’s fundamentally the laws, policies, and agreements that shape our greater society and economy. And it’s our society and economy which are the foundations of our personal lifestyles. What is available, affordable, practical, and possible in our lifestyles is largely a product of the society in which we live – what clean energy sources exist at what price relative to dirty energy, how available public transit is, how well or poorly our cities are designed for walking, cycling, and accessing our needs, how energy efficient our buildings are, and so on.  

No individual is an island unto himself; the way we live is fundamentally shaped by the economy and society in which our lifestyles are nested.  

Fri, 2013-02-15 09:22Guest
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The Resurgence of an Evolving Climate Movement, Part 1

Ken Wu is executive director of Majority for a Sustainable Society (MASS) and co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance.

After years of apathy and political inertia, North America’s climate sustainability movement has found itself in the midst of a timely resurgence, as is evident by the recent massive expansion of Bill Mckibben's 350.org movement against the Keystone XL pipeline.

With climate change regaining its footing as a central political issue, now is the time to pressure governments to enact the needed laws, policies, and agreements required to curtail runaway global warming. But unless the moment is seized right, climate action will be stymied again – and there is no time to wait for another opportunity.

During his State of the Union address on February 12, 2013, US President Barack Obama stated:

“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change…We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”
 
Recent studies project that the Earth’s average temperature is on course to rise over four degrees this century, far beyond the two degree rise when “runaway” global warming kicks-in due to positive feedbacks that make it extremely difficult to halt.

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