Recently, scientists discovered a 'wonderland' of life on a deep-sea mountain off the B.C. coast. The peak is a previously undiscovered extinct volcano deep in the Pacific Ocean. Instead of trees, the ancient forest is made up of red tree corals, and the animals may include numerous species that have never been seen by humans.
While sea life continues to be threatened by ocean acidification, the tide of climate litigation is rising. Citylab reports that the City of Baltimore announced lawsuits against 26 oil and gas companies for damages their fossil-fuel products—and the climate change they’ve compelled—have inflicted on the city. “For 50 years, these companies have known their products would cause rising seas and the other climate change-related problems facing Baltimore today.”
The piece also quotes Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists: "The fact that the suit comes from Baltimore, which has had a lower profile in the realm of climate activism compared to places like New York or San Francisco, shows that this isn’t just for super-large cities. The impacts of climate change and the need to protect their citizens is something that small cities and big cities alike can take part in.”
This is because the effects of climate change are real now. The Washington Post reports that this is a hot, strange and dangerous summer across the planet. "In the town of Sodankyla, Finland, the thermometer on July 17 registered a record-breaking 90 degrees, a remarkable figure given that Sodankyla is 59 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in a region known for winter snowmobiling and an abundance of reindeer." It goes on to outline extreme weather conditions around the world and a disrupted jet stream that will increase extremes and possibly even stall altogether.
The Guardian reports that humanity is devouring our planet’s resources in increasingly destructive volumes. A new study reveals that "we have consumed a year’s worth of carbon, food, water, fibre, land and timber in a record 212 days. As a result, the Earth Overshoot Day – which marks the point at which consumption exceeds the capacity of nature to regenerate – has moved forward two days to August 1st, the earliest date ever recorded. To maintain our current appetite for resources, we would need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths, according to Global Footprint Network, an international research organization that makes an annual assessment of how far humankind is falling into ecological debt."
And yet, people are constantly looking for solutions. Like this innovative concept to draw benefit from deep space by merging an ancient practice with a modern understanding of wavelength theory. It's a phenomenon I encountered first hand during my brief foray into the world of a solar thermal water heating business. But this person seeks to find whole new applications for it, perhaps on a global scale.
Locally, Frances Litman continues to champion the advancements and dedication of people committed to creating a "One Planet Community". This recent live-stream features over twenty such local heroes that inspire discussion, awareness and action locally. They include one of Victoria's leading high tech employers.
And CBC business reports that "Netflix for cars" subscription services are changing how people get behind the wheel. "We are at the cusp of some very big changes in the auto industry." It's another step in the transition away from car ownership and towards the technological convergence facing transportation. A convergence that, as we've discussed earlier, will change the face of cities by making parked cars obsolete.
To comprehend the magnitude of this shift, one only has to look at a new study that documents the huge amount of space taken up by parking, and the astronomical costs it represents, in five U.S. cities. Parking sucks up a lot of resources. Measured in terms of replacement, it costs more than $35 billion in Seattle, $20 billion in New York, $17.5 billion in Philadelphia, $6 billion in Des Moines, and $711 million in Jackson. These figures are more staggering when tallied in per-household terms. Parking eats up almost $200,000 per household in Jackson, more than $100,000 in Seattle, and over $75,000 in Des Moines. It is a bit less in Philadelphia and New York: roughly $30,000 in Philly, and a meager $6,570 in New York. With the advent of electric autonomous vehicles, these would all become superfluous as there will be far fewer vehicles on the road.
In a prophetic interview with the National Observer back in the spring of last year, Adnan Amin, the director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), said that development of major fossil fuel projects such as pipelines will ultimately harm the operators since renewable power is becoming more attractive to consumers and businesses.
And he said that any government that wants to approve or support such a project must "think carefully" about the consequences if it becomes obsolete before the end of its useful life. "The question the government needs to ask itself is, if you are using taxpayer resources to subsidize fossil fuel infrastructure for the future, is that a wise investment given the fact that this may end up as a stranded asset?" he asked.
As Elizabeth pointed out at our recent Summer picnic, we may have found an unexpected ally in our fight to stop Justin Trudeau from buying such a stranded asset on our behalf. Last week, the National Observer reported her saying that federal negotiators made a big mistake by adding the Puget Sound pipeline into the purchase. That move could bolster Trans Mountain's opponents. “It does create this additional uncertainty and procedural hurdle and potentially, political football that Donald Trump’s cabinet needs to sign off on.”
Perhaps we could "help" President Trump pay close attention to this "security threat." If the courts decide to uphold the rights of Canadians and quashes the permits for the expansion, Ottawa would be left with an aging pipeline that it paid way too much for. To make amends with the Canadian public, it might want to make it viable. Almost 90% of the oil flowing through that pipeline now is sweet crude, not dilbit, and about two thirds of that is going straight to US refineries via Sumas. It would be in our national interest to divert that capacity away from US refineries and perhaps rebuild some of the Canadian refining capacity in Burnaby. That would create local jobs and provide Canada with more energy security.
Adding Canadian value to our products, instead of just shipping them out raw, is something Elizabeth has championed for a long time. In this TED talk from 2014 she explains how it would drive innovation and turn us from an innovation laggard into a leader. And, if you listen past the bias of the interviewer, you can hear that former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge is aligned with the need to drive innovation as a way to build competitiveness. Even though the interviewer clearly expects Dodge to say that we should follow Trump's lead and cut taxes, Dodge does not go there, indicating it's much more complicated than that.
But Dodge also talks about the need to have regulatory stability and lambastes the recently elected Ontario Government for upending policies that businesses have been built around. It is this kind of instability through extreme policy swings, where each successive government undoes what its predecessor has tried to accomplish, that is so disruptive. Of course the solution to that, and the single most important tool to build investor confidence and market stability, is Electoral Reform.
This recent editorial written by one of our GreenWriters in Guelph calls out the Liberal government, and specifically it's local MP, for turning a blind eye to that reality. "What a missed opportunity to do the right thing. [To] provide us with solid protection from a repeat federally of what we have just witnessed provincially: a reactionary pendulum-swing, taking out what's good and stabilizing, along with the betrayals and buyouts that citizens are understandably infuriated by."
A Green Party of Ontario newsletter informs us that since taking office, Premier Ford has made dismantling climate change action his urgent priority by:
- Cancelling Ontario's cap-and-trade pollution pricing system
- Breaking 758 clean energy contracts
- Cutting green rebates for homes, schools and businesses
- Joining Saskatchewan in a pointless legal battle
These decisions are hurting people who want to save money by saving energy. They are costing Canada jobs and investment by chasing away business in the $7 trillion clean economy.
And that investment is paying attention. Here Tim Nash of The Sustainable Economist shares his top picks on Bloomberg News. The companies that make sustainability a priority are consistently outperforming market averages. And in places that have made sustainability their priority the economy is doing pretty well. Norway, the home of StatOil (who divested themselves from the Tar Sands and bought wind leases off the coast of Manhattan), is on track to phase out gas and diesel powered cars by 2025. Already over 50% of all its cars are electric.
California, who has championed the Cap and Trade system which is far less effective than our Green Party Carbon Fee and Dividend approach, is four years ahead of schedule, reaching its 2020 targets by 2016. It has now passed a law setting new targets to reduce its emissions by a further 40% by 2030 and a full 80% by 2050.
Meanwhile, back in Canada, Trudeau doubles down on pushing the pipeline. “We’re very pleased to have a representative from Alberta who will be sitting at the cabinet table representing the interests of the energy industry,” Rachel Notley told the media at the premiers’ conference in New Brunswick. In response, a Star reader in Toronto observes that Notley’s comment perfectly encapsulates the co-option of our government institutions by an oil industry deeply embedded in the political machinery of our country, and how laughable our carbon reduction commitments really are.
We have featured Kevin Taft and his book on Oil's Deep State in previous blogs and I'm pleased to report that a speaking tour on the subject is in the works for early September. In the meantime, when protesters put themselves on the line to draw attention to the insanity of investing in more environmental destruction, they deserve our support. On Tuesday folks are gathering at the courthouse in Vancouver to support those who will be facing jail time. Let's never forget that non-violent civil disobedience has a long history of bringing about positive change in our society.
A recognition that something is terribly wrong, often predates the legislation to make it right. But in the end it takes more than protest. It also takes political courage. And that courage is fueled by widespread public pressure. "They say that the movement won't work in Kansas. They say, don't go to Kansas, they won't accept you there, they won't share your values there, that you won't have common ground with anyone." When Alexandria went to Wichita, home of Koch Industries, she found out otherwise. Thousands came to hear her stump for the local congressional candidate. Her message resonated.
"The policy prescriptions are almost secondary." This pundit tells NBC's Chris Hayes. "There is nothing offensive in terms of what she's saying, like people wanting their kids to have healthcare. But I think the idea that it is being straight forward, that it's completely laid out there, speaks to the whole broader issue, that politicos don't necessarily contemplate. Do I think that person is authentic? Are they telling me what they believe? I think they are and I think they're pretty confident about it. That goes a lot further than we imagine."
Democracy is not a spectator sport. To make it work, the citizens need to stay engaged. It's something this American didn't realize until President Trump got elected. We can't rely on our leaders to take care of things for us. And when a leader tells us that they will, history should have taught us to be suspicious. Regardless of how successful President Obama was in bringing about the change that he promised, this tweet on January 10th, 2017, strikes at the heart of democracy. "Thank you for everything," he said. "My last ask is the same as my first. I'm asking you to believe—not in my ability to create change, but in yours."
Elizabeth has been heard to frame hope a little differently: "Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up." It's something she not only speaks about but demonstrates for us every day. "We've got to figure out how to tell people who's easy trick is to be cynical, that we don't have time for them anymore..." Because the threat is real but the opportunities are vast.
Have a fabulous weekend,
"It is our job to work tirelessly for justice, for peace, and for a planet that can survive with a human civilization that thrives. This is the challenge that we take on as Greens." Elizabeth May, October 19th, 2015
This weekly missive is authored by Thomas Teuwen, our SGI EDA coordinator. Opinions expressed are his own. We welcome your comments and feedback. If you were sent here by a friend and would like to subscribe to our weekly email simply click here. You can also go to the archives section of our SGI website to read back issues. And if you are on twitter please join in on this hashtag.