Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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Food fight, high stakes

In Independent Science News, January 12, Jonathan Latham sets out a stark bottom line for the survival of multi-cellular organisms – eg human beings – on this planet.

Industrial agriculture

Latham: “The project to fully industrialise global food production is far from complete, yet already it is responsible for most deforestation, most marine pollution, most coral reef destruction, much of greenhouse gas emissions, most habitat loss, most of the degradation of streams and rivers, most food insecurity, most immigration, most water depletion, massive human health problems, and so on. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that if the industrialisation of food is not reversed our planet will be made unlivable for multi-cellular organisms.”

So then, a matter of life and death. Jonathan Latham offers a recipe for survival.  It’s worth a try.

For a taste of how to feed the world on a human scale, visit with Ann Clark, plant physiologist and farmer, in Bold Scientists, chapter 2, Digging thistles. Read an excerpt here.


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Bold Scientists, the trailer, now on YouTube.

“Tremendously hopeful and profoundly disturbing.”

Great minds don’t think alike. They think differently.  Here.

Bold Scientists trailer, screen shot


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“Clean-up efforts are underway.”

The bad news:  Alberta pipeline spills 60,000 liters of crude oil into muskeg.

The spin: As usual, the industry and its government partners assure us that “clean-up efforts are underway.”  What else can they say, spill after spill…

Tar sands pipelines

Tar sands pipelines.  Image: newrepublic.com

The worse news:  The industry is poised to send millions of gallons of this muck via pipelines and trains across thousands of kilometres/miles through every kind of terrain and aquifer to the west and east coasts, and south through the US.

The good news:  Every step of the way, courageous people are resisting.

At Burnaby Mountain in British Columbia, more than 100 resisters have been arrested to date for trying to block a scheme by the Texas-based Kinder Morgan corporation to ram a pipeline through the mountain.

Canada’s National Energy Board granted the company rubber-stamp approval to proceed with test drilling, despite the fact that the pipeline will cross – invade, actually – territory which the Indigenous First Nations have never legally ceded to either the federal or provincial government.

In May, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation launched the first Indigenous legal challenge to oil sands pipelines crossing B.C., in a direct challenge to the National Energy Board’s deeply flawed ‘review’ process.

Last week, a provincial court judge threw out the charges against the Burnaby Mountain resisters, which included both First Nations and non-First Nations citizens.

Unfortunately, the judge’s ruling was based on Kinder Morgan having provided inaccurate GPS boundaries for its drilling sites, which leaves the company free to get a new revised injunction against the resisters.

Stakes for resisters also rose sharply when Kinder Morgan launched a $5.6 million lawsuit against several resisters and two university professors who have spoken out against the company’s pipeline test work on Burnaby Mountain.

Still, as the enormity of the threat become more and more apparent, resistance continues to grow across the continent. It takes many forms. This past week, Concordia University in Montreal became the first Canadian university to start divesting from fossil fuels.

For a scientist’s insight on the tar sands and climate change, see chapter 9, in Bold ScientistsRead an excerpt here.  Scroll down to ‘Pesky data.’


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“We talk through the wall”

“Now comes my favorite time of day in jail—the two quiet hours between breakfast and 7 a.m. before the television clicks on and we are ordered to make our beds and the loud day begins…”

Sandra Steingraber letter from jail, Nov 2104

Photo: Common Dreams

Biologist and author Sandra Steingraber hand-wrote this letter from her cell in a New York county jail, writing on scrap paper provided by a fellow inmate, a young mother jailed for stealing a pumpkin.

Along with other resisters, Steingraber was jailed for non-violent civil disobedience. They tried to block the driveway of Texas-based Crestwood Midstream, which is pursuing a lunatic scheme to store under high pressure toxic products of fracking/hydraulic fracturing – methane, propane and butane – in abandoned, crumbling salt mines adjacent to Seneca Lake.

So far in the Seneca Lake campaign, 59 people have been arrested. The majority await sentence.

They consider the cost of doing time very small compared to the cost of doing nothing.  Steingraber writes, “…Time offers the possibility of rededicating oneself to the necessary work ahead: dismantling the fossil fuel industry in the last 20 years left to us, before the climate crisis spins into unfixable, unending calamity.”

Read Sandra Steingraber’s eloquent account here, on EcoWatch via Reader Supported News.

More on the ominous links between fracking and climate chaos, and the powerful interests driving both, here.  (Scroll down to chapter 10, The Unsolved problem.)


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Snake oil: a must-read exposé

The more people learn about the extreme dangers of bitumen, tar sands oil slurry, the more resistance grows along the planned routes of pipelines to transport the toxic muck across country to refineries and coastal ports.  And as resistance grows, so do propaganda and dirty tricks from the industry and its partners in government.

Pipeline spill, Yellowstone River

Oil pipeline spill, Yellowstone River, 2011. Photo: The New York Times.

A new must-read exposé from PRWatch, a US-based investigative research group, takes an inside look at what we can expect in the escalating battle over the proposed TransCanada pipeline from Alberta to Quebec/New Brunswick, aka “Energy East”:

Leaked documents expose a plan for TransCanada to launch an ‘aggressive’ American-style PR campaign to persuade Canadians to support a Canada-based alternative to the stalled Keystone XL pipeline, to get controversial tar sands oil to refineries in eastern Canada for export. [MR: Prices are higher overseas, and diminished domestic supplies will ensure higher prices here, too. Oil-pushers call this a win-win situation.]

“According to the documents, this Canada-centric campaign would actually be run out of an office in Washington, DC. And the digital campaign is being led by a rightwing American political operative employed by the world’s largest public relations firm…”

Their battle plan includes investigations [read: attacks] on Canadian groups opposing the pipeline, and recruitment of buyable scientists “to build an echo chamber of aligned voices.”

Talk about 1984 (+ 30).

The dirty details are here.

For an antidote, a dose of honest science, see chapters 9 & 10 in Bold ScientistsRead excerpts here.