Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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Growing up: Three rivers get legal rights

Whanganui River, New Zealand

Glimmers of hope.  Details here.

Mind you, human rights tend to be honoured a lot more on paper than in practice.  So it will be with river rights.  Rivers, lakes, oceans and their defenders will continue to face countless challenges and battles.  But at least now two rivers have some legal rights to defend.

Meanwhile in the USA, rivers have no more rights than do sewers or highways, both of which purposes they serve.  In sharp contrast, corporations in the USA won long ago the same legal rights as individual citizens, which they deploy to commit horrible crimes against humanity and nature, including the poisoning of rivers, lakes and oceans.  Of course, unlike actual human persons, corporations regularly get away with murder.

In Canada the picture isn’t much better.  The late Conservative regime decimated environmental protections for all but 159 lakes and rivers in this country, leaving more than 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers wide open to destruction.  Breaking election promises to reverse their predecessors’ crimes against nature, instead the current Liberal regime is deferring to corporate pressure to maintain the status quo.

In such a grim context, the hard-won court decisions in New Zealand and India represent a huge step forward, rare signs that we can act sanely and respectfully in relation to the natural world, our life support system.


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Oil crimes: Who needs a Trump?

In Saskatchewan’s second major oil spill, crews are still trying to identify where the rupture occurred in a tangle of pipelines from the Alberta tar sands that cross this land.  Oil Pipeline Spills 53,000 Gallons on First Nations Land.

tar-sands-moonscape

Tar sands, Alberta, Canada

Meanwhile, in Washington DC President Trump has just re-opened the door to the infamous Keystone XL pipeline, which his predecessor had temporarily blocked.  The new president also promised to accelerate construction of bitterly fought Dakota Access Pipeline.

In Ottawa, the Liberal government recently rubber-stamped two dangerously invasive pipelines in Canada: Kinder Morgan’s line to the Pacific coast and Enbridge’s expansion of Line 3 to the U.S. midwest.

Prime Minister Trudeau also welcomed the Keystone decision.  “I’ve been on the record for many years supporting it,” he said in Calgary.  “We know we can get our resources to market more safely and responsibly while meeting our climate-change goals.”

Soon the world’s dirtiest oil will flow more abundantly than ever from the Alberta tar sands.

We are told by the oil cabal, its collaborators in government and big media that Canadians need it.  But notice where it’s going: to the Pacific Ocean and to the USA, in both cases for sale far, far away.  It will leave behind: mountains of broken promises to First Nations and the rest of us, a moonscape in northern Alberta, toxic spills and explosions along the routes, and countless tons of life-destroying greenhouse gas.  Hidden somewhere in there, we are told, is a fair bargain.

In Alberta, Premier Rachel Notley welcomed all three pipelines.  At the same time, her NDP government reneged on a promise to charge oil companies higher provincial royalties for the oil they plunder.  “It is not the time to reach out and make a big money grab,” she told reporters, “because that is just not going to help Albertans.”

Ah.  But then soon after and with no apparent shame Notley said, “We’re at the point now where the Alberta economy needs to be enjoying the benefits of a higher return for our oil and gas…  That is definitely something that will happen as a result of the Keystone.”

With Liberals and social democrats like these running things, who needs a Trump?

Across Canada, the US and planet earth, our only home, the battle goes on.

 


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DAPL and DNB: good news

dapl-direct-action

Resisting the machine

DNB, the largest bank in Norway, has just sold its assets in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  Reports are unclear on the extent and nature of these assets (or maybe I just don’t know how to translate financialese).  However, by all accounts the assets dumped by the bank are substantial.

Further, DNB is now considering the withdrawal of its loans to the project as well, which would leave a major gap in the project’s financing.

A first crack in the banking wall, DNB’s move is a direct result of steadfast resistance to the invading pipeline by the besieged Standing Rock Sioux and their allies, and escalating public pressure on the banks to divest from it.

This week from the Sacred Stone Camp, ground zero, comes a stark breakdown of why Energy Transfer Partners (the DAPL perpetrators) are pushing so aggressively to complete construction.

The stakes are incalculable: on one side, billions of dollars in profits, on the other side, survival.

Contact information for the CEOs of DAPL and other Bakken pipeline-complicit banks is here.  If you bank with one of them, how about letting them know you might not?

 


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We have to stop.

arctic-ice-1989

Image: NASA/Goddard.

Have a look at this time lapse animation, the life of Arctic ice from 1989 to the present.  It’s calmly explained by a sea ice researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

How he remains calm, I have no idea.

We have to stop.  Stop gorging on fossil fuels.  Fuels made from our ancestors, all the life that came before us.  The fossils are running out.  So is the ice.  So is life, and time.

I’m not saying anything new here.  But it can’t be said often enough, or loud enough.  We have to make them stop:

  • fracking
  • tar sands extraction
  • deep sea drilling
  • Arctic drilling
  • moving crude oil by pipelines (another one blew up this week in Alabama)
  • moving crude oil by train (another one derailed and 11 oil-filled cars burned in Oregon’s Columbia River gorge, this past June)
  • moving crude oil by ship (another one loaded with diesel oil sank off Heiltsuk First Nation territory in British Columbia mid-October)
  • subsidizing fossil fuels at our expense and the earth’s
  • displacing/killing people and other beings (some slowly, some in a flash) to get at fossil fuels
  • making war after war to control fossil fuels, and to continue fueling the war machine
  • burning fossil fuels as if there was no tomorrow, and no alternative.

It can’t be said often enough, or loud enough.  We have to stop.  And start…

Start points are everywhere – personal, local, regional, national, global, online, on the ground. Like this one:  Justice and Equity in a 100% Renewable World: a  live online conversation.  November 10, 2016, 10:00am Pacific/ 1:00pm Eastern.  Details here.

Or this:  Corporate and government response to the west coast diesel spill off Heiltsuk First Nation (see above, ‘moving crude oil by ship’) has been shamefully slow and lax.  The Heiltsuk people are fund-raising online to do research on the extent of damage to their coast and fishing grounds, essential for their survival.  Details here.

Or this:  Haven’t got around to accosting the big banks that finance the Dakota Access Pipeline?  The online grassroots organization SumOfUs has just made it a lot easier.  They also include a list of other practical ways to support the resistance to DAPL.  Details here.

 


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Crude crimes: Another pipeline spill, another “Plan B.”

Last Thursday 200,000 liters of crude oil spilled into the North Saskatchewan River, soaking wildlife and forcing cities to shut off public water supply.  Details here.

Husky Energy victims, N SaskA great blue heron, victim of Husky Energy.  (Photo: Lend a Paw Animal Rescue/Facebook)

The pipeline started to leak on Thursday July 21.  It continued to spill into the river for four days, 200,000 litres of toxic crude oil, before perpetrator Husky Energy shut it down.

This is the latest of dozens of catastrophic pipeline spills across North America in the past three years.  But right on cue and with dazzling gall, Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley leapt to defend the indefensible.  “Even with this spill it remains the case that absolutely the safest way to transport oil and gas is by way of pipeline,” she told the Canadian Press.  “Had a spill occurred on rail there might well be injuries involved.  In everything you do there are risks, but I would suggest overall the risks [of pipelines] are low.”

In the sheltered halls of power perhaps, but for the rest of us out here in the real world, this is crude bullshit, insult piled on injury.  Of course hauling crude oil by train has also proven catastrophic.  Ships too.  There is no safe way to extract, move, refine or use this stuff.  It’s a disaster, start to finish.  Only safe solution: Leave it in the ground.

Speaking of no safe way, how does this one rate?  TransCanada’s Terrifying “Plan B”.

How do the executives, investors and their government enablers continue to profit so richly from their serial crimes against nature and humanity?

Why are they not in jail?


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Fracking, a bridge to nowhere

Fracking:  aka hydraulic fracturing of the earth’s crust to extract gas and oil.  Aka “unconventional gas drilling,” the industry’s preferred PR term.  Unconventional — sounds intriguing, even a little adventurous, no?

Fracking, cartoonImage: John Cole

But:

“Not infrequently I wake up in middle of the night in despair.  What do I despair about?  That we’re going to drill, baby, drill, and we’re going to poke a million more holes in the surface of the earth over the next 10 years, and we’re going to produce as much fossil fuel as we possibly can, and we’re going to accelerate climate change, and my kids will not, cannot be prepared for what that means.”

– Professor Anthony Ingraffea, Cornell University.  Follow his life, research, and transition from industry consultant to outspoken critic, here in Bold Scientists.  Scroll down to chapter 10, The unsolved problem.

Under siege by mounting evidence of the immense harm they do, the industry and its government enablers now sell fracking as a “benign bridge fuel” to future renewables.

That isn’t PR, its BS.  Check this out: ‘Benign’ Fossil Fuels? No Such Thing.

And this:  Drilling-Induced ‘Frackquakes’ Threaten Millions Across Central US.

In the US, the scourge of fracking has already invaded far and wide, so people have to fight an uphill battle against huge forces to stop it.

In Ontario, Canada, this is not the case.  Not yet.  People here still have a chance to block the nightmare before it takes hold.  To that end:

Ban fracking in Ontario, a petition now circulating on Change.org.  True, legions of petitions come and go on the internet, and many of them have limited impact.  On the other hand, silence implies consent.  So what are you going to do?  The petition is here.

A few resources:

 

 


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A serious food fight: GMOs in 4 countries

Salvadorn farmers vs MonsantoSalvadoran farmers vs GMOs. Photo: mintpressnews.com.

The United States: On March 15, a bill was narrowly defeated in the US Senate that would have blocked any state or local government from regulating or even requiring labeling of food products containing GMOs (genetically modified – or manipulated, more to the point – organisms.)  The House of Representatives had already passed a version of this repressive bill last year.

What are these people afraid of?  Knowledge. The more the rest of us know, the better decisions we can make. Opponents of the bill dubbed it the DARK Act – Deny Americans the Right to Know. The right to know is inherent in mandatory GMO labeling laws passed by Vermont and at least two other states so far. Vermont’s law survived a major corporate legal challenge last year and should come into force this July. Maine’s and Connecticut’s are expected to follow soon after.

Healthy food campaigners know from experience that the powerful corporations who co-wrote the DARK Act with their hirelings in Congress will keep trying. They need to keep us in the dark on GMOs, as on so many other crucial facts.

How far will they go? This far at least, as in their campaign to defeat a state-wide mandatory labeling referendum in Washington State: Opponents of GMO Labeling Broke Washington’s Campaign Finance Law. The real surprise is that they got caught.

Canada: 64 countries have instituted some form of mandatory GMO labeling. In Canada, we have none.  Over the past decade, several private members bills to that end have been defeated in Parliament.

A new citizens’ initiative, a petition to the Prime Minister, is currently circulating on Change.org: Label GMOs.

Initiated by Barbara Drury, a farmer in the Yukon, Label GMOs has already gathered over 30,000 signatures. You can add yours here.

Russia: Moving well beyond debates on labeling, the government of the Russian Federation is in the process of actually banning all GMO foods. Why and how this extraordinary initiative came to pass is a fascinating story, told here.

And the next step for Russia?  Become the world’s primary source of non-GMO food.  It follows rather organically, doesn’t it?

El Salvador: With less than half the area of Canada’s second smallest province (Nova Scotia), El Salvador is the most densely populated (currently about 6.4 million) country in Central America.  Its farmers, most of them working small parcels of land, face enormous obstacles just to survive, let alone thrive.  And like farmers in most countries, they also have to contend with relentless pressure from the agents of corporate agriculture to cede control of their seeds, methods, independence, and livelihoods.

Even so, against overwhelming odds Salvadoran farmers continue to defy not only one of the most powerful and aggressive corporate entities on the planet, but also an even larger and more insidious threat, the web of international trade agreements that are being spun over our heads and behind our backs. To these corporate-dictated, made-in-USA entanglements, we are endlessly told, resistance is futile.

Apparently not.

If the Salvadorans can do it, can we not?