Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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Life endures. But it needs a little help.

line-9-map

Governments come and go.  But life endures, as long as earth, water and air can sustain it.

All of these face escalating assaults by powerful corporations whose twin obsessions, power and profit, are fundamentally, irredeemably anti-life.

People who defend the essentials of life from theft and degradation need and deserve any support the rest of us can offer.  On Turtle Island/North America, often it’s indigenous peoples who live on the front lines, and thus are called to lead some of the most intense struggles.

Standing Rock has the highest profile right now, but there are others just as crucial, though less widely known.  Some context:

In Canada last week the federal Natural Resources Minister announced that his government does not require First Nations consent to proceed on natural resource projects.

This arrogant statement directly contradicts the Liberal government´s promises to follow Supreme Court rulings and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which require “free, prior, and informed consent” of Indigenous Nations to any natural resource projects affecting their traditional and treaty territories.

At the behest of its partners in the oil/gas industry, this government is poised to approve, among other dangerous pipelines (see below), the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline to carry toxic crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to the Pacific coast for shipping abroad.  It would pass through – invade, really – the territory of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.

The Minister’s casual dismissal of the government’s legal obligations provoked strong reactions from First Nations, including this one from Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon: “Consent, it’s what we are demanding, and he will never get our consent, not for something like this.  What if we gave Canada 20 Standing Rocks?  I wonder if his position will change then.”

In late November this issue will be tested at the Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of yet another pipeline, Enbridge’s Line 9.  It is due to carry tar sands bitumen and fracked oil to Montreal, crossing more than 120 vital waterways and 830 kilometers of land along the way, including territory of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, without their consent.  (Neither does the project have consent from millions of Canadians who live along the route, the most densely populated in Canada, but the government blithely ignores this too.)

Since the Supreme Court agrees to hear only a small fraction of the cases submitted to it, clearly it considers this one vital to the people it is meant to serve.  So should we all.  Given the catastrophic impacts of mining and transporting tar sands and fracked oil, the fate of this case has profound implications for First Nations, for Canadians, and ultimately for all life on this earth.

Details on the case and how to support it are here.

For an eloquent view of why these struggles keep happening, meet Seneca First Nation biologist Henry Lickers, chapter 1 in Bold Scientists.  An excerpt is here.

 

 


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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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Dakota: Plain greed vs land, water & life

dapl-police-attack

Standing Rock, North Dakota: Land of the free.

As early winter chills the Dakota plains, a brutal war continues to escalate against Indigenous people defending land, water and life from the invading Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  The pipeline is meant to carry 500,000 barrels of toxic crude oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois.  From years of bitter experience, catastrophic spills should be expected.

The project has faced determined resistance for months from the Standing Rock Sioux and members of nearly 100 indigenous peoples from across the U.S. and Canada.  They carry on a centuries’ long struggle against colonial invasion and violence throughout the Americas.

By now 100s of defenders have been arrested, clubbed, pepper-sprayed, and maced.  Updates here, and here.

Solidarity protests are being held and planned across the US and in Canada.  For those of us who care but are unable to participate, action is still possible:

Behind the uniformed bullies with their military and chemical weapons, attack dogs, sound-cannons, assault vehicles and helicopters, lurk corporate oil/gas plunderers (in this case aka “Energy Transfer Partners”), and behind them hired governments, and behind them all, the international banking mafia safe in their glittering towers.

As well as raking in massive subsidies from governments, the pipeline builders also need major financing from banks.  According to researchers at the US nonprofit Food & Water Watch, the $3.8 billion DAPL is financed by 17 banks in the US, Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Holland, Switzerland and Norway.  All of them have the power to determine who gets financing and for what.

Contact information for the CEOs of DAPL-complicit banks is here.

Among them are three Canadian banks.  One of them, TD (indicated by *), is directly complicit in the Dakota pipeline, and all three of them provide financial backing to the vast Bakken pipeline network, of which DAPL is one piece.

CEO contact information:

* TD Securities.  Chairman, CEO, and President Bob Dorrance.

Corporate Office: P.O. Box 1, TD Bank Tower, 66 Wellington Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5K 1A2.

Investment Banking: 416-307-8500
Equity Research: 416-307-9360
Trading Floor Enquiries: 416-944-6978

U.S. Office: 31 West 52nd Street, New York, NY 10019-6101.  212-827-7000.

Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank).  CEO and President Brian J. Porter.

Corporate Office: Scotia Plaza, 44 King Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5H 1H1.
416-866-6161.  email@scotiabank.com

U.S. Office: 250 Vesey Street, 23rd and 24th floors, New York, NY 10281.  212-225-5000

Scotia Howard Weil (“Energy Investment Boutique”): Energy Centre, 1100 Poydras Street, Suite 3500, New Orleans, LA 70163.  504-582-2500 and 800-322-3005.  howardweil@howardweil.com

Royal Bank of Canada/RBC.  CEO David I. McKay.

CEO and Board Communications: Paul French.  paul.french@rbc.com.  416-974-3718.

Corporate Media Relations: Catherine Hudon, catherine.hudon@rbc.com.  416-974-5506.

Corporate Address: 200 Bay Street P.O. Box 1, Royal Bank Plaza, Toronto, Canada.
416-974-5151 and 416-842-2000

 

 


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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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The Forces of Know

In darkening times, bright sparks of inspired resistance.  In this case, to dangerous pipelines that threaten earth, water, air, and life.

In northwestern Canada, people of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation are resisting not only a proposed liquid natural gas (LNG) pipeline and coastal shipping terminal, plus a voracious transnational corporation and two enabling governments, but also the toxic ideology that drives these entities.  At its stone cold heart it has only one premise: there is no person or thing on earth, in the sea or sky that can’t be bought and sold.

Despite escalating attempts to buy them off, apparently the majority of Lax Kw’alaams people hold to deeper values and a longer view.

Lax Kw'alaams resistLax Kw’alaams: Just say no.  Photo: The Guardian.

Henry Lickers also takes a longer view.  He’s a Seneca First Nation biologist at Kawehno:ke, Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, not far from another pipeline that people are fighting in eastern Canada.  In writing Bold Scientists, I explored with him the deep gap that separates his point-of-view, in line with the Lax Kw’alaams’, from the powerfully seductive one that drives the surrounding society.  He replied, in part:

“Our society is responsibility-based, so that means I’m responsible for taking care of the environment.  The outside society is rights-based – this is my land, so I have a right to do what I want with it…  So we’re always in this fight with Canada or the US – over here we’re talking about our responsibility to protect the environment, and over there you’re saying it’s your right to do what you want.  That’s not a good way to function, especially in relation to the environment.  You should be aiming really high to protect your environment.  Oh no, you say, that would cost too much, it can’t be done at present, et cetera.  Is it any wonder the world is going the way it is?”

For more on Henry Lickers’ life and work, see Bold Scientists, chapter 1, When the river roared.  Excerpt here.

Two more responsibility-based initiatives oppose yet another dangerous pipeline, Line 9.  It’s a 40-year-old pipeline that’s due to transport high volumes of corrosive tar sands bitumen and volatile fracked shale oil from Sarnia, Ontario to refineries in Québec.  Along the way, the pipeline crosses many First Nation territories, municipalities, and waterways that provide drinking water to millions of people in the most densely populated region of Canada.

The Chippewas of the Thames First Nation have launched a landmark challenge to Line 9 at the Supreme Court of Canada.  It’s an initiative that could have enormous impact.  It’s also a costly proposition to take on wealthy corporations and governments.  Support is needed, and welcome here.

And Tar Free Toronto, a citizens’ group, has launched a petition to the Prime Minister of Canada, demanding a halt to Line 9.  https://petitions.parl.gc.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-248

Further information on the campaign: Write to tarfreetoronto@riseup.net

Pass this message along.  Keep the sparks flying.

 

 

 

 


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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?

 


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“The Robin Hood of science”

In the ever-deepening shadow of the national surveillance state, a bright gem of a story.

Alexandra Elbakyan’s ingenious online resource Sci-Hub has broken the corporate stranglehold on worldwide access to science research.

Sci-Hub

Science writer Simon Oxenham reveals why and how this brilliant young neurotechnology researcher in Kazakhstan did it. Details here, on Big Think.

It’s an inspiring account of knowledge gathered, privatized – imprisoned, really, to exploit for profit – and now, thanks to Alexandra Elbakyan, set free.

A fragment: “Only days after the [New York District] court injunction blocked Sci-Hub’s old domain, Sci-Hub was back online at a new domain accessible worldwide. Since then, the website has been upgraded from a barebones site that existed entirely in Russian to a polished English version proudly boasting a library of 48 million [research] papers, complete with a manifesto in opposition to copyright law. The bird is out of its cage.”

In part 2, here, Simon Oxenham pays tribute to pioneering internet creator and activist Aaron Swartz, who was ultimately hounded to death in 2013 by the US government.

Fortunately, at least for now, Alexandra Elbakyan and Sci-Hub remain beyond its imperial reach.

To encounter other scientists who defy the status quo, check out Bold Scientists: dispatches from the battle for honest science. Read excerpts here.