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.
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.
With remarkable foresight, in March an NDP member of the Ontario legislature, Peter Tabuns, introduced a bill (proposed law) to ban fracking in Ontario. (Fracking = hydraulic fracturing of the earth’s crust for gas and oil.)
With remarkable stupidity, the ruling Liberal government immediately denied any need for such a bill. There is no fracking yet in Ontario, said Natural Resources Minister Bill Mauro, so there is no need for a ban. More detail here.
Without a ban, the door stays wide open. Wherever the door is open, oil and gas corporations walk right in and start drilling. And wherever frackers drill, disaster follows. Ask people on what’s left of the ground in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, the Dakotas, south England…
Fracking consumes and poisons millions of litres of fresh water – for every well. The drillers inject a toxic brew of chemicals under high pressure to smash underground shale and force oil and gas to the surface. Fracking operations leak vast quantities of methane, a devastating greenhouse gas. They also set off earthquake epidemics where such incidents have been rare. And then there are the pipelines to transport the gas/oil to refineries and ports, and with pipelines, spills and explosions.
Result: Immense profit for a few, incalculable harm for the rest of us and the earth.
Worldwide, as soon as people become informed about fracking, resistance grows rapidly, and people have won government bans and moratoria in many municipalities, provinces, states and countries. Check here for an up-to-date list.
Meanwhile in Ontario, the door – our door, by the way – remains wide open.
In a 2014 poll, 75% of Ontarians supported a moratorium on fracking. As Peter Tabuns understands, the time to close the door is now, before it’s too late.
The bill to ban fracking is scheduled to come to a vote on May 7, a week from now. Send a message to Premier Wynne, via a new email campaign from the Council of Canadians: Ban fracking in Ontario. Close the door now.
The underground story on fracking and the growing resistance is here, inside Bold Scientists. Scroll down to chapter 10, The unsolved problem.