04 28
Canada’s Fragile Fresh Water System
image Water seems abundant in Canada, but is it really?

In the land of glacial waters and spring thaws the last thing most Canadians think about is where their next drink of clean water is coming from. Big mistake. Canada does not have a limitless supply of fresh water. Only a small fraction of the water we see when visiting the Great lakes, for example, is "new" and if we consume it or pollute it or otherwise make it unusable it will not be readily replaced.

In today's Globe and Mail John Austin makes his case to Canadians that we have to protect and conserve this finite resource:

Water is something Canadians and Americans take very much for granted, particularly people in the vicinity of the Great Lakes, where water's abundance has long been the foundation of agriculture, industry, trade and economic development. Around the world, water matters powerfully, and in new ways. Not only is it a vital and increasingly precious source of life – access and proximity to it is a valuable commodity in today's economy.

Most Canadians haven't yet realized that their country faces an imminent shortage of fresh water. A March 19 Ipsos-Reid poll showed that 80 per cent of Canadians are confident that the country's supply will meet long-term needs. Two-thirds don't think there is a shortage. This attitude helps explain why Canada is second only to the United States when it comes to wasting water.

Part of the challenge is that most don't understand the important distinction between regular fresh water and renewable fresh water. Canada has about 20 per cent of the world's regular fresh water, which gives the false illusion of an immensely abundant supply. But little of this water is replenished annually. Most of Canada's fresh water is a legacy of the melting large ice sheets that once covered much of the country's land mass. When water is used or evaporates, it doesn't always return in useful quantity or quality.

That's why we talk about renewable water sources. Roughly 7 per cent of the world's renewable fresh water is found in Canada. More than half of it flows northward into the Arctic Ocean and Hudson Bay, which leaves the 85 per cent of Canadians who live close to the U.S. border with access to just 2.6 per cent of the world's renewable fresh water.

The Great Lakes are an intricate part of our two countries' shared environment, health and economy. They provide drinking water to 8.5 million Canadians while supporting 45 per cent of Canada's industrial capacity and 25 per cent of its agricultural capacity. They contribute $180-billion a year to Canada-U.S. trade, sustaining a $100-million commercial fishing industry and a $350-million recreational finishing industry.

According to Environment Canada, water directly contributes between $7.5-billion and $23-billion a year to the country's economy. On the U.S. side, a recent Brookings Institution study suggested that making priority renovations of sewer infrastructure, cleaning up toxic areas and protecting important pieces of the Great Lakes ecosystem would eventually pay off with $80-billion to $100-billion worth of regional economic development.

Exacerbated by climate change, even the world's largest freshwater resource is not immune. Home to a broad variety of natural habitats, the Great Lakes are under serious threat. Huge swaths of wetlands have been lost, thousands of kilometres of rivers have been impaired and much shoreline has been degraded. Invasive species ply the waters, and climate change places human and ecosystem health in peril.

For the past decade, drought and warmer temperatures have caused constant decreases in the water levels of Lake Superior, which feed into the other (...read more...)

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04 23
Boeing And Airbus Meet To Reduce Carbon Footprint Of Air Travel


Aviation industry competitors AIrbus And Boeing signed an agreement Tuesday that will let them work together to reduce air travel’s carbon footprint. According to AFP:

“Airbus and Boeing are committed to action. The fact that we are sitting here today despite the highly competitive nature of our business demonstrates and underscores the joint commitment to addressing and helping solve the environmental challenges facing our industry,” said Scott Carson, president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Unlike Virgin Airline’s recent use of biofuels to reduce CO2 emissions, this agreement is premised on improving aircraft routing efficiencies which will reduce the amount of time an aircraft is airborne consuming fuel. Fuel savings generated from this tactic could top 10% in Europe and more in the United States where air traffic is heavier. 

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04 22
Silver Donald Cameron On Paul Watson

SIlver Donald Cameron introduces his view of the great Sea Shepherd debate:

Let me get this straight. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, aided by the RCMP, boarded and seized the Dutch-registered protest vessel Farley Mowat in order to prevent injury to sealers—just a couple of weeks after DFO drowned four sealers itself in a terrifying display of incompetence.

And the European master and mate of the vessel have been jailed and charged with offences under a set of “marine mammal protection regulations” that were created specifically to stifle dissent by preventing protesters from approaching seals who are in the process of being slaughtered.

And all this hits the headlines just as the European Union debates whether to ban seal products from the EU completely. A triumph of Canadian diplomacy.

If you thought all Easterners supported Minister Hearn’s reckless seizure of a foreign vessel in International waters, well, you haven’t read Cameron’s blog, Silver Donald on Sunday.

Is Paul Watson really gutless?

But that’s not true of Paul Watson. Say what you will about Paul Watson—and you can say, with some justice, that he’s intransigent, uncompromising, hyperbolic, pugnacious, rash and intemperate—you cannot ascribe cynicism to a man who has spent his whole life charging whaling ships with rubber rafts, getting himself tear-gassed and beaten and jailed, and confronting armed and angry sealers and whalers far out on the cold and lonely sea.

But Hearn, who has spent his entire working life in classrooms and legislatures, says Watson is “gutless.” Stunning.

To read more of Cameron’s critique of Canada’s sealing policy, go to today’s Chronicle Herald.

Meanwhile, in Watson’s personal blog on the Sea Shepherd site, the altercation continues:

In a world where his Holiness the Dalai Lama is described as a terrorist leader by a world power like China, it is hardly an insult to be called a terrorist by some backwoods robber baron of a premier in Newfoundland.

Last week Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams called me a “terrorist” because Sea Shepherd was documenting the slaughter of seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. My response to him on Canadian national television was to either arrest me or to shut up.

I have never been convicted of a felony, I have never injured a single person, in fact I am so non-violent that I don’t eat meat. I am not wanted for any crime anywhere in the world. I am not on any “no-fly” lists. I am not barred from entry into any country. I don’t have the FBI sitting on my doorstep monitoring my every move so just what kind of terrorist am I?

Williams said I would not be allowed to enter Newfoundland while he is Premier. I would like to see how he would stop me. The last time I looked, Newfoundland was still a part of Canada unfortunately and I am a Canadian citizen. I suppose he will charge me with slumming or being in Newfoundland without a club.

Dan Leger, a columnist for the Halifax Chronicle Herald has the answer. According to this right wing bullet-headed scribe, both Elizabeth May the leader of the Canadian Green Party and I are “tofu-eating terrorists.”

I don’t really know where “tofu eating terrorists” are placed on the spectrum of terrorism but there seems to be a vast chasm between the action of video-taping the slaughter of a seal and flying a passenger jet into a civilian building.

It has been amazing to witness the polarization of the Canadian media in response to the campaign to oppose the vicious slaughter of harp seals. On one side there is “the defend (...read more...)

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04 14
Sea Shepherd Stormed—But Fighting Back In Press


Canadian Fisheries has once again proven that it thinks bad politics beats good policy. Last weekend’s seizure of the Farley Mowat—a Sea Shepherd Foundation protest vessel—proves the point. After an abysmal week for the Canadian Government agency where four fisherman drowned as a result of a towing accident involving a Canadian icebreaker, Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn decided to deflect the generation-old criticism of Canada’s sealing industry by arresting environmentalists.

Leader of the Sea Shepherd organization Paul Watson made it easy for Hearn to take this step when he stated, “The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society recognizes that the deaths of four sealers is a tragedy but Sea Shepherd also recognizes that the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seal pups is an even greater tragedy.” According to the CBC, Watson also described sealers as “sadistic baby killers” and “vicious killers who are now pleading for sympathy because some of their own died while engaged in a viciously brutal activity.” With eastern Canada enraged over Watson’s comments, Minister Hearn saw an opportunity to act and he did. He ordered the Mowat seized in international waters.

Of course, this was Watson’s purpose all along: provoke a disproportionate government response to get headlines and reach an international audience. Read this quote from the Sea Shepherd’s web site:

In seizing the Farley Mowat and arresting the Sea Shepherd crew Loyola Hearn has done something that Sea Shepherd hoped he would do but we did not believe he was stupid enough to do – an unlawful boarding of foreign registered vessel in international waters. With the European Parliament on the brink of voting to ban seal products into the European market, Loyola Hearn decides to arrest Europeans for the “crime” of documenting incidents of cruelty on the ice.

Given the provocation, it is hard for Canadians to support Watson’s efforts to ban sealing. That’s why Green Party leader Elizabeth May decided that it was time to distance herself from the group. She resigned from her role as an advisor to the Sea Shepherd society.

“There’s a point at which someone’s comments are just so completely repugnant,” May told CBC News Friday.

“We’re just reeling from the loss of these men at sea, and whether you support the seal hunt or not, you want all the seal hunters to get home to their families safely.”

Watson said Friday he is not apologetic about his comments.


“I don’t pretend to not be controversial. I’m here to rock the boat, to make waves, to make people think, you know, to provoke. That’s what I do."

Canada’s bad policy on sealing makes Watson’s job easier. The story is already in the world’s news cycle, and Canada’s image abroad is eroded first and foremost by the primitive spring blood ritual, and then by the making of laws meant to prevent observers from covering the slaughter. When a Canadian icebreaker rams an environmental protest vessel in international waters it is easy to guess how the story will be played by the world’s press.

From the Australian News site:

Dr Redenbach, a paediatrician at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital, said members of the crew were arrested under the Marine Mammals Act.

“We were arrested originally yesterday on charges of violations of the Marine Mammals Act but later released without charge having been arrested in international waters,” she told ABC Radio today.

From the Globe and Mail:

“At least a dozen armed RCMP officers came on board, pointing shotguns, automatic weapons and handguns at us,” said David Nickarz, a Winnipegger who works with the Sea Shepherd group. “It was like those SWAT team videos.”

Mr. Nickarz (...read more...)

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04 11
Failing Economics: A Story From www.readingtoronto.com
By Peter Fruchter @ Reading Toronto image

Hey -- what’s with the partial nudity?

That’s just how Robert Nadeau regards economists. Because, according to his recent article in Scientific American, economists are scientifically ignorant. That’s why, on his view,
Unscientific assumptions in economic theory are undermining efforts to solve environmental problems.
Essentially, Nadeau’s argument isn’t that economic theories are inconsistent. Only absurdly incomplete. As if mainstream economists were describing nothing but straight narrow portions of spectacularly long winding roads. Thus, particularly when it comes to ecological impacting, economists mislead us. Their theories can’t lead us anywhere we need to go.

Economic theories are misleading rather than explanatory due to how absurdly incomplete they are. Nadeau is calling for economic upgrades:
Because neoclassical economics does not even acknowledge the costs of environmental problems and the limits to economic growth, it constitutes one of the greatest barriers to combating climate change and other threats to the planet. It is imperative that economists devise new theories that will take all the realities of our global system into account.
Some economists might not take Nadeau’s threat to tinker economics lying down, though. “Bender”, for instance, commented that,
In an article purportedly discussing economic analysis and environmental policy neither externality nor externalities ever appeared! I don’t know which is more depressing, that someone could be stupid and ignorant enough to produce this tripe or that the Scientific American has sunk so low as to publish it.
How pedantic. That's exactly what Nadeau's talking about -- how overwhelming economic externalities like ecology are getting. But Nadeau not utilising the specific terms “Bender” recognizes resulted in “Bender” utterly missing Nadeau’s point. Standard economic theories mislead us precisely because environmental crisis constitutes such overwhelming externality.

Nadeau’s right, of course. We are rushing full steam and toxic waste to being overwhelmed. Not just economically.

But should economists seek to internalize theoretically and factually overwhelming externalities like environmental crisis? No. By no means. Absolutely not. There is no economic solution to our problems. Rather, let’s better appreciate how limited and incomplete economic theories are -– and let’s start looking way past economics for what it means to be more natural. What it means to be at all natural.

Can we do that? Toronto living is just about the most economically affluent anywhere –- ever. We expect some economic turbulence ahead. Will we be willing to look past it –- for what it means to be more natural? Or do we remain forever fixated on economic maximizing -- regardless how affluent we get? Regardless the cost to everything natural so precariously remaining?

[Peter Fruchter teaches in the Division of Humanities at York University.]

Screenshot from here.
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04 09
Gore: Crisis of Citizenship Impedes Addressing Environmental Crises
By Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse (at http://www.dailykos.com — borrowed without permission but with good intentions)

Last month Al Gore discussed how our democracy crisis is impeding our efforts to address the climate crisis. As Gandhi said, "We must become the change we want to see" in the world. Gore stated that we can not solve the climate crisis until we solve the crisis of citizenship and democracy.  The outcome we desire for global warming or any environmental issue is not going to be achieved by our beliefs unless it is accompanied by new behavior of citizen involvement at both the personal and political levels. Behavioral changes are good, like conservation, but Gore stated that it is more important to change the laws. Changing laws requires acknowledging an urgency of the environmental crises we face.

  • Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse's diary :: ::
  • We have not yet acknowledged that urgency with global warming. 68% of Americans agree that global warming is caused by human activity and 69% believe the earth is heating up in a significant way.  However, we are missing that sense of urgency, which is reflected in the fact that global warming and environmental issues are ranked at the bottom of issues of importance.

    What we can do to move toward establishing that sense of urgency needed to trigger active citizenship which then triggers solving environmental issues is to understand the facts and analyze the issues. Once we agree upon the facts and analysis, then we must take action to change our political culture. This happened in Australia, which faced such a devastating drought that the people unified in a campaign to "lift the sense of urgency for the people about global warming and drought."  The campaign included participation by newspaper, TV, radio and the internet, and it created the sense of urgency that led to a changed government with a new prime minister whose first action was to change position on global warming by ratifying Kyoto. Gore warned that we can not wait until we face water shortages like the drought in Australia.
    Gore's road map to resolve an environmental crisis makes sense. We must be informed, understand and agree on the facts of the particular environmental crisis. Acknowledging the environmental crisis has been sufficient to trigger some personal involvement in conservation, but not sufficient to trigger substantial conservation efforts and not sufficient to trigger sufficient political citizen action to change the political culture in DC so that laws are changed.  So, we need agreement on the facts of the environmental crisis + some extreme in-your-face event (like a severe drought) to trigger the sense of urgency that leads to campaigns or movements to change the political culture.

    The extreme event apparently must be either an event with national impact or a regional crisis for which people nationwide can identify. I say this because Katrina did not trigger any campaign or movement to change laws to remedy the natural or man-made disasters in NOLA.  Years of massive environmental disasters in Appalachia have similarly been met with silence.

    Gore is right that we can not wait for a drought like Australia. However, something is  preventing public recognition of a sense of urgency with environmental issues. One obstacle is that many environmental issues are usually implicitly (if not also expressly) mocked as simply a liberal "tree hugger" issue that really is not important, but simply a case of tree hugger activists who have too much spare time on their hands. We can see this to some extent with the global warming deniers who have been effective in delaying action by decreasing political (...read more...)

    [email this story] Posted by Robert Ouellette on 04/09 Comment Here (0)
    03 30
    Earth Hour: Hit or Miss?

    WWF photos of Toronto’s Earth Hour on Flickr

    The ratings are in—Toronto’s energy use dropped about 9% over Saturday evening’s normal electrical consumption. Not bad, but when you think about it, not that great either. You have to wonder where most of that energy drop came from. My bet is that it was from the big commercial users—office towers, etc. Consumers? Well, the drop was probably 2 to 3%. After all, there was a hockey game on, right? 


    Maybe we were inspired by our leader, Stephen Harper. Turns out that Mr. Harper kept his lights on both at home and in the office. The Toronto Star writes:

    Thanks to its place of prominence in the capital, 24 Sussex Dr., the Prime Minister’s residence, is always easy to spot. As Ottawa went dark last night for Earth Hour, it was even easier.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s lights stayed on.
    . . .

    But two ground-floor rooms in Harper’s house stayed on and inquiries to a PMO spokesperson were not returned. The third-floor offices on Parliament Hill that house the Prime Minister’s Office were also among the few lights that stayed on, prompting a jeer from a handful of Green Party activists who had gathered in the cold to mark the occasion.

    Actions, as it is said, speak far louder than words. To his credit, Environment Minister John Baird turned off his lights, as did Stephane Dion, leader of the Liberal Party.

    [email this story] Posted by Robert Ouellette on 03/30 Comment Here (0)
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