transatlantic trade agreement & toxic chemicals

Posted Jun. 21, 2013 / Posted by: Bill Waren

On July 8, in Washington, D.C., trade negotiators from the United States and the European Union are expected to open the first round of talks for a Trans Atlantic free trade agreement TAFTA or as it is formally known, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership TTIP.  The United States is pushing for a transatlantic deal that not only integrates the trade policies of the U.S. and E.U., but also deregulates their economies.Because tariffs are already relatively low between the U.S. and Europe, TAFTA negotiations will instead focus on regulatory “barriers” to transatlantic trade and investment.[i] This may result in dangerous deregulation of environmental and public health safeguards – including those related to toxic chemicals, and will likely have a chilling effect on any future efforts to enact similar protections. Specifically, the E.U.’s more precautionary approach to chemicals management system should not be “harmonized down” to low U.S. standards.

via Updates: news releases and updates.

Fort McMurray, Home to 176 Square km of Tar Sands Tailings Ponds, Overwhelmed by Floods | DeSmog Canada

Fort McMurray, Home to 176 Square km of Tar Sands Tailings Ponds, Overwhelmed by Floods | DeSmog Canada.

On Friday the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), the Alberta government’s industry regulator, released a report stating that tar sands companies have failed to comply with pre-existing agreements to limit the amount of water used in tar sands extraction and processing as well as the amount of polluted water that ends up in the region’s growing toxic tailings ponds.

The release of the report coincides with massive floods near Fort McMurray, wreaking havoc on the city’s infrastructure. Since Friday the region has seen between 80 and 180mm of precipitation. Major highways have been closed, roads have been partially washed out, buildings flooded and homes evacuated. The city of Fort McMurray officially declared a state of emergency today, while unseasonably high temperatures prompt snow melt and rain is forecast to continue throughout the week.

The immediate question is apparent: what threat does the flooding pose to the massive tailings ponds lining the Athabasca River and the millions of litres of toxic contaminants they contain?

According to recent industry figures, tailings ponds, which hold the billions of litres of contaminated waste water used in bitumen extraction and processing, cover 176 square kilometres of the tar sands region.

Adam Kingsmith: The Slow and Painful Death of Freedom in Canada

Less than a generation ago, Canada was a world leader when it came to the fundamental democratic freedoms of assembly, speech and information.

In 1982, Canada adopted the Access to Information Act — making it one of the first countries to pass legislation recognizing the right of citizens to access information held by government, and as recently as 2002, Canada ranked among the top 5 most open and transparent countries when it came to respect for freedom of the press.

Fast-forward a decade, and we’ve become a true north suppressed and disparate — where unregistered civic demonstrations are inhibited and repressed, rebellious Internet activities are scrutinised and supervised, government scientists are hushed and muzzled, and public information is stalled and mired by bureaucratic firewalls.

via Adam Kingsmith: The Slow and Painful Death of Freedom in Canada.

Understanding the Latest Leaks is Understanding the Rise of a New Fascism by John Pilger | Dandelion Salad

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

via Understanding the Latest Leaks is Understanding the Rise of a New Fascism by John Pilger | Dandelion Salad.

Where is territory? Rosenberg report on the Mackenzie River Basin – the anthropo.scene

The report covers a lot of ground. Perhaps not surprisingly since the Mackenzie is an enormous basin. It is an important step towards raising some of the key issues going forward for the region and it comes out at a timely moment given the Northwest Territories recent ‘devolution’ agreement with the federal government and the role of natural resource development in it. It is also timely given that Canada is now the chair of the Arctic Security council and the report’s linkage between the the fate of the Mackenzie and the challenges of planetary environmental security.

It is also interesting in the way in which the entire report represents itself – the subtitle emphasizes the “transboundary” nature of the basin as it is shared between several Canadian provinces and territories. But this is a VERY peculiar political geography given that the basin is also under several treaty agreements with many First Nations. Some of these agreements were reached under the early treaty system and some are termed “modern” – meaning that they were reached after the 1970s under a different model. It is not that the report entirely ignores First Nations but there is no treatment of even the fact that different kinds of treaties exist in the basin.

via Where is territory? Rosenberg report on the Mackenzie River Basin – the anthropo.scene.

The Mining Myth: Sustainability and Development | Scoop News

The Mining Myth: Sustainability and Development

by Binoy Kampmark

May 21, 2013

It has been a fiction that has held sway for a time. Mining booms create trickledown wealth. It is tagged as “sustainable” when it is premised on temporariness. Natural resources work for countries that possess them in abundance. Only on the periphery do we see the sense of foreboding that comes with these assets, be it the murder of such leaders as Patrice Lumumba in the Congo over fears that he might have handed over natural resources to the Soviets, or the fear of becoming a two speed economy, one dangerously reliant on commodity prices and extraction dues.

The latter is particularly relevant to the Australian context. Leaders like proclaiming the country as stable and untouched by the political fractiousness that tends to afflict other countries with similar pools of wealth. These scions of plunder are attempting to give lessons to other countries in the game, which is much like a thief teaching other thieves how best to open a safe in a sustainable, green way. This is the message at the Mining for Development Conference taking place in Sydney over May 20 and May 21.

The conference profile reads like a smooth document on dispute resolution and good governance, a manifesto of promise and environmental equilibrium. Mining, in short, is praiseworthy. It has had its problems, but the guests are keen to follow such standards as the EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative), the global standard for transparency of revenues from natural resources. And it has the blessings of AusAid, thereby surreptitiously linking aid to developing countries with a noble mining sector. If Coke would sponsor programs on nutrition, this is what it would look like.

via The Mining Myth: Sustainability and Development | Scoop News.

Off topic, on point: the problem with #smallenfreuden – the anthropo.scene

’m not an economist, but it seems to me that the latest version of pushing Visa (and other credit card) purchases for small items is surely the worst way to undermine local, independent entrepreneurs. This is described, according to Visa’s latest commercials, through the obtuse word smallenfreuden. Here is how they describe it:

via Off topic, on point: the problem with #smallenfreuden – the anthropo.scene.

KarmaTube: Beth Terry – Living Plastic Free

The average American generates about 100 pounds of plastic waste a year. So did Beth Terry, until she read an article about plastic pollution in the oceans and saw a photograph of a dead albatross chick carcass filled with plastic products. Making the connection that her actions were harming a creature she never knew existed, she resolved to live a plastic free life. From January to November 2010, she generated less than 2 pounds of plastic waste.

via KarmaTube: Beth Terry – Living Plastic Free.