On the eve of the publication of her new book, Naomi Klein talks about the things that give her hope in a world that can sometimes feel very bleak.Naomi Klein rose to international acclaim in 1999 by explaining how big corporations were exploiting our insecurities to convince us to spend money we didn’t have, on stuff we didn’t need No Logo. In 2007 she masterfully dissected the ways those steering the global economy use moments of social and environmental crisis to justify transferring public wealth into the hands of the ultra-rich The Shock Doctrine. Less-known though are the alternatives Klein spends much of her time witnessing, documenting, and digging into, from the spread of fossil fuel divestment, to community-owned energy projects and resistance to tar sands pipelines.On the eve of the publication of her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, Klein sat down with Liam Barrington-Bush at the Peoples Social Forum in Ottawa, to talk about where she finds hope in a world that can sometimes feel very bleak. She reminds us that in a culture that treats people as consumers and relationships as transactions, ‘we’re not who we were told we were.’::::::::::::::::::::::LBB: In a recent piece in the Nation, you wrote: “Because of the way our daily lives have been altered by both market and technological triumphalism, we lack many of the observational tools necessary to convince ourselves that climate change is real — let alone the confidence to believe that a different way of living is possible.” What has helped you to believe that a different way of living is possible?NK: I think part of it is just having been lucky enough to have seen other ways of living and to have lived differently myself. To know that not only is living differently not the end of the world, but in many cases, it has enabled some of the happiest times of my life.I think the truth is that we spend a lot of time being afraid of what we would lose if we ever took this crisis seriously. I had this experience when I had been living in Argentina for a couple of years; I came back to the US because I had agreed to do this speech at an American university. It was in Colorado and I went directly from Buenos Aires, which was just on fire at that moment; the culture was so rich, the sense of community was so strong. It was the most transformative experience of my life to be able to be part of that.So I end up staying at a Holiday Inn, looking out at a parking lot, and it’s just so incredibly grim. I go to this class and I do my spiel. I was talking about Argentina and the economic crisis. At this point the US economy’s booming and nobody thinks anything like this could ever happen to them. And this young woman says, “I hear what you’re saying, but why should I care?”
To mark the recent publication of Freshwater Politics in Canada, author Peter Clancy provides a brief overview of the freshwater dimensions of the controversial Northern Gateway project, as well as its many political dimensions. For more on this, or on related issues such as fracking, salmon conservation, Aboriginal water interests, freshwater governance, etc., grab a copy of his brand new book!
The Northern Gateway project is one of the most significant energy ventures in Canada today. It proposes a 36 inch oil pipeline to convey diluted bitumen (heavy synthetic oil) from the Fort McMurray region to Kitimat BC. There it will be loaded onto tankers for Asian markets. A parallel 20 inch line will carry imported natural gas condensates, required in the manufacturing process, in the opposite direction. About 45 percent of the 1,177 km corridor is in Alberta with the balance in British Columbia.
Freshwater politics is only part of the controversy here but it is a big part. More than one thousand rivers and streams must be crossed. While all watercourses are sensitive, the proposed Gateway route crosses five major Canadian watersheds. The Skeena and the Fraser drain to the Pacific, the Peace and the Athabasca flow northerly to the Arctic Ocean and the North Saskatchewan River flows easterly to Hudson’s Bay. These watersheds and sub-watersheds enclose a plethora of biological and social communities and each generates a variety of political concerns.
On World Water Day, the World Resources Institute (WRI) has released a study that maps for the first time the water resources available to support fracking in the world’s largest shale exploration areas. The study, “Global Shale Gas Development: Water Availability and Business Risk,” found that 40 percent of countries with the largest shale energy resources could suffer from water stress: competing demands on their renewable water supply that could make it problematic to use that water for fracking.
Humans risk causing irreversible and widespread damage to the planet unless there’s faster action to limit the fossil fuel emissions blamed for climate change, according to a leaked draft United Nations report.Global warming already is affecting “all continents and across the oceans,” and further pollution from heat-trapping gases will raise the likelihood of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,” according to the document obtained by Bloomberg.“Without additional mitigation, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally,” the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in the draft.
In what may be the most stinging criticism against the Northern Gateway project yet, a group of 300 scientists have submitted an open letter to the Prime Minister Harper urging him to reject a recent federal review recommending the passage of the oil sands pipeline.Its signed on by a whos who of Canadas scientific establishment, Canada Research chairs, PhD candidates, as well as researchers as far away as Oxford, Stanford and Harvard.They state that the scientific basis of a recent Joint Review Panel report, which recommended in December that Enbridges $7 billion pipeline be approved, was “deeply flawed” and “biased.”“They excluded all kinds of really important evidence by constraining their analysis to a very broad take on the benefits, and a very narrow take on the costs,” said Dr. Kai Chan, an associate professor with UBCs Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, and a Canada Research Chair.“The public looks to these supposedly independent panels for an independent, objective review of the science and economics of the projects. They are supposed to be rigourous – they spent millions of dollars.””But it was a highly legalized process. A lot of science that people assume is critical to the decision, is either being excluded or being considered in a highly flawed or biased way,” said Chan.Northern Gateways 1,177km pipeline would pump 525,000 barrels of Alberta oil sands bitumen per day, on to 220 super tankers annually in Kitimat, on B.C.s northwest coast. The ships would traverse the Douglas Channel, bound for Asia and California refineries.The fuels would be burned by consumers worldwide.
The uber right-wing billionaire Koch brothers, owners of the U.S.’s largest private company, are some of the country’s most influential Tea Party supporters, climate change deniers and anti-union activists.
Now Canadian oil is on the cusp of adding to their empire.
Already the largest foreign leaseholder in Alberta’s controversial oilsands, a Koch Industries subsidiary has filed an application to start development on the Dunkirk commercial scale oil project.
Koch Oil Sands Operating ULC, on behalf of Koch Canada Exploration submitted an application late last month for development to the Alberta Energy Regulator, and has also filed terms of reference for an environmental impact assessment to Alberta Environmental and Sustainable Resource Development.
At the moment, the overwhelming sense around the world is nothing will happen in time. That’s on the verge of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy – indeed, as I’ve written in these pages, it’s very clear that the fossil-fuel industry has five times as much carbon in its reserves as it would take to break the planet. On current trajectories, the industry will burn it, and governments will make only small whimpering noises about changing the speed at which it happens. A loud movement – one that gives our “leaders” permission to actually lead, and then scares them into doing so – is the only hope of upending that prophecy.
If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.