A Voice for Earth

Environmental and social justice and my personal experiences in the area.


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Obama’s State of the Union, Reason to Be Hopeful about Climate Change?

(Image Source: Daily Kos)

The UK Met Office, NASA, NOAA, the Japanese Meteorological Agency, all have reported 2014 as officially the hottest year on record since 1880. 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have all occurred since the beginning of this century. The one year in the 20th century that still makes the top ten list is 1998, a year when a super El Nino hugely bumped up global temperatures and now that year is fourth behind 2005 and 2010, which were both weak El Nino years, and now 2014, a year in which we had no El Nino at all. That last fact alone should be alerting us as to where we’re headed, a hotter, more extreme world less hospitable to the human species.

The UK Met Office has even predicted the possibility of 2015 being warmer again than last year, dependent on whether El Nino develops or not. This back-to-back record warm years occurrence has happened before, most recently as it happens in 1997 and 1998 when El Nino supercharged the climate system, bringing much higher average temperatures right across the globe. After that, temperature increases, on land especially, slowed, which created the denialist argument that climate change had somehow stopped, coining the label, “The Pause”. It has since been determined that warming did indeed continue, just mostly in the deep oceans and in the polar regions were monitoring has less coverage. However, the denier community has yet to stop beating that dead horse.

However, a better analogue for the potential 2014/15 back-to-back warmest years scenario are the years 1980 and 1981 where both years were record warm without El Nino developing. These two years were the beginning of nearly two decades of intense warming, so is it possible that the current record warmth is a signal that the hiatus in warming is ending, and we are about to enter another intense warming phase? No one can say for certain. It’s possible the slowdown will continue for years more, or it may end in the coming year or two in drastic fashion.

One thing is certain, though. It will end.

Whether it be this year or in ten years, climate change will get back in to high gear at some point in the future. With carbon dioxide levels passing 400ppm and with other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide also rising, there is no way to avoid further heating of our climate system, especially given the insufficient action we’ve taken thus far to curb it. Indeed, we are beyond any halting or reversal of this process. The carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere will continue to warm the Earth for centuries to come. This throws into doubt whether we can even hold warming this century below the much touted two-degree Celsius threshold.

So, do we just pack it in and call it day? Of course not! However, the actions we’ve taken so far must be just the tip of the iceberg compared to what we do from here on out.

President Obama gave a rousing State of the Union address to Congress that could even be described as somewhat combative against an institution that has attempted to thwart his every move since he was first elected to the Oval Office. Specifically in the part where he discusses climate change, he poked fun at the Tea Partiers’ constant use of the “I’m not a scientist” cop-out when challenged on their stance on the matter. He also stated rather defiantly that “I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts…”. He also alluded to the deal he struck with China, saying that now that the world’s two largest economies have come to an agreement on lowering emissions that it has encouraged other countries to step up.

That may well be the case, and such efforts are to be applauded, but the world needs more from the US, China, and other major polluters than words. As the president stated in his address, we need to act forcefully if the damage inflicted by climate change is to be kept within tolerable bounds. So far, what we have done could less be described as forceful and more a gentle nudge in the right direction. In order to have just a fifty percent chance, one in two, of keeping warming below two degrees Celsius, we would need to peak emissions globally by 2020 and from there on out, decrease them by 9-10% a year. Are we going to peak emissions in five years? Unlikely. Are we going to thereafter lower them by a tenth every year? Even less probable.

So our odds of staying below the two degree threshold are probably going to be significantly less than fifty percent, but is that reason to resign ourselves to hopelessness?

I, for one, don’t think so.

Even under the current paradigm, we have the chance to do right by the planet and future generations. Maybe our political systems are too slow to act and too hampered by lobbying interests, but I believe that real change is going to come from us, not government. The US government, as a whole, has already proven it’s intransigence when faced with facts.The Republican Party especially has done everything from outright denial that the problem exists, denying humans cause it, to claiming it not to be within their purview to comment or act upon. President Obama imploded that last tactic by letting Congress know there are plenty of experts out there they can listen to in order to inform their decision-making.

Despite this, hours after the State of the Union, the Senate put forth a highly unpopular bill to block protections of new parks or historical sites after the president applauding his administration’s role in protecting more public lands than any before him. They voted 98-1 that climate change is not a hoax but subsequently refused to acknowledge humanity’s role in causing it. Then, the new environmental chair of the Senate, Senator James Inhofe, took to the floor to regurgitate a long list of much debunked climate denier talking points. In the US administration at least, it’s fair to say that climate realists are in the minority. Therefore, it’s up to us.

It’s nice that Obama supports climate action, and that he is willing to use his executive powers to forward his agenda. Still, the kind of action required of us would need every part of the US government co-operating and every country in the world doing the same. We’re not there yet on a governmental level. So while loud voices within government calling for action such as President Obama, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Sheldon Whitehouse is all well and good, it’s hard to take heart in it if their outcries are falling on deaf ears.

Individual action is what is needed, people everywhere demanding movement on the issue, demanding change.

This is possible. We change our own habits and make different choices to limit our carbon footprint, that is action. We speak out on social media, blogs, and other public forums, that is action. We march, we protest, we disobey (peacefully, of course), that is definitely action. Government action is slow partly because politicians require motivation in order to make hard decisions. Thousands upon thousands of people marching the streets can be that motivation, but sometimes even that is ignored. Therefore, our voices must be present everywhere. We must shout loud enough and long enough that we cannot be dismissed and if we are willing to make changes in our own lives and how we live, that sends a clear message to politicians and corporations that we are willing to step up, and now it’s their turn.

Links:

2014: Hottest Year in Recorded Human History

Two Degrees: Will we avoid dangerous climate change?

Even if emissions stop, carbon dioxide could warm Earth for centuries

Senate Votes 98-1 that ‘Climate Change Is Real And Not A Hoax’

New Senate Environmental Chair Gets His Gavel, Goes On A Rant Arguing Climate Science Is A Hoax

What would ‘wartime mobilization’ to fight climate change look like?

Report: Global Economies Must Decrease CO2 Emissions By 5 Times Current Levels

Hours After State Of The Union, Senate Targets National Parks

Disclaimer:

All opinions put forth in this post are my own. I respect other people’s rights to their own opinions, and no offence is intended to anyone.

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Citizen Koch: WTF America?!!

(Image Source: Daily Kos)

Just a quick forewarning, this blog post will probably end up being less of a coherent opinion piece and more of an angry, confused rant.

I just watched the documentary film, Citizen Koch. I thought I was fully aware of the massive corporate influence in US politics, and the complicity of some politicians with these lobbying interests. It’s hard to imagine that it could possibly be worse than all that. America, in my opinion, is no longer the country that would not be ruled by kings or the privileged. It is a nation of the dollar, by the dollar, and for the dollar. Money is law, money is votes, money is power. Welcome to the Plutocratic States of America.

Now I’m not picking on the US just because I just watched a documentary decrying its political system. Special interests exist in every country, and they lobby leaders to give them what they want. Tax breaks, less regulations, less rights to workers, you name it, it’s for sale for the right price because politics the world over is becoming less and less about the people governments are meant to serve and more about how being in government can serve individual politicians. Anybody is free to correct me if I’m wrong but among Western nations, I don’t think the US was exceptionally bad in that regard, that is until the Citizen’s United ruling.

The Supreme Court, the body of nine judges who are supposed to protect the laws of the nation, decided for some reason that allowing unlimited funding for political campaigns would somehow have no ill-effect on American democracy. Let’s think about that for a second. If I am some billionaire, I can funnel millions in funding to the political candidates who I know will be partial to my interests, or who at least can be persuaded if I throw a few more bills at them after they’re elected. Said politician will then use the money provided to flood the airways with ads supporting his/her campaign, which will leave voters believing that this guy has my best interests at heart. Meanwhile, the other candidate who has been grossly outspent, cannot get the same kind of airtime. Less voters see them, and they lose votes to the candidate with more cash and more exposure.

Someone explain to me how that is democratic.

That set-up is bad enough. Let’s now consider what these politicians do when they get elected. Scott Walker is governor of Wisconsin, and he is featured a lot in Citizen Koch. His campaigns for election to the governor’s office were heavily funded by out-of-state interests, including Koch Industries. He declared on his first victory that “Wisconsin is open for business”. He meant that quite literally. Big Business would like nothing more than a compliant, disorganized workforce without the power to challenge their policies. Therefore, unions are the enemy. Unions gave us the forty-hour work week, the weekend, and the end of child labour. Before there were unions, there was hardly any middle-class because businesses could marginalise their workers as much as they wanted because everyone needed their jobs, so no one was going to complain. Yet, Scott Walker decided that doing away with unions’ collective bargaining rights was somehow a good idea.

Long story short, it isn’t.

It meant in this particular case that state workers could not negotiate with employers on any working conditions other than increases in pay, and even that came with limitations. Under the bill, unions would have to win yearly votes to continue representing workers, and dues could no longer be automatically deducted from government workers’ pay-checks. Union busting anyone? Of course, Walker swore that was not what he was attempting to do, and you might ask if private corporations had largely bankrolled his campaign then why would the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers matter? The answer is that unions are the only major competition that corporate donors to Republican candidates face. If they were gone, there would be no major donors to Democratic candidates left. Therefore, the right would have all the funding to swamp the airways with campaign ads while the left-wing languished in obscurity.

At this point, I’d like to make a distinction, one clearly made in the documentary. Scott Walker is a Tea Partier not representative of the entire Republican Party and indeed not of what the party once was. The Tea Party has risen out of corporate funding and from support from shady organisations like Americans for Prosperity and ALEC. The agenda of this subculture within Republican politics is clear, deregulate, deregulate, deregulate! No health regulations, no environmental regulations, no workers’ rights, no taxes, no to anything that could prevent corporations from being as profitable as is feasibly possible. The Tea Partiers don’t care about the majority of the people who vote them in, the people they’re supposed to represent because, as 2012 presidential candidate Buddy Roemer put it, “You don’t bring a cheque.”

You don’t matter unless you pay to matter. That’s essentially what American politics is becoming. The 1% pay to have their interests moved to the top of the agenda, and to have their candidates’ campaigns so widely publicised that it’s almost impossible for politicians who are really in it for the people to grab the spotlight. How can democracy function under these conditions? How can it survive when money is speech, corporations are people with inalienable rights, and voters are suppressed through regressive legislation like voter ID laws, requiring people to carry ID to the voting booth or be turned away? Simple answer, it can’t. You are no longer in a democracy. You are in a plutocracy, an oligarchy, a corporatist state, dare I say a fascist state.

Think that’s an extreme assessment? Look into it. More and more money is being sent straight to the top. The middle-class is being crushed out of existence. The government at federal, state, and local level can be bought, and no longer works for the people. You can’t even tell if an official is working for lobbying interests because the law is ill-equipped to reveal who political donors are. In 2012, so disenfranchised were the people of Wisconsin that a petition drive was initiated to get a recall election. 540’208 signatures were required, 25% of the total votes cast during the election that put him in office. They collected more than 900’000 valid signatures. It seemed the people had spoken and despite attempts at delaying it, the recall election was granted. Yet despite what seemed like a massive coup for people power, he managed to get re-elected, again, with 53% of the vote. How did he manage what no other governor had done before, winning a gubernatorial recall election? He got bankrolled big time by the same interests who put him in office in the first place. Many of his big donors were from out-of-state, the Kochs among them.

It’s all well and good to say that Big Business has too much power and too much influence on politics but in the end, people still had to vote for guys like Scott Walker. You’d wonder why any reasonable person would do that. It’s not fair to say that all of them are unreasonable or delusional. Many just buy in to the ads they see on their televisions everyday. Many people don’t vote in protest, or simply because they are disillusioned with the system, which takes a lot of potential Democratic voters out of the equation. The voter ID laws I mentioned before also limit the number of people who can vote, especially among minorities. On the flip side, there are many regular people who support the Tea Party, it’s not just rich CEOs of major companies. Many have probably bought into the idea that the Democrats are socialist or communists even, and they plan to take away their opportunities in a country where anyone can potentially succeed and live the American dream.

Obviously, that’s not the case. Quite often, these people are voting against their own self-interest when they choose Tea Party candidates. The right-wing propaganda machine is forever churning out the comforting notions that some so desperately want to hear. Fox News, Americans for Prosperity, the Heartland Institute, whatever guise they take, they are propagandists feeding people a version of reality that sits with their target audience’s world-view. They do this on behalf of corporations whose interests are served by having people in the dark about their agenda. This is a dangerous state of affairs. Already, a US Senate and Congress controlled primarily by Republicans and Tea Partiers is on the verge of pushing forth bills that would do everything from undercutting government agencies ability to pass regulations to preventing presidents from designating any new national monuments.

The fact is that the greatest democracy in the world has become a shambles, as if Big Business just picked up the whole legislature and put it in its back pocket. This doesn’t bode well for democracy elsewhere in the world. There is often an attitude abroad that if the US is doing it then its okay for us to do it, like an international game of follow-the-leader.

What people seem to forget is though the lobbyists are very powerful, the vast well of power that exists in any country rests with the people. You, me, everybody, we all have far more power than we imagine. That is because without our compliance, without our indifference, the politicians and the corporate powers who support them don’t have a leg to stand on. We have the power to inform ourselves as to who are the best candidates through independent means, not via some ad manufactured by a right-wing advocacy group. Our vote makes us all equal, makes us all powerful if we choose to use it, and that’s the crux of the problem, we have to get out there and use it, no matter how disillusioned we are, or what roadblocks are put in our way.

If what happened in Wisconsin is anything to judge by, we need to be more proactive when it comes to politics. It’s not a case of “my one vote doesn’t matter” or “they’re all the same, so why should I bother?” You’re vote does matter. In the US, your vote got the first African-American president to the oval office, and may well get the first woman president there in 2016. It’s time for us all to realise that who we choose to lead us can affect every aspect of our lives, and that is not something we should take lightly. So I finish by saying get informed, question your preconceptions, go vote, and also I didn’t rant as much as I thought I would!

Links:

Citizen Koch

Scott Walker via Wikipedia

In Scott Walker recall, Wisconsin Dems tout 1 million signatures

House Passes Bill To Make Everything Harder And Worse

New Congress Begins Anti-Environment Attack With New ‘No More National Parks’ Bill

Disclaimer:

All opinions put forth in this post are my own. I respect other people’s rights to their own opinions, and no offence is intended to anyone.


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Helping the Planet through Diet

(Image Source: USDA)

Vegetarianism, Veganism, whichever lifestyle you follow, the commonly known reason that you are doing it is to save animals from cruel living conditions and horrible deaths. Make no mistake, that alone is more than enough reason to choose to go meat and/or dairy free. However, most people don’t realise there’s a lot more to be accomplished by these choices than saving the lives of farm animals. There are less direct but no less significant benefits to the health of our planet as a whole from choosing to be vegan or vegetarian. It all derives from the impact that the meat and dairy industries have on the environment. There are a good many to cover. A short list would be:

  1. River and lake algal blooms due to nutrient loading (Lake Erie last year is a prime example, http://tinyurl.com/kgbks29)
  2. Water depletion (e.g. it takes over 1’800 gallons of water to get a pound of beef, http://tinyurl.com/kgfhb74)
  3. Ocean Dead Zones (similar to the first point, ocean dead zones occur because of a combination of high nutrient levels and pollution entering ocean water via rivers or through direct human activities, de-oxygenating coastal waters, making them uninhabitable to most sea life. Most of the nutrient loading comes from farming and releases of effluent.)
  4. Deforestation (Most forest is cleared to make way for animal agriculture or crops meant to feed livestock. Brazil’s Amazon is a prime example. From 2000-2005, 70% of all deforestation in the Amazon was for the purpose of establishing cattle ranches, http://tinyurl.com/c6q7tt)
  5. Species Extinction (Given all the previous points, it goes without saying that animal agriculture is a primary driver of species loss through habitat destruction, and nearly all ecosystems are directly or indirectly affected by agricultural activities.)
  6. Climate Change (Animal agriculture is a carbon intensive process. Land usage changes to graze animals and grow their food produce CO2 emissions, as does the energy required to keep them alive, slaughter them, process them, and all the transport involved in all those steps. However, it doesn’t stop there. Animals respiration and the carbon-intensive medical treatments that millions of animals require every year are disputed but potentially huge contributors to GHG emissions. Animal agriculture also contributes to emissions of two other greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide, which are 86 and 268 times more potent respectively than carbon dioxide, http://tinyurl.com/ljhml2w)

 

That’s a lot of environmental damage just to bring a steak to your dinner plate or to have the convenience of purchasing a burger from your fast-food restaurant. Most people, in fairness, aren’t aware of any of this. The fact remains that compassion for animals is the main driver behind people choosing to change their diets. I’ve personally seen videos of the kinds of cruelty that livestock are subjected to in industrial farm set-ups, and I can tell you that watching another living creature cry in pain and fear as it struggles for life tugs on the heartstrings a lot more than being told about the invisible gases they emit contributing to climate change. Still, as much as I don’t want to see animals harmed, the environment as a whole is my focus.

We have to consider what kind of world we’re going to leave to our children and grandchildren. A lot of them who are under ten now will be middle-aged by 2050, and I imagine they’ll curse us for the problems we leave them to solve. Our governments are slow to respond to these growing crises partly due to the inherent nature of our democratic systems and partly due to intense lobbying interests who would be affected negatively by any attempt to address the problems I mentioned above. That means the most immediate success can be achieved on the local and individual level. That means you, your choices can have a much greater impact than you think. What if I told you that being vegan would cut your carbon footprint more than giving up your car?

Okay, let’s be honest here. No one’s giving up meat and dairy just like that to be eco-friendly.

It is a huge lifestyle change that you can’t just dive right in to, and it is not easy to maintain. I, myself, am not a strict vegan. Though I avoid meat and dairy at home and when I’m eating out as much as possible, I’m not going to go hungry because there isn’t a vegan option on the party platter, or because there might be an animal product in the sauce on my takeaway veggie burger. It has to be done gradually, and it has to be sustainable. Let’s face it, though, there are people for whom veganism or even vegetarianism will never be legitimate options, and that’s okay, too. There are still dietary changes you can make to have a positive impact on the environment and even animal welfare. Here are some quick and easy ideas that are somewhat easier to maintain than a complete diet overhaul:

  1. Try having a meatless Monday, or any day of the week that suits. Even though you are not excluding meat from your diet, just eating less meat can still reduce all of the impacts mentioned above by decreasing demand for the product, which correspondingly reduces industry production. I started my mostly plant food-based diet by doing it just one day of the week, then two, and so on.
  2. Try reducing your red meat intake in favour of white meats like poultry, or you could go with fish. Whilst certainly not perfect, eating chicken is far better for the environment than eating beef. Chickens require less water, less feed, and less energy is invested during the course of their life cycle. Some people avoid all land-based livestock and depend on fish and other seafood. However, you have to be careful here, as they can be contaminated with heavy metals and other pollutants they bioaccumulate in their bodies, and the fishing industry has probably as much to answer for in terms of damage to the environment as dairy and meat.
  3. If you can, buy organic and/or free range. This can be tricky, as the products are often more expensive, and the companies involved might just be labelling their product as such to appeal to concerned customers. Organic, of course, has to be certified but even then, it doesn’t speak to the how the animal lived, it just means the animal was fed organic feed and wasn’t drugged. Free range (chickens and other poultry) or grass-fed (cattle and other mammalian livestock) also just means the animals weren’t caged or penned and had a bit more room to roam, and possibly a more varied, natural diet. So getting what you’re looking for, which I imagine is animals who grew up on a wide open farm, eating grass, and who were happy out until they got shipped to the abattoir, requires some research on your part, and you might be best off going directly to local farmers or to farmers’ markets rather than going to a supermarket.

 

So, there you have it. Even these small fixes can have a positive impact but still, they require a little work, but nothing worthwhile is easy, and it is worth your time. I can say I feel a lot better knowing that I’ve made a change that has such a positive impact on the health of our planet, but it’s not just the planet’s health that benefits. Studies have shown a diet that involves significantly more plant foods than those derived from animals is better for your body, largely due to the negative impacts of excess animal protein and fat on our systems, which contribute to our risk factors for the two big killers in modern society, cancer and heart disease. There’s also evidence to support the fact that as hunter-gatherers, humans were often unsuccessful hunters and depended during lean times on plants to provide as much as 70% of their calories. So, plant-based diets are not only environmentally friendly, they are natural and far more healthy than eating mostly meat and dairy, especially in the form of highly processed products.

I think if you are truly concerned about animals and the environment, you can choose to eat less animal products. It’s a small sacrifice for a big return, for you and the Earth.

Links:

The Evolution of Diet

Reduce GHG Emissions

Health Benefits

Livestock’s Long Shadow

Disclaimer:

All opinions put forth in this post are my own. I respect other people’s rights to their own opinions, and no offence is intended to anyone.


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Keystone XL: Congress Can’t Let a Dead Dog Lie

(Image Source: Rappler)

Keystone XL – A proposed Canadian pipeline that would snake through the US carrying Albertan snake oil, am, I mean tar sands oil, to refineries in Texas purely for the benefit of Canada, specifically major oil companies like TransCanada, who’ve been waiting with bated breath for this project to pass the US legislature, so they can profit massively from the razing of Alberta’s boreal ecosystems and the degradation of the Earth in general.

Tell me, did I miss anything?

Let’s be honest here, Keystone XL is a dead project and a wasted effort before it’s even approved, much less built. This is, of course, if the US and Canada are serious about tackling climate change. Obama has shown some backbone on this issue in 2014 with the US-China deal to bring down emissions a positive step towards reducing the contributions to climate change of the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters. However, on the other end of the scale we have Obama’s polar opposite, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. There is a great litany of things I could say about him, but let’s sum it up by simply saying that science and environmental regulations only suit Harper so long as they don’t stand in the way of his goal of making Canada a petro-state to rival Saudi Arabia and exploiting every resource his country has to its absolute fullest, regardless of the consequences to the environment, indigenous peoples, or local communities.

Given their near opposite stances on climate change, there has been some tension between them over the years, especially over the fact that Obama would never openly support Keystone XL, and his silence was acceptable because even when a bill for its construction passed the Republican-dominated US Congress, it was always blocked by a largely Democrat-held Senate. Now the game has changed somewhat. Republicans now control both legislative houses with just enough Democrat votes in the Senate to filibuster any Republican-tabled bills. Although this happened the last time Keystone reached the Senate in November, failing by a mere one vote, that seems unlikely to transpire again, so the White House has indicated that the President will indeed use his veto power to quash any attempts to force through a bill for the pipeline to be constructed.

Currently, there are enough potential votes in the Senate to pass the bill, but not enough to override a presidential veto. Still, the Senate has advanced the legislation without amendments for consideration next week. Bernie Sanders offered the only formal amendment, a measure that would put Congress on record as stating that “climate change is real” and is “caused by human activities”. Another Democrat from a coal state then proposed a watered-down version of that measure that included the advocating of “clean fossil technology”.

So it’ll all be resolved next week, fingers crossed. After nine attempts to fast-track Keystone XL legislation, will Congress finally get the message on the tenth fail, or will it be the energy and infrastructure equivalent of Obamacare, that bone of contention that Republicans just can’t seem to stop gnawing on? Who knows, but the Harper administration is getting tired of waiting for the US to give them permission to advance their tar sands empire. Proposals to build a pipeline from Alberta to Canada’s eastern coast, called Energy East, would traverse many communities vulnerable to oil spills or explosions and the supertanker terminals built at its eastern end would leave open the threat of a massive oil spill in the Bay of Fundy or the St. Lawrence River, devastating the entire region and putting at risk a population of endangered beluga whales. Another all-Canada pipeline project heading to the west coast, Northern Gateway, has been approved, but it is facing strong resistance from First Nations communities along its proposed path.

To sum it up, tar sands oil is unwanted by the majority of the public. No one wants to be subjected to an oil spill, and TransCanada don’t have the greatest record when it comes to preventing accidents, though they claim Keystone would have the latest technology so leaks could be detected more quickly. It would be bad enough if it were just regular crude, but tar sands oil is more viscous and toxic. It’ll also come as no surprise that the extraction of the oil from tar sands is a very energy-intensive process and over the lifetime of the oil, it produces 17% more carbon emissions than regular crude. The processes involved have also lead to significant air and water pollution in Alberta.

An industry as dirty as this belongs in a past when we didn’t know better, when we didn’t have better options like renewable energy. People want better, but that’s not what they’re getting from their elected officials or Big Energy. Harper has one year left to wreck his country and the planet before the Canadian electorate hopefully give him the boot. Obama has less than two years now to leave behind a meaningful legacy on climate and not be cowed by Republicans, who are largely subservient to corporate interests and not interested in doing what’s best for their constituents.

The Tar Sands Industrial Complex is a blight upon the Earth. It is a poisonous flower blooming in the heart of Canada that is attempting to put down roots, and it must be stopped on all sides before its poison can be spread further abroad. It’s time to let Keystone die a quick death so that one of the last hopes for expansion of the tar sands is cut off and hopefully, the whole complex will fall into uneconomical oblivion with the massive fall in oil prices, lack of efficient options for the export of their dirty product, and stern resistance from the public.

Links:

Senate Committee Clears Path To Floor For Keystone XL Vote

Here’s What Big Oil Has in the Pipeline if Keystone Fails

9 questions about the Keystone XL pipeline debate you were too embarrassed to ask

Five takeaways from State Department’s review of the Keystone XL Pipeline

Disclaimer:

All opinions put forth in this post are my own. I respect other people’s rights to their own opinions, and no offence is intended to anyone.


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Introduction

Hey, everyone, my name is James and as my first post, I would just like to describe what I hope to accomplish with this blog. As I said in the ‘About’ section of my blog, I hope to post about current news, personal events related to my blog, and changes I’m making in my own life to limit my impact on the environment and be more ‘green’.

I plan to write a current events post and a personal post every week and maybe an extra one if I attend any events of relevance to the blog. I also may review environmental and social justice documentaries that I watch, as I’ve seen many in the past months that have changed my views on a lot of things. I think those relating to my food choices have had the greatest impact on me. It’s hard to imagine how much the food choices we make can have an impact on issues of environmental and social justice, especially when you consider that most of us don’t give much thought to what we’re going to eat from day to day. I’ll get into what I’m doing in this regard in more detail in later posts.

Right now as far current events go, I’m keeping an eye on developments with the new US Congress attempting for the umpteenth time to to push through legislation that would allow the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. President Obama has the power to veto this bill if it arrives on his desk, and let’s all hope he will. Otherwise highly toxic tar sands oil from Alberta will flow freely to refineries in Texas where it will be converted into yet more carbon emissions, which is the last thing we should be doing if we’re serious about tackling climate change, and let’s not forget the risk posed to communities along the proposed path of this pipeline by potential oil spills.

I’ll also be watching out for the climate reports from NASA and NOAA regarding where 2014 falls in the list of record warm years. The Japanese Meteorological Agency has already released their assessment that 2014 was the warmest year on record globally. With other agencies likely to concur with this result, we’re clearly moving out of the so-called ‘pause’ in warming touted by many climate ‘sceptics’, which is merely a hiatus in land surface temperature rises. The oceans have been absorbing record amounts of heat in this time and if last year is any indication, it’ll most likely start releasing that heat back to the atmosphere in the coming years.

With this in mind, I’ll also be watching developments leading up to the climate summit in Paris, starting on the 30th of December. The deal achieved at Lima last year was weak, and we’ll be expecting more of our negotiators next time around, especially given the record warmth we are experiencing.

Thank you for taking the time to read this introductory post. I hope to have my first blog posts up in the coming week. If you’d like, you could join my Facebook group and like my page at the following links.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/789440337749181/

https://www.facebook.com/avoice4earth?ref=aymt_homepage_panel