‘Lessons to Be Learned’ Says Trudeau. So Let’s Name Some

The PM won’t say what SNC scandal teaches. Can we help him out?

Cartoon by Greg Perry.

Attention class! Please get into groups and share ideas. Suggest things that might have been done differently in order for the nation’s first Indigenous justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, not to have felt politically threatened and then resign from cabinet. Extra points for lessons now to be learned.

To get the exercise going, we asked folks in the Tyee office to offer their thoughts. A sampling:

Don’t hire strong women and expect them to bow to you.

“We need a solution,” as your emissaries kept instructing the attorney general, is not a command that magically materializes what you want. It requires real and challenging work to achieve.

Repeatedly telling a cabinet member who is Indigenous that “we need a solution” to help a company with a history of corruption will likely cause the member to wonder why “we need a solution” is not the mantra regarding Indigenous rights and sovereignty in Canada.

Sometimes your solution is not the solution. Sometimes the law precludes it.

A white male born to highest privilege who campaigns alongside a noted Indigenous woman candidate while promising to advance reconciliation risks being seen to treat her as a token rather than a valued member of his cabinet. People will be watching.

Inviting that accomplished Indigenous lawyer to be attorney general signals you get it. She will have broad influence handling such diverse files as marijuana legalization, assisted dying and revamping the Criminal Code. She will inform a range of legal positions and policy shifts affecting all Canadians, bringing to bear her Indigenous experience and hard-earned knowledge, signaling a true “place at the table.”

Deciding to demote that accomplished Indigenous justice minister and attorney general, who has ably handled her duties, only to put her in charge of overseeing the Indian Act signals you don’t get it. At all. “Any person [with] even a basic understanding of Indigenous relations with the Crown would know that the most offensive and indeed racist legislation on the books is the Indian Act,” reminds Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, director of UBC’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. “It would be akin to asking Nelson Mandela to administer apartheid.” MORE

An Illinois bill leans into the most contentious part of the Green New Deal

Illinois is weighing a 100 percent renewable energy bill that includes jobs, equity, and social justice.

Wind turbines tower over crops near Dwight, Illinois. The state is weighing a bill to get to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Scott Olson/Getty Images

A recurring criticism of the Green New Deal resolution introduced in February by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) is that it has too much social justice baggage: Why does a statement of goals to limit climate change and decarbonize the economy devote so much ink to affordable housing, universal health care, and jobs for everyone?

“They are right that the entire energy sector must be reshaped,” the Washington Post editorial board wrote in a sharp appraisal. “But the goal is so fundamental that policymakers should focus above all else on quickly and efficiently decarbonizing. They should not muddle this aspiration with other social policy, such as creating a federal jobs guarantee, no matter how desirable that policy might be.”

Yet the reason the Green New Deal does include social programs is that, as Vox’s David Roberts put it, “It is not merely a way to reduce emissions, but also to ameliorate the other symptoms and dysfunctions of a late capitalist economy: growing inequality and concentration of power at the top.”

And given that decarbonizing the economy would mean jettisoning fossil fuel jobs, the resolution asserts that the transition needs to happen in a just way, mindful of the needs of “vulnerable, frontline, and deindustrialized communities.” MORE

Dutch to close Amsterdam coal-fired power plant four years early -RTL

Image result for Reuters: Dutch to close Amsterdam coal-fired power plant four years early -RTL
Is the sun setting on coal-fired power stations in the Netherlands? ( iStock )

AMSTERDAM, March 7 (Reuters) – The Dutch government will close one of the five coal-fired power plants in the Netherlands next year, four years earlier than originally planned, to help reach its climate goals, Dutch broadcaster RTL reported on Thursday.

The decision follows a 2018 court order instructing the government to ensure greenhouse gas emissions are reduced from 1990 levels by at least 25 percent by the end of 2020.

Researchers in January said the government was likely to miss that goal as carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the Netherlands are expected to be only 21 percent lower next year than in 1990.

Current plans call for the two oldest coal-fired plants in the country to be shut in 2024 and for the other three to stop running by 2030. MORE


Dutch parliament votes to close down coal-fired power stations

‘Emergency’ is the right word for climate change, Kingston prof says

Emergency is an appropriate word to describe climate change, says Queen’s University biology professor John Smol. (Elliot Ferguson/The Whig-Standard) ELLIOT FERGUSON / ELLIOT FERGUSON/WHIG-STANDARD

Prof. John Smol, the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change and president-elect of the Academy of Science with the Royal Society of Canada, said Kingston city council’s climate emergency declaration on Tuesday night was an important step to getting real local action.

“It uses the word emergency and that is a good word to use when you are talking about climate change and what we are doing to the planet because it is an emergency. I believe it is the most important issue that has faced humanity ever,” Smol said.

“It is an emergency and it is about time we started using these words.”

City council unanimously voted to declare a climate emergency “for the purposes of naming, framing and deepening our commitment to protecting our economy, our ecosystems and our community from climate change.”City council unanimously voted to declare a climate emergency “for the purposes of naming, framing and deepening our commitment to protecting our economy, our ecosystems and our community from climate change.”

Passing the declaration, especially with an unanimous vote, puts Kingston in position to be a leader in climate change policy and demonstrates that the city is taking the problem seriously, Smol said. MORE



CANNON BALL, ND - DECEMBER 5: On the day of a government order to vacate the area, hundreds of United States military veterans vow to defend the Standing Rock protest camp and march through a winter blizzard to the scene of recent clashes with state police and the national guard just outside of the Lakota Sioux reservation of Standing Rock, North Dakota, December 5, 2016. Over two hundred tribes, joined by environmental activists and hundreds of United States military veterans, camp and demonstrate against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which plans to be built under the Missouri River adjacent to the reservation. The gathering has been the largest meeting of Native Americans since the Little Bighorn camp in 1876. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Native American tribes, environmental activists, and military veterans at a protest encampment near Standing Rock, N.D., on Dec. 5, 2016. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Our History Is the Future,” by Nick Estes, traces Indigenous resistance from the Lakota people’s attempt to deny Lewis and Clark passage down the Missouri River in 1804, to the Red Power movement’s demands for treaty enforcement in the 1960s, to today’s Indigenous-led fights against fossil fuel projects. Writing about the massacre at Wounded Knee, where 300 Indigenous men, women, and children were murdered by U.S. soldiers in 1890, Estes highlights the revolutionary premise of the nonviolent Ghost Dance movement the victims followed. With a long tradition of daring attempts at decolonization, Estes argues, Indigenous people represent a powerful challenge to the profit-driven forces that threaten continued life on the planet.

NICK ESTES: I look at the Ghost Dance prophecy, which was an anticolonial uprising among particularly Lakota and Dakota people on the northern Plains in the late 19th century, but also a widespread spiritual movement that went up the west coast of Canada and down to parts of what is today Mexico. If they were completely harmless, then the United States wouldn’t have deployed its army against starving, horseless people at Wounded Knee. The reason it represented such a threat was not because Lakota and Dakota Ghost Dancers were going around and murdering white settlers — it was because it was a vision of the future.

9781786636720-61081aab1105a4a6bda6757f704016e5-1-NODAPL-1551723994When you subjugate a people, you not only take their land and their language, their identity, and their sense of self — you also take away any notion of a future. The reason I chose this name is because in this particular era of neoliberal capitalism, it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. The argument I’m making is that within our own traditions of Indigenous resistance, we have always been a future-oriented people, whether it was taking up arms against the United States government, whether it was taking ceremonies underground into clandestine spaces, whether it was learning the enemy’s language. This pushes back against the dominant narrative that Indigenous people are a dying, diminishing race desperately holding on to the last vestiges of their culture or their land base. If that were the case, then I don’t think we would have an uprising such as Standing Rock or, today, Line 3 or Bayou Bridge, or the immense amount of mobilization around murdered and missing Indigenous women. MORE

EU bets on innovation to secure energy transition

Aluminium production, often referred to as ‘solidified electricity’, is one industry that could benefit from breakthrough tech funding. [Photo: Shutterstock]

Breakthrough climate-change-busting technologies are set to benefit from €10 billion in EU funding over the next decade, as the European Commission confirmed its punt on a major new innovation fund.

Last November, the EU executive unveiled its plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions drastically by 2050 and national leaders are expected to decide what direction to go in this year.

If the member states select the Commission’s full-fat scenario, which would mean Europe absorbing all of the emissions it produces, the continent’s energy-intensive industries will have to make sweeping changes in order to adapt.

Enter the new Innovation Fund, which was given the green light by the Berlaymont last week.

By selling millions of carbon allowances from the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, the Commission plans to put together a war-chest of €10 billion that can be used to develop, test and eventually market low-carbon technologies. MORE

Want to lose weight and save the Earth? Try the Planetary Health Diet

Nearly 40 scientists from around the world devised the diet in an effort to improve human health and combat climate change

These plates all represent options for the Planetary Health Diet.
These plates all represent options for the Planetary Health Diet.EAT-LANCET COMMISSION ON FOOD, PLANET, HEALTH.

Move over Atkins and keto diets: an international commission of scientists is calling 2019 the year of the Planetary Health Diet.

The diet—which prioritizes plants and limits the intake of highly processed foods and foods from animal sources—is the cornerstone of the “Great Food Transformation”, a movement that researchers and experts say is crucial to improve human health and avoid potentially disastrous damage to the planet.

The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health gathered 37 scientists from 16 countries to define what makes up a healthy and sustainable diet–a diet that will reduce people’s risk of conditions like diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease while at the same time save the planet.

Providing nearly 10 billion people with healthy and sustainable diets by the year 2050 is one of the most urgent challenges of our times, according to the commission. (EAT is a Stockholm-based non-profit that’s working toward a science-based food-system transformation; the Lancet is a collection of medical journals.) MORE

Women hold the key to curbing climate change

Image result for Katharine wilkinson
Katharine Wilkinson is a vice president at Project Drawdown, a clearinghouse for information about the world’s most effective means to stop global warming. She is the senior writer of “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.” She holds a doctorate in geography & environment from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.

(CNN)In 1911, over one million people took to the streets of Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland for equal rights and suffrage. It was the first International Women’s Day — a day the world continues to celebrate more than a century later. Those inaugural participants had little reason to include heat-trapping emissions or global warming in their concerns, although American scientist Eunice Newton Foote had defined the greenhouse effect decades prior, in 1856. (A first for which more credit is due.)

Ice core research shows that Earth’s atmosphere had just over 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide in 1911. In 2019, we hover around 410 parts per million. Those numbers can seem abstract, but they are deeply consequential.
At 410 parts per million and rising today, we face a rapidly warming world, with emissions at an all-time high. These are planetary conditions unknown to any human beings before us — and uncharted territory for our survival. Since 1911, we have entered a new geologic age, The Anthropocene, so called because human activity is now the dominant influence shaping the planet. Our warming world is the defining backdrop for International Women’s Day in 2019.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day — #BalanceforBetter — calls for improved gender parity to improve the world. That aspiration is entangled with climate change in two elemental ways. First, while the negative effects of climate change touch everyone, research shows they hit women and girls hardest. Simultaneously, and surprisingly, advancing key areas of gender equity can help curb the emissions causing the problem. These dual dynamics forge an inextricable link between climate change and the possibility of a more gender-balanced society. MORE

These women are changing the landscape of Antarctic research

Polar science used to be dominated by men. An expedition to Thwaites Glacier is helping change that.

Image result for thwaites glacier
Prof David Vaughan: “I believe this is the biggest field campaign ever run in Antarctica”

Up on the helicopter deck Meghan Spoth and Victoria Fitzgerald practice setting up camp. Just over Spoth’s shoulder a mile-wide tabular iceberg slides past, revealing the piercing cobalt at the berg’s cold center. Spoth pulls at the brim of her condor-embroidered ballcap and tosses a roll of duct tape to Fitzgerald.

The two young researchers, who hail from the University of Maine and Alabama respectively, have come to the Amundsen Sea, a rarely explored corner of the Antarctic continent, to better understand the rate at which the Thwaites Glacier disintegrated in the past so that modelers might make more accurate estimates of how fast sea levels will rise in the coming century.

The women lash their tarp tent to the deck. Sharp blasts of air rattle the plastic lean-to. They slide underneath to practice maneuvering in total darkness, a prerequisite for the kind of luminescence dating methods they plan to employ. This is a simulation of the work that Spoth and Fitzgerald will carry out in the coming days on the Lindsey and Schafer Islands, archipelagos so remote that human foot-fall has never before rung from many of these glacially scoured mounds. The team, headed up by Brenda Hall of the University of Maine, will be looking for paleontological records—things like seal skin and penguin bones—to help them better understand just how quickly the ice withdrew during the last deglaciation. MORE

Why Geothermal power plants need to be modular, scaleable and standardized

…At Climeon, we believe that by changing the technology behind the geothermal power plant, it is possible to reduce the risks and timelines of projects, thereby creating revenues earlier. With lower risks the geothermal market will become more acceptable and bankable – and that will increase its market penetration.

We have already seen positive results in Iceland with this model. In a saturated market, the potential offered by our technology has re-awakened the opportunity for new geothermal developments within the country.

By utilizing standardized 150 kW units that works efficiently in the approx. 80 – 130°C temperature range, Climeon is able to cover a large portion of the addressable geothermal market with a standard product. The units can be delivered as and when they are needed. This means that a well can be tested, and then, based on the results, the relevant number of units can be deployed within a couple of months.

Unlike traditional geothermal projects this means that revenues can be realized from the first wells. Also, by generating power early, and proving the viability of the resource, the plant can be refinanced at an earlier stage, at a lower rate, freeing up more capital for further development. MORE