‘A is for Activist’ introduces toddlers to people and ideas on the left

‘A is for Activist’ introduces toddlers to people and ideas on the left

Imagine my surprise when I opened a 5.5-inch square children’s board book at the home of my niece and her husband and my grandnieces Naomi, 2, and Valerie, 1 week old, and found myself (along with at least one cat) on virtually every page! Activist—Environmentalist—Grassroots—LGBTQ—Radical—Unionist—and all the way down the alphabet to Z for Zapatista. (I guess I don’t personally qualify for that one, except in spirit.)

A is for Activist is a bestseller by Innosanto Nagara that is at least one person’s answer to the age-old question, How to raise socially conscious children? Born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, Nagara moved to the United States in 1988. In the San Francisco Bay Area as a recent college graduate, he did graphic design work for social change organizations, then founded the Design Action Collective, a worker-owned cooperative design studio in Oakland.

Nagara wrote and illustrated A is for Activist for his young son, observing the lack of a “pro-activist, pro-social justice, pro-gay, pro-labor, pro-diversity, progressive ABC book.” After he received supportive approval from friends and from a social media funding campaign, he published it privately and sold and mailed out over 3000 copies as a one-man operation. Then in 2013, he found a commercial publisher in Triangle Square Books, an imprint of Seven Stories Press.

Siete Cuentos, the Spanish-language side of Seven Stories, published an edition with musician Martha Gonzalez’s translation, A de Activista, in 2014. There is now also an audio version recorded by radical guitarist and activist Tom Morello.

More than 125,000 copies of his book in print make Nagara a children’s bestseller according to the New York Times. This books joins a trend of many recent children’s books on social issues that parents are clearly seeking out to add to their children’s collections of fantasy and fairy-tale themes.

“Full of wit, beauty, and fun,” say Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, and filmmaker Avi Lewis; “we can think of no better way to learn the alphabet.” MORE

Poll shows whopping concern among Canadians about climate change—82 percent say it’s a serious problem

Vancouver public intellectual Seth Klein commissioned the poll by Abacus Data because he felt that opinion research was overly focused on the carbon tax and actions that individuals can take to address climate change.
Vancouver public intellectual Seth Klein commissioned the poll by Abacus Data because he felt that opinion research was overly focused on the carbon tax and actions that individuals can take to address climate change.

People across the country are waking up to the risks of rising greenhouse gas emissions.

In a new poll by Abacus Data, 82 percent of respondents said that climate change is a serious problem.

Nearly half, 47 percent, described it as an “extremely serious” problem.

More than four in 10 described climate change as an emergency.

Only 12 percent felt that climate change was not something that people should be concerned about.

The poll also demonstrated a high level of anxiety across the country over this issue.

One in four Canadians told Abacus that they often think about climate change and it makes them really anxious.

Nearly double that percentage stated that they think about it sometimes and that they’re increasingly worried about its impact.

Residents of Quebec were the most anxious whereas Albertans were the least anxious.

However, Abacus Data reported that even in Alberta, 58 percent of respondents said they “are either anxious and thinking about it all the time or think about it sometimes but becoming increasingly worried about the impact it will have”.

The poll was commissioned by Vancouver resident Seth Klein, the brother of author Naomi Klein and an adjunct professor with SFU’s urban studies program.

In a policy note on the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives website, Klein stated that he commissioned the poll because “far too much of the political oxygen and polling on climate change has been consumed by the carbon tax/pricing debate”.

“While carbon pricing is an important tool, it alone is not going to get us where we need to go, and the topic has distracted us from the scale of action needed,” he wrote. “Additionally, too often polling questions individualize the challenge and solutions, rather than focusing on collective and governmental actions.”

Seth Klein@SethDKlein

What did my polling find? Three-quarters of Cdns say they are worried about climate change.
25% “think about climate change often and are getting really anxious about it”
49% “think about it sometimes and are getting increasingly worried”

Seth Klein@SethDKlein

Stunningly, 42% believe climate change is now “an emergency”, while a further 20% believe it will likely be an emergency within the next few years, for a combined total of 62%.

View image on Twitter

Only 14 percent of respondents in the poll said that they had definitely heard of the “Green New Deal”, which is being advanced by progressives on both sides of the border to bring about a rapid, climate-friendly retooling of the economy.

Another 19 percent thought they had heard of it.

When the Green New Deal was explained to respondents, 72 percent stated they were either strongly or somewhat supportive. MORE


When it comes to climate action, the public is ahead of our politics: Analysis of national climate poll


OPINION | Conservative climate plan is cloaked in mystery, choked with irony

Andrew Scheer’s plan offers many more questions than answers

This is the second in a series of articles from energy and environmental economist Andrew Leach about the federal political parties’ climate plans. Read his previous article here: OPINION | Greens’ climate plan adds up to Mission: Improbable


Scheer Climate Plan 20190619
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer unveils his party’s climate action plan in Chelsea, Que., on June 19, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

It took Andrew Scheer over a year from the time he first promised a climate change plan to deliver one so cloaked in mystery and choked with irony that perhaps few would notice a subtle change.

Last April, he said without hesitation that, “of course,” his plan would allow Canada to meet its Paris commitments — commitments first made by the Harper government. Now, he’ll say only that his plan gives Canada the “best chance” to meet those targets.

I suppose he can claim his plan has a chance to meet the targets because he hasn’t defined many of the measures he’s going to take very clearly. With that much wiggle room, there exists a theoretical chance he could do something stringent enough to meet Paris. I guess.

Nothing that costs anyone anything

Scheer’s plan tells you what he won’t do: no carbon taxes, no clean fuel standards, and generally nothing that costs anyone anything. What the plan doesn’t tell you is how he plans to square all of this with Canada’s Paris targets and/or prepare Canada for success in a world acting on climate change.

True to his previous commitments, Scheer announced that he wouldn’t price carbon… sort of. Instead, he’d demand that facilities invest a specified amount (call it a tax) to offset any emissions above a cap that he would impose. A requirement to financially compensate for emissions sounds a lot like a carbon tax. Just a tax that we know almost nothing about.

We know that a Scheer government would set emissions standards for major emitters — specifically facilities emitting over 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year — and that facilities would be required to reduce their emissions to meet those unspecified limits.

We’re told those limits will reflect the highest standards of green technology and that those who emit more than is allowed (apparently “require” doesn’t mean what we think it means) will be required (this time they’re serious, apparently) to invest in research, development, and the adoption of emissions-reducing technology.

Facilities will have to invest a set amount for every tonne of emissions above the limit, but we don’t know what these limits are or what the required investment rates will be. MORE



BC Government Frets Over Climate Change While Heavily Subsidizing Fracking Companies

Worse, the giveaway probably isn’t needed, with the global industry desperate for new gas fields.

Fracking does not need subsidies to be profitable. But we still hand ’em out. Photo via Shutterstock.

We’re in a climate crisis. So why did the B.C. government give oil and gas companies $663 million in subsidies last year so they would produce more fracked natural gas?

The NDP government hasn’t declared a climate emergency. But it commissioned a report that warns of more severe wildfire seasons, water shortages, heat waves, landslides and more.

Despite that, the government handed almost two-thirds of a billion dollars to fossil fuel companies — $130 per person in the province — so they’ll extract more methane, more quickly. (The numbers are all from the always-interesting Public Accounts released last month by the province’s auditor general.)

Which is perverse in a time when we’re warned of climate disaster.

British Columbians own the oil and gas under the ground. Companies pay royalties to the government for the right to extract and sell it.

Since 2003, the B.C. government has been putting natural gas on sale. It has cut royalties to subsidize the industry’s road construction and reward any operators who drilled in the summer.

And most significantly, it started offering the gas at a deep discount for companies that drilled “deep wells.” The industry argument was that they were riskier and more expensive; the government had to sell the gas more cheaply to encourage companies to drill. It increased the discounts in 2009 and 2014, giving even bigger breaks to the fossil fuel companies. (Who were also big BC Liberal donors.)

The discounts — subsidies from taxpayers who have to pay more to make up for the lost revenue — have enriched fossil fuel companies for more than a decade. MORE

We Failed with Mount Polley. Let’s Make It Right with Tulsequah Chief

Site cleanup may soon begin. A burnish for BC’s mining laws should be next.

The Tulsequah Chief Mine in BC’s northwest has been leaking toxic waste into the local watershed for more than 60 years. Photo via Rivers Without Borders.

As the final deadline came and went this weekend to press charges against Imperial Metals for its 2014 tailings pond breach at the Mount Polley mine, it became clear that there is little accountability when it comes to large corporations polluting the environment.

We’d like to see that change.

B.C. still has an opportunity to prove to its residents — and its neighbours — that it values responsible mining practices. That starts with the cleanup of the Tulsequah Chief Mine in the province’s northwest, which has been leaking toxic waste into the Taku watershed, home to the Taku River Tlingit First Nation and upstream of Juneau, Alaska, for more than 60 years.

Recent estimates indicate that 12.8 litres of acidic, metals-laced water escape the mine site every second — over 400 million litres per year — into the Tulsequah River, the largest tributary of the Taku.

Earlier this year, the province accepted proposals from two consulting firms to begin developing remediation plans that would see the mine properly closed and cleaned up. It’s a promising first step.

The Tulsequah mine may seem far-removed from most B.C. residents, but it represents a long history of allowing corporations to run rampant over the landscape, putting companies ahead of people and, in this case, threatening a multi-million-dollar salmon-fishing industry that’s an integral part of southeast Alaska’s economy.

Located 100 kilometres southwest of Atlin, the Tulsequah Chief was operated from 1950 to 1957 by Cominco, then abandoned. It was subsequently purchased by Redfern Resources Ltd. in 1997 and then Chieftain Metals in 2010. In both cases, the mining companies agreed to address pollution problems as a condition of their environmental certificates. In both cases, they went into receivership before that could happen.

Here’s where the story begins to parallel that of Mount Polley and other dangerously under-bonded mines in B.C. The province has a history of trusting mining operations with a poor track record, an insufficient deposit and an unstable financial situation. It all comes down to this: B.C.’s mining laws are hopelessly out of date. MORE


Another Setback in Landmark Fracking Case as Lawyers Pull Out

Jessica Ernst’s 12-year legal battle over water contamination no nearer resolution.

‘What I have learned is that Canada’s legal system is a farce,’ says Jessica Ernst. Photo by Kim Silfving.

Jessica Ernst has spent 12 years and $400,000 pursuing a lawsuit against the Alberta fracking industry and its regulator.

Now her Ontario lawyer has let go most of his staff and given up the case.

“I was shocked and felt terribly betrayed,” said Ernst. “The legal system doesn’t want ordinary people in it. They don’t want citizens who will not gag and settle out of court for money so corporations and government can continue their abuse.”

In 2007, Ernst, then an oil patch consultant with her own thriving business, sued the Alberta government, Alberta’s energy regulator and Encana. She alleged her well water had been contaminated by Encana’s fracking and government agencies had failed to investigate the problems.

For more than a decade the case has been bogged down by legal wrangling, legal posturing and constant delays. Three different judges have been involved.

The process included a two-year detour to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled that Ernst could not sue the regulator because it is given immunity by provincial legislation. The lawsuits against the provincial government and Encana remain before the courts.

And still no evidence has been heard on the actual merits of the case.

Ernst was represented by high-profile lawyer Murray Klippenstein. He told The Tyee in an email that “major changes in the political climate of the legal profession in Ontario” made it “no longer feasible for me to continue my law firm. That was heartbreaking to me, for many reasons.”

Klippenstein is fighting against a recently adopted Law Society of Ontario statement of principles that obliges law firms to “promote equality, diversity and inclusion” and perform annual “inclusion self-assessments.”

Lawyers “will increasingly be judged more on the basis of ideology, skin colour and sex chromosomes than by their competence, skills, effort and professional contributions” under the rule, he argued.

However, advocates for the new rules say criticism from Klippenstein and others showed how badly they are needed.

Legal scholar Joshua Sealy-Harrington argued that the “forceful opposition” showed the insufficient awareness of systemic discrimination in Canadian legal practice, which has been detailed time and time and time and timeagain.

Klippenstein also offered another reason for quitting the case, saying in an email to The Tyee that he “had increasing concerns about Ms. Ernst’s views about the viability of her own lawsuit, in particular because of Ms. Ernst’s highly and increasingly critical views of the legal system, and of the lawyers that were a part of that system, to the point where I thought it was simply no longer viable for us to represent her going forward.”

Ernst said she fully explained her critical views to Klippenstein in 2007 as she vetted potential lawyers. Those views have never changed, she added.

“Murray warned me in 2007 that I would need to spend a million dollars and give up 10 to 12 years of my life, to maybe win a few thousand dollars,” said Ernst.

She said Klippenstein told her that lawsuits like hers were usually settled with a payment and a non-disclosure agreement that silences the person who had sued “because our legal system is set up to make that happen.”

Ernst said she had always been clear that she would not accept a non-disclosure agreement. The issue of contaminated water goes beyond one household or community and the public needs to be aware, she said. MORE

Police surveillance stifles climate justice activism, supports fossil fuel interests

When Native protesters were talking last year, CSIS was paying close attention Photo: Brian Gable

Democratic institutions of all kinds are being misused for the interests of fossil fuel companies. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is using public funds and public service employee capacity to think about how to root out and crush groups that are building a movement toward a sustainable future that provides opportunity and care for all people.

Kenney’s is not the first government to try to paint those working for a fossil-free future as deviants, criminals or traitors — in 2012, Joe Oliver, then-minister of natural resources, labelled us “radical groups” seeking to “hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” The irony of this statement is not lost on me.

Image result for joe oliver foreign radicals
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver warns that ‘radical’ groups are trying to derail the Canadian economy by delaying oilsands development proposals. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Oliver’s statements were really formative for me personally — they came immediately after the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Durban in 2011, which I attended as a youth delegate. There I had witnessed Canada back out on the Kyoto Protocol and announce the approval of a $9 billion tar sands mine (it was then shelved in 2014 and purchased by CNRL in 2018). I remember standing in the airport in Toronto waiting for my luggage, exhausted from the disappointment that is international climate negotiations, and reading the news, and I saw this op-ed where Oliver slandered people like me for doing our best to stop fossil fuel interests from torching the planet with impunity. A few months later, the accusation that all climate activism was being funded by foreign interests came into vogue.

So it’s not very surprising to me that since the Harper era, police and security forces like the RCMP and CSIS have been used to track water protectors and climate justice activists and organizations, and other right-wing governments have taken up the mantle of accusing climate justice movements of being funded by foreign ideologues. Not surprising, but anti-democratic and disturbing.

Case study: CSIS and RCMP sharing information with Enbridge

In brief, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) made a complaint to the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) in 2014 alleging that CSIS was monitoring groups like Idle No More, Dogwood Initiative and the Sierra Club of British Columbia because they had been active in the struggle against the Northern Gateway pipeline. Heavily redacted documents from this case were recently released and show that many more organizations were being monitored than initially thought, including the Council of Canadians. The monitoring results were being shared with Enbridge, the company behind the pipeline. CSIS is only meant to monitor groups undertaking activities that pose a threat to “public security,” and as BCCLA argues in the released documents none of the groups have any history “whatsoever of advocating, encouraging or participating in violent or other criminal activity.”

CSIS is meant only to track and store data on relevant threats to public security. This begs the question of whose version of public security is behind these motives. Further, there are explicit rules for CSIS only to keep information that is “strictly necessary” for it to do its job; this does not include keeping tabs on people who are totally within legal rights to have an opinion and express it through speech, protest, art, etc.

Case study: Kenney’s war room and inquiry into “foreign-funded groups”

Image result for jason kenney foreign radicalsJason Kenney’s $2.5-million inquiry into anti-oilsands funding won’t find anything new, environmental groups say

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has launched a $2.5 million inquiry into the “well-funded foreign campaign targeting our energy industry,” according to CTV News. This is just part of the Kenney government’s $30 million “war room” established to “to lobby on behalf of the province’s oil and gas sector.”  MORE