Oil Sector Propaganda Invades The Classroom

Source: Regina climate strike. Jeremy Davis/Flickr

Just when you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to the disinformation and outright deception coming from the oil sector propaganda machine, a recent report shows the depth of deception—a new low—that the industry can sink to in its relentless campaign of obstructionism to stall action on climate change. The report was written by Emily Eaton, a professor at the University of Regina and Nick Day, a classroom teacher in Regina.

Oil Sector Invades the  Classroom

Oil Sector Propaganda Invades The Classroom, Below2C

“Public education in Saskatchewan has become a key tool in securing the “hegemony” of the oil and gas industry and “obstructing” the transition to a low-carbon economy,” writes Fatima Syed in the National Observer.

For Saskatchewan’s oil and gas industry, the next stop is schools. — National Observer

In its analysis of the Eaton & Day report, National Observer highlights a disturbing pattern of infiltration by Big Oil in Saskatchewan’s public school system. The public education system:

  1. restricts “the imagination of possible climate solutions to individual acts of conservation that fail to challenge the structural growth of fossil fuel production and consumption;”
  2. accepts that “the influence of oil and gas has instilled in Saskatchewan’s education system a troubling worldview that doesn’t acknowledge the urgency of the climate emergency;” and,
  3. supports “how teaching practices and resources work to centre, legitimize, and entrench a set of beliefs relating to climate change, energy, and environmentalism that align with the interests and discourses of oil industry actors.”

Institutionalization of climate denialism

“They’re really obstructing the kind of scale of actions that we would need in order to confront the climate crisis that we’re in right now.”

When interviewed by National Observer, Eaton noted that “Gone are the days when fossil fuel companies have had the strategy of outright climate change denialism…They’re taking a more subtle approach now. And that includes, for example, insisting that any teaching about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions or energy resources must also include the perspective of industry… They also make the claim to students that modern life isn’t possible without oil.”

The report also looked at oil industry funded non-profits engaged in promoting the interests and perspectives as “legitimate and necessary to learning about environmental issues.” Some organizations deliver educational resources and provide teacher professional development directly in the classroom. With a firm grip on both content and development, the oil sector has institutionalized climate denialism. MORE

EPA to scale back federal rules restricting waste from coal-fired power plants

Agency chief Andrew Wheeler argues Obama-era rules ‘placed heavy burdens on electricity producers.’ Critics call the changes unwarranted and potentially dangerous.

The American Electric Power coal-burning plant in Conesville, Ohio.  (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
The American Electric Power coal-burning plant in Conesville, Ohio. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday plans to relax rules that govern how power plants store waste from burning coal and release water containing toxic metals into nearby waterways, according to agency officials.

The proposals, which scale back two rules adopted in 2015, affect the disposal of fine powder and sludge known as “coal ash,” as well as contaminated water that power plants produce while burning coal. Both forms of waste can contain mercury, arsenic and other heavy metals that pose risks to human health and the environment.

The new rules would allow extensions that could keep unlined coal ash waste ponds open for as long as eight additional years. The biggest benefits from the rule governing contaminated wastewater would come from the voluntary use of new filtration technology.

Trump administration officials revised the standards in response to recent court rulings, as well as to petitions from companies that said they could not afford to meet stringent requirements enacted under the Obama administration. They also reflect President Trump’s broader goal of bolstering America’s coal industry at a time when natural gas and renewable energy provide more affordable sources of electricity for consumers.

Under the Obama-era rule, coal ash ponds leaking contaminants into groundwater that exceeded federal protection standards had to close by April 2019. The Trump administration extended that deadline until October 2020 in a rule it finalized last year.

In August 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit instructed the EPA to require that companies overhaul ponds, including those lined with clay and compacted soil, even if there was no evidence that sludge was leaking into groundwater.

In a statement, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the Obama-era rules “placed heavy burdens on electricity producers across the country.”

“These proposed revisions support the Trump administration’s commitment to responsible, reasonable regulations,” Wheeler said, “by taking a common-sense approach that will provide more certainty to U.S. industry while also protecting public health and the environment.”

Under the new proposal, companies will have to stop placing coal ash into unlined storage ponds near waterways by Aug. 31, 2020, and either retrofit these sites to make them more secure or begin to close them. Unlike the Obama-era rules, the EPA will allow greater leeway and more time for operators to request extensions ranging from 90 days to three years, until Oct. 15, 2023, if they can persuade regulators that they need more time to properly dispose of the waste.

Moreover, if a company can demonstrate that it is shutting down a coal boiler, it can petition to keep its storage ponds open for as long as eight years, depending on their size. Slurry ponds smaller than 40 acres could get approval to stay in place until Oct. 15, 2023, officials said, while larger ones could remain open until Oct. 15, 2028.

Environmentalists have sharply criticized the proposals, arguing these containment sites pose serious risks to the public at a time when more frequent and intense flooding, fueled in part by climate change, could destabilize them and contaminate drinking water supplies that serve millions of people. The rules will be subject to public comment for 60 days. MORE

Ontario’s deficit last year was $7.4B — half what Ford claimed

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said higher tax revenues and lower than anticipated spending have seen the provinces defict cut in half.

Ontario’s budget deficit was half of the $15 billion the Progressive Conservative government initially claimed after defeating the Liberals last year.

Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy and Finance Minister Rod Phillips on Friday announced that the final deficit figure for 2018-19 was $7.4 billion.

The Tory ministers said the change — down from an interim $11.7 billion figure disclosed by former treasurer Vic Fedeli who was demoted 10 weeks after his April budget — is due to higher tax revenues and lower than anticipated spending.

“Our government’s strong fiscal management and smart policies mean we are overcoming the previous government’s record of waste and mismanagement,” said Bethlenfalvy.

But the actual deficit could be anywhere from $1.3 billion to $2.6 billion lower because the Tories are still in discussions with Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk over how to include billions of assets in government co-sponsored pension plans.

Lysyk used to account for the holdings in the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union Pension Plan and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan until a dispute with the previous Liberal government in 2015.

“Municipalities, children with autism, school programs, the arts, and community groups are all feeling the sting of Ford’s cuts, even while the government delivered tax breaks to the wealthy last year.” — Schreiner.

A panel of independent experts hired by the former administration and led by the chair of the Canadian Actuarial Standards Oversight Council concluded in 2017 that she was wrong. MORE

Why a UN declaration on Indigenous rights has struggled to become Canadian law

Image result for B.C. legislation tables historic Indigenous rights bill 
B.C. legislation tables historic Indigenous rights bill  Watch the Video

For nearly a decade, Canada refused to endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The country, under former prime minister Stephen Harper, was one of four in the world to hold back — 144 other nations accepted it.

The UN declaration, which was eventually adopted by the Trudeau government in 2016, is still considered controversial in Canada. The main point of concern is a clause that calls for “free, prior and informed consent” of Indigenous communities in matters that impact them — pipeline projects, for example.

READ MORE: B.C. becomes first province to implement UN Indigenous rights declaration

During the recent federal election campaign, the Liberals, Greens and NDP promised to enshrine UNDRIP into Canadian law, a move that would demand greater accountability from the country.

While the debate carries on federally, British Columbia is set to become the first province to make it law. The legislation sets a framework to align provincial laws with the standards of the UN declaration.

‘Shame’: Indigenous teen among youth suing Canadian government over climate harms speaks out  WATCH the VIDEO

Angela Mashford-Pringle, who works at the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health at the University of Toronto, told Global News she’s cautiously hopeful about UNDRIP becoming Canadian law.

“Even if it is enacted, I’m concerned that it could be just another lip service or way to pander to Indigenous Peoples,” Mashford-Pringle said.

She noted that Canada would still have to come to terms with issues such as systemic racism and the Indian Act.

But others are more optimistic about the impact UNDRIP could have on Canada’s relationships with Indigenous Peoples. MORE

New Zealand offers solution to Canada’s electoral woes

“Either you believe in democracy or you don’t. Any electoral system that gives a political party a representation in parliament that is far higher, or far lower, than it deserves compared to the popular vote, cannot be regarded as truly democratic,” Steven Spencer of Pickering writes.

Six reasons to say ‘No’ to electoral reform, Hepburn, Oct. 31

Regrettably, Bob Hepburn spreads the usual misinformation about the idea of introducing some degree of proportionality to our electoral system.

Either you believe in democracy or you don’t. Any electoral system that gives a political party a representation in parliament that is far higher, or far lower, than it deserves compared to the popular vote, cannot be regarded as truly democratic.

It’s true that a purely proportional system, such as obtains in Israel and Italy, leads to disastrously splintered parliaments. But no one in Canada is recommending such a defective system. Most advocates of reform call for a mixed-member-proportional (MMP) system, such as exists in Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, Germany and many other countries.

In such systems, half or more of the seats represent constituencies, won by first-past-the-post (as in our current system), and the remaining, proportional seats are allocated to give the parties their correct representation in parliament.

New Zealand introduced its MMP system in 1996, amid predictions of disaster. Yet it has worked so well that a national referendum in 2011 handed it a healthy majority in favour of keeping it.

How curious that Hepburn neglected to mention New Zealand — a fellow Commonwealth country — in his column. SOURCE

Ontario First Nation newsroom set on fire in ‘targeted’ attack: publisher

Damage to the The Turtle Island News newsroom building in Ohsweken, Ont. on Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation.

The office of an Ontario First Nation weekly newspaper was set on fire during a “targeted attack” earlier this week, the outlet’s publisher said Thursday.

Lynda Powless, who is also the owner of Turtle Island News in Six Nations of the Grand River near Hamilton, said the incident happened around 5 a.m. on Monday, when an unknown assailant drove a truck into the building.

“Police told me we were targeted,” she said in an interview. “This was an attack on free speech and a free press in First Nation communities.”

Six Nations police and the fire department did not respond to a request for comment.

Powless said security video shows a black pickup truck driving into the north end of the one-storey building. After the collision, the cameras melted in the fire and no images of the perpetrator were captured, she said.

Police told her that gasoline was used to set the building ablaze.

“It scared the hell out of me because this is a wooden building,” Powless said. “Thank God no one was hurt.” SOURCE

5 things to know about gender equality and human capital


A woman carpenter in Mexico. Photo: © Jessica Belmont/World Bank

The Human Capital Index (HCI) launched by the World Bank Group in October 2018 is a simple but powerful metric that measures the future productivity of children born today, compared to what it could be if they had benefited from ‘complete education and full health’. The index is made up of important components of human capital: education, health, and survival. The sex-disaggregated HCI emphasizes the World Bank Group’s priority on gender, and specifically in ensuring equal investment in human capital of boys and girls.

On this International Literacy Day, drawing on data from the World Bank Gender Data Portal, we present five facts on gender and human capital.

1. At a regional level, much progress has been made in closing gender gaps in human capital among boys and girls.

In 126 countries where we have sex-disaggregated HCI data, girls are on average slightly better off in all regions and all country income groups in the dimensions the HCI measures, like stunting rates. In fact, the distance between a country’s human capital and the frontier (1 in the figure above) is far larger than any gender gaps.

Breaking this down by the components of the HCI, there is a similar pattern in stunting, child and adult survival rates. However, the picture that emerges in education is more complicated.

2. For many at a regional level however, gender gaps to the detriment of girls remain in education, while gender gaps to the detriment of boys have emerged in other regions.

However, in a pattern increasingly noted and discussed (see this UNESCO report), gender gaps where outcomes for boys are worse than for girls emerge in some regions, most notably in Latin America & Caribbean. The trend suggests this is on the horizon for East Asia and South Asia.

3. There is still a large gap in literacy between adult men and women in many regions.

Given the large investments in education opportunities in recent years, literacy gaps in the population of adults look quite different than among youth. Since 1985, the gap in literacy rates between young men and women shrunk everywhere. Some gaps remain among current youth in Middle East & North Africa, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. However, the gender gap is considerably smaller compared to the gap to the frontier of universal literacy.

Nonetheless, the now-adult women are still disadvantaged compared to men, and these gaps are large. Comprehensive adult literacy campaigns would be needed to close literacy gaps among current adult populations. MORE

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Canada not meeting gender equality goals says new report