The fight against climate change down home on the Alberta farm

Not only will farmers be impacted by a changing climate, the way they tend the land can help mitigate changes

A National Farmers Union report this month says old-fashioned mixed farming combined with new technology can reduce greenhouse gases. It’s work already underway in Alberta. 4:03

If you talk to a farmer, many will tell you that they’ve noticed the weather is changing.

Alberta has always had erratic weather, but those working the soil or raising a herd — whether for years, or decades — are getting more curveballs thrown at them each year. From increased wind, rain at harvest, intense snowstorms during calving and hot summer days that bring drought, farmers are being forced to adapt.

The Prairie Climate Centre’s own models agree that things are getting hotter, and project a spike in plus 30 C days for the prairies in the coming decades.

That sort of spike would be bad news for Alberta farmers and mean many will have to adapt to new realities and do their part to stem the tide of climate change – a potentially charged subject in conservative farming circles. But it’s a conversation that’s starting to happen in fields and towns across the province

The kind of change needed to tackle future challenges is exactly what the National Farmers Union is calling for in its report released this December. It says old-fashioned mixed farming combined with new technology can reduce greenhouse gases. The group is also urging farmers to move away from big-money, big-acreage and big-machine farming that can bring big debt.

“If regenerative agriculture exists, it is likely found in mixed-farming systems that utilize natural nutrient cycles, diverse animal and plant mixes and best-possible grazing methods to restore soils, raise carbon levels, protect water, enhance biodiversity and support sustainable livelihoods,” the report reads.

While it might seem like a daunting task for farmers, the good news is work has already started on what farmers can do to prepare and help stem the tide of climate change.

Farms can ‘heal the land’

Jerremie Clyde, splits his time between his mixed farm near Sundre and his city job in Calgary.

He and his family rotate crops each year, planting a wide variety, like potatoes, rye and oats. They raise yaks over cows because the animals have less environmental impact, including how much water and food the shaggy Himalayan beasts consume. Yaks have also been said to create less methane emissions, something of a beef for many environmentalists.

Jerremie Clyde helps run a mixed-use farm with his family near Sundre, Alta., while still working as a librarian at the University of Calgary. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

“It tastes just like beef. I would say slightly better than beef,” said Clyde about the lean meat.

His company, Little Loaves Farm, sells its bounty to nearby markets, connecting with neighbours over the love of good food. They also hope to sell their meat directly to consumers online.

“Farms have a huge potential to heal the land,” said Clyde. “Like, depending how you farm, you can radically increase biodiversity of both plants and animals, wild and domestic, and that doesn’t have to get in the way of what you’re raising commercially for sale.”

Clyde encourages other farmers seeking low capital solutions to think of farming as a research activity. For example, taking care of the soil can act as a carbon sink and can help keep the land’s water table healthy, creating biodiversity and could even reintroduce wildlife back into that area.

He says there are also agencies out there offering grants for alternative land uses to help farmers pay for fencing or water to repair riparian areas, for example.

Yaks are becoming more commonplace in Alberta fields, better known for cattle grazing. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

“Farmers are in a real trap. If you have a ton of debt doing something new is pretty scary because it might not work. A lot of the organic stuff, it doesn’t work right away. You have to learn it. You have to learn how it’s going to work on your site,” he said.

“So you can expect a few years of it not going well. Eventually you might get higher yields than you would have elsewise. But it won’t be immediate.”

The conversation

Climate change is an important conversation, says Amber Bennett with Climate Outreach.

Bennet is compiling data from the Alberta Narrative Projects, which is trying to find language that brings people together to talk about what’s happening.

Last year it had dozens of conversations with focus groups of all different sectors, like farmers, oil and gas workers and even religious groups.

“People don’t feel invited to the conversation,” said Bennett, adding many times the debate is night and day when it comes to urban and rural perspectives.

“In some cases it’s quite dramatic.”

She said how we engage in the climate conversation is usually tied to our identity.

“People feel blamed and threatened,” she said, adding climate change can be a tough word because it’s so polarized.

She recommends asking farmers directly about the weather, then listening. There are serious issues, such as a consistent water supply, forest fire impacts on crops, securing our food supply and economic diversification so people can stay on the farm.

“All of our well-being is tied to what they are doing,” said Bennett.

Healthy grasslands

Brenda Barritt with Rural Routes to Climate Solutions has a cattle, pig and chicken operation called Earth Works Farm near Alix, Alta.

“Seems like everything is more intense,” said Barritt who, along with her husband, tracks the weather day to day.

“We are getting wetter, warmer winters.”

She says rain is often coming at the wrong time. Her husband, Vance,  notices the wind patterns have changed a lot since he was a child living on that piece of land east of Red Deer.

But Barritt says there’s also more information and more inspiration. She says before they had to look south of the border for environmental success, but that’s changed over the past decade. She hopes her group’s podcast can help spread those stories.

Brenda Barritt has been researching how she can make her land more sustainable, which she shares in a podcast presented by Rural Roads to Climate Solutions. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

“I think that’s also part of the narrative that can be amplified and needs to be amplified, is that there are agricultural practices out there that both benefit the farm and help us deal with potential uncertainty, but also are part of mitigating, to some extent, the impacts that we know are coming our way through climate change,” she said.

She says keeping healthy grasslands is imperative. A study published this November in Science Advances echoes that view.

Barritt says Canadians can support farmers by voting with their dollars and buying direct, while remembering the cost is often more because those local producers are footing the cost of storage, distribution and better land management.

She also pointed to conservation easements and alternative land use grants as great support for farmers trying to do things differently.

“If I was to think of what can government do, I think it’s just really continuing to support that kind of research and maybe not getting in the way. But also amplifying and learning from it and know we don’t need to recreate the wheel,” said Barritt.

The solution

Jane Rabinowicz is with SeedChange, a charitable group that works with farmers to grow food sustainably with locally adapted seeds. She says how farmers adapt to a changing climate is important.

Her group works hand-in-hand with farmers in their fields and on policy to spread sustainable and climate resilient farming.

“The good news is that models of farming that are better for the planet are also better for the farmer’s bottom line,” said Rabinowicz.

The cost of farming can be high, and she says farmers are experiencing high debt. The average age of Canadian farmers is also over 55 and a new generation of farmers will need to have access to a decent livelihood.

Her group’s goal is to continue spreading information as more research becomes available, because she says folks are getting a bit of a mishmash of information and that’s creating fear. SeedChange is also helping to develop new varieties of climate resilient crops that are locally adapted.

Rabinowicz says there are also farm-based solutions, like growing more than one crop on the same field, better water management, wildlife corridors, soil conservation and watching what inputs – like nitrogen — are added to the soil.

“A big chunk of our greenhouse gases from agriculture come from the production and use of nitrogen inputs and so high-input farming is high-emissions farming. So any kind of practices that help decrease reliance on inputs are also going to be really helpful,” she said.

Rabinowicz agrees farmers can feel isolated and even blamed for their role in climate change. They might even worry what their neighbour will say if they change production practices. She agrees talking about the weather and its impact is a great way to get the conversation started.

“Farmers are and always have been on the front lines of the weather, right? And so, you know, farmers have always had to adapt their practices and farmers are the ones who are the stewards of the land and they’re out there observing changes very closely,” she said.

“So there have always been changes in climate as well that farmers have observed and they have been able to adapt their practices and adapt their crop over time as climates have changed. So I think it actually can be a useful way to talk about climate change with farmers.”  SOURCE

The left must stand against capitalism. Now.

Andray Domise: People who hold left-leaning ideals have to quit kidding themselves by believing that capitalism exists as a benevolent or even neutral social arrangement

Time for the left to quit capitalism

Norms are so warped that being forced to live in an RV is an accepted consequence of rising city rents (Photograph by Jen Osborne)

Late last year, I got an unusual request. A person identifying themselves as an environmental activist sent me a direct message asking if I would recommend a few books, as the organization they worked with was having trouble connecting its protest movement with the working class, especially people of colour. They were specifically looking for books related to decolonization, and after a few recommendations, I suggested they consider reading through the Communist Manifesto to see if any passages regarding exploitation leaped out.

They thanked me for the suggestion, but as for that brief volume by Marx and Engels, the response was this: “I don’t want to scare them off.”

If a group of activists can be “scared off” by a nearly 200-year-old critique of capitalism, while the externalities of capitalism itself pollute oceans with plastic, fill the air with smog and accelerate climate change via carbon emissions, something is terribly wrong.

READ: Naomi Klein on ‘disaster capitalism’ in Puerto Rico

There’s no way around a simple reality for people who consider themselves to be on the left side of the political spectrum, the people who strive for widespread and radical, if not revolutionary, change—we’re getting our tails kicked. There’s no putting an end to that if people who hold left-leaning ideals cannot quit kidding themselves by believing that capitalism exists as a benevolent or even neutral social arrangement. If the left intends to win these fights, it must also stand in principled opposition to capitalism. 2020 is the year to do it.

“It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism,” goes an observation by, depending on your sources, either Fredric Jameson or Slavoj Žižek. And the frightening thing is, not only does the world’s end become easier to imagine with each passing day, there is also a politically active bloc that intends to keep squeezing profits until the music stops.

Only a few months ago, Joe Oliver, once Canada’s minister of natural resources before assuming the federal finance portfolio, penned a column in the Financial Post extolling the possible benefits of climate change to Canadians. “Assuming a one-degree Celsius temperature rise,” Oliver wrote, “[bond rating agency] Moody’s calculates that our economy would be unaffected in 2048. A rise of 2.4 degrees would increase GDP by 0.1 per cent and four degrees would boost it by 0.3 per cent.” The benefit to farming, Oliver went on to say, is that the resultant permafrost retreat would—not could, but would—massively expand Canada’s arable land, and open up farming opportunities.

READ: The Left is constantly trying to out-woke itself. That’s a problem.

Not one word about the resultant cost to human life in countries hardest hit by climate change, nothing in the column about the massive outpouring of climate refugees in Oliver’s scenario. Just the profit motive.

Environmental policy is not the only one where norms have become warped to the point of immorality. In Toronto, where nearly half of renters are paying costs categorized by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation as “unaffordable,” it can take between two and 14 years to be placed into social housing. The situation is equally dire in Vancouver, where rising rents force tenants into recreational vehicles, and then the eventual possibility of being kicked out of RV camps en masse.

How does the federal government address any of this? By offering financial assistance and incentives to bolster people with tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars stashed away to buy a home. Which of course helps the real estate industry, helps mortgage lenders, and does nothing for people pressed ever further into the reaches of poverty. Condo towers sprout up all along Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway and tent cities underneath it are bulldozed, while the earth continues to pirouette carelessly on its axis.

What has capitalism given us in return? An economic environment in which multinational enterprises, according to Statistics Canada, compose 0.8 per cent of Canadian companies yet own 67 per cent of all assets. And income inequality, according to the Institute for Research on Public Policy, has been increasing for the past 40 years. With near-limitless amounts of private capital aligned against the interests of working-class people, nothing short of an organized, large-scale resistance will put the brakes on these trends.

Our political, business and media class would like nothing more than to pretend that these are natural outcomes, that none of it is avoidable, and that the world is and always has been shaped according to the capricious whims of that unknowable free market.

But the truth of the matter is this: 58 per cent of Canadians have a favourable view of socialism, and 77 per cent of us believe the world is facing a climate emergency. Most Canadians find income inequality to be fundamentally un-Canadian, and there are, numerically, more of us than there are bankers, landlords, brokers and executives put together. The only way for the left to win this fight is for its political vision to expand beyond capitalism, and to capture the widespread desire to move on from its exploitative limits.

We’ve lived in that world for long enough. Time for it to end. SOURCE


Green Party Collective: Deep Green Declaration

Image result for healthier, more sustainable, and more beautiful world.

We are at a critical turning point for human civilization. Our “way of life” is literally shredding the biosphere we depend on. Greens have been in the forefront of asserting that unless we make a dramatic U-turn and radically reorganize our societies, a human future may not be possible.

Humans currently use 1.7 times as much biological productivity to meet our needs (and greeds) as is produced on planet Earth each year. Wild animal populations have decreased 60% since 1970, 90% of the large fish are now gone from the oceans, and 40% of insect species are in decline. We are passing limits on deforestation, the phosphorus cycle, climate disruption, and numerous other indicators of our planet’s health, all of which are intertwined with the health of our own communities.

We cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. Yet “development” in most of the world today is directed towards creating still more economic growth: More stuff for more people. This dynamic has benefited a tiny layer of the population, but for nearly everyone else, even many of those who’ve had rising incomes and the ability to consume more, the costs — in terms of rates of pollution and resource depletion, inequality, anomie, and decimation of local community life — have constituted a social and ecological nightmare.

Western societies have tended to conceive of “Progress” as being a linear movement toward mastery of nature, material growth, advancement of science, expansion of technology. But disconnect from the natural world has increasingly obscured the truth that the dominant culture’s trajectory is leading toward ecocide. Instead of recognizing the perils of continuing with business-as-usual, experts offer us “technological fixes” which are likely to come with unforeseen consequences. Our hypermodern reality does not, in fact, define a culture of true progress, but rather a culture that is, as Native American activist John Trudell has written, “industrially insane.”

Some tell us that the growth imperative is a result of capitalist economic relations. But the problematic “progress and development” trajectories of our civilization pre-date capitalism and have been evident in every attempt to implement socialism in the modern era. On this basis we believe that the source of the problem goes deeper than just economic relations. The Deep Green perspective has emerged as an alternative to all the old ideologies. Its worldview questions traditional leftist and environmentalist assumptions about what needs to be done. Its vision of thoroughgoing social transformation begins with an analysis of this civilization’s preoccupation with productivity values, its addiction to technology, its patriarchy, and its anthropocentrism.

Growth mania has led to hypertrophy

Capital, technology, and the state have, for centuries, been an interlocking juggernaut fostering toxic industrialism and modes of production characterized by ecological irresponsibility. Meanwhile, the ideology of “development” has brought us to our current state of alienation from nature. Its growth mania has resulted in generalized hypertrophy (institutions and technologies too large to be controlled democratically) and a sense of cultural malaise. Although the situation is dire, we believe it is possible to respond successfully to the threats we face. We note how people pull together after a storm devastates their community. Humanity will need to call on that same sense of cooperation and care in the face of the unfolding modern crisis.

Our key value of Ecological Wisdom is derived from an understanding we’ve gained of how regeneration in nature is dependent upon cooperation and upon the maintenance of ecological balances. Ecosystems tend to evolve to a climax state and then remain stable for long periods of time. As evolution continues, equilibrium is established and re-established. Human systems, whether they are economic, social, or cultural, are subsystems of the over-arching ecosystem which contains them. So human systems must also strive for equilibrium.

Neither capitalism nor socialism have focused on these insights. Deep Greens tend not to favor the term “eco-socialism” because we feel that it channels thinking into old ruts. We also have concerns about the relationship of socialism to the dominant parts of the old paradigm that valued centralism and industrialism. It seems to us that the Ten Key Values of the Greens are more suggestive of a communitarian, bioregionalist orientation than a socialist one.

While reformed socialism may attempt to ameliorate its old deficiencies, we see no good reason to burden the Green Party with a term that’s been so loaded with negativity. Moreover, we’re proud to convey that Green politics arose on the basis of a “new paradigm” worldview. That paradigm is more radically transformative than socialism. Its critique goes deeper. It takes the New Left’s desire for a participatory form of democracy and says something novel: scale is an important factor. The huge modern nation-states are always characterized by plutocracy, whether their productive assets are owned publicly or privately.

Mega-scale institutions are never conducive to participatory democracy. That recognition is the basis for the key value: Decentralization. It represents a new direction for our civilization yet hearkens back to the sanity of Indigenous lifeways.

Limits and balances

Deep Greens appreciate the concept of limits and the need to bring economic relations into harmony with the natural world. We believe the best way to do so is to transition toward bioregional economies and to return power to local communities. Bioregional economics calls on us to come to know our own home territory intimately and to try and meet as many of our needs as possible from it, as suggested by the key value: Community-based Economics. Thus, Greens should encourage a revitalization of traditional ecological knowledge and rural living skills.

There is wide recognition that we’re nearing the end of the fossil fuel era, a period of time that allowed for enormous population and industrial growth. Even if we weren’t dealing with the issue of climate change caused by industrial pollution of our atmosphere, we would have to face the reality that the age of cheap and easily accessible energy (as well as many mineral resources) is over. The challenge of scaling down so that we can continue to meet basic human needs will require creative simplification. The emphasis should be on reducing our resources usage by cutting back wasteful over-consumption, improving efficiency, and reversing the trend toward increased energy consumption per person.

Going forward, we’ll have to be thinking in terms of resilience and adaptation. This will require prioritizing the rejuvenation of local community life. It will be much easier to transition together, in community, rather than person-by-person or family-by-family.

At the proper scale, a nation or bioregion could be conceived of as a community of communities. The health of all must be a general concern. The poverty of any must be unacceptable. Under present circumstances, in our country, expenditures on militarism stand in the way of such objectives. Our military is the most wasteful industry on the planet. Few things cause more immediate and direct harm to communities and ecosystems than war. Any country that spends more on war than on schools has lost its mind. Any country that claims to stand for freedom cannot strive for imperial power without losing its soul, bankrupting its people, and eliminating real democracy. Transitioning away from militarism to a foreign policy based on peaceful diplomacy and justice means that most of the billions of dollars now going to fund wars and weapons can be redirected toward social, ecological, and communitarian regeneration.

Deep Greens take seriously our responsibility to propose solutions and help craft legislation that can foster a transition to a better society. But we are keenly aware of how presumptive it would be to claim that we advocate from a position of certitude or special enlightenment. The “consciousness raising”/social engineering mentality of the left has never been appealing to most Americans. It should be avoided. Rather than trying to pre-determine universalist prescriptions, Greens should be notable as helping to cultivate an ethos of participatory democracy, the ultimate objective being to return decision-making power to the people.

For example: We have no desire to pre-determine specific property relations. Private enterprise might work best under certain circumstances, public enterprise might be preferable under other circumstances. In either case, scale and localization are major factors of consideration. It may very well be that in a Green world we could expect to see decentralized polities handling the issue of economic relations in diverse ways — some more socialistic, some based more on private forms of enterprise, some with mixed economies. Industrial-scale corporate capitalism has been ruinous in the modern period, no doubt, but the track record of industrial-scale bureaucratic socialism has not been any more satisfactory.

Toward the greening of society

We realize that there are no “quick fixes.” Unsustainable modern lifeways are a product of thousands of years of misguided civilizational values and exploitative practices. They have enormous momentum, and so “turning the ship of state” surely will take time. Nonetheless, every day we can be endeavoring to incrementally build the new society within the shell of the old. Every day we can be fostering the dramatic cultural U-turn that will open pathways toward the “greening of society,” i.e., toward a future where we live more lightly in a material sense but benefit from the enrichment of healthier relationships with each other, with other creatures, and with the natural world.

We are facing unprecedented challenges in this new century, but, together, we can meet them if our collective effort is guided by the principles of ecology, democracy, justice, peace, and community. Deep Greens believe that there is a basis for optimism. We are confident that a truly Green analysis, politics, and praxis can show the way forward to a healthier, more sustainable, and more beautiful world. SOURCE

A look at some key questions about the Ford government’s climate change plan

Millions of people marched and demonstrated at climate rallies around the world in September, including in Toronto. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

Throughout 2019, activists pushed the climate crisis to the forefront of public consciousness around the world.

Millions of concerned people poured into the streets of cities and towns during strikes and marches, demanding tangible action from people with political power.

The year also brought lots of changes to Ontario, with the Progressive Conservative government taking a controversial approach to climate policies.

Here’s a look back at the year that was in the fight against climate change in Ontario.

What is the province’s current plan?

The Ontario government unveiled its 10-year climate change plan in late 2018.

You can read the whole thing here.

A major plank is the Ontario Carbon Trust: $400 million in public money to work with the private sector on developing clean technologies.

Initiatives to cut down on littering and pollution feature heavily in the strategy as well. The PC government has said it is open to a ban on single-use plastics, something the federal government says will be in place nationally by, at the earliest, 2021.

The province also committed to an Ontario-wide assessment of the impacts of climate change to determine how it’s affecting communities and businesses. Last month, it put out a tender looking for bidders with expertise in impact assessments to work on the two-year project, a tactic opponents saw as a way of delaying action..

The plan was rolled out against the backdrop of Ontario’s bitter (and ongoing) legal fight with the federal government over the levy on carbon.

Ontario’s highest court ruled carbon pricing is constitutionally sound, and Premier Doug Ford hinted last summer that he might drop the challenge if the federal Liberals were re-elected in October.

When the Liberals were re-elected, Ford changed his tune, saying his government will take its challenge all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, with Ontario taxpayers footing the legal bill.

Thousands of people packed on to the lawn at Queen’s Park in late September to demand more aggressive action in the fight against climate change. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

How is the PC climate plan different than the Liberals’?

Ford’s PCs have taken a very different approach than the previous Liberal government in the fight against climate change.

First and foremost, they are adamantly and fundamentally opposed to putting a price on carbon, despite evidence it can effectively change consumer behaviour. All of the other major parties in Ontario support some form of carbon pricing.

Then there is the province’s target for reductions in emissions.

In 2016, former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne’s government said it would spend as much as $8.3 billion over five years to put Ontario on track to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 37 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.

The plan would be funded in part with money raised through a cap-and-trade program targeting big emitters.

When the PC’s formed government in 2018, they immediately scrapped the cap-and-trade system (a promise they campaigned on) in a bid to shave nearly five cents off the price of a litre of gasoline.

Ontario’s fiscal watchdog said at the time the decision would cost $3 billion in lost revenue over the next four fiscal years. Rod Phillips, then minister of the environment, said cap-and-trade was costly and inefficient, and that it was costing jobs.

A panel of Ontario divisional court judges later said, in a 2-1 ruling, that the cancellation broke the law because the province failed to carry out public consultations.

Rod Phillips was Ontario environment minister when the PC government killed the province’s cap-and-trade program. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)


Then the PCs also rolled back the Liberals’ emissions target, aiming instead to reduce emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 — the same goal adopted by the federal government as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The difference between the two plans is about 30 megatonnes of emissions by 2030. For perspective, the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick produced a combined total of 30 megatonnes of emissions in 2017.

In April, Doug Ford gave a speech in which he said Ontario had already done its “fair share” on climate change.

It should be noted, too, that the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has since warned that the targets laid out in the Paris Agreement are no longer ambitious enough to prevent a global catastrophe.

Is Ontario’s current plan working?

Earlier this month, Ford said he believes his government’s plan will help ensure that Ontario meets its Paris Agreement target. He pointed to commitments for new transit projects in Toronto as a sign of his dedication to combating climate change, and implored critics to wait until 2030 before making up their minds.

federal inventory of Canada’s emissions published in April reported that Ontario’s have declined by 22 per cent below 2005 levels. The closing of five coal-fired power plants by successive Liberal governments between 2001 and 2014 were responsible for the lion’s share of reductions in that time frame.

But the PC plan has been panned by the opposition and many environmental groups, who argue that it does not adequately address the urgency of the climate crisis.

And some of those closely monitoring the government’s implementation of its plan say headway has been slow to come.

In a report this month, the organization Environmental Defence alleged the PCs have made “next to no progress” on getting key elements of the plan unveiled in 2018 up and running. The province was already falling behind on its more modest emissions targets, the report said.

Ontario’s auditor general is similarly critical of the plan to cut emissions, saying in a December report that it is not based on “sound evidence.” Bonnie Lysysk also said the province is overestimating the potential impact because it miscalculated some estimates and projections and made policy changes that could discourage further emission reductions.

For example, the government’s strategy relies, in part, on thousands of drivers transitioning to electric vehicles, but it cut subsidies meant to incentivize those purchases.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives scrapped a program meant to encourage drivers to purchase electric vehicles. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

In the first six months of this year, sales of electric vehicles in Ontario were down more than 55 per cent from the same period in 2018, according to data from Electric Mobility Canada.

A group of young Ontarians is suing the province over what they say is climate change inaction, arguing it has violated their Charter rights by softening emissions reduction targets.

Who is holding the government to account on its climate plan?

The government announced in the fall of 2018 that it would be eliminating the officer of the environmental commissioner and merging its functions with the auditor general.

The province’s last environmental commissioner, Diane Saxe, was critical of the government scrapping cap-and-trade, as well as the cancellation of several electricity conservation programs.

The commissioner’s office did not answer to any one ministry,, but instead reported its findings directly to the legislature.

The PCs said the move would streamline the oversight process and cut down on administrative costs. The accountability role now falls under the auditor general’s mandate.

How did Ontario respond to the massive rally outside Queen’s Park?

This past year saw climate marchers fill the streets in cities and towns around the world.

Greta Thunberg’s activism helped to drive news coverage of the climate crisis in 2019. (Andrej Ivanov/Reuters)

Toronto saw its own huge rally in September.

At the time, Ontario Environment Minister Jeff Yurek said he “would like to recognize all the young Ontarians who are making their voices heard on the serious issue of climate change.”

He then went on to highlight provincial measures to address climate change, including proposed new rules for industrial polluters and landfill-diversion efforts.

“We are committed to taking meaningful action on climate change by implementing effective and affordable measures to reduce our province’s emissions and support Ontarians as they look to do their share in helping to protect and preserve the environment,” Yurek said.

What about the anti-carbon tax stickers?

One of the stranger climate-related policies of Ontario’s current government was the mandatory stickers, displayed on gas pumps, showing drivers how the federal carbon tax will increase the price of gasoline over time. (The stickers do not mention the corresponding rebate program.)

The Ontario government says its mandatory anti-carbon tax stickers aren’t going anywhere. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

The stickers were first distributed in August in the build-up to the federal election campaign. Some thought the PCs might abandon the initiative after the vote.

But Ontario Energy Minister Greg Rickford said recently that. despite problems with the stickers peeling off pumps, they aren’t going anywhere.  SOURCE


PRESS RELEASE: Criminal Climate Change Obstruction

PRESS RELEASE: County Sustainability Group, December 29, 2019


While the ‘Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ is designed to protect individuals from unconstitutional acts by the government,  the International Criminal Court prosecutes Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. The legal test for criminal liability is whether one knew or should have known that an action or lack of action resulted in criminal behaviour. This is the approach the youth are taking in cases coming before Canadian courts.

Since the United Nations Paris conference in late 2015, climate change indicators have risen sharply. The IPCC reports have issued scientific predictions warning political leaders of the catastrophic results of overshooting a 1.5 Celsius climate target. An unprecedented emergency response is imperative if we are to avoid global ecocide and eventual collapse.

We are in an unparalleled  climate emergency. It is criminal to fail to act immediately to reduce greenhouse gas emissions including methane and nitrous oxide.  It is criminal to promote the expansion of the tar sands ecocide and to build pipelines to export tar sands bitumen. It is criminal neglect to fail to set hard targets for compliance.

Solutions to climate change are well known and available.

The Parliament of Canada should immediately act to 

    • stop the tar sands ecocide expansion and stop building pipelines to export tar sands dilbit
    • remove all direct and indirect subsidies to fossil fuels, extractive industries, and cement production. 
    • introduce strict regulations to minimize greenhouse gasses 
    • establish a carbon tax regime with firm targets and timelines to keep emissions at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius
    • Redirect tax revenues to support renewable energy: offshore and onshore wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, and ocean power.
    • Invest in R&D for renewable development and climate mitigation 
    • Develop robust, smart power transmission corridors to electrify everything in the new green economy.  For example, building a transmission corridor between Onttario and Quebec would allow cheap, renewable energy from Quebec’s wind and hydro power surplus to flow to Ontario, saving billions, and allow the closure of Pickering Nuclear and cancellation of the Darlington expansion.

Climate criminals are thwarting action. Act to protect future generations.

-30 –


Canadian youth suing federal government over climate change

Image result for canadian youth climate protestA group of Canadian youth have officially filed a lawsuit against the federal government for what they say is the government’s contribution to “dangerous climate change.” Shutterstock

LETTER, Molly Mulloy: Take Back Control of Democracy

Image result for because without a healthy earth there isn't a healthy anything

Letter to editor,

Do people who use air travel realize that every person-flight across the country (or the ocean) emits the amount of carbon we can each afford to emit in a year? All their air travel – living it up while they can – will hasten and exacerbate the climate crisis.

Experts say we all need to drastically reduce:
1) air travel
2) the amount of meat we eat
3) the number of children we have, and
4) we need to stop using fossil fuels – ie: immediately transition to renewable, sustainable energy (I add locally produced and controlled, and from diverse sources).

Tragically, the fossil fuel industry (and nuclear) has a stranglehold on the Canadian government – and worse yet; globally, many governments are puppets of the corporate military-industrial complex. The only hope, if we are to save life on the planet, is to take back control of democracy.

Climate experts who have been sounding the alarm for five decades now, say that we have a decade or less to turn things around before planetary systems – Gulf and jet streams – change and we have no control or ability to offset global warming and its exponentially increasing effects on people and ecosystems, leading swiftly to the extinction of life on Earth.

As a spiritually-focused person, I firmly believe that the Creator would be horrified at how badly we have abused this wonderful world we have been blessed to inhabit, and that we should be good stewards of. Greed, by a tiny minority of power brokers, appears to have taken the upper hand. I believe the story of Jesus turning the tables in the temple is an example of what we ought to be doing now.

I am in awe of people like Elizabeth May and my mom and Greta Thunberg and David Suzuki and Bill McKibben – they are my heroes. They are the real leaders on our planet! The millions who have taken to the streets demanding action and climate justice are also leaders.

I weep for young people today, and for indigenous peoples – they are why I persist in acting to try to get something done in our so-wealthy country to effect a rapid paradigm shift, with justice for all. We desperately need a Green New Deal plus intense retooling of our energy industries, including an immediate transition off fossil fuels. We need to achieve net zero emissions within the next couple of decades, starting NOW! We cannot afford to continue to emit more and more carbon into the atmosphere.

Alberta’s premier is in the dark ages and leading Canada down a very dark rabbit hole for political expediency. It appears he has no vision of the future or understanding of the past ‘feast and famine’ cycles that the fossil fuel industry has brought to Alberta. It’s worse than tragic.
Ontario’s premier is equally brain dead! He is committing Ontario to a nuclear future when all the evidence and financial accounting shows that nuclear energy’s financial costs are ~5X more than any other energy path! Solar and wind and other renewable energies are by far the least expensive energy options worldwide now. They are renewable and sustainable, and easily set up in about 1/14th the time it takes to get nuclear on-stream! And they do not produce long-lived toxic wastes.

I’m in awe of the lack of intelligence of our political leaders. Justin Trudeau is not acting like his father – he seems gutless to stand up to industry. I deduce that industry now runs this country, not the people we elect. We need real leadership by people who not only understand the science, but are willing to take strong action to effect change. Or we are doomed, and taking with us the rest of life on the planet.
How many people, if they understood the seriousness of the situation, would be willing to demand action from our political leaders? That’s the big question.

Molly Mulloy – Prince Edward County resident

Joi Scientific’s perpetual hydrogen scheme predictably falls apart

Claims of 200% energy return with its seawater to hydrogen ‘technology’ prove false

Over the past few years, a company based out of Florida, Joi Scientific, has been gaining millions in investment and headlines. Recently, the company admitted to investors that its technology doesn’t work at all.

I [Mike Barnard} have a personal hand in this. Earlier this year, Joi Scientific was brought to my attention by CleanTechnica. A quick review found numerous red flags that suggested that the company wasn’t what it claimed. My guidance at the time was to not publish more on it, or at least nothing which provided flattering perspectives on its technology.

CBC in Canada had already published one article on Joi Scientific, questioning the multimillion dollar investment from New Brunswick Power and its head Gaetan Thomas, President & CEO, BScEngEE, D.Sc., ICD.D, P.Eng. I reached out to the journalist and was interviewed for a follow-on piece: Science behind NB Power’s hydrogen venture too good to be true, critic says. That critic would be me.

And now, the inevitable has happened. As CBC reported this week, Joi Scientific has admitted that its technology doesn’t work in any way, shape, or form as promised, but in fact has perhaps a 10th of the efficiency that it claimed. Its CEO Traver H. Kennedy told shareholders on a call:

“We’ve come to learn that the power measurements coming into our circuitry and going all the way back to the wall fundamentally show our current Hydrogen 2.0 technology has poor system efficiencies.”

Given that the company claimed getting twice the power out as it put in, this isn’t surprising. Also unsurprising is that he told investors that the company had no money left.

As part of my standard process that I provide as a service for clients and for publication, I assessed the public claims, claimed patents, scientific papers, and the backgrounds of the principals. This helps provide a well-rounded view of a technology and its proponents, enabling good investment decisions. Outside of the memorable case of the second (or possibly third) generation con man I discovered this year, the approach also helped me identify that a wind generation technology innovator’s previous claim to fame was making artificial noses, not a conspicuously relevant or adjacent market. It certainly didn’t pass my sniff test.

In the case of Joi Scientific, I reviewed the 11 patents that it had filed under the names of its two senior executives, Traver H. Kennedy and Robert L. Koeneman. Kennedy is Joi Scientific’s CEO while Koeneman is co-founder, President and Senior VP Technology.

The patents were illuminating, and reflected the public claims in its promotional videos.

In the exemplary systems, for one watt of input energy, two watts of energy in the form of hydrogen gas is achieved (a level of 200 percent).”

This was the first interesting point I stumbled across, and represented one of two or three Nobel Prize-worthy achievements, if they had been true, violating as they do both the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

I reached out to one of my long-term collaborators, Tim Weis, with whom I’d shared earlier iterations of this story, for comment. He’s currently Industrial Professor, Mechanical Engineering / Executive Director, Electricity, Centre for Applied Business Research in Energy and the Environment (CABREE), and has been a Director of the Pembina Institute and an advisor on energy to the Alberta Notley government.

“There may still be a significant role for hydrogen in a low-carbon economy, but the public needs to remember that in absence of a hydrogen mine, it is an energy-storage medium, not a source. If I were to say I was going to use Duracell batteries as a power supply, it would raise a red flag pretty quickly. If there’s a silver lining to this story, it’s that it has made a useful example for my engineering students as to why we study the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.”

The 200% claim wasn’t the only remarkable one. In another patent of the 11, in case the 200% claim had been merely an extended typo, they claimed the following:

“the production rate of the generated hydrogen 112′ increases significantly from a 0.7/0.8 Coefficient of Performance (COP) to greater than four times the COP (>400%).”

What’s a coefficient of performance? It’s actually something that is used in heating and cooling systems. You know what beats a CoP of 1? Systems like geothermal heat pumps which gain energy from an external source, using electricity to route a heat transfer fluid through a warmer or colder medium. That’s not what Joi Scientific is claiming, however. The company is claiming that it is putting electricity into a device which splits sea water into hydrogen and oxygen and gaining so much excess energy as to achieve 400% efficiency results.

That’s pretty remarkable. But that’s still not all.

Next Joi Scientific claimed hyper-efficient use of hydrogen as an energy source. It claimed that the company was able to use the resulting hydrogen in either a combustion or fuel cell model to generate enough energy to keep the process going indefinitely. Hydrogen in combustion or fuel cells is ~60% efficient at best. To gain net hydrogen for use elsewhere, this implies that they would have to achieve around 170% energy efficiency to be able to create hydrogen continuously. If Joi Scientific has managed to get well above 60% with hydrogen fueling its process, it would have won another Nobel Prize for that. Of course, it didn’t.

Another red flag was the lack of any actual output numbers beyond what was claimed in the patents. Nothing. No technical input/output results. No reports. No white papers. No scientific papers. No peer-reviewed results. No third-party results. Nothing.

Joi Scientific was also claiming technical breakthroughs using pulsed electricity in its electrolysis. This sounds impressive and all, but prior art on using pulsed electricity in hydrogen electrolysis goes back to 1994. Anyone familiar with the field looking at its patents and claims would immediately start questioning the company’s results on this claim alone. PEM electrolysis is currently around 80% efficient with a projected hypothetical peak of 86%, yet it was claiming 200%. Frankly, anything about 86% would have made anyone familiar with the field question the company’s results, and even 86% is questionable as industrial processes are rarely as perfect as optimal lab hypothetical processes.

Another piece of context is that free energy from water claims have been extant since the 1970s. A former Joi Scientific employee, anonymized with the pseudonym “Alex” by the CBC, pointed out that the Joi Scientific patents were remarkably similar to Stanley Meyer patents from 1990. Meyer’s water-powered cars still show up on YouTube and the like, shared by the credulous, despite him having been convicted of fraud in 1996. As the former employee said to CBC:

“Not only was it “not possible,” but Alex said the company’s technology “really wasn’t even able to be demonstrated. It never matched up with what they were trying to claim.”

His assertion was that Joi Scientific was achieving 20% efficiency, not 200%, that whatever it showed to NB Power and its PhD assessor — yes, an actually credentialed third-party chemical engineer looked at this mess and gave it the green light — was not actually working and that the company knew it. Of course, the third-party assessor was in addition to NB Power’s CEO and President’s credentials which should have indicated a background sufficient to catch these not very subtle clues. After all, the string of letters after his name include BScEngEE, D.Sc., ICD.D, P.Eng. Yes, electrical engineer, doctor of science, a professional engineer and a designation from the institute of corporate directors.

Of course, there’s more. It is insufficient that Joi Scientific claimed to be able to get around the first and second laws of thermodynamics and to have an incredibly efficient fuel cell, as the claims it made about what was happening were also remarkable.

“Molecular rotation, during the rise and collapse of the magnetic field order within the chamber, generates additional forces in the form of vector and velocity values. These rotations cause respective nano-scale distances to increase and decrease between atoms. Rotational effects during the on and off portions of the impulse cycle reduce the strength of the atomic bonds to aid in the separation of the atoms making up each molecule’s composition.”

For context, centripetal forces are absurd orders of magnitude less powerful than atomic forces. As I said to the CBC, it’s the equivalent of claiming an eight-year old can throw a baseball to the Moon.

As for the principals, Kennedy and Koeneman, suffice it to say that neither has any electronics, hydrogen fuel cell, electrolysis, chemistry, physics or electrical generation background. One has a music degree, the other is a software developer way back. There is nothing in either of the principals’ backgrounds that suggested that they might be able to create a breakthrough technology in this space. Their names are on the patents, but it’s unlikely that they wrote them or even understood what they were putting their names on.

New Brunswick Power and Gaetan Thomas aren’t the only embarrassed investors this week, I’m sure. Back in October 2018, Tampa’s MarineMax signed a deal to use Joi Scientific’s product on MarineMax-powered boats. As David Hahn, a professor and department chair of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida, said at the time,

“Run your boat just on seawater? Yeah that ain’t happening. If you do that, you just won the Nobel Prize for physics and world peace.”

Of course, New Brunswick Power was already a year or so into its sojourn with Joi Scientific at that point, so the opinions of Hahn and me were already too late.

Joi Scientific wasn’t the only ‘dubious’ energy technology I spotted and assessed this year. A west coast US company was brought to my attention by a client, and as part of my services I assessed them and found them to be an out-and-out con, with a principal who was literally the son and nephew of two of the United States’ most notorious con artists. Their claims were even harder to imagine people accepting, yet that firm had found multiple people, including many with very good credentials, to accept and promote them. Needless to say, my client didn’t give them any money.

So there we are. New Brunswick Power and through them the rate payers of the province of New Brunswick are out at minimum $13 million spent on an obviously non-viable technology. Their due diligence failed. New Brunswick’s time and energy has been wasted on nonsense instead of on viable wind and solar projects. NP Power’s CEO and President is facing stiff questions from his Board and from the elected officials of the province. And it all could have been avoided if they’d actually engaged even moderately skeptical and informed energy analysts such as Tim Weis, David Hahn, or me.