Grand Chief Stewart Phillip & Peter McCartney: Canada must stop violating Indigenous human rights for megaprojects

The RCMP are obliged to enforce a civil injunction obtained by Coastal GasLink pipeline against Freda Huson (right) and other Wet'suwet'en members.

The RCMP are obliged to enforce a civil injunction obtained by Coastal GasLink pipeline against Freda Huson (right) and other Wet’suwet’en members.

By Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Peter McCartney

There’s no way around it—Indigenous peoples are the proper title and rights holders over their territories, and their human rights cannot be trampled just because a megaproject floats the dream of big money to investors.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recently called on Canada to immediately stop construction on three major industrial projects until affected Indigenous Nations have given their consent. The Coastal GasLink pipeline, Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and the Site C dam have all been met with consistent opposition from many of the nations whose territories they would cross and infringe upon. Community members have been violently removed from their lands for asserting their title and rights and exercising their inherent right to control and develop their lands, territories and resources.

As we write this, the RCMP is preparing to descend upon Wet’suwet’en territory to clear the path of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, as the company recently won a court injunction that the RCMP is obliged to enforce. Meanwhile, land defenders who oppose the federally owned Trans Mountain pipeline have faced harassment, surveillance, intimidation, and violent arrest.

These events highlight the concerns of the UN for the rights and safety of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Police violence and human rights violations are only likely to escalate unless political leaders step in. Their courage or cowardice will define whether reconciliation becomes yet another hollow promise to Indigenous Peoples or a chance to build this country upon principles of equality and respect—the way it should have been from the beginning.

We’ve visited the Tiny House Warriors, the Rocky Mountain Fort, and the Unist’ot’en healing lodge in the path of these megaprojects. Friends have told us how they’ve been turned away from local businesses, constantly harassed and surveilled by police, and even injured in violent arrests. It does not and should not have to be like this.

We can have an economy that reflects our values. There’s a right way to provide jobs and prosperity, but it requires patience, humility and prioritizing the relationships that we are trying to build. Indigenous Peoples have laws and governments that have been in place on these territories long before Canada’s. Respecting their right to make decisions about those lands means accepting our shared future in this place is more important than any one resource project.

For generations, Canada has proudly supported human rights on the international stage at the United Nations forums while consistently failing to apply the same moral compass here at home. If we are going to live up to our ideals rather than repeat the mistakes of the past, and if British Columbia is to advance its commitment to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, we must heed the call and stop Trans Mountain, Coastal GasLink and Site C. Only once we stop straining the fragile bonds between us can we move forward in partnership. SOURCE

Brazil Amazon deforestation jumped 85% in 2019 vs 2018: government data

Image result for reuters: Brazil Amazon deforestation jumped 85% in 2019 vs 2018: government data

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view of a tract of Amazon jungle after it was cleared by farmers in Itaituba, Para, Brazil September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rose 85% in 2019 compared to the previous year, according to a data-based warning system from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), in the latest piece of evidence to highlight rampant tree-felling.

According to data from INPE’s DETER database, which publishes alerts on fires and other types of developments affecting the rainforest, the area with deforestation warnings last year totaled 9,166 square kilometers (3539.01 square miles), compared to 4,946 square kilometers in 2018.
The DETER numbers are not considered official deforestation data. That comes from a different system called PRODES, also managed by INPE. PRODES numbers released in November showed deforestation rose to its highest in over a decade this year, jumping 30% from 2018 to 9,762 square km.

Researchers and environmentalists blame right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro for emboldening ranchers and loggers by calling for the Amazon to be developed and for weakening the government environmental agency Ibama.

Bolsonaro has denied responsibility and blamed previous left-wing governments for the increase in deforestation, saying policies including budget cuts at agencies like Ibama were in place well before the new government took office on Jan. 1. SOURCE


How Ghent got rid of cars and transformed the city in a decade

Ghent from above

Screen capture Streetfilms

Why can’t we do this in North America?

When it comes to protecting the lives of people who walk or bike, nothing much ever happens in North America. When it comes to improving transit, New York got a bus lane. Where I live in Toronto, we have had ten years of inaction, wasted millions, changed plans, promises – and nothing.

The Innovative Way Ghent Removed Cars From The City from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

That’s why watching Clarence Eckerson’s latest video about The Innovative Way Ghent Removed Cars From The City is so crazy, showing how they transformed a city in just a decade.

This swift, creative strategy of turning Ghent in to a place for people is such a phenomenal story it’s a mystery as to why it has not gotten more attention worldwide. It is a city of 262,000 residents, so not a large metropolis, but not a small city either. The metamorphosis was achieved thru a sort of tactical urbanism approach by throwing concrete barriers and planters here and there (some backed by enforcement cameras) and altering the gateways into public spaces and safer places to walk and bike. (There are now 40% fewer cars on bicycle priority streets than before the plan!)

segments of town separated into zonesStreetfilms/Screen capture

The most interesting and shocking part of the exercise is what they did to keep out cars. Basically, if you want to drive from one zone to another, you have to go back out to the Ring Road. You can’t drive across or around town.

It encourages less car use, more bicycling and more transit use by splitting the city into seven distinct zones: a mostly car-free city center core surrounded by six zones which have been cordoned off with concrete or controlled by cameras. The only way to reach them is to travel to the ring road on the city outskirts, thus making it not impossible to use a car but motivates those shorter trips to be done via human power or mass transit. Bike mode share in 2012 was 22%, now it is 35% and growing!

Do politicians in North American cities have the will to do this kind of thing? Unfortunately no. In Cleveland, they are spending millions on a Hyperloop. In Hamilton, the province just cancelled an LRT after years of work.

cafe by the riverStreetfilms/Screen capture

205 years ago, warring North American politicians signed the Treaty of Ghent, which formally ended the war of 1812 without a surrender by either side. Now we need a new Treaty of Ghent to end the so-called war on the car, where we surrender our car-based way of life for one focused on trams and bikes and walkable cities full of canal-side bike cafés. Bring on a Blitzkrieg of Ghent doers and planners. As Clarence notes, “What happened was stunning: almost never has there been such a rapid metamorphosis occurred in such a short time.” SOURCE

Effortless Environmentalism

Here are some easy ways to live more gently on the earth. The key word here is “easy.”

Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

NASHVILLE — My annual resolution to give up sugar — a resolution I keep most of the time and abandon with abandon as soon as pecan pie hits the Thanksgiving sideboard — lasted less than a week this year. It lasts less than a week every year because at our house the holiday season doesn’t end until our oldest son, born on Jan. 7, has blown out the candles on his birthday cake. I have no genetic resistance to my grandmother’s brown-sugar pound cake, the birthday cake my son requests every year; I have to start my resolution all over again on Jan. 8.

The whole trouble with resolutions is that keeping them is hard. Which makes sense: If it were easy to keep a resolution, there would be no need to make one. But in truth, resolutions needn’t be so hard. Instead of resolving to give up sugar, I should just resolve to give up sugar except during times of whole-family celebration. That’s effectively the same thing, but it’s the happy kind of resolution that doesn’t entail self-loathing at the end of every party.

In that spirit, I offer some very doable resolutions for living more lightly on the earth. If 2019 is truly “the year we woke up to climate change,” then 2020 should be the year we start actually doing something about it. Because we are very nearly out of time.

Listen, I know: Dryer balls won’t save the world. Saving the world — and by extension the human race — will take a level of political will the likes of which we have not seen before and which we will categorically never see from this administration. Which makes it all the more crucial to do our part, however small. Think of these suggestions as baby steps on the path toward a growing commitment to change.

Live and let live. Every fall, my neighbors’ lawns are dotted with traps as the neighborhood moles, who have been living in the damp soil deep underground all summer, move their tunnels closer to the surface with the autumn rains. As they tunnel, they push the excavated soil to the surface. The resulting molehills definitely spoil the effect of an emerald green lawn, but so what? The moles are doing good work for you, aerating your soil, eating destructive grubs and slugs, and serving as food for owls and snakes. In time the moles will move deeper again, and the soil will spread out again, and in the meantime the freshly turned earth will be an invitation to ground-foraging birds and serve as fertile ground for wildflower seeds carried on the wind. Other “unwelcome” creatures perform their own useful services: Opossums eat ticks, skunks eat yellow jackets, snakes eat mice, etc. Harry them not.

Reframe your relationship with bugs. Insects are the bread and butter of the natural world, but they are dying out. Think of your yard as ground zero of the entire local food chain. Think of caterpillars not as the enemy of the tomato vine but as food for the mockingbird, whose babies are hungry. Think of mosquitoes not as the bane of the deck party but as food for the bats and the swallows. Plant enough tomatoes for everybody. Use an oscillating fan to keep the bugs away from the porch.

Cultivate a glorious mess. Nature isn’t supposed to be tidy, and its messiness is purposeful. Fallen leaves fertilize the trees they fell from and simultaneously provide habitat for a whole host of insects, amphibians and reptiles. Dead limbs offer homes to cavity-nesting birds like woodpeckers, screech owls and Carolina wrens. Brush piles provide shelter for all manner of small creatures. Kill your leaf blower. Abandon your rake.

Eat better. Agriculture accounts for about a third of greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through deforestation, the use of petrochemical fertilizers and methane production by livestock. To mitigate its effects, eat less meat and fewer dairy products. Support regenerative farming by buying as much food as possible from local farmers who use heritage farming techniques.

Shop your closet. In addition to its manifold human costs, “fast fashion” — cheap clothing designed to be temporary in the age of Instagram — is a significant cause of environmental degradation. Synthetic fibers are made from fossil fuels and don’t break down in landfills or oceans. Instead of buying a new outfit, wear one that’s already in your closet. No one cares. If you don’t believe no one cares, mix and match items from different outfits, or wear different accessories with the outfits you often wear. If your old clothes need mending or don’t fit well anymore, hire a good seamstress to make them look new again.

Put your money where your values are. Support a fierce environmental nonprofit through automatic monthly drafts. An organization with access to scientific experts, legal teams and full-time advocates can do more good than the same number of individuals acting alone. A monthly draft, no matter how small, gives these organizations the ability to plan ahead and budget accordingly. A rating agency like Charity Navigator or CharityWatch can help you find the most effective ones to support. Be sure to investigate local and regional nonprofits in addition to the marquee national organizations you’ve already heard of.

Pay for your sins. Avoiding air travel is one easy way to lower your carbon footprint significantly, but you can also buy carbon offsets for the flights you can’t avoid. Carbon offsets counteract the greenhouse gas emissions you’re responsible for by supporting organizations that work to limit emissions. They’re amazingly affordable — I offset my entire book tour last year for less than $50 — and they’re not just for corporations. And not just for air travel either.

Lighten up on the plastic. It’s almost impossible to avoid single-use plastics altogether, but a one-time investment in reusable versions of your most frequent purchases can reduce your dependence on them. Add reusable produce bags to your stash of reusable grocery bags, keep a good water bottle in your purse or satchel, bring your own takeout containers to restaurants for leftovers, etc. When you can, purchase biodegradable versions of plastic, like dog-poop bags made from cornstarch, and reuse single-use items that can’t be avoided: If you save the bags that bread comes in, for example, you won’t ever need to buy zip-top bags.

Vote. The climate crisis is the one issue that matters most in this election, and not just because the survival of the human race depends on it. Virtually every other issue on the ballot is one that will be made worse if we don’t act now to limit the damage we’re doing to the planet. Immigration? Check. Race relations? Check. Income inequality? Affordable health care? Global political instability? Check, check, check. Vote for candidates who understand the life-threatening environmental challenges we’re facing, who have pledged to do the hard work of addressing them and, equally important, who have a realistic chance of winning.

Don’t hold yourself to an unrealistic standard of purity. Just as it’s O.K. to eat the birthday cake, it’s O.K. not to be a perfect steward of the earth. A standard of perfection makes it too easy to become overwhelmed. Just do your best. Trust that your best will keep getting better as you wake up to your own responsibilities to the earth.

Take out your earbuds. The best thing you can do to save the earth is to fall in love with your own world. When you love something, you want to nurture and protect it. It’s lovely to think of preserving the earth as a matter of protecting the oceans and the forests and the flood plains and the prairies. But preserving the earth is just as much about protecting the blue jays and the spiders and bats and the garter snakes and the box turtles and the toads. Pay attention to their courtship songs and their territorial cries of fury. Study their stirring in the leaves. Listen for the rush of wings. SOURCE


Why the Climate Movement’s Next Big Target Is Wall Street

Photo: Getty

Climate activists are taking on a new pipeline: The one that funnels money from Wall Street into planetary destruction.

A coalition of climate, environmental, youth, and indigenous organizations unveiled Stop the Money Pipeline, a campaign to “pressure banks, insurance companies and asset managers to stop financing fossil fuels and deforestation and start respecting human rights and Indigenous sovereignty,” late last week.

Banks, asset managers, and insurance companies may seem like less obvious targets than going directly after, say, oil and gas companies or the Trump administration. But Wall Street plays an essential role in the fossil fuel industry’s expansion. Staunching the flow of money could be an effective way to prevent more oil, gas, and coal from being dug up, which is exactly what has to happen (and then some) to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Though many banking institutions have branded themselves as green, the world’s top 33 largest banks collectively provided $1.9 trillion in financing for coal, oil, and gas companies since countries put forth the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.

“There are only a few major companies like Exxon Mobil, who can self-finance a project and put up all the money themselves,” Jamie Henn, co-founder, told Earther.

And even oil majors like Exxon rely on capital from investment firms like BlackRock and insurance from companies like Liberty Mutual (that have also both adopted green branding), said Henn. “If we can knock out this pillar of financing for the fossil fuel industry, we can take out the entire industry itself,” he said.

There’s precedent for successful public pressure campaigns going after money that finances fossil fuel exploitation. The divestment movement led by has seen colleges and universities, cities, religious institutions, and pension funds to withdraw their investments from fossil fuel corporations. The climate divestment movement itself is modeled after the successful efforts to divest from apartheid South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.

“When we launched that campaign, we were actually saying, ‘we’re not really looking to make a financial impact,’ we want to make a political impact with this work,” he said. “What surprised us is how much of a financial impact it actually made.”

In late 2018, the movement hit a milestone with 1,000 groups agreeing to divest from fossil fuels. The number has since risen to nearly 1,160 groups managing $12 trillion (though not all of it is in fossil fuels).

Henn said he realized the financial potential of the movement in 2016, when Peabody, the world’s biggest coal company, announced it was going bankrupt and listed divestment as one of the reasons why. A 2018 Goldman Sachs report shows it’s not just Peabody, noting that the “divestment movement has been a key driver of the coal sector’s 60% de-rating over the past five years.”

There are other recent successes beyond divestment as well. Due at least in part to public pressure, Goldman Sachs became the first major U.S. bank to stop funding oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge last month. An in July, Chubb announced it will be the first U.S. insurer to phase out its coal investments and insurance policies within the next three years. The four largest European insurance firms no longer cover coal power-related projects.

“So what we’re doing now is sort of taking this to the next level and going to the banks and insurance [companies] and the asset managers themselves,” said Henn, “to demand that they take action… against all fossil fuels.”

That action can’t come soon enough. The United Nations’ (UN) recent Production Gap Report shows that within a decade, planned fossil fuel production will “more than double what’s allowable to avoid 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming.” This year’s UN climate talks in November will also focus specifically on the role of finance in furthering the climate crisis. By that time, the campaign hopes to see firm commitments from banks and insurers to not finance projects that worsen climate change, and to instead fund renewable energy and reforestation.

The organizations running the campaign—which launched at the last Fire Drill Friday protest hosted by Jane Fonda in Washington, DC—have identified three initial primary targets. One, JPMorgan Chase, is the top global financer of fossil fuels. It has poured $196 billion in financing to fossil fuel companies since 2016, roughly 10 percent of all fossil fuel financing from major global banks. And Lee Raymond, Exxon’s former CEO, is on their board. Despite such a seemingly large investment in fossil fuels, shifting away from financing projects wouldn’t kill Chase. Janet Redman, Greenpeace’s climate campaign director, told Earther that fossil fuels roughly seven percent of Chase’s business.

“So while that is an incredible amount of money and it means a lot to the planet,” she said, “some of these institutions can make small shifts in their portfolio—really less than 10 percent effectiveness—and accomplish a lot for the planet.”

Another, Liberty Mutual, is a top insurer of and investor in energy mega-projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline. The company invests over $8.9 billion in fossil fuel companies and utilities. They’ve also withdrawn coverage from and increased the costs of insurance for longtime customers in areas at risk of climate change impacts, such as wildfire-affected areas in California.

And then there’s BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm with nearly $7 trillion in assets worldwide. It’s also the largest investor in commodities linked to fossil fuels and deforestation. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink frequently calls on corporations to take on a “social purpose.” But his company is the world’s top investor in public oil, gas and coal companies, and is among the world’s top shareholders in companies that deforest the Amazon to produce and trade soy, beef, palm oil, pulp and paper, rubber and timber.

Stopping these investments would not only be good for the climate, but also for indigenous communities and other vulnerable people worldwide. The Liberty Mutual-backed Trans Mountain pipeline, for instance is routed through First Nations territories. And deforestation in the Amazon, such as that undertaken by BlackRock’s clients, has caused a human rights emergency for indigenous people. Those human rights violations are not only ethically unconscionable, but they could also leave investors open to legal action down the road.

Last Thursday, BlackRock announced that it’s joining the Climate Action 100+, a group of investors that manage assets worth over $35 trillion worth, which pressures the world’s biggest polluters to show how they will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

In the coming months, the Stop the Money Pipeline campaign will demand each of these targets divest from coal, oil, gas, and deforestation, while pressuring the federal government to strictly regulate the energy industry. Next Thursday, the campaign will be targeting Wells Fargo in Washington, DC for their fossil fuel finance and human rights violations, and on February 13, they’ll hold a nationwide day of action targeting college campuses and state pension funds urging divestment from fossil fuels.

They might not have to wait long to see results. After Blackrock’s shift last week, the firm’s CEO said in his annual letter that the world is “on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” and announced that the company will no longer invest in thermal coal.

But the firm and others have a lot of work left to do, so activists will be reminding them of that in the coming weeks. SOURCE

Oil-Dependent Canadian Province Launching New Solar Farm Next Year—One of the Largest in the World

Image result for goodnewsnetwork: Oil-Dependent Canadian Province Launching New Solar Farm Next Year—One of the Largest in the World

Canada will soon be welcoming the largest operating solar energy project in the country—and it is also being hailed as “one of the largest in the world”.

Back in August, Greengate Power Corporation received approval from the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to construct and operate its $500 million Travers Solar project with a total generating capacity of 400 MW.

The company now expects to begin construction of the project sometime during the first half of 2020, with full commercial operations targeted for 2021.

Greengate is an industry leading, privately-held Canadian renewable energy company based out of Calgary. Since 2007, Greengate has successfully developed close to 600 MW of operating—or near-operating—wind energy projects in Alberta and Ontario, including the 300 MW Blackspring Ridge Wind Project, which is currently the largest operating wind energy project in Canada.

These projects represent well over $1 billion of investment and provide a clean source of power to more than 250,000 homes. Greengate is currently pursuing the development of close to 1,000 MW of new solar and wind energy projects as it continues to grow as an industry leading producer of clean renewable energy.

For perspective, the two biggest solar power facilities currently operating in Canada maintain a capacity of about 100MW. Since Alberta averages about 300 days of sunlight per year, the Travers Solar project is expected to power as many as 110,000 homes and offset 472 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year.

The project will utilize about 2.5 million PV modules across 4,700 acres (1,900 hectares) of land in Vulcan County, Alberta. SOURCE

Over 32,000 potassium iodide pills ordered in 2 days after Pickering nuclear power plant alert error

Typically, between 100 and 200 orders are placed per month

The Pickering Nuclear Generating Station in Ontario. An alert sent early Sunday was later pulled back, saying it was sent in error. Since then, Durham Region and the City of Toronto have seen a boom in demand for potassium iodide pills. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

Tens of thousands of people have placed orders for free potassium iodide pills in the days following a false alert from the province about an incident at a nuclear plant in Pickering, Ont.

Sunday’s alert, which was sent to mobile phones across Ontario, shocked those within a 10-kilometre radius of the Durham Region plant and even those living farther away.

About an hour after the 7:24 a.m. ET alert, Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the plant’s operator, tweeted without explanation that the warning “was sent in error.” The Ontario government also later acknowledged the mistake, blaming human error, and issued an apology.

Although the mistake left some people fuming, others stepped up their planning for a real emergency.

Between Sunday morning and Monday afternoon, 32,388 orders were placed for potassium iodide tablets through Durham Region’s Prepare To Be Safe website, which is jointly managed by the City of Toronto and OPG.

Typically, OPG says, between 100 and 200 orders are placed per month.

The pills can be ingested to protect the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine that could be released into the air in a nuclear emergency.

In small quantities, it is an “essential nutrient for your thyroid gland to function properly,” and is “effective in reducing the threat of thyroid cancer to residents at risk of inhaling or ingesting radioactive iodine,” according to the Canadian government’s website.

The pills are distributed automatically to homes and businesses within 10 kilometres of every nuclear power plant in Ontario.

Depending on residents’ postal codes and road boundaries, people within 10 to 50 kilometres of a plant in the province can order tablets free through the Prepare To Be Safe website.

OPG told CBC News that the majority of orders come from people in the Greater Toronto Area. SOURCE


How many nuclear accidents have happened?
As of 2014, there have been more than 100 serious nuclear accidents and incidents from the use of nuclear power. Fifty-seven accidents have occurred since the Chernobyl disaster, and about 60% of all nuclear-related accidents have occurred in the USA.

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