How to get your yard off grass

Lawn history is rooted in wealth and status.

In 17th century England, only rich landowners had lawns (a monoculture of short, manicured grass). Work once done by sheep increasingly shifted to human labour, especially closer to the house. Before lawnmowers, only a few could afford to hire people to scythe and weed their grass.

A lawn’s purpose? Purely decorative.

Given today’s reality…

…are we ready to question, even ditch, the lawn habit? In Canada there are about 6.2 million lawns. Converting just one-quarter of each lawn would equal around 14,400 hectares of habitat for pollinators. Did you know in the Capital Regional District on Vancouver Island lawn is the most dominant land cover and contributes to the most water wastage?

Join the movement to “rewild” and create more edible landscapes! Make nature your ally. It has delicious consequences.

A food forest

Beautiful garden with edible plants

Food forest are a permaculture practice with a few layers (up to seven!) of plants, including edible trees, shrubs, vines, herbaceous plants and groundcover. (Check out this list of edible perennials!) Plants often mimic what’s in native forests nearby and require no till and often no weeding, fertilizer or irrigation. Plants in food forests can have many uses, from food to medicine. A diversity of plants also allows for a harvest throughout the seasons.

Explore local forests to see what grows naturally. Notice what’s thriving and how things grow in relation to one another (e.g., overstory versus understory) and identify species. Then create a list to seek commercial productive variants of wild plants or the native species themselves.


Learn how to prune roots. It could be the reason many of your plants haven’t survived after transplant. When you remove a plant from the container, are the roots shaped like the container? Use your fingers to loosen roots or trim roots with secateurs. It will make it easier for new root hairs to colonize the soil and help the plant establish.

plant rare


It’s a fancy word for water-wise gardening. Use up to 50 per cent less water by xeriscaping or landscaping with native plants better adapted to your area. Our yards can become a lot more like the nature once was.


Where and how you plant a species can help reduce its water needs. Avoid planting when plants are already under drought stress. You may choose to prune 50 per cent of leaves/branches to reduce a plant’s water needs when under stress

Stumps growing in a lush forest


It means “hill mound” and it’s created with yard debris like logs, branches, grass clippings, leaves, compost and cardboard or straw. After digging a trench, layer the organics, then plant it! The benefits are a slow release of nutrients as wood decays (up to 20 years), acting like a sponge to hold water, sequestering carbon and more. Learn how to say it and how to do it, including which wood works best.

Tip: Leave stumps. Don’t waste money removing them; leave valuable deadwood on-site. Did you know deadwood can host more life than live trees? Biologists even call them “hot spots!” Plant around, on or in the stump! Have a fresh new stump? Speed up decomposition and cover it in soil. Old stumps or pieces of driftwood can also add eye-pleasing structure to your garden and yard as well as create habitat for wild bees and critters like salamanders and frogs.

Design a rain garden

A rain garden helps minimize the problem of stormwater runoff — hundreds of litres of rainwater streaming off hard surfaces like roofs, roads and driveways. For example, shallow beds 15 to 30 centimetres (six to 12 inches) deep filled with native plants will filter up to 90 per cent of pollutants. Rain gardens also allow water to drain deep enough into the soil to help recharge groundwater supplies.

District of North Vancouver Butterflyway


Meadowscaping is low-maintenance; only cut back once a year! It’s defined as having no trees or shrubs and about 40 to 60 per cent native grasses. They need full sun and are usually dry but you can have wet meadows too. Plant species will bloom spring, summer and fall. Learn more about layering and converting your lawn to a meadow even bylaw officers will love!


Sheet mulch instead of tearing up sod. Simply add about three layers of cardboard (free from tape and staples) to smother lawn. Then add soil, compost or raised beds and get planting! Free arborist wood chips are great for trails between beds. Call a tree-trimming company to ask for a free load or flag down a truck chipping in your neighbourhood.

Wild roses can grow as a hedge

Plant a native hedgerow

Hedgerows are a living, linear barrier of plants — trees, shrubs or even wildflowers. They can border a property (e.g., a fence substitute), create a visual barrier to a road and block the wind. They also provide benefits to wildlife in the form of shelter, pollen and nectar and travel corridors. Try edible plants like rose species, Saskatoon, chokecherry, elderberry or beaked hazelnut. Saanich Native Plants shares a “how to” resource on designing and planting and you can get a plant list from the Canadian Wildlife Federation.


Hedges can provide travel corridors and hiding places for snakes and other wildlife. Learn more snake-friendly gardening tips!

Monarch butterfly

A pollinator-friendly garden

If you don’t plant for pollinators, who will? Anyone can provide essential habitat for bees (especially wild ones!), butterflies, moths, beetles, hummingbirds and other pollinators. Plus, when you attract more insects you’ll welcome more birds.


Provide a few rocks in a sunny location for basking sites for butterflies. (Clumps of rocks can help increase the number of snakes that eat garden slugs)!

trees sugar beach toronto

Plant a tree

A team of researchers found that 10 more trees on a city block has self-reported health benefits comparable to a $10,000 salary raise (so you can feel richer without showing off your lawn), moving to a neighbourhood with a $10,000 higher median income or being seven years younger.

The study, conducted in Toronto, also found that people who live on a tree-lined block are less likely to report high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease or diabetes.


Try a slow-release watering bag for new trees beginning to establish.

A variety of landscaping options await. Not sure where to start? Hire and consult with a company that specializes in native plants and edible landscapes. Or grab books and online resources, maybe find a local mentor or take a course to help you realize your dream.

trees sugar beach toronto

Plant a tree

A team of researchers found that 10 more trees on a city block has self-reported health benefits comparable to a $10,000 salary raise (so you can feel richer without showing off your lawn), moving to a neighbourhood with a $10,000 higher median income or being seven years younger.

The study, conducted in Toronto, also found that people who live on a tree-lined block are less likely to report high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease or diabetes.


Try a slow-release watering bag for new trees beginning to establish.

A variety of landscaping options await. Not sure where to start? Hire and consult with a company that specializes in native plants and edible landscapes. Or grab books and online resources, maybe find a local mentor or take a course to help you realize your dream.


Supreme Court to Consider Compensation Issue when Reserve Lands are Taken

Canada's All-White Supreme Court Must Evolve | HuffPost Canada
by Kate Gunn
Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada granted Lac Seul First Nation’s application for leave to appeal the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision in Southwind v. Canada.

The Supreme Court is expected to clarify how equitable compensation is calculated where a First Nation’s reserve lands have been taken or damaged by the Crown in the absence of a valid surrender or expropriation.

The decision could directly affect First Nations across Canada dealing with claims relating to the unlawful taking of their reserve lands.


The Southwind litigation relates to the flooding of Lac Seul’s reserve in 1929 following the construction of a hydroelectric dam near Lower Ear Falls in Treaty #3. Over 11,000 acres of Lac Seul’s reserves were flooded. Timber was lost, graves were damaged, gardens and fields were destroyed, and portions of the community were severed from one another. The flooded lands remain part of Lac Seul’s reserve today.

Canada did not seek Lac Seul’s consent to surrender the lands prior to the flooding, nor did it take steps to expropriate the lands under the Indian Act. Canada also initially failed to provide Lac Seul with any compensation. Lac Seul subsequently received a nominal amount following the negotiation of a settlement agreement between Ontario and Canada, but was not involved in the negotiations or informed of the terms of the agreement.

Decisions of the lower courts

Lac Seul filed a civil action against Canada in Federal Court seeking equitable compensation, damages and a declaration that its interests in the flooded lands had not been encumbered or extinguished. Lac Seul also argued that it should be compensated for Canada’s failure to negotiate a revenue-sharing agreement on its behalf.

Federal Court

In 2017, the Federal Court found that Canada breached its fiduciary duties to Lac Seul and that it had breached the Indian Act by failing to obtain a surrender from Lac Seul or taking the steps necessary to expropriate the lands.

However, the Court also concluded that Canada was not obligated to negotiate a revenue-sharing agreement on behalf of Lac Seul. In the result, the Court awarded equitable compensation in the amount of $30 million based on the fair market value of the lands at the time they were flooded.

The Court further found, based largely on the written terms of Treaty #3, that Canada could have appropriated Lac Seul’s reserve lands for public works without obtaining Lac Seul’s consent. The trial judge made no reference to historical documents or other information which could have informed the interpretation of the treaty.

Federal Court of Appeal

Lac Seul appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal on the basis that the trial judge erred in the assessment of equitable compensation by failing to include the value of the revenue-sharing agreement.

In 2019, the Court dismissed the appeal. Two of the three judges approved the lower court’s assessment of compensation and found there was no error in declining to award compensation for failure to negotiate a revenue-sharing agreement.

The third judge held that the lower court erred in its approach to determining whether Canada would have paid more than the fair market value of the flooded land, and that as such, the matter should be returned to the trial judge to reassess the award of damages. The Court did not disturb the trial judge’s conclusions regarding the interpretation of the appropriation clause in Treaty #3.

Why it is important

The Supreme Court agrees to hear only a fraction of the applications for leave to appeal it receives each year, and only where it deems that the issues on appeal are of public or national importance. The Court’s decision to grant Lac Seul’s application for leave to appeal in Southwind confirms that the proceeding raises issues which will have significant implications for both First Nations and the Crown.

The Federal Court of Appeal’s decision resulted in confusion and uncertainty regarding the proper approach to the calculation of equitable compensation for the unlawful taking of reserve lands.

Concerns have also been raised that the Court’s approach is inconsistent with the provisions governing compensation for specific claims under the Specific Claims Tribunal Act, and that going forward, the Crown could rely on the lower court’s interpretation of the ‘appropriation’ provision in Treaty #3, which was arrived at in the absence of a proper evidentiary record setting out the parties’ respective understandings of the terms of the Treaty.

The Supreme Court’s decision is expected to address these issues and provide clarity. In particular, the Court will be asked to consider the application of fiduciary principles in respect of the taking of reserve lands without a surrender or expropriation and the determination of equitable compensation in this context.

Looking ahead

For decades, First Nations in Treaty #3 and across the country have sought redress for Crown decisions which resulted in the loss of their reserves. The resolution of these claims is a critical component of reconciliation between Indigenous Peoples and the Crown.

The Southwind decision will be an opportunity for the Supreme Court to provide much-needed guidance on the approach to calculating compensation in relation to the unlawful taking of reserve lands.

The schedule for the appeal has not been set, and timing may be delayed in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, regardless of the Court’s timeline, the Crown remains obligated to act honourably and in a manner consistent with its fiduciary duties to Indigenous Peoples, including in the context of claims related to the unlawful taking of reserve lands.  SOURCE

Over the coming weeks, First Peoples Law is hosting a series of “Kitchen Table Chats” to provide an opportunity for Indigenous people to share information and develop strategies to help their communities stay safe and healthy.

If you would like to discuss the Southwind decision further, please email us to register at with your contact information, position, and the name of your organization/community.


Kate Gunn is a lawyer at First Peoples Law Corporation. Kate completed her Master’s of Law at the University of British Columbia. Her most recent academic essay, “Agreeing to Share: Treaty 3, History & the Courts,” was published in the UBC Law Review.

Contact Kate

Ontario has a COVID-19 reopening plan, but it comes with big caveats

Queen’s Park is shown in a 2018 file photo. Ontario officials unveiled the province’s COVID-19 reopening plan on Monday. Photo by Alex Tétreault

When Ontario eventually eases restrictions meant to stop the spread of COVID-19, it will happen slowly.

Some workplaces may be allowed to reopen, according to a plan released by the provincial government Monday. Some parks may start allowing visitors. Hospitals may begin doing some elective surgeries again.

But the government is also preparing residents for the idea that this may not happen anytime soon. Unlike Saskatchewan’s reopening plan, Ontario’s comes with no lists, even tentative ones, of what will be reopened and when.

“It’s a roadmap. It’s not a calendar,” said Premier Doug Ford, who also declined to say exactly which types of businesses will be allowed to open as restrictions ease.

“I won’t set hard dates until we’re ready because the virus travels at its own speed.”

Ford publicly mused last week about beginning to relax COVID-19 measures over the Victoria Day long weekend in May. But the reopening plan released Monday says public health measures can’t begin to ease until COVID-19 case numbers decline for at least two to four weeks. Numbers of patients hospitalized, and the number of cases that cannot be traced to a source must also continue to go down, the plan says.

Although the novel coronavirus appears to be peaking in Ontario, Ford said, it’s unclear how long that peak will last. And the virus hasn’t begun to decline yet, with the province reporting 424 new cases Monday.

“We have a ways to go,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said, noting that outbreaks are still a serious issue in long-term care homes, homeless shelters and other facilities that serve vulnerable people.

This process will likely not be linear, the province’s plan says. Restrictions could return at any time if COVID-19 begins surging again. And the way Ontarians are living now — staying home, not visiting friends and family, staying two metres apart from people outside their households — must continue, and it is unclear when that will change.

“As public health measures are lifted and economic activity resumes, the public will need to continue to maintain physical distancing and hand-washing, along with self-isolation when experiencing COVID-19 symptoms,” reads the plan. “Remote work options should also continue where feasible.”

The plan also cautions that a return to normal life is not necessarily on the table, at least for now. Though restaurants, bars and retail stores may be allowed to come back during the second stage of the process, Ontario is facing a summer without large public events like concerts and sports events, which will be “restricted for the foreseeable future,” the document reads.

“It’s a roadmap. It’s not a calendar,” said Premier Doug Ford.”I won’t set hard dates until we’re ready because the virus travels at its own speed.” #onpoli #COVID19ON

Ford warned that even when sports do eventually return — a possibility he said the province is talking about with franchises — stadiums will likely remain empty for quite a while. He also wouldn’t say whether patios would be able to open with proper physical distancing measures.

Overall, the premier said, the goal is to get back to “as normal as possible” until there is a COVID-19 vaccine, a milestone that is likely still far away. But long-term, he said, some things may not be the same as they were.

“I don’t think it will ever go back to where it was before,” he said. “Our lives have changed. We’re doing things differently.”

A chart showing the phases of Ontario’s plan to reopen after COVID-19 led to much of the province being shut down. Handout from Province of Ontario

The three stages of reopening

The province’s plan is broken down into three stages. Each stage will last at least two to four weeks, and at every step, the province may add restrictions back in or maintain the status quo for a bit longer before moving to the next phase, the planning document says. Officials will evaluate case numbers, numbers of people in hospital, how effectively local officials are able to trace the sources of new infections, testing levels and the availability of ventilators and key protective equipment for frontline workers.

Stage One:

  • Reopen some businesses that can do delivery or curbside pickup
  • Some outdoor spaces like parks can reopen
  • Greater numbers of people will be allowed to attend some events, like funerals
  • Hospitals may begin doing elective surgeries and other health services
  • Physical distancing, hand-washing and respiratory hygiene measures continue, along with extra protections for long-term care and other vulnerable populations

Stage Two:

  • More workplaces may open. This could include some retail and service industries, and some offices
  • More outdoor spaces may open
  • Some larger public gatherings may be allowed
  • Physical distancing, hand-washing and respiratory hygiene measures continue, along with extra protections for long-term care and other vulnerable populations

Stage Three:

  • All workplaces may be allowed to open, with extra precautions in place.
  • More restrictions on public gatherings may loosen, although concerts and other large events will continue to be restricted “for the foreseeable future”
  • Physical distancing, hand-washing and respiratory hygiene measures continue, along with extra protections for long-term care and other vulnerable populations

The plan says the government will be consulting with businesses, social service providers, Indigenous communities and post-secondary schools in the coming days. The province will also give a set of guidelines to businesses that are allowed to reopen, and step up workplace inspections.

The document doesn’t shed any light on when schools could reopen, however. “As with all other measures, the government will proceed slowly and in phases, based on the best advice from the chief medical officer of health,” it reads.

The reopening plan also doesn’t include specific plans for reopening provincial parks, or for reopening regions that have been less affected by the novel coronavirus.

A chart showing Ontario’s criteria for allowing the province to relax some COVID-19 measures. Handout from Province of Ontario

Ontario must ramp up testing and contact tracing before it can reopen

Ontario’s reopening plan appears to closely follow guidelines for reopening issued by the World Health Organization (WHO). A decline in cases, enhanced testing, increased tracing of the close contacts of infected people and cautionary measures in settings with vulnerable people are on the list. (Other measures that are outside of provincial jurisdiction, such as border control, are also included.)

But it’s difficult to see Ontario beginning the process of reopening unless it significantly steps up its COVID-19 testing regime, Timothy Sly, an epidemiologist and professor emeritus at Ryerson University, told National Observer last week.

Part of the problem is that a significant number of people with COVID-19 appear to show no symptoms, which makes it hard to know how many people are truly infected, he said. And even though Ontario has managed to work up to processing 12,550 tests per day as of Monday, it has repeatedly battled testing backlogs and missed its own goals to increase the number of people tested.

Though it’s impossible to test everyone, one global best practice is to check a representative sample of people to get a good idea of where possible outbreaks could be, Sly said. Temperature checks and tests could also be implemented at high-traffic locations such as grocery stores.

“It’s a stealth virus,” he said. “(Without widespread testing) we’re looking at letting people out absolutely blind.”

Sly also said the province needs to start testing to find out who may have antibodies to COVID-19 in their blood. Some people who had COVID-19, including those who were asymptomatic, may have the antibodies, but it’s not yet known if that means those people can’t get infected again.

Sly said it’s also important that people understand COVID-19 will not have gone away, even if new case numbers begin declining. Right now, the virus is being artificially blocked from spreading, but many people are still vulnerable and could fall ill if restrictions are lifted. That’s why Ontarians shouldn’t expect to have “group hugs and spring barbecues” any time soon, even as some restrictions are slowly peeled back, Sly added.

“The pure epidemiology robot response is that we shouldn’t come out of lockdown at all” until there’s a vaccine, Sly said. “But you put on your human hat and you say we can’t stay in lockdown forever… The cases will start to rise again. Hopefully they won’t rise that quickly, but they will rise again.” SOURCE


Michael Moore film Planet of the Humans branded ‘dangerous’ and ‘shockingly misleading’ by climate experts


A still from Planet of the Humans, which has provoked a furious reaction. Photograph: Erik Pedersen/Handout

Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Michael Moore has just released a new documentary, Planet of the Humans. The film can be seen now free on YouTube takes a harsh look at how the environmental movement has lost its way by promoting renewable energy, including biomass, solar panels and windmills, as the solution to our environmental emergencies despite their unsustainable reliance on forests, ores and fossil energy to produce them. The film attempts to raise awareness of the futility of relying on techno-fixes and band-aids championed as the “environmental movement” in the midst of a human-caused extinction event.  Earth Overshoot’s mission is to make ecological limits central to all personal and public decision-making through education and advocacy. Earth Overshoot builds upon the key messages in 8 Billion Angels, a documentary feature film produced by Terry Spahr about overpopulation as the upstream cause of our environmental emergencies.  Earth Overshoot:  Ardmore PA. Tel: 610-420-5989

Blog from the Overpopulation Project – by Philip Cafaro and Jane O’Sullivan

Planet of the Humans: New Film Shakes Up a Complacent Environmental Movement
Overpopulation Research Project ecological footprint, Environmental movement April 28, 2020 3 Minutes

A full-length feature film from Michael Moore and long-time collaborator Jeff Gibbs, first screened last year, has just been released for free viewing on YouTube, garnering over 3 million views in less than a week. While flawed in several ways, it nevertheless makes a valuable contribution to the public discourse on environmentalism. It is essential viewing for serious environmentalists.

Planet of the Humans’ main thesis is that modern environmentalism is a failure. It’s a plausible thesis, according to the recent scientific literature on climate change and biodiversity loss. Greenhouse gas emissions are increasing, the planet is getting hotter, and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more dangerous. The Earth has lost 50% to 60% of its wild vertebrate numbers in just the past 50 years, with most species declining in numbers, many drastically. Whatever your views on the way forward environmentally, we can probably all agree that the status quo isn’t working and that we need more frank public discussion of these matters. Kudos to Gibbs and Moore for spurring such discussions.

Critics of the film have noted inaccuracies and outdated information in its treatment of renewable energy. The film arguably gets the importance of quickly transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy drastically wrong. But many environmentalists err in the other direction by inflating the benefits of this transition and more importantly, by failing to fit it into a larger context of limiting overall human demands on nature.

Fact check – reg Alvarez
Greg is AWEA’s Deputy Director, External Communications and editor for Into the Wind, He has a Master’s degree in Global Environmental Policy. 

Unfortunately, and somewhat strangely, the filmmakers chose to focus much of their attention erroneously critiquing a leading climate solution—renewable energy.

The reality is wind and solar today are already avoiding substantial amounts of carbon emissions, and the potential to cut even more CO2 emissions is enormous. Today wind avoids 42 million cars’ worth of carbon pollution a year, and that number will steadily grow as wind’s near-record pipeline of projects in development comes online. The book Drawdown is a comprehensive examination of 100 different solutions to climate change, with input from more than 100 of the world’s foremost climate researchers. It finds onshore wind power is the second most effective way to reduce emissions, and offshore wind ranks 22nd on the list
Let’s set the record straight on where this film gets it wrong. See this article for an in-depth look at the film’s problematic portrayal of solar power.
A misunderstanding of the power system
No electricity source runs 100 percent of the time, including coal, gas, and nuclear plants in addition to wind and solar. Conventional power plants need to go offline for maintenance or other unexpected reasons. In Texas, coal piles flooded during Hurricane Harvey and become frozen during cold spells, rendering coal plants inoperable. In fact, during Polar Vortex weather events in 2019 and 2014, and the Bomb Cyclone event in 2018, conventional power plants experienced widespread failures because of the extreme cold.
Grid operators have decades of experience managing these changes in supply and demand, and it’s proven that sudden, unexpected outages at large conventional power plants are more costly and difficult to manage than the gradual, predictable changes in wind and solar output. Because of the balancing efforts grid operators undertake, it’s simply untrue that fossil fuel reserves run around the clock for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, as the documentary falsely claims.

Along these lines, the documentary attacks Apple, the Tesla Gigafactory and others for claiming they run on renewable energy. However, the film again misunderstands how the power system works. The electricity grid can be thought of like an ATM. When a corporate buyer of wind energy says it’s buying enough wind to power a data center for example, that doesn’t necessarily mean the electricity generated by a wind farm feeds directly into the data center.

Say you deposit $20 in the ATM near your office. A short time later, you withdraw it from the ATM near your house. You now have a different bill than the one you deposited, but that’s irrelevant; you still have $20. This aspect of the banking system is analogous to how the electric power system works: it aggregates all sources of electricity supply and demand over a large geographic area, allowing one to add wind energy in one area and use an equivalent amount of electricity somewhere else on the grid.

Wrong on carbon footprints and lifecycle impacts

At several points in the documentary, filmmakers criticize the materials used to build wind turbines and solar panels and claim that emissions generated to build renewable energy projects are greater than the carbon reduction benefits the projects will create. This is simply false.

The average wind project repays its carbon footprint in less than six months and generates zero carbon electricity for the remainder of its 20 to 30 year lifespan. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory reviewed all published research on this topic and concluded that wind energy’s carbon footprint is a fraction of all fossil fuels’ and even lower than nuclear and most other renewable energy sources. Every study by utilities, independent power system operators, and government entities has found those pollution reductions are as large or larger than expected. Wind turbines are primarily made of steel and concrete, as the documentary notes, but so is nearly every man-made structure in modern society. Cars, buildings, sidewalks, and countless other structures, not to mention conventional power plants, are also constructed using steel and concrete. Nor do U.S. wind turbines use significant amounts of rare earth materials as the film portrays—over 95 percent of the U.S. wind turbine fleet uses gearboxes rather than direct drive machines, which means rare earths are not used.
Wind and Solar’s impact on fossil fuel use

The film’s claim that wind and solar energy is “not replacing fossil fuels” is patently false. While 13,703 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired capacity was retired in 2019, more wind power capacity was added to the grid than any other generation technology. Together, wind and solar represent 62 percent of capacity added in 2019. Furthermore, wind energy provided 7.2 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2019, up from a 6.5 percent share in 2018. At the same time electricity generated from coal dropped 15 percent from 2018 levels, continuing its decline in the U.S. electricity market. Wind energy’s share of U.S. electricity generation has more than tripled since 2010 when wind accounted for 2.3 percent of total generation. Iowa and Kansas, for example, now both generate over 40 percent of their electricity using wind, and in both states wind is the largest electricity source.

Contemporary mainstream environmentalism has degenerated into advocacy of technological solutions to climate change, narrowly understood as a matter of efficient resource use. Environmentalism needs to return to a comprehensive critique of human overpopulation, overconsumption, and overdevelopment—and become a movement aimed at creating societies with fewer people, more protected areas, and economies that support limited numbers of people comfortably rather than ever more people in luxury.

If the public comments on YouTube are an accurate indication, many viewers of Planet of the Humans agree with its criticisms of environmental leaders’ cosiness with big business and the movement’s over-reliance on technological fixes to deal with our environmental problems. But many of them also wonder: if technology won’t save us, what will? Unfortunately, as critics have noted, the film is short on solutions. It quotes Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute (“There are too many human beings using too much, too fast”) and Nina Jablonski, an anthropologist at Penn State University (“Population growth continues to be, not the elephant, the herd of elephants in the room”). But it chooses not to wade into the realm of policy proposals to tame economic and demographic growth—a missed opportunity in our opinion (see TOP’s comprehensive policy suggestions here).

(Article contd) Being a Michael Moore film, Planet of the Humans has a general anti-capitalist vibe. It is certainly a concern, if the same deep pockets that are thwarting climate action are controlling the clean energy transition. But do the film’s producers fall for the temptation to paint any link with big-money as disingenuous profiteering under cover of environmental activism? If the Koch brothers, evidently major backers of climate denialism, have quietly cornered the market for wind turbine parts, does this make all wind energy advocates co-conspirators?

This is what we are encouraged to believe, when Planet of the Humans takes a hatchet to various “villains.” But among these, climate activist Bill McKibben has written one of the most trenchant criticisms ever published on the foolishness of the endless growth economy. Jeremy Grantham, dismissed as a “timber investment billionaire,” has done more than most to bring to the climate response the depth that this film advocates, through both philanthropy and advocacy, including scathing criticism of capitalism and insistence on addressing human population growth.

Cheap shots at these people can only undermine the film’s intent. And with its grim tone and paucity of positive suggestions, it can be misinterpreted as a counsel of despair (just scroll through those YouTube comments to see plenty of examples). It could be hard for viewers who are not already intimate with a full range of potential climate change responses to know whether we should do anything at all, given that whatever we’re likely to do might profit some underhanded capitalist.

In sum, the film isn’t perfect. But it raises important issues. If you haven’t done so already, we urge you to see Planet of the Humans and decide for yourself what it gets wrong and right.

Review: Planet of the Humans – by Richard Heinberg, Resilience, 4-28-20.
A few days ago, Emily Atkin posted a reaction to Michael Moore’s latest film, Planet of the Humans (directed and narrated by Jeff Gibbs), in which she began by admitting that she hadn’t seen the film yet. When writers take that approach, you know there’s already blood in the water. (She has since watched the film and written an actual review. Full disclosure: I’m in the film, included as one of the “good guys.” But I don’t intend to let that fact distort my comments in this review.)
The film is controversial because it makes two big claims: first, that renewable energy is a sham; second, that big environmental organizations—by promoting solar and wind power—have sold their souls to billionaire investors.
I feel fairly confident commenting on the first of these claims, regarding renewable energy, having spent a year working with David Fridley of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to assess the prospects for a complete transition to solar and wind power.
We found that the transition to renewables is going far too slowly to make much of a difference during the crucial next couple of decades, and would be gobsmackingly expensive if we were to try replacing all fossil fuel use with solar and wind. We also found, as the film underscores again and again, that the intermittency of sunshine and wind is a real problem—one that can only be solved with energy storage (batteries, pumped hydro, or compressed air, all of which are costly in money and energy terms); or with source redundancy (building way more generation capacity than you’re likely to need at any one time, and connecting far-flung generators on a super-grid).
 Or demand management (which entails adapting our behavior to using energy only when it’s available). All three strategies involve trade-offs. In the energy world, there is no free lunch. The ways we use energy today are mostly adapted to the unique characteristics of fossil fuels, so a full transition to renewables will require the replacement of an extraordinary amount of infrastructure in our food system, manufacturing, building heating, the construction industry, and on and on. Altogether, the only realistic way to make the transition in industrial countries like the US is to begin reducing overall energy usage substantially, eventually running the economy on a quarter, a fifth, or even a tenth of current energy.
Is it true that mainstream enviros have oversold renewables? Yes. They have portrayed the transition away from fossil fuels as mostly a political problem; the implication in many of their communications is that, if we somehow come up with the money and the political will, we can replace oil with solar and continue living much as we do today, though with a clear climate conscience. That’s an illusion that deserves shattering.
But the film does make some silly mistakes. Gibbs claims that a solar panel will generate less energy than it took to build the panel. That’s a misleading claim. Many teams of researchers have addressed the question of energy return on energy invested for solar power, and even the most pessimistic results (with which I mostly agree) say that the technology can yield a marginal energy gain. Much of that gain goes away if we have to “pay” for the energy investment entailed in providing batteries or redundant capacity. Wind power generally has a better energy payback than solar, but the location of turbines matters a great deal and ideal sites are limited in number. Assessing solar and wind power calls for complicated energy accounting, but the film reduces that complexity to a blanket, binary dismissal.
The film is low on nuance, but our global climate and energy dilemma is all shades of gray. Gibbs seems to say that renewables are a complete waste of time. I would say, they are best seen as a marginal transitional strategy for industrial societies. Given climate change and the fact that fossil fuels are depleting, finite resources, it appears that if we want to maintain any sort of electrical energy infrastructure in the future, it will have to be powered by renewables—hydro, wind, or solar. As many studies have confirmed, the nuclear power industry has little realistic prospect of revival. The future will be renewable; there simply isn’t any other option. What is very much in question, however, is the kind of society renewable energy can support.
The fact is that we’ve already bet our entire future on electricity and electronics. Communications and information processing and storage have all been digitized. That means that if the grid goes down, we’ve lost civilization altogether. I don’t think we can maintain global grids at current scale without fossil fuels, but I can envision the possibility of a process of triage whereby, as population and resource consumption shrink, the digital world does as well, until it’s small enough to be powered by renewable electricity that can be generated with minimal and acceptable environmental damage.
I agree with Gibbs, however, that renewables are realistically incapable of maintaining our current levels of energy usage, especially in rich countries like the US. Transitioning to electric cars may be a useful small-scale and short-term strategy for reducing oil consumption (I drive one myself), but limits to lithium and other raw materials used in building e-cars mean we really need to think about how to get rid of personal cars altogether.
Mainstream enviros will hate this movie because it exposes some of their real failings. By focusing on techno-fixes, they have side-lined nearly all discussion of overpopulation and overconsumption. Maybe that’s understandable as a marketing strategy, but it’s a mistake to let marketing consultants sort truth from fiction for us.
During recent decades, the big environmental orgs wearied of telling their followers to reduce, reuse, and recycle. They came to see that global problems like climate change require systemic solutions that, in turn, require massive investment and governmental planning and oversight. But the reality is, we need both high-level systemic change and widespread individual behavior change. That’s one of the lessons of the coronavirus pandemic: “flattening the curve” demands both central planning and leadership, and individual sacrifice.
Planet of the Humans paints environmental organizations and leaders with a broad and accusatory brush. One target is Jeremy Grantham, a billionaire investment analyst who created the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment in 1997. Grantham was already a mega-rich investor before he “got religion” on environmental issues. I’ve had several face-to-face meetings with him (full disclosure: the Grantham Foundation has provided modest funding to Post Carbon Institute, where I work) and it’s clear that he cares deeply about overpopulation and overconsumption, and he understands that economic growth is killing the planet. He’s scared for his children and grandchildren, and he genuinely wants to use whatever wealth and influence he has to change the world. To imply, as the film does, that he merely sees green tech as an investment strategy is a poorly aimed cheap shot. Bill McKibben, who is skewered even more savagely, also deserves better; he has replied to the film here.
Finally, the film leaves viewers with no sense of hope for the future. I understand why Gibbs made that choice. Too often, “hopium” is simply a drug we use to numb ourselves to the horrific reality of our situation and its causes—in which we are all complicit.
Yet we need a sense of human agency. In the face of the pandemic, many of us are reduced to sitting at home sewing facemasks; but it’s better than sitting on our hands, The same goes for climate change: figuring out how to eat lower on the food chain, or how to get by without a car, or how to reduce home energy usage by half, or growing a garden might seem like trivial responses to such an overwhelming crisis, but they get us moving together in the right direction.
For all the reasons I’ve mentioned, Planet of the Humans is not the last word on our human predicament. But it starts a conversation we need to have, and it’s a film that deserves to be seen.

Lorna Salzman.  Ted Trainer said renewable energy cannot sustain the industrial growth society years ago. Since then many credible scientists have reached the same conclusion. But long before all of these were The Limits to Growth (Club of Rome) and Blueprint for Survival (The ecologist), both published in 1972. No one listened. Now people are upset because Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore are saying it.and proving it. And even “good liberals” and environmentalists are upset. The message and the proof are evident whether you see the film or not. Can anyone seriously believe that wholesale destruction of forests to feed either the chopstick industry or the biomass industry is a good thing? Or that ravaging the amazing desert for biofuel is good? Does anyone believe that overpopulation does not exist or that it will cease at some unspecified time in the future?   LS

Science had produced critical disciplined findings that indicated the impossibility of unlimited growth on a finite planet. What was disturbing at that time and today was the reluctance of the general public to actually understand what was going on in front of their faces. Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore’s new film Planet of the Humans is now in the cross hairs of denialists who would deny they are denialists. On the right there is glee at the exposure of the environmental groups and leaders, to the tune of “I told you so…their fixation on climate change and renewable energy is absurd”. On the left, there is no explicit denial; instead, the refrain is: we can solve this problem if we tax the rich and support socialism.
“Radical change is both necessary and inevitable because the present increases in human numbers and per capita consumption, by disrupting ecosystems and depleting resources, are undermining the very foundations of survival”.”
“It is commonly overlooked that …the population will contain to increase for many years even after fertility has fallen to the replacement level. As the Population Council has pointed out: ‘If replacement is achieved in the developed world by 2000 and in the developing world by 2040, then the world’s population will stabilize at nearly 15.5 billion about a century hence, or well over four times the present size”.
“Indefinite growth of whatever type cannot be sustained by finite resources. This is the nub of the environmental predicament.  LS: nota bene: the Gibbs/Moore film only deals with ENERGY production. It does not touch on the issue of natural resources that are needed to sustain not just the renewable energy sector through construction of solar farms and wind turbines, but the mineral and plant resources that are needed to construct machinery, build roads, feed people, etc).
Even today many environmental activists and liberals are unaware of not just these studies but of SCIENCE itself and the constraints on all living things. Equally disturbing is that they do not understand the connections between political conflicts, habitat destruction, capitalism, food supply and social justice. They think that history started yesterday. They have no understanding of how individuals of all species, and their societies, rely on the integrity of natural systems and natural resources. They have completely adopted the myth that human capabilities and technology can solve any problem. They are of course wrong.
Both our education system and media have failed us badly, and deliberately. A prosperous stable society needs to defend and protect what has made it prosperous and stable. This is at the root of attacks from left and right on the Gibbs/Moore film. Are there errors in some of the things said in the film? Very possible but it doesn’t change the reality of what is shown in the film: the destruction of natural resources, species and ecosystems. And it doesn’t matter whether these are being destroyed with good intentions and expectations of renewable energy, or with making more profits for corporations and investors. Nature does not concern herself with equity or social justice.
The final shot in the film will horrify you to your roots. I cant get it out of my mind, nor the knowledge that it is only one of many similar execrations. It should stand as the symbol of everything gone wrong in human society.  LS

A Planet of 3 Billion, Christopher Tucker book deftly illustrates humanity’s march across the planet, overwhelming the earth and its capacity to absorb our impact.  Tucker postulates that a planet of 3 billion homo-sapiens may keep us within those boundaries and allow us and other species to flourish indefinitely. Tucker’s background cover a wide range of disciplines from geography, to technology, national intelligence and security. Using statistics, graphs and maps, he details humanity’s path of destruction revealing that our emergencies are not limited to one symptom but are far more profound.

Tucker describes the magnitude and complexity of this crisis in one natural system, the ocean:  The ecological devastation that modern industrialized humanity has unleashed on the world’s oceans is nearing the farcical. Some 100 million sharks killed each year for fins to put in soup. Whales hunted to the brink of extinction, under government subsidy, for their meat, though it is largely disliked. Five continent size garbage gyres unleashed on the wildlife and food chains of our high seas. Hundreds of hypoxic low oxygen “dead zones” that are growing every year. Massive reef die-offs due to changing ocean temperatures and acidification. Invasive ocean species being transported inadvertently around the world, causing billions of dollars in devastation. And biogeochemical pressures being put on the very phytoplankton that generates some 80% of Earth’s oxygen.

He gets to the heart of the problem succinctly: “The more humans there are on the planet, the more of the planet must be industrialized.”  The one point I felt could have more fully explored is the role energy played and continues to play in humanity’s explosive growth. While the author points to industrialization as the main driver of explosive growth both in our levels of consumption and in our numbers, this process could only have occurred with an abundance of inexpensive, highly dense and portable energy. The concentrated fossil energy we discovered underground harnessed rivers, lakes and mountains, extracting resources generating waste to an extent that would have been impossible otherwise.

Today, renewable energy is the “cure of the day” for a public looking for a relatively quick and painless fix to climate change and other environmental degradation exacerbated by our addiction to fossil fuels. Tucker’s book offers much that will disappoint those fantasies.

And for those people who blame consumption and not population as the source of our planet’s problems, “A Planet of 3 Billion” offers a thorough and balanced response explaining how 8 billion people, no matter how gently we try to live, will ever be able to fully achieve sustainability. The sooner we acknowledge everything has a limit, including our own species, the less suffering there will be for all life on this planet.   (Terry Sphar)

And From Elizabeth May: 

During a Green Party webinar last week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, one message from a member of the audience caught my attention:

“Michael Moore presents Planet of the Humans, a documentary that dares to say what no one else will this Earth Day — that we are losing the battle to stop climate change on planet earth because we are following leaders who have taken us down the wrong road — selling out the green movement to wealthy interests and corporate America.”

And then the question:

“Have any of you seen this?” 

I hadn’t and I love Michael Moore, so I wanted to see it . . . but oh my! What a dreadful, ill-informed, and unhelpful film it is. Worse, it could set back climate action.

It is essentially the work of two men – somehow riding on Michael Moore’s name and reputation. Moore is listed as “executive producer” and Jeff Gibbs (no relation to the B.C. environmental activist of the same name) is credited with “writing, directing and producing.”

In the credits, I was shocked to see the name Ozzie Zehner as “producer.”  The name meant nothing to me before I started watching the film. Throughout the documentary, Zehner is portrayed as some sort of expert being interviewed by Gibbs. Then it hit me. The whole film is a vanity project of two guys with no expertise and less concern for the damage they are doing to climate science and the urgent need to switch to renewables.

I went to check out Gibbs’ background in working with Michael Moore. In searching for his role in Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 911, I came across a 2012 interview in which Gibbs spoke about his new film, Planet of the Humans, as though it was complete.

No wonder the attack on renewables in this film feels so stale – and totally out of date. It is. The film assumes renewable energy has made no efficiency gains for decades.

There is zero content on actual climate science.

I am very indebted to energy specialist, Ketan Joshi, for taking the film apart and providing the charts and graphs to point out its glaring inaccuracies. For deep detail, please read his blog.

He writes, “… the outright lies about wind and solar are serious and extremely harmful. Wind and solar aren’t just technological tools with enormous potential for decarbonisation. They also have massive potential to be owned by communities, deployed at small scales with minimal environmental harm, and removed with far less impact on where they were than large power stations like coal and gas. They do incredible things to electricity bills, they decentralise power (literally and figuratively), and with more work they can be scaled up to properly replace fossil fuels.”

Joshi says that things start to get into “proper, outright, anti-vax/climate denier grade misinformation” when producer Ozzie Zehner comes in. This Zehner quote is typical:

“One of the most dangerous things right now is the illusion that alternative technologies like solar and wind are somehow different from fossil fuels. You use more fossil fuels to do this than you’re getting benefit from it. You would have been better off just burning fossil fuels in the first place, instead of playing pretend.”

“It’s important to be really clear about this.” Joshi writes. “Zehner’s remarks in this film are toxic misinformation, on par with the worst climate change deniers. No matter which way you look at it, there is no chance that these projects lead to a net increase in emissions.” (emphasis mine)

The film sets up a number of straw men. Gibbs focuses a great deal on the false notion that bio-energy from wood chips is promoted by climate activists. It is true that in earlier times, Bill McKibben thought renewable forests and bio-energy replacing coal was a solution. The film (dishonestly) claims he changed his mind once their film was out. In fact, Bill McKibben has attacked bio-energy for years.

Gibbs and Zehner set up the false notion that the bulk of renewable energy involves burning wood-chips and deforestation. That has occurred to an extent and is opposed by climate activists.

Their next straw man is that if we rely on renewables the only way to keep the lights on if it is raining or the wind isn’t blowing is from back-up fossil fuels, or from batteries with lithium and rare earth or by keeping linked to the grid – as though that is a bad thing.

The grid is for storage. That is our premise in Mission: Possible.  Feed into the grid when renewables produce above local demand; draw from the grid when renewables drop.  That is the way excess wind energy from Denmark is sold to Norway. Norway stores the excess, not in large batteries, but through storage in existing reservoirs, pumping water up to the reservoir using the wind energy from Denmark to then releasing it to generate hydroelectricity when the wind is not blowing. This is a major, low-impact storage system. It is why one core proposal in Mission: Possible is for a national grid to move green electricity from province to province.

The damage done by this film could be enormous. According to Michael Moore’s twitter feed, over three million people have seen the film already. Some Greens have contacted me in tears, so devastated by the idea – the lie – that renewable energy is a scam. As Neil Young wrote me Saturday morning (not something I can say every day):

“The amount of damage this film tries to create (succeeding in the VERY short term) will ultimately bring light to the real facts, which are turning up everywhere in response to Michael Moore’s new erroneous and headline grabbing TV publicity tour of misinformation. A very damaging film to the human struggle for a better way of living, Moore’s film completely destroys whatever reputation he has earned so far.”

I hope that all Greens will join me in exposing this tawdry exercise in climate denial. Help share the facts. Be not dispirited, but take the time to reach out and educate everyone about the benefits of going 100 per cent renewable. SOURCE

Can Community Gardeners Start Planting? It Depends Where You Live

Interest in local growing is exploding while funds shrink.

Organizations that run community gardens in BC are working to ensure their allotments remain open to local gardeners. This photo of Vancouver’s compost demonstration garden was taken before the pandemic. Photo by Ruth Hartnup.

Interest in growing food has exploded during the COVID-19 crisis, but not everyone has access to a yard or even a balcony. Community gardens play a crucial role for both households and food security organizations. But how are they functioning now — if they are at all?

Despite the province designating community gardens as an essential service, some municipalities like View Royal, a small suburb of Victoria, have decided to keep them closed during the pandemic, with the council citing public health and safety concerns.

In Surrey, parks staff knew that when they looked at ways citizens could be outside safely, community gardens needed to stay open. “We definitely see the value of [community gardens],” says Dan Nielsen, manager of landscape operations and park partnerships. “We are, as a city, here to support our residents in these times.”

While the social aspect of community gardening may currently be missing, he says other benefits remain. “I think when [community gardens] were identified as an essential service through the province, we realized that aside from the value of growing local food, there’s also the therapeutic and recreational value that people can get from being able to garden,” Nielsen says.

Surrey parkland hosts about 450 plots in seven community gardens and one orchard, each run by independent garden societies. The focus is now solely on individuals efficiently tending their plots, and Nielsen is communicating more regularly with co-ordinators to help them with necessary changes. He’s encouraging them to hold meetings online and develop digital schedules for members. The city continues to supply soil, but is limiting access to shared tools, encouraging gardeners to wear gloves, and telling people to stay away if they’re sick.

So far feedback has been positive. The gardens continue to operate at full capacity — the majority have wait lists — and though it is early in the season, he hasn’t heard of anyone who doesn’t plan on gardening this year. The next step is to see which of the activities and workshops can be offered online. Nielsen is partnering with Surrey’s Honeybee Centre to deliver a virtual tutorial about the hives the city hosts at the orchard and other locations.

Surrey staff worked with groups like Can You Dig It, a program of the Public Health Association of BC that promotes community gardens, to develop some best practices. Aaren Topley, Can You Dig It’s provincial manager, suggests hand-washing stations at entrances, having people bring their own tools or tool-washing stations where that’s not possible, and staggered schedules for gardeners, with priority given to seniors, immunocompromised people and essential workers.

Since health recommendations are always changing, Topley is watching what grocery stores and farmers markets are doing for sanitary practices and connecting with health officers.

“In the time of this pandemic, it is vital for people to feel connected to both their community and their food. That is why we are seeing an increasing desire for people to grow food and why municipalities are working hard to keep community gardens open,” says Topley.

North of the Fraser River, Vancouver’s community gardens are adapting as well. Normally accessible to the public, some now sport signs asking non-members to stay out. The Vancouver Park Board has asked gardens to cancel public events, but is allowing them to stay open if people maintain the two-metre distance, do not share food or tools, and follow city guidelines, including staying home when sick and frequent hand-washing.

Organizations are encouraged to connect with their members through webinars, social media and tracking plant and wildlife observations.

Village Vancouver, a transition town society focused mainly on food, plans to run online workshops, and a multilingual permaculture walking tour that was already being developed with UBC students and may become a self-guided version once it’s appropriate. According to executive director Ross Moster, VV serves approximately 5,000 to 10,000 people annually through its collaborative and sponsored gardens, 150 workshops and other services.

A main priority for Moster is getting the water turned on at now-closed facilities that host VV gardens, such as the McBride Fieldhouse and the West Vancouver Community Centre. Aside from one group that is trying to access their growing space at a public library, he hasn’t heard of any Vancouver community gardens that aren’t open.

Community gardens often host work parties to tackle shared projects, an effort that is impossible now. Moster says some gardens have organized “work weeks” or have small teams carry out the labour instead. For scheduling, VV gardeners show up at set times already, and Moster has prepared mini-toolkits with bleach wipes for those who lack their own. He’s developing free planter box kits for people who want to grow at home.

VV also provides hundreds of thousands of free seeds each year. Moster wants to expand these seed libraries to meet current demand, but he has to secure VV’s own supply first. Since most seed companies are behind on orders, he is using seeds that are two or three years old while sourcing donations from community contacts and asking associated gardeners to save their extras.

As community gardens lose workshop revenue, city budgets disintegrate, and grants from local foundations dry up, Moster worries slightly about funding. He says community gardens run on very little — “a wing and a prayer” — and VV can move money around for now, but he is looking at alternate sources, including a potential GoFundMe campaign.

Moster is waiting to see if the current interest in food security holds. He recently watched a documentary on the 1918 flu pandemic in which people wanted to forget about it as soon as it was over. Instead, he hopes that as people see how unprepared we are for this crisis, it will foster more of what he calls community food resiliency.

“I’m hoping that there will at least be a mixed reaction — that it really points out how vulnerable we are and also that a lot of this reaction will translate over to the climate emergency and people will see that, hey, we can’t just react at the last minute and expect things to be okay.”  [Tyee] SOURCE



Wet’suwet’en agree to sign deal with B.C., Ottawa on rights and title, despite Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute

The agreement will test new waters when it comes to the settling of Indigenous territorial claims, but will not resolve the long-standing pipeline conflict

Freda Huson stands in ceremony while police enforce an injunction against opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in February, 2020. An RCMP helicopter can be seen overhead. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

After two months of deliberation, the Wet’suwet’en have agreed to sign a landmark document with the provincial and federal governments that could change the future of Indigenous rights and title negotiations in B.C.

“The Wet’suwet’en People have reached consensus and have agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding between the federal government and province of B.C. to resume the full management of our yintahs [traditional territory] using our governance system,” Hereditary Chief Smogelgem tweeted on Saturday.

Details of the memorandum have been kept confidential, but a March 1 joint statement released by the province of B.C., the federal government and the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs noted that, if ratified, the agreement would “implement [Wet’suwet’en] title on an expedited basis.”

That statement also noted the memo would not resolve outstanding conflict concerning the pipeline: “All parties at the table recognize that the differences relating to the [Coastal GasLink] project remain.”

But while the clans have agreed to sign the memorandum, the Gidimt’en clan released a statement on Monday saying the agreement doesn’t go far enough.

“Along with thousands of our supporters across Turtle Island, we hoped that these discussions could end the conflict on the ground in Wet’suwet’en territory,” the Gidimt’en clan said in the statement. “Although this is a step in the right direction, [Coastal GasLink] continues to trespass on Wet’suwet’en territory in direct violation of the eviction order enforced by the Hereditary Chiefs.”

The statement noted the success or failure of the agreement, which has yet to be formally ratified with the province and the federal government, would be determined “within the next few months.”

“Until then, we continue to oppose this project and demand that [Coastal GasLink] and RCMP get out and stay out of Wet’suwet’en yintah,” the statement concludes.

The memorandum was developed after a heated territorial dispute broke out in Wet’suwet’en territory concerning the construction of the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline, destined to transport fracked gas from northeast B.C. to LNG export facilities in Kitimat. Enforcing a court-ordered injunction, the RCMP raided Wet’suwet’en encampments along the route of the pipeline, arresting chiefs, matriarchs and their supporters.

Related: In photos: Wet’suwet’en matriarchs arrested as RCMP enforce Coastal GasLink pipeline injunction

The provincial and federal government both declined to provide comment on the Wet’suwet’en announcement, telling The Narwhal in separate emails there would be “more to say in the coming days.”

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs finalized the draft agreement on Feb. 29 with Scott Fraser, B.C. minister of Indigenous relations and reconciliation, and Carolyn Bennett, federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, who said they’d return to ratify the memorandum if all the clans agreed to it.

It is unclear if Wet’suwet’en Peoples still need to vote on the memorandum before it is ratified with the province and federal government.

The Narwhal reached out to three Wet’suwet’en chiefs, Chief Na’Moks, Chief Smogelgem and Chief Hagwilnegh, and the Gidimt’en clan but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Coastal GasLink construction remains ongoing amid the pandemic despite growing concerns that its work camps could facilitate the spread of the virus within remote communities.

Coastal GasLink Pipeline Injunction RCMP Wet'suwet'en

RCMP enforce Coastal GasLink’s injunction at the Unist’ot’en healing centre near Houston, B.C. on Feb. 10, 2020. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

A new way forward for land claims?

Just two short months ago, the conflict on Wet’suwet’en territory dominated national headlines. The Wet’suwet’en traditional territory comprises 22,000 square kilometres in central B.C.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline crosses Wet’suwet’en territory and, although approved by the province, was vocally opposed by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

The pre-dawn raids in February on the Wet’suwet’en camps by the RCMP, armed with tactical weapons and police dogs, sparked outrage and protest across the country by Wet’suwet’en supporters, many of whom occupied the B.C. legislature. Widespread solidarity actions led to the federal and provincial governments agreeing to sit down with hereditary chiefs to resolve outstanding legal issues around Wet’suwet’en rights and title.

The conflict stoked national debate about the significance of Indigenous title claims, particularly in B.C. where the majority of the province is unceded land with unresolved territorial claims. Against Canada’s own legal requirements, many of those territorial claims have been treated as non-existent, with unceded land considered Crown land.

Traditionally, land title claims are negotiated through modern-day treaties or, as in the case of the Tsilhqot’in First Nation, are fought within the courts. Some call this Canada’s “prove it” approach. Rather than acknowledging Indigenous rights and title to begin with, which exist according to both Indigenous law and Canadian law, First Nations are forced to prove it in court.

Related: How the Wet’suwet’en crisis could have played out differently

This approach puts “the burden of proof on Indigenous nations to ‘prove’ to state institutions that their pre-existing title and governance exist in order for that title to apply,” wrote Eugene Kung and Gavin Smith, two staff lawyers from West Coast Environmental Law.

In the 1997 Delgamuukw decision, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Peoples had never surrendered their land or had their title extinguished.

The decision recognized Aboriginal title and the right to actively manage the land and benefit economically from its use, but found that such title must be proven in the courts. The decision also ruled Aboriginal title is a communally-held right that the province does not have the power to extinguish.

The Wet’suwe’ten and Gitxsan were invited to return to court to formally resolve their territorial claim, but that did not happen.

Under this new memorandum of understanding, it’s possible they won’t have to.

Lawyer Jack Woodward, who drafted Section 35 of the Constitution which enshrines Indigenous rights and has represented numerous First Nations in landmark cases, said until the agreement is public it’s difficult to tell what the ramifications may be.

“It proves that blockades make news, and news gets politicians into the action,” he told The Narwhal. “But whether that results in a better or worse agreement I don’t know, we don’t know, because we haven’t seen the agreement.”

Agreement not in exchange for pipeline consent

While the memorandum of understanding is meant to create a path to negotiate Wet’suwet’en rights and title, it did not resolve the battle over the Coastal GasLink project. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs remain opposed to the project, while the B.C. and federal governments were clear they remained committed to the pipeline.

The pipeline project is central to the province’s years-long effort to develop an LNG export industry. In particular the pipeline will feed the LNG Canada project, which will turn fracked gas from the province’s northeast into liquified natural gas for export to Asia.

The NDP government offered millions in direct and indirect subsidies to corporations behind LNG Canada. In February, Premier John Horgan said cancelling the Coastal GasLink pipeline was “not an option.”


Steph Kwetásel’wet Wood is a Sḵwx̱wú7mesh journalist living and writing in North Vancouver. She writes stories about Indigenous rights, the arts, sustainability and social justice.


iberals heed some NDP advice, but still fund tax haven abusers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Image: CanadianPM/Twitter/Video screenshot

Image: CanadianPM/Twitter/Video screenshot

The Liberal government has been doing a lot of listening lately.

When we look back at this period, we might very well note that it showed, yet again, how a minority government can work effectively in the interests of citizens.

There has been some partisanship, of course, and some cheap-shot politics.

Derek Sloan, a first term Conservative MP from eastern Ontario, attacked the chief federal health official, Theresa Tam, in a crude and personal way, with barely disguised derogatory reference to her ethnicity.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, seemed too cowed by the more extreme fringes of his own party to call the MP (and leadership candidate) to order. But other Conservatives did, including Alberta MPs Michelle Rempel and Tim Uppal. And prominent voices in Sloan’s riding are calling on Scheer to kick him out of the caucus.

And we should note that during this crisis the Conservatives did offer at least one useful and constructive suggestion.

When the House met for the first time, in special session, to pass, among other measures, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), one Ottawa-area Conservative MP, Scott Reid, noticed that the Liberals had slipped a poison pill into the legislation, in the form of  a provision that would give the government unchecked power to legislate, without parliamentary approval or oversight, for many months.

The Trudeau Liberals backtracked on that bad idea quickly. They even thanked the opposition parties for standing up for Parliament.

For the most part, though, it is the NDP that has played the most helpful role: supporting the government’s urgent series of economic responses to the crisis, while, at the same time, pointing out where gaps exist and suggesting how the government should fill them.

It was the NDP that pushed for more easily accessible employment insurance, for a 75 per cent wage subsidy for small businesses, and for comprehensive support for post-secondary students. The government responded in all cases, with a speed and urgency we have never before seen, except, perhaps, in wartime.

Few elected politicians are worrying about political credit or blame at this time. The focus is almost entirely on getting the job done.

(It is impossible not to notice the contrast with our neighbour to the south, where the man who occupies the White House daily expresses his obsessive need for fulsome credit and praise. It is stomach-churning to see serious scientists and government officials publicly kowtow to this mentally unbalanced, would-be dictator.)

Low-income seniors and small business, non-profit renters

Back in Canada, the NDP’s most recent concerns have been for low income senior citizens and small businesses whose rent is coming due.

Seniors who are entitled to the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) — which goes to those whose income falls below the poverty line — normally establish their eligibility by filing taxes. That will not be easy this year.

Many poor seniors depend on agencies to help them do their taxes, but those agencies are now closed. And so, Ontario NDP MP Scott Duvall is asking the government to continue paying out the GIS even if recipients fail to file their tax forms.

Right now, there is some confusion as to what might happen to the two million Canadians who depend on the GIS this year, given the extension of the tax deadline to June 1. The NDP wants the government to clear it up, and relieve seniors — who have enough to worry about at the moment — of the fear of being cut off.

Don’t be surprised if the government responds favourably to that concern.

As for small businesses’ ability to pay rent, British Columbia NDP MPs Peter Julian and Gord Johns have been calling on the government to move quickly to prevent thousands of independent enterprises from going under.

“A lot of business owners are still falling through the cracks, because, with zero revenue, they cannot pay their rent,” Johns says, adding that it is “not the landlords’ fault either, they also have bills to pay.”

On Friday, April 24, the government showed, once again, that it is listening.

It announced a program to provide loans to landlords which will cover half of rent payments, for three months — rent which small businesses and non-profit / charitable organization tenants now “experiencing financial hardship” would normally have to pay.

The government will forgive the loans if the “property owner agrees to reduce the eligible small business tenants’ rent by at least 75 per cent for the three corresponding months.”

The landlord must also agree “not to evict the tenant while the agreement is in place.”

Again, these are strong signs that this minority Liberal government knows how to listen and is not too proud or partisan to take advice from opposition parties. There is just a chance these mature behaviours might carry on into the post coronavirus time.

Of course, it would be hoping for too much to expect the Justin Trudeau Liberals to heed every piece of advice they receive.

Tax avoiders who use offshore havens

Both the NDP and the non-profit Canadians for Tax Fairness have urged the government not to give a penny of relief money to corporations that resort to off-shore tax havens to avoid paying taxes in Canada, or to anonymous companies that don’t reveal their real owners.

Other countries, such as France, Denmark and Poland now refuse to give COVID-19 financial aid to such tax-dodging companies.

Canadians for Tax Fairness propose that the government “require large corporations that receive funding to publicly disclose their finances on a country by country basis.”

As well, for corporations that do receive funding, the tax fairness people want the government to “prohibit corporate stock buybacks, executive bonuses, golden parachutes and shareholder dividend payouts for at least one year.”

Finally, Canadians for Tax Fairness propose that the government “consider measures such as an excess profits tax to recover funds from companies that ultimately don’t need this funding.”

We should not hold our collective breath waiting for Justin Trudeau’s government to follow this counsel.

It’s one thing for the government to heed appeals for increased support for groups in need, such as students and seniors.

It is quite another to expect this Liberal government, that likes to be all things to all people, to take on powerful corporate interests, especially at a time of extreme economic emergency. SOURCE


Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for more than 25 years. He is rabble’s politics reporter.

David Suzuki on applying COVID-19’s lessons to climate change

Noted environmentalist David Suzuki said COVID-19 presents opportunities to tackle climate change in a new ways. Photo Jennifer Roessler courtesy of

David Suzuki put more than 350 people on hold Thursday evening after spotting salmon leaping in the ocean through the window of the Quadra Island home where he’s currently riding out the coronavirus pandemic.

Canada’s best-known environmental activist, scientist and broadcaster was participating in a Zoom call hosted by National Observer to discuss the intersection of COVID-19 and climate change.

But unable to contain his excitement, the 84-year-old naturalist wandered off-screen to alert his family to the beauty unfolding before him.

David Suzuki in conversation with Canada’s National Observer editor-in-chief Linda Solomon Wood on April 16.

The moment only underscored the point he’d been making during his conversation with National Observer CEO and editor-in-chief Linda Solomon Wood, that despite the havoc COVID-19 is wreaking on people and their families, public health and economies worldwide, the virus was providing a breather for the environment.

“I was looking up at the sky today, and it was filled with geese … we’ve had pods of killer whales coming through, and I have the sense that Mother Earth is saying, ‘Phew, thank God, these busy people are giving me a break,’” Suzuki said. “And I hope that people who live in places like Shanghai and Beijing, in Delhi or Bombay, are looking up and seeing what it can be like when air is the way it should be, invisible and odourless.”

The pause of human activity has allowed nature some rebound, he said.

Suzuki acknowledged the burden millions of people are facing, but noted once the pandemic subsides, there is an opening to respond differently to climate change.

“This is a very, very tough time, but it’s a time when we can discover community,” he said. “It’s a huge opportunity, now, to say, ‘What the hell have we done wrong that got us into this mess, and how do we go about getting out of it?’”

And that doesn’t mean trying to re-establish yesterday’s economy, but redesigning it for the future, in a way that values the common fundamentals of life such as air, water and food. The constraints and laws of the natural world are not flexible, but the economy is a human construct that can be adapted, Suzuki said.

“The COVID crisis is a crisis for human beings, but the climate crisis is a crisis for life on the planet.” David Suzuki on the importance of battling climate change.

“Let’s change the damn thing so it makes some sense,” he said.

Asked what he’d say to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in relation to tackling the climate crisis, Suzuki replied he’s stopped talking to Trudeau about climate.

There was much adulation and hopefulness about Trudeau’s environmental commitment after his election and following Canada’s signing onto the Paris Agreement on climate change, he noted.

“But then he bought a pipeline,” Suzuki said.

The federal government’s $4.5-billion buyout of Kinder Morgan’s struggling Trans Mountain pipeline demonstrates politics trump the environment, even if the results have lasting reverberations for future generations, he observed.

“Even the future for his own children … that has to come second to the political reality that his highest priority is getting re-elected,” Suzuki said.

People must stop looking to political leaders to lead change when it comes to the climate crisis, he said.

Suzuki cited various examples of the Canadian government’s dismal performance in protecting the environment over the three decades since scientists first sounded the climate-change alarm at the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere in 1988.

“The political system cannot deal with (the climate crisis) unless civil society rises up and demands they do it,” Suzuki said. “Then, they will jump on board.”

Massive efforts on the part of the public are critical, Suzuki said, pointing to the half-million demonstrators who accompanied Greta Thunberg in the global march for climate action this past September.

“Dammit all if that isn’t a demonstration that politicians will pay attention to,” he said.

Suzuki figured if just 3.5 per cent of the global population truly committed to pushing for climate action, it would make a huge difference worldwide.

When asked why government is listening to scientists about coronavirus, but not about climate change, Suzuki cited government’s short-sightedness.

“When bodies are being carted out to the crematorium or the graveyard, you respond in a different way to something that is 10 years, 15 years down the line.”

But we have to engage as if we are at war with climate crisis, he said.

“This is the existential crisis of our time. And once you commit to saying that this is the target … then get on with it.”

There are lessons from government’s rapid response to COVID-19 that could be applied to climate action, Suzuki said.

“Yes, absolutely, if we took climate as seriously as the COVID crisis. And quite frankly, in my view, the climate crisis is, in orders of magnitude, a greater threat,” he said. “The COVID crisis is a crisis for human beings, but the climate crisis is a crisis for life on the planet.”

Government’s measures and responses to contain the coronavirus and its effects were unimaginable before the pandemic, he said.

It demonstrates huge opportunities to stem climate change, Suzuki said.

“I think the important thing is you make the commitment to solve it,” he said. “Then, you pull out all the stops — the old rules and constraints no longer apply.” SOURCE

[Editor’s Note: On Friday, the day after the interview with Suzuki, Canada announced it would put a combined $2.5 billion toward cleaning up thousands of contaminated oil and gas wells in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan and to cutting a potent form of carbon pollution. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he wanted to support the industry’s workers and their families, help oil and gas companies avoid bankruptcy, while supporting his government’s environmental goals. The David Suzuki Foundation issued a statement lauding the Trudeau government’s action.]



A Crisis Response that Builds from Emergency to Transformation

Naomi Klein:  Thirteen years ago, I wrote a book about how the Right has used moments of shock and upheaval to ram through economic and social policies that would never pass in normal times. The conservative economist Milton Friedman best described the approach that I came to call “The Shock Doctrine”:

“Only a crisis-actual or perceived-produces real change. When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

There’s no question that this pandemic, and the economic upheaval around COVID-19 is exactly the kind of crisis that Friedman described — and that how we respond to it will be shaped by who fights harder for their ideas today and in the weeks to come.

Join the call for a People’s Bailout for our health care, work and housing systems.

My friends: this is no time to lose our nerve. Thank you for your work, your courage and your care for others during this time.

“Moments of shock are volatile. We either lose ground, get fleeced by elites, and pay the price for decades, or we win progressive victories that seemed impossible just a few weeks earlier. This is no time to lose our nerve.” – Naomi Klein


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