This May, a 1,100 megawatt coal-fired power plant was commissioned in Germany. On Twitter, in the thread started by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who inspired the climate strike, many responded by connecting this decision to the German government’s decision to phase out nuclear power. This connection has become all too common since 2011, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated commitment to the phaseout, which was originally signed into law in 2002. The oft-repeated message is that the decision to shut down nuclear power resulted in Germany increasing its use of coal and thus increasing carbon emissions. This is misleading. Germany’s progress in bringing down emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from its electricity sector by increasing uptake of renewable energy — while simultaneously lowering both coal and nuclear energy generation — has been quite remarkable and shows that a nuclear phaseout and climate mitigation are compatible.
The data underlying this assertion are out there for anyone who wants to look, for example with the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA’s analysis of global CO2 emissions in 2019 was forceful in its account of Germany’s evolution: The country, it said, “spearheaded the decline in emissions in the European Union … Its emissions fell by 8% to 620 Mt [megatons] of CO2, a level not seen since the 1950s, when the German economy was around 10 times smaller.”
The emission level of 620 megatons in 2019 is down from 940 megatons in 1990, 818 megatons in 2002 when the country legislated the nuclear phaseout, and 731 megatons in 2011. There was a slight increase, when it went up to 764 megatons in 2013, which was roughly the value in 2010, but then it declined again in 2014 to 723 megatons, below the 2011 value.
The brief uptick in emissions in 2013 was, of course, related to the use of coal in the electricity sector. Here, too, this metric has had its ups and downs, but it has been mostly down. Again, going back to 1990, Germany generated 322 terawatt hours of electricity from coal, which came down slightly to 307 TWh by 2002, and further down to 272 TWh in 2011. Between 2011 and 2013, electricity generation from coal went up by about 10%, to 299 TWh.
Since then coal-fired generation has been declining consistently, to 241 TWh in 2018. In 2019, there was, as the IEA records, “a drop in output of more than 25% year on year as electricity demand declined and generation from renewables, especially wind (+11%), increased. With a share of over 40%, renewables for the very first time generated more electricity in 2019 than Germany’s coal-fired power stations.”
The story of coal use is complicated by the fact that between 2011 and 2019, Germany brought online about 9.7 gigawatts of new coal-fired power plant capacity but about 3.8 GW were retired. A further 21 coal power stations that were planned ended up being canceled. The new plants are the precursors to Datteln 4. And like Datteln 4, whose foundation stone was laid in November 2007, these plants that came on line between 2011 and 2019 dated back to before the 2011 Fukushima accident.
During this period, nuclear power has declined significantly. That source accounted for 165 TWh or 31% of Germany’s electricity generation back in 2002, according to the Fraunhofer Institute, but only 76 TWh in 2018. In the first half of 2020, the share of nuclear power in overall electricity generation was down to 12%. As the phaseout goes to completion in 2022, it will come down to zero.
Behind the declines in nuclear power, coal power, and CO2 emissions is the tremendous growth in Germany’s wind, solar and biomass power capacity. That growth, in turn, can be traced to when the nuclear phaseout law came into effect. Data from the IEA show that between 2002 and 2018, the amount of electricity generated by wind, solar and biomass has grown by more than an order of magnitude, from 19 TWh to 203 TWh. During the decade before the phase-out law, the contribution of wind, solar power and biomass to Germany’s total electricity generation increased by only 2%.
The following decade (2001-11), that share increased by 14%, and from 2011-18, by a further 15%, according to the IEA. In 2019, renewables generated over 40% of Germany’s electricity. Wind power dominates, accounting for over half of this generation. Biomass and solar power have contributed roughly equal amounts of generation in the past few years.
The figure below graphs the changes in the amount of power generated by these sources of electricity between 1990 and 2019. It shows clearly that in the last few years, increases in renewable energy generation have more than compensated for decreases in electricity generated by coal and nuclear power.
Change in Main German Electricity Sources, 1990-2018
There is another important trend associated with this growth of renewable electricity generation: Since 2014, Germany’s exports of electricity have risen substantially. As one might expect from the dependence on weather of renewable sources of electricity, there is a strong seasonal dependence. Germany typically imports a little from other European countries during the summer, and exports during the rest of the year. By and large, the exports are worth more per unit (euros per megawatt hours) than the imports. Thus, Germany is not dumping cheap renewable electricity and buying expensive fossil or nuclear electricity.
Finally, how has Germany done by standards it set for itself? Since 2007, German government sources have mentioned a target of a 40% decline in its emissions in 2020 relative to the emissions in 1990. The large drop in 2019 has meant that Germany’s emissions are now almost 36% lower than 1990 levels. With the unanticipated decline due to Covid-19, Germany may end up reaching its original reduction target after all.
Just as with any policy measure and its implementation, Germany’s nuclear phaseout and Energiewende can be faulted for errors of commission or omission. But the data are unambiguous: Germany has reduced its emissions of CO2 and its use of coal substantially while phasing out the use of nuclear energy, which comes with its own set of hazards and environmental impacts. The bottom line: Phasing out nuclear power is quite compatible with mitigating climate change.
M.V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, and the author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India.
Solène Delumeau is an undergraduate research assistant and Environmental Sciences major at the University of British Columbia.
It was a tough week for the North American fossil fuel industry.
The energy companies cited costs, delays and litigation in announcing the cancellation of the pipeline.
It was a tough week for the North American fossil fuel industry. Over just a few days, the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline was canceled by developers, the Dakota Access oil pipeline was shut down by a federal judge and the Trump administration lost its Supreme Court bid to resuscitate the Keystone XL oil pipeline (though the justices did make it easier to build other pipelines).
These three strikes, though potentially reversible, nevertheless illustrate another reason why pipelines are pretty risky investments right now–especially those that carry natural gas. Already, the pandemic-induced drop in demand, its dangerous role in global warming and questions about whether it truly is a competitive transitional fuel have many wondering whether gas is headed the way of coal.
“The alarming rate at which pipelines are leaking planet-warming methane is already catching the eye of regulators,” said John Hoeppner, head of U.S. stewardship and sustainable investments at Legal & General Investment Management America. As the energy transition to renewables accelerates, these issues could continue to raise costs for gas pipeline operators, especially if the industry can’t control emissions, he said.
Still, this is far from the end of natural gas. After all, Warren Buffett is betting on the industry with his $9.7 billion deal for the assets of one pipeline. The fuel remains crucial to the prospect of developing cleaner energy from hydrogen, and is an easy way to quickly replace coal. The dirtiest of fossil fuels, incidentally, faces even tougher viability questions, with about 73% of coal plants predicted to be uncompetitive with renewables by as soon as 2025, according to Carbon Tracker.
Even if one, some or all of this week’s pipeline defeats are temporary, the losses (and the rising local and environmental opposition behind them) may scare off investors. Building expensive natural gas infrastructure may not make sense when there’s a reasonable chance pipeline operators will face significant public pushback. And making matters worse, the taxpayer subsidies the industry has relied on for years are starting to shrink.
“Tax and fiscal subsidies really shift the investment landscape,” said Bronwen Tucker, a research analyst at nonprofit Oil Change International, which works to track the true price of fossil fuels. The group found that, since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, G-20 countries have still been forking over at least $77 billion in public financing annually to the oil, gas and coal industries. That’s more than three times the amount of subsidies those countries offered to clean energy during the same, post-Paris period. Still, the International Energy Agency said last month that fossil fuel subsidies are starting to decline, with recent coronavirus-triggered price drops presenting an opportunity for nations to disengage. Subsidy declines are not necessarily fast enough to stop global warming, but they may be enough to do more damage to an already reeling fossil fuel industry.
For now, however, the pandemic’s overall effect has been to prop up energy companies and their fellow travelers.
“Some countries are putting in good support for renewables and green transitions as government stimulus comes in, but overall we’re still seeing more support for fossil fuels than renewables,” Tucker said. “We know the fossil fuel sector is in decline and is going to have lots of ups and downs before being fully replaced by renewables.”
The Dakota Access Pipeline in Central Iowa. (Carl Wycoff/Wikimedia Commons)
A Washington, D.C. district judge ruled on Monday that the Dakota Access Pipeline must be shut down, maintaining that further environmental review must be carried out.
The 24-page order by Justice James E. Boasberg says the pipeline must shut down operations within 30 days. Boasberg added that he was “mindful of the disruption” halting the pipeline will cause.
Back in April, Boasberg decided that a more extensive review of the project was necessary due to the unsatisfactory nature of the review conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The pipeline has been operational for over three years.
“Yet, given the seriousness of the Corps’ NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) error, the impossibility of a simple fix, the fact that Dakota Access did assume much of its economic risk knowingly, and the potential harm each day the pipeline operates, the Court is forced to conclude that the flow of oil must cease,” the order reads.
The project has faced serious criticism from many, including the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, who protested the pipeline back in 2016 and 2017.
“This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning,” Chairman of Standing Rock Mike Faith wrote in a statement, which the Associated Press reported.
A Global Energy Monitor report published yesterday said that Warren Buffett’s decision to withdraw from an energy project developing an LNG export terminal in Quebec highlights the increasing uncertainty that these projects are facing globally. Back in March, Buffett’s investment firm Berkshire Hathaway pulled a $4-billion planned investment that was supposed to go towards an LNG export terminal located in Saguenay, Que.
“While many projects face opposition from local communities, the case of the Energie Saguenay LNG Terminal in Quebec shows the potential for a local protest to galvanize a national movement,” reads the GEM report, according to The Canadian Press.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer did not violate any laws when he hired Steve Allan to carry out a public inquiry into whether anti-oil advocacy in Canada was being funded by foreign money, according to Alberta’s ethics commissioner.
“They were simply acquaintances in Calgary who occasionally communicated about issues such as economic strategy and flood mitigation,” wrote commissioner Marguerite Trussler in a report published yesterday.
This accusation stemmed from the fact that Allan previously had an office in Schweitzer’s old law firm based in Calgary, creating a potential conflict of interest.
The Keystone XL pipeline faces another complication following a decision made by the U.S Supreme Court yesterday, which maintained a ruling by a lower court. The decision blocks an environmental permit that is crucial to the development of the pipeline across U.S. waterways. The Associated Press reports.
As coal declines and wind and solar energy rise, some are pushing to limit the use of natural gas, but utilities say they are not ready to do so.
Power sources at Dominion Energy in Remington, Va., include natural gas, a diesel backup tank and solar panels in the field.Credit…Ting Shen for The New York Times
Dominion Energy, one of the nation’s largest utilities, in late June erected wind turbines off the Virginia coast — only the second such installation in the United States — as part of a big bet on renewable energy.
The company is also planning to build new power plants that burn natural gas.
Utilities around the country are promoting their growing use of renewable energy like hydroelectric dams, wind turbines and solar panels, which collectively provided more power than coal-fired power plants for the first time last year. But even as they add more green sources of power, the industry remains deeply dependent on natural gas, a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gases and is likely to remain a cornerstone of the electric grid for years or even decades.
Utilities maintain that they need to keep using natural gas because the wind and the sun are too unreliable. They are also reluctant to invest in energy storage, arguing that it would cost too much to buy batteries that can power the grid when there isn’t enough sunlight or wind.
“We’ve got to have a resource that has an ‘on’ and ‘off’ switch,” said Katharine Bond, vice president for public policy and state affairs at Dominion.
For years, environmental activists and liberal policymakers fought to force utilities to reduce coal use to curb emissions and climate change. As the use of coal fades, the battle lines are rapidly shifting, with the proponents of a carbon-free grid facing off against those who champion natural gas, an abundant fuel that produces about half the greenhouse gas emissions that burning coal does.
Coal plants supply less than 20 percent of the country’s electricity, down from about half a decade ago. Over that same time, the share from natural gas has doubled to about 40 percent. Renewable energy has also more than doubled to about 20 percent, and nuclear plants have been relatively steady at around 20 percent.
Experts argue that the surge in wind and solar energy, while impressive, is not reducing emissions quickly enough to avert the worst effects of climate change, including more intense heat waves and storms. They argue that utilities urgently need to reduce the use of natural gas, too.
“Replacing coal with gas doesn’t solve our public health problem,” said Mary Anne Hitt, national director of campaigns at the Sierra Club.
Proponents of renewable energy note that solar panels are increasingly the cheapest source of electricity. Solar panels can deliver power to 650 homes for one hour — one megawatt-hour in industry jargon — at $31 to $111 a megawatt-hour, according to Lazard, the investment firm. By comparison, natural gas peaking plants, which utilities can turn on and off quickly to meet surging demand, deliver power at $122 to $162 a megawatt-hour.
A report in June by the University of California, Berkeley, concluded that by 2035, the U.S. electric grid could get 90 percent of its power without greenhouse gas emissions while lowering electricity rates. To do that, the country would have to increase its use of renewables, energy storage and transmission lines while closing all coal plants and slashing natural gas use by 70 percent.
Some lawmakers argue that utilities are wasting billions of dollars by investing in natural gas plants that will have to be shut down before their useful lives end.
“The urgent need to address the climate crisis means we can’t make reckless investments now that will have to be paid off for decades,” said Senator Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat and one of the authors of the legislation known as the Green New Deal. “We have to consider clean options, which, fortunately for consumers, are also cost-effective.”
“Fighting the transition is not going to stop the transition,” Dennis Wamsted, an analyst for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said. “Economically, it will happen inevitably.”
Utility executives acknowledge that renewable energy will continue to grow. But many dismiss the idea that wind turbines, solar panels and batteries can replace natural gas plants.
Great River Energy, a Minnesota utility owned by its customers, recently gained national attention when it said it would phase out coal use. The cooperative plans to shut down a 40-year-old plant in Underwood, N.D., called Coal Creek after failing to sell it.
“The situation that led to our decision was based purely on the economics,” said David Saggau, president and chief executive of Great River Energy. “It has been tougher and tougher for some of our legacy facilities to compete in the marketplace.”
The Underwood plant and a nearby coal mine that supplies it employ about 660 people, many of whom will probably have to leave the area to find new jobs, said Underwood’s mayor, Leon Weisenburger Jr. “It’s going to hurt those communities severely,” he said. “Some won’t survive.”
But while Great River plans to increase its reliance on wind turbines, it is not giving up fossil fuels and will convert its other coal-fired power plant to natural gas.
Another large utility, the Alabama Power Company, won approval in June to replace some of its coal-fired plants with the equivalent of two large natural gas facilities, even as its parent, the Southern Company, has proposed to make its entire system carbon neutral by 2050. The utility and regulators gave little consideration to renewables and batteries.
Even where elected leaders have committed to eliminating emissions, utilities have found it difficult to rid themselves of fossil fuels.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, for example, wants Los Angeles to have an all-renewable electric grid by 2045. But the city-owned utility, the Department of Water and Power, still gets about 18 percent of its electricity from a coal-fired plant in Utah and about 30 percent from natural gas plants.
It will take five years for the city to end its reliance on coal and much longer to wean it from natural gas. Officials said they would like to move more quickly, but Los Angeles owns some power plants with neighboring municipal utilities and has had to resolve labor contracts, plan the use of transmission lines and line up other energy sources.
Dominion Energy, with more than seven million customers and operations in 20 states, said it had high expectations for offshore wind farms, which have been widely used in Europe for years. The company is erecting two wind turbines off Virginia Beach this year — with blades as high as 620 feet above sea level — as a test for the installation of nearly 200 turbines over the next six years.
While environmental groups have long criticized Dominion’s record, executives say they are committed to a greener grid and are planning to shut two coal-fired plants in Virginia in 2024 before either turns 30. Last year, the company closed six coal plants and converted five to natural gas, a fuel it views as complementary to renewables.
Investors, customers and lawmakers are demanding electricity from cleaner sources. In April, Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia signed a bill requiring almost all coal-fired power plants to close by 2024 and the state to become a carbon-free electricity producer by 2050.
On Sunday, Dominion and Duke Energy announced that they had canceled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would have crossed the Appalachian Trail, after legal challenges drove up the project’s cost to $8 billion from about $4.5 billion. The two utilities said they had proposed the project “in response to a lack of energy supply and delivery diversification for millions of families, businesses, schools, and national defense installations across North Carolina and Virginia.”
At the same time, Dominion announced a separate deal to sell all of its gas transmission and storage to an affiliate of Warren E. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy.
From Dominion’s perspective, its growing focus on clean energy should not have surprised anyone because the utility said it was a pioneer in the use of technologies like energy storage. In the 1980s, it built a power plant near Lexington, Va., that can use excess electricity to pump water to a reservoir at a higher elevation. When power is needed, the company can release water to a lower reservoir. The company said the six-turbine facility was the largest of its kind, able to power up to 750,000 homes and less expensive to operate than a bank of lithium-ion batteries.
Executives said such plants could be built only in certain areas, so Dominion is also investing in batteries. But the company said it had concluded that the current generation of batteries was still too expensive and could generally store only up to five hours of power for the grid.
“Natural gas remains the only resource that allows us to ratchet up and down,” said Ms. Bond, the Dominion policy executive. “We’re absolutely committed to investments in renewable energy — gigawatts’ worth of wind, gigawatts’ worth of solar. We’re also committed to keeping the lights on for our customers.”
Ivan Penn is a Los Angeles-based reporter covering alternative energy. Before coming to The Times in 2018 he covered utility and energy issues at The Tampa Bay Times and The Los Angeles Times. @ivanlpenn
Entrenched systems of power aren’t just an impediment to real action, they’re the whole problem.
Protesters hold a ‘Green New Deal!’ sign during the Global Climate Strike demonstration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Discussions about how to fight climate change almost always conclude with a lament over the “lack of political will.” It’s as if the roadblock preventing these clean-tech visions and white-paper dreams from becoming market-driven reality is an irrational, unforeseen hiccup.
That’s a comforting fallacy. The lack of political will is the whole point: Climate change is a problem caused by entrenched systems of social, economic, and political power. To overturn that, the climate community would do well to learn from the fight for racial justice.
Many climate advocates and researchers seem to be just now starting down this line of reasoning, but not all. The Green New Deal put forward in February 2019 in the U.S. incorporated social justice goals into its vision for an economic shift away from fossil fuels. That turned out to be too politically ambitious for that moment, but it helped energize a constituency that has since taken on the mantle of leadership in the American climate movement. Last week the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis—itself a product of that constituency’s lobbying—released an action plan to “address the urgency of the climate crisis and begin to repair the legacy of environmental pollution that has burdened low-income communities and communities of color for decades.”
With a divided Congress now months away from the November election, these proposals aren’t going to pass into law. But they’re still a step towards addressing the way disadvantaged groups in the U.S. fare significant climate risk. An even bigger step would be for climate-focused policymakers to include disenfranchisement in the definition of climate change.
J. Marshall Shepherd—a distinguished professor and director of the University of Georgia’s Atmospheric Sciences Program, a former head of the American Meteorological Society and one of the U.S.’s most prominent commentators on weather and climate change—knows about interconnected institutions and phenomena. Before joining academia, he spent years working as a NASA Earth systems scientist. “I can’t help but see things in a connected way because that’s how the Earth works,” he says.
When racism and climate change are put into context with each other, you get the drive for climate justice, he says. That is, you get the realization that those most vulnerable to flooding, drought, storms, and heat are also the people most likely to face race-based discrimination and state-sponsored violence, to be on the losing end of economic inequality, and face worse health outcomes. New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response a lawsuit by the New York Times show that Black and Latino people have been three times more likely to contract Covid-19, and almost twice as likely to die from it.
“The social, economic, and political power structure have created neighborhoods in New Orleans or Houston or Atlanta that will be more vulnerable to extreme weather events, or at least have less resilience to them,” he says. “You can’t overlook that.”
After the killing of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that followed, Shepherd published a short book called The Race Awakening of 2020: A 6-Step Guide for Moving Forward. He named the book after the awakening he sees coming. “I’m an optimist,” he says. Just as the energy economy will clean itself up through an “ultimate and inevitable shift,” he anticipates 2020 bringing a wider shift among Americans on race. “We’re not planting any new flags here from the perspective of [Black Americans], right? All of this we’ve known and experienced and lived. But at least it seems as though there was this awakening by others.”
The book spends little time in the author’s professional domain. Instead, it lingers on reminiscences, including one about a beloved Florida State University college professor who provided him with a useful definition of racism. “Dr. [Bill] Jones’ definition was framed around the idea that racism is steeped in a power imbalance,” Shepherd writes. “When a certain racial group holds the majority of political, economic, and societal power, they can explicitly, implicitly, or systematically discriminate against others or suppress equality to maintain the balance of power.”
In other words, racism is a systemic problem impossible to separate from the institutions and networks that perpetuate it. So is climate change, but it isn’t talked about that way nearly often enough. The people who write laws and set policy get up every morning and make decisions that wave climate change on through, a fact that rarely factors into scientific reports, policy studies, and popular books on climate.
Shepherd’s is far from the only book about discrimination to acknowledge the systemic analogy between racism and climate change, however. In her book So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo uses climate change as an example of a problem that doesn’t go away just from acknowledging it. “While we talk about global warming and worry about global warming, most of us go about our days the same as we did before we ever heard the term because it’s just easier to talk than to do. And global warming continues.”
Coal, oil and gas don’t burn themselves. Their continued use is the result of active decision-making, carried out by inertia-bound institutions whose hold on power depends on maintaining the unsustainable status quo. Any change in that structure isn’t going to come from technology development, or even market forces. It requires a political shift.
Suppressed police records could have impacted outcome of 3 survivors’ cases, say lawyers
St. Anne’s residential school, which sat in Fort Albany along Ontario’s James Bay coast, employed the use of a homemade electric chair. (Algoma University/Edmund Metatabwin collection)
Ottawa says it doesn’t need to provide records to reopen St. Anne’s residential school compensation cases that were settled before a court ordered the federal government to turn over thousands of police files that itemized widespread abuse at the institution, according to a recent court filing.
Federal lawyers argue the 2014 and 2015 Ontario court orders did not cover compensation cases settled before the rulings, even if the police files could have impacted the outcome of the cases.
“Nothing in those orders required Canada to make filings on concluded claims,” reads a June 25 federal Department of Justice filing with the B.C. Supreme Court.
“There was no specified right of retrieval of documents for claimants whose claims had been concluded.”
The federal filing aims to quash an attempt by St. Anne’s residential school survivors to reopen compensation cases they argue could have been influenced by the existence of the Ontario Provincial Police records that itemized hundreds of cases of abuse that occurred at the institution in Fort Albany First Nation, along Ontario’s James Bay coast.
The OPP investigation, launched in 1992, lasted six years and produced thousands of pages of records that included about 900 statements from 700 victims describing assaults, sexual assaults, suspicious deaths and a multitude of abuses at the school from 1941 to 1972.
In the end, investigators identified 74 people as suspects and seven were charged, leading to five convictions for crimes committed at the school.
The Independent Assessment Process (IAP) was created by the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement to compensate former students for abuse suffered at the schools.
However, for the first seven years of the IAP process — which began in 2007 — the federal government never disclosed the existence of the records or mentioned the OPP investigation in the St. Anne’s “school narrative,” which compiled the history of the institution.
Supreme Court decision in play
In 2014, and again in a follow-up 2015 order, the Ontario Superior Court ruled Ottawa should turn over the investigation records for use in the IAP.
This led to a number of legal actions by St. Anne’s survivors seeking to reopen compensation cases settled before the release of the police documents.
Given their scope and detail, the existence of the police records would have bolstered any compensation claim from St. Anne’s. In particular, the documents would have impacted student-on-student abuse claims which required proof that school staff knew or should have known abuse was occurring in the institution.
Now, St. Anne’s survivors are relying on an April 2019 Supreme Court decision — that determined courts could play a role in a IAP case on “fresh evidence” grounds — to renew their fight.
The three St. Anne’s survivors, who are identified as S-20774, T-00185 and S-16753 in records, are seeking unredacted persons of interest reports (POIs) — files itemizing allegations of abuse logged against individuals at the schools — and they are asking the court to compel their release. These POI files expanded substantially with the added allegations contained in the police records.
One survivor had their claim rejected and the two others believe they failed to get compensation for more serious abuse because they didn’t have the evidence to back up their claims,
The survivors need the documents to decide whether they should go to court and have their compensation cases reopened, according to the filing.
“Canada owes production of fresh evidence for St. Anne’s IAP claims, but Canada has not done so,” said the court filing from the St. Anne’s survivors, known as a Request for Direction.
Government wants to ‘forget the whole thing,’ says survivor
Ottawa argues previous attempts to reopen St. Anne’s compensation cases failed in the courts and the 2019 Supreme Court decision didn’t alter that reality. Federal lawyers also argue that the wording of the high court ruling does not support the core legal arguments in play.
“A change in the law does not sanction a litigant to reinstate a proceeding that was previously determined against them under a different operative law. Finality in this regard is a crucial facet of the rule of law,” said the federal filing.
“In any event, the St. Anne’s requestors’ theory about the significance of [the Supreme Court decision] does not accord with the actual contents of that decision.”
Ottawa also argued that a court-set deadline to seek judicial recourse on IAP settled claims had passed in February 2017.
Edmund Metatawabin, a former chief of Fort Albany who played a key role in spurring the OPP investigation, is representing the three survivors in the court filings. He said Ottawa has consistently resisted any attempts by St. Anne’s survivors to get justice for the federal government’s failure to disclose the police records.
“It would help if the government would say ‘we acknowledge that and we will help you in the recovery,’ but their form of reconciliation is just to forget the whole thing,” said Metatawabin.
“We are survivors, we were there to experience the horrors of abuse, we were there every day, trapped there as young children at the school at the mercy of those sick people.”
A related hearing is scheduled before the Ontario Court of Appeal on Thursday over a recent ruling to have the case heard before the B.C. Supreme Court. St. Anne’s survivors want the hearing heard in Ontario.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett’s office did not provide a comment by the time of publishing. Bennett’s department provides instruction to Justice Canada on the litigation.
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Environmental groups are celebrating after the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court ruled the province’s oil and gas board acted unreasonably by extending an exploration drilling licence beyond the defined term limit.
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Environmental groups are celebrating after the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court ruled the province’s oil and gas board acted unreasonably by extending an exploration drilling licence beyond the defined term limit.
Justice Rosalie McGrath wrote in a July 3 decision the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board did not have authority to grant a company another licence covering the same area in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2017.
The licence extended Corridor Resources Inc.’s drilling rights in the Old Harry site, located about 80 kilometres off the southwest tip of Newfoundland, beyond the set nine-year limit.
Environmental groups including the David Suzuki Foundation and Sierra Club Canada Foundation had argued the decision was unlawful and lacked proper environmental oversight.
Law firm Ecojustice, which represented the groups, said Tuesday the ruling sets a precedent for other offshore regulatory boards in Canada and it prevents companies from exploring for assets for an indefinite length of time.
Ecojustice lawyer Ian Miron said oil and gas drilling poses a significant threat to the environment, especially sensitive ecosystems like the Old Harry site, home to thousands of species that support the local tourism and fishing industries.
He said companies are expected to complete environmental assessments within the set time frame. “Exploration drilling is inherently risky,” Miron said from Toronto. “It is important to limit it.”
The regulatory board welcomed the ruling, saying it brought “greater certainty” on the statutory regime. In a statement provided Tuesday, the board said it did not plan to appeal.
Gretchen Fitzgerald of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation said her organization would continue calling for a full moratorium on oil and gas activity in the area, which hosts diverse marine life, including critically endangered North Atlantic right whales who visit the gulf to feed.
“Right whales make their way here every summer and a major oil spill and seismic blasting would be devastating to them and other marine life, as well as coastal communities that rely on a healthy ecosystem,” Fitzgerald said in a written statement.
The board had argued the licence extension was legal and reasonable because the environmental assessment process — which included consultations between the Crown and Indigenous groups — had been delayed due to circumstances outside the company’s control.
McGrath wrote the board’s justification did not fall under any of the three exceptions to the prohibition on extending exploration licences defined in the law. “I accept that the Board was motivated by valid objectives, including that of providing a stable and fair offshore management regime for industry,” McGrath wrote.
“However, the Board was not given the authority to carry out a discretionary balancing of objectives. The Board cannot rely on general policy objectives to override the clear statutory directive … that limits its authority, notwithstanding that it may be acting in good faith.”
Corridor Resources, now known as Headwater Exploration Inc., announced in June 2018 that it was suspending work on its proposed project at the Old Harry site. At the time the company said there was no “viable path” to drilling a well before its licence expired in 2021.
Pipeline construction has been allowed to continue, while a federal agency put landowners’ appeals of pipeline approvals on hold indefinitely. Photo: Photo: Reid Frazier / The Allegheny Front
A federal appeals court has ruled that the agency in charge of interstate pipelines cannot indefinitely delay landowners who want to appeal a project. In Allegheny Defense Project v. FERC, the court ruled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) could not use tolling orders to delay a decision on a landowner’s request for a rehearing. The ruling is being called a win for landowners and communities in the pathway of pipelines.
The cause involves the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline. In 2015, the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company applied to FERC for approval of its natural gas pipeline, which included construction of nearly 200 miles of new pipeline in Pennsylvania.
When FERC approved the project, two families in southeastern PA with properties in the pipeline’s path appealed the decision, by requesting a rehearing. Under the Natural Gas Act, the commission has 30 days to respond to requests like this. Instead, FERC issued a tolling order, putting off the deadline indefinitely.
With the tolling order delaying FERC’s decision on the rehearing, the landowners were unable to fight the pipeline project in court, according to Abby Jones, vice president of legal affairs at PennFuture. The advocacy group signed a Friend of the Court brief in support of the landowners.
“What FERC is doing is they are indefinitely delaying their time to rehear, so that 30 days goes away and they can just basically sit on their rehearing request, thereby precluding the plaintiff in this case from having their day in court,” Jones said.
In its June 30 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that FERC issued tolling orders in response to 99 percent of all the requests for rehearing of pipeline decisions between 2009 and 2017, and 100 percent since then. In oral arguments, the commission admitted the use of these stall tactics was “almost as a matter of routine.”
According to the ruling, FERC can no longer issue tolling orders. “Simply delaying it indefinitely is not actually taking an action on a request,” said Jones. “That’s what the court said, and that is in violation of the statutory requirements under the Natural Gas Act.”
A Win for Landowners
While tolling orders force landowners to wait for FERC’s review before they can challenge pipelines in court, pipeline construction has been allowed to move forward.
“The pipeline companies are able to actually go and condemn private property,” said Jones. ”They can construct the pipelines. They can decimate our environment. When FERC finally gets around to issuing a decision on that rehearing request, the pipeline’s already in.”
Essentially, Jones said, the landowner or the environmental organization has no recourse because the pipeline has already been completed.
That’s what happened with the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. FERC did not respond to the landowners until nine months after their appeal. By then, the pipeline was already under construction on their property.
In response to the ruling, FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee and Commissioner Richard Glick issued a joint statement asking Congress to change the law to give FERC more time to act on rehearing requests and to prohibit pipeline companies from moving forward on eminent domain proceedings and construction during the rehearing process.
On Twitter, Glick called the ruling a resounding victory for landowners and communities affected by these pipeline decisions.
Today’s Allegheny decision from the DC Circuit Court is a resounding victory for #landowners & communities affected by @FERC’s pipeline orders. It is important that these parties can go to court before a company can take their land & build a pipeline affecting their communities.
Dimitri Lascaris, a long-time activist, author and former class-action lawyer is running to be the next leader of the Green Party of Canada. Photo by Vadim Daniel.
During last year’s federal election, the Green Party of Canada had its best performance ever. The party more than doubled its national vote count from 2015 (6.4 percent), added a new MP to its ranks, and fought to position climate change as the top-of-mind issue in Canadian political discourse.
Still, the Greens ultimately failed to sharpen their message and establish a firm foothold in the House of Commons. Several key issues served to derail the party’s prospects for broader appeal, and despite some late-campaign momentum that had many expecting a third-place finish, it ended up without any real leverage in a minority parliament.
Elizabeth May got bogged down in questions about her—and by extension, the party’s—official position on abortion, while Pierre Nantel, a high-profile candidate who quit the NDP to run for the Greens in a Montreal-area riding, courted controversy for doubling down on his sovereignist views.
Above all, however, it was the Green’s failure to distinguish itself as a bold progressive faction (on issues other than the environment) that proved its downfall. How could a party that ran with an unsophisticated and wide-eyed slogan of “Not Left. Not Right. Forward” break through to disgruntled voters on either side of the political spectrum?
Strangely, despite promising progressive policy measures including free tuition, cancellation of student debt, pharmacare and a “guaranteed liveable income,” the party’s now former leader concluded that, from the point of view of the Greens, “the whole idea of a left-right dichotomy is something of an anachronism.”
The Greens now find themselves again at a crossroads. May stepped down in November after 13 years at the helm, and the party’s leadership convention is slated to take place in Charlottetown in early October (if COVID-19 doesn’t move the date).
So far, there are six candidates vying to replace May: Annamie Paul, a lawyer and international affairs specialist from Toronto; Alex Tyrrell, the leader of the Green party in Quebec; Amita Kuttner of Burnaby, who holds a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics; David Merner, a lawyer, public servant and former Green Party candidate for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke in 2019; Judy Green, a grandmother from Nova Scotia who has held positions with the Canadian Forces; and Dimitri Lascaris, a lawyer who ran for the Greens in London in 2015, and served as a shadow cabinet minister without holding a seat in the House of Commons.
Lascaris, a long-time activist, author and class-action lawyer who focuses on human rights and environmental law, should be known to many on the left. He is a board member of the Real News Network, a progressive outlet founded by Paul Jay and based in Baltimore and Toronto, and has spent many years campaigning for the rights of Palestinians, even leading a push within the Green Party to support elements of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS).
Lascaris is not only an effective and articulate activist, he’s an accomplished writer and lawyer to boot. He was named one of the 25 most influential lawyers by Canadian Lawyer Magazine in 2012. The following year, Canadian Business Magazine included him as one of the 50 most influential people in Canadian business, describing him as the “fiercest legal advocate for shareholder rights.” Four years ago, Lascaris ended his law career and committed himself full-time to work as an activist and writer on issues ranging from climate change to Canadian foreign policy.
Lascaris is intent to push the Green Party to the left, and to dispense with the notion that ideological camps on the right or the left have lost their meaning. Above all, though, he wants to give progressives a place to stake their long-term future, and give the majority of Canadians who hold progressive views a real voice in parliament.
Canadian Dimension spoke with Lascaris on Saturday, April 11.
Harrison Samphir: Right off the top: what do you think of how the Liberals have handled the pandemic so far?
Dimitri Lascaris: If you look at what we are doing as a snapshot of the current world in which we live, I’d say from a public health perspective we’re doing a pretty good job. The Liberals have taken limited resources during an unprecedented public health crisis and managed, primarily through strong spatial distancing measures, to keep the infection rate and the mortality rate down. If you compare us, for example, to our neighbours south of the border, and adjusting for population size, Canada has fared much better in terms of apparent infections and deaths. But we should also acknowledge that the risk of a pandemic has been known for years, and in my view there’s no excuse for the fact that a wealthy country like Canada does not have adequate quantities of protective equipment to deal with a crisis of this nature.
We don’t have an adequate supply of masks for frontline healthcare workers, and we don’t have a well thought-out plan to increase the hospitalization capacity in this country. There will come a time when we will have to analyze all of that, and ask ourselves the hard question about how much of this should have been anticipated and prepared for from a public health perspective, and I think that’s a discussion that must be had in order to avoid something like this happening again in the future. But I think right now, considering the resources available to the government, it’s done a pretty good job. From an economic perspective, I think its performance has been much less satisfactory.
HS: Let’s get into that. In your view, how have the government’s economic response measures fallen short?
DL: Well, my primary criticism is that there are millions of Canadians who are not covered by the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). I have been advocating very strongly for making the CERB available to every single Canadian, and we shouldn’t have criteria which unfairly exclude any vulnerable citizen. These things should be universally available. I also think this type of income support should be permanent, that we should have a guaranteed basic income. There’s really no excuse for us not to have one. And I think the government has not dealt adequately with the question of rent for small businesses, and particularly residential renters.
I’ve been calling for months for a minimum three-month rent holiday, applicable to large landlords. We should also have an interest holiday in this country—and this is perhaps my biggest criticisms of the government. We have wildly profitable banks in Canada. They have been making money hand over fist, and they received support during the last financial crisis in various forms. There’s absolutely no reason why the government should not be mandating, through legislation, a minimum of a three-month interest holiday so that Canadians don’t have to pay any interest (and I’m talking about the forgiveness of interest, not deferment) on mortgage loans, consumer loans, credit card balances and student debt. It should be three months to begin with, and it can be revisited later. Up until now, the government has been saying that it’s been asking the banks to be nice to Canadians. You know, banks aren’t in the habit of being nice, frankly, to their customers—their primary and overwhelming objective is to make money, as much of it is possible, and enrich the executives and the shareholders, and they have proven this over a period of decades. Banks aren’t going to play nice. They have to be obliged, as a legal matter, to give Canadians who are desperately in need of relief from interest, the necessary help.
HS: Following up on that, how do you feel the opposition parties, notably the NDP, have responded? Has their response been adequate to hold the government to account during this time, and push for some of the economic measures you mentioned?
DL: I think overall the opposition parties have performed reasonably well, and my comment doesn’t simply apply to the NDP. It’s very difficult for opposition parties in the current climate to be critical, and I understand that, because there’s a natural tendency on the part of the citizenry to come together and look for unity from their leaders during a public health emergency. So the pandemic presents a difficult environment for any party to be critical, and I think you have to measure your words carefully. On the whole, however, I think the opposition parties collectively have done a reasonably good job in these trying circumstances.
One thing that I was very pleased to see was that the Green Party of Canada leadership, along with other opposition parties, strenuously opposed what was a vast overreach by the Trudeau government during the first economic aid legislation, where the Liberals were looking for parliament’s blessing for them to make—without virtually any oversight—taxing and spending decision for a period of two years. Opposition parties fought that, and the Liberals were forced to retreat, but it was a fight well worth having, and I was encouraged to see that the Green Party and other parties were willing to step up to the plate.
HS: Let’s turn to the Green Party itself. Why do you want to be its next leader?
DL: I first started thinking about this in November of last year, and did not make up my mind until the middle of February. So I took a good three months, and I consulted with dozens of people around the country whom I respect and who have similar values to my own. Some of those people are traditional supporters of the Green Party, some are traditional supporters of the NDP, some are further to the left of both parties, and some are independents. One of the things that I heard and that I learned during that process was the immense frustration progressive Canadians feel about the fact that they’re not really represented in parliament. And I think that’s true. It’s a view I’ve held myself for years, and I’ve been quite vocal about it. The NDP, which has never really been a radical party, certainly not in my lifetime—although it was further to the left for some years when I was growing up—moved very much to the centre under Tom Mulcair. I think Jagmeet Singh’s leadership has been slightly more progressive than Mulcair, but fundamentally, Singh has left the party firmly ensconced in the centre of the political spectrum.
The Green Party of Canada has explicitlypositioned itself as a centrist party for the last ten or more years, going all the way back to the Jim Harris era. In fact, the Green Party’s slogan for the campaign during the 2019 election was: “Not Left. Not Right. Forward.” So there was an explicit effort by the party leadership to disassociate itself from the left. And so you have a stunning situation in parliament, despite an incredible number of people in this country who lean in a progressive direction, where there isn’t a single leader who truly represents the left. I think this is an opportunity for us to change that, and for us to give a voice to the millions of Canadians who feel they’re underrepresented in parliament, and begin to demand far more bold measures in terms of dealing with social injustice, improving our appalling foreign policy—which in virtually every way mimics that of the United States—and ending our systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups including black Canadians.
We also need to deal with the question of militarism, and our extreme levels of defence spending. I think we should be having a debate about our membership in NATO—I think we should get out, and I’ve been very clear about that. I think a lot of Canadians feel that way and nobody is advocating for it, nobody will even discuss these things in parliament. When is the last time you heard a parliamentary debate about whether or not Canada should be in NATO? We can’t even talk about these issues in the current political environment, and I think that has to change.
HS: Many Canadians may have a particular perception of what the Green Party is and what it stands for. Globally, at least, ‘Green parties’ could be described as a floating signifier—there is no agreed upon recognition of what values and policies they uphold or represent. So how do you go about convincing Canadians that the Green Party really is a left wing party?
DL: Well, perceptions are very interesting. I did a long interview on the Craig Needles Show in London about a week ago, and towards the end of the conversation, during which I said many of the same things I’ve said to you, Craig said “So you want to move the Green Party even further to the left?” He found that to be quite remarkable, you know, because he and a number of other people in the media landscape and on the right of the political spectrum already believe that the Green Party is a left wing party. I think there’s some truth to that—the party has long been a champion of universal basic income (UBI), taken bold positions on climate change, and is a big proponent of pharmacare. It’s also arguably the most vigorous defender of Indigenous rights in parliament, and by a significant margin. So if you compare the Green Party to the impoverished standards of politics in Canada today, I think you could fairly describe it, despite what the leadership may say, as a moderately left wing party.
But I think we can do much better, both in delivering our message and improving the content of our message. So for example, one thing that matters a great deal to me is inequality in this country. The Green Party of Canada did not advocate in the last election, and has tended to avoid advocating for sharp increases in the top marginal tax rate. For much of the post-World War II period—and this is rarely talked about by media personalities in this country, or by the business community—the top marginal tax rate in Canada and the United States, hardly a socialist country, was in excess of 90 percent, and for an even longer period it was in excess of 70 percent. Why isn’t anyone advocating for a minimum of a 70 percent top marginal tax rate, when we have exploding inequality in this country and fewer than 90 of the richest families owning as much wealth as three provinces combined, while tens of thousands live on the streets and millions live in poverty, including many children? So the party has not advocated for increases in the top marginal tax rate, and I think it should.
The party also has not been a vigorous defender of organized labour, and I’ve even heard some people say, people on the left who care deeply about the rights of workers, that the Green Party leadership is anti-labour. So I think we should be advocating for a series of reforms to defend the rights of organized labour in Canada, and we should be advocating for a much higher minimum wage in this country. There are a whole range of things that we should be talking about and we should be leading on that relate to the whole question of inequality and social justice. We should be talking about housing being a human right. There should not be one single Canadian who is homeless. There should be not one single Canadian living in poverty. We have the wealth as a county to ensure that that is possible.
So I think the party has put a lot of eggs into the environmental basket, and I certainly intend, if I am elected leader, to continue to be a tireless defender of the environment and a tireless advocate for the resolution of the climate emergency. But I think we need to broaden our scope and also talk about inequality and social injustice. That is, after all, one of our core values, it’s just not one that’s talked about a lot. Of the six core values we have, one of them is social justice. Another one is non-violence. So why as a party are we not advocating for a drastic decrease in military spending? That’s something we didn’t do in the last election. That’s something I would favour, and I’d even start a conversation about the complete demilitarization of this country. Why do we even have a standing army? These are important conversations I think we should be having.
HS: Would you describe yourself as an eco-socialist?
DL: I would, yes. But I’ve had a very interesting series of discussions ever since the press learned that I was thinking about running back in December. I was asked this question at the very outset, and I answered it honestly: I am an eco-socialist and I am proud to be one. But a significant percentage of the people within the Green Party expressed to me the view that highlighting that fact, and emphasizing that label of eco-socialist, may scare away a lot of voters. I don’t necessarily accept that, but I do think there is a lot of misunderstanding in Canada about what socialism is, and so what I’ve decided to do, when a journalist such as yourself asks me that question, I’m going to answer it honestly. But at the same time, I’m not going to lead with my eco-socialism, because I think that may engender some misunderstanding among those who don’t have quite a good handle on what that means. I’m going to lead with specific policies. And I think if you look at the sum total of the policies I’m advocating for, it absolutely is eco-socialism, but why not explain to people the policies first, and then they’ll understand what you mean when you respond to the question affirmatively and say Yes, I am an eco-socialist.
HS: Under your leadership, what will the Green Party do to foster a healthier relationship with the natural world, to fight climate change, and halt biodiversity loss?
DL: At the top of the list is the need to phase out the fossil fuel industry, because it is wrecking the planet. There are no two ways about it. Right off the bat, we need to end all forms of fossil fuel subsidies. I think we need to substantially increase the carbon tax. I think we need to ban outright any new exploration for oil and gas; ban the construction of any new fossil fuel infrastructure. I think we need to demand of the fossil fuel industry that it begin to pay for the massive expensive cleanup that we’re going to have to engage in as Canadians, in Alberta and elsewhere. We’re looking at a cleanup bill for orphan wells and tar sands tailing ponds in the range of $250 billion, and that may be a conservative estimate. The Alberta Energy Regulator has been completely captured by the oil industry, and has collected around $2 billion in liability security from the oil industry. That’s absolutely unacceptable. These companies are going to be long gone by the time the bill has to be paid, unless we get appropriate amounts of security. And if we do that, and if we also help to fund it from a provincial and federal level, what we can create in the province of Alberta is what Regan Boychuk, one of the leading activists in this area, has called a reclamation boom.
We could have a jobs boom in Alberta, just through funding the inevitable and absolutely indispensable cleanup of orphan wells and tar sands tailing ponds. Those are things we absolutely have to do right away. And all of that is not simply going to help us reduce the threat of climate change, it is also going to help us have a healthier natural environment. There are massive amounts of fresh water being contaminated every day by the oil and gas industry. The soil and air are being infected with carcinogens and toxins. So we’re not only going to address the climate emergency by phasing out fossil fuels as rapidly as possible and by engaging in a massive reclamation project, but we’re also going to improve the quality of our air, our water and our soil. That will improve the health of the entire natural world. So to me, that’s at the top of the list for restoring the health of our society.
HS: You just touched on this, but how will the Green Party help to achieve the goal of restoring or protecting 30 percent of land and freshwater by 2030, a promise that has been made by the Liberal government?
DL: Well I think we absolutely have to expand the protected areas in this country. It’s a difficult discussion to have, becuase North American society in general has grown very accustomed to having a meat-based diet. I think we need to be talking about the necessity of moving away from this dependency. Even if people are unwilling to give up meat altogether, they can certainly reduce substantially their consumption. This will enable us to commit less arable land to livestock. If we can reduce that reliance, we can restore a lot of the land that’s currently being used as pasture and farmland to a forested state, which will also help us to deal with the climate emergency and enhance biodiversity. So I think we need to be having a much more assertive conversation about the need to alter our diet as Canadians, and that’s something that many political parties, and indeed the environmental movement has been shy about.
HS: Under your leadership, will the Green Party be willing to impose stricter regulations on the natural resources sector, contrary to the current practice of industry self-regulation?
One thing I learned during my career as a class action lawyer is that self-regulation is an oxymoron. It’s a contradiction in terms. There’s no such thing as self-regulation. We’ve been hearing for years that it was under the Stephen Harper government and the Trudeau government, this concept of voluntary corporate social responsibility for Canada’s mining sector. The proof is in the pudding. This concept, which successive governments have relied upon, to “regulate” the mining industry, particularly in their foreign operations, has been completely ineffective. The mining industry continues to contribute to environmental degradation, and it continues to engage in human rights violations around the world. The only way to regulate any for-profit industry effectively is by having independent regulators who are highly trained. We need to shut the revolving door between regulators and industry, and we have to give regulators the enforcement power and resources necessary to ensure compliance. So I have a dramatically different vision of what regulation ought to look like than that of the other parties.
HS: Let’s shift now to foreign policy. You have been a longtime critic of Canadian foreign policy, in particular the longstanding support by both the Liberals and Conservatives for Israel, at the expense of Palestinian lives and self-determination. Do you endorse BDS. If so, why?
DL: Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May went to the West Bank in 2018 with other parliamentarians, and was given a view of the West Bank and the occupation which few parliamentarians, particularly Liberals and Conservatives have ever had, because they’re not interested in hearing from Palestinian voices, they just don’t care. And when Elizabeth May came back, she said that what is being done to the Palestinians in the West Bank is far worse than apartheid in South Africa. Now this is not just May’s view. This is my view. I’ve been to the West Bank four times over the course of 25 years, and I’ve seen the degradation of the living conditions and the rights of the Palestinians living under occupation. This is the view of Noam Chomsky, one of the most respected public intellectuals in the world today. This is the view of John Dugard, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur to the commission on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967”. He’s a South African human rights lawyer. There are many people who have come to understand that was is happening in the Occupied Territories is in fact far worse than apartheid.
I will go as far as to say that if you lavish praise on the regime of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli government, despite its heinous crimes, you are not fit to hold political office. End of story. It is an affront to human rights that one could call themselves a proponent of the rules-based international order even as you are lavishing support and praise on a regime that is implementing policies that are far worse than apartheid in South Africa.
Our government is deeply complicit in the suffering of the Palestinian people. We confer trade benefits on Israel. We vote in favour of Israel repeatedly, with a very small group of countries at the United Nations. We trade in arms with the state of Israel. We are developing artificial intelligence with Israel. Our leaders are constantly misleading Canadians about the true nature of the government of the state of Israel. So we have played a tragic and appalling role in the suffering of the Palestinian people, and we as Canadians have an obligation to make things rights, because of the complicity of our government. That is something I will always remain committed to.
What I’m saying is very simple: that we treat Israel the way we do any other violator of human rights, by imposing sanctions and restrictions on trade. I think that’s a very simple message that no conscientious Canadian should disagree with.
HS: How about Canada’s relationship with the United States? The Trudeau government has been very cooperative with the Trump administration, helping to sign the new NAFTA. I’d like you to talk about some of the false promises of free trade agreements and how the Green Party would approach the issue of globalization more broadly.
DL: If I was in a position of leadership, the first thing I would do is demand a renegotiation of NAFTA. Several things, amongst others, would need to be incorporated in the agreement for me, as leader of the party or leader of the government, to support it. The first thing we’d need to do is to get rid of investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms which allow corporations to sue governments for potentially massive sums whenever they threaten their profits in the public interest. I would make this a prerequisite for any trade agreement that Canada has. The countries with which we enter into these agreements must agree to have minimum levels of protections for workers, they have to have minimum levels of protection for the environment, and they need to have minimum levels of protection for human rights. Those would have to be embodies explicitly in any trade agreement our country signs on to, and there would have to be an enforcement mechanism attached, so that we would have the ability to impose tariffs or other protective measures in the event a government with which we’ve entered into a trade agreement does not respect its commitment to workers rights, human rights, and the environment. That would be absolutely essential.
I’ve been saying for years that successive governments have made our economy increasingly reliant upon the United States. And I think the chickens are coming home to roost, perhaps in a very big way. The Trump administration is doing a terrible job of handling the current public health crisis, and it is doing an atrocious job of handling the economic fallout. We are so tied to the United States economically, we are so interdependent, that even if our government succeeds in managing the COVID-19 pandemic from a public health and economic standpoint, we could be dragged down with the US economy. We could suffer tremendously due to this interdependence.
Our industry should be much more local, and our imports and exports should be much more diversified. We should be developing home-grown industries. We saw a little bit of this in Trudeau’s response to the pandemic, when he announced his government was going to give millions of dollars of funding to Canadian-based pharmaceutical companies to help them come up with a vaccine and treatment for COVID-19. This is something we should have been doing decades ago. We should have been investing in local industry, so that we’re not so heavily reliant upon the US, and particularly an administration led by Donald Trump. So we’re not truly independent, and that’s reflected in both our trade and foreign policy.
HS: How would your winning of the Green Party leadership affect the left in Canada?
DL: My primary concern is to win the hearts and minds of the traditional base of the Green Party of Canada. But the question has arisen, how are going to grow the party? So showing the NDP base that we are serious about defending the values that they hold dear is one way to do that. There are also millions of Canadians who do not vote. Last year, almost eight million eligible voters, in a country of 37 million people, did not even bother to vote. I’m troubled by people who don’t vote, but they have legitimate grievances. They say the electoral system has abandoned them, and that it’s a farce. They think they are legitimizing a broken system by casting a vote. There are millions of Canadians who feel the government has abandoned them and doesn’t care about them, and they are overwhelmingly marginalized folks. So that’s a huge potential source of support.
There’s also a left wing of the Liberal Party. I don’t think it controls the party, but it’s there, and it is very concerned with Trudeau’s failure to address the climate crisis, and I think that’s another potential source of support. So there are a lot of ways we can grow this party, and in order for us to do that, we need to demonstrate to those groups I just mentioned, that we’re the true voice of the left, we’re the true voice of equality, social justice and peace, and that the rest of the parties are pretenders. These folks who pretend to be serious about social justice, inequality, demilitarization and peace, we need to call them out, and we need to be better than them. I think we can grow this party dramatically if we can accomplish that.
HS: Finally, what would you say to left organizations like the Courage Coalition and Democratic Socialists of Canada?
DL: I’d say to them that, first of all, this is your chance to make a difference. Get involved in this race. There are going to be forces, forces of the status quo, neoliberals, people who advocate for regimes that I’ve been very critical of, that are going to oppose my leadership bid, and they’ve already started to do that. If the Courage Coalition, for example, is serious about seeing the rise of the left in electoral politics, when a candidate like me comes along—and not just me, anyone who says the things that I do and has an established record of saying them—we need to see those organizations get behind them. I need their support if I’m going to win this race. I need to the left to be unified behind me. If they do that, I promise one thing to them all: I will never betray my values. I would rather lose political office honourably and ethically than win it dishonourably and unethically. It doesn’t matter that much to me to be in power. I view power as a means to an end. And that is to make the world a more just and sustainable and peaceful place. If I can’t do that by being an elected official, then I have no interest in being one.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Harrison Samphir is an editor, writer and policy analyst based in Toronto. His work has appeared in CBC, Jacobin, NOW Magazine, Huffington Post, rabble.ca, Ricochet, Truthout, and the Winnipeg Free Press, among others. In 2016, he completed an MA in International Relations at the University of Sussex. Harrison has served as Dimension’s web editor since 2014.
Broadening Our Perspective Towards Farming for Healthy People, Plants & Planet
Agriculture is what makes us human. The moment that first farmer planted a seed with intention everything changed, we began to move from hunter gatherers and put down roots and specialize into the modern civilization we have today.
The conventional agriculture that accounts for over 99% of the farmland in the United States is a backwards broken system that incentives the wrong things and built to value profit over people, and it is literally breaking humanity.
The good news is that we can fix it. Regenerative agricultural techniques have been established and the science needed to muster the public awareness to force necessary changes is now known. The solutions will not come from our politicians, they will come from an awakened and empowered populous that is expressing our buying power, eating our ideals, and growing as much of our own food as we can.
It is time that we take our righteous place within the food system and put agriculture into action. The bottom line — we fix the soil, we fix ourselves.
Agriculture is many things, but most importantly it is the source of our nourishment. Food is our fuel, but it is no longer our medicine. Study after study tells us that what we eat no longer contains the nourishment required for human health. We knew this as far back as 1936.
This is why we take supplements, it is the source of obesity and directly and indirectly the reason for the rapid rise in most degenerative and auto-immune disease. Collectively we are malnourished and for the most part we don’t even know it.
Literally and figuratively we are further from our food than we have ever been. Estimates tell us the average meal travels over 1500 miles to our plates and the number of children that don’t know french fries and ketchup come from potatoes and tomatoes is appalling.
Let’s face it, most people eat food for convenience rather than nourishment. Estimates say up to 70 percent of the average American diet is processed food. Food science and fast food have done a wonderful job of making it easy to eat, but we have sold ourselves short in the process. In other words, we eat dangerously.
Taken to its core, the adulteration of agriculture and our food system explains basically every issue facing modern humanity. And the source of this adulteration is very simple — we have been growing plants at the expense of soil.
Soil is ubiquitous, but upon focused investigation elusive and not very well understood. It is beyond us, so to speak, the further we look, the more there is to discover. Leonardo da Vinci stated, “We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than we do about the soil underfoot.” In many ways this remains true today.
One of the major missing pieces in our pursuit of healthy agriculture is a reverence and imagination for how soil works. In truth, because it is capable of existing and performing in so many different ways, soil is an indefinable substance. Some may recall the uproar created in 2015 when the paper “The contentious nature of soil organic matter” was published in the journal Nature calling many to say “humus does not exist”!
Soil is a dynamic piece of the overall ecosystem that operates in almost magical ways to deliver the vitality capable in the human body. One of the major hurdles we face in correcting the course of our agriculture is that we lack a framework and collective perspective towards what nourishes us. What we think, we grow.
Many identify with life and the world as a purely physical experience. After all, this is what we find in school textbooks and in the scientific methods we have employed to explain the natural world. But there is more to life than what is physically here, we are more than the sum of our parts. Life has a force, an energy that ties us together and connects us all. This life force is difficult to quantify, which leaves it lost on the average modern scientist and citizen, but respect for this concept has the power to revolutionize agriculture.
The most recognized method of involving life force in agriculture was introduced by Rudolf Steiner in lectures that have come to be known as The Agriculture Course. Steiner delivered the lectures in 1924 in response to farmers interested in regenerating the life force of their farms due to the negative influences they were experiencing in their crops and animals from the artificial fertilizers and biocides introduced during the Industrial Revolution and proliferated during the World Wars. The methods Steiner developed have come to be known collectively as “biodynamics” and represent the very first reaction to chemical farming, even before the “organic movement”.
For me, biodynamics was revelation. Out of college I found the book Secrets of the Soil (or should I say it found me!) and it literally turned my recognition of how the world works on its head. Coming out of school with degrees in biology and religion I was completely uninspired, I didn’t even know what I wanted to know. I had been trained analytically and challenged academically, but rarely invited to use my intuition and imagination, and here was this book asking me to consider the concept of life force, ponder the power of implosion in water, and discover the vital importance of the soil food web.
As I continued my research I came across a passage in the preface to The Agriculture Course lectures between Steiner and one of his students Ehrenfried Pfeiffer that stood me up straight, and that to this day I find to be the most potent synopsis of the modern issues we face with agriculture and food:
Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer: “How can it happen that the spiritual impulse, and especially the inner schooling, for which you are constantly providing stimulus and guidance bear so little fruit? Why do the people concerned give so little evidence of spiritual experience, in spite of all their efforts? Why, worst of all, is the will for action, for the carrying out of these spiritual impulses, so weak?”
Dr. Rudolf Steiner: “This is a problem of nutrition. Nutrition as it is to-day does not supply the strength necessary for manifesting the spirit in physical life. A bridge can no longer be built from thinking to will and action. Food plants no longer contain the forces people need for this.”
Steiner’s answer here is profound. In his articulation of life force in food I see the solution to what is ailing modern agriculture and humanity. Simply put, we are growing food for the wrong reasons. And this was in 1924.
This period of inspiration moved me to found and operate a retail garden center for over fifteen years where I worked to introduce these concepts to the general public. I also founded a wholesale company developing biodynamic farming products, and operated a market vegetable farm utilizing the methods. This was my boot camp.
In my first attempts to implement biodynamic methods I quickly recognized that it was not a complete farming system. It did not address mineral balance, cover cropping, microbial diversity, and many other facets of farming that are vital for the results we seek in regenerating soil and growing nutrient dense crops.
So my efforts broadened to try and bring all of the facets of agriculture into one place for consideration and action. I called it “BioEnergetic Agriculture”.
It is quite an unoriginal name and the content I was bringing together is standing on the backs of giants like Steiner, William Albrecht, Viktor Schauberger, Wilhelm Reich, Nikola Tesla, and others; but my intentions were not to be an inventor. The important part is the information, and sharing it with as many people as possible.
BioEnergetic Agriculture operates off of the principle that a wholistic living system can only thrive when all required physical, mineral, biological, and energetic components are present and working together in synergy.
These four pillars — physical, mineral, biological, and energetic — work as four legs of a chair. The logic fits if you follow it — conventional agriculture is physical and mineral, the farmer plows and fertilizes (then uses rescue chemistry in an attempt to deal with all of the problems created!). Organic growing incorporates the biological realm. But both conventional and organic growing fail to recognize life force.
To put it another way, if conventional agriculture is like drowning, and organic agriculture is treading water, BioEnergetic Agriculture is swimming where you want to go.
BioEnergetic Agriculture seeks to combine and implement the geology, chemistry, hydrology, biology, and energetic sciences of living systems. Let’s take a look at each component individually:
Conventional agricultural practice abuses and takes advantage of soil. Soil is so much more than a sponge or medium used to prop up plants, which is how it is treated in conventional methods.
In many ways proper soil structure is created as a result of proper mineral balance and microbial diversity. Plowing and fertilizing are actually compensations for the inability of the soil to fend for itself. So if proper agronomic practice is approached there is very little growers need to do to correct and maintain healthy soil structure.
The mineral component of BioEnergetic Agriculture involves an articulation of elemental diversity and balance.
Minerals are naturally occurring inorganic compounds with a characteristic structure and composition. They are unrefined and provide a repository of diverse elements that can be used directly and over time by growing plants.
The mineral realm is the source of soil fertility. Plants cannot “eat” minerals, they uptake the elements they use for growth in an ionic elemental form that are primarily delivered through the activity of micro-organisms, or microbes.
The ionic ingestion of plants is the basis of hydroponic growing that feeds plants directly using salt-based and sometimes organic forms of nutrition. However, there is a growing consensus that the true potential of plant growth can only be achieved by ions created through the activity of soil microbes.
So much of modern conventional agriculture is focused on NPK and only a fraction of the overall elemental diversity available to living systems. At best, modern agronomy focuses on macro- and micro-nutrients considered essential for plant growth. Very little attention is given to the role of trace elements in agriculture, however, there is also a growing consensus on the important role that trace elements play in agriculture. If it is not it in the soil it is not in the plant, and if it is not in the plant it is not in the people.
Proper elemental balance in soil was first researched and documented by Dr. William Albrecht in the 1940’s. Through methodical research he found a sweet spot in what is called the “cation exchange capacity” that provides ideal ratios of the essential elements where plants thrive. For more on this refer to the article “Soil Testing Demystified”.
Collectively, life in the soil is called the “soil food web”. The importance of the role microbes play in soil fertility cannot be overstated.
In general, the health of the soil food web is contingent upon the diversity of organisms present and the health of the ecosystem they are operating in. Soil microbes include bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes, which act much like the web of life in the ocean. Think of bacteria like plankton and nematodes like sharks.
Beneficial soil microbes manufacture soil and make perfect plant food. Microbes, including bacteria and fungi, make soil by breaking down rocks, minerals, and organic material into bio-available forms. The greater the diversity of microbes in the soil food web the more dynamic and productive the soil.
This explains the value of composting and brewing compost tea. Whatever you can do to facilitate the activity of soil microbes will facilitate better results in the garden or farm.
The expression of life is “motion in resonance”, a rhythm and pulse of energy that radiates and forms living currents which trend toward chaos and, at the same time, towards balance and harmony.
Energetically speaking, chaos brings the friction of energy that allows the order of life to organize, and around and around we go. Life is energy. Energy is life.
There is a statement that says, “Energy precedes matter”, which means, before you experience something in the physical it will be present in an energy state. Another way of saying this is — everything in existence is permeated with vibrations that communicate frequency.
These vibrational frequencies can be projected and are, simultaneously, “everywhere all the time”, which is the basis of radionics technology. Life as we know it is the integration and physical precipitation of the harmony or disharmony of these vibrations and frequencies working together in potential and enlivened resonance. In simple terms, harmony is health and disharmony is dis-ease.
The description and language around these collective forces has taken on different names over time depending on who is describing them and what level of energy is being discussed. The term “life force” is a good general descriptor when working with and discussing the radiant energies of living substance.
The great Viktor Schauberger noted that we spend so much time focusing on how the apple hit Newton in the head in his articulation of gravity that we never ask how the apple got up there to begin with!
From seed to harvest, plants use and respond to energy to grow and regulate their metabolic processes. The subtle energies that work to communicate life force are harnessed and travel through water. Water can actually be worked with to enhance the communication of subtle energies through what we call “Activated Water”.
There are many methods for increasing the life force of an ecosystem without the use of physical substance — homeopathy, implosion, magnetism, electricity, field broadcasters, biodynamic preparations, etc. These methods work to tie the ecosystem together like a grand symphony seeking crescendo.
A good term for describing the act and effects of this resonance and up-building process is “potentization”. Potentization is the process of bringing higher order, or synergy, to the ingredients of a solution, a living system or a farm. To be clear, the justification for these practices does not discount the material realm, they seek to enhance and integrate with them.
BioEnergetic Agriculture is more of a thought-form than it is a list of instructions. It integrates proven and controversial techniques into an agronomic system that can be used to organize experiment in pursuit of the best possible results.
The best results are not always generated by the highest yield. The intoxication and incentive created by the modern food system towards yield is central to the problems we are experiencing in our agricultural and health care systems.
The degeneration in health we are experiencing in the modern world is what happens when we grow food for profit instead of people. It will not be long until technology will be available where consumers can read the nutritional and contamination profile of the food they are buying at the point of sale. This will turn agriculture on its head and create healthy incentive for farmers to grow food for the right reasons. The Bionutrient Food Association is working on a handheld spectrometer than can do just that. Talk about vibrations!
When the platform of BioEnergetic Agriculture is recognized and fully implemented all of the components of a healthy living system work together in a balance that results in maximum plant yields, superior nutrient density in crops, thriving humans, a substantial increase in agricultural profits, and significant ecological benefits.
Research is important, but results win the day. My experience, and the results generated for countless growers I have worked with over the years, is that deploying BioEnergetic methods in agriculture can generate solutions for just about anything a gardener or farmer might want to accomplish.
In order to achieve optimal results chasing symptoms is not sufficient, we must be willing to determine the cause, behind the cause, that is behind the cause, causing the effect.
Here’s to relentless experimentation and maximum results…so the Earth may be healed.
Evan Folds: The future is open source and decentralized. Evan Folds pursues his passion of integrating the natural and spiritual world with human centered technology by developing and sharing content shared across the digital landscape on his Website, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.