Forget ‘the environment’: we need new words to convey life’s wonders

Language is crucial to how we perceive the natural world. Help me to find better ways of describing nature and our relationships with it so we can better defend it

Beavers in the river Otter in Devon
 Beavers in the river Otter in Devon. ‘Our awe of nature, and the silence we must observe to watch wild animals, hints at the origins of religion.’ Photograph: Mike Symes/ Devon Wildlife Trust

If Moses had promised the Israelites a land flowing with mammary secretions and insect vomit, would they have followed him into Canaan? Though this means milk and honey, I doubt it would have inspired them.

So why do we use such language to describe the natural wonders of the world? There are examples everywhere, but I will illustrate the problem with a few from the UK. On land, places in which nature is protected are called “sites of special scientific interest”. At sea, they are labelled “no-take zones” or “reference areas”. Had you set out to estrange people from the living world, you could scarcely have done better. MORE

Discount Frenzy: The dirt on discount oil

We are being inundated with discount frenzy and it’s not just annoying, it could be life-threatening.

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I’m not talking about the onslaught of huckster ads encouraging us to buy, buy, buy on Black Friday, or even today, Boxing Day. No, the truly crazy-making discount frenzy is the barrage of half-truths, misinformation and outright lies blaming Alberta’s woes on the so-called discount on Canadian oil. That’s some serious snake oil (aka propaganda) that is sabotaging our chance to keep the world habitable for our children.

Lower quality = lower price

Politicians in Ottawa and Alberta are spinning a good yarn. Their tall tale taps into deeply entrenched Canadian insecurities as well as anxieties about U.S. control of Canadian resources. The problem is, like any good yarn, it’s full of blarney. The truth is that there is no discount on Canadian oil as most people understand the term. MORE



What if we replaced politicians with randomly selected people?

If you think democracy is broken, here’s an idea: let’s replace politicians with randomly selected people. Author and activist Brett Hennig presents a compelling case for sortition democracy, or random selection of government officials — a system with roots in ancient Athens that taps into the wisdom of the crowd and entrusts ordinary people with making balanced decisions for the greater good of everyone. Sound crazy? Learn more about how it could work to create a world free of partisan politics.

What Can Humanity Learn From The Great Law Of Peace (2/2)

The non-Native world needs to bring their individual selves in line with the collective of creation. Where right now, as you know, like all the things that you said. Why do we have nuclear arsenals? Why do we have–why are we facing a deadline such as like what the United Nations put forward of the year 2030 in which we have to be reverse the destruction to our Mother Earth?

Well, the reason why we are confronted with these things is because the individuals are given the right over the collective to pursue their personal happiness. And this is one of the main corruptions of so-called democracy, that again it gives individuals the authority over collective.

And as you see in the non-Native world… an individual’s business practices can actually knock out of balance the entire world ecosystem. So this is of the utmost importance of what the non-Native world can learn from the Great Law of Peace, is how the individual must first make themselves a part.of the collective, the collective of creation, how to put ourselves in order and balance living in symbiosis with the creation which we grew out of. MORE

What Can Humanity Learn From The Great Law of Peace? (1/2)

[Deganawida]  is the one that brought what you identified, the Constitution of the Great Law of Peace, to the people who were at war with each other. Once this law was brought to those people, then the people united not under some agreement that they would make with each other, but they united based on a commonality between all living beings. Not a commonality just between humans, but a commonality between all living beings whereas then the people would live in accordance with the structures of creation. Not the structures that men create, but the structures of creation. MORE

The Game-Changing Promise of a Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is not a piecemeal approach that trains a water gun on a blazing fire, but a comprehensive plan to transform society for the better.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, congresswoman-elect from New York, speaks to activists with the Sunrise Movement protesting in the offices of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Nov. 13, 2018. (Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks to activists with the Sunrise Movement protesting in the offices of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in Washington D.C., on Nov. 13, 2018. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times via Redux

The draft text calls for the committee, which would be fully funded and empowered to draft legislation, to spend the next year consulting with a range of experts — from scientists to local lawmakers to labor unions to business leaders — to map out a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” capable of making the U.S. economy “carbon neutral” while promoting “economic and environmental justice and equality.” By January 2020, the plan would be released, and two months later would come draft legislation designed to turn it into a reality. MORE

2018 was a milestone year for climate science (if not politics)

The devastation from Hurricane Michael over Mexico Beach, Fla. A massive federal report released in November warns that climate change is fueling extreme weather disasters like hurricanes and wildfires.
The devastation from Hurricane Michael over Mexico Beach, Fla. A massive federal report released in November warns that climate change is fueling extreme weather disasters like hurricanes and wildfires. AP

…Many in the [climate scientist] community met in Washington, D.C., in December at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. “We’re not seeing cycles” in which warming is likely to go back down, says climate scientist Martin Hoerling. “We’re not seeing things that are going to revert back,” as long as greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to increase.

What about that idea that the climate has changed from the dawn of time? Climate scientist Stephanie Herring says sure, that’s technically true, but it misses an important difference happening now. “The current change that we are experiencing now is particularly alarming,” she says, “and that’s because in the history of human civilization the climate has never changed this rapidly.” For example, 20 of the warmest years on record around the planet occurred in the past 22 years, according to the WMO. MORE

The year in carbon politics (and what to expect in 2019)

David Coletto, chief executive of Abacus Data, sees election year potential for the New Democrats or the Green party to make the case that the Trudeau government’s climate plan isn’t strong enough.
David Coletto, chief executive of Abacus Data, sees election year potential for the New Democrats or the Green party to make the case that the Trudeau government’s climate plan isn’t strong enough.  (ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)

OTTAWA—If you look back to this time last year—before Doug Ford and the carbon tax resistance, before the Trans Mountain purchase and the alarm bells from the United Nations—climate politics in Canada look calm, even quaint.

At the start of 2018, more than 85 per cent of Canadians already lived with a price on greenhouse gas emissions. British Columbians had been paying a carbon tax for 10 years. Ontario’s nascent cap-and-trade regime was set to be linked with programs in California and Quebec. Even Alberta, home of the carbon-belching oil sands, was on board with its own fuel levy and tax-free emissions allocations for heavy industry. MORE

80% of mountain glaciers in Alberta, B.C. and Yukon will disappear within 50 years: report

Combination of less snow and rapid melt causing glaciers to recede at dramatic rate, researchers say

The Wedgemont Glacier, north of Whistler, B.C. Of the estimated 200,000 square kilometres of Canadian glaciers, one quarter is found in the west of the country, with the remainder in the Arctic. (Steve Hamilton)

Climate change is causing glaciers in Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon to retreat faster than at any time in history, threatening to raise water levels and create deserts, scientists say.

David Hik, an ecology professor at Simon Fraser University, said the region is one of the hotspots for warming and the magnitude of change in the glaciers is dramatic. MORE

Year In Review 2018: It was another year of climate extremes

But pressure to build more pipelines to develop tar sands crude is fuelling a political calamity between Alberta and the rest of the country

Toronto Island flood-1-3.jpg
Flood that hit Toronto Islands in 2017 has been followed by more climate extremes.

The forest fires, floods and drought that destroyed the continent in 2017 were no anomaly, as Naomi Klein wrote here for us. But a year after the year from hell, nothing could have prepared us for 2018.

Hurricanes crushed the Carolinas causing an ecological emergency, contamination from flooding flowed into water supplies in New Brunswick, and in Ontario temps eclipsed 40°C more often than at any other time in history. Other parts of the country, meanwhile, shivered as British Columbia choked once again on ash from forest fires that blotted out the sun for weeks on end.

Closer to home, an ice storm packing 100-kilometre winds knocked out power for thousands and raised waves higher than any measured before on Lake Ontario a year after floods cut off the Toronto Islands. That was followed in September by a string of tornadoes in the Ottawa area. MORE