Tag Archives: environment

Feds walk away from environmental assessments on almost 500 projects in B.C.


Read this article by Larry Pynn in the Vancouver Sun. Excerpt: “Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has washed its hands of environmental assessments of nearly 500 projects in B.C. as a result of a revised Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

“The 492 wide-ranging projects include gravel extraction on the lower Fraser River, run-of-river hydro projects and wind farms, bridge construction as well as demolition of the old Port Mann Bridge, shellfish aquaculture operations, hazardous-waste facilities and liquid-waste disposal.

“Ottawa is also walking away from conducting assessments on various agricultural and municipal drainage works, log-handling facilities, small-craft harbour and marina development and expansion, the sinking of ex-warships as artificial reefs, the disposal of dredged material, and a 73-hectare mixed-use development on Tsawwassen First Nation lands.” (August 22, 2012)

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Feds+walk+away+from+environmental+assessments+almost+projects/7125419/story.html


Please Protect ALL of Baynes Sound


Dear Peter Kent,

I read with interest an article in the Times Colonist about the Federal Government protecting Georgia Strait from Cordova Bay to Southern Gabriola Island and including the Saanich Inlet as a marine conservation area. While I applaud this move, I believe you should protect all of Georgia Strait.

I live in Fanny Bay, midway up the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. We, the thousands of people from the Comox Valley, Denman and Hornby Islands, Qualicum Beach, Parksville, Port Alberni, Tofino and Uclulet, are gravely concerned about the proposed Raven and Bear coal mines planned for the heart of our watershed. Our chief concerns include toxins introduced to our drinking water, the destruction of a thriving and sustainable shellfish industry (which employs 600 people and generates $20 million annually), threats to the second most important Bird Area in British Columbia, highway safety on the route through the venerable Cathedral Grove on the road to Tofino, and perhaps most importantly, a major contributor (an estimated 240 million tonnes of CO2) to global warming.

I implore you to include this area as part of the marine conservation area planned for the Salish Sea. This is a beautiful and delicate ecosystem and is far too precious to be destroyed by short term and short sighted coal mines. WATER is our most precious resource. It is imperative that we leave something for our children and future generations. They are depending on us.

Canada can be a beacon of environmental conservation. I pray that our governments chose the right path. Thank you.

Lynne Wheeler
Fanny Bay, British Columbia


Environmental Battles Unite British Columbians


With the leadership of both major parties up for grabs you should know what The Common Sense Canadian will be doing from now until the next election.

First let me assure you that we are not party-political. We simply support the party that declares for the environment.

Thanks to a conspiracy of silence, the mainstream media have simply ignored environmental issues with the exception of making Letters to the Editor and Op-ed space available to those who would desecrate our environment.

We have seen some significant changes in the environmental movement over the last couple of years with much fuller contact between various groups. More and more The Common Sense Canadian has had speakers and other support from colleagues and we’ve been returning the favour when we can. To name but a few, people like Joe Foy and Gwen Barlee from he Wilderness Committee, the in comparable Alex Morton, Rex Weyler, Donna Passmore, many others and I have found ourselves on the same platform, meaning, among other benefits, we get to know one another better. Our collective pledge is to help each other and to ensure each of us that their struggle is ours too. For far too long governments have been able to divide us and I believe we are quickly coming together – as we must.

We are working hard to bring expert opinion to our web page not only on our own account but from others as well.

We have both senior governments to thank for this because they have assaulted the environment in so many fields it’s galvanized those who care and brought unity where there was once conflict and indifference.

Damien Gillis and I founded The Common Sense Canadian because in fighting for our rivers in the ’09 election we saw that our talents mixed beautifully. We’ve assembled a marvellous group of contributors, advisors, and even a first class cartoonist, Gerry Hummel, whom you’ll be seeing much more of.

We are and have for a long time been appalled at how the desecraters of our environment have got away with it. There are exceptions – thank God for that! – in smaller communities, and we’ll be asking them to help us let the public know what we’re up to and when Damien and I are coming to show his videos and hear our message.


UK Scandal Over Police Infiltration of Environmental Groups


From the Guardian – Jan 19, 2011

by Paul Lewis and Rob Evans

Senior officers say undercover operations need independent regulation as criticism mounts over the Mark Kennedy case

Police chiefs admitted today that their infiltration of undercover police officers into protest groups had gone “badly wrong” and called for independent regulation of spying operations.

Amid mounting criticism of police over the handling of the Mark Kennedy case,
Jon Murphy, who speaks on the issue for the Association of Chief Police
Officers (Acpo), also insisted that undercover officers were forbidden
from sleeping with activists to gather information.

Three official
inquiries have been launched into Kennedy’s seven-year infiltration of
the environmental movement after a criminal trial collapsed last week.
The row has also led to Acpo being stripped of its power to run
undercover police units.

Murphy told the Guardian: “Something has gone badly wrong here. We would not be where we are if it had not.”

said senior police officers would welcome an outside body monitoring
their use of undercover police officers. “We are left to regulate it
ourselves, and we think we do a good job of it,” he said. But he
acknowledged: “Sometimes things go wrong. It is a volatile area of
police work.”

Read full article


Reflections from Soulless Dubai


This discourse is indeed about the environment but you must be a tad patient.

I’ve long been interested in matters of the soul as first introduced to me by my Mom. If I couldn’t see that a cloud formation looked just like a man on a horse she’d mildly chide me, “Have you no soul Rafe?” Her Dad, my Gandhi, used to take me into the woods that abutted his farm in Burnaby – yes, in Burnaby – and show me the moss on the north side if trees, the salamanders in the pond, and he’d make a slingshot for me out of a Maple sapling. He talked a lot about the soul – it was that, not substance that really mattered.

Now let me tell you a story written by G.E.M. Skues .

Mr. Castwell, a wealthy, devoted fly fisherman, having made his last cast, passed away and found himself on the most beautiful trout stream he had ever seen. There was a man there who introduced himself as his keeper and handed Castwell a beautiful Hardy rod and reel and pointed to the river where there lay four beautiful trout, each five pounds, easily.

Have a cast, said the keeper and Castwell was into a fish first cast. The next cast was an identical result as it was thereafter – a cast made, a hook-up, a fish landed, and a new fish took its place.

And so it went and each time Castwell would suggest to his keeper that a rest would be in order he was told that the “Master” wouldn’t like that.

When the time came that Mr. Castwell thought was surely the end of the day, he asked the keeper when one quit for a nice drink, dinner, and bed.  The keeper replied “sir, you don’t stop – the Master wouldn’t like that.”

“Hell!” yelled Castwell.

“Yes,” replied the keeper.

Castwell, the man without a soul, saw that what he valued most was now a merciless sentence when seen only for itself.

In this context I considered the afterlife of The Fraser Institute folks and those true to their notion that if only the stupid lower classes would let the rich get even richer, why a cascade of riches would trickle down amongst them – punctuated by mind-numbing nonsense about how all boats rise on the same tide, and so on.

I thought of the corporation folks who recognize that some people see a value in the environment so hire hugely expensive PR flacks to make people believe the pipelines, tanker traffic, alienated farm land, massacred fish, and shattered rivers were actually good for us all. Very good things to have as we “move forward,” says the song of the polluter. All the time, of course, the flacks tell about their client’s deeply-held commitment to “green-ness”.

And what of others who, in Wilde’s words, know the “cost of everything and the value of  nothing” – like Gordon “Pinocchio” Campbell and his mindless band of toadies – what should happen to them when they hop the twig?! If they were like Mr Castwell, what would be their eternal reward?

I discovered the answer when Wendy and I went to the Land of Oz, to Emerald City, aka Dubai –  Las Vegas writ large. Wendy and I spent 10 hours touring Dubai and saw that it hasn’t got a single vestige of the outdoors in it. Everything is man-made. There is nothing to turn your attention from the bricks and mortar. Dubai is utterly soulless. There was the phallic symbol that was their answer to Toronto’s CN Tower. Sadly, the grand prize for national idiocy and hubris has gone to a new idiotic spire of steel and glass in Shanghai.

There’s a building shaped like a watermelon on end, one like a giant wave of surf and so on.

There are no rivers or babbling brooks to interfere with the noise of bustle. No clumps of trees with the irritating chirping of birds. The only animals are in the zoo which the voice in my ear proudly says holds 50 imported animals from all over the world. One Aquarium boasted 89 kidnapped dolphins…or was it 189? Whatever it was, we felt instantly ill.

Dubai is the second largest of the United Arab Emirates, that being seven federated sheikhdoms. It is governed by a “ruler”  who is also prime minister of the UAE. Citizens are not bothered by decadent customs like voting or democracy – Kevin Falcon, who once expressed a desire for development rules being like China, would love Dubai, where only a little token of one’s esteem of the ruler is required. No one protests. Anyone used to reading the Vancouver Sun and the Province would feel right at home reading the government “rag”.

Dubai, the voice in my ear tells me, is almost all Islamic, but that great tolerance is shown Catholic and Protestants. Nothing was said about Jews – perhaps just an oversight. 

There are no liquor stores – this would no doubt merit Mr. Campbell’s approval – but how do naughty citizens get booze (the “rulers” are not subject to prohibition)?

Our server in the bar smiled…”There are ways”.

You can, of course, get lots to drink in the innumerable bars in the never-ending supply of hotels.

We were taken to the courthouse and told that Egyptian law prevailed and that there was almost no crime. I assumed that the paved area in the back was for stoning fallen virtue.

There is outdoor skiing all year round on genuine snow!  Where a city in which 22C is considered a cold snap gets this magic “genuine” snowfall remains a mystery.

There is, of course, an ice rink the size of ten football fields – or was it 20? Or 200? After a bit of listening to mind-numbing superlatives for 10 hours, it all become hard to absorb.

There is every physical joy one can conceive of in Dubai – it’s an engineer’s or money man’s dream come true.

Alas, there’s naught for the soul.

Dubai is the Fraser institute, Gordon Campbell’s and the developer’s ultimate icon – the embodiment of all they stand for. In their life to come, Dubai surely represents their idea of God’s work and proves once more that engineers with money can improve nature’s legacy…

I promised that this column would be about the environment and here goes.

The UAE is one of the world’s largest consumers of water and here – wait for it – is how they get it. Nearly 80% from desalination!

Having almost no fresh water, Dubai takes the salt out of the abundant ocean. It costs a hell of a lot more than our system does but, not having fresh water, they must “mine” it.

This makes you think a bit. If California needs water, why not take if from their endless supply of ocean? Why not “mine” salt water, and distribute it by pipeline across their country?

It’s not that the US hasn’t got water – 80% of the earth is water. What the US lacks is the desire to pay for it (not having Dubai’s access to cheap, abundant oil)!!


This question applies with the same, indeed greater, force to power. Why should British Columbia ruin more and more of its rivers and streams so that the US can buy it for less than it would cost them? And with the profits not going to BC but large international corporations! Why do we virtually give these companies licenses so that they can use our rivers to finance their massive theft of our resources? Why should we desecrate our rivers, and the ecologies they support, so that Americans needn’t do so to theirs?

No doubt the US would have to find power and it might well come from fossil fuels or nuclear. But there are ways to do this well within clean air requirements. The only reason they’re not doing this is because we relieve them of the burden.

While I wish the Milton Friedman acolytes, the Fraser Institute, and Campbell et al. an eternity in Dubai – riding rider-less monorails, going up and down in outdoor glass elevators, or sitting forever on the top of a “Big Bus” sightseeing bus, in the manner of Mr. Castwell – in the meantime we in BC must stop this environmental bleeding before it’s too late.


Locally grown food, like these heirloom tomatoes from Tsawwassen's Earthwise Community Garden, could play a major role in dealing with both our economic and environmental challenges

How to Deal with our Economic & Environmental Challenges Together


“The economy is a subsidiary of the ecosystem…The only place where the environment and economy are separated is in the human mind.”

– Dr. William Rees, UBC Professor, Founder of the ‘Eco-footprint’ concept

Perhaps the most foolish and dangerous misconception of our time is that we must somehow choose between the economy and the environment. We hear it all the time. “We can’t establish green house gas emissions caps until we get our economy out of recession.”…”The environment’s important, but so are jobs.”…”We need to balance the economy with the environment.”

It’s a false dichotomy which has become the go-to defense of big polluters and the governments that enable them. We heard it with Fish Lake in BC, where Taseko Mines said they needed to destroy a fish-bearing lake to build a giant gold and copper mine. But, of course, they told us it would bring nine gazillion person-years worth of employment.

We hear it from Enbridge, the company that wants to build a pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to supertankers on BC’s North Coast. They too are fond of tallying up their person-years. (However, they leave out the fact that the majority of these jobs will go to people from out of province – and that they’ll last only a few years, while we’re left with the enormous environmental and economic risks from their project long after the jobs disappear).

These companies and our governments consistently create the impression that we must decide between the economy and the environment – which is short-sighted, self-interested nonsense.
The first step to dealing with both our mounting economic and environmental challenges is recognizing that the economy, as Dr. William Rees says, is a subsidiary of the environment. No fish ecology, no fishery. No forest, no forestry. No energy, no economy. No farmland, no food, no us. 

We also must come to see that due to impending Peak Oil and the age of increasingly costly, scarce, dangerous, and unreliable fossil fuels, the kind of globalized economic model we have today is unsustainable. Not just environmentally unsustainable. Unsustainable, period – because it depends on a finite and dwindling resource. So regardless of whether it contributes greatly to climate change, we simply don’t have the resources to maintain this system, as former CIBC World Markets Chief Economist Jeff Rubin explained in his essential 2009 book, Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller.

In it Rubin relates the skepticism he’s received from the energy and banking intelligentsia over the past decade – even after correctly predicting the rise of oil to an all-time high of close to $150/barrel in 2008. He emphasizes that the key to adapting to this new world lies in the re-localization of just about every function of our economy – and the scaling down of everything we do in terms of our energy and resource-indulgent lifestyles. In other words, smaller and more local is better. This from one of Canada’s top economists and energy experts, no less.

Ponder for a moment the madness of our economic system today – and BC’s role within it. We put our ecosystems at risk by chopping down trees and mining coal – which we then ship, in raw, unmanufactured form, across the Pacific to China in tankers burning the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world (bunker diesel) – where the coal is consumed in electric plants to power the factories in which people labour under awful conditions for paltry wages, building the logs we sent them into tables that are then shipped all the way back to us…all so we can save a few bucks at Canadian Tire (which is a misnomer today, incidentally). 

Of course, we get precious few jobs in this bargain. What we do get is coal smoke and diesel fumes in our air shed, climate change, and a crappy table that lasts a fraction of what it used to when we made them ourselves.

And this insanity has made abundant sense to flat-earthers like the New York Times’ vaunted Thomas Friedman (Rubin’s alter-ego). But it doesn’t make sense at $150/barrel oil, nor at $200 or $300. And that, according to Rubin and many other experts (including the late, great oil banker Matthew Simmons), is where we’re headed – very shortly. Consider that in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, some 12% of the world’s shipping fleet ground to a halt, with 500 behemoths hidden off the coast of Singapore for the better part of a year – a small harbinger of what is to come.

Yet Rubin somehow sees an upside to these unavoidable challenges we face – namely, in dealing with them we could create local jobs, clean up our environment, and rediscover how to live modest but fulfilling lives. Rubin writes, “Distance costs money. That will be the mantra of the new local economy.” The closer goods and food are produced to the markets in which they are consumed, the lower the transportation costs and reliance on fossil fuels. But with that we also get the twin benefit of fewer green house gas emissions (transportation accounts for upwards of 30% of North American GHG’s). Hence, once again, what’s good economically is also good for the environment.

So to both the BC NDP and Liberal leadership candidates – and to Michael Ignatieff, for that matter – I humbly submit: Build your platform on addressing both the economy and the environment together. Tell people it won’t be easy, but we can and must develop a greener, healthier, more economically and energy efficient British Columbia and planet. 

Here are some planks to consider in that platform:

-Get back to growing our own food. In BC, we currently rely on imports for over half our food. We need more of our own farmers and food-producing lands – which means an investment in agricultural education and the protection and development of land that families and small-scale local farmers can afford to till to feed their own communities.

-Stop raw log exports. Truly sustainable forestry practices with local mills and enhanced manufacturing would ensure we get maximum economic benefit from one of our most important resources, while minimizing the environmental costs.

-Re-localize manufacturing in general. Our dependance on China and other low-cost labour markets has hollowed out a manufacturing base that we will surely need to develop our own goods in the near future.

-Get serious about protecting and rebuilding sustainable local fisheries. That means moving aquaculture to closed-containment, protecting and restoring fish habitat, and better managing our fisheries. That means saying “no” to things like the Raven coal mine proposal on Vancouver Island, which could destroy one of the finest oyster fisheries in the world (employer of 600 people). The seafood we’re blessed with on BC’s coast is an ecological and economic gift, which if we take care of will take care of us – as this past year’s surprise sockeye return reminded us.

-Preserve our wild places for sustainable wilderness tourism. And focus more on Canadians, many of whom have yet to experience some of the treasures in their own back yard. This would lower the industry’s dependence on emissions-heavy international travel.

-Build a proper network of public transit and pedestrian infrastructure for people movement – and electrified rail and short-sea shipping for goods movement. The construction of public transit creates far more jobs per dollar than highway paving. And by getting some of the 70% of single occupant commuter vehicles off our highways, we can free up space for goods movement, reducing lost economic productivity from gridlock – all without having to destroy our farmland or add to suburban sprawl.

-Make conservation the key focus of our energy policy. The private power industry is the antithesis of conservation, as it makes money through increased consumption – which is why it has forced grossly expensive purchase contracts on us for power we can’t use and must therefore sell at a considerable loss. Conservation is the only truly zero-impact form of energy and it frees up clean public hydro electricity to sell to our neighbours at a profit, which goes toward our schools, hospitals, and keeping our taxes low. We also need to make homes and businesses more energy efficient and, importantly, more self-sufficient – through things like small-scale wind, solar, heat pumps, and geothermal power.

If it seems that looking out for the environment and/or public interest are unpopular with the electorate, look no further than Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s intervention in the sale of Potash Corp. to foreign mining titan BHP Billiton, or recently retired Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams’ reclaiming of a public hydro resource from Abitibi Bowater when they shut their pulp mill down (breaking their resource-for-jobs deal with the Province). Both were extraordinarily popular decisions with the public – in Williams’ case, he described it as the best decision of a brilliant political career. Meanwhile, a full 80% of British Columbians favour a ban on coastal oil tanker traffic – and politicians with the guts to fight for one will be duly rewarded. These platforms aren’t a tough sell with the public at all – only with a select few individuals and corporations with far too much influence over our political system.

One of the features of the Peak Oil era is that we will have less and less capital to implement the above changes. Which is why we must cease immediately building out-moded, unsustainable infrastructure and energy projects. Every dollar that we spend on paving highways over farmland is a double-whammy. Not only is it depriving us of a far more important use for that land, but it’s taking already scarce money away from public transit alternatives. Consider that for roughly a seventh the cost of the upgrades underway to Highway 1 and the Port Mann Bridge in BC’s Lower Mainland, we could get the old Interurban commuter rail line back up and running, servicing the same corridor far more efficiently and getting commuters to work faster, cheaper, more comfortably and safely.

Instead of fighting with all our might against these irrepressible forces, why not turn around and go with the flow? We must ask ourselves, is it worth all that effort and long term pain, just to forestall the end of this status quo by maybe a few more years – after which we will be far worse off for not having been proactive in changing our ways? 

We might do to ask ourselves a few more questions. Like, is bigger really better? Has global “free” trade worked for most average citizens around the world – or has it simply afforded wealthy individuals and corporations better access to cheap labour and foreign resources? Are we happier as a society today than we were fifty years ago? (Skyrocketing obesity, diabetes, cancer, and depression rates might suggest that we are not). Finally, is the planet better off?

Building a future based on the inextricable relationship between the economy and environment would present the ultimate in public policy achievements – a win-win for everyone (or almost everyone). 

It also just might get someone elected as the next premier of BC or prime minister of Canada…and help save the planet, which never hurts.

An open net fish farm in BC's Broughton Archipelago

Making the Environment a Key Political Issue in 2011


A new year and I enter the last year of my youth – I just celebrated the 40th anniversary of my 39th birthday. This is the year for my first great grandchild – a daughter will be born to my grandson Ty and his lovely wife Rhea in April. And it has all seemed to happen so fast.

This year will be a very important one for us who love our province and want it to be saved from those who, in Oscar Wilde’s words, “know the price of everything and the value of nothing”.

Why is this such a special year?

Because it’s one that will be chock-a-block with electioneering as the two major parties in BC select new leaders, we see if a third middle party may emerge, and the feds almost certainly will have an election.

We have a critical job to do – and an unusual one.

Let me explain.

Until recent times, the public could rely upon the media to present them not only with issues but points of view surrounding these issues. There was always a debate going on and there was a reasonably informed voting public. Since 2001, when the Campbell government took over, the media have been, for one reason or another, defanged pussy cats. You only have to look back at the great work Vaughn Palmer did on NDP Premier Glen Clark’s “fast ferries” issue to see how a public could be informed very much against the wishes of the government. The NDP government of the day pulled out all the stops and had people like me, in the media, pressed to come and see these magnificent vessels that so clearly were the wrong boats for the waters they were to ply. All to no avail – not just because of Palmer but because the full media coverage made it a large and legitimate issue.

It was scarcely just fast ferries – the media made the government’s life miserable, which is what they did to the government I was in. And they were right to do so.

Of course there were excesses – that’s what democracies are all about. That’s the premium we pay for free speech.

Since 2001, the government has got away with whatever they wished to do and in 2009 we saw what that meant – a 50% turnout at the polls. And what should have been a huge issue – the environment in general and a disgraceful handling of fish farms, highways, and rivers in particular – simply wasn’t because these issues didn’t seem to be real. How could they be real when Tony, Vaughn, Mike, and especially Christy didn’t talk about them? How could they be issues when the opposition who followed the poll numbers instead of making them hadn’t the foggiest idea what was going on and campaigned in slogans, as so long has been their wont? I campaigned around the province for the NDP – not, for God’s sake, because I had become an adherent to that party but because I wanted to see the environment saved and they were the only possible alternative to the Liberals.

Most NDP stalwarts will now agree with me that their campaign, especially on the environmental issues, was appalling. We, the members of the voting public now have the solemn obligation of making sure that this doesn’t happen again.

The “environment” isn’t a non-issue because it isn’t an issue, but because both political parties, for one reason or another, haven’t made it one. In other words, it’s like the tree in the forest – if no one’s there to listen, there’s no noise when it falls.

As many of you know, I’ve been asking people to pass on that which I circulate and other stuff that comes to my attention. While I believe that what I say is right, that scarcely makes me right. What I do say with more confidence is that it is an important part of the debate that ought to be. And this is what we must, in my opinion, concentrate on – namely making the environment not just a real issue but one which will decide the government at election time.

Forgive my repetition on this point but if a government screws up the economy, a new government with time can make it better. What we cannot ever do is get back our rivers, our fish, or our farmland once destroyed.

Please, then, for the sake of those to come, get behind us at The Common Sense Canadian and help us make the environment the #1 issue such that political parties no longer can avoid.

Let me close by telling you one of the reasons we call ourselves “The Common Sense Canadian.”

Both Damien and I, the founders, are huge fans of Thomas Paine, the failed customs official from England who was both catalyst and chronicler of the American Revolution, starting with his blockbuster bestselling pamphlet called Common Sense.

With this and other pamphlets, he circumvented the censorship of the aristocracy and reached the “common man.” Google it and read it yourself – it makes damned good reading today.

With TheCanadian.org, we are trying to follow Tom Paine’s example. For 2011, please resolve to help us do that – by sharing our work with others and getting involved in your own way in these vital issues.

I have full confidence that if the public of BC is fully informed on the issues at hand, we shall see justice and common sense prevail.

Happy New Year!


Tough Energy and Environmental Questions for 2011


In looking ahead to 2011, I see a very troubled environmental scene. This is because of one thing mainly: with our governments money talks and big time money talks big time. This will reflect itself in several ways and places.

In order to understand this, I think, it must be remembered that corporations don’t give a rat’s ass about the environment. They would pollute all water, destroy wildlife, and desecrate the environment generally. Every tiny bit of environmental restraint has been and always will be imposed by government and it will be resisted and ignored by the corporate world. Many of my generation and others have been brought up to respect government authority and to assume that the world was full of “good corporate citizens.” We, in fact, marveled at the great construction taking place such as Alcan even reversing rivers and creating huge artificial lakes. We developed a public mindset that marveled, uncritically, at development.

There is no question that much of the world will need power; more and more every year. What’s interesting is the lack of an intelligent debate on the subject both at a local and global level.

We have industry and environmentalists fighting but it’s scarcely a fair fight. On the Enbridge proposal to build two pipelines from the Tar Sands to Kitimat and back, industry is out-spending the environmental community 100-1. All the magazines I read carry huge touchy feely ads from huge corporations who tell us in full page ads that they are working just as fast and as hard as environmentalists to make all their creations green.

Much of the problem has been created by an uninformed and ill-informed public which refuses to critically consider anything they’ve been brainwashed into believing or disbelieving. We in the environmental field, me very much included, have decided that certain issues cannot be discussed. These beliefs have become a hardened catechism that brooks no debate.

I have written in the past about nuclear power, for example. This is wrong, we all agree. They explode like atom bombs or melt down. If you live near them or work in them, you’ll be nuked. And there are the calamities at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

In the first case there was a disaster, and at Three Mile Island there was a dangerous near-miss. And these and other scares tell us that if you do nuclear power and don’t keep up safety programs it’s only a matter of time before you have very bad news. Nuclear plants are hugely expensive to maintain and no one has found a safe way of dealing with the waste.

Does this mean that nuclear can never be debated again? Do any of us know what research has been done in recent years? In a moment I’ll tell you why this is an important question.

On the other side we’re told that wind power is the way to go because it’s “green” and that’s good. (“Green” is now a weasel word used by polluters to gloss over their destructive policies). The fact that wind power is hugely expensive and invariably set up with taxpayers money, that it is unreliable and environmentally unsound is not dealt with, for this is the reverse of the uranium argument – nuclear is bad and wind power is good, now let’s have no more arguments. While we’re at it, the future is electric cars and that’s that! Never mind asking where the electricity is coming from and how green that source is – this matter has been decided, period!

Right behind nuclear power comes fossil fuel power. This source of power is evil, so no more discussion please.

I would advise one read the lead argument for the use of coal in this month’s Atlantic Monthly. Here is a pretty strong argument which, in a nutshell says “we’re not going to eliminate coal as a source of power for a very long time to come. Isn’t the object to lower carbon emissions, so if we have no alternative for coal we should work harder at reducing the carbon footprint of this and other fossil fuels? Are there not, coming out of China for God’s sake, new techniques which have dramatically reduced the unhappy consequence of burning coal for power?”

My point is that of a British Columbian who wants to save his province’s environment. If I fight on the mantra that fossil fuels and nuclear are bad for the environment so that their use must be eliminated, doesn’t that lead to the conclusion that hydroelectric power is the only way to go? Of course we have wind power, tidal, and solar power but until they can supply the world’s needs for power, what is left?

Do we not see that by saying that other countries must stop all nasty sources of energy we are inviting them to look to us to supply the power from our rivers?

The demand for energy must go somewhere and rudimentary economics tells us the demand will lead to and find a supply – and we’re it! That demand is going to increase so that every piece of water that moves in BC will become a potential source.

This is the great evil of the Campbell Energy Plan (based largely of private river diversion projects), which has been sold on the basis of our own needs – which is plain barnyard droppings. Not only is it going to outside consumers, it is saying “look, neighbour, don’t you worry your pretty little heads about designing your own sources of energy and don’t bother for a moment with conservation because there’s lots more where that came from!”

I will soon be accused of all the usual sins – Rafe Mair favours nuclear, fossil fuel power, etc. – but I am not. What I’m saying is that our energy policy has us financing, out of taxpayers’ pocket, large international corporations who build their plants to produce power for somewhere else.

How are we financing these corporations? This is not hyperbole at all. We buy their power at 2-3 times what we can sell it for and that is money in the bank that otherwise would have to be borrowed or used out of the company’s assets. British Columbians are, therefore, not giving away power to other jurisdictions so that they needn’t make any sacrifices themselves – we’re financing the operation!

We’re saying to American governors: don’t worry about your environment, don’t fret about how you deal with carbon emissions, don’t give more than a passing thought to conservation – BC rivers and streams are yours for the asking!

It’s one thing to be a good neighbour but don’t you think this is a bit too much!


“Greening” of US Military


From TheTyee.ca – Dec. 20, 2010

by Andrew Nikiforuk

One of these days, Ottawa’s oil patch salesmen might want to sit down with the U.S. military and have a real “man-up” talk.

By any standard, the guys and gals in uniform now make Greenpeace look like the Boy Scouts.

In fact admirals, generals and colonels
have seen the enemy, and it’s oil. They don’t care if the stuff is
bloody or dirty; they just want to get off pricey crude, asap.

They also believe that climate change,
another byproduct of the Oil Age, poses a serious security threat to
civilization, as we know it. Not surprisingly, people call these tough
hombres, “the Green Hawks.”

Around the same time Canada’s political
elites started to dunk their donuts in bitumen, the U.S. military
experienced an energy epiphany in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blood will do

Read full article here


Sadly, Violence May Be on the Way in Battle for BC’s Environment


I don’t like the way things are heading in this province for I foresee violence.
Damien Gillis and I, the “owners” if you will of the Common Sense Canadian (TheCanadian.org) wish to make it abundantly clear that the very last thing we want is violence. At the same time we feel an obligation to assess what is happening and report that assessment to you. To be silent, in the face of the evidence we feel would be irresponsible.

There are situations developing which past evidence clearly tells us that we must be deeply concerned. Violence happens when people, being so much less powerful than their oppressors – large companies and government – become frustrated with the inability to be heard and have their concerns listened to. Any who have attended one of the so-called environmental assessment meetings – as Damien and I have – will sense the deep anger and, that word again, frustration as they see the government and industry all but in each others’ arms as they deny the public the right to be heard.  If, God forbid, violence does come, the large companies and the senior governments will be clearly to blame but will piously cite the “rule of law,” saying that they are merely taking what the law gives and that the public must accept that.
The underlying truth is that the public is sick and tired of government and industry lying. If you look back in history, most civil disorder has been because the situation is not as the authorities and those who hide behind their skirts say it is.
First let’s look at the fish farm issue. I know something about this subject because I involved myself in it from the beginning. For nearly 10 years now the Liberal government has known about the disastrous harm these fish farms do to migrating wild Pacific Salmon. Over and over the government has been shown by experts to be wrong in its policy and over and over the government has bobbed, weaved, and lied.
Aggravating the situation big time has been the media who, rather than examine the evidence, have ignored it and given column after column on the op-ed page to supporters of the industry, especially to the environmentalist turncoat and failed fish farmer, Patrick Moore, and Mary Ellen Walling, the Executive Director of the Fish Farmers Association. Incidentally, Moore is now advising a large lumber company in Indonesia on how to wipe out their ever-diminishing rain forest and look “green” as it does so.
There are signs of life coming from the Cohen Commission on disappearing Fraser River sockeye, where the Commissioner has ordered fish farms to release data on sea lice. There is not, sad to say, similar action being taken by governments on Independent Power Projects (IPPs), nor pipelines and tankers on our coast. And this is where the violence will come, from unless a sea change is seen in government policy.
The Axor Glacier-Howser undertaking in the Kootenays is the most serious IPP situation because the public has made it abundantly clear that they will do whatever is necessary to stop the project. I have no doubt that they mean it. I’ll do more on that in columns to come but for today let’s concentrate on the oil pipeline and tanker issues.
First, the pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to Kitimat proposed by Enbridge, whose safety record is appalling, is approximately 1200kms long over all with about 2/3 running across BC. In fact it’s two pipelines – one to take the Tar Sands crud (aka bitumen) to Kitimat and the other to send back to Alberta in what they call “condensate,” a liquid natural gas product. (Bitumen sludge is so viscous that it can’t be pumped through a pipeline without first being diluted by condensate).
Isn’t this neat-o? We get twice as many chances for a spill!
Second, there is the issue of transporting the Tar Sands gunk down the BC Coast. (Don’t forget that this shipping catastrophe in the making is already in place in Vancouver through the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, but that for another day).
The governments involved (Federal, Alberta, and BC) and Enbridge don’t want you to notice that the pipeline and the tanker are the same issue –  like Doris Day used to sing about love and marriage, “you can’t have one without the other.”
Let’s not overlook another important point: These aren’t risks involved here but certainties waiting to happen.
Imagine a revolver with 100 chambers and one bullet. If you put that to your head and say you’ll just pull the trigger once, the odds are there and obvious. If you say you’ll it for a year the odds are shorter but still you’re assessing a risk. If you say you will do it forever, it is no longer a risk but a certainty.
Then there are the consequences to deal with. If the bullet is made of marshmallow, who cares? If it’s a bullet, it’s death!
The Tar Sands gunk is not marshmallow.
If there aren’t risks involved, why would the company concern itself with what isn’t? But listen to what Enbridge spokesman Allan Roth had to say about tanker traffic:
“There’s been a tremendous amount of engineering studies and risk analysis studies. Extraordinary measures are planned with respect to marine safety and these are the highest modern standards for engineering…The risks have to tell us the probability (is) as close to zero or very close to that (my emphasis) before we would even propose the project.” (The words “very close to that” must send a shiver down the backs of all British Columbians).

This reminds me of a story. Many years ago I was in the Anchor Pub in Greenwich, England and went into the loo. On the condom machine was etched “These condoms manufactured up to the UK’s highest standards,” over which was scribbled, “So was the Titanic.” There you have it, Mr Roth, highest standards don’t count when tragedy strikes.

Let us not overlook the pipeline itself. The ca. 800 km in BC transverse superb wildlife habitat including some 1,000 rivers and streams. Once permission – God forbid! – is granted Enbridge will go into its environmental protection mode, which is to do no serious inspections and, if tragedy strikes,  bring help to bear in leisurely fashion as they did with the Kalamazoo River a few months ago, Of course they will explain their slowness saying that it’s because the damage is in wild remote country – which is the reason they can’t be inspected regularly and a very strong reason it should not be done. One need only look at the Kalamazoo spill to see what Enbridge’s attitude is to spills – lethargic is too energetic a word to describe it.

In keeping with the morality of this industry, truth is no barrier to self-serving flackery. The usual corporate tactics have recently been exposed as Enbridge, with the airy wave of the hand, stated that First Nations are getting behind the projects .


Clearly Enbridge hasn’t seen Damien Gillis’ “Oil in Eden: The Battle to Protect Canada’s Pacific Coast” (on this website), where President of the Coastal First Nations, Gerald Amos, and the formidable Gitga’at elder, Helen Clifton, made it abundantly clear that, in Chief Amos’ words, these projects “are not going to happen.” They were also caught off guard by an unprecedented joint declaration against the project by over 60 First Nations last week, the day after they tried assuring the public and media everything was falling into place for the project with First Nations.

I sadly, but honestly believe that a showdown on the pipeline/tanker issue will raise tempers too short to handle. And there’s another factor involved – the governments will point out that China has “invested” nearly $2 BILLION in the Tar Sands and the bitumen is largely for them. Thus they will say we must give into China.
Thus we will have the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. 
There is no compromise. You can’t have a little bit less of a pipeline. It’s all or nothing at all.
When the inevitable happens, the usual procedure will take place. Protesters will refuse to go away, the governments and companies will call the protesters nasty names and people will be jailed for contempt of court, a gross distortion of democracy that turns a civil dispute into a crime if that’s what big government and big business so desire – and they will.

The blame in fact will rest with the governments, joined as they are at the hip with environmental predators who keep their campaign coffers filled.
The plain fact of the matter is that all three governments involved don’t give a rat’s ass for the environment or those who live in it and feel a sacred obligation to nurture it and pass it on intact for those to come.

How’s this?

Times are changing and governments don’t understand that. Citizens have little respect for what in my early days were called “our betters.” I can’t get my MP, Conservative John Weston, to talk to me about environmental concerns, and coincidentally the other day I received a letter from another of his constituents with the same complaint. Why the hell should he care? He’ll win because the Liberals won’t and that’s all that matters.

I hate to talk about the “old days,” but in my lifetime I’ve seen an enormous disconnect arise between the governed and the governors. When I was in government, my colleagues and I constantly faced a hostile media who didn’t believe a thing we said. My home city of Kamloops had small town versions of the Jack Websters and Marjorie Nichols who would nail me as soon as I got off the plane. I had to answer for my actions or be found guilty in absentia.

Politicians now, hearing no tough questions from the media, and seeing and hearing nothing in the print or electronic media, assume that there are no tough questions to be asked.

In many ways, the overflowing discontent I foresee can be blamed on the free ride politicians get from the media.

Harry Belafonte once said in one of his great songs “don’t turn your back to the masses, mon” – good advice that those who sit in authority over us should, in my not so respectful opinion, pay heed to.

If they won’t, they must answer for the consequences, not the public that has been cheated of its democratic right to be heard prior to the decision having been taken.

But they won’t.