First drafts

I’m currently working on the comments for the drafts and should be done in about 2 hours. A general note – trying to provide editing (grammar, sentence structure etc) through a separate post is a bit difficult. I might ask you all to print the draft of the next assignment if you want those types of comments in the future. If anything I wrote is confusing (and it might be), either post a reply, or ask me on Tuesday.

I tried to give some suggestions of additional content you may want to include or questions to think about. Consider it, but don’t feel obligated to include it. Also note that there will be a few things I didn’t catch in this read through that I may catch in the final read through.

Some general questions to ask yourself are (1) Did I convince my reader (2) Did I catch my readers attention? (3) Did I provoke thought? (4) Was I too biased, or not biased enough?

Remember that the deadline is Friday to make corrections and submit the final version.

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Food for thought

Good evening, all.

As I was doing some supplementary research for my blog post, I stumbled upon a very interesting video series done by National Geographic. The series, Curse of the Black Gold, is an intimate narrated slideshow of pictures taken in the Niger Delta, a region of Nigeria currently suffering financially, medically and civilly due to petroleum extraction in the area. As oil extraction is a very relevant issue to the subject of climate change, I thought some of you may find this expose interesting.

Buenas noches

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Conscious Fashion Choice (FINAL)

It is 2012 and we, the humans on Earth, are experiencing the grasps of the climate change activism era. Since Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” a seemingly long six years ago, some people have invigorated their earth-friendly senses. From turning off unnecessary lights during Earth Hour to a 5 cent charge on plastic bags in Toronto, a ‘green’ mind is on the rise. In this same day and age, many are not climate scientists. Regardless, the everyday person like you and I have become more socially conscious of our impact on the environment. Whatever the demographic, we are more aware than ever that our daily actions have some sort of impact. On the other hand, to the extent our impact effects the earth is up to your own perspective, education, and attitude.

The eco-friendly ‘craze’ now extends to one of the largest and most influential international economy: fashion. Whether it be haute couture to our basic Jockey undergarments, the need to be green is strong and clear. A great Canadian example of this conscious fashion movement is Eco-Fashion week. According to Forbes Magazine Online (Tracey Greenstein, Sept. 30, 2012), Eco-Fashion week is a Canadian invention (woot woot) which began in 2009. Initially a non-profit organization, the fashion week’s aim was to promote sustainable textile manufacturing. To understand why this rise on climate awareness in fashion is so significant, we need to understand fashion in itself.

In a nutshell, fashion is a trend of clothing. To the economy, fashion is a multi-billion dollar entrepreneur that has infinite exponential opportunities. According to Industry Canada’s statistics, the clothing industry generates a net revenue of about 2.3 billion dollars! That’s alot of jeans!

This graph shows the increasing economic success of clothing retail in Canada:

Net Revenues: 2001-2010
Clothing and Clothing Accessories Stores (NAICS 448)

For the environment, fashion has a huge indirect impact on the climate. A little known fact is that  fashion heavily relies on agriculture. The change in climate has affected the ability for cotton and wool crops to prosper; a main resource for textiles. When fashion turns to alternative resources, such as polyester carbon footprints become a huge issue. Mass factory production emits harmful gases which hurt the atmosphere. Gases such as, nitrous oxide which hurts both the climate and the worker who is exposed to these toxic materials. In all these materials, water is often over-exploited in production. Every step from the development of the needed petro-chemicals for nylon and polyester, to the solvents used to fasten clothing, and the dyeing of fabric, these practices increases every piece of clothing’s impact. One method to combat this is the reuse of unorthodox materials such as water bottles.

Another method is to integrate the environment directly into the commerce of fashion. According to Gregor Pecnik, a sustainability consultant, eco-fashion can be a measure of environmental profit and loss. This means to assign a fiscal cost to environmental impacts. From this manufacturers become more aware of the financial side of environment harming procedures. In continuity with the financial push, environmental profit and loss can build a stronger competitive edge by making operations more efficient, reducing green house gas impact cost in production, and by subscribing to environmentally ethical consumer appeal. Although this opportunity is still a rising method, the climate relief can be exponentially huge coming from mass clothing producers.

They say that one man’s garbage is another man’s gold. The trend change of eco-fashion doesn’t just extend to new and renewable resources for designs, but used clothing has increased its popularity during this time. This element of eco-fashion exemplifies the second word of the recycling trinity: reuse. According to National Geographic, 2.5 billion pounds of fabric in the U.S.A. were averted from landfills in 2006 from re-using clothes. That’s about 5% of the total garbage in dumps!  In addition to the relief to the environment, textile recycling provides about 17 000 jobs to Americans. Now to the fashion culture side of things, thrifty shopping is a key resource for top stylists. Words like vintage, one-of-a-kind, second-hand, and consignment can be found to describe the used industry. Some designers are even creating new apparel with the used material, such as local artist Ayla. Through the “revive, rescue, and responsible” processes, this Canadian company is able to reduce fabric waste and unnecessary fabric production.

Every season, designers must create something new and innovative. Fashion reflects history; apparel has the ability for social activism and passionate ethical opinion. Fashion has now moved from a time of modesty guidelines to environment principles. Various fashion houses such as Vivienne Westwood have commissioned and challenged designers to have the climate in mind both in an artistic sense and in actual production. From the drawing board all the way to clothing transportation, and to the new consumer education in washing clothing pieces without harsh non-degradable detergents, every detail must be considered in order to be recognized as a part of the green fashion trend.

It is clear that the roots of a strong environmental fashion conscious have formed. The connection between the shirt you wear from Wal-Mart to the future of our children’s climate is an idea which is becoming more clear and accessible in the era of green activism.

For your listening enjoyment: Madonna “Vogue

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One drop at a time

Prior to entering this course, my knowledge of climate change was limited to the television ads I had seen by the infinitely wise-looking David Suzuki, urging me to reconsider my “ignorant” behavior towards the environment. Thankfully my blissful privileged upbringing helped push that issue aside for me, as I had more important things to focus on, such as finding out whether or not Squidward really does like Krabby patties (he does).

It’s been a few years since then, and now that I’ve been assigned the task of delving into the (unfortunate) truth of climate change, a few things have changed. As I grew older, my habit of blankly staring at my television set continued, and so I started hearing scattered news reports here and there as I flipped through the channels. “This is going to be the hottest summer in recorded history”, “Nobody predicted a hurricane season of such destructive capability”, “Since 1751 approximately 337 billion tons of carbon have been released to the atmosphere from the consumption of fossil fuels and cement production. Half of these emissions have occurred since the mid 1970s.” the list of headlines goes on. So why were we still denying it? If our primary source of daily information was directly linking our actions to the rapid deterioration of our planet and her resources, why were we so happy to ignore it? Because we weren’t getting the first-hand experience.

Let’s backtrack a bit, to the 1600’s to be specific. The first African slaves arrived on boat in America, chained together and covered in the filth they had been forced to live in over the past 4 months. The slavetraders were focused primarily on their profits, not the welfare of their “products”, so they crammed as many slaves as they could onto their boats and fed them as little as they possibly could. These slaves were then dealt out at auctions to the new Americans, who had just seized the continent of North America and needed a cheap, efficient energy source to capitalize on the ripe resources the lands had to offer. For many years to come, all seemed well for the average Joe, or Elijah to be specific to our context.

The slave trade was of course abolished by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, so the ever-privileged Americans seemed to be in a bit of a dilemma: they may actually be required to manually sustain themselves. Around the same time, though, another great discovery was made: petroleum, completely replacing the need for slaves as a primary source of energy in the fiels of agriculture, manufacturing and so on. People began rushing from everywhere in America and the rest of the world to reap the bountiful rewards of this seemingly-magical substance literally spewing out of the Earth. Unfortunately, we were unaware of the fact that petroleum, like other fossil fuels, was finite and would not be able to naturally renew itself (in a reasonable amount of time).  Over the next 150 years, we would go on to tap every last source of fossil fuels found scattered around the Earth, and a 2012 estimate by the Scientific American estimated that we had already extracted 1 trillion barrels of oil from the Earth, and approximately 1 trillion remained, a trillion that would cost significantly more to extract. So in 150 years, less than the lifespan of a crafty sea turtle, we have managed to literally burn up the product of millions of years of intricate natural processes.

Ironically, the same people that enslaved the entire continent of Africa and stripped it clean of its resources; from lumber to diamonds, were now back in Africa taking from them the most valuable contemporary commodity on our planet: oil.

Shell Petroleum

Let’s look at one example in particular; take a look at the logo above. Whether you immediately identified the logo as that of petroleum conglomerate Shell or simply associated this logo with the idea of traditional gasoline, you’ve heard of Shell.  What you probably haven’t heard about Shell is that in July of this year, they were charged $5 billion for the damages caused by their 2011 40, 000 barrel oil spill  off the coast of Nigeria’s Niger Delta in the Atlantic Ocean.  Shell began operations in Nigeria in 1958 as a joint operation between Royal Dutch Shell and British Petroleum, immediately after the discovery of oil in the region. Since Shell’s first major oil spill in the area in 1970, the Nigerian government has reported over 7, 000 oil spills in the region (the actual figure is a bit ambiguous, as equally-credible sources report varied statistics from about 5, 000 to 7, 000).

Covering approximately 7.5% of Nigeria’s land-mass, the Niger Delta is home to 20 million people and contains amongst the highest concentrations of biodiversity on Earth,  versatile agricultural land and the most abundant ecosystem of freshwater fish in West Africa. Scattered throughout the water, shore and mainland of the Delta lay countless pipelines carrying the oil from its source deep underground for processing and storage above-ground. Typically, these pipelines have a functioning lifespan of approximately 15 years, at which point the pipelines become so corroded that they become susceptible to leaks and breakage. Every oil spill, small or large, continues to poison the once fertile lands of the Delta, and due to the current policy of self-regulation bestowed upon the oil companies (cough cough Shell), it is convenient for them to ignore the issues and just continue drilling. Today, the inhabitants lack clean drinking water as the rivers are clogged by decade-old oil, they suffer frequently from skin lesions and illnesses due to the polluted air and water, are unable to grow any crop on the devastated land; they have lost all basic human rights, all because of their resource curse.

The resource curse is the paradox of resource discovery in a (usually) impoverished country. The expectation is  that the discovery would lead to financial rebirth and instant restoration of livelihood – after all, the Nigerian government has made $600 billion from oil operations in the Delta since 1960. Let’s look back to that for a second: the Nigerian government, not the Nigerian people, have made $600 billion. Throughout the duration of oil operations, the standard of living for Nigerians in the Delta has only deteriorated despite the ludicrous funds coming in, this is because all of the profits are centralized in a corrupt government. The oil companies casually slip a few billion into the pockets of governing politicians, who comfortably turn a blind eye to the reckless actions of the oil operations while the Nigerian people continue to survive off of less than $1 a day.

A Shell representative said: “most of the facilities were constructed between the 1960s and early 1980s to the then prevailing standards. SPDC [Shell Petroleum and Development Company] would not build them that way today”. Well here we are today, and Shell has neglected to replace their now 30 to 50 year old pipelines, which has resulted in 50% of the quantity of oil spilled in the area, a figure shockingly different from Shell’s confident claim of 25%. The other 75%, then, is due to criminal sabotage and oil theft (according to our good friends at Shell, anyways), a figure which is more accurately represented as 20-28% by most sources. Well maybe it would be a little bit more difficult for mother nature to commit her selfish oil theft if Shell took the liberty of doing some long-overdue replacement of their outlandishly-profitable pipelines (pun intended), which shouldn’t be too difficult for a company that pulled in $470 billion in revenue last year.

For a more intimate understanding of the impact of Shell’s oil extraction in the Niger Delta, check out National Geographic’s video series,  Curse of the Black Gold.

What does any of this have to with us?

Well, as the blindly happy consumers we are, it requires a substantial amount of oil in order to fuel our perpetually growing need for more clothing, gas for our comically-sized cars, accessories for our gargantuan houses and literally everything else. Whether it be transporting any given raw materials to their processing plant or delivering something directly to your house, we are wasting oil quickly, and judging by the quantities by which oil is being extracted, our liberal attitude towards oil expenditure is not changing.

So what do we do about this? Well if we’ve learned anything about our generation, it’s that social networking is the new revolutionary medium, take Kony 2012 or the BP oil spill as examples. We need to spread the word! It is our ignorance that is quickly destroying the Earth, and it is only through education that mobilization can occur, and eventually lead to healthy, natural stabilization.

It obviously will make minimal difference for you, as an individual, to boycott the use of oil, not to mention the fact that in our contemporary industrialized society, it is literally impossible for you to live without oil. The major problem this poses, though, is that as we continue to try and access the various sources of oil scattered around the Earth, the process will grow in difficulty, increasing the chances of slip-ups such as spills. Moreover, the continued use of oil on this mass scale only adds to the issue of oil in our oceans. To be precise, oil spills account for only 18% of human oil pollution in the seas. At this point in history, human oil pollution has surpassed natural oil seeps in the quantity of oil they have released into the ocean. This may seem irrelevant, but you should consider the time spans of these 2 sources: oil has existed naturally now for millions of years, and over that time has naturally seeped into our oceans; humans have had access to oil for less than 2 centuries, and in that time have surpassed the total amount of oil in the oceans as a result of millions of years of natural deposits. Worldwide, people use about 80 million barrels of oil every day and the more we use oil, the more dependent we become on the resource. We must stop the vicious cycle now before it really is too late by cutting back dramatically on all of our oil usage and looking to renewable energy sources, which have all proven to be significantly less detrimental to our homeostasis. As the consumers, we are in control of how much oil we waste, and if this arbitrary demand for oil is hindered now, we can start thinking about reversing the unfortunate impact we’ve had on the Earth, one drop at a time.

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[Draft] Long distance problems

Today, it seems that news we hear about the environment is always concerning the local/ national climate. So here in Canada, the news is primarily about the arctic and its rapid deterioration, or what Canada does about it in the international stage (Kyoto Protocol, etc). This results in an apathy and disinterest for foreign environmental topics. For example, a farmer in the middle of Kansas would not have much concern for the the melting polar ice caps compared to a Canadian or northern European. Unfortunately just like the economy, what ever happens in the other side of the world, will eventually affect the other.

Going back to the example of the farmer in Kansas, he right now along with much of north america is suffering from the effects of a severe drought which is theorized by some scientists as being prolonged by the melting of the arctic ice caps.

Northern Hemisphere snow coverage during the summer months between 1967-2012

The study theorizes that as a result of fewer and fewer snow cover in the arctic during the summer months results in more heat being retained, which in turn results in a dramatically altered jet stream which leads to midsummer weather patterns in the middle latitudes to continue longer than expected. As a result weather in the fall is much warmer and drier than usual.

The hypothesis is still to be fully proven by scientists for they they are still debating whether the warming in the arctic is caused by humans or is natural, but based on the evidence so far both the drought and the warming of the arctic have shown some link between each other. The apathy for non-local(national) environmental problems is something that should be eliminated, for long distance problems have a way of finding a way to affect those far from it.

*Apart from a few edits this is basically the core part of the eventual real draft, I still need to do some more research on my topic, tell me if my post is either too formal, lacking in information, or any other technical problem

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[Draft] I Rate Green

In recent years, it’s become something of a trend for consumers to buy the “greener” choice. These days, there are a whole lot of products labeled “biodegradable” and “environmentally-friendly”. Everyone from automobile companies to clothing companies to junk food companies (think Sun Chips) have jumped on board the metaphorical greenmobile (obviously, it’s an electric car. Or maybe a hydrogen-burning mobile?). After all, green is the black.

And not only is green trendy, it generates profits. Take a look at this video of Walmart Corporate Affairs EVP Leslie Dach talking about how going green was good for their bottom line because they were able to work with their manufacturers to save during the production stage and subsequently pass on some of those savings to Walmart customers. They’re not alone; many other companies, like Unilever, have discovered the same thing.(Strange though, how green products are, in many cases, more expensive than their non-green evil twins, but that’s an issue for another blog post.)

Going green may be good and well for the companies involved, but this now creates a bit of a dilemma for your average consumer: How are we to navigate through the mountains of supposedly “green” products to find the truly good?

In July of 2009, Walmart announced a green rating program initiative for the products it sells. The program was to be an extensive research and rating program, covering any and all products it has on its shelves. It is now 2012 and there has been no sign of this initiative. Why? Mainly because Walmart was a little too ambitious in creating this program. As CNN’s Paul Keegan explains, the problem lies within the fact that a product will still have an impact on the environment, no matter how little. Besides which, how do you rate how bad that impact is? Should carbon emissions be weighted more heavily than waste generated in production? Or is perhaps methane gas emission worse? Problems with the rating system aside, there is also the issue of the kind of bad publicity for the company that is unfortunately labelled as not green. Who would offer up their numbers on emissions if they knew they were going to be hit with an environmental scarlet letter? Certainly not Apple, which is why they quietly withdrew themselves from the EPEAT product registry.

While this green movement will likely have At the end of the day, there really is no way to say definitively which company is greener (or greenest) or which index is right in the way they rate products’ green-ness. Consumers will have to come to their own conclusions when buying green products.

3 indexes to check out if you’re interested:
Nat’l Geo green guide
Eco Index

(note: I know this post is kinda really bad, but the idea is there… and I know I really need help. Please be mean. I sometimes find that it’s the most constructive kind of criticism. Thanks!)

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An automotive industry geared towards climate change

You’d be shocked to find that cars release approximately 333 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere annually (Environmental Defense Fund).

Sadly, this is the just a portion of the truth that many of us experience today.

Gasoline powered vehicles are a cause for climate change.

Gasoline powered vehicles are a cause for climate change.

Car “exhaust” alone is held accountable for 20 percent of carbon dioxide released on a global scale into the atmosphere according to the EDF. When identifying its result and effect on climate change, one may conclude that the only way to reduce this figure is to walk or ride your bicycle to and from your destination.  There has always been belief by many that undiscovered modes of clean transportation exist. Looking at our history, mankind has in the past and continues to implement modes of transportation that release the lowest amount of emissions possible. Their efforts and success can be seen in the modern automotive industry today for instance. The generations of the Toyota Prius out on the road today that debuted in the year of 2000 for example, releases just over a thousand kilograms of CO2 less than [4 thousand kilograms of emissions each year per car] a regular gasoline vehicle.

By the introduction of cleaner emission emitting vehicle structures, the amount of carbon dioxide released today compared to the past has been declining gradually at a little step at a time.

Going green


'Charging' the Toyota Prius Hybrid

'Charging' the Toyota Prius Hybrid

“Going green” has always been the main slogan and concept for producers of hybrid vehicles. As a simple reminder, hybrids are vehicles that run on rechargeable batteries and a minor amount of gasoline. These vehicles produce much less emissions than regular gasoline powered vehicles. The automotive industry has always been preparing for climate change since the earlier periods.

Transportation carbon graph

Transportation carbon graph

In the early 1900s, the earlier hybrid vehicles such as the Porsche did not last due to its shortened battery life. The good news is that the batteries used in hybrids today lasts a greater amount of time and the new hybrid itself depreciates at a similar rate that regular gasoline cars do. Convincing consumers to choose hybrid technology over gasoline powered vehicles has always been a struggle, a struggle that had originated from the very beginning.

Hybrids can be a big breakthrough in the voyage to find clean and reliable automobiles. Automotive companies have already started a few years ago to market these special types of vehicles in an appealing manner to consumers.

CEO of Renault and Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, recognized the impact gasoline vehicles have on climate change and expressed his view on it publicly:

“We must have zero-emission vehicles. Nothing else will prevent the world from exploding”

Personally I believe that hybrid cars are one of the biggest steps or advancement we can take to guarantee an immaculate environment. Sadly this thought rarely exists in the minds of most manufacturers and consumers of environmentally friendly vehicles. However, the good news is that these thoughts can be viewed as temporary. Since the knowledge about climate change has been increasing over time, the demand for these types of vehicles has also been increasing which leads to more accessibility and production of these hybrid types. Pretty soon even performance intended automakers such as Subaru and Mitsubishi will join the market for hybrids and contribute to the cause.

An ‘electrifying rediscovery’

Carlos Ghosn with Leaf

Carlos Ghosn with Leaf

It is really amazing how just after a few years from Carlos Ghosn’s statement, Nissan presented an ultimate solution. The automaker introduced a 100 percent full electric vehicle in 2010, the Nissan Leaf, which appealed to everyone. As the name “Leaf” itself, it really is an environmentally friendly vehicle. It had been appealing enough to win the 2011 world car of the year award. Even though a full electric car had existed in the past, the car quickly died out because of its lack of performance and inability to satisfy consumer demands (distance allowed to travel).

The car has no exhaust/tailpipe and requires not a single bit of gas to operate which means zero emissions. One could say that the Leaf was the origin or starting point for all the full electric vehicles on the market today.

Nissan claims on its website that “it is the car of the future”.  Deriving from this statement, there are electric cars are available from Honda, Infinity, Nissan, Toyota, Tesla Motors, Ford, and Chevrolet on the road today. According to Pike research, “More than 4.7 million charging stations are expected to be installed in North America by the time the number of electric cars on the roads exceeds the 3 million mark”. More detail of the technology and design of electric automobile charging stations can be found here. From commercial vehicles in Australia to public taxis in China, the world has been slowly increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road.

Thanks to Nissan for the jump start in the market for zero emission vehicles and for making it purely with the environment in mind. All consumers have to do are to consider hybrids as an alternative to gasoline powered vehicles.

Automotive industry and climate change

What comes next?

What comes next?

This is the future of the automotive industry. Originating from one regular gasoline vehicle that emits 5.1 thousand kilograms of CO2 per year, to a hybrid vehicle which emits 4.0 thousand kilograms of CO2 per year, and finally to the electric vehicle which produces zero emissions. The automotive industry has vastly improved to help fight climate change one step at a time. it is surprising to find that only 3 percent of all cars on the road are hybrid. The improvements will only advance from here. J.D. Power and Associates expects the amount of hybrid cars on the road to triple by year 2015. The industry has been also improving this figure by skillfully recognizing the importance of climate change and the effect it has on humans.

Automotive companies like Nissan have given us the opportunity to take part in the solution. Switching to hybrids and full electrics will significantly improve the world’s carbon emissions. It is up to us as consumers to support zero emission vehicles and to reduce the effect humans have on climate change.

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You’re from Canada, eh?

Once a person finds out you’re Canadian, a picture appears in their mind. A vision of polar bears as pets, igloos as houses and maple syrup covering every meal immediately appears. For future generations however, a new image will overpower the rest: one having Canadians as money hungry, oil filled, environmental threats. This new image is quite a change from the proactive, earth friendly Canada the world knew two decades ago. And who can Canadians thank for this shift in environmental protection? The federal government of course.

Although the current federal conservative government isn’t fully to blame, the recent dramatic cuts of both money and jobs in the environmental department overshadow the lackluster performance of the former Liberal government. Under the previous government, Canada was ranked 28 of 30 countries for green initiatives in a 2005 study done by Canadian environmentalist, David Suzuki’s foundation. While agreeing to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 6% below the 1990 levels by signing the Kyoto Protocol, they instead allowed Canada’s emissions to increase 20% by 2005.
With a new year, came a new government. Conservative Stephen Harper was elected as Prime Minister in 2006. With this came the beginning of the end of environmental protection in Canada as we knew it.

In the six years Prime Minister Harper has been the leader of Canada, 200 million dollars has been cut from both environmental research and monitoring, the number of review agencies for projects has been severely decreased (only three exist today), over 700 Environment Canada jobs have been cut and most recently, Canada has withdrawn from the legally binding Kyoto Protocol. The reason given for these drastic reductions in environmental protection is of course, the economy. The propaganda explains that in order for the economy to survive, cuts need to be made, and those cuts need to come from the environment budget. It is acceptable however, for the government to spend 60 billion dollars on military warships and fighter jets, or so they say.

The most shocking and internationally condemned action taken by Canada is by far its withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol was the first step in cutting greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The federal government stated that the emissions’ cut was unrealistic and through attempting to meet their goal, the economy would suffer. And of course by the economy, they mean the Alberta tar sands. While some do credit the tar sands for keeping Canada out of the recent recession, they are also credited with releasing the most amount of greenhouse gases the country has ever seen. With tension in the Middle East, the United States promotes and supports the Alberta tar sands as it is seen as ethical oil. The oil from Canada is from a democratic, free society, whereas by buying oil from Middle Eastern countries, America is seen as supporting their way of life and government; something they went to war over.

So let’s try to understand the mechanics of the Alberta tar sands shall we? Because we can’t talk climate change in Canada without mentioning these destructive reserves. The process in which to extract the oil in Alberta creates far more emissions than extracting regular crude oil as the energy needed to do so is extensively more. This is because the oil in Alberta is situated in bitumen, which is a very thick, black substance. As opposed to conventional crude oil drilling, wherein the oil is simply drilled and captured, the oil in the bitumen must be extracted from the sand. The process in which these two substances are separated is extensive, time consuming and, as expected, costly. The oil in Alberta is available through both mining and in situ processes. The mining process damages the land severely, whereas in situ involves far less damage.  The in situ process of extracting oil involves heating up the bitumen to a temperature where it becomes less viscous, allowing for it to flow to the surface. Once deemed unconventional oil because of the drastic measures needed for extraction, it has recently been branded as conventional, allowing the public to feel better about these polluting, expensive tar sands. Cue government funded commercial displaying lovely scenery where oil was once mined.

So what can we do? Get involved! As the government has control over how Canada’s environment is treated and funded, electing politicians with the environment as a priority will result in change. It is only through being proactive citizens can our voices truly be heard. With more education on the environment and more importantly, our impact on it, the masses will understand the crisis at hand and become motivated. After all, this is a democracy and every vote counts!

Not only is the Canadian government finding every way possible to decrease the amount of green initiatives already in place, but it is knowingly polluting the atmosphere and destroying the land. It has become a country internationally frowned upon for its lack of efforts in the fight against climate change, as money and power have taken priority. Now, let me ask you, is this the kind of country you are proud to call home?

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The Fishing Industry and Climate Change

Having recently visited Newfoundland and Labrador over the summer for another family visit, I learned of an infamous fishing dispute which occurred in the mid-1990s. Wanting to further understand the history of Canada’s newest province and the province where my family is from, I went to search for the dispute on the internet. But what I found was more vast than I imagined for a seemingly small news piece, so important was the conflict that it turned out to be a controversy of Canadian foreign policy. The“Turbot War” which took place off the coast of Newfoundland in 1995, was a fishing conflict between the Canadian government and the vast majority of the European Union siding with Spain. The Turbot War began because Spain was overfishing their quota in international waters. But this was unfortunate for Canada because the Spanish were overfishing just outside of Canadian waters and Newfoundland fisheries took the toll. Despite international treaties set out by organizations such as the North Atlantic Fishery Organization (NAFO), which state the quantity of fish countries can catch, Spanish vessels and many other countries sill managed to easily sneak in more fish than the quota prescribes. They were able to do so simply because overfishing is hard to track; this is due primarily to modern technology which allows vessels to hold sheer amounts of fish on board vessels and allows vessels to be out at sea for a long time. On March 9th the Canadian government’s, particularly the Canadian Cabinet Minister Brian Tobin’s, pressure and impatience erupted into strong action and vessels of the Canadian Coast Guard and the Canadian Navy were sent to intercept a lone Spanish trawler the Estai fishing just outside of Canadian waters. Initially, the Estai ignored the warnings of the pursuing Canadian vessels, this led to the navy firing a .50 caliber machine gun near the Estai. The crew of the Estai had no choice but to submit to the Canadian vessels and was escorted to St. Johns harbor. Thus called the “Estai Incident”, the Canadian Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans was brought to the international spot light.
With the UK and Ireland fighting diplomatically on behalf of Canada amongst a Spanish backed EU, sanctions weren’t placed on Canada for what the majority of the EU believed was unlawful detainment of Spanish citizens. The Spanish government in response sent naval vessels of their own to protect their fishing fleets, and Canada did likewise, even to the point of authorizing the navy to fire on Spanish vessels who expose their guns. Fortunately no military intervention was necessary because the UK on April 5th came up with an agreement for Spain and Canada which effectively ended the Turbot War. This new arrangement called for the formation of a group to oversee international fishing operations. Thus another fishing dispute between two countries was resolved, but it was only the end of the beginning.
Into the 21st century, a new problem is recognized by science as a threat to the international fishing industry: climate change. Though there are many known impacts on fisheries and aquaculture as a result of climate change and there are many known solutions keep to them at bay, they are issues still not taken seriously by fishing industries. The broad effect of climate change on the fisheries is the warming of the oceans; this in turn ruins the natural habitats of fish. One issue that has recently received fair treatment in the Canadian media and the one I will primarily focus on, is the study of decreasing fish size as a result of climate change. An assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, William Cheung stated, “Our study shows a substantial reduction in the maximum body size of fish”. Cheung claims that the heating of the ocean waters causes the body temperature of the fish to heat up which in turn gives the fish a higher metabolism. With a higher metabolism the fish require more oxygen, but with climate change, there is less oxygen in the oceans. “Without the oxygen, fish don’t grow.”, Cheung put it in simple context. I believe this decrease in fish size will cause more irrational human action like overfishing; human beings will try to find the simplest solution even if it isn’t for the greater good. And the greater good in this case is not only providing enough fish for people, but climate change effecting the Earth as a whole. But it doesn’t end there, what are the implications of climate change-made fishing issues on international fishery laws? Will the existing laws be tested?
Its hard for me to believe that world fisheries will face the problem of climate change in a reasonable manner without creating diplomatic crises. My evidence being the Turbot War and the slow human realization of climate change in general. If the Canadian government intervened powerfully due to overfishing caused from another country, how will they fare with climate change in the mix? I’m not trying to accuse the Canadian government of irrationality, I’m trying to bring to the forefront the implications of international climate change on fisheries and the issue of diplomacy evolving from a new threat – a new phenomenon, but this time including the environment.

Here’s another good link for the Turbot War:

And here’s another good link for climate change effecting aquaculture:

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A System of Collective Individuals

It has been reported that the globe is warming, that the Earth is heating up, that Arctic ice is sweating to the point of diaphoresis, that food production is threatened, that permafrost is melting, that the oceans are acidifying, and that all over the globe people perish in disastrous natural events like fires, floods, landslides, hurricanes, typhoons, and tornados.

These happenings have begged the question asked by society for as long as I’ve been alive: What can we do about it?

Assuming that global warming is unequivocal, and that greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation are the primary causes, we can (and have been) looking for and acting upon a variety of solutions to the crisis of climate change.

There are of course, the everyday feel-good solutions that make us satisfied in our daily lives. Actions like bike riding, recycling, using public transit, and the changing of light bulbs from the pear shaped incandescents to twirly CFLs.  But what is happening in the larger arena? When we pull the frame back from our daily lives and position it so as to see farther afield, what do we observe? What do we see when we look at the country? What do our eyes fall upon as the lens continues to be drawn back, when we look at things systemically?

The Individual

Before the pulling back of the frame, however, let us look at the light bulb, the bicycle, and the blue bin. To address the latter two, and to speak on an individual, personal level, I can state that I have been riding a bicycle since my father fitted one with training wheels on my fifth birthday. When I learned about the benefits of recycling in elementary school, I drafted a letter to the mayor of my city, asking why the municipality didn’t yet have a recycling program. Over the course of my life my bicycle has grown in proportion to my body, and my hometown has been recycling for almost twenty years now. So, it seems, in some small individual way, I’ve been at this whole “green” thing for a while.

Like the bicycle and the recycling of consumer waste, florescent light has been around a while too. The helical compact florescent light was invented in 1976. But it wasn’t until 1995 that it started to meet high levels of production. When I started to fit my dwellings with CFLs, after the mass marketing of this more efficient light source, they became an integrated part of my domesticated life, on par with recycling and bike riding.

*     *     *

Do you cringe when you see bottled water? Do you get the servers at the café to fill the container you brought from home with your lunch? Do you “lug a mug”, as the saying on campus goes?

I do, whenever possible.

I’m not trying to make you feel bad; if you’re someone who doesn’t tote the Tupperware, no judgment friends. But I really can’t help these actions and thoughts of conservation. They’re entrenched within me. Why?

These small, individual actions are echoed in the society of which we are apart. To this day, I have the energy conservation campaign slogan, “Do your part, be power smart”, burned into my cortex. These six words—and my mother’s constant reminders, so frequent in my childhood—are surely the beginnings of my environmental concerns; they are certainly the root of why I never leave a room without turning off the light.

It is the world around me, the degradation of the environment and those people who it impacts with the greatest severity, that solidifies these small, individual actions into a sense (perhaps a false sense) of environmental security; that indeed I am, “doing my part”.

Have these years of awareness and efforts to conserve solved anything? Have I changed enough light bulbs, biked enough miles, or recycled enough tetra-packs to make a difference? The waterfall may begin with a single drop of water, and the efforts of every individual count toward the larger picture, but the real results lie in the climate, in the Earth, and it would seem she is still running a temperature.

In her article for The Nation, Naomi Klein writes “that individual action will never be an adequate response to the climate crisis. Climate change is a collective problem, and it demands collective action.”

Great, thanks Naomi.

It’s easy to become discouraged by such a statement; make a guy think his genuine action to make a difference has been superfluous. But as the individual delves into the direct actions of the collective, and sees the results of the many, as opposed to the one, they will come to realize that they don’t conserve because they think they’re actually making a big difference; it is the actions themselves that serve as a small part of a greater whole; without the one, the many could not exist; we conserve, reduce, minimalize what we use in our daily lives because it’s in these actions that our solution begins: our solution to the over-packaged industrialization that has plasticized the modern world.

The Collective

A bunch of us got together and took a bus to Washington D.C.. There was to be a protest. OED:  protest | noun | The expression of social, political, or cultural dissent from a policy or course of action, typically by means of a public demonstration; (also) an instance of this, a protest march, a public demonstration.

The Keystone XL pipeline project, or more pointedly, the march in opposition of it, brought thousands of people together, all commonly concerned, all taking action, collectively. Circling the White House and stopping traffic in Washington for a few hours, wasn’t just fun, it worked.

A few months after the march, President Obama announced that he rejected the Keystone XL pipeline that was to take Alberta tar-sands oil to refineries in Texas. While the president stated that this was for political reasons, and that his decision in no way negates the possibility of future pipeline proposals, environmentalists hailed it as a victory. Regardless of the motivations behind the decision, helping, at least for the time being, in preventing the possibility of this:

feels better than bringing Tupperware to a restaurant or a coffee mug to school. It does more to solve the problem too, if only to bring awareness to the climate crisis.

And perhaps it was a victory, a small one. But if Canada can’t sell its oil to our southerly brothers and sisters, then perhaps we’ll find another, more distant relation to take it.

Stretching a pipeline from Northern Alberta to our coastline, has been on the radar for quite some time. Though I think we’ll have some trouble getting it to our cousins in China with the very (very) recent ban on oil tanker traffic along the coastline of B.C., another feat of environmental activism, coupled with governmental common sense.

So, it appears collective action works, to some degree. The successful ban on oil tanker traffic along the B.C. coast was supported by local governments, but what do we see when we pull the lens back to look at the federal level?

Typically, in a parliamentary democracy, of which we have one of the oldest in the world, our elected representatives embody the various voices of the nation. So, if we as citizens of this nation are concerned with what we are doing to rectify the problem of climate change, it would seem likely that our elected representatives—that is to say, our collective voices—would likewise be having this discussion.

It has been reported that they are not.

This may strike you as odd. Especially when phrases like “carbon taxes” and “climate plans” have been used in debate in the House of Commons these past weeks.  But as one Parliamentarian said recently: “I hear the words, but the issue is ignored.” To expand on this tip-toeing around the issue, Green Party leader, Elizabeth May said in a recent blog post that “instead of talking about what we should be doing, the main parties are stuck in a Mobius loop of distortion.” She goes on to mention that a question she voiced in the House (with reference to the fact that we once planned to meet the targets of the Kyoto Protocol)  was cut off by the heckling that is all too infamous in parliament. How are we to address an issue as serious as climate change when we cannot even ask an intelligent question regarding it?

From Christina S’s blog post on March 22nd (found below), we are reminded of the Harper administration’s obvious lack of plans to address the climate crisis, and it seems any serious discussion regarding this issue is to be lost in the cacophony of partisan hooting. Are we to wait then, until 2015, when we can yet again trust in the electoral process (itself an area for concern) and strive to seat an administration worthy of tackling global warming? Do we have that much time?

It has been reported that we do not.

According the Copenhagen Diagnosis 2009, “Delay in action risks irreversible damage: Several vulnerable elements in the climate system (e.g. continental ice-sheets, Amazon rainforest, West African monsoon and others) could be pushed towards abrupt or irreversible change if the warming continues in a business-as-usual way…”

If changing light bulbs, riding bicycles, and marching are effective only as feel-good acts of environmental first-aid, and trying to get our voice heard in parliament is likewise an exercise near futility, taking into consideration that this is a time sensitive matter, where do our solutions lie?

The System

Andrew Dessler’s book, Introduction to Modern Climate Change, succinctly and simply spells out the science behind the climate crisis. What makes this volume stand out from others I have perused, is that it also addresses climate policy. Calling upon our politicians and voting for parties with a mandate of environmental action is an important and effective way of making change. But is it, as Dessler says, “the single most important thing [we] can do”? What if our answers lie outside the framework of party politics?

To rely solely on our politicians and bicycles will not stop this threat. Climate change is coupled with (and perpetrated by) another threat. It is what professor Chomsky at MIT calls, a “huge propaganda system, proudly and openly declared by the business world.”

If we trace the climate crisis back to its roots, we see, obviously, that its pedigree is our over consumption of natural resources. Our over consumption of natural resources is in no way coming to a halt. Slowing down the consumption of products and the fuels that deliver them to our proverbial doorsteps would mean slowing the production of such materials and fuels. This is contra to the multinational corporate agenda, whose primary concern is their shareholders, their investors, and the annual increase in profits they demand.

This will continue— under the endless bombardment of the consumer and technical spectacle that constantly reminds us that consumption is our mandate— until our expansion and consumption are greatly reduced.

Naomi Kline further illustrates this in her article, Capitalism vs. the Climate. She writes that the “roots of the climate crisis [are] globalization, deregulation and contemporary capitalism’s quest for perpetual growth”. She goes on to say that our solutions lie in “radically reordering our economic and political systems”.

The earth is demanding this of us. We must, as Klein points out, create “a new civilizational paradigm, one grounded not in dominance over nature but in respect for natural cycles of renewal”.

Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows states something in the very first pages that deeply resonates with me. The author says that environmental degradation, among all the injustices and atrocities that plague our world, will succumb to our efforts to eradicate them only when we “see the system as the source of its own problems.” We can, and will invoke true changes to this system, only if we “find the courage and wisdom to restructure it.”

I look around at some of the people I know—and many people I don’t—and I see this happening, this restructurization. But what exactly is being done? In what actions do we place our courage and wisdom? It seems to be a very involved process, a system of actions. Actions that come from a continual and knowledgeable discourse. Actions that include both the collective and individual.

It involves the relocalization of production; it involves, as Desmond Tutu says, for us “to act like global citizens, not as isolated consumers”; it involves consuming food that is locally and organically produced; it involves purchasing goods that are environmentally friendly and ethically manufactured; it involves planning; it involves thinking not for convenience sake, but for collective sake; it involves exposing the fantasy of continual economic expansion and dismantling the corporate structure; it involves fashioning a more inclusive economic system, that doesn’t widen the gap, but brings strength and dignity to the workforce which drives it; it involves reshaping our transit infrastructure to facilitate the carbon neutral efforts of the individual, of the collective of those individuals; it involves bicycles and blue bins; it involves enormous amounts of research and the funding research requires; it involves participatory democracy; it involves reviving the commons, strengthening the community; it involves identifying and trusting the experts; it involves discourse, listening, and patience. Oh, yes, it involves you.

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