Mayday! This is Spaceship Earth

spaceship earth

Houston, we have a problem.

by Bruce Mason

It was a summer of fire, smoke and hard rain. Of nightmarish hurricanes and awakened dead reckoning. All connected and predictable, in fact, meticulously forecast for decades. Equally predictable is how quickly we forget the lessons and how easily we fall into death traps, exacerbating rather than mitigating. And it’s all down to a tiny, but global, cabal of fossil fools and liars and their financiers, followers, cheerleaders and enablers.

In late August, the real costs and consequences of inaction were on full public display, complete with smoking guns and dark, watery scenes of crimes against Nature, as fires and floods increased exponentially.

Surely, it’s time to stop naming hurricanes after people. How about Hurricane Exxon, Koch, Chevron and Shell, amongst the 90 companies responsible for two thirds of human-caused catastrophe? The 1 percent scooping virtually all new income, world-wide, while playing a losing game of chicken with Mother Nature.

Forty years ago they knew and fully understood the science, spent billions on government and so-called Think Tank disinformation, promoting the very technologies warming the planet, making disasters inevitable.

Just as the US National Weather Service introduced new colours on satellite maps to show the unprecedented magnitude of the 50+inch Houston downpour, we must make adjustments to fathom the cataclysmic scale of our collective problems.

“Global warming” morphed into “climate change” and “climate sceptics” have become “climate deniers.” It’s now time to call it what it really is: “climate crisis.” The World Health Organization conservatively warns it will be killing millions within a decade if left unchecked.

It’s tragically ironic that Harvey and its aftermath touched down in Houston, pounding the very centre, and quintessential symbol, of fossil fuel. A handful of scientists huddled in a small section of Mission Control, not underwater, to bring three astronauts – two American, one Russian – back to Earth.

As the trio of anxious space travellers slipped into gumboots on Texas tarmac, stark space images of dystopian flooding and fires were fresh in their minds, including BC’s continuing “season” of 1,000 fires. One million hectares – an area the size of half of Vancouver Island –burned, and in LA’s biggest-ever fire, it was much the same, while deadly smoke eerily returned: Seattle, to Denver, and Greenland, linking up, obscurring, more and more of the planet.

“It looks like an atomic bomb when you see the big billows of smoke,” 150 Mile House fire-chief Stan McCarthy reported, expressing his heartfelt concern for firefighters’ mental health.

The astronauts also witnessed historic rainfall affecting 41 million people in Asia, more in Africa; Europeans dubbed their searing heatwave “Lucifer” and regions of Australia were suddenly uninhabitable. Bangladesh was two-thirds underwater as floods ravaged Northern India, Nepal, the basin of the Himalayas and the financial capital of Mumbai, crossing the border into Pakistan.

Those particular events were all but missed in the America-centric corporate media, not wanting to “politicize” human catastrophe. “Unprecedented” and “record-breaking” became clichés, flavours of the week or hour, amid endless echo-chambers that all regulation is harmful and stunts economic growth.

Instead of clarity, we’re handed a prism of suffering; heroic man vs. nature narratives carved from the rubble, with no view or discussion of causes, let alone policy. Our attention capriciously re-focused on panicked speculation of nuclear war and endless examples of democracy, devolving into distracted idiocracy. Ignorant hubris, staring into an eclipse with naked eyes, praying for blind luck.

As flood waters subside, disease is becoming rampant. Irma has struck and other hurricanes are poised to strike, as more of the West catches fire. We are literally witnessing the end of the world as we know it. Look around. Where are the birds, insects? Why are trees and plants dying. Five-hundred-year floods don’t necessarily happen once every five centuries. They are events with a one-in-500 chance of occurring in any given year. Houston has now had three in the past three years.

While Fort McMurray burned, Justin Trudeau shilled for his elite donor class, who are now little more than arsonists. Their disaster capitalism is sure as hell amplifying damage, fundamentally altering everything in its insatiable, predatory path. As a species, we must take hold of our destiny and plan for something infinitely better.

“Talking honestly about what’s fuelling this era of serial disasters –even while they’re playing out in real time – isn’t disrespectful to people on the front lines,” observes Naomi Klein. “In fact, it’s the only way to truly honour their losses, and our last hope for preventing a future littered with countless more victims.”

Pope Francis pleads, in God’s name, “Listen to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor, who suffer most because of the unbalanced ecology.” We must re-visit consequence, the only way to break the cycle of ignorance and denial. Stop refusing to hold the negligent accountable, strike back with adequate force at toxic climate denial and corruption. The costs of engaging and heeding scientific guidance are nothing compared to the probability and gravity of coming loss, not even close.

Our strength is collective. It resides in the vast majority of people for whom homelessness is just an injury, an illness, a bad season, bad luck or one pay cheque away. We aren’t as disposable as the 1% treats us. It’s time to fight back against the greed, pipemares and other fossil fuel evils. To stand up for a better BC, in a better world.

Shining bright in darker times

photo of David Suzuki

SCIENCE MATTERS
by David Suzuki

Are we entering a new Dark Age? Lately, it seems so. News reports are enough to make anyone want to crawl into bed and hide under the covers. But it’s time to rise and shine. To resolve the crises humanity faces, good people must come together.

It’s one lesson from Charlottesville, Virginia. It would be easy to dismiss the handful of heavily armed, polo-shirted, tiki-torch terrorists who recently marched there if they weren’t so dangerous and representative of a disturbing trend that the current US president and his administration have emboldened.

Racism, hatred and ignorance aren’t uniquely American. Fanatics acting out of fear… are everywhere. But whether they’re religious or political extremists or both, all have much in common. They’re intolerant of other viewpoints and try to dehumanize those who are different; they believe in curtailing women’s and minority rights even though they claim to oppose big government; they espouse violence; and they reject the need for environmental protection.

Charlottesville was a tipping point, not so much because hatred and ignorance were on full display (that happens all too often), but because so many people stood up and spoke out against it and against President Donald Trump’s bizarre and misguided response.

The effects spilled into Canada, most notably with the implosion of the far-right and misnamed media outlet, The Rebel. The online platform, born from the ashes of the failed Sun News network, is a good illustration of the intersection between racism, intolerance and anti-environmentalism. Rather than learning from Sun News’s failure that racism and extremism are unpopular and anti-Canadian, Rebel founder Ezra Levant ramped up the bigoted and anti-environmental messaging, with commentators ranting against feminists, LGBTQ people, Muslims and Jews (Levant is Jewish), along with rejecting climate science and solutions to environmental problems!

The Rebel’s Faith Goldy was at Charlottesville, sympathetically “reporting” on the band of mostly male white extremists. When a racist drove his car into a crowd of anti-Nazi protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and seriously injuring others, it was too much for some of Levant’s long-time supporters.

Rebel staff and commentators, including a co-founder, cut their ties. Norwegian Cruise Line cancelled a scheduled Rebel fundraising cruise, hundreds of advertisers pulled out and principled conservatives dissociated themselves. Trying to salvage the site’s ragged reputation, Levant fired Goldy.

Meanwhile, the White House is in disarray and [doing] damage control around the president’s unhinged tweets, the ongoing Russian-influence investigation, constant firings, including chief strategist Steve Bannon, and legislative paralysis, not to mention a stupid belligerence that brought us to the brink of nuclear war!

At first, it appeared the tide of intolerance, emboldened racism and anti-environmentalism was rising, but now it’s looking more like the last desperate efforts of a minority of small-minded people… Canada and the US have checkered racist and colonialist pasts, but for all our faults, we’ve been evolving. Thanks to many people with diverse backgrounds from across the political spectrum who have devoted themselves to civil rights, feminism, Indigenous causes, LGBTQ rights, the environment and more, we’ve made many gains. We have a long way to go, but we must keep on and not let fear, hatred and ignorance block our way.

If we and our children and their children are to survive and be healthy in the face of crises like climate change and terrorism, we must stand together in unity and solidarity without fear. Like the many who gathered in Barcelona the day after recent horrendous terrorist attacks, the people who stood up to racists in Charlottesville, those who reject the anti-human agendas of media outlets like The Rebel and the many people worldwide who march and speak up for climate justice, we must come together to shine a light on the darkness.

We must use our voices, actions and humour to confront these anti-human undercurrents. We must confront our own prejudices and privilege.

Love conquers fear and hate. We must show those who want to bring us down or take us back to darker times that we outnumber them by far, everywhere.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster and author. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington. David Suzuki’s latest book is Just Cool It!: The Climate Crisis and What We Can Do (Greystone Books), co-written with Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

Our lieutenant governor’s “Three Rs”

Judith Guichon

by Bruce Mason

Photo: 2017 Canada Day Citizenship Ceremony at Government House, in which Her Honour presided over the swearing-in of 150 new citizens. Photo by Rachel Rilkoff of Government House.

For a short time in late June, all eyes, and much speculation, focused laser-like on Hon. Judith Guichon, BC’s 29th lieutenant governor. Representing the Queen is mostly ceremonial, but the urgent, unenviable task of making a vitally important decision thrust Guichon onto a red-hot seat, under a glaring spotlight. The corporate media pack sniffed, chowed down and quickly moved on to another flavour shortly after she denied then-premier Christy Clark’s desperate, self-serving, 90-minute plea for a snap election.

Judith Guichon, BC’s busiest lieutenant governor in decades, was etched into our history then calmly carried on with her own personal goal, which includes visiting 150 schools and pledging to use her position to educate about what we must learn if we are to have a future worth living.

She calls them “my three R’s: respect, responsibility and relationships.” Guichon lives and breathes the belief that we have a responsibility to respect the land, and to honour that relationship in order to leave a healthy planet for future generations..

In January of this year, while accepting an honorary doctorate from Vancouver Island University, she explained why she had taken the job in 2012: “There’s an increasing gap in understanding between urban and rural populations. Since we both need each other, I thought this was an excellent opportunity for me to bridge that gap. And it was such a wonderful opportunity to learn something new.”

Christy Clark had welcomed her, saying, “She has a deep appreciation for the history and traditions of BC and has spent a lifetime ensuring that we all stay connected to our roots.” In retrospect, our former premier underestimated and misunderstood Guichon’s overriding “appreciation” and “lifetime” of work.

Sure, Guichon had been recommended by then-prime minister Stephen Harper and had donated a modest total of $1,350 in 2005 and 2009 to Gordon Campbell’s liberals. Her friends and neighbours note that she leans right, as most of them do, obvious in the recent election, supporting fiscal responsibility and economic diversification. All of which had little influence over doing the right thing.

Before she was appointed in 2012, Guichon lived in the Nicola Valley in BC’s interior and owned and operated the Guichon Ranch, as the family of her late husband, commercial pilot Lawrence Guichon, had done since 1878. The couple took over in 1979, the fourth generation to run the ranch. They studied holistic management, focused on environmental stewardship and practised and promoted sustainability that emphasized natural habitat, such as letting cattle graze longer and using less feed. They are credited with introducing healthy techniques to the ranching community.

While growing a small parcel of land and a few head of cattle into a sprawling property with thousands of livestock, a general store, post office and a hotel, Judith Guichon, with a neighbour, started a recycling society in Merritt. She played the flute in the Nicola Valley Community Band and spoke up on water issues, served on health boards and task forces on species at risk, ranching and agri-food. She also developed her signature biodiversity program.

After her husband died tragically in a motorcycle accident in 2003, she wrote, “The love of my children enabled me to carry on. To say that I would not have endured without them is not overstating the case.” Her current husband Bruno Mailloux and four adopted children carry on while she nears the end of her five-year term.

Personally, I never had any doubt that she would do the right thing and I wish I could shake her hand and share a few words, again. Two years ago, in a reception line at the end of her tour of the Gabriola Island Medical Centre, she asked if I wrote the book, Our Clinic, that had just been presented to her. It tells the story of how a community of 4,000 residents and a volunteer army of 170 built a multi-million dollar urgent care health clinic and heli-pad on donated acreage, without raising any taxes. Christy Clark’s liberals chipped in a total of $100,000 at the last-minute.

A short time later I received a hand-written letter – remember those – from Guichon: “It will be my pleasure to tell your story where I go because it is incredible, an absolutely amazing feat that I hope others can learn from. My own projects are about healthy land and healthy communities. We all have a responsibility to leave them in as good or better state for those who follow.”

Just as she did as a rancher, Hon. Judith Guichon broke the mould of lieutenant governor by making a decision to invite the NDP and Greens to form government in the best interests of the people of the province. And her story, the real story, is the one to record, share and act on.

Reflections of Canada – now that the party’s over

Canada reflections

by Bruce Mason

It’s been 150 years since the old province of Canada was carved up into Quebec and Ontario and joined by the hip to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in Confederation. We’re spending a cool half billion – plus security, promotional items, provincial expenditures and other unforeseen costs – to celebrate. Never mind the big bucks spent on beer, flags and assorted props and memorabilia. Some of us even learned to utter “sesquicentennial.”

The feds picked up the tab for 500 “projects” – 3,285 were pitched – for everything from the Gros Morne Summer Music Festival in Newfoundland and Labrador to a giant game of snakes and ladders in Calgary and Ontario’s six-story high, 11 ton rubber duck, which cost $150,000 to rent and transport to six cities. In the Lower Mainland, the SkyTrain stopped running to an overflowing Canada Place. There were so many parties and goers that a mobile application and website, Passport 2017, was created, to the tune of $1.3-million, to help us find nearby events in all this glorious and much-touted diversity.

Refelections of Canada book cover
The provocative book includes a foreword by Governor General David Johnston

But one of the biggest surprises had to be the number of citizens who opted to utilize, at least part of the day, to reflect on the current state of their nation. I spent July 1 with a remarkable book I had been saving for the occasion. It’s been getting a bit of a buzz in the press and deservedly so. Reflections of Canada: Illuminating Our Opportunities and Challenges at 150+ Years delivers on its promise on the book jacket “…to communicate a complex and engaging landscape of what Canada is at this point in its history. This is a book of lively, respectful and thoughtful debate.”

The book is a product of UBC’s Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. Founded in 1996 through a donation from Peter Wall (of iconic Wall Centre fame) of $6.5 million shares in the Wall Financial Corporation, it was worth $15 million at the time. It was the largest single private donation in the university’s history. The institute is a significant community of scholars; more than 450 faculty associates “address fundamental research questions through collaborations that transcend disciplinary boundaries.”

The book includes a foreword by Governor General David Johnston, a preface from UBC president Santa Ono and an introduction by the editor, followed by a poem, “Diverse by Design,” from George Elliott Clarke, who will soon be an artist-in-residence at the Institute.

However, it is the first of 41 easily accessible essays that sets the tone and hits the reader right between the eyes. This is a collection that is more provocative than celebratory and “Practising Reconciliation” starkly lays out our collective “horrific reality.” It is conversation between three scholars who work in partnership to locate the burials of children who died at the Indian Residential School on Kuper Island, now called Penelakut Island, in the Salish Sea. And if you still don’t get reasons for the urgent need for Reconciliation, you will find them here in a handful of pages.

The book covers the state of Canadian democracy, environmental challenges, changes to our health-care system, income and other inequalities, the Arctic, arts and culture, technology and even relations with China. In “The Hygiene Hangover,” UBC microbiologist Brett Finlay and public-health physicians Perry Kendall and David Patrick address the unfortunate consequences arising from Canadians’ zeal for cleanliness, which include a sharp rise in asthma rates and other auto-immune diseases.

If you experienced the viral video of Trudeau’s explanation of quantum computing, you will enjoy Philip Stamp’s, “A Quantum Parable,” which offers a different take on the topic from PM Justin Trudeau. While Canada has been a global leader in quantum computing, it could be on the verge of hemorrhaging high-tech talent by not supporting Burnaby-based D-Wave, an innovative pioneer in the field. Stamp likens it to Avro, the Canadian company that manufactured the world’s most advanced fighter plane in the late 1950s: the CF-105 Avro Arrow. At its peak, the company employed 50,000 people, but after the program was cancelled by the Diefenbaker government, it led to a massive “brain drain.”

There is much more to recommend in Reflections of Canada. In the months that still remain in 2017, on the beach, in the fall and during the onslaught of an uncertain Canadian winter, this is a must-read for a sober analysis and for answers to ubiquitous questions, such as “What’s happening?”, “What now?” and “Will Canada grow into it’s legacy of hope and leadership in the world?

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola Island-based banjo player, gardener, writer and author of Our Clinic.

Remembering Gwen Barlee

Gwen Barlee

Activist, ally, mentor, leader, friend

Gwen BarleeThe Wilderness Committee is deeply saddened by the passing of Gwen Barlee on June 21, 2017. As one of Canada’s leading environmental advocates, Barlee worked as the Wilderness Committee National Policy Director since 2001 and she was an invaluable member of the organization’s executive leadership. For more than 15 years, Gwen guided both this organization and its community of allies through many hard-fought environmental campaigns.

She touched hundreds of lives as a mentor, ally, activist, leader and friend. Wild rivers, forests, meadows, all creatures big and small including western toads, mountain caribou, sage grouse, killer whales, spotted owls and bees, these were Gwen’s passions. She stood for the public good, defending parks and waterways against all those who would exploit them for personal profit.

Her loss has left a hole in our hearts. But her positive impact on environmental preservation in BC is undeniable. Through the Gwen Barlee Memorial Fund, her legacy will continue. The Wilderness Committee will continue Gwen’s work. Will you join us? We have established the Gwen Barlee Memorial Fund to honour Gwen’s memory and to continue the vital public policy work that was Gwen’s passion:

Parks: Gwen fought fearlessly to protect the wild. She defended BC parks from industrial development and devastating government funding cuts. In her sights was the protection of key contiguous lands for a new national park in the South Okanagan Similkameen. This fund will continue her work preserving the wild nature of BC and Canada’s parks.

Wildlife: Gwen stood up for some of Canada’s most endangered species on the ground and in the courts. Advocating for endangered species legislation in BC was one of her most important causes. This fund will ensure Gwen’s work continues, fighting for at-risk species from grizzlies to wild bees and pollinators and all those in between.

Wild rivers: Gwen’s ferocious defence of wild rivers was one of her defining campaigns. When corporations dammed and diverted BC’s wildest rivers for costly, irresponsible private power projects, Gwen joined forces with community groups and citizens to stop the BC government’s “ruin-of-river” policies. We will keep up that fight in her memory.

Freedom of Information: Strategic use of provincial and federal Freedom of Information laws was Gwen’s trademark tactic. She created persuasive campaigns based on data gleaned from the government’s own files. She held decision-makers’ feet to the fire, releasing facts to the public to increase government accountability on environmental matters. This fund will support a new generation of environmental activists conducting investigative research.

Strong environmental and economic policy: Gwen’s activism was motivated by the public good. Whether it was eliminating provincial park user fees so that everyone could enjoy the park or opposing the Site C dam to protect family farmland and First Nation sacred grounds, as well as managing hydro rates, Gwen always believed the best environmental policy should be the best policy for people. Help us continue that legacy.

Gwen was a strong leader and a tireless activist for social change

Over the past 16 years, Gwen distinguished herself as an extraordinarily talented and determined defender of Canadian wild nature, especially in her home province of BC. She showed a passion beyond compare for the defence of the land and the species that call it home. She was a YWCA Women of Distinction nominee in 2016.

She was a fierce defender of species at risk. Gwen laboured for years to push the case for standalone endangered species legislation for British Columbia. She was instrumental in convincing the BC government to set aside tens of thousands of hectares of land for the protection of the northern spotted owl, one of Canada’s most endangered species. She continued to call for an even greater amount of protected forest habitat, not just for the spotted owl, but for other species at risk including BC’s southern mountain caribou, marbled murrelet and goshawk.

Gwen fought for the establishment and protection of provincial and national parks. She helped stop government plans to put large private resorts in provincial parks. She was a ferocious defender of wild rivers since the mid-2000s against the government’s policy of giving them away for private power projects. She helped mobilize thousands of BC residents to protect the Upper Pitt Watershed, Bute Inlet rivers and Glacier and Howser Creeks from industrial power projects.

What distinguished Gwen as an environmental advocate was her research ability and her commitment to enhancing government accountability, upholding the right for British Columbians to scrutinize government activities and promoting transparent, fair and inclusive decision-making through filing freedom of information (FOI) requests.

She worked hard to create unique alliances of people and facilitate a common vision for coming together on environmental issues. Whether working with union leaders, park rangers, First Nations communities, beekeepers or kayakers, she was committed to working with people who loved BC’s spectacular wilderness and wildlife.

www.wildernesscommittee.org


An invitation to honour Gwen Barlee

Wednesday, July 26

6pm reception, refreshments, appetizers, cash bar.
7PM tributes. Vancouver Rowing Club, 450 Stanley Park Drive.

On behalf of Gwen’s family and friends, the Wilderness Committee invites people to honour the life and legacy of their colleague, partner, activist, friend, sister and daughter. Please join us in remembering her compassion, determination, tenacity, humility, fearlessness and strength.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Wilderness Committee’s Gwen Barlee Memorial Fund.

Clean tech, green jobs, and disruption

workers in a wind turbine factory

by Bruce Mason

There’s light at the end of the tunnel and it’s solar powered and unstoppable. Fossil fools, who still have their heads buried in tar-sands and other 20th century technologies, can’t see it and risk being totally blind-sided. But for those who “get it,” the bozone layer is lifting around the world, particularly in places where new, common-sense, but revolutionary, vision is promoted and nurtured.

One way to grasp the inevitable and transformative nature of this powerful emergent force is through the term “disruptive technology.” It refers to new approaches that overturn traditional business methods and practices. History dubs these pivotal times as ages, such as stone, bronze, iron and information. We’re taught how the industrial age quickly displaced agriculture and how steam speedily overpowered previous forms of harnessing energy. In our lifetime, we’ve actually witnessed, first-hand, the Internet overtaking snail-mail and the virtual disappearance of video rentals and industries, from media to music, which have been forced to cope, in desperation, with changed and challenging realities.

Just five years ago, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) completed its first survey of renewable energy jobs. In 2012, five million people were employed in the sector worldwide. In their just released report, that number doubled to 9.8 million for 2016.

The countries with the largest renewable jobs are Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan and the US. Remember when knuckle-dragging “Drill Baby, Drill” advocates rationalized turning their backs on reducing emissions, citing that China and India, highly populated and underdeveloped, weren’t up to the task so why did they have to be? Well, coal-rich China, which now has the largest share of renewable energy jobs – 3.5 million – is home to the world’s largest floating solar farm.

As Donald J. Trump touts massive job growth in something called clean coal, India cancelled plans for that form of filthy energy in favour of plummeting solar prices. In fact, 62 percent of the renewable jobs are located in Asia where much of solar panel manufacturing is taking place. And IRENA predicts renewable energy jobs will number 24 million by 2030, outpacing the loss of fossil fuel jobs.

Closer to home, where we don’t make the top renewable job list, Justin Trudeau approved Kinder Morgan with the statement, “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.” That’s news to oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia, which just launched a $50-billion investment in renewable energy.

In Vancouver, IRENA director-general Adnan Amin explained the massive global transition to renewable energy: “They’re doing this not because they’ve suddenly become climate advocates or they’re against oil, but because they see the future in a very different way and they know that energy in the future is not going to be what it is today.”

So-called “leaders,” from presidents and prime ministers to governors and premiers, are tone-deaf if they think voters are torn over the transition to clean energy. In BC, for example, the “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” mantra is now discredited oligarchy propaganda. A new poll from from Abacus Data indicates that two-thirds of Canadians favour prioritizing economic growth in ways that don’t involve fossil fuels. And Americans don’t lag far behind in the recognition of the urgent and essential need to tank fossil fuels.

A leading light in analyzing and predicting the impact of clean disruptive technology is Stanford economist, Tony Seba. In a jaw-dropping, comprehensive, two-hour viral video , he dramatically illustrates our future in the first few minutes. From a photograph of a New York’s Fifth Avenue, taken in 1900, he asks his audience to pick out the automobile in the packed crowd of horse-drawn vehicles. Then, in a picture from 1913, in the same location, it is just as difficult to spot the one horse amidst the automobiles that materialized in just 13 years. The experience is highly recommended.

New York City, 1908
New York City 1908. Where are the cars?

Seba earned his reputation through his spot-on predictions of the solar boom. His current projections, based on technology cost curves, business model and product innovation, include: 1) By 2030, all new energy will be provided by solar or wind. 2) All new mass-market vehicles will be electric and autonomous (self-driving) or semi-autonomous. 3) The car market will shrink by 80%. 4) Gasoline, natural gas and coal will be obsolete (nuclear is already obsolete). 5) Up to 80% of highways and parking space won’t be needed. 6) And not only will the auto insurance industry be disrupted, car ownership and the taxi industry will be obsolete.

Streets of Detroit, 1910
Detroit 1910. Where are the horses?

Not fanciful when you consider expensive automobiles now sit idle, on average, 20 hours a day and electric vehicles are price competitive, especially when you factor in maintenance. Just before going to press, Common Ground had a conversation with Guy Dauncey, an author – his latest book is Journey to the Future: A Better World Is Possible – and activist. Dauncey has developed a positive vision of a sustainable future and he is translating that vision into action. “Guess how many people in the Lower Mainland have joined the handful of car-sharing opportunities?” he asked. “The answer is 120,000!”

Dauncey had another question: “What if BC and Canada – like Norway – had governments that not only subsidized the purchase of electric vehicles, but also provided HOV lane access, free parking and free charging (from street light lampposts)?”

Our economy no longer provides what most of us, unlike Christy Clark, consider real, good jobs. Fighting climate change supports families, sustains communities and provides a more equitable distribution of wealth, which our current economy no longer provides.

In his most recent book, Just Cool It!, David Suzuki (co-author Ian Hanington) writes, “The economy is a human invention, a tool that can be changed when it no longer suits our needs. The environment is the very air, water, land and diversity of plant and animal life we cannot live without. Why not work to build a healthy prosperous economy that protects things?”

Drawing on new innovations such as grid power systems, biochar soil technologies and algae-based biofuels, the authors outline practical, forward-thinking solutions for not only resolving the climate crisis, but also to create more meaningful work to directly benefit more people. All that is missing is that people demand change and action, as they apparently have just done in BC. When finally this happens, the results will be monumental.

When looking for a new job, start by changing your mindset and searching for something society needs. And think disruptive. In the aftermath of the provincial election, it’s past time to demand that elected public servants not only take big money out of a reformed electoral process, but that they also take disruptive action in order to catch up and build a better, re-imagined, BC.

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola Island-based banjo player, gardener, writer and author of Our Clinic.

Lead photo: Inside a wind turbine factory.

US may hit emission targets before Canada

by Tom Sandborn

As Jeff Rubin, former economist for CIBC World Markets and author of a number of books, including The Carbon Bubble and The End of Growth, prepared to speak to a full house of fund managers, bankers and NGO figures interested in responsible investment at a meeting sponsored by the Responsible Investment Association (https://www.riacanada.ca/) early on the morning of June 1, the room was buzzing with excitement and worry about whether Donald Trump would use a speech scheduled for later in the day to announce the US was going to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, also known as COP 21. Trump did make that tragically misguided announcement a few hours later.

But the well known and often controversial energy sector expert Rubin had other things on his mind. In fact, he told the packed ballroom full of fans of responsible investment that the US under Donald Trump was more likely to hit emission reduction goals than Canada under Trudeau!

(carbonbrief.org/paris-2015-tracking-country-climate-pledges)

According to this graphic posted on the Climate Action Tracker website (climateactiontracker.org/), without cuts more serious than those committed to in the Paris Agreement, global temperatures will spiral up to an average of more than two degrees higher than current world averages. Most experts agree that increases that high in global temperatures will lead to catastrophic climate change, melting polar ice with ocean level increases likely to drown many coastal cities.

Rubin said, “I believe that the US, despite Trump pulling out of COP 21, is better positioned to hit their emission targets than Canada.”

Steve Kux, Climate Change and Clean Energy Policy Analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation, told Common Ground on June 5 that Rubin made good points in his Vancouver speech.

“Canada has made some positive moves on climate change,” Kux said, “but we need a cohesive and coherent national policy and our continued subsidies to fossil fuels and approval for pipeline expansion take us in the wrong direction. Given the positive steps being taken by American states and cities on this file, Rubin may well be right about Canada doing worse than the USA on getting emissions down unless we get our priorities straight.”

Meanwhile, Rubin says, BC has become a major conduit for highly polluting thermal coal from the US to Asia, and the recent federal approval of Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion is not only environmentally dangerous, it also makes no sense economically.

Rubin said the often-voiced argument from fans of the fossil fuel industries that Canada needs more pipelines in order to “get a stranded resource to tidewater” for export abroad makes no sense to him as an economist. “It is, frankly, BS,” he said in an interview before his speech.

Most of the petroleum Canada exports is bitumen from the tar sands, he said, and that product is priced well below other oils in both the Asian and European markets, a reality that would leave tar sands bitumen stranded by economics and Canada holding the bag for the environmental and economic costs associated with building more pipeline infrastructure. He said Canada should build no more pipelines.

Kux also agreed with Rubin’s rejection of the argument that Canada has to build more pipelines.

“Tar sands bitumen is not stranded by the lack of pipelines to the coast,” he said. “Every barrel of bitumen exported loses money and more pipelines won’t change that.” j

Tom Sandborn lives in Vancouver and is interested in energy issues. Contact tos65@telus.net

Photo: Wind turbines near Goldendale, Washington.

Join Sea to Seed and “Over Grow the System”

by Bruce Mason

It’s impossible to over-emphasize the importance of localizing food systems, homesteading, organic farming, community building and permaculture.

So much time and so many resources are being spent fighting against something. Pick a cause and there’ll be placards, shouted chants, shared posts, too many marches, far too many speeches, ever more hand-wringing and much angst-ridden argument.

As essential as all these activities may seem, we won’t find the urgent solutions we seek, and need, in what we’re fighting against. Solutions will only be found in what we celebrate. That’s only logical or perhaps “eco-logical” is a better word.

The route to real change (long overdue) is not in the extreme growth economy or wresting back the power – and greedy lifestyles – from the tiny, highly organized minority who have grabbed it, stole it and otherwise usurped it from the vast majority of us, for whom ‘the system’ no longer works. The real power is on the ground, in the soil, in the sun and water and in the hearts, minds and hands of the disenfranchised 90+%.

Since 2013, every May, a crew of musicians, farmers, filmmakers, writers and photographers have set off on a month-long Sea to Seed Tour, a sailing adventure through the Gulf Islands and Salish Sea, which includes, of course, Vancouver and Victoria. The goal is to promote a culture of resilient, localized food systems through music, feasts and story-telling, and to create lots of ripples. And to spread seeds too, widely and joyfully.

As Naomi Klein has advised, “We live in a time of overlapping crisis and need to connect the dots because we don’t have time to solve each crisis sequentially. We need a movement that addresses all of them.”

That describes the mission of “Over Grow the System’s” Sea to Seed Tour: to connect farming communities, sown, nurtured and growing along the coast. It’s impossible to over-emphasize the importance of localizing food systems, homesteading, organic farming, community building and permaculture, or engaging art and culture in supporting these wonderful initiatives. The music, farm-to-table feasts, educational forums and story-telling are creating positive change, rooted in the fertile soil of generative celebration, and cultivating a way of living with integrity.

Among the musicians is Atlanta-based Rising Appalachia, who are “beyond excited” to be part of Sea to Seed. For me, they were the hit of the 2015 Vancouver Folk Festival and because of high-demand, were brought back to town for concerts. Backstage they said, “We’re trying to take the glitz and glam out of the music industry and bring performance back to its roots… where musicians influence the cultural shift as troubadours, activists and catalysts of justice and aren’t just part of fast-paced entertainment.” (Common Ground, August, 2015, http://commonground.ca/slow-music-the-summer-of-transformation/)

Rising Appalachia has toured Europe, the Caribbean, Central America, the Indian subcontinent, US and Canada “to help the environment, change the ‘mal-distribution’ of wealth and to simply make the world better.” Their Slow Music movement, inspired by the Slow Food movement, utilizes ‘non-industry methods,’ such as linking communities, pursuing alternative venues, supporting local businesses and non-profits and exploring transportation alternatives, including trains, bikes, low-impact vehicles, boats, horses and now: sailboats.

In partnership with “Over Grow the System” are companies like Guayaki Yerba Mate and internationally-touring musicians. Joining the slow-travel, small-scale-living adventure are Dustin Thomas, Peia Bird and Tarran the Tailor.

Visit www.overgrowthesystem.org for more information about the Sea to Seed Tour, including a wealth of inspiring videos and a cornucopia of food for thought and activity.

Our greatest challenges are not global warming, resource depletion, politics, pollution or financial shocks, all symptoms of a system that is neither sustainable, nor fair. Our greatest challenge is our lack of connection with nature and with each other – a disconnection that has spawned an insatiable, ubiquitous greed.

“Over Grow the System” offers a life-affirming, alternative model. Be part of the evolution and support the Sea to Seed Tour.

The Sea to Seed Tour

As you read this, the tour is on track. It will touch down on Mayne (9th), Salt Spring (12th), Galiano (13th) Gabriola (14th) and Denman (18th) Islands. It will be in Lund on the 19th and on the Sunshine Coast the following day. It arrives in Victoria on May 22 and in Vancouver on May 23. Ticket info at www.overgrowthesystem.org

Citizen assisted genetic testing

photo of David Suzuki

SCIENCE MATTERS
by David Suzuki

Since I started working as a geneticist in the early 1960s, the field has changed considerably. James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins won the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. Researchers then “cracked” the genetic code, which held promise for fields like health and medicine. It was an exciting time to be working in the lab.

More than 40 years later, in 2003, an international group of scientists sequenced the entire human genetic code. Researchers can now find a gene suspected to cause a disease in a matter of days, a process that took years before the Human Genome Project. As of 2013, more than 2,000 genetic tests were available for human conditions. Forty years ago, I never dreamed scientists would have the knowledge and manipulative capabilities that have become standard practice today.

Inner engineering

In a couple of decades, genetics has allowed for systematic inventorying of the world’s biodiversity. Canada’s Centre for Biodiversity Genomics at the University of Guelph has the genomes of more than 265,000 named species identified with barcodes in its database. The cost to analyze a sample against this free public database is about $10.

Young citizen scientists in San Diego were recently able to help compile information about the area’s biodiversity through their local libraries. Kids signed out genetic testing kits… through Catalog of Life @ the Library.

People in Canada can also help identify seafood fraud with the LifeScanner service. Genetic testing helps consumers identify the species and possibly the origin of fish they buy, important for people who care about sustainability and health and nutrition.

Identifying and tracing seafood has long been a challenge, especially because about 40 percent of wild-caught seafood is traded internationally and labelling is often inadequate. Once fish are skinned, cleaned and packaged, it’s not always easy to tell what they are. If you buy something labelled “rockfish” in Canada, it could be one of more than 100 species. Often, labels don’t indicate whether the fish were caught or processed sustainably. Although the European Union and US require more information on seafood labels than Canada, one study found 41 percent of US seafood is mislabelled.

A European study found stronger policies combined with public information led to less mislabelling. People in Canada have demanded better legislation to trace seafood products. More than 12,000 people recently sent letters to government asking for better labelling.

SeaChoice (the David Suzuki Foundation is a member) is working with LifeScanner to register 300 people in Canada to test seafood, in part to determine whether labels are accurate.

With the help of citizen scientists, genetic testing can offer a powerful approach to righting environmental wrongs. Combining crowd-sourced scientific data, public policy reform and consumer activism is already showing positive results. The same approach could work in areas such as testing for antibiotics, pesticide and mercury residues and more.

Excerpted from “Citizen science and genetic testing yield positive results.” David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

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interviewing John Horgan

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