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G8/20: The Issues Pt. 3

Weak Climate Commitments Get Weaker

by Gwalgen Geordie Dent

PHOTO Allan Lissner
PHOTO Allan Lissner

Toronto - With a heavy focus on G8/20 security, protesters, weapons and summit costs, Mainstream Media have been accused of failing to cover another important aspect of the G8/20: the issues.  The Toronto Media Co-op takes aim at the Toronto G8/20 agenda and the grassroots response in this third part of a week-long series.

With environment being a key focus for for global foreign policy and with Copenhagen plans in limbo, the Canadian government's decision to take climate change off the G8 agenda in May drew fire from environmental groups, the UN and other G8/20 countries.

The decision, highlighted by Stephen Harper's May declaration that all other issues besides the economy were 'sideshows', was also underscored by Canada's decision not to hold a a G8 environmental ministers meeting before the summit, the first time the meeting hasn't been held since 1994.

Last week, the Canadian government decided to put climate change back on the agenda of both summits.  Such an idea has been pushed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon since last year.  Ki-moon has not been invited to attend the summit.

While the Canadian government has back pedaled on climate being on the agendas, it is unclear whether being on the agenda will lead to any tangible results.

‘Proof is in the Pudding’

Several climate plans have been released at previous G8 summits including plans on carbon emissions and biodiversity with targets coming up in 2010.  Previous comments in 2010 have suggested the G8 will also discuss phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, while preparing for a UN climate summit in Mexico this year to solidify the results of the disastrous Copenhagen summit.

Scott Harris, an Organizer with the Council of Canadians, isn't buying it.

"Some of the issues they are tackling are positive [but] if you look at the history of promises coming out of the G7/8, they are very bad at keeping them," he said.

Harris points out that the 2005 pledge by the G8 to double aid to Africa by 2010 is currently $20 Billion short of the goal.  Meanwhile, last years commitment to a $20 Billion food security program by 2010 has only generated $800 Million.

 "I’m not sure of the number but roughly 50 commitments are due for 2010.  [The G8] makes roughly 200 comittments a year going back to 1997.  The G8/20 make a lot of big promises, but the proof is in the pudding and they do not come through on promises in any way," he said.

"In Pittsburgh they said that they were going to seriously phase out fossil fuel subsidies but we’ve only seen increases," says Kimia Ghomeshi, a G20 and Climate Organizer with the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition.  She points out that commitments were reached at the Kyoto accord in the late 90’s, though emissions have continued to rise.

Sakura Saunders, editor of protestbarrick.net, isn't even sure how some commitments would be implemented.

"I think ending fuel subsidies is great, but it's gunna have negative consequences.  People are dependent are these things and I'm concerned it would be implemented badly.  For example, Venezuela has the worlds largest fuel subsidies," she said.  "Would [the G8/20] be trying to end the subsidies on a global scale?  Or just G20 countries?" 

Commitments aside, unlike the detailed plans released for economic or health plans, Harper has only said that "some issues surrounding climate change" will be discussed "on the margins".

Other Forums For Talks

For Ghomeshi G8's failures on climate change are expected.

"I guess I’m not surprised," she said.  "I don’t think [the G8/20] are accountable or competent.  They do not have administrative structure.  The Harper government has no interest in climate change.  We’re not a leader in climate change [policy] and we’re the worst performing G8 country [in carbon emissions].  What they want to do is continue business as usual."

Besides subsidies and emissions, Ghomeshi and Saunders say other issues like local, "renewable, community energy infrastructure", "climate reparations" and international environmental law should be on the table in talks on the environment.  "The G20 owes $141 billion a year for climate debt to the Global South as well as indigenous communities," says Ghomeshi. 

Where do they see these issues being addressed?

For Harris, the choice is obvious: "I think the G20 has been presented as more legitimate that the G8 because it represents 2/3rds of the population and 85% of global economic output.  But we don’t think they are; they exclude 172 countries and 1/3rd of the world's population.  We believe these issues should be dealt with at the UN."

Ghomeshi believes the Cochabamba Summit held in Bolivia this year is a far better model.  "I had the opportunity to go to Cochabamba in April and that was really inspiring and monumental for me.  After going to two UN conferences what I saw was impacted communities taking the lead on issues that impact them the most.  A people’s declaration was submitted to the UN," she said.

Toronto Day’s of Action Continue

In Toronto, two events yesterday targeting the G8/20 focused primarily on climate issues.    

The 'Toxic Tour' saw 300-400 people visiting key players in Canada's mining industries in Toronto's downtown.  Canada is home to 75% of the worlds mining companies including the notorious tar sands.  Mining companies Barrick Gold and Gold Corp were targeted as well as Royal Bank of Canada (a major tar sands investor), Enbridge (an oil and gas distributer) and many others.

Later in the evening saw a "People's Assembly" on climate justice.  Brett Rhyno, an Organizer with the Toronto Climate Campaign says that the meeting, inspired by the Cochabamba Summit saw people discussing the need to put a moratorium on the tar sands, changing energy usage, changing consumption and indigenous sovereignty.

For Ghomeshi, the Toronto assembly is a local way to address climate issues democratically.  "People get to talk about their communities and provide good work and address those inequalities," she said. 

Geordie Gwalgen Dent is a contributing and sustaining member of the Toronto Media Co-op.  This is the third part of a week-long series.  The first part can be found here. The second part can be found here.

Curious as to why tens of thousands are protesting the G8/G20 summits?  Go to 2010.mediacoop.ca for up to the minute G20 and G8 Summit Protest Reporting, straight 'outta the Alternative Media Centre!


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SOLUTION THAT MUST NOT BE IGNORED

Besides all the economic problems the G-8, G-20 thinks to tackle, are the storms, earthquakes, volcano, that are destroying what the nations have built up. The Gulf Oil Leak is MASSIVE and expected to go around the world within 18 months of the April 20 explosion; it is giving off poisonous gases, sickening people and causing preparation for evacuations. They may be quiet about it, but trade, business and economics will not be the major focus of the G-20.

Even without those problems, the employment lifestyle is enslaving multitudes, polluting the air, land, water and food making us diseased, young and old and causing the energy crisis, reoccurring financial crises, climate change - global warming fears, wars, immigration, crime, inequality and social welfare programs.

The solution to all is to turn to God's provision of wisdom and protection. We can create a garden paradise lifestyle that solves the world problems with the one strategy. When we keep God's commanded holy Sabbath days of no work for anyone, in Leviticus 23, Exodus 12 as Jesus commanded in Matthew 4:4 to live by EVERY word of God, and as Muhammad said likewise specifically mentioning the Torah, Gospel, Prophets and Sinai Covenant (Ten Commandments of Exodus 20). It is the same for other religions. That would unite us in greater peace. God has prepared the way before us; we must ACTIVELY pursue it.

God is His word; His word is God. He is our God, savior and protector ONLY when we want to live His way.

June 16, 2010, prophecies. org book 12 chapter 71
God warned full page: increases in oil leak problems and total destruction of Gulf States if not repent en mass. "The time of the fulfillment of all My warnings against you has come!" (America)

Twitter: Email Pres Obama “Lift up Ten Commandments, as written Exodus 20, as nation’s standard; I will not work, buy or sell on 7th day Sabbath.”

climate justice

Here is the full text of a lecture I delivered at one of the G8 teach-ins a couple of weeks ago. It concern climate justice.

My contribution to this discussion is inspired in part by my experiences working with activists who came here from other countries - Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Chile, and Australia - to oppose gold mining on their lands, and in part by the experience of the residents of the San Joaquin Valley, one of the poorer areas of California, and where a lot of industrial projects, oil extraction and industrial waste is located, and where residents have organized to oppose these things.

I will begin by providing a simple but important thought: "A healthy environment is a human right." This idea was ratified in a precedent-setting court case in Colombia in 1991, (Fundepúblico v. Mayor of Bugalagrande). The plaintiffs sought to prevent actual and imminent damage as a result of an asphalt plant's operations in their town. The Constitutional Court sided with them saying: "Everyone has the right to enjoy and live in a healthy environment. This should be regarded as a fundamental human right, which is a prerequisite and basis for the exercise of other human, economic and political rights. It should be recognized that a healthy environment is a sine qua non condition for life itself and that no right could be exercised in a deeply altered environment."

As we have heard from Simia and Sakura and Judy [Deutsch], climate change is connected to many different struggles for justice around the globe. Our presentations are intended to convey the idea that concern for climate change should not be thought of abstractly as something that could happen in some other time and place, but is happening as we speak, and it is not the "Earth" or "the planet" that should concern us so much as people who are already suffering from environmental damage caused by unsustainable industrial development.

As Oren Lyons of the turtle clan of the Seneca Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy has said, "The Earth has all the time in the world; we don't. "Part of this G8 protest will be an expression of solidarity with rural and indigenous peoples already fighting climate injustice, in relation to the tar sands, Guatemala, and other regions of the world. Many of the communities already live (and have lived for aeons) in a truly sustainable way, growing their food and living within the means provided by the local environment. They should serve as an example to us of how to live, but instead our civilization is destroying their livlihood, in countless examples, largely through extraction industries. An example that comes to mind is oil spills in Nigeria, which have been as horrible as the recent BP spill, but have not received the same degree of media attention because they occurred far from the media's scope of concern.

Most of you have heard Martin Luther King Jr's words, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Another way of saying this is that the injustice suffered by an individual or isolated community should matter to us as much as injustices which affect great numbers or which have a higher profile. I will give you one example: in Papua New Guinea, the wealthy gold mining company Barrick Gold is dumping toxic mine tailings into the local river, poisoning their water supply, while Barrick guards murder local citizens and burn down their houses. That fact that they are on the other side of the world should not prevent us from acting in solidarity with them, especially since Canada allows companies like Barrick Gold to operate with impunity.

The damage caused by extraction industries is a clear case of environmental injustice, but what about a situation where there is said to be some environmental benefit that requires putting local populations at risk? As the climate crisis worsens we will hear more and more about cases where local populations protest the implementation of a supposedly beneficial technology. I am not talking about middle-class people in Canada protesting wind turbines because it obstructs their view, but rather cases such as the Western Shoshone in Nevada or the Diagatas in Chile opposing uranium mining on their lands, or the displacement of local peoples and destruction of biodiverse ecosystems to produce biofuels or eucalyptus plantations, listed as carbon sinks in carbon-trading schemes.

Throughout history we always find that terrible things are done in the name of some greater good. The history of religion provides many of instances of this, and in the same way capitalism has been described as a kind of religion which sacrifices millions of people, and
billions of animals for its particular vision of a higher good. Its high priests, the economists and policy analysts, are now endorsing a "magic buckshot" solution to climate change, which preserves the existing unsustainable system and sacrifices local populations to it.

The problem with the magic buckshot idea advanced by climate policy analysts - the same people advising the G8 leaders - is that it assumes unlimited funding and time. But as opponents to nuclear energy point out, the public funds used to finance it could better be used to pay for renewables and energy conservation projects. In practice, hi-tech solutions are being given precedence, in industrialized nations, in order to prop up the existing deeply flawed system. And in the time it takes to set up new nuclear reactors and CCS projects - which are still in testing phase - tens of thousands of wind turbines could be set up instead, and for less cost. Resistance to renewable energy is based on the fact that it will require less energy consumption and that infringes on capitalism - but that is the price of survival. And it a price we can afford to pay; the continuation of capitalism requires a price no one can afford. It is an inherently unstainable ideology.

Countries around the globe are spending billions of their citizen’s money to carbon sequestration, while ignoring critical knowledge gaps and their potential implications. Emily Rochon of Greenpeace notes that “The future of the planet is being gambled on a technological solution that could turn out to be an end of the pipe dream. Governments need to invest in proven solutions like wind, solar and the smarter use of power.” Scientific research says that if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2015 and fall dramatically thereafter. That leaves about six years to shift energy systems to a low emissions pathway.

The centralized technologies that many of the G8 leaders endorse as solutions for climate change will take longer that six years to fully implement. They include nuclear energy requiring uranium mining, which pollutes surface air and water with radioactive mine waste, sometimes mined near aboriginal communities, causing health problems for them
(at the end of the uranium life cycle a favourite dumping ground for the waste is First Nations lands); carbon geologic sequestration, a relatively new technology, places local populations and ecosystems at risk of poisoning from sequestered carbon gas leaking to the surface and into ground water; and geo-engineering schemes - one of which is
to cool the atmosphere by injecting sulphur particles into it, which risks burning away part of the ozone layer - are being promoted without full consideration of all their consequences. Employing a utilitarian ethic, they are suggesting that the risks are acceptable. This is usually because those at most risk are abstract numbers to them, not living breathing individuals, whose lives matter.

According to David Orr in his book Ecological Literacy, “advocates of technological sustainability tend to believe that every problem has either a technological answer or a market solution ... [resting on] the belief that humans should be rich and in control of the forces of nature … [this belief maintains that] humans as economic maximizers are incapable of the discipline implied by limits even though they are somehow capable of the wisdom and good judgment necessary to manage all the of the earth’s resources in perpetuity. This deeply pessimistic view of human potentials assumes that we cannot control our appetites, act for the common good, or wisely direct our collective energies … [they also believe that] economic growth is essential … but growth implies an eventual impossibility in a finite system … If sustainability is a top-down process [controlled by
economists, scientists and policy experts] then an active, ecologically competent citizenry is irrelevant … ecological politics is reduced to “managerial strategies.” In contrast to technological sustainability is more decentralized  ecological sustainability, restoring civic involvement, borrowing from traditional knowledge, and viewing natures as a model for human designers to emulate.

A basic principle being expressed in this presentation is that everyone counts, no matter how far away, however marginalized economically, racially, culturally or otherwise, and an injustice to one is an injustice to all. And it is not only human beings who are victims of capitalism, but also animals - by the billions - and their fate is intimately tied to our own, on many levels, including the danger posed to all land-based life forms by the acidification of the oceans, and the greenhouse gases caused by factory farming. An analysis of environmental injustice affecting humanity has to include other consideration of other species, because what happens to them affects us. One way of expressing this is Aldo Leopold's "land ethic" which changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the
land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his (or her) fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such." This is something we can learn from the self-sufficient rural communities who bear the brunt of the extraction industries.

With hi-tech solutions, the short term benefit is used to justify the risk to the local population. But if we follow the principle to "always treat others as an end in themselves, not as a means to an end," such technologies cannot be morally justified, because we are
recognizing the importance of these affected communities.

This is a basic idea: no one should be forgotten or sacrificed for some supposedly higher cause, however noble it seems at the time - even the noble end of climate change mitigation. If populations are sacrificed or put at risk, this is not morally consistent with the
initial concern, why we think climate change needs to be addressed.

Solutions to the climate crisis need to be made which take into account the well-being of everyone, and this requires a much more democratic system than now exists. The United Nations is being used a vehicle for the voices of the many, but civil protest and forums like
this one are more local methods for expressing solidarity and concern. The billion dollars spend on suppressing dissent should be been spent on renewable energy and creating green jobs.

This century will be one of unprecedented change and violence and many corporations, politicians and other guardians of power will want to implement supposed solutions, usually for the benefit of their particular constituency. They will use the existing and impending disasters to justify curtailment of civil rights - eventually leading to totalitarianism here - and as part of that they will justify the use of unproven technologies without the free and informed consent of local populations or adequate environment assessments. In fact this is already happening in more cases than any of us are aware. These essentially unproven technologies are being advanced for one reason: to allow business-as-usual to continue unimpeded, rather than go in the direction of a more democratic, just and sustainable low-growth or no-growth economy.

According to Tim Jackson in Prosperity Without Growth, “The narrow pursuit of growth represents a horrible distortion of the common good and of underlying human values. It also undermines the legitimate role of government itself. At the end of the day, the state is society’s commitment device, par excellence, and the principal agent in protecting our shared prosperity. A new vision of governance that embraces this role is urgently needed.”

The same philosopher who said "always treat others as an end in themselves, not as a means to an end" (Kant) also said "act as if the whole world depended on your actions." Protesting is doing just that. And in a way it is true: these protests are ultimately important
because we are living in an unprecedented historical period of a few years, when the actions of a few conscientious individuals and groups can make all the difference for billions of people and every living thing on the planet. Meaning that we have only a short time to bring about necessary changes, and in industrialized nations, which are most
responsible for the crisis, we have the greatest responsibility for mitigation effort. The temptation is to use unproven technologies, rather than change society from the bottom up. But mitigation technologies which harm local populations do not meet the test of justice, and for this reason they will not solve the fundamental problems. Environmental concern and social justice are inseparable.

A good phrase to describe the thinking behind the implementation of false solutions is "technological elitism" and even "environmental fascism" - the idea that individuals or small groups need not be consulted, and are essentially expendable for the sake of what some
environmental good. But in every case we find that the local environment and thus the local population that inhabits it is put at grave risk from environmental pollutions. Environmental integrity and the preservation of human rights are complimentary through local food production, but in many of the cases of development versus the community, local food production is endangered when water is used up and contaminated.

Those who promote hi-tech solutions have created of a regulatory framework for environmental assessments, using the language or risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis, which in most cases is used to justify the local risks, rather than prevent them.  A utilitarian thinking is adopted, which typically fails to take into account the well-being of the local population or that of future generations inhabiting the same land or using the contaminated water. They are considered expendable, or not even taken into account. "We have without any public debate accepted all of the implications of what Ulrich Beck has called the "risk society." The risk society makes the globe the laboratory for its experiments.  As we have seen,  theories of nuclear reactor safety are testable only after they are built, not
beforehand. – (Prof. Lawrence Schmidt)

Zygmunt Bauman points out that the language of risk is associated with gambling rather than ethics. The gambler enjoys the play even if he loses his bet. What is at stake in a risk society, however, is not merely the loss of a wager but the loss of the planet as a human
habitat. Instead of a "risk management" language governments and policy advisors would do well to heed the works of Ursula Franklin, who said that "Many technological systems are basically anti-people. People are seen as the sources of problems while technology is seen as the source of solutions." In the assessments for mitigation technologies, such as
carbon sequestration, the public acceptance and the consent of local populations are seen as a barrier to the implementation of the technologies.

Another critic of nuclear technology, Fred Knellman said that "No matter how small the probability of an accident, the risk is still too large to be acceptable to present or future generations ... Only zero risk would be socially acceptable, given the fact that there are
alternative options for securing society's genuine energy requirements.“

Ursula Franklin says that before a technology is implemented we should be sure it promotes justice, that if favours people over machines, that it favours conservation over waste, and that its effects should be reversible. Marginal populations should be consulted. Currently there is either a disingenuous consultation process, when it comes to these technologies - where those most affected are not notified or their concerns dismissed.

We can also understand these centralized technological solutions as insubstantial reforms, an effort to appease the public, examples of "greenwash." Imperial Oil and Barrick Gold now claim to be "sustainable" and "good corporate citizens." But mere reforms, even if
they are genuinely motivated, are inadequate because these leaders subscribe to an inherently unjust and unsustainable ideological framework, capitalism, which cannot be reformed on the scale that's needed to avert global catastrophe. We could say that their blind faith in technological solutions to the climate crisis are really ways of avoiding the more substantial structural changes needed, changes that would put them out of business because their business are inherently unjust and unsustainable.

One way of expressing the needed change, is that we must go from a system dedicated to unlimited economic growth for on a planet of finite resources, created for the benefit of a few, to a truly democratic no-growth economy which takes into account finite resources, and is used wisely for the benefit of all. The no-growth economy is an idea gaining currency. The traditional economic infatuation with rising GDP is no longer rationally defensible in a
world of finite resources. Instead of centralized hi-tech solutions we need more decentralized intermediate technologies, such as renewable energy.

According to green economist Tim Jackson, "a less materialistic society will enhance life satisfaction. A more equal society will lower the importance of status goods. A less growth-driven economy will improve people’s work-life balance. Enhanced investment in public goods will provide lasting returns to the nation’s prosperity .”

The basic principle here is that the integrity and self-sufficiency of local rural populations - who are already growing their own food and living sustainably, who represent the direction humanity needs to go in - should not be compromised by these top-down false solutions.

It is up to us to use our abilities and privileges in this society to work in solidaridity with affected communities, to oppose unsustainable development. The fight against climate change will be won through grassroots activism and people's movements, not through
solutions imposed through the same sort of overreliance on technology that led to this crisis. This is something the G8 leaders need to understand and take to heart.

Protest is important for reminding them and the public that solutions to our common problems must be founded on principles of justice, which take into account all people everywhere, and are not merely for the benefit.

Vigil-Info Picket against Enbridge Canada Day July 1 2010, at Ol

 

Flyer Info Stop Enbridge Northern Alberta Tar Sands Pipeline and Supertankers to SuperNatural B.C. Pacific Coast
 

Flyer Info Stop Enbridge Northern Alberta Tar Sands Pipeline and Supertankers to SuperNatural B.C. Pacific Coast 
Stop Enbridge (BP North) Oilsands Northern Pipeline and SuperTankers to Hell Gateway into SuperNatural B.C. 

*(Next Vigil-Info Picket against Enbridge Canada Day July 1 2010, at Olympic Village across from Science Center at False Creek, Vancouver BC 11am-12noon 

* Enbridge files Gateway pipeline proposal, May 27, 2010 with Federal Regulators despite the Objections of 80% of B.C. Residents. All affected First Nations strongly oppose the plan. They are 100% supported by Union of B.C. Chiefs and and also unanimously supported by Environmental Groups. 

 
* It is a 1200km pipeline to be Bulldozed from the Alberta Tarsands to and over the Great Bear Rainforest to Kitimat, BC, Pumping 525,000 bpd of Alberta Bitumen Tarsands Oil to Hundreds of Oil SuperTankers, many 3x larger than a Canadian Football field to be shipped to China, Japan and South Korea. Enbridge is funded (Blood-Money) $100Million from Asian(China) Refineries to close the Deal. That will buy a lot of influence and ads. A Second Twin Pipeline will Pump Natural Gas Chemical Condensate (linked to inducing cancer) back to the Alberta Tar Sands>>>>>> ***They could also destroy over a Thousand Rivers (and Pacific Ocean…) full of Rich Diversified Life including Wild Salmon, Whales, Dolphins, Bears… 

Tarsands is NOT the Mama. 

Earth is. Cut the Cord to Fossil Fuel Dependence! What’s in the Pipeline: 

Independent Local Public Distributed Renewable Energy for Global Survival!!! 

Your future, and the world’s future is in your hands-please write: Premier Gordon Campbell—NDP Leader Carole James—PM Stephen Harper ….Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff…NDP Leader Jack Layton…US President Barack Obama 

premier@gov.bc.ca, carole.james.mla@leg.bc.ca pm@pm.gc.caIgnatieff.M@parl.gc.ca , LaytoJ@parl.gc.ca,president@whitehouse.gov CC: psea4earth@gmail.com 

Paradigm Shift Environmental Alliance http://burningdinosaur.wordpress.com

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