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The Afghan Correction

The Afghan Correction

Interventionistas never seem to learn these seven truths about war and ‘nation building.’

The chaotic rout of the U.S. in Afghanistan has got the chattering classes all agape and gawking.

One of the poorest countries in the world with virtually no GDP has defeated one of the richest.

OMG

A low-energy spender humbled a high-flying petro consumer.

WTF

Bearded men with time outwaited technocrats with ticking watches.

OMG!!

Another “weak actor” with AK 47s bested “a strong actor” with drones and AI.

WTF???

And on it goes.

But America’s disastrous intervention and ignoble retreat illustrates some uncomfortable if not random truths that are left out of the chatter.

They include the perils of intervention, cycles of imperial collapse, economic theft, energy limits, the power of demographics and ecological degradation.

Here are seven truths we have been taught, yet again, in Afghanistan.

1. Interventionistas by definition do harm.

The straight-talking philosopher and risk expert Nassim Nicholas Taleb lays out the disastrous hubris of interventionista thinking in his excellent book Skin in the Game. Interventionistas, he says, not only lack practical sense, but they never learn from history. They also fail at pure reasoning and cannot imagine complex interactions let alone consequences. (Author Wendell Berry called such unaccountable people “itinerant professional vandals.”) These vandals tend to symbolize the adage that experience is making the same mistake over and over again but with greater confidence.

American interventionistas, just like their Russian and Chinese counterparts, pretend that they can replace regimes, build nations, rewire economies and terrorize civilians with bombs and all without unforeseen consequences.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The World Won’t Buy Alberta’s Second-Rate Coal: Experts

The World Won’t Buy Alberta’s Second-Rate Coal: Experts

What Kenney wants mined is such poor quality ‘it won’t make the cut’ for global markets, panel told.

Half a dozen mining proposals to extract low-quality coking coal in the eastern slopes of the Rockies don’t make any economic sense and shouldn’t be allowed, say two Alberta coal experts with more than 70 years’ experience in the industry.

In separate written submissions to Alberta’s Coal Policy Committee this summer, a retired geologist and a mining engineer testified that the market value of metallurgical coal seams in Alberta will never be able to compete with the quality of coking coals in B.C.’s Elk Valley mined by Teck Resources.

“These speculative mines don’t meet the requirements to be viable by any economic analysis,” said Cornelis Kolijn, a semi-retired process mining engineer with extensive experience in metallurgical coal, coke making and product development around the world over 40 years.

The Kenney government reluctantly created Alberta’s Coal Policy Committee after it initiated a political scandal by abruptly rescinding long-standing coal development rules in 2020 without public consultation.

Those rules prevented mining in much of the eastern slopes, but Australian coal miners learned of their removal before Albertans did.

Public outcry then forced the government to reinstate its coal policy and create a five-member committee to investigate the future of coal mining in the eastern slopes.

All summer long it has been hearing submissions from Albertans, First Nations, environmentalists, ranchers and Australian coal companies. It will make its recommendations in the fall.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Speaking for the Old Growth

Speaking for the Old Growth

Famed tree botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger has a tough message for BC Premier John Horgan.

The world recognized tree botanist, biochemist and bestselling author Diana Beresford-Kroeger is angry.

“I’m furious actually,” she says over the phone from her home in Merrickville, Ontario.

“In this day and age I am furious that they are logging the last old-growth forests during a pandemic. It is sneaky.”

She squarely directs the bulk of her considerable wrath against the British Columbia government of Premier John Horgan.

“The whole idea of a democracy is to look after the whole,” she says.

And she thinks that fine idea has been undermined by Horgan’s commitment to the industrial logging of the province’s last remaining giant trees.

And all to take advantage of rising prices during a pandemic.

“It is so underhanded. It’s like watching a plumber perform brain surgery,” she adds with a ladle of Irish wrath.

“The liquidation of B.C.’s ancient forests and their rare genetic richness, represents a direct assault on Indigenous people and their ability to survive,” she argues. “It is a form of mass murder.”

Beresford-Kroeger knows a thing or two about colonialism. Orphaned at an early age, she just barely escaped the clutches of Ireland’s dreaded Magdalene Laundries, brutal residential schools for orphans, unwed mothers and prostitutes.

Raised by traditional Celts in the old ways and Brehon Laws, she learned how England’s colonialism systematically robbed the Irish of their language, customs and, yes, their once great forests.

Ireland once had magnificent forests but the patriarchs of the British Empire played a powerful role in their destruction, all for money.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XIX

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XIX

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Andrew Nikiforuk is an author and contributing editor of the online media site The Tyee. He has been writing about the oil and gas industry for close to 20 years. In his most recent article he writes about the lies being told by the Canadian government regarding its attempts to reduce carbon emissions. The Canadian government is certainly not alone in its misinformation (propaganda?) and one of the issues I believe is contributing to the lies is a (purposeful?) misidentification of our planet’s fundamental existential dilemma. Below is my comment on Andrew’s excellent discussion.

Thank you, Andrew. You’ve laid out the case for some very, very difficult decisions/choices/discussions that lay ahead of us.

I’m not convinced we will make what I consider to be the correct choices or even engage in some meaningful and productive dialogue since the changes that I believe are needed (degrowth) would be viewed as exceedingly painful to many as it challenges not only some core beliefs but what could be considered rights/entitlements/expectations regarding living standards (and it doesn’t help that we are genetically predisposed to avoid pain and seek pleasure). The brakes that need to be applied to some social practices/policies (perhaps most? all?) would also be challenged by some because I would contend the fundamental dilemma we are having to address is not necessarily carbon emissions, which I would argue is one of the consequences of the underlying issue, which is ecological overshoot.

The finite, one-time cache of easy-to-retrieve and cheap-to-access energy provided by fossil fuels has ‘fuelled’ an explosion in human numbers and sociopolitical/cultural/economic complexities unlike any other time in human pre/history. With this energy resource at our disposal we have constructed a complex, global, and industrialised world with technological wonders that would certainly appear magical to past generations.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Fate of the Canadian Rockies May Rest on This Decision

The Fate of the Canadian Rockies May Rest on This Decision

Approving the Grassy Mountain Coal Project could enable industrializing Alberta’s sensitive and vital eastern slopes.

Next month, a provincial-federal joint review panel on the massive Grassy Mountain Coal Project in the southern Canadian Rockies will table a decision that could determine the fate of Alberta’s famed eastern slopes.

If the panel gives the contentious metallurgical coal mine a green light, the doors could open for other existing proposals that could industrialize nearly 1,000 square kilometres of the Rockies and threaten the region’s scarce water supplies.

Or the panel could rule against it, reflecting what it heard from writer and local resident Sid Marty in a public hearing last fall. Mountain top removal in the Rockies, said Marty, is “the wrong development, in the wrong location, in the wrong century.”

Much hinges on the panel’s report and recommendations that will be submitted to federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson next month.

For starters, the Alberta government of Jason Kenney has strongly championed Australian metallurgical coal developers as an important new source of jobs and revenue that could replace shrinking oilsands developments in the province.

All the steel-making coal would be shipped to Vancouver-area terminals for export to China or India.

In addition, the province and the Coal Association of Canada, directed by former Alberta Tory environment minister Colin Campbell, have tried to sell open-pit coal mining as a form of “reconciliation” that can enrich First Nations.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Change BC Fracking or Expect Damaging Earthquakes: Report

Change BC Fracking or Expect Damaging Earthquakes: Report

The new warning comes from a former senior scientist with the province’s oil and gas commission.

Since 2005, British Columbia’s experiment with hydraulic fracturing of gas wells has changed the geology of the province’s northeast. It is now home to some of the world’s largest fracking-induced earthquakes outside of China.

In 2018, one magnitude 4.6 tremor tied to fracking even rattled buildings in Fort St. John and stopped construction on the Site C dam. It was followed by two strong aftershocks.

Now, a comprehensive new scientific study warns that stress changes caused by the technology could trigger a magnitude 5 earthquake or greater in the region, resulting in significant damage to dams, bridges, pipelines and cities if major regulatory and policy reforms aren’t made soon.

Allan Chapman, the author of the paper served as a senior geoscientist for B.C.’s Oil and Gas Commission and as its first hydrologist from 2010 to 2017. Prior to working for the commission, he directed the Ministry of Environment’s River Forecast Centre, which forecast floods and droughts.

Chapman, now an independent geoscientist, said that he felt compelled to write the paper because researchers have concluded that fracking “induced earthquakes don’t have an upper limit” in terms of magnitude.

In addition, “there is a clear and present public safety and infrastructure risk that remains unaddressed by the regulator and the B.C. government.”

B.C.’s Oil and Gas Commission rejected Chapman’s conclusions in a statement to The Tyee, saying his study contained “speculation.”

Recent events in China’s Sichuan province prove that fracking can trigger large and destructive earthquakes.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Pandemic Speaks

The Pandemic Speaks

Are you finally ready to listen to me now? If so, here are my 10 timeless truths.

Audi, vide, tace. I have been trying to engage you in conversation for more than a year, but you have not listened.

Perhaps you don’t want to grasp the truths I have to offer. They are gifts really, but I know you will never see my generosity in that light. Such fear. Such ignorance. Ad altiora tendo.

But I am bound by ancient oaths and I must deliver these few plain lessons as I have faithfully done for thousands of years.

I read confusion on your face.

Did you think that I would speak with the rage of Moses, the indignation of Isaiah?

Or did you think I would appear in Marvel cape on a TikTok video?

Did you expect me to play chess with your armoured ego like Death in The Seventh Seal?

No matter. Let me start my instruction by reminding you of my curriculum vitae. I earned it at the finest university: the diversity of life over the history of time.

For millennia, I have laboured in the natural world, imposing limits and borders in places you seek to globalize with your technologies and economies. Do you really think the world will be more secure when bits of plastic outnumber fish?

I have but one non-linear mission, and that is to celebrate and restore diversity.

Your rising and falling civilizations cultivate fragility, and that is simply the way of things. While you seek to build great walls of stability, I bring volatility. This tension explains why we collide like two rams on the mountain of history.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Brutal Legal Odyssey of Jessica Ernst Comes to an End

The Brutal Legal Odyssey of Jessica Ernst Comes to an End

The Alberta landowner fought an epic battle against fracking interests.

After 14 years of battling Alberta regulators and the fracking industry over a water well contaminated with methane and chemicals, Jessica Ernst says she feels incalculable grief and anger.

On April 1, 2021, her tortuous legal crusade — which included a controversial detour to the Supreme Court of Canada — came to an end with no resolution. What one Alberta lawyer dubbed “the legal saga of the decade” is over.

Court of Queen’s Bench Judge J.T. Eamon accepted applications from Encana and the Alberta government to dismiss the case due to inactivity on the file for three years.

“It was inevitable,” says Ernst who was informed three weeks after the dismissal. “The rules are the rules.”

After Toronto lawyers Murray Klippenstein and Cory Wanless quit the case in August 2018 without warning, Ernst was left hanging.

“My lawyers knew I couldn’t find a replacement lawyer in Alberta when they quit,” said Ernst. “They even wrote me that and added that I would fail as a self-represented litigant.”

She not only had no lawyer, but incomplete legal files to work with, Ernst says. Klippenstein told The Tyee in 2019 that he would return them to Ernst, but she maintains his firm only returned some correspondence but not the complete files. And so the lawsuit languished.

Although Ernst tried to find another lawyer, she says that she couldn’t find a suitable candidate for various reasons, including conflict of interest. Most big law firms do business in or with the oil patch.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

David Schindler, the Scientific Giant Who Defended Fresh Water

David Schindler, the Scientific Giant Who Defended Fresh Water

Among the world’s greatest ecologists, his boreal research has touched all of our lives.

The first time I met David Schindler 30 years ago, he occupied an office the size of a closet on the eighth floor of the zoology building at the University of Alberta.

Piles of scientific papers erupted about the room like academic volcanoes. So much paper obliterated a desk that Schindler perched his computer on a TV tray. He didn’t like cities, and drove to work every day from Wildwood, Alta., 100 kilometres west of Edmonton. There he and his wife Suzanne Bayley were correctly known as “dog people.” They owned 85 sled dogs.

But that’s not what dumbfounded me. Schindler just didn’t look or behave like a university professor. People commonly mistook the lake ecologist for a rig worker or a farmer. The short muscular man could lift a car, ride a 10-dog sled team over 5,000 kilometres of terrain every winter, wrestle a group of men down a stairway (yes, he did that at Oxford University), hunt a moose and happily down a bottle of whiskey with no noticeable effects.

And then there was the peerless, cutting-edge science. By the age of 50, Schindler was one of the world’s top freshwater ecologists. Politicians and bureaucrats feared him because he wielded scientific evidence the way a Samurai swung a sword. His groundbreaking research on phosphates, acid rain, climate change, UV radiation and transboundary pollutants had rattled governments in North America and Europe and driven important policy changes around the world.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

When Is Mountaintop Removal Not Mountaintop Removal? In Alberta, of Course!

When Is Mountaintop Removal Not Mountaintop Removal? In Alberta, of Course!

The Kenney government plays word games as it plans to strip-mine the Rockies.

In Alberta, the government of Jason Kenney has one definition for mountaintop removal, while most people have another.

You might think that excavating the top of a mountain until it’s reduced to a series of carved away “benches” that rise like giant steps to a last shred of a mountain’s peak is “mountaintop removal.”

If so, you disagree with the Alberta government.

Here’s someone else who disagrees with the Kenney definition. Australian coal miners.

While the Kenney government claims mountaintop removal can’t happen in Alberta’s water-sensitive eastern slopes, Benga Mining, an Australian firm owned by Aussie billionaire Gina Rinehart, says that’s the technique it intends to employ — and in a joint federal-provincial hearing no less.

Last week, the Kenney government told the Narwhal in a series of emails that open-pit mining can’t be called mountaintop removal if it only removes, say, 90 per cent of a mountaintop.

By Alberta’s definition, the top of the mountain has to be “completely” removed to qualify as mountaintop removal.

The Alberta Energy Regulator and Kenney spokesperson Kavi Bal both informed the Narwhal that open-pit mining can scrape off the sides of a mountain, devein coal seams and leave a ridge a pockmarked shadow of itself after removing tonnes of toxic debris, and that’s OK: because it’s open-pit mining, and not mountaintop removal.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Critics Skeptical as Alberta Reverses Course on Open-pit Coal Mines

Critics Skeptical as Alberta Reverses Course on Open-pit Coal Mines

Five days after Kenney defended the province’s mining push, the government says it was all a big mistake.

After months of ignoring a grassroots protest movement opposing plans to allow open-pit coal mining in Alberta’s Rockies, Energy Minister Sonya Savage said today the provincial government made a mistake and is now prepared to fix it.

In a brief news conference, Savage said the province would reinstate the 1976 Coal Policy, which prohibited open-pit mining on 1.5 million hectares of “Category 2” lands in the eastern slopes of the Rockies.

In addition, Savage said she had instructed the Alberta Energy Regulator that “no mountain top removal will be permitted” in the province and that all future coal exploration on the Category 2 lands will be paused indefinitely until public consultation is held.

Coal exploration by Australian miners on six existing leases in the foothills will not be paused.

Savage’s reinstatement of the Coal Policy directly contradicts statements from Premier Jason Kenney on Wednesday that the Coal Policy was a “dead letter” and obsolete.

The highly unpopular premier also characterized opponents of coal mining as urban snobs even though the majority of the opposition has come from his party’s angry base: ranchers, farmers, landowners and rural towns and municipalities.

The government’s abrupt change of course follows weeks of protests from hundreds of thousands of Albertans from all walks of life and all political parties.

They raised concerns about water security, selenium pollution (a legacy of open-pit coal mines), and the future of the province’s iconic eastern slopes.

Landowner and conservation groups greeted today’s announcement with skepticism.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Months Before Albertans Were Told, Australian Miners Knew Plans to Axe Coal Policy

Months Before Albertans Were Told, Australian Miners Knew Plans to Axe Coal Policy

Investor presentations signalled the Kenney government aimed to open protected lands to open-pit mining.

Australian mining firms seeking to strip-mine metallurgical coal in Alberta’s eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains knew well ahead of Albertans that the government was planning to rescind a law that stood in the way.

The 44-year-old Coal Policy, the result of extensive public consultation in the 1970s, kept 1.5 million hectares of Category 2 lands in the eastern slopes off limits from open-pit mining until the Jason Kenney government abruptly axed it in May of last year with no public consultation.

Alberta’s environment minister has denied that doing away with the Coal Policy “has opened up the eastern slopes for strip-mining.”

But a presentation prepared some time in 2019 by Capital Investment Partners, a firm that owns four private coal companies with extensive leases in the central Rockies, told investors: “Alberta government [is] in the process of changing the coal policy to allow more open-pit mining.”

This statement raises serious questions, said Katie Morrison, the conservation director of the Southern Alberta arm of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, who found the presentation online.

“The CIP presentation really implies that long before Albertans heard about the cancellation of the Coal Policy, the government was consulting with coal companies at the request of coal companies and for the benefit of coal companies,” Morrison told The Tyee.

She added that the presentation “is very clear that the Australians understood the cancellation as a lifting of restrictions that allowed them to mine in areas they couldn’t access before.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Alberta Government Fines Hunter for Trespassing on Australian Coal Lease

Alberta Government Fines Hunter for Trespassing on Australian Coal Lease

Levi Williams-Whitney traversed the land to make a video opposing open-pit mining. He has no regrets.

The Kenney government has fined an Alberta hunter $600 for making an anti-coal video, but the young man says he’s laughing.

Last October, Levi Williams-Whitney went for a gambol up Grassy Mountain just north of the town of Blairmore in Alberta’s historic Crowsnest Pass.

Much of the mountain is now owned by Benga Mining (Riversdale Resources), a firm purchased by Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart in 2019 for $700 million.

With the Kenney government’s blessings, Rinehart, an iron-ore magnate and Australia’s wealthiest woman, has proposed to reduce what is now the habitat of mountain sheep, trout and elk into a giant open-pit coal mine. (The mountain top removal project is under a joint federal-provincial review.)

Another bunch of Australian developers want to remove more than half a dozen other nearby mountains from the Rockies to also supply Asian steel markets. They, too, have the government’s enthusiastic support.

Williams-Whitney, an avid hunter and environmental student at the University of Lethbridge, wasn’t impressed with Rinehart’s plans, let alone the Alberta government’s red-carpet treatment for Australian coal miners.

“The video was my way to express some of my frustration and refine my thinking about the issues,” said Williams-Whitney who has hunted for elk in the eastern slopes for years.

So he drove an hour-and-a-half from his home in Lethbridge to the Crowsnest Pass, where underground coal mines, French coal barons and communist unions once dominated the region’s turbulent history some 100 years ago.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Threatened by Coal, Ranchers Take the Kenney Government to Court

Threatened by Coal, Ranchers Take the Kenney Government to Court

Alberta is poised to let miners destroy mountaintops and vital watersheds grazed for a century.

When Jason Kenney’s government quietly abolished the province’s visionary Coal Policy last May to appease Australian coal miners, a shock wave travelled through cowboy country along the scenic slopes of the southern Rockies.

One of those waves arrived at the doorstep of the Rocking P Ranch owned by Mac and Renie Blades.

Another hit the nearby Plateau Cattle Co. owned by John Smith and Laura Laing.

Both families graze their cattle at the base of a fir-topped mountain called Cabin Ridge during the summer months.

Under the province’s 44-year-old Coal Policy the picturesque mountain lay within a landscape known as Category 2. That classification forbade open-pit mining and thereby conserved a precious watershed in arid Alberta.

But in one fell swoop the Kenney government ended that protection by killing the policy and most of its land classification system.

As a consequence the province abruptly opened up 1.5 million hectares of the southern Rockies to mountaintop removal in the middle of the Oldman River watershed, which supplies drinking water to more than a million Canadians. The government is now taking bids for some of that area until Dec. 15.

Australian leaders of coal mining corporations, who had lobbied for the abolishment of the Coal Policy, openly praised the government when their wish was granted.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Pipe Dream: Taxpayer-Owned TMX Is a Bust, Concludes Analyst

Pipe Dream: Taxpayer-Owned TMX Is a Bust, Concludes Analyst

Expect no Asian windfall for oilsands crude, says a new report by expert David Hughes.

Remember that 67-year-old pipeline and its controversial bitumen expansion project that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bought from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion in 2018?

Well, a lot has happened since then.

For starters, the bitumen export project has climbed from a price tag of $7.8 billion to $12.6 billion and counting.

Meanwhile, a global pandemic has slowed the economy to a crawl and destabilized oil prices by bluntly curbing demand, probably for years.

The troubled oil industry, already reeling from global overproduction and crushing debt, is now actively contracting.

Cenovus and Husky, two of the five largest oilsands producers, just merged to save money by killing more than 2,000 jobs. Suncor axed another 2,000 employees. The so-called “economic engine of Canada” is shedding jobs, not making them.

As the world’s oil industry shrinks, prospects for global economic recovery seem remote if not problematic, because the world runs on oil.

China, the presumed market for Alberta’s heavy sour crude, has arrested two of our citizens, bullied our leaders and become a global exporter of technological tyranny.

And climate change, the topic everyone likes to endlessly talk about, continues to erode shorelines, burn forests, create refugees and undermine global security.

So does the world still need the Trans Mountain expansion project?

That’s the timely question David Hughes, one of the country’s foremost energy experts, deftly answers in his latest report for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

And the answer is a big fat no.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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