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What People Don’t Get about This Inflation Spike

What People Don’t Get about This Inflation Spike

Rising costs signal the ‘long emergency’ we face after glutting on cheap energy. Part one of two.

If you are sitting around the kitchen table contemplating the escalating cost of your grocery bills (and just about everything else), then welcome to what U.S. writer James Kunstler calls “the long emergency.”

In 2005 Kunstler, famous for his critique of suburbia, noted that civilization’s energy appetites were unsustainable given the declining quality of fossil fuels left in the world.

“We can be certain that the price and supplies of fossil fuels will suffer disruptions in the period ahead that I am calling the Long Emergency,” advised Kunstler. “No combination of alternative energies will permit us to continue living the way we do, or even close to it.”

The inflation we are facing today is a manifestation of that long emergency intensifying. The elephant in the room is the rising cost of all fossil fuels.

That’s not of course what we are hearing from those either trying to calm our nerves or inflame populist emotions.

The experts mostly blame the pandemic, unsettled supply chains and great surges in demand. Don’t worry, the authorities tell us, all of this is temporary and transient.

At the same time political insurrectionists, who now proliferate like rodents in our whack-a-mole culture, have blamed everything from government deficits to carbon taxes for inflation. They do so even though inflation has appeared in jurisdictions with no deficits and no carbon taxes.

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

Are Electric Cars the Solution?

Are Electric Cars the Solution?

Or do visions of ‘clean’ robots supplying mobile freedom steer us down the wrong road?

Fifty years ago, the French political ecologist André Gorz explained that cars masquerade as solutions to the very problems they create. “Since cars have killed the city, we need faster cars to escape on superhighways to suburbs that are even farther away. What an impeccable circular argument: give us more cars so that we can escape the destruction caused by cars.”

Today, cars powered by electricity rather than petroleum have become the promised solution to climate change.

According to Bloomberg, about half of the world’s transportation vehicle sales by 2035 will be electric. Many now assume this switchover is already ushering in a “green transition” to a better world. “Electric vehicles are not just the wave of the future, they are saving lives today,” gushes one environmentally-focused non-profit.

Now, for the record, I own a 22-year-old Toyota 4Runner designed after a Japanese military jeep. My car-savvy wife purchased the vehicle for $3,000 nearly eight years ago. I have never been fond of cars or their associated expenses, but I do appreciate a machine that can last more than 400,000 kilometres. Yet, as my books attest, I am no fan of internal combustion engines, or ICEs, let alone petro states.

However, neither am I an enthusiast for wishful thinking. People who regard the electric car as a significant solution for climate change don’t seem to understand the incredible scale of the problem. Nor do they see that the electric car “solution” accelerates other problematic trends in our technological society.

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

Andrew Nikiforuk on Getting Real about Our Crises

Andrew Nikiforuk on Getting Real about Our Crises

WATCH: The noted journo delivered a talk on what we’re up against, and what we need to do. Warning: His prescription is bracing.

[Editor’s note: On Nov. 17, Andrew Nikiforuk, the highly awarded journalist, author and Tyee contributing editor gave the Southam Lecture at the University of Victoria. Over 1,000 people attended in person or online. You can view the recorded video above. Below, a bonus from Nikiforuk. He addresses questions some members of the audience sent his way.]

Two weeks ago, I gave a talk at the University of Victoria arguing that our morally bankrupt civilization is chasing dead ends when it comes to climate change and energy spending.

I argued that by focusing on emissions, we have failed to acknowledge economic and population growth as the primary driver of those emissions along with the unrestrained consumption of natural systems that support all life.

I added that people plus affluence plus technology make a deadly algorithm that is now paving our road to collective ruin.

As Ronald Wright noted in his book A Short History of Progress, civilization is a pyramid scheme that depends on cancerous rates of growth.

I also explained that many so-called green technologies including renewables, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage are not big solutions. Because they require rare earth minerals and fossil fuels for their production and maintenance, these technologies shift problems around.

In addition these green technologies cannot be scaled up in time to cut emissions or require too much energy to make any difference at all.

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

The Future According to Andrew Nikiforuk

The Future According to Andrew Nikiforuk

He gives the Southam Lecture at UVic Wednesday. It’s sold out in person but sign up for free to watch his talk live online.

Andrew Nikiforuk shares a lot of words in written form in The Tyee. But hearing him speak his brilliant mind in person is a rare event. You’ll have that opportunity on Wednesday, Nov. 17, when Nikiforuk gives the prestigious Harvey S. Southam lecture by invitation of the department of writing at the University of Victoria. If you can’t be in the room, the address will be livestreamed.

The title of his talk is “Energy Dead-Ends: Green Lies, Climate Change and Chaotic Transitions.” If you’ve been reading Nikiforuk over the years, you may recognize some of those themes. This presentation, he said in a phone conversation, will not only knit together research and forecasts in new ways, but explore fresh territory.

“I’ll be driving towards six general thoughts for young people, including withdrawing from the technosphere, defending the natural world and building refuges,” he said.

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

Returning to a 1970s Economy Could Save Our Future

Returning to a 1970s Economy Could Save Our Future

We’d contract energy use by half. Shrinking consumption is the solution we can actually live with. Second of two.

[Editor’s note: Read part one of this two-parter here.]

Thanks to bright green technologies, we can continuously grow the level of consumption on planet Earth and deliver a bloated North American lifestyle to all without inviting climate catastrophe or a general breakdown of natural ecosystems that support all living things.

That’s the big bold lie that politicians are telling themselves this week at yet another climate conference. Greta Thunberg calls such dissembling just so much “blah, blah, blah.”

As I’ll share in this piece, a number of brilliant energy critics from Vaclav Smil to William Rees have done the figuring, acknowledged the physical limits of things, and told us the truth. A truth that is not as uncomfortable as you might think.

It is this. We must contract the global economy, restructure technological society and restore what’s left of natural ecosystems if we want to live and breathe.

The appeal of the “tech will save us” charade crosses ideological lines. No sacrifice is necessary; no wisdom is required; no change is necessary. Both Green New Dealers and the Business-as-Usual Crowd believe a variety of so-called green technologies forged by the burning of more fossil fuels will save the day and postpone what is already happening: a great unsettling.

These green illusions, as I explained yesterday, represent the worst kind of falsehood. Many of these techno fixes, such as direct air capture, are largely unproven, don’t scale up or will invite bankruptcy.

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

Tech Won’t Save Us. Shrinking Consumption Will

Tech Won’t Save Us. Shrinking Consumption Will

Beyond the ‘blah blah blah’ of climate summits lies the real solution our leaders refuse to acknowledge. First of two parts.

Since 1995 there have been 25 global conferences on climate change. At every one our so-called political leaders have kicked the can down the road and sung from a bright green hymnbook.

Greta Thunberg has disparaged the refrain as nothing more than “blah, blah, blah.”

She is right of course. Blah, blah blah has kept emissions rising, along with energy spending and its twin sibling unbridled economic growth.

Blah, blah blah has become the standard substitute for the conversation that needs to occur at global conferences and in every public venue: how to shrink the economy and beat a sustainable retreat?

And how do we do that without unhinging a highly complex society that is already teetering on the verge of collapse due to overconsumption of everything?

The notion of shrinking the economy isn’t as medieval as you might think, given the enormous waste of our high-tech and high energy civilization. The existing system contains so much slack and fat that we could easily reduce our energy spending to levels common in the 1960s and 1970s. That wasn’t exactly the Dark Ages. (More on why this is possible, what stands in the way, and how to get there, in a second piece tomorrow.)

Of course such a conversation is considered impossible by our leaders who are ruled by the mantra of growth and short-term election hurdles.

So in Canada, the world’s fourth largest oil exporting nation, the blah blah blah refrain gets louder by the day. We want our emissions and our green cake, too.

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

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…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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