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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…

To Save Ourselves, We’ll Need This Very Different Economy

To Save Ourselves, We’ll Need This Very Different Economy

What would ‘getting serious’ about the survival of civilization look like?

The pandemic is a big problem. Climate change is an even bigger problem. But the meta-problem is ecological overshoot.

Plagues and heat waves — along with plunging biodiversity; fishery collapses; soil and land degradation; land, water and sea pollution; resource shortages, etc. — are mere symptoms of a much greater planetary malaise. Ecological overshoot means there are way too many people using vastly too much energy and material resources and dumping too much waste.

In more technical terms, humanity’s consumption of even renewable resources and our production of wastes exceeds the regenerative and assimilative capacities of the ecosphere. This is the biophysical definition of “unsustainable,” and a harbinger of pending systems collapse.

Avoiding the collapse of one’s civilization would seem to be job one for political leaders. And yesterday they received yet another “code red” reminder of what is at stake from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Yet few politicians have even heard of overshoot. Concern about its implications has yet to penetrate economic and developmental policy circles.

It therefore seems fair to ask: What accounts for such political deafness? One obvious earplug is the neoliberal economics dominant in the world today. Its adherents assume that:

    • The economy is separate from, and can function independently of, the biophysical “environment.”
    • Important relationships between variables change predictably and if they deviate from desirable comfort zones, can be reversed.
    • The “factors of production” (finance capital, natural capital, manufactured capital, human capital) are near-perfect substitutes. For example, human ingenuity — technology — can make up for any potentially limiting natural resource.

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

Seven Years after Mount Polley Disaster, Mine Waste Still Flows into Quesnel Lake

Seven Years after Mount Polley Disaster, Mine Waste Still Flows into Quesnel Lake

A ‘temporary’ permit allows wastewater to be dumped in the water. That may not change anytime soon.

Doug Watt was sleeping the night the Mount Polley mine’s tailings dam released, dumping its contents into Hazeltine Creek, which flows into the west arm of Quesnel Lake near his home in Likely, B.C.

It was the early morning of Aug. 4, 2014, and Watt, who lives about seven kilometres from the mine site, says he wasn’t aware of the breach until a 6:30 a.m. call from the local fire and rescue service woke him. The first thing he noticed was the sound.

“It was quite a shock,” he says. “We went outside, and you could hear it down the lake. It sounded like a distant Niagara Falls.”

The gold and copper mine deposited nearly 25 million cubic metres of mine waste into the Fraser watershed that day — roughly equal to the volume of water flowing over Niagara Falls every two-and-a-half hours. It left a toxic slurry that remains on the lakebed today. Data showed the lake rose several inches overnight, Watt says.

Seven years later, mine waste continues to flow from Mount Polley into Quesnel Lake under a permit issued by the B.C. government.

That permit was meant to be temporary, a stopgap measure to prevent another spill while mine owner Imperial Metals developed long-term wastewater solutions.

Now a local citizen’s group is fighting proposed amendments that could allow mine waste dumped into Quesnel Lake well into the future.

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

A Stronger Electricity Grid Is Crucial to Cutting Carbon. Does that Make It Green?

A Stronger Electricity Grid Is Crucial to Cutting Carbon. Does that Make It Green?

A proposal to lay cables beneath the Columbia River is met with skepticism from an Indigenous activist and the river’s advocates.

[Editor’s note: This is the latest in a year-long occasional series of articles produced by InvestigateWest in partnership with The Tyee and other news organizations exploring what it will take to shift the Cascadia region to a zero-carbon economy, and is supported in part by the Fund for Investigative Journalism.]

Can slicing a 100-mile-long trench into the bed of the Columbia River — the iconic giant whose flow binds British Columbia, Washington and Oregon — be good for the environment? The answer is a big yes, says a team of energy developers that proposes submerging power cables in the riverbed.

The developers say the submerged cables could deliver “clean” energy that will be crucial for getting the most densely developed areas of Cascadia off fossil fuels.

A proposal by renewable energy developer Sun2o Partners and transmission developer PowerBridge would insert the cables into the Columbia at The Dalles in Oregon. This electrical on-ramp is near the towering wind farms and expansive solar farms installed along the Columbia Gorge in eastern Oregon and Washington.

The cables also would intersect and plug into the monster transmission lines at the Bonneville Power Administration’s Big Eddy substation, drawing cheaper solar power from the Southwest, steadier wind power from Montana and Wyoming, and reliable backup power from British Columbia’s supersized hydropower reservoirs.

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

BC Spends More Subsidizing Fossil Fuels Than on Fighting Climate Change: Report

BC Spends More Subsidizing Fossil Fuels Than on Fighting Climate Change: Report

Government says its upcoming royalty review will ensure ‘a fair return on our resources.’

Over the past year, the BC NDP have given away $1.3 billion in fossil fuel subsidies, which is more than the $1.1 billion it pledged to fight climate change, according to a new analysis by Stand.earth.

The report looks at B.C.’s “runaway” fossil fuel subsidies, which have been on the rise since the new government took over in 2018.

The subsidies provided in 2020-21 ($1.3 billion) are more than double what they were the last year the BC Liberals were in power ($557 million), the report says. Stand.earth predicts subsidies will surpass $1.8 billion in the next three years, which would be triple what the Liberals spent in 2016–17.

B.C. is only outdone by Alberta when it comes to the “generosity” of subsidies given to the fossil fuel industry, the report says.

Some of these subsidies are leftover policies from the BC Liberals that have “exponentially grown” and others, like ones aimed at encouraging LNG Canada, are “conscious decisions” from the BC NDP government, according to Sven Biggs, Stand.earth Canadian oil and gas program director.

The Stand.earth report was calculated using the World Trade Organization’s definition of fossil fuel subsidies, which Biggs says includes “any kind of tax break, or direct incentive or direct subsidy to oil and gas producers that encourage fossil fuel growth.”

It found the largest source of rising subsidies is the Deep-Well Royalty Program, which the report calls a “loophole for fracking operators” that will cost taxpayers $421 million this year in lost royalty revenue.

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

The Climate Disaster Hidden in BC’s Forests

The Climate Disaster Hidden in BC’s Forests

The province doesn’t count forest emissions in its global warming plan. That’s a big, dangerous mistake, say advocates.

Here are two key words that have been largely left out of the broiling debate around British Columbia’s old-growth forests: carbon emissions.

Even in the recent forest policy update, the provincial government only mentioned carbon emissions twice. And that was to say forests suck up and store carbon, which environmental advocates warn doesn’t tell the whole story.

By B.C.’s own reporting, forests are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the province — 23 per cent larger than the total emissions from the energy sector.

To talk about forests while ignoring carbon emissions is “climate denialism,” says Torrance Coste, senior campaign director for the Wilderness Committee.

When B.C. reports its official carbon emissions, that number excludes emissions from forests. Coste says that’s a huge problem, because “emissions associated with forests in some years surpass B.C.’s total emissions. Which is staggering. It’s like a second B.C. we don’t count.”

Coste says the province has a long history of siloing two ministries — the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development — and acting like they never overlap.

The 2018 provincial climate change strategy, CleanBC, also skates around emissions from forests.

But with the climate emergency it’s urgent the two departments work together to tackle emissions from forests, Coste says.

B.C. counts and reports its annual greenhouse gas emissions in a methodology book.

‘Net-Zero’ Emissions May Not Be as Green as You Think

‘Net-Zero’ Emissions May Not Be as Green as You Think

‘Undefined’ term reduces political pressure to take real action on climate change and hedges bets on future solutions, says expert.

Beware the term “net-zero emissions.”

A new Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report is warning net-zero climate goals distract from meaningful emissions reductions by muddying political accountability.

“The problem with net-zero in Canada is that it’s a really undefined term that gets thrown around a lot. A lot of people like it, and I did as well — it’s got ‘zero’ in it, and we’ve been calling for zero for a long time,” says report author Marc Lee, a senior economist for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“But after I started exploring the ‘net,’ I saw a lot of loopholes for federal or provincial governments to try to perpetuate business as usual and not commit to the deep emissions reductions that we need to be making to be consistent with climate science,” Lee said.

The federal government has pledged to hit net-zero emissions by 2050, but its wording on what that means is vague. Its website says net zero means Canada’s economy “either emits no greenhouse gas emissions or offsets its emissions, for example, through actions such as tree planting or employing technologies that can capture carbon before it is released into the air.”

During the 2020 election, the BC NDP said it would bring in legislation requiring net-zero emissions by 2050 but has yet to introduce a plan.

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XVIII

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

As per usual, my comment on an article in The Tyee that gives an interesting perspective on the idea of ‘Carbon Footprint’ and individual verses collective actions in addressing the behavioural/consumption changes necessary for effective action on climate change.

Great read and perspective.

“The problem is that climate change is as much a political problem as it is a scientific one. It’s not that we’ve been failing to make individual lifestyle changes; it’s that powerful interests have knowingly obscured, distracted from and delayed climate action over the last 50 years.”

I find this key to help in understanding one of the narratives that have come to dominate the ‘environmental/climate change/global warming’ movement: a transition to ‘renewables’ (or ‘green/clean’ energy) and ‘electrifying’ everything is the best path forward; and many of The Tyee writers are as guilty of this as well.

As has been shown by Jeff Gibbs’ Planet of the Humans and Julia Barnes’ Bright Green Lies, the ‘environmental’ movement appears to have been hijacked by powerful/influential political/economic interests in order to market the idea that getting everyone to shift away from fossil fuel-based industry and products is the key action in fighting climate change and avoiding the predicted consequences of it.

This idea is, I believe, primarily a marketing/sloganeering/narrative control campaign to help the businesses/corporations/industries involved in ‘renewables’ and associated products in expanding their consumer base and shifting capital towards them. It is not and never has been about protecting or saving the environment and ecological systems. It is about protecting and saving our energy-intensive, business-as-usual complexities and the technologies necessary to support/maintain these; and it is driven by the primary motivation of the ruling class/powers-that-be/elite: expansion/control of the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams.

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

BC’s ‘Intentions Paper’ on Future of Forests Is Panned for Lack of Specifics

BC’s ‘Intentions Paper’ on Future of Forests Is Panned for Lack of Specifics

Greens say failure to protect old growth breaks NDP campaign promise as protests continue.

As soon as the British Columbia government released what Premier John Horgan said was a new vision for forestry in the province, critics panned it as a status quo document that fails to protect any more old growth.

“I don’t know what they’re thinking, frankly,” said Torrance Coste, national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee advocacy group. “They don’t want to take meaningful action because they’re worried about the consequences of it.”

The 28-page paper “Modernizing Forest Policy in British Columbia: Setting the Intention and Leading the Forest Sector Transition” sets out 20 “policy intentions,” many of which have been talked about for decades.

“Our forests are foundational to our economy and a way of life for British Columbians,” it said. “B.C.’s forestry policy framework, put in place nearly two decades ago, is inadequate to address today’s challenges.”

It includes policies aimed at redistributing forest tenure as a step towards diversifying the ownership of companies in the sector, particularly with an eye to increasing Indigenous participation. Other policies are aimed at improving the oversight over log exports, using managed burns and giving the forests minister and government more discretion over certain decisions.

There’s a policy to “Promote the use of wood and mass timber,” one to “Strengthen compliance and enforcement” and another to “Protect good jobs.”

Coste said that on a first read there’s little to object to in the government’s policy intentions themselves. “On the surface they look OK.”

…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…

US Experts to Trudeau: Your Nuclear Dream May Turn Nightmare

US Experts to Trudeau: Your Nuclear Dream May Turn Nightmare

Rethink backing the Moltex reactor, urge nine non-proliferation heavyweights.

A blue-ribbon group of American nuclear non-proliferation experts warns that Canada’s investment in new nuclear technology could lead to the spread of nuclear weapons and new threats to the environment.

“We write as U.S. non-proliferation experts and former government officials and advisors with related responsibilities to express our concern about your government’s financial support of Moltex — a startup company that proposes to reprocess CANDU spent fuel to recover its contained plutonium for use in molten-salt-cooled reactors.”

The warning came in the form of an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that was delivered on Tuesday and signed by the nine experts.

The group is spearheaded by Frank von Hippel, professor and senior research physicist at Princeton University; it includes Matthew Bunn, the Schlesinger professor of the practise of energy, national security, and foreign policy at the Harvard Kennedy School; and Thomas Countryman, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation.

“We understand your government’s motivation to support nuclear power and to reduce fossil fuel use but saving the world from climate disaster need not be in conflict with saving it from nuclear weapons. Also, like other reprocessing efforts, Moltex, even in the R&D stage, would create a costly legacy of contaminated facilities and radioactive waste streams, and require substantial additional government funding for cleanup and stabilization prior to disposal,” they wrote.

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XV

Rome, Italy (1984) Photo by author

Energy. It’s at the core of everything we do. Everything. Yet we take it for granted and rarely think about it and what the finiteness of our various energy sources means for us.

As Gail Tverberg of Our Finite World concludes in a recent thought-provoking article that should be read widely: “Needless to say, the powers that be do not want the general population to hear about issues of these kinds. We find ourselves with narrower and narrower news reports that provide only the version of the truth that politicians and news media want us to read.”

Instead of having a complex and very necessary discussion about the unsustainable path we are on (especially as it pertains to chasing the perpetual growth chalice) and attempting to mitigate the consequences of our choices, we are told all is well, that ‘science’, ‘human ingenuity’, and ‘technology’ will save the day, and we can maintain business-as-usual with just some minor ‘tweaks’ and/or a ‘green/clean’ energy transition. Pre/history, physics, and biology would suggest otherwise.

Here is my relatively long comment on a Tyee article discussing the International Energy Agency’s recent report that calls on all future fossil fuel projects to be abandoned and drastic reductions in demand in order to avoid irreparable climate change damage to our planet. The answer, however, will not be found in ‘renewable’ energy and related technologies as many contend because the underlying and fundamental issue of overshoot has been conveniently left out of the story.

Having followed the ‘energy’ dilemma for more than a decade I’ve come to better understand the complexities, nuances, and scheming that it entails; not all mind you, not by a long shot, but certainly better than the mainstream narratives provide…

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

‘A Garage Sale for the Last Old Growth’

‘A Garage Sale for the Last Old Growth’

As BC’s watchdog slams the province’s own logging agency for wrecking ecosystems, advocates demand action. A special report.

Two summers ago, Brenda Sayers knelt atop what was left of British Columbia’s likely ninth widest Douglas fir tree. Sayers, a member of the Hupačasath First Nation, has long fought to protect old growth in her territory on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

“The old growth holds a lot of our history,” she said. “That tree must have been 800 years old.”

It had been felled in the Nahmint Valley by companies given the go-ahead by BC Timber Sales, the province’s own logging agency, and the largest tenure holder in the province.

On Wednesday, B.C.’s forestry watchdog found that BC Timber Sales erred when it allowed that tree and the forests surrounding it to be clearcut.

Three years after it was launched, the investigation found that the province wrongly greenlit a plan from BC Timber Sales that failed to protect land-use objectives for biodiversity and old growth protection in the Nahmint River Watershed as set out by the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan.

According to the BC Forest Practices Board report, “gaps” in BC Timber Sales’ planning “occurred over a long period of time and are creating real risks to ecosystems.” It also found that although BC Timber Sales knew about those gaps, it didn’t adequately address them.

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

Where Does Vancouver’s Urban Forest Need to Grow Next?

Where Does Vancouver’s Urban Forest Need to Grow Next?

The city strategy faces a tricky challenge: inspiring the growth of trees on private land.

Over the last decade, the City of Vancouver has focused on growing the urban forest to combat tree loss and foster climate resiliency. But if that’s going to happen, the key will be promoting more trees on private land.

It’s an urgent priority for the city. Fewer trees means more exposure to air pollution, heat waves, flooding and other climate impacts.

Vancouver’s Urban Forest Strategy, launched in 2014, has mostly focused on what it can control — protecting existing trees from being cut down and planting new trees wherever it can — and it has seen some good success, hitting its original goal of planting 150,000 trees by 2020.

But that’s largely happened on public land.

Meanwhile, according to the city, the removal of trees on private land is responsible for reducing Vancouver’s urban forest from 22.5 per cent to 18 per cent between 1995 and 2014. Sixty-two per cent of the city’s trees were on private land at the time, the strategy noted.

2018 update to the strategy showed that while trees have increased on public property, in places like parks and on city streets, growth has still been declining on private land, where a third of the urban forest still remains.

In December 2020, the Vancouver Park Board set an admirable new goal for the strategy: to increase the canopy cover of the city’s urban forest from its current level of 23 per cent to 30 per cent by 2050.

But can that happen while trees on private land keep diminishing?

…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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