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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…

BC’s Effort to License Water Use Falling Apart, Critics Say

BC’s Effort to License Water Use Falling Apart, Critics Say

Liberals, Greens agree a crisis looms for thousands of farmers and other water users.

B.C.’s opposition parties want the government to extend — for a second time — an approaching groundwater licensing deadline, warning of a looming crisis for local farms and small businesses.

“We are just deeply concerned,” said Shirley Bond, the interim leader of the BC Liberal Party, in an interview. “We want them to extend the deadline, but additionally we want them to do a better job of getting the information out there and finding people who haven’t registered and help.”

Existing users of groundwater, generally from wells or dugouts, for agriculture, industry or business have until March 1 to get licences or risk losing access to water. The requirement is part of changes to the province’s Water Sustainability Act that came into force in 2016.

But less than 25 per cent of the estimated 20,000 water users, some of whom have been drawing groundwater for generations, have applied for licences.

By mid-December, only around 4,300 had applied, up just slightly from September and last summer.

In 2016 groundwater users were given a three-year transition period to apply for a licence, a policy that recognized their historic use and brought them under the regulations with fewer requirements than new users would face. If they didn’t get a licence, they would lose guaranteed access to the water and have to re-apply, facing the risk of long delays and being denied water rights.

In 2019, when that special treatment was previously set to end, the government extended the deadline and gave users until March 1, 2022, to apply.

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

Cascadia’s Chance for a Zero-Carbon Future: What We Learned

Cascadia’s Chance for a Zero-Carbon Future: What We Learned

Lessons from a year of reporting on climate solutions for the bioregion spanning BC, Washington and Oregon.

Worried about the climate crisis? You’ve got plenty of company after the events of 2021: heat waves, hurricanes, fires and floods hit new and deadly extremes. Global leaders belly-flopped well short of the pool at a pivotal climate-protection summit, even after the United Nations declared a “code red” emergency.

And, in the U.S., political gridlock chopped the heart out of the most ambitious clean energy plan to reach the Congress.

Meanwhile, across the dewy-green region north of California, supposedly eco-friendly governments of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia that failed to fulfil climate promises for a decade have once again pledged to do better. But planet-warming emissions just keep on increasing, according to analysis of the latest data by InvestigateWest for the year-long series “Getting to Zero: Decarbonizing Cascadia” published by the The Tyee and other media partners.

And yet there is hope. The climate news coming out of B.C. and the U.S. Pacific Northwest — “Cascadia” to many — is decidedly positive in three important ways, as demonstrated by the Getting To Zero series which wraps up today.

    1. Cascadia has in its possession or within its reach all the technological firepower needed to go carbon neutral by mid-century. If not sooner.
    2. The economics of carbon-free living have fallen into place. Renewable solar and wind power now typically cost less than fossil-fuel alternatives. This is also largely true across North America, and beyond.

…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…

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…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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