Cameron Wigmore, Green Party Member: December 2007

December 27, 2007

2007 Year In Review Environment And More

This will be my last post of the year.

I'm going to share a few news pieces covering environmental stories of 2007, but before I do I'd like to reflect on my own personal experiences this year.

The year started with talk of a spring election (much like we're seeing again) and I was hard at work organizing and facilitating Green Party training sessions back in southern Alberta. In the end there was no federal election, but my wife did decide to run for the Green Party of Alberta in a provincial byelection in the late spring. I had started full time work at the Tyrrell museum again, and she resigned so she could stay at home with our son. As soon as the byelection was over Jen wanted to work again, so she got a part time job and we saved up a bit of cash. In September a job opportunity opened up for Jen here on Vancouver Island, and obviously she got the job. We made the move from Drumheller AB to Nanaimo BC in about a month. Her job here is great, our son loves the mild weather and the trees, and I'm starting to get some gigs playing around Nanaimo. I also have a part time job to make ends meet. I'm very excited about the direction our lives are moving in! Next move: selling our house back in Drumheller, and possibly buying some land and building some kind of green home. We've been looking at yurts and manufactured homes as well as small condos or townhouses, and we still don't know exactly what move to make.

I've taken up a supportive peripheral role in the local GPC electoral district assoc. We have a great candidate here and I look forward to the next federal election when I'll be door and phone canvassing during the campaign. I left a big hole back in Alberta, but I'm confident that the Crowfoot EDA, working with the provincial organizer, will be able to find a solid candidate for the next election. As of the fall council elections, Alberta has a strong and capable representative on the GPC Federal Council in Mark Taylor.

Throughout the year my blogging efforts had me exploring and learning about energy, economics and how both subjects are so very intertwined with the environment. Thanks to many visitors here on my blog who forced discussion and debate, I'm now much better informed on these subjects.

For more on specific subjects, or to see my posts over the year, please view the right hand columns listing my blog posts by subject and by month.

Here are a few news summaries of 2007 environmental news.

See you in the new year!

2007: The year in environment
22 December 2007
Catherine Brahic

The Magnificent '07
The top green stories of 2007
By David Roberts and Lisa Hymas
20 Dec 2007

Twelve Environmental Victories in 2007
Environmental Defense

ABC Australia - Year in Review - Environment
By Elaine Ford - Dec 19, 2007

News review 2007: Reality of climate change hits home
22 December 2007 - New Scientist

Elizabeth May Interview Videos

Here are some links to videos of Elizabeth May, including some national television interviews.

CTV did some year end interviews with federal party leaders. This one's with Elizabeth May.

On December 12th, Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, addressed the Canadian Club of Ottawa. The title of May's speech was "The Climate Crisis: Running out of Time".
CPAC video of the event

CTV interviews Elizabeth May on the Chalk River reactor, medical isotopes and Harpers decision to override the nuclear safety regulator.

Interviews with the Leaders- December 20, 2007
CPAC's Peter Van Dusen conducts a series of interviews with the leaders of Canada's federal political parties. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion, Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, NDP leader Jack Layton and Green Party leader Elizabeth May speak candidly about their visions for the country.
Click here for interview video, and fastforward to the last quarter of the video clip (right after Layton) to see Elizabeth May.

Interview with Don Newman of CBC from Dec 21, '07.

An oldie but a goodie: Leslie MacKinnon of CBC provides an in-depth portrait of Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada.

Seasons Greetings from Elizabeth May

Economic policies and overconsumption are chief causes of climate change

Economic policies and overconsumption are chief causes of climate change, say Canadian Nobel scientists

This isn't really new news for most of us, but this statement is worth a closer look, as the recommendations are intended to improve the sustainability of our society, among other things. They state that "Individuals, corporations, and all levels of government around the world have a duty to act as global citizens in the face of the danger posed to life on Earth and to the well-being of the human race as whole."

Obviously one must already accept that climate change is happening, that it's human caused, that the effects are negative and will continue to get worse. There are mountains of data available to back this up. Governments around the world understand the problem and are taking action. Unfortunately there are still a few people out there who are falling for the disinformation promoted by the climate change deniers. Before they can understand and accept the recommendations for action on the climate crisis, they must first understand and accept the realities of the climate crisis.

Climate change is a huge issue, and when faced with the enormity of this problem it's tempting to try to deny it's existence. For those readers who are already past this point, please read on, but for anyone reading this who still aren't on board with the international scientific community, please first read How To Beat Denial - A 12-Step Plan, and then read How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic, and then go on to the rest of this blog post.

From the news release:

The statement's twenty-seven endorsers include two Canadian members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Price jointly with former U.S. vice-president Al Gore.

"In the long run, we need to focus on sustainable levels of consumption, which means finding ways to rein in our currently insatiable demand for more and more," said Professor Danny Harvey of the Department of Geography at the University of Toronto, who also served as lead author of the latest IPCC assessment report.

The scientists also cast doubt on the reliance upon nuclear power and large-scale biofuels to prevent climate change. "It is no secret that humankind is already struggling to eliminate hunger and the loss of biodiversity," said Ryerson University Professor Emeritus of Physics Helmut Burkhardt. "To take land away from food production and from rainforests is, in a global perspective, not an option."

The Wasan Action Framework urges governments and international bodies to curb overconsumption, promote lower global birth rates through women's education and empowerment, focus on low-impact renewable energy sources, reduce carbon emissions and preserve forests.

Full declaration & recommendations:
Wasan Action Framework (PDF)

Outdated Nuclear Energy Technology Rest In Peace

Before the year ends I'd like to post a few links to some information and news on nuclear energy, the outdated technology that won't solve our energy needs, won't lead to sustainability, won't ever be safe, won't solve the climate crisis, and won't ever be fiscally responsible. May it continue its slow disappearing act and rest in peace for the duration of this century and beyond.

Oh, we can't just walk away from nuclear energy and be done with it? We still have spend a LOT of money to 'safely' store huge amounts of highly toxic nuclear waste for thousands of years? Hmm... maybe we should ignore that and just keep building more nuclear power plants to meet our rising energy demands.

Energy efficiency and consumption reduction measures be damned; forget about renewable energies and green technologies and reinvest heavily in nuclear energy because our energy consumption is going up, up, up, and we're going to need more nuclear energy! Hold on, I see a pattern emerging...

Seriously though, here are those items I mentioned.

Dec 10th, '07
Child Cancer Risk Higher Near Nuclear Plants - Study

"Chernobyl taught us that technical deficiencies, human failure, and at present also terrorist attacks, may lead to a
catastrophe of unforeseeable dimensions. But did we learn from the catastrophe? That’s one of the questions we try to explore in this brochure."
Women Active Against Nuclear Energy (PDF)

By Joseph J. Mangano

"It should be a sobering thought for Canadians to face the grim facts that Canadian uranium particularly from Saskatchewan, is being marketed to countries that use the "waste" from nuclear power reactors to be sold or given away to manufacturers of depleted uranium."
Full letter to editor by Oscar found here at this forum.

Nuclear Weapons and the Link to Nuclear Power

Nov '07 Opposition demands debate on joining nuclear club
"...Elizabeth May, the federal Green Party leader, said she was furious that the decision to join a pro-nuclear group occurred in silence without any public consultation..."

Dec '07 Ireland Greens: Ryan refuses uranium mining licences

Video - Helen Caldicott at Uof Regina speaking on the dangers of the nuclear industry, including nuclear power, mining, waste and weapons.

Canada’s role in depleted uranium weapons worldwide

DU weapons & war crimes
After 3 years of investigation by 60 expert witnesses and jurists at a cost of $1 million raised by Japanese citizens, the International Criminal Tribunal For Afghanistan at Tokyo on March 10, 2004 found President George W. Bush guilty of the war crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for the use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons by US forces in the 2001 war against Afghanistan.

Experts agree that a substantial portion of the depleted uranium in the DU weapons used by the US in Afghanistan came from Canadian uranium. Had the Tokyo Tribunal been diligent, it could have found Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien, who resigned as Prime Minister on December 12, 2003, guilty as an accessory to genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, for failing to enforce Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission regulations, and the Canada-US Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, both of which prohibit Canadian uranium from being used in DU weapons.

Dr. Gordon Edwards, president of the Montreal-based Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR) says, “Canada may have the policy, but it’s not enforced. The Canadian government is taking directions and orders from the nuclear industry… “The uranium industry has a vested interest in ensuring its depleted uranium waste makes a profit and is not just left in storage. That’s why some of Canada’s depleted uranium is ending up in weapons, Edwards says. “The Canadian government can’t even think for themselves.”

"We Are Living Through Another Hiroshima," Iraq Doctor Says

Nov '07 'Safe' uranium that left a town contaminated

UPDATE: (Feb 18th '08) Out Of Commission
Story from the UK telling us how nuclear power plants will never 'rest in peace'. At least not without rapidly increasing cost to decommission them, and not without massive cleanup efforts.

From the story:
...As costs for decommissioning appear to spiral out of control - rising sharply from £56bn to £73bn over just a few years - the burden on the taxpayer grows ever more. And it doesn't end there...

UPDATE #2 (July 2008)
UK's nuclear clean-up industry in turmoil, report reveals
Chaos at the heart of Britain's nuclear clean-up industry has been laid bare by an internal audit undertaken by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR), following embarrassing cost overruns that forced the department to find £400m worth of emergency funds from other budgets to balance the books.

The department admits that there are now "inherent risks" associated with the financial affairs of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and reveals that budgetary problems were exacerbated by misunderstandings, unminuted meetings and lack of sufficiently trained staff.

Green Party at 13% - ahead of NDP in polls

From the new Strategic Council poll, the GPC is at third place with 13%. This is is the first time ever that the Green Party has polled ahead of the NDP.

The GPC is trending upwards, with many recent polls putting the Greens in the double digits. See this new Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey that has the Green Party at 12%.

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UPDATE: (Feb 16th, 2008) For 1st time Greens within 3% of NDP according to Feb 16 Ipsos Reid Poll

"...A long list of polling companies over the last few months have put the Green Party ahead of, tied with or on a 'virtual tie' with the NDP -- Ipsos Reid, Strategic Counsel and Harris Decima among others -- so the Green Party's rise compared to the NDP can no longer be said to be a once-off occurance it's now a clearly emerging trend..."

More here: In Quebec, Green party at 11 per cent and the NDP with 10

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UPDATE: (Apr 4th, 2008) Grits Tories Remain Deadlocked

The latest Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey suggests the Tories have 32 per cent support, with the Liberals at 30 per cent, which is within the survey’s margin of error.

The NDP have 13 per cent, the Greens 12 per cent and the Bloc is at nine per cent...

...In Quebec, the latest poll suggested 37 per cent support for the Bloc, 21 per cent each for the Conservatives and Liberals, 10 per cent for the Greens and nine per cent for the NDP.

In Ontario, the survey suggested the Liberals are at 38 per cent with the Tories at 33 per cent. The Green party has 15 per cent, leading the NDP at 10 per cent...

Continued attention on homelessness, addiction and crime

...will help us solve the problems.

(this is a letter to the editor I sent to many local papers recently)

In nearly every issue of every paper I read something about our efforts to improve upon the issues of homelessness, addiction or crime. Obviously most of us take these issues very seriously. Helping those who’ve lost their way, or who’ve fallen on hard times, to become productive members of society seems to be the goal. This is a year round challenge for everyone.

Thank you for your continued demonstration of compassion and willingness to tackle and resolve these issues. I have faith that with our attention and collective efforts we will become a part of the solution, and we will find lasting solutions to these problems.

December 17, 2007

Happiness Is...

An excellent article by Bill McKibben exploring how the environment that sustains us has become very relevant to economics, and how a new shift in focus on well-being can help people understand the relationship between economic activity, our quality of life and the environment.

The Green Party already has extensive policy (also found here, and in other places throughout the federal party's website) on the interconnectedness of the environment, the economy and societal well being. And if this article isn't enough reading on the subject for you, I've blogged on it before as well.

From the article:

...we were so deeply enmeshed in the rhythms of consumer culture that challenging it in any real way seemed anathema. You could really see this attitude at work in the negotiations around the World Trade Organization. Relentless expansion of the international economy was the central business at hand – labour and environmental concerns could be discussed, but as ‘side agreements’. We were, literally, in the margins; the economic worldview loomed so large that all else was in its shadow.

But that’s begun to change – or soon will. Or could, anyway, if environmentalism begins to transform itself from a fixation on filters and light bulbs to a new fixation – on human satisfaction. For a very long time, ‘happiness’ has been considered a soft topic, something that hippies and sandal-wearers bothered themselves with and the actual world ignored as it went about the important business of More. In the past decade, however, economists, aided by psychologists and sociologists, have begun to question some of their assumptions...

...British economist Richard Layard, who has written a great deal about this work, says: ‘We now know that what people say about how they feel corresponds closely to the actual levels of activity in different parts of the brain, which can be measured in standard scientific ways.’ People who call themselves happy also seem happier to their friends, live healthier lives, and so forth.

Which allows you to start doing something interesting. It allows you to start reversing two centuries of reductionism. Instead of asking: ‘What did you buy?’, you can ask someone: ‘Is your life good?’ And once you’ve asked that, you’re in position to ask the most subversive question there could be: ‘Is “more” better?’

Because if more really is better, then environmentalism is a lost cause. There aren’t enough Powerpoint slides of calving icebergs to turn things around.

But if more isn’t necessarily better, then there are possibilities.

And so here’s the bottom line. We’ve become significantly richer, but not significantly happier...

read more | digg story

December 14, 2007

Leadership Meltdown

See Chris Tindal's blog through the 'read more' link below on the decision by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the rest of parliament to:
- allow operation of a nuclear reactor with a lack of safety mechanisms
- override the independent federal government agency that regulates the use of nuclear energy and material
- ensure solid profits and stock value of Life Sciences firm MDS

read more | digg story

Building the Green Economy

I will be posting a series here over the next few months covering different parts of the Green Party of Canada's Vision Green document. The first section I'd like to explore is called Building the Green Economy.

Economics is a subject that is tied directly into the environment. For many decades the field of economics has failed to recognize that our economy is a subset of global ecological systems. Instead, economists have traditionally looked at the environment as something to be values and consumed in the pursuit of economic prosperity; the environment, along with everything else, has been viewed as a subset of the economy.

The logical errors in that outdated model are now becoming readily apparent: as we degrade and consume ecosystems, we pay dearly for the loss of that 'natural capital'. Take the example of how New York City chose to implement a comprehensive watershed protection program to preserve and restore natural filtration services as a more cost effective means of maintaining water quality than water treatment. Here's another link to info on this example. This outside the box thinking is slowly being adopted by economists and some governments, but not many, and certainly not fast enough.

Now past the point of global sustainability, our resource consumption under an economic growth model is becoming a dangerous and obviously outdated model. It was Walter Bagehot who said, "The whole history of civilization is strewn with creeds and institutions which were invaluable at first, and deadly afterwards."

The following selected text excerpts are from the Vision Green introduction on a green economy.

The Green Party approach is to think holistically. How can we achieve the best possible economic result? What are the fiscal and regulatory impediments to economic sustainability?

With the U.S. our largest trading partner, how can we maintain a healthy economy without surrendering our sovereignty and becoming subsumed into the U.S. orbit, as contemplated by the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership?

We strive for stronger local economies with a small business focus, increased national and regional self-sufficiency, economic diversification, more “fair” trade, more value-added manufacturing of resources, more green-certified production and a rapid shift to more renewable energy to create local economic opportunities.

This generation has the potential to capitalize on the single biggest business opportunity in human history – the shift to a low-carbon economy. Whether this is driven by high energy prices, dwindling oil supplies, strategic geo-political threats to foreign oil, the climate crisis, or all of them combined, the country that mobilizes resources to develop and commercialize low carbon technologies (e.g. alternate fuels, renewable energy and energy efficiency) will survive the price shocks of fossil fuel’s last gasps and emerge with a thriving economy. Canada should be that country.

It makes no sense to subsidize the wealthiest companies on earth to make the world’s most profitable product -- a barrel of oil. These perverse subsidies must be removed. It makes sense to reduce taxes on things we want – income and employment – while increasing taxes on things we do not want, like greenhouse gases and pollution that causes smog.

Canadian businesses want two things from their government: predictability and policy coherence. The Green Party government will ensure that the rules are clear, the playing field is level and decision-making is transparent.

Our fiscal plan is straightforward: Use the tax system to help meet societal and ecological goals. Get the prices right. Allow business to pursue profit, with clear signals of environmental and societal objectives.

Canada and the world community face an environmentally linked, energy challenge of historic proportions over the next few decades. The reality of rising fossil fuel prices, increased losses due to extreme weather events caused by the worsening climate crisis, higher global temperatures and worsening pollution levels will make mitigation and adaptation responses absolutely essential. Focusing community economic development and investment towards clean technology and services is both a smart economic development strategy and a superb investment opportunity.

Green technology has been called the greatest business opportunity of this century. All levels of government need to advance this green economic approach through effective tax and policy measures and appropriate skills and trades training at the secondary and post-secondary levels.

As part of the federal government’s contribution to advancing this green economic vision, the Green Party of Canada government will gradually and progressively shift current consumption taxes onto products and services that harm people and the environment while reducing taxes on income, products and economic activities that do no harm. This "green tax shift" will be largely revenue neutral, meaning that as certain taxes increase, other taxes will decrease. In particular, income and payroll taxes will decline. And because the Green Party is committed to eliminating poverty it would ensure that this tax shift would not unfairly burden less fortunate members of our society.

By moving to "true" or "full-cost” accounting, whereby products and services are priced according to the positive or negative impacts they cause throughout their lifecycle, our society can make rational market choices that will guide the economy toward environmental sustainability.

The Green Party believes in reforming our tax system to make it fairer and more in tune with Canadians’ desire for a healthy environment, a sustainable economy and a vibrant, caring society.

It makes no sense to subsidize the wealthiest corporations on earth – the oil companies. We must remove these perverse subsidies immediately, not in the slow, “grandfathered” approach of the Conservatives’ 2007 budget.

The Green Party will reduce taxes on things we all want, like income and employment, and we will increase taxes on things we do not want – things that harm people and our environment.

Our "green tax shift" will be progressive, with a schedule that gives industry time to gear up or down. And it will be revenue neutral because a tax shift is not a tax grab. Income and payroll taxes will decline and the changes will help, not hurt, less fortunate members of our society.

To shift taxes effectively, we have to change to a "true" or "full-cost” accounting method that incorporates economic, social and environmental costs and benefits in the national accounts. Using this method, products and services are taxed, and thus priced, according to the positive or negative impacts caused throughout their lifecycle. We have already done this with tobacco products. Such taxes help consumers make more rational choices.

There are other ways to put taxes to work improving our society. Our tax system must be designed to reduce poverty, encourage environmentally beneficial activities and generate more wealth for the 90 percent of Canadian families who are currently working harder without getting further ahead.

The Green Party’s fiscal plan is straightforward: gradually reduce our debt, give clear tax signals that enable companies to pursue profits on a level playing field, and shift taxes to ensure that both revenue streams and expenditures meet social, economic and ecological goals.

For more, including specific action items, see the full text here.

Click here to see all of my blog posts related to economics.

December 13, 2007

A Carbon Tax, the Arts and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

There is a point where ideology can exceed common sense, and one might wonder if that is happening with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

One month ago Maureen Bader, BC director of the CTF, came out against arts funding stating that government subsidies to the arts should be abolished. Bader sees the arts as business activity, but it is more appropriate to compare investment in the arts with investment in things like parks and recreation. Perhaps Bader isn't aware of the difference between investments and subsidies.

According to a 2001-02 Statistics Canada report, with an investment of $6.8 billion from three levels of government, the arts and culture sector directly employed 740,000 people and generated $26 billion for the economy. I'm sure Bader doesn't want to hurt our economy, so it might be that she just doesn't understand the concept of EROI (economic return on investment).

Then Maureen Bader misrepresented carbon taxes while making fun of global warming 'theorists' <--(her term).

Poverty is a serious concern, and Bader's use of the issue to breed fear of a carbon tax is misleading. By suggesting that we imagine carbon taxes "so high that people can't afford to heat their homes in the winter" in the opening of her missive entitled The Carbon Tax Poverty Effect, she tries to scare us out of using critical thinking to examine the situation. By listing "global warming theorists" as beneficiaries of a carbon tax, Bader manages to question the reality of climate change while suggesting that public concerns about climate change are somehow preyed upon by scientists for financial gain. Ridiculous! This suggestion seems more like a call from Bader to question the science of climate change than a sincere concern for Canadians living in poverty.

It is irresponsible of Bader to haphazardly dismiss the seriousness of climate change, and by conflating the subject with poverty she leads the reader to conclude that action on climate change in the form of a carbon tax will invariably lead to widespread poverty. It's also irresponsible to dismiss the concept of a carbon tax without first investigating how it could be implemented correctly, or why many respected economists support the idea.

Only one national political party is calling for a carbon tax and suggesting that the revenue be used in part to reduce income and payroll taxes, as well as kick start green energy industries. This tax shift can be as close to revenue neutral as we want, and Canadians can decide for themselves if they wish to spend their tax savings in ways that reduce or increase carbon emissions and climate change.

In the absence of tax shifting, a carbon tax would likely impose a higher cost on some people than on others, in particular those who cannot afford to upgrade their energy efficiency or who have no alternative to driving long distances. The Green Party would use tax shifting in a way that provides equivalent tax breaks to such people, so that they would not suffer economic hardship. We cannot afford to dismiss the use of carbon taxes, and using tax shifting to achieve fairness is a way to make it work.

More reading:

Arts ire for canadian taxpayers federation

Is the Canadian Taxpayers Federation Right-Wing?

Canadian Taxpayer Federation being Dishonest with Canadians

Get The Prices Right (on tax shifting and GPC policy)

Green Tax Shift will protect Canadians against gas price shocks, says Green Party

Video: Dr. Mark Jaccard talks about carbon taxes

Carbon Tax FAQ

from the link above:
Q: Won’t low income and rural people be hardest hit by a carbon tax?

* In the absence of tax shifting, a carbon tax would impose a higher cost on some people than on others, in particular those who cannot afford to upgrade their energy efficiency or who have no alternative to driving long distances.
* The Green Party would use tax shifting in a way that provides equivalent tax breaks to such people, so that they would not suffer economic hardship.
* We as a society cannot afford to dismiss the use of carbon taxes. It’s much better to use tax shifting to achieve fairness.

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UPDATE (Feb 21st, 2008) Click here for a good blog post on the new BC carbon tax by Vancouver Island federal Green Party candidate Brian Gordon.