Wednesday, January 27, 2010

No more BC fish farm licences for 10 months

Photo Isabelle Groc, Tidelife Photography

From Alex Morton:


Today BC Supreme Court ruled in our favor once again. Justice Hinkson granted the federal government a suspension order until December 18, 2010 so that Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) can further prepare to assume control of regulating salmon farms. However, Justice Hinkson forbade any expansion of aquaculture during that period. Specifically, the province cannot issue any new fish farm licences and cannot expand the size of any tenure. He recognized the First Nation interest in this matter by granting the Musgamagw-Tsawataineuk Tribal Council intervenor status, which is essential as this case is based in their territory.

On the matter pursued by Marine Harvest at the Court of Appeal and sent back to Justice Hinkson to reconsider (that is whether the fish in the farms are privately owned by the companies and whether the Farm Practices Protection Act (FPPA) is still in force), Hinkson confirmed  that the FPPA, will  no longer apply to finfish aquaculture and thus no longer protect farms from nuisance claims.  

On the question, does Marine Harvest own the  fish in their pens? Justice Hinkson found that this was not the place for this decision.  Marine Harvest will have to bring this before the courts themselves. For now, we know that the aquaculture fish are now part of the fisheries of Canada.

Today’s decision is met by the unrelated announcement by US box store chain “Target” that they have eliminated all farmed salmon from its fresh, frozen, and smoked seafood offerings in its stores across the United States, because of farm salmon environmental impact on native salmon.

There is an enormous amount of work ahead to translate any of this into better survival of our wild salmon, but the courts  seem consistently interested in bringing reason, the constitution and the law to bear on the Norwegian fish farm industry in British Columbia.  

While I am truly sorry that jobs will be lost in ocean fish farming, bear in mind the industry is in deep trouble with mother nature herself in the fish farming strongholds of Chile and Norway. Trying to hold this nomadic fish in pens is never going to work, because it causes epidemics, unnatural sea lice infestations and drug resistance. Salmon farming is not sustainable and ultimately we are better served by our wild fish.

Alexandra Morton


Thursday, January 21, 2010

IPCC busted for using junk science – again

Cooking in Kohlua, India. Soot from tens of thousands of villages in developing countries is responsible for 18 percent of the planet’s warming, studies say. Photo New York Times.

For the second time in as many months, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been slammed for using junk science to hype the doom-and-gloom message of its climate change predictions.

In late November 2009, emails were leaked which showed top IPCC scientists openly discussing how to fudge their climate findings to make the outlook seem worse than it really was. If you need a refresher on that scandal, read British environmental reporter George Monbiot’s excellent commentary, which starts with the words “I have seldom felt so alone.” It was quite a slap in our righteous environmentalists faces, this realization that, you know, the good guys were using the same manipulative techniques as Exxon Mobil.

And now this.

In its latest 2007 report, the IPCC had predicted “with 90% confidence” that Himalayan glaciers could vanish completely by 2035. But today it turns out that this “prediction” was a junk statement based on a non-peer reviewed claim, a mere speculation which an obscure scientist made back in… 1999. That unfounded statement was recklessly bumped up by IPCC bureaucrats to the level of consensus science, because it would look good in their report and would send out a message which they felt the public and decision makers needed to hear.

When I read this, I cannot help but think of how the Bush administration routinely manipulated the terrorist threat codes, moving levels up to orange or red whenever they needed a popularity boost.

I cannot help but remember that, to justify their ongoing grab of our commons, BC’s private power producers use, with the vocal support of environmentalists such as Tzeporah Berman, the narrative of the urgent and overriding “fight against climate change”.

Nor can I help but go back to this remarkable PBS documentary called "The Money Tree" showing how large transnational corporations such as GM and Chevron are using climate change as an excuse to privatize large swaths of the Amazon rainforest, using complex carbon trading financial montages with the active complicity of large NGOs. In order to ensure that local villagers don’t enter the newly privatized lands, those corporations have demanded that the Brazilian government provide a Green Police whose primary mission is to harass and brutalize the locals out of their traditional territories. This documentary is a must-see.

I cannot help but wonder whether I am being played in spite of myself into supporting the neoliberal agenda of privatizing the commons, all in the name of climate change. And why should I be surprised by my own naïveté? After all, for the elite class green has become the new black.

I have been warned on many occasions by friends smarter and more awake than me that there is something really smelly about the way climate change is being used to serve higher ends. But so far I have sheepishly chosen to ignore those signals. Well, not anymore. For example I am now paying attention, as those friends have repeatedly told me to, to NASA studies which have underscored the critical importance of soot in the melting of the world’s glaciers (here, here, here, and here). Soot which is mostly generated by the poorest people on earth to cook and keep themselves warm, using the most backwards and polluting energy systems, and which could be very easily remediated, not in a distant future or even tomorrow but right now, through a rapid and massive transfer of simple, proven, portable, cheap technologies such as solar power.

Does this make me a climate change denier? According to my adversaries from the BC private power industry, it does. But I beg to differ. I think, instead, that it makes me climate aware. I don’t allow myself to either downplay or be overwhelmed by the threat of climate change. I try to see it for what it is, one of several imminent dangers to the planet’s commonwealth, along with (in no particular order) deforestation, ocean depletion, species extinction, destruction of natural habitat, loss of fresh water and arable soil to absurd agricultural practices, durable poisoning of ecosystems with toxic plastics and chemicals, etc. All pointing to a single underlying cause: the hyper-exploitation of people and ecosystems by the capitalist mode of production. A mode of production which we, the people of the world, must do away with at our earliest possible convenience.

Climate change is real. But the debate has taken a turn for the irrational. How else explain that some people seriously consider sacrificing Bute Inlet in order to “save the planet”? How else explain that Tzeporah Berman is still in business, broadcasting her pro-corporate message in the name of global warming? The problem of climate change is serious enough that we don’t need to fraudulently exaggerate it, as the IPCC and others have gotten in the habit of doing. If we could only stop hyperventilating for a moment, we would see that the ruling class is using our primal fear of Armageddon to obtain concessions which we would normally tell them to stick up their asses. 

Once we've reached that stage of awareness and called the corporate bluff, we can finally get to work on actually fighting climate change. Remember how activists in Copenhagen were holding banners that read “System Change Not Climate Change”? They were showing us the way.


Gillis and Mair launch indy multimedia journal

From Rafe Mair and Damien Gillis:

Damien Gillis and Rafe Mair announce new multi-media journal coming March 2010
The Common Sense Canadian combines video, radio, and expert opinion to cover vital issues the corporate media ignores.

"These are the times that try men's souls."

Thomas Paine's eloquent and pithy summation of the tyranny of yesterday applies equally to tyrants of today who would steal our democracy and environment from us. Paine, a leader of both the American and French Revolutions and author of the three best selling books of the 18th Century, including the seminal Common Sense, also said, "We have it in our power to begin the world over again."

With these truths in mind, Damien Gillis and Rafe Mair have joined forces in a bold new media venture, an online journal called The Common Sense Canadian, to be found at beginning in March 2010, which will combine cutting edge video, a weekly radio show and podcast, and writing from Mair, Gillis, and a host of formidable contributors to bring you the stories and opinions our establishment media won't publish. The Common Sense Canadian will cover the issues that really matter to Canadians and the world, such as water, energy, food, democracy - not to mention government corruption and corporate greed. The Common Sense Canadian will tackle tough issues with purpose and courage and will offer innovative, workable solutions from the best minds in these critical areas.

Gillis is an award-winning documentary filmmaker; Mair is a former Environment Minister, a Hall of Fame Broadcaster, and writer. Many British Columbians will have seen the pair together, touring the province exposing the theft of BC's precious watersheds for private power. The Common Sense Canadian will rally British Columbians to protect our rivers and public energy system, our sacred farm land, and to save BC's wild salmon from the ravages of fish farms and other threats. It will demand public input into all environmental decisions with a public right to judge them.

The corporate mainstream media that has so failed to serve the public interest is now crumbling before our eyes, and the time is right to launch a new independent media project like The Common Sense Canadian. Thomas Paine himself sidetracked the tightly controlled newspapers of his day with the pamphlet, which became Internet of that era. His blockbuster, Common Sense, with only 2.5 million people living in the 13 colonies, sold more than 125,000 copies in the first three months, and 500,000 during his lifetime! What Paine did in the 17th century, we must now do in the 21st. will be a rallying point for actions and a source for dialogue about real solutions to the challenges we face. You'll hear from our excellent team of contributors - awesome Canadians like Alexandra Morton, Rex Weyler, Harold Steves, Otto Langer, Joe Foy, Dr. John Calvert, and independent MLA Vicky Huntington, to name just a few.

But above all, this is about you. Because we need your help - to comment on stories and send us your letters; to share our stories with your friends, to join our email list for weekly updates... And we also need your financial support. As the old saying goes, "You get what you pay for." So long as a media outlet depends on corporate owners and advertisers, its content will inevitably be censored and slanted toward those interests. If we are to change things, we need a new media that answers only to its public.

This is hardly a new concept - America's best media institutions, PBS and National Public Radio, have successfully used this model for years. Recently, we've seen President Obama's use of the internet to win a historic US presidential election. We note the blossoming of blogs that connect millions around the world; citizen journalists and a burgeoning online independent media supplanting the old corporate establishment. Clearly the public has never had such powerful tools at its disposal.

At, you'll be able to see the series we're working on - from documenting the battle to save BC's rivers, to exposing the destruction of our precious farmland and food security, to investigating whether closed containment farms could help save our wild salmon from open net fish farming - and you'll be able to choose the series that really matter to you, and help make them a reality.

This is an idea whose time has come. With the ever-pressing environmental and social challenges we all face, The Common Sense Canadian is poised to fill the vacuum left by the disintegrating corporate media - with something that can truly be called a free press.

So be a part of an exciting new idea - coming to early in 2010!

Because deep down, we're all Common Sense Canadians.


Bute Inlet power project on hold!

Bute Inlet. Photo Wilderness Committee.

Received today from Joe Foy of the the Wilderness Committee:

I have some really good news. Actually I have freaking fantastic news!  General Electric and their partners Plutonic Power have decided to postpone their bid to gain control of 17 rivers in the Bute Inlet area. This puts the Environmental Assessment Process into a holding pattern for at least 12 months. We have a saying here at the Wilderness Committee - "to stop a train you first have to slow it down." Well, this train has been slowed, a lot, thanks in large part to the wave of letters sent in by the folks on this 10,000 Voices e-mail list. You all deserve a great big pat on the back!

This just goes to show you that when enough folks get to know about a threat to our environment and then take action, even a giant company like General Electric can be knocked back on its heels. Today the wild rivers of Bute Inlet teem with fish that support grizzly bears and other wildlife. Let’s keep it that way! Now that the project to dam and divert Bute's rivers is on the ropes - lets get rid of it once and for all. Time to write another letter to the Premier telling him how much you want him to declare the Bute Inlet hydro power scheme dead - so that the wild rivers there can continue to flow free.

Hope you have enjoyed reading the good news - and the sample of your great letters we included. Next time we write we expect to have more good news about the fight to save Glacier and Howser Creeks in the Kootenays. Until then - say hi to the Premier for us. Bye for now.  
Joe Foy | National Campaign Director
Wilderness Committee

And from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency:

To: All Interested Parties
Additional Delay in the Environmental Review Process

In a letter dated December 3, 2009, Bute Hydro Inc. informed the Panel established to review the Bute Inlet Hydroelectric Project that additional field work and analysis on some valued environmental components is required before Bute Hydro Inc. can be in a position to submit its environmental impact statement. The attached letter notes that once the new data --  to be collected in the spring and fall of 2010 -- has been compiled and analyzed, Bute Hydro will be in a position to re-evaluate the timeline for submitting its environmental impact statement.
As a result of this significant delay in the panel review process, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has decided to postpone its participant funding process for this project (see the attached News Release). The participant funding process will be re-initiated when the proponent is in a position to confirm a timeline for the submission of its environmental impact statement.
Please note that the attached documents are also available on the project's public registry at the following link:

Do not hesitate to contact the Panel Secretariat should you have questions on the panel review process.

Marie-France Therrien
Panel Manager | Gestionnaire de commissions
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency | Agence canadienne d’évaluation environnementale
160 Elgin St. Ottawa ON K1A 0H3 | 160, rue Elgin, Ottawa ON K1A 0H3
Telephone | Téléphone : 613-957-0324
Facsimile | Télécopieur: 613-957-0941
Government of Canada | Government of Canada


Monday, January 18, 2010

In defense of eco-neurosis

Fish Lake in Central British Columbia, one of two lakes to be turned into toxic mine waste cesspools. Photo Georgia Straight.

A friend recently forwarded me two links on the topic of ecological neurosis. The first one describes the case of couples who try to do the right thing for the environment but only succeed in jeopardizing their marriage. The second one reports on a growing number of viewers of the movie Avatar who are so enamored with the natural beauty of the fictitious planet Pandora, that they have trouble reconnecting with the reality of everyday life and develop suicidal tendencies as a result.

I recommend both links.

My friend was implying that there is something seriously wrong with the Western middle class when they allow themselves to binge in the coziness of self-centered eco-depression, in spite of the obscene wealth that they enjoy compared to, say, the people of Haiti. And he certainly has a point.

Nonetheless, I responded back to him expressing my strong disagreement. There is nothing wrong, I said, about people being neurotic in the face of today’s ecological destruction. If anything, feeling neurotic and depressed about the sixth wave of mass extinction, the depletion of our oceans, agribusiness-driven mass deforestation, the torture of animals inside factory farms, and of course the effects of climate change, is a sign of profound sanity.

At just about the same time, another friend forwarded me the following link which reports that BC’s Environmental Assessment Office has performed its duty admirably once again. It has diligently rubber-stamped yet another industrial project which will forever wipe out a unique natural ecosystem. This time, it’s an open-pit copper and gold mining project in central BC which requires the transformation of two pristine trout-bearing lakes into cesspools to store mine tailings, rocks, and toxic chemicals. Ten thousand years from now when the mine has long been abandoned and the memory of the mining company’s very name has been erased from humanity’s records, those two lake ecosystems will still be destroyed. If you don’t feel neurotic after reading such news, there is a chance you are losing touch with reality and you may want to have your head examined.

I myself have been struggling with eco-neurosis for many, many years. Keeping my sanity, let alone my positive thinking ability, in this constant avalanche of catastrophic environmental news, is a daily struggle. And yes, my marriage sometimes feels the strain of my neurosis (I hereby officially apologize to my wonderful wife) and yes, I sometimes ache for the overwhelming digital beauty of planet Pandora (which my neurosis has so far required me to visit twice).

My insanity has been compounded in recent years by the realization that ecological protection and social justice are one and the same struggle against the world’s elite class and its neoliberal iron grip over the planet. Marxist analysis, in particular, has helped me understand how the capitalist mode of production has thrown 4/5 of the world’s population into bondage and misery and has precipitated the world’s ecosystems into rapid collapse. It helped me realize that in this equation, I am personally both a victim of class exploitation, and an accessory to and beneficiary of the West’s imperialist plundering of the world. Realizing that Haiti was a food self-sufficient country 30 years ago, and would still be today had it not been for Bill Clinton and the IMF’s dismantling of its local agriculture to make way for US subsidized grain imports, does nothing to restore my inner psychic balance.

The feeling of powerlessness in the face of such crushing forces and intractable inner contradictions, is overwhelming. If I didn’t feel emotionally compromised and schizophrenic after such a realization, I would have to be either dead or comatose. Thank goodness for my neurosis. It means I’m still alive.

The trick, of course, is to channel my insanity – which I realize is in itself a contradictory project – so it can be transformed into a positive sentiment, such as anger toward the system, and into positive action, such as taking part in the upcoming social revolution, which I sure hope to see before I die. My friend, himself a hardcore Marxist, kindly responded to my dissenting remarks with this comment:

“I think the real problem [of eco-neurosis] emerges when concern over an issue becomes personally self-destructive instead of focusing the energy on the external, broader political-social transformations necessary and even more importantly on the possibilities that are opening up, either latently or actually.  

As you can probably tell, I have dealt with my own serious concerns about ecological problems by externalizing instead of internalizing, and recognizing that they were subordinate to the bigger questions of global equality, of both the real physical social-technical-economic, and even more importantly, of the global political power that will be necessary to fully attain the former.”

Eco-neurotics of the world, you are sane. Unite!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2010 Winter Olympics will be Vancouver's demise

Vancouver's ill-fated Olympic village condo project. Photo CBC

The following column was published in the Georgia Straight's online edition on December 28:

2010 Winter Olympics will be Vancouver's demise

By Ivan Doumenc

I recently saw a map of Vancouver’s downtown core showing the restricted zones for the period of the 2010 Winter Olympics. It hit me that, for the duration of the Games, I was going to be under siege in my own neighbourhood. About a dozen streets and 20 city blocks will be closed or severely restricted to the public. A long list of venues, restaurants, shops, and public places will also be closed in order to accommodate a variety of corporate-sponsored private events.

For all intents and purposes, the neighbourhood I live in will cease to support me during the Olympics. Like some obscure red- or blue-listed species I am about to lose my habitat, because people richer and more powerful than me are flying into town to enjoy endless parties behind highly guarded security gates. Talk about the enclosure of the commons.

Of course, I could decide to hold my breath for a few weeks and let this idiotic and degenerate storm of a party pass, and simply resume my normal life after that. Problem is, by all measures, there will be no normal life for Vancouverites to return to once the Olympic caravan and its corporate VIP guests have left the city. The Vancouver 2010 legacy will include:
  • A $6-billion public debt, mostly owed to transnational corporations, which will cripple our children’s well-being for most of their adult tax-paying lives;
  • A staggering $1-billion security budget paid on our own money to ensure that we, the people, are kept under control both during and after the Olympics;
  • The enactment of retrograde anti-protest laws, which are in direct violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights;
  • The destruction of unique ecosystems which were standing in the way of a highway expansion or Olympic facility;
  • The removal of affordable housing from the city’s core to make room for ill-designed, elitist, and downright useless condoland projects such as the Olympic Village fiasco, which was bailed out in secret by city council with hundreds of millions of our public dollars.
This massive transfer of public wealth into private hands has an extraordinary cost. In years to come, we will be asked to work harder to pay off an enormous public debt which we have not personally accumulated nor benefited from. As our taxes increase, we will discover that we are no longer working for ourselves, but to finance the extravagant way of life of the world’s hyper-rich.

Olympics watchdog Chris Shaw, who ran for city council with the Work Less Party in the last civic election, figured this out on day one, while the rest of us were still happily waving our Canadian flags and rooting for Vancouver’s 2010 bid. Recently, he has shown us the way by suing the City of Vancouver, forcing it to back away from its particularly repressive anti-protest bylaw.

No doubt the Work Less Party, a fiercely anti-Olympic political movement, is likely to have its “I told you” moment in the next few months and see its popularity boosted as a result. But it will be a bittersweet victory at best, since it will coincide with the demise of a city that we love, which held so much promise and had everything going for it, and will instead enter into old age and decay before its time.

Work defines us as humans, and at the Work Less Party I have met smart people with admirable work ethics. But the value and very purpose of our work has been confiscated from us by people in high places. They have thrown us into the bondage of debt, using schemes such as the Olympics corporate franchise to appropriate both our wealth and our future in the name of sport. It’s time to break free. Yes, I am proud of my work. But business as usual, work as usual is no longer an option. If that’s the deal handed to us by the elite class, then hell yeah, I choose to work less.

Ivan Doumenc is an environmental and social activist. He ran for the Vancouver park board with the Work Less Party in the 2008 civic election. He blogs at Grass!Struggle.