Opinion

Wed, 2013-02-13 08:09Kevin Grandia
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Why Canadians Should Care about Keystone XL Pipeline Protests at the White House

This weekend, thousands of people will be out front of Barack Obama's White House to protest the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline – a 1,879 kilometer length of pipe that will allow oil to be pumped all the way from Northern Alberta to refineries in Texas.

It isn't the XL pipeline itself that is at the heart of the matter though. It is the 500,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands crude that will be pumped through the pipe that has so many Americans upset. And it should upset Canadians too. 

Tue, 2013-02-12 05:00Evangeline Lilly
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Evangeline Lilly: I am Canadian. What are You?

This is a guest post by Evangeline Lilly, Canadian actress.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a Canadian actress who has been living abroad in Hawaii for the past ten years. I have been involved in such well-known projects as the television series “Lost”, the indie hit “The Hurt Locker”, the blockbuster film “Real Steel” and the upcoming second and third “Hobbit” films.

To hear Evangeline Lilly tell her story, listen here:

Thu, 2013-02-07 23:04Kevin Grandia
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One Question John Kerry Should Ask John Baird To Gauge Canada's Sincerity on Bilateralism

Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet on Friday with his Canadian counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. In any such bilateral meeting, it is paramount that each participant trust the words of their counterpart. After all, when it comes to the world of diplomacy, where wars are settled and treaties are signed, there's little more than words and trust. 

Thu, 2013-02-07 06:00Jeff Gailus
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When War is Peace and Dirty, Clean

Every communications expert knows that truth is rarely self-evident. Indeed, no matter how hare-brained or incredulous an idea is, if it serves the interests of a particular group of people who want it to be true, they’ll ignore any and all evidence to make it so.

Paul Krugman, an influential economist and columnist for the New York Times, recently wrote about this problematic phenomenon in the American military, where it is known as “incestuous amplification.” “Highly dubious ideas become certainties,” he wrote, “when a closed group of people repeat the the same things to each other – and when accepting the group’s preconceptions itself becomes a necessary ticket to being in the in-group.”

He refers, as an example, to the early days of what he calls the Iraq debacle, “where perfectly obvious propositions – the case for invading is very weak, the occupation may well be a nightmare – weren’t so much rejected as ruled out of discussion altogether; if you even considered those possibilities, you weren’t a serious person, no matter what your credentials.”

If this sounds eerily familiar, you might be thinking of the protracted campaign by Big Oil and the Alberta and Canadian governments to brand tar sands oil as a “clean, responsible and sustainable” source of energy. Earlier this week, I visited the Alberta government’s oil sands website to read about “Alberta’s clean energy story,” where we learn that Albertans “are doing our part to move the world towards a clean energy future.”

Mon, 2013-02-04 11:06Guest
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The Baffling Response to Arctic Climate Change

By David Suzuki

The Arctic may seem like a distant place, just as the most extreme consequences of our wasteful use of fossil fuels may appear to be in some distant future. Both are closer than most of us realize.
 
The Arctic is a focal point for some of the most profound impacts of climate change. One of the world’s top ice experts, Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University, calls the situation a “global disaster,” suggesting ice is disappearing faster than predicted and could be gone within as few as four years.
 
“The main cause is simply global warming: as the climate has warmed there has been less ice growth during the winter and more ice melt during the summer,” he told the U.K.’s Guardian.
 
Over the past 30 years, permanent Arctic sea ice has shrunk to half its previous area and thickness. As it diminishes, global warming accelerates. This is due to a number of factors, including release of the potent greenhouse gas methane trapped under nearby permafrost, and because ice reflects the sun’s energy whereas oceans absorb it.

Tue, 2013-01-29 11:47Jim Hoggan
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Ethical Oil Doublespeak Is Polluting Canada's Public Square

“Like any other tool, language can be abused, used not to build but to destroy, not to communicate but to confuse, not to clarify but to obscure, not to lead but to mislead.” 
- William Lutz⁠

Retired American linguist Dr. William Lutz spent much of his career at Rutgers University studying how language is abused in public conversations. He pointed to government and industry as the worst offenders in a practice known as Doublespeak, which Lutz described as “language designed to evade responsibility, to make the unpleasant appear pleasant … language that pretends to communicate but really doesn’t. Language designed to mislead while pretending it doesn’t.” 

Dr. Lutz worried that doublespeak has invaded public discourse about important issues. When killing innocent men, women and children is called 'collateral damage', torture becomes 'enhanced interrogation' and the dirtiest fossil fuel becomes 'Clean Coal', public conversations lose meaning. We struggle to make sense of things. These euphemisms sanitize language and steer important issues below the public’s radar. 

Fri, 2013-01-18 08:00Guest
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Why it Takes a Whale to be Heard: Public Blocked From Enbridge Hearings

by JODI STARK, one of the independent artists who created Hope the Whale, and an environmental public engagement specialist.

The most striking part of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway community hearings in Vancouver is that they’re not open to the community at all.  Only a limited number of people get to present their position to the federally appointed Joint Review Panel, and the rest of the public aren’t welcome to watch them, despite thousands of Vancouverites who are passionate about this proposed pipeline and what it means for our future.

In response, a group of Vancouver multimedia artists have built Hope the Whale, an interactive art installation designed to allow anyone the opportunity to have a voice. The 25-foot whale, surrounded by a dozen large water drops, is set up in downtown Vancouver outside the Wall Centre where the proceedings are taking place. This collaborative art project, supported by First Nations and conservation organizations, is engaging the public in a welcoming and inclusive way – much the way we would expect a public process to be run.

Thu, 2013-01-03 05:00Guest
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After 25 Years, It’s Time To Stop Spinning Our Wheels

By David Suzuki
 
In 1988, hundreds of scientists and policy-makers met in Toronto for a major international conference on climate change. They were sufficiently alarmed by the accumulated evidence for human-caused global warming that they issued a release stating, “Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war.”
 
They urged world leaders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2005. Had we heeded that warning and embarked on a campaign to meet the target, Canadians would now be healthier (because of reduced air pollution), have greater reserves of energy and more jobs. We’d also be a world leader in renewable energy and could have saved tens of billions of dollars.

Tue, 2012-12-18 04:00Jeff Gailus
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Little Black Lies: Manufacturing Irony

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’ll know that the Alberta government is suing the tobacco industry for $10 billion. What may be less clear is how ironic this gesture of fiscal responsibility is, coming, as it does, from a government that happily perpetuates the same transgressions that got Big Tobacco in trouble in the first place.

Each year, approximately 3,000 Albertans die from tobacco-related illnesses,” Premier Alison Redford said when she announced the legal action last May. “This lawsuit, to be clear, is not about banning cigarettes or punishing smokers. It is about recovering health-care costs as a result of the misconduct of the tobacco industry.”

The issue, Redford reminds us, is not that cigarette smoking kills thousands of people, and costs taxpayers millions of dollars, every year. No, Redford, like others who have sued the tobacco industry over the last 30 years, are outraged that these purveyors of America's most widely used addictive drug lied and lied relentlessly to the North American public.

Rather than come clean and acknowledge the scientific evidence that cigarette smoking caused various illnesses, the tobacco industry embarked on an insidious campaign to discredit the science and foul the public airways with deceptive advertising, all so innocent smokers would keep buying their deadly products (a crime that was sardonically portrayed in the hit movie, Thank You for Smoking).

This strategy, which has been used by other industries that make dangerous or polluting products, became known as the art of “manufacturing doubt,” after a now infamous memo from a senior tobacco official. “Doubt is our product,” the anonymous tobacconist wrote, “since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

It sounds complicated, almost impossibly so, but it’s actually rather simple if you have enough money. Corporate collectives have been doing it for decades: funding bogus science and investing in think tanks to produce dubious research results that cast doubt on legitimate research findings, from cancer-causing tobacco to global warming carbon emissions.

Add well-funded advertising campaigns that create a new reality irrespective of the truth, and corporations have been able to thwart government regulations that might otherwise damage their bottom lines – or at the very least make them fess up to the less savoury impacts of their products and services.

If this sounds eerily familiar, it should. The Government of Alberta, in cahoots with the oil industry, has been using a similar strategy to promote tar sands development in northern Alberta. The first step was to create a monitoring system that was incapable of detecting pollution in the land and water in the tar sands region.

Sun, 2012-12-09 12:00Guest
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Are We Trading Away Our Rights and Environment?

Written by David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington.

Global trade has advantages. For starters, it allows those of us who live through winter to eat fresh produce year-round. And it provides economic benefits to farmers who grow that food. That could change as oil, the world’s main transport fuel, becomes increasingly scarce, hard to obtain and costly, but we’ll be trading with other nations for the foreseeable future.

Because countries often have differing political and economic systems, agreements are needed to protect those invested in trade. Canada has signed numerous deals, from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to several Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (FIPA), and is subject to the rules of global trade bodies, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Treaties, agreements and organizations to help settle disputes may be necessary, but they often favour the interests of business over citizens. With Canada set to sign a 31-year trade deal with China, a repressive and undemocratic country with state-owned corporations, we need to be cautious.

Should we sign agreements if they subject our workers to unfair competition from lower-paid employees from investor nations, hinder our ability to protect the environment or give foreign companies and governments excessive control over local policies and valuable resources? Under some agreements, basics like protecting the air, water and land we all need for survival can become difficult and expensive.

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