Interview

Why Al Gore Fears Donald Trump – But Remains Optimistic

Al Gore

Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement – making America the only country on earth to opt out of the climate accord. Al Gore is captured in the new film An Inconvenient Sequel looking distressed at the election of Trump in 2016. Here, one of the film's directors tells The Ecologist’s Brendan Montague how Gore made it clear that he fears Trump is a danger to our planet.

Gore features in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – which is released on DVD on 11 December – and follows a decade after his Oscar winning blockbuster An Inconvenient Truth. The film shows Gore’s increasing despondency during 2016 as Trump successfully campaigns for the presidency.

The latest documentary is directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, who spent almost two years filming and speaking with Gore – including behind the scenes during the Conference of the Parties negotiations held in Paris at the end of 2015. 

Invisible Horseman: An Interview with Photographer Troy Moth

Invisible Horseman. Troy Moth

Troy Moth is an artist and photographer living on Vancouver Island. Moth’s iconic images are featured on art gallery walls and trendy t-shirts alike, famed for their stark, smoky portrayals of landscapes and creatures, of both the human and non-human variety.

Moth recently published a provocative photo of a wild bear slouched in the smouldering landfill of a remote Canadian community. We asked him if he’d speak to us about the image, why it elicits such strong reaction in its viewers and what the apocalypse has got to do with it.

If Facts Don’t Matter, What Does?

This is an excerpt from DeSmog founder Jim Hoggan’s latest book, I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse, published by New Society Publishers.

I first began reading the works of linguist and cognitive scientist George Lakoff about 15 years ago and I was struck by the Berkeley professor’s now famous ideas about what he calls frames. In public relations our stock in trade is messaging, because our role is to create understanding by combining maximum clarity with supreme brevity. We work in the world of sound bites and elevator pitches that are designed to be short and pithy, and we rarely have the time or budget to delve into frames or deeply moving narratives.

When I started writing I’m Right and You’re an Idiot I wanted to better understand the difference between messages and frames, so I would know how frames work and be able to explain how to manage them. I wanted to better understand how they relate to the mechanics of public debate, and especially how frames impact facts and scientific evidence in public discourse, or when shaping opinion.

We’re Easily Confused About What Experts Really Think, New Research Shows

I’m not a scientist. And chances are, neither are you.
 
That likely means we both find ourselves deferring to the opinion of others, of experts who know more about complex matters — like health or nuclear safety or vaccinations or climate change — than we do.
 
But heck, even scientists have to rely on the expertise of others (unless they’re some sort of super scientist with infinite knowledge of all things. Ahem, Neil deGrasse Tyson).
 
But for the rest of us intellectual Joes, we rely heavily on what we think the experts think. As it happens, figuring out what the experts think isn’t so easy, not even in those instances where the majority of experts agree on a subject.
 
Take for example, the issue of climate change, which is just what cognitive scientist Derek J. Koehler had in mind when he launched a recent pair of experiments designed to investigate what factors might contribute to our collective failure to grasp expert consensus.

Naomi Oreskes: A New Form of Climate Denialism is at Work in Canada

No one has a better handle on the effect climate deniers have on the socio-political stage than science historian and author Naomi Oreskes.
 
Her book Merchants of Doubt charts the path of many of the world’s most notorious deniers, skeptics, shills, PR men and experts-for-hire. Plus, as a trained historian and professor of earth and environmental sciences at Harvard, Oreskes has the ability to take a 10,000-foot view when it comes to climate politics and the turning tide of public opinion.
 
Oreskes recently visited Vancouver to discuss climate change and climate denial in Canada at a talk organized by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.  
 
For Oreskes, understanding how climate denial is active in places like Canada involves acknowledging the expansiveness of climate change as an issue, one that cuts across boundaries between government, society and market power.
 
We asked Oreskes what she makes of Canada’s current political situation — a situation in which our  prime minister announces impressive climate targets on the world stage but then quietly approves B.C.’s first LNG export terminal on a Friday afternoon.
 
“Of course there is a long road ahead,” Oreskes said. “[Climate change] is a very big issue that reaches into economics, politics and culture.”

Pacific Northwest LNG Review a 'Failure of Process': Fisheries Biologist Michael Price

In an open letter to Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, a group of scientists publicly challenged the integrity of an environmental assessment reviewing the impacts of a major liquefied natural gas export terminal on the west coast of British Columbia.
 
The Pacific Northwest LNG plant, a controversial $11.4-billion export terminal, is proposed for Lelu Island near Prince Rupert. The terminal is slated to be built next to Flora Bank, a unique eelgrass rich intertidal zone scientists have termed a salmon superhighway.
 
According to salmon ecologist Michael Price with SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, and signatory of the open letter, the environmental assessment of the project represents a “failure of process.”
 
“There’s certainly a frustration with [the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency]. We feel CEAA has not incorporated the best available science.”

Interview: Emily Hunter on the Modern Green Movement and How To Change The World

How did the green movement start and where is it headed? DeSmog UK previewed the new documentary How To Change The World, which depicts a group of idealistic hippies ready to take on the world. In this long-read we speak with Emily Hunter,  environmental activist and daughter of 'eco-hero' Robert Hunter, about today's environmental activism.

As Richard Nixon announced plans to test nuclear bombs in Alaskan waters in the midst of the Vietnam War, Bob Hunter stood on the steps of his high school, burning his college acceptance letter and choosing, instead, to “set off to change the world”.

So begins the film How To Change The World, which tells the story of the young activists who set sail from Vancouver, Canada in 1971 in an old fishing boat to stop the atomic bomb tests, and who would quickly evolve into a passionate and courageous group devoted to saving the whales.

Alaska Fishing Community Spurred to Action by Mount Polley Spill

Wrangell, Alaska, wharf

Wrangell, Alaska — A fishing boat chugs across the water in front of the patio at Wrangell’s Stikine Inn, temporarily disrupting dinner conversation as residents of the tiny Southeast Alaska town tuck into heaped plates of rockfish and chips.

At the next table, where a group of friends are celebrating an 80th birthday, the talk is all about the next day’s fishing plans. The new salmon smoker is working well, there were more than 40 crabs in the pots yesterday and everyone wants to be out on the water before 9 a.m. tomorrow because there are king salmon to be caught.

Commercial and sports fishing fill the freezers and wallets of Wrangell residents but, out of mind for many of them, behind the shield of the Coast Mountains, lurks a threat that could annihilate the area’s fishing and tourism-based economy.

Trust Me, You'll Want to Hear George Marshall Talk About "Multivalent" Climate Change

George Marshall

Eight years ago, climate communications expert George Marshall picked up a copy of The Independent from his doorstep on a Saturday morning. Looking at the front cover of that magazine, he said, got him thinking about the “peculiarities” of climate change.

In bold letters the headline read “The Melting Mountains: How Climate Change is Destroying the World’s Most Spectacular Landscapes” and inside it outlined how alpine tourism is at risk with roughly 50 years left before a warmer climate begins to claim the snowpack.

Marshall said what really struck him was what he saw next. “It was the Saturday newspaper, so I picked it up and out falls the travel supplement. The travel supplement is dedicated to visiting those spectacular places before they go, entirely by the medium of international flights.”

There’s something peculiar in this and I had a long conversation with my wife about it: how there’s this disconnect between the concern expressed on the first three pages and the hedonism expressed in the travel supplement.”

He laughed, “What did Oscar Wilde say? We all kill the thing we love.”

The Oilsands Cancer Story Part 3: The Spotlight Turns on Fort Chip Doctor

Fort Chipewyan Cemetery. Fort Chip, located downstream of the oilsands, has higher than average cancer rates.

This is the third installment in a three-part series on Dr. John O'Connor, the family physician to first identify higher-than-average cancer rates and rare forms of cancer in communities downstream of the Alberta oilsands.

Part 3: The Spotlight Turns On Fort Chip Doctor

After the story of Fort Chip’s health problems broke, Health Canada sent physicians out to the small, northern community.

Dr. John O’Connor said one of the Health Canada doctors went into the local nursing station and, in front of a reporter, filled a mug with Fort Chip water and drank from it, saying, ‘See, there’s nothing wrong with it.’

That was such a kick in the face for everyone,” O’Connor said. “Just a complete dismissal of their concerns.”

Health Canada eventually requested the charts of the patients who had died. Six weeks later they announced the findings of a report that concluded cancer rates were no higher in Fort Chip than expected.

For O’Connor, however, the numbers “just didn’t match up.”

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