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O Canada

Written By: - Date published: 2:02 pm, December 5th, 2009 - 18 comments
Categories: Environment, International - Tags: ,

Depressing reading in this piece by George Monbiot on Canada:

So here I am, watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petro-state. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy towards dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush.

In 2006 the new Canadian government announced it was abandoning its targets to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto protocol. No other country that had ratified the treaty has done this. Canada was meant to have cut emissions by 6% between 1990 and 2012. Instead they have already risen by 26%.

It is now clear that Canada will refuse to be sanctioned for abandoning its legal obligations. The Kyoto protocol can be enforced only through goodwill: countries must agree to accept punitive future obligations if they miss their current targets. But the future cut Canada has volunteered is smaller than that of any other rich nation. Never mind special measures; it won’t accept even an equal share. The Canadian government is testing the international process to destruction and finding that it breaks all too easily. By demonstrating that climate sanctions aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, it threatens to render any treaty struck at Copenhagen void.

After giving the finger to Kyoto, Canada then set out to prevent the other nations striking a successor agreement. At the end of 2007, it singlehandedly blocked a Commonwealth resolution to support binding targets for industrialised nations. After the climate talks in Poland in December 2008, it won the Fossil of the Year award, presented by environmental groups to the country that had done most to disrupt the talks. The climate change performance index, which assesses the efforts of the world’s 60 richest nations, was published in the same month. Saudi Arabia came 60th. Canada came 59th.

In Copenhagen next week, this country will do everything in its power to wreck the talks. The rest of the world must do everything in its power to stop it. But such is the fragile nature of climate agreements that one rich nation especially a member of the G8, the Commonwealth and the Kyoto group of industrialised countries could scupper the treaty. Canada now threatens the wellbeing of the world.

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, the pursuit is of petro-dollars is also tearing Canada apart – quite literally. Most of Canada’s reserves are not oil, but tar sands, “a filthy mixture of bitumen, sand, heavy metals and toxic organic chemicals” which are “being extracted by the biggest opencast mining operation on earth”:

An area the size of England, comprising pristine forests and marshes, will be be dug up unless the Canadians can stop this madness. Already it looks like a scene from the end of the world: the strip-miners are creating a churned black hell on an unimaginable scale. To extract oil from this mess, it needs to be heated and washed. Three barrels of water are used to process one barrel of oil. The contaminated water is held in vast tailings ponds, some so toxic that the tar companies employ people to scoop dead birds off the surface. Most are unlined. They leak organic poisons, arsenic and mercury into the rivers. The First Nations people living downstream have developed a range of exotic cancers and auto-immune diseases.

Sadly of course we Kiwis now have to mobilise to protect our own National Parks from the same madness. Make a start with the postcard campaign described earlier. Don’t let the National government do this to our country…

aspiring-mine

18 comments on “O Canada ”

  1. gitmo 1

    Bombastic pap.

  2. prism 2

    gitmo – The information in this post is really disturbing. Could you cheer us up with some facts that show that its wrong.

    • gitmo 2.1

      Sorry I was referring to anything written by Monbiot as being bombastic pap – I’ve given up reading anything he dribbles on about

      • Bored 2.1.1

        Hey Gitmo, try reading this one, you might learn something. Theres a hell of a lot of people I read who write bombastic pap, like the columnists and editors in the politics and business sections of the daily papers. Then there are the academics, people like Kurosawa and Fergusson, all write bombastic pap to their viewpoint. That said theres always something in there to consider, even in disagreement. Its called filtering the pap crap. Give it a go.

  3. TF 3

    Go here to the climate change debate in Canada that Monbiot was there for.
    Elizabeth May Canadian Green Leader and George Monbiot on one side
    BjØrn Lomborg and Lord Nigel Lawson on the other
    Very entertaining though I don’t think it would sway people from there original positions

    I don’t think out of the four I would describe Monbiot as being the most bombastic
    see for yourselves http://www.munkdebates.com/

  4. Ag 4

    OK. Time for a reality check.

    As a former resident of Canada I can tell you that this is a blip in Canadian politics. The practical reality of Canadian elections is this: unless a party wins in both Ontario and Quebec, it cannot win a majority in the Canadian parliament. The only party capable of winning in both is the centrist Liberal Party, so either Canada has a Liberal government, or some sort of minority government. This is because the Conservatives (whatever guise they are currently in) cannot win sufficiently in Quebec to form a majority government.

    So here’s a simplified version of the current story.

    Now everyone remembers back in the 90s when Quebec had a referendum on separating from Canada which narrowly lost. Turns out that the Liberal government of the time had engaged in a series of underhanded PR tactics to boost support for the no vote. This all came out in the early 2000s and soured many Quebecers on the Liberals. Since then, the Liberals haven’t been able to win in Quebec, with the separatist Bloc Quebecois winning instead. The Bloc is perfectly prepared to support the Conservatives up to a point, since many Conservatives would prefer to get rid of Quebec.

    The end result is that Canada isn’t going to have a properly working government until Quebec gets over its fit with the Liberal Party. That probably won’t take that long, since most Canadians don’t like the extremely conservative bent of the CCP. What they do have in the meantime is a party dominated by Albertan conservatives, who are in many respects just the same as Republicans, who happen to have a stone-faced moron as a leader. He also happens to represent much of Western Canada, which has historically suffered from “Western Alienation” and is looking to get its own back on the “liberal elite” in Toronto and Montreal.

    This doesn’t mean that Canadians are anti-environment, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the Liberals are perfect. What it does mean is that Canada has by an unfortunate accident an anti-environment government that is massively pro oil (i.e. Alberta based) at the time climate change legislation is needed.

    In the end none of this has anything to do with the environment and everything to do with the endless antagonism between English Canada and French Canada.

    • prism 4.1

      Thanks Ag. From what you have said it seems that Canada may at present be a spoiler for hopes for the environmental summit getting a concerted mandate from the developed countries. People are talking about the next 2-3 years being important to start determined governmental measures to control emissions. So is there someone that can make way over this standoff. Sounds a bit Lilliputian to me.

      • prism 4.1.1

        Saying that the political machinations were a bit Lilliputian wasn’t meant to be a putdown of Canada Ag. I think Canada a good country and wonder why NZ doesn’t work for closer ties. All politicians can fall into the Lilliputian mode I think, it seems a too easy slide.

  5. Bill 5

    The story of cap and trade aka why we are completely fucking fucked (sorry prism….but it is a cartoon….. and they’re kinda happier than dense text….sometimes….)

    • prism 5.1

      When we are all getting fucked Bill, that’s equality!
      Not very efficient of me not to know, but was it your Bill that gave me the cap and trade hyperlinks? If it was you thanks. They were very informative.

  6. Bill 6

    For as long as ‘our’ elected agency (government) is competing with the elected agency of ‘others’ (‘their’ government) to gain comparative (business) advantage, we are well and truly fucked.

    Anybody wish to offer a counter argument/position which leads to a happy ever after given our present set up?

  7. Lanthanide 7

    “Don’t let the National government do this to our country ”
    Good thing we don’t actually have tar sands in NZ, so we don’t have to worry about the National governmenting “do[ing] this to our country”.

    • Bored 7.1

      I was rather hoping that tar sands were found under both Fendalton and Remuera, they might then become the either the first urban national parks or the first plutocratic Green electorates.

  8. rave 8

    NATO is expanding to the Arctic as the ice recedes. And Canada is being used as an attack dog by the US against Russia to grab the oil, gas etc that is said to be in abundance under the ice.
    http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/loose-cannon-and-nuclear-submarines-west-prepares-for-arctic-warfare/

    No capitalist government left, right, or centre will save the planet.
    http://redrave.blogspot.com/2009/12/climate-change-dire-emergency.html

    • Pascal's bookie 8.1

      I did laugh a wee while back when the Russians sent a sub to the north pole, and did some sort of sticking-a-flag-in-the-ocean-floor kind of routine. Purely to show the technical expertise of the navy of course. Just as a morale booster obviously. Not saying anything political at all.

  9. Chris 9

    As a Canadian this is less about Canada and more about the nature of right-wing governments. Currently, the federal government is extremely wingnut in its makeup – similar to the Mactional party here currently in power.

    The big problem is that Canada still has a FPP system, rather than a far superior MMP system that we have here. This means wingnuts get elected, and hence, are able to give vent to their hatred of Canada and drag it down in the worlds’ eyes – to wit Monbiot.

    The natural tendency is for us to have liberal (read left of centre) governments so given time, natural history will assert itself.

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