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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for June 22nd, 2008

Put oil firm chiefs on trial, says leading climate change scientist

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The Guardian

James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking speech to the US Congress – in which he was among the first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming – to argue that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the “perfect storm” of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable.

Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.

In an interview with the Guardian he said: “When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that’s a crime.”

I think he is right, but the legal nicety is that there is porbably no law on the books that they can be charged with. And then of course there is the whole buisness of jurisdiction. In the US no other courts are recognised as legitimate, since the US does not sign treaties that would allow its officials to be put on trial. Because, of course, for most of the Bush administration, the Vice President and President have been denying right along with the buddies from the oil patch.

And while the tobacco cmpanies have had to pay large sums to both smokers and state governments, so far as I am aware no tobacco company executuve has ever served any hard time for their crimes against humanity. (I would really like to be proved wrong about that.)

Written by Stephen Rees

June 22, 2008 at 10:15 pm

Katzie heritage site being bulldozed for bridge

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Brian Lewis reports that a highly significant archaeological site is being bulldozed to allow for a new connector road to the Golden Ears Bridge.

Building the Abernathy Connector will destroy a recently discovered 3,600-year-old Katzie heritage site, which archeologists say is B.C.’s most significant find in years and one that’s capturing global scientific attention.

Unfortunately, due to the construction schedule, archeologists have only been able to recover about three per cent of the 91,000-square-metre site’s artifacts and even this small portion totals more than 200,000 items.

The 10-month excavation ended in April and some artifact types had never been previously encountered.

But its most extraordinary impact is the change in scientific perceptions of ancient native peoples who lived beside the lower Fraser River after the last ice age ended 12,000 years ago — they were not just hunter-gathers.

“Now we have evidence of gardening 3,600 years ago, which turns the whole definition of northwest coastal natives as hunter-gathers on its head,” says Simon Fraser University archeologist Dana Lepofsky, who has followed the “dig” closely.

“This is hugely significant, anthropologically.”

But of course in BC we do not value anything other than the ability to drive our cars, so this site will vanish and the irreplaceable evidence of this ancient way of life will be lost for ever.

It is going to be the same story along the South Fraser Perimeter Road. There are several known sites that will disappear as detailed in the technical report (large pdf file). The SFPR has yet to get its certificate of course, but as the H1PM2 process demonstrated that is merely a technicality. No matter that the demand forecast is known to be wrong and the impact on land use ignored. And that the changing reality of a world past peak oil and well into irreversible and terminal (for us) climate change makes the whole project a whoite elephant.

Simon Fraser University archeologist Dana Lepofsky says other countries go to greater lengths to protect archeological sites that lay in the path of development but that in B.C. we’re not even enforcing existing archeological laws.

“Here, we put a higher premium on pavement than 12,000 years of history that can only be recaptured through the archeological record,” she says.

Hat tip to Rick Green for bringing this to my attention.

Update June 23

There is a good article by Jeff Nagel on this issue in th e Surrey Leader

Written by Stephen Rees

June 22, 2008 at 8:03 pm

Posted in Environment, Gateway

“the biggest crisis facing the world”

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The first two stories I read in this morning’s Obeserver leave me depressed.

Gordon Brown is in Jeddah trying to persuade OPEC to open the taps a bit more. And that is his quote I used for the headline. He thinks the oil price is the problem and that therefore more oil coming on to the market to meet rising demand will solve it. That is, lower the price.

The second story is that “the majority of the British public is still not convinced that climate change is caused by humans – and many others believe scientists are exaggerating the problem.”

So at least Gordon Brown is in step with his constituents. Although most of the analysis is what that means for his political future. Not,  what does this mean if the world does not have leadership that is prepared to tackle global warming. Brown was trying – unlike Bush and Harper.

There is a deal of debate about why the Brits are not convinced but the phrase “many people said they did not want to restrict their lifestyles” sums it up neatly for me. And that feeling is not confined to the British either. And the thing they like to do is point to Al Gore and ask how big his carbon footprint is, and though that somehow excuses them from actually dealing with the future that faces us all and in a much shorter time frame than was expected.

It is not as if any of this experience is actually new or different. Throughout my life there have been “end of the world as we know it” scares. The bomb, the hole in the ozone layer, DDT, the series of oil shocks, the rise of terrorism and so on.  Most of the world is poorer and sicker than us – and we have actually been cutting back on the aid we give them. The population explosion was always a problem but the religious convictions of a few US marginal seats mean we do not deal with that or AIDS/HIV in any way that might actually work. The tv screen fills with little naked black babies who are going to die on a regular basis – and floods and disasters seem to occur with monotonous regularity in all the poorest nations. Nothing is being done to help Haiti or the Sudan – or nothing effective anyway. It is no wonder that people in the rich countries turn their attention away after a while from huge problems that seem so intractable. And listen to pundits paid for by big business who will tell them comforting lies. And sell them a big screen tv to watch “reality”.

The biggest crisis facing the world is our own indifference to our fate – and the wickedness of a political leadership that will allow that to happen. The good thing about the credit crunch and the oil crisis is that both were long overdue and a correction to over consumption and wastefulness that had to occur if we are to have a planet we can continue to occupy. And I used to reflect on what I heard the elders say about how this will affect our grandchildren. But most of the people alive today will see the impact of changing weather patterns, rising sea levels, worsening shortages of basic necessities – food, fresh water, secure shelter – and sudden catastrophic events such as the floods currently devasting the American mid west. Becuase it is not only Bangladesh and all those islands in the Pacific that are at risk. We all are.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 22, 2008 at 8:30 am