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

Archive for May 2019

Eco-Terrorist: Battle for Our Planet

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The stuff that comes into my inbox these days usually gets a quick once over. Not in this case.

Filmmaker and longest-serving Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) crewmember, first mate to Captain Paul Watson and a captain in his own right, Peter Jay Brown reunites his ruthless cast in this Post Whale-Wars feature documentary that captures all sides of the SSCS from its inception to this very day. Included is even more never-before-seen footage of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Campaigns featuring Renegade Environmentalists and their Guerilla Tactics.

This is a sneak peak of an upcoming release due in the fall this year.

I will admit that I have not seen any of the Whale Wars tv shows. But I have followed the adventures of Paul Watson over the years. And, like many people, I have been appalled by the behaviour of the Japanese and their determination to continue commercial whaling. I am glad Sea Shepherd is doing so well, but I also hope that there will come a day when they are no longer needed, because their mission will have been accomplished.

Image: Director Peter Jay Brown at the help of a Sea Shepherd vessel on campaign

Peter J Brown

Written by Stephen Rees

May 22, 2019 at 9:45 am

Posted in Environment

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Book Review: Civilization Critical by Darrin Qualman

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This book was not sent to me by a publisher, nor promoted by a PR firm. It was given to me, by a friend, who in turn had bought it – and three copies more – from his friend, the author, who used to be director of research for Canada’s National Farmer’s Union. Actually that in itself makes for a Good Story, but not one that I am going to get into now.

The book sets out in very readable form exactly how humanity has gotten itself into its current pickle. He is also pretty good at describing the sort of changes we are going to need to make, if we are to avoid imminent disaster – though this section is much shorter than the earlier history. So he is very good indeed on why we need to change, and probably says enough about what needs to be done. Sadly there is not much about exactly how we ought to do that. On present trends, we appear to be doomed by a combination of utter idiocy and selfishness on the part of most of the elite and a sense of helplessness for the rest of us.

You can read more about the book on the publisher’s web page but I will just use a short quote here

In this sweeping work, Qualman reinterprets and re-explains the problems we face today, and charts a clear, hopeful path into the future.

By page count, he uses 250 pages on stating the problem and around 10 on what to do. From the book:

We must make different choices [from business as usual].

We must transform our civilization and its systems of production and consumption.

It is not that I disagree with him. I think he is right. What I find frustrating is his assertion “Solutions surround us.” That may also be true but I do think that they need a bit more elaboration.

I do have to say this book is very well written. When I started reading it I found it necessary to share excerpts with my long suffering partner. A bit like how I cannot enjoy a visit to an art gallery without someone to nudge at the good bits. He has a very good turn of phrase. Whatever else I want you to take from this review is that reading this book was a pleasure, not a chore. I am glad I read it and learned a lot from it. What it did not give me, and maybe this is being unreasonable, is what am I supposed to do about it.

In an earlier article on this blog I made a similar response to Greta Thunberg, who suggests that we need to start building the cathedral even if we don’t know what it is going to look like, but actually we do know. We have known for at least twenty years – which is when this issue first came across my desk – and actually the fossil fuel industries knew that at least twenty years earlier, but decided to obfuscate just as the tobacco industry had done for so long.

In terms of my professional practice, the easiest solutions to identify are what did we do before the cars created all these problems. We seemed to be doing pretty well with electric trains and trams – supplemented by bicycles. Living in compact, complete communities. With an overwhelming need to access better technology for things like eliminating drafts, improving home comfort and cutting down on physical exertion to achieve anything at all. Compare, for instance, the physical labour of plastering a lath wall with installing drywall.

In the US the Green New Deal seems best bet for now. In Canada …

For us, here and now, we have some difficult choices. It may well be that we will indeed see a Green Wave in the upcoming federal election. It seems clear that Scheer is determined to keep on going as we are. He will definitely not be one of the people to read this book. What is critical is that the other parties – who like to see themselves as “progressive” but tend to fall back on “campaign from the left, govern on the right” (both Liberals and NDP are doing this now) – need to embrace change not as “nice to have” but essential to the continued existence of life on earth beyond the 21st century. The Green Party’s effort is pretty good – but perhaps Not Good Enough.

The sad truth – much more than inconvenient –  is that the greenhouse gas that has already been emitted way beyond anything seen when there has been life on earth is going to be around for a while. The tipping points are already whizzing past us just like deadlines. Even if we could stop dead and leave it in the ground from tomorrow that will not be nearly enough, and carbon capture and storage will always be promising. It has not delivered anything significant yet – nor will it, in time. And the current occupiers of the decision making seats are happy to announce yet further depletion of forests (boreal and old growth coastal rainforest) on which our future depends.

When the people we choose at the ballot boxes are so ready to abandon their undertakings in the name of “we are better than the alternative” I do not know how to advise you. Reading this book will only help convince you that we need to act more boldly and sooner. I am not sure how we are going to do that but it does not seem to me to really be advanced much by chucking milkshakes at them.    However much they deserve it.

Civilization Critical
Energy, Food, Nature, and the Future
By Darrin Qualman

Published by Fernwood Publishing 2019

ISBN: 9781773630861

April 2019

360 Pages

For sale worldwide

EPUB

ISBN: 9781773630878

May 2019

For sale worldwide

Kindle

ISBN: 9781773630885

May 2019

For sale worldwide

Written by Stephen Rees

May 21, 2019 at 7:49 pm

Petition against Woodfibre LNG

I just signed a petition – so of course they then send me an email asking for more help. The following comes from My Sea to Sky: it is their content and I have not checked any of these assertions: comments are closed and should be directed to them, not me.


 

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Howe Sound is under threat from Woodfibre LNG, which proposes to construct and operate a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility on the previous Woodfibre Pulp and Paper Mill site located approximately 7 km west-southwest of Squamish.

Why is this project a bad idea?

  • Woodfibre LNG is owned by Sukanto Tanoto, an Indonesian billionaire that has been found guilty of tax evasion and human rights violations.
  • LNG tanker traffic puts people that live in Howe Sound, Vancouver, and Victoria at risk, as international safety guidelines are not being followed.
  • Underwater noise and light pollution will affect salmon migration routes, herring, and marine mammals.
  • Increased local air pollution will affect human health in the lower mainland, particularly the elderly and kids with asthma.
  • LNG exports will increase fracking in northeast BC. Over 70% of B.C.’s natural gas is fracked. If Woodfibre LNG project goes ahead it will result in 24 new fracking wells every year.
  • Site C dam and the eDrive subsidy will increase your hydro bills so Woodfibre LNG can have cheap power.
  • Woodfibre LNG’s local and upstream greenhouse gas emissions are equivalent to adding 170,000 cars to the road.
  • Woodfibre LNG staff Byng Giraud and Marian Ngo have donated illegally to the BC Liberal party, while the project was undergoing its environmental assessment.

Help us stop Woodfibre LNG. Please sign the Howe Sound Declaration.

 

The My Sea to Sky team

Written by Stephen Rees

May 8, 2019 at 4:09 pm

Unexpected impacts of climate change

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Talking this morning to a company that imports stuff from Europe. It is currently very late arriving here. Originally it was destined for the port of Montreal, but there have been strikes there, so the container was diverted. It was now to be delivered by ship into Vancouver via the Panama Canal. But for the first time in its history there has been a three month drought, and the canal is short of water. To get containers through in smaller vessels, they have to be transhipped in Cartagena. The port of Montreal is currently unable to handle ships due to flooding and the consequent shortage of railcars.

POSTSCRIPT
Maybe I should be more incredulous. Here is a recent picture of a container train leaving the Port of Montreal May 6, 2019 – with plenty of space for a second container on every car!
CN 9547

Photo Credit: Michael Berry on Flickr

In the other direction, a container full of door furniture (“knobs and knockers”) destined for a new development in Vancouver was lost at sea when a ship from China was hit by an unprecedented  cyclone.

This is going to be the new normal, and will require some rethinking of the trade patterns that have developed in recent years. While there might be comparative advantages in labour cost, the perils of shipping may make manufacturing at at home rather than abroad a more attractive proposition.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 7, 2019 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Transportation

“Why did everyone else get bus deregulation and London did not?”

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The quote comes from an article in the Observer yesterday.

I wrote a letter to the Editor today:  it does appear. I thought readers here might also like to know the answer.

Because Professor Christopher Foster of the London School of Economics wrote a paper describing the impact of competition between bus companies in London in the 1920s and 30s which lead to the creation of the London Passenger Transport Board. Traffic congestion has always been bad, especially in Central London, but the behaviour of bus drivers trying to beat each other to the bus stops to scoop up as many fares as possible had become downright dangerous. Mrs Thatcher clearly took a narrow view, and decided that this was a risk she was not prepared to take – in London. Chaos did indeed hit most of Britain’s larger cities after bus deregulation.

By the way, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Railways was more effective with his advice on the privatisation of the railways. He told her that people would be killed. He was also right, but that did not happen on Thatcher’s watch but later under John Major who was notably less intelligent.

I went looking for a suitable picture and found one of the “Chocolate Express” which was accompanied by some useful text. So instead of using a copyright image I am sending you to that page.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 6, 2019 at 11:17 am

Posted in Transportation