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THE ECOLOGICAL DISASTER OF PALM OIL

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A guest post from Jim Richards

Jim Richards is the CEO of a company. His thoughts were offered free on my email. Since I have never tried his products – indeed he is a total stranger – I am being cautious lest I seem to be promoting him or his company. But he seems to have the palm oil business bracketed. There were no images accompanying his press release


Quantum mechanics proposes that ours is only one of an infinite number of parallel worlds, all of which exist in the same space and time as our own.  Within the infinite possibilities of this theory is an upside-down version of our world, an opposite one, and yet another where everything is identical except the elephants are purple.  Any and every possibility can, and indeed the theory insists, must exist.  Apparently, a version of each of us likely exists in all or most of them also, that bit boggles the mind almost as much as it tickles the ego.  After-all multiple worlds without multiple versions of us could only indicate the bright minds that build quantum mechanics theories veer off into wacky land at times.

Keeping updated on the emerging data of our climate crises and the actions taken to alleviate its impact, permits a similar idea to bud.  Within our own planet, there also exists worlds in parallel, upside-down and opposite worlds. In one the need for immediate and decisive action on the climate crisis is obvious, while another parallel world prefers its citizens just keep calm and carry on.  In one world we are invited to take up the yoke of responsibility and the other world prefers we just leave things and let the-as-yet-unborn deal with it all.  In one, the doctrines and processes of governments and politics employ cemented static mindsets even as the climate proves a tumultuous cascade of dynamic processes potentially propelling us to who knows what.  Parallel but opposite worlds.

Between the extremes is yet another world, the one we common folk commonly inhabit.  It is our neighborhood, where we live and work, our town, our city.  A place mostly comforting and familiar because over time it has been sculpted and shaped by the actions, motives and cares of local people to fit local needs.  This is our sphere of influence and the world we want to preserve.

We care about orangutans, koalas and polar bears, we really do, but the sheer breadth, scale, and complexity of the problems overwhelm. The many eco-urgencies progressively lose impact as they increase in scale and are located far beyond our reach.  Most of us have skill and geographical constraints on our ability to positively impact big issues like rising sea levels, melting glaciers and bleaching corrals.   We are best placed, and frankly most incentivized, to start where we are and work from the bottom up. Where we can be busy is in saving those things near us that we love, and then enlarging the space of our influence as we go.

Of course, we understand ecosystems are not respecters of town boundaries nor do they care about the depth of our attachment to local amenities like river-walks, and parklands.  We know our homes and towns cannot be insulated from the causal network in which everything is bound together.  Yet that same causal network allows that we can remain local and still have global influence if we choose our actions wisely.

Transportation of all forms is the cause of about 15% of the human-generated carbon, and incredibly palm oil production is the cause of about the same amount of carbon going into the sky!

Our use of transport is not always a choice, it is hard to imagine life without some form of transport.  However, our use of palm oil is always a choice furthermore it’s easy to imagine life without it, after-all humans thrived until the 1960s with most not knowing palm oil even existed.  Not only is palm oil a choice, ultimately and critically, but it’s also our choice.

One important reason we need to actively save that which we love is, the actions of one person always influences the information base of another and on and on the impact grows.  Starting one thing will encourage and engage others and collectively we can improve the long-term destiny of our world with our own self-generated cascade of dynamic processes.

Palm oil is an unnecessary and offensive ecological disaster, the production of this one item is causing as much climatic damage as every single motorcycle, car, truck, train, boat, and airplane on earth.  Further tropical forests have been and are being burned recklessly and extensively to make way for ever-more palm oil monoculture.  The palm oil industry is boasting that our demand for palm oil is set to quadruple, vast and beautiful tropical Peat forests will be burnt to meet that demand, our demand, but only if we allow it.  All this mindless destruction is they say just the law of supply and demand in action.

Obviously, we are not consciously demanding millions of acres of tropical forests be burned on our behalf each year – if we could make the rules, we would, in fact, demand the very opposite.   But we do inadvertently incentivize and fund the destruction through our purchase of items made with palm oil – and we purchase lots of them.

Palm oil is in so many products it is really quite hard to avoid.  Manufacturers love to use palm oil because it is quite versatile and very cheap. But of course, Palm oil actually has, a hidden, but extraordinarily high eco-price, it is costing us the earth.

Palm oil is likely an ingredient in most of your favorite brands.  But if we commit to doing this thing, this one hard-ish thing, that will complicate shopping a bit and require persistence on our part – if we switch to palm oil-free products – we, together, will compel a positive and pertinent eco-impact that is equal to shutting down all transportation globally. Without leaving home we collectively can send a crystal-clear message to manufacturers. They respond to dips in their sales and market share with an alacrity and intensity we wish they reserved for measuring and reducing the eco-impact of their ingredients.

We, the people, can create new laws of supply and demand – any company that supplies products containing palm oil will see demand diminish, and their bright cheerful logo can come to symbolize the dark badge of corporate greed.   It is only our patronage and goodwill that gives power to brands, and it is our purchases that gift fortune to the companies behind them – they prosper only as they serve our needs and wants.  Change those wants and we change a great deal besides.

Watch out for claims of sustainable palm oil.  The truth is there is no such thing as sustainable tropical forest destruction.  Call BS on that sort of virtue signaling nonsense.

Not buying palm oil products will demonstrate even the biggest global issues are not beyond our reach or influence.  As we get strategic about palm oil, corals, glaciers, sea levels and even Borneo’s (oxymoron named) pigmy elephants will directly benefit.  Those koalas, polar bears and orangutans we care about will get to breathe easier also, as will we all.

We may have our backs against the climatic wall (so to speak) but neither the scope of the ecological problems, nor our ineffective leaders loitering in their parallel world, should cause us to ignore the problems that we, and possibly only we, can effectively attend.  We may not be able to address everything – but believe me, we can address this one big thing.

Historically the extraordinary courage of ordinary people manifests clearest in crises when we are rising to defend neighbors, neighborhoods, and homes – like now.  The intensity of stubborn determination and ingenuity we common folk can collectively bring to this fight is one of humanity’s super-powers.

Besides, we have to make our infinite number of parallel selves feel good about us, even that fortunate us living in the world populated by cute purple pygmy elephants.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 15, 2020 at 4:12 pm

Posted in Environment

Climate strikers “naive and unrealistic”

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Climate strikers gathering at Cambie and 10th

No, they are not. They are also on to you. They know what “gaslighting” means.

The headline comes from a Canadian Press story that was published by the National Observer – and others.

“The strikes themselves are not offering any answers. The strikes are not addressing the question of how we reduce carbon demand.”

Actually if Hal Kvisle was paying attention and not indulging in the usual shenanigans, he would be surprised by how well informed some of these young people are. For the last thirty years or so the fossil fuel industry has been spinning the story that not only was there reasonable doubt about climate change and its cause (when there was none) but also that it was essential to expand production in order to meet both rising demand and build the hardware for the eventual transition. This lost us a great opportunity to get ahead of the game. In the same period not only were greenhouse gas emissions expanding exponentially, but the earth’s ability to absorb that carbon was being exhausted. Some oil companies not only knew that to be true but also started down the path of getting ahead of the competition. BP even tried to convince its customers that the letters now stood for “Beyond Petroleum”. Not that that lasted long.

We have always known that we were being profligate and wasteful with energy, and there were already moves under way to cut that waste – especially in the public sector. BC faced a bit of a challenge since nearly all of our electricity came from existing hydro – which meant its cost to consumers was low, and the ghg emissions had already largely occurred during the construction phase. But even so, people knew about air pollution, and wanted something done about that including closing the last gas fired power station. We also knew that building complete communities in a compact urban region with increased transportation choice was key to better air quality and overall well being – we called it “liveability” back then.

In BC the revenues from oil and gas extraction fell precipitously even as production accelerated. The BC Liberals poured money into the sector by cutting taxes and royalties. In Canada, the extraction of the tar sands was only feasible because it was supported by federal and provincial subsidies, again started by the Liberal government. There is also a direct line between politicians supporting oil and gas and contributions from fossil fuel corporations to party funds for elections and propaganda. The lying from the corporations was long, loud and shameless. As was the greed of the elected officials who still promote them.

We know for a certainty that cutting government subsidies to fossil fuels will bring about significant change in short order. It is simply false to claim that there is need for a longer term transition since so many examples of successful transition are already evident. Solar panels and wind turbines are already more financially viable than fossil power for electricity generation. China is producing far more electric cars and buses than North America – and also building high speed electric railways and urban rapid transit systems. We could have been doing the same over the same period: it was not as if the technologies were not well understood and readily available. Instead we built even more freeways, and bought much bigger cars – and trucks – for personal transportation building our way to ever more automobile reliance, personal indebtedness and ill health as a consequence. There is nothing new about this understanding. What is new is that the children are now pointing out – loudly and with increasing credibility – how irresponsible politicians and corporate management have been, and how change must now happen faster, sooner and with much less attention paid to the personal fortune building of both.

But, really—who’s being naïve in this conversation?

See more – and much better – photos

Written by Stephen Rees

September 30, 2019 at 10:46 am

The Last Post

I am going to add a link into the next paragraph, which will take you to an essay in Huffington Post. And then once that article opens up – if you decide to click that link, there is another link to “a long form essay “Facing Extinction“” if you prefer that. But the point of this first paragraph is to explain why I am posting this at all. I have been consciously backing off from the position I have been taking here for the last ten to fifteen years. At first it was more about “what do I do with myself in the absence of worthwhile employment?” Then it was about having solved the immediate issues of how I survive without a large salary every month (not that I ever thought I had a large salary) what do I do about the place I find myself. I long ago recognised that I would not be able to save the world. It turned out that it was immensely difficult to even make the small part of it that I occupied reasonably tolerable. It did not help either that some of the thoughts that had occurred to me actually got implemented. Not that I am about to claim credit for them – or anything. Other people think similar thoughts at the same time, is all. I just thought that I could keep on doing the same sort of policy analysis that I used to do for the government for the people who get governed. Until that seemed futile too. And boring and repetitive. I long ago stopped going on protests. I have stopped supporting political parties – and everyday, without fail, I get another confirmation that was a Good Choice.

So as I read this article, I kept finding myself in agreement. It is better than anything I could write – and there isn’t anything I feel the need to cavil about. And I have stopped myself from thinking that this is all too hard to face up to. It is not as if we have any choice at all. Except you – you who have stuck with me this far – you who still show up on the “like” list. You can stop reading this now. That’s ok. Don’t worry about it. You do not have to face extinction right now, if you don’t want to. But for those of you who are wondering why this post was an even an idea in the first place this is the link. I have checked it by sending it by email to someone else and confirmed that it works.

This is not a matter for comment or discussion. I am going to close comments for this post, and won’t be looking for any feedback. Please take the advice of the author of the article.

Good bye. And thanks for all the fish.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 22, 2019 at 7:26 pm

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

Tagged with

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

Arguing with Ms Thunberg

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Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 6.00.08 PM

I just came across a quote from the highly intelligent, well informed climate campaigner. It was on Twitter

Yesterday, Thunberg repeated the phrase. “Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking,” she said. “We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling.”

You can see the whole thing on the New Yorker who are impressed by her rhetoric.

So I do not really want to get into an argument with her and on media like Twitter and Facebook these things can get out of hand quickly. But I am pretty sure that the guys who built cathedrals knew exactly how to build the ceiling even as they were working on the foundations. You may recall that I recently posted my pictures of the ceiling of Notre Dame.

Ceiling

If you have been in the crypt of any medieval cathedral you will note a similar form of construction. This is not my picture. It is by Michael Gabelmann who uses a Creative Commons license for his picture of the crypt of Pecs cathedral built in the 11th century.

Crypt

Abundant Transit on Twitter also wrote today

We have everything we need to solve the climate crisis. Only politics and culture stand in the way.

And that was in reply to Jennifer Keesmat

The fact that #Vancouver has made creating walkable communities a central big move of it’s #ClimateEmergency plan is both a clue + an inspiration to cities around the world. We don’t need gadgets. We don’t need to invent something new. We know exactly what to do.

And, by the way, the record breaking increase in transit ridership here was not due to making it free. Lots more people are using the system because it is convenient, reliable and less hassle than driving. It also looks to be better value for money than owning a car and then trying to find a parking spot for it. In fact we are becoming the victims of our own success as the biggest problem now is overcrowding.

But to return to the climate crisis, what we need to do is first stop subsidizing fossil fuel use. Renewables are already cheaper than coal – and most people who are serious about energy efficiency find that an easier way of saving money than almost any other alternative. We do have to get serious too about inequality. Our society is headed in the wrong direction not because most people are unaware of the need for change, but a few, exceedingly wealthy people, have been working hard to confuse the issue while making unconscionable profits and avoiding paying tax. Tackling that is actually more important than trying to persuade everyone else that they have to change their lifestyle. Although carbon tax has been remarkably effective at quite modest levels. And because we have done not nearly enough for the last thirty years (other than have fairly silly arguments when the science was unequivocal) we now must move faster. But no-one has to freeze in the dark. But bicycles, buses, protected lanes for both – and more passenger trains in North America will all work very well indeed because we know how to do that. We know how to build better places too. Batteries are getting better and cheaper: so are solar panels and wind turbines. We haven’t even started on geothermal – unlike Iceland. It really does look like we will see commercial electric aircraft and ferries here soon too. Everyone loves to point to cruise ships – but they are actually already using electric drives. We just need to change the way they generate the power. Not rocket science. And that is something else we really don’t need. Setting up home on another planet is not necessary – or even very practical.

POSTSCRIPT

Ms Thunberg posted to her Facebook page recently. I decided to cut and paste it here. I have no argument at all with her. You should read this

As the rumours, lies and constant leaving out of well established facts continue, please share this newly updated clarification about me and my school strike.
Please help me communicate this to the grown ups who lie about me and family so that I can focus on school instead:

Recently I’ve seen many rumors circulating about me and enormous amounts of hate. This is no surprise to me. I know that since most people are not aware of the full meaning of the climate crisis (which is understandable since it has never been treated as a crisis) a school strike for the climate would seem very strange to people in general.
So let me make some things clear about my school strike.

In may 2018 I was one of the winners in a writing competition about the environment held by Svenska Dagbladet, a Swedish newspaper. I got my article published and some people contacted me, among others was Bo Thorén from Fossil Free Dalsland. He had some kind of group with people, especially youth, who wanted to do something about the climate crisis.
I had a few phone meetings with other activists. The purpose was to come up with ideas of new projects that would bring attention to the climate crisis. Bo had a few ideas of things we could do. Everything from marches to a loose idea of some kind of a school strike (that school children would do something on the schoolyards or in the classrooms). That idea was inspired by the Parkland Students, who had refused to go to school after the school shootings.
I liked the idea of a school strike. So I developed that idea and tried to get the other young people to join me, but no one was really interested. They thought that a Swedish version of the Zero Hour march was going to have a bigger impact. So I went on planning the school strike all by myself and after that I didn’t participate in any more meetings.

When I told my parents about my plans they weren’t very fond of it. They did not support the idea of school striking and they said that if I were to do this I would have to do it completely by myself and with no support from them.
On the 20 of august I sat down outside the Swedish Parliament. I handed out fliers with a long list of facts about the climate crisis and explanations on why I was striking. The first thing I did was to post on Twitter and Instagram what I was doing and it soon went viral. Then journalists and newspapers started to come. A Swedish entrepreneur and business man active in the climate movement, Ingmar Rentzhog, was among the first to arrive. He spoke with me and took pictures that he posted on Facebook. That was the first time I had ever met or spoken with him. I had not communicated or encountered with him ever before.

Many people love to spread rumors saying that I have people ”behind me” or that I’m being ”paid” or ”used” to do what I’m doing. But there is no one ”behind” me except for myself. My parents were as far from climate activists as possible before I made them aware of the situation.
I am not part of any organization. I sometimes support and cooperate with several NGOs that work with the climate and environment. But I am absolutely independent and I only represent myself. And I do what I do completely for free, I have not received any money or any promise of future payments in any form at all. And nor has anyone linked to me or my family done so.
And of course it will stay this way. I have not met one single climate activist who is fighting for the climate for money. That idea is completely absurd.
Furthermore I only travel with permission from my school and my parents pay for tickets and accommodations.

My family has written a book together about our family and how me and my sister Beata have influenced my parents way of thinking and seeing the world, especially when it comes to the climate. And about our diagnoses.
That book was due to be released in May. But since there was a major disagreement with the book company, we ended up changing to a new publisher and so the book was released in august instead.
Before the book was released my parents made it clear that their possible profits from the book ”Scener ur hjärtat” will be going to 8 different charities working with environment, children with diagnoses and animal rights.

And yes, I write my own speeches. But since I know that what I say is going to reach many, many people I often ask for input. I also have a few scientists that I frequently ask for help on how to express certain complicated matters. I want everything to be absolutely correct so that I don’t spread incorrect facts, or things that can be misunderstood.

Some people mock me for my diagnosis. But Asperger is not a disease, it’s a gift. People also say that since I have Asperger I couldn’t possibly have put myself in this position. But that’s exactly why I did this. Because if I would have been ”normal” and social I would have organized myself in an organisation, or started an organisation by myself. But since I am not that good at socializing I did this instead. I was so frustrated that nothing was being done about the climate crisis and I felt like I had to do something, anything. And sometimes NOT doing things – like just sitting down outside the parliament – speaks much louder than doing things. Just like a whisper sometimes is louder than shouting.

Also there is one complaint that I ”sound and write like an adult”. And to that I can only say; don’t you think that a 16-year old can speak for herself? There’s also some people who say that I oversimplify things. For example when I say that “the climate crisis is a black and white issue”, ”we need to stop the emissions of greenhouse gases” and ”I want you to panic”. But that I only say because it’s true. Yes, the climate crisis is the most complex issue that we have ever faced and it’s going to take everything from our part to ”stop it”. But the solution is black and white; we need to stop the emissions of greenhouse gases.
Because either we limit the warming to 1,5 degrees C over pre industrial levels, or we don’t. Either we reach a tipping point where we start a chain reaction with events way beyond human control, or we don’t. Either we go on as a civilization, or we don’t. There are no gray areas when it comes to survival.
And when I say that I want you to panic I mean that we need to treat the crisis as a crisis. When your house is on fire you don’t sit down and talk about how nice you can rebuild it once you put out the fire. If your house is on fire you run outside and make sure that everyone is out while you call the fire department. That requires some level of panic.

There is one other argument that I can’t do anything about. And that is the fact that I’m ”just a child and we shouldn’t be listening to children.” But that is easily fixed – just start to listen to the rock solid science instead. Because if everyone listened to the scientists and the facts that I constantly refer to – then no one would have to listen to me or any of the other hundreds of thousands of school children on strike for the climate across the world. Then we could all go back to school.
I am just a messenger, and yet I get all this hate. I am not saying anything new, I am just saying what scientists have repeatedly said for decades. And I agree with you, I’m too young to do this. We children shouldn’t have to do this. But since almost no one is doing anything, and our very future is at risk, we feel like we have to continue.
And if you have any other concern or doubt about me, then you can listen to my TED talk ( https://www.ted.com/…/greta_thunberg_the_disarming_…/up-next ), in which I talk about how my interest for the climate and environment began.

And thank you everyone for your kind support! It brings me hope.
/Greta

Ps I was briefly a youth advisor for the board of the non profit foundation “We don’t have time”. It turns out they used my name as part of another branch of their organisation that is a start up business. They have admitted clearly that they did so without the knowledge of me or my family. I no longer have any connection to “We don’t have time”. Nor does anyone in my family. They have deeply apologised for what has happened and I have accepted their apology.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

April 26, 2019 at 4:33 pm

A Message from the Future

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You might recall that Guy Duancy wrote a book on the same theme. This is mainly aimed at the US readers who need to know about the Green New Deal. Everything under the line is simply cut and paste.


 

New York, NY – April 17, 2019 – “A Message from the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” the 7-minute animated film presented by The Intercept and Naomi Klein, featuring art by award-winning illustrator Molly Crabapple (“Brothers of the Gun”), has amassed over 2 million views across all video platforms in 8 (eight) hours.

This hybrid of fact, fiction, and art is set at a time when the Green New Deal is a reality and human beings have come together to tackle the global climate crisis in a fair and equitable manner. In this alternative (but entirely possible) timeline, the 2020 presidential election jumpstarted the “Decade of the Green New Deal” and a flurry of legislation kicked off a series of social and ecological transformations to save the planet.

YouTube: https://interc.pt/GreenNewDeal

Twitter: https://t.co/PywCR0jPUl

The Intercept: https://interc.pt/NaomiKleinGND

“It is such a pleasure to collaborate with this team of artists and filmmakers, who are helping us imagine the beautiful, safe and inclusive future that so many tell us is impossible,” said Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “Before we can win a Green New Deal,” she added, “we need to be able to close our eyes and imagine it. We can be whatever we have the courage to see.”

A Message from the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” will also screen during Sunrise Movement’s “Road to the Green New Deal” tour, with eight major national stops and over 100 town halls across America. The tour begins Thursday, April 18, with a gathering at The Strand Theater in Boston, Massachusetts. For additional info on the Sunrise tour, visit their official site.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 17, 2019 at 5:43 pm