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

How is Climate Change Reshaping Our Future?

with 4 comments

SFU Woodwards, January 22

I went to an event last night organized by The Tyee and the Stonehouse Institute. It will save me a lot of typing if you click one of those links to see what Geoff Dembicki had to say about it before it happened. By the way, the title used in the article is different from what was on the screen at the start of the event (shown above). It is not clear to me how much of the content of last night’s presentations will appear in The Tyee later. I did take some notes. There was not the same link to social media that would make a storify possible. And the way that they had set up the Q&A at the end – people were supposed to text questions through one of three media – did not seem to work very well. There certainly was no real audience engagement – and despite the suggestion that this would occur afterwards in the foyer it did happen, but in the room itself in front of the stage and was chaotic.

It also seemed to me that it failed to actually address the topic title. One far out presentation by Keith Gillard of Pangaea Ventures showed a series of illustrations from some of the more extreme projects being proposed. None were realistic – nor were they supposed to be. I did not bother to note the names of the projects. They looked horrific to me.
Panel
Jim Hoggan, Chair and co-founder of The Stonehouse Institute, and DeSmogBlog
Keith Gillard, Pangaea Ventures
Christie Stephenson, NEI Investment
Carleen Thomas, Tsleil-Waututh

Geoff Dembicki opened by saying that climate change is much bigger than other environment issues. As profound a change as the internet which impacts everything.

Jim Hoggan 
Actually promoting a book The Polluted Public Square and not presenting the views of the Suzuki Foundation of which he is Chair

There should be a more civil public discourse. He is optimistic due to people he interviewed for the purpose of writing this book

Why are we doing so little? Why aren’t we listening to the evidence.

You can pollute conversation. “Ethical oil” is a term used to make the tar sands look like fair trade coffee. Environmentalists are painted by our  opponents as extremists paid by US businesses! The PMO refers to those opposing tar sands as “foreign funded extremists”

Neil Young painted as a hypocrite by the main stream media because he uses a private jet .

Improbable terms like “ethical oil” are a  linguistic strategy to silence others.
Just as Fox TV is neither  “fair” or “balanced” – claims it makes for its “news” coverage

If there is a ruckus outside your home, you will be curious about it. But if the ruckus occurs every night it will be ignored.

How to clean up the public square? Our minds are designed for “groupish righteousness”.
Speak out against injustice in a way that does not create more hatred. “Speak the truth but not to punish” Tich Naat Han

Keith Gillard, Pangaea Ventures

Said that he had been asked by the organizers to describe the future as if all the problems had been solved [by technology]. His company uses the physical sciences to identify new solutions to problems without the environmental impacts currently being experienced

“Natural gas is cheap forever and we are not going to run out of it”. It can be a very cheap source of  hydrogen.  Renewables will continue to be a small part of energy provision for a long time. Rectenna appears to be capable of producing 90% efficient solar energy compared to the 10% of existing systems. Canada is very inefficient in energy use because energy is so cheap and plentiful.

Electricity storage – battery technologies are emerging rapidly to help cope with the intermittent nature of renewable sources like wind

dezeen_Biostamp-temporary-tattoo-electronic-circuits-by-MC10-2
MC 10 tattoo (he actually used the illustration above) shows how technology is going – your “gadgets” (tablets, phones, laptops) will be gone which is just as well since “silicon etching is nasty chemistry”.

A new insecticide developed from spider venom is completely harmless to other life forms so can be sprayed at any time without affecting humans, animals or plants. There is now a better understanding of the role of micro bacteria that co-evolved with plants and is essential to their growth. They will in future have a big role in replacing chemical fertilizers.

Algae will have a role in creating fuels, desalination of water and even sugar production [which I am not at all convinced is a Good Idea. Do we really need more sugar?] But perhaps the most important innovation will be in water cleaning.

Christie Stephenson, NEI Investments
Used only one illustration – a jagged arrow pointing upwards to the right. She said that there is a  shared assumption that growth is good for shareholders but what about the rest of us?Investors not the only stakeholders – and we need to create incentives to get executives to consider more than just short term profits. The present obsession with quarterly results and their impact on share prices is what is killing us. She said they we should expect to hear a lot about  “materiality” – which before I added that link I knew nothing about – “Reward leaders to do the right thing” Strategies and tactics for Socially Responsible Investors to deal with the “Enormity of climate change”.

Carleen Thomas, Tsleil-Waututh

Her concern was to address the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion which will impact the Burrard Inlet (the name of her FN means “the people of the inlet”). Their response is simply

No!

They have created a “Sacred Trust Initiative”, of which she is the Project Manager, to try to protect what is left of the ecosystem of the inlet.

“We try to be as inclusive as we can not just for us here and now but for future generations”

“You have to understand what your truth is.”

She learned much from her grandmothers, but was not aware of how much until she became a grandmother herself and started to pass that knowledge along to her granddaughters.

“We are installing wind and solar power”

“I have no choice but to be hopeful.”

“Protect the land and the water. That is what connects us to each other and all other life forms.”

“We have to thank Harper for bringing us together.”

“We must find a way to coexist”

We have seen the harvest from the inlet vanish. The kelp (which was used to cover the calms at the clam bake) has gone. The water is now polluted – and the red tide is more frequent. But the red tide is nature cleaning herself. “If we give space to mother earth she can heal herself.”

“Take only what you need”

They recently held new ceremonies on the water including one which involved other First Nations outside the Kinder Morgan terminal. Two helicopters circled over the water ceremony which she said made her feel that they were trying to make the ceremony seem somehow a threat to the terminal.

————-

I wanted to participate in the question and answer ceremony so I stopped taking notes to submit a question – which, of course, did not appear on the screen at all. I wanted to ask the financial people how I was supposed to convince my investment adviser to consider renewable energy and other clean tech projects which he currently rejects as too risky. Putting money in a savings account earns 1% interest – and the Bank says it will not raise rates – but an investment in solar power last year would have seen a 25% increase in share prices.

I felt that Christie Stephenson had been far too vague. Her employer is owned by the credit unions. I have been very unimpressed by the investment advice I have had from Coast Capital (which seems ever more like any other bank to me) and I wanted to know how I could put money into better things than pipelines. I think she needed to have been much more specific in her recommendations.

I did talk to Keith Gillard. The problem that I see is that natural gas is still seen by the drillers as a waste product. At least half the well output is simply flared. Not only that but our governments give the resources away for free. There are no royalties collected on many new projects. The oil sands projects only exist because of subsidies and tax breaks. It is now estimated that overall the subsidies to the oil and gas industry worldwide can be counted in trillions of dollars. Moreover they get the water for fracking for free, can put whatever they choose into it and just leave it behind afterwards. If the externalities they create for others showed up on their balance sheets, their activities would cease. I am in favour of market prices when they reflect externalities: mostly of course they don’t. If fossil fuels had to bear the cost of externalities there would be no longer any restraints on the switch to renewables.

I do not understand how we are supposed to have a dialogue when the entire process is undermined quite deliberately by a small number of very rich right wing ideologues – who are in fact wrong about nearly everything, and know only too well what the science is saying but are determined to maximize the returns on their existing investments no matter what the impacts on everyone else.

I do not understand how we can choose investments in cleaner technology when the organizations chosen to represent them here are so incoherent about how to attract and retain capital. It is quite easy to disinvest in things like oil companies and banks. It is very much harder to provide for your retirement and at the same time help to make the world a better place.

There is no level playing field. The dice are loaded. Making nice to the cheats and bullies will not change their behaviour.

—————

I hate to claim prescience – but I wrote most of the above before breakfast – a couple of hours ago. It is now 10:57 and I have just finished reading this in Mother Jones

The fact that mitigation is relatively democratic—cutting private emissions helps everybody—but adaptation, which is more and more what we seem to be going toward, is not at all democratic. In fact, it is deeply unfair. I think everybody needs to understand that. We talk about climate change as this tragedy of the commons, which kind of takes some of the moral oomph out of it—like, we’re all doing this, we’re all screwing ourselves. But that’s not a very good frame for what climate change really is. It’s not even at all. It’s not even geographically. It’s not even economically. So for those of us who have the highest historic emissions—in North America and Europe and, increasingly, China—to be able to buy our way out of this problem or to profit off it is systemically dangerous. It really raises the moral stakes. I don’t want to villianize the individuals I met, because by and large they’re good people doing things they believe in. But I think we all need to step back and understand what the stakes are.

The second thing isn’t a moral point, but sort of a practical point: We can’t trust capitalism to just fix this. We can’t trust self-interest to fix this. If those who have the most to gain from climate change happen to be the ones who are emitting the most carbon—if I’m that person, am I really going to do too much about climate change, just to save myself?

That is from McKenzie Funk, author of “Windfall,” on climate change’s potential winners — and inevitable losers.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 23, 2014 at 9:20 am

4 Responses

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  1. “It is very much harder to provide for your retirement and at the same time help to make the world a better place.”

    Nicely put. Clear government policy would help support renewables obviously. The polluter disinvestment philsophy still leaves you with “first, do no harm” – there are any number of boring companies, accounting software, widget makers etc. – with shares or debt you can buy.

    Regarding climate-change cynicism, in my most cynical days I expect for our lifetimes (and I’m younger than you) it’ll pan out much like the first-world/third-world relationship does today: occasional headline, thousands killed in factory collapse, pipeline leak/explosion, or major weather event; followed by weak charity and back to ignoring it. We, the rich world, will buy safe land and pay a penny or two more for bread and kiwis. My grandkids will live in a world either on a run-away warming path, or with non-polluting first world tech and a lower global population.

    neil21

    January 23, 2014 at 12:52 pm

  2. Hi Stephen – nice meeting you the other night, and glad you enjoyed the event. Just a little clarification: None of the images I used came from companies that have pitched Pangaea on their technologies, although they were mostly real things or current/recent proposals. I wouldn’t betray the trust of an entrepreneur by disclosing any confidential information publicly, especially since some of the things I showed were to point out their absurdity. You’re absolutely right: They were horrific! Cheers.

  3. Keith – I apologize for the misunderstanding. I have changed the paragraph to remove that suggestion

    Stephen Rees

    January 24, 2014 at 5:24 pm

  4. […] That is what I remember of the introduction of a speech by Carleen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.  The speech was delivered as part of an event organised by the Tyee called “how is climate change reshaping our future?”.  A very interesting event, even if none of the speakers really adressed the title.  Stephen Rees wrote a good summary of the evening (here). […]


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