Saturday, November 30, 2013

PLT Slams Manitoba for its Blasé Attitude Toward Arsenic

by Larry Powell

Why is the Government of Manitoba clinging to its monumentally callous practise of releasing arsenic into the environment?

After all, the deadly nature of the poison is hardly a deep, dark secret.

Have Premier Selinger and his Minister responsible for the environment, Gord Mackintosh, never heard of the Borgias? They're the infamous Italian family who rose to power in the Church, using arsenic to murder people for their money and property. And that was way back in the middle ages. 

Known even then as "The King of Poisons," a single dose the size of a pea was said to dispatch a victim with "violent abdominal cramping, diarrhea, vomiting and shock." 

Has no one with our provincial government ever read the classic, groundbreaking book, "Silent Spring?" It was written back in the 60s, but has well stood the test of time. In it, its highly-respected author, Rachel Carson reminded the world that arsenic found in chimney soot in England two centuries before, was carcinogenic. It caused cancer. Carson wrote further, "Epidemics of chronic arsenical poisoning involving whole populations over long periods are on record. Arsenic-contaminated environments have also caused sickness and death among horses, cows, goats, pigs, deer, fishes and bees." 

Yet the Manitoba Government will not budge from its decision to allow the Town of Virden, in the southwest, to release arsenic it has captured from the town's drinking water supply into Gopher Creek, a tributary of the Assiniboine River. That river, in turn, flows through many communities downstream, including Brandon and Winnipeg.

The government has stubbornly dismissed repeated pleas by a concerned resident of the area, John Fefchak, to find a method of disposal for this "captured" arsenic other than simply dumping it back into the environment. Sadly, his repeated letters-to-the-editor on this issue, seem to be falling on deaf ears. The province continues to cling to the outdated notion that the arsenic levels involved are so small, there is no cause for concern - that "the solution to pollution is dilution!"

This assumption is, at best, just plain unscientific.

For example, an American molecular toxicologist, Joshua Hamilton, recently stated that those who ingest only 10 parts per billion (ppb) over a lifetime, an incredibly tiny amount, "increase their risk of disease substantially." (Manitoba’s water standards allow 10 ppb each day. Virden has yet to meet that standard.)

And, in 2011, a team of American university researchers reported the results of a study of almost 12 thousand men and women in Bangladesh. It found a relationship between arsenic exposure and death from heart disease, "at a much lower level of exposure than previously reported."

Even Health Canada, not always the staunchest defender of the public health, saw fit to cut back some time ago on the amount of arsenic it allows in drinking water. 

Meanwhile, Manitoba, by contrast, maintains an attitude respecting this deadly poison which can only be described as strangely cavalier.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Will Typhoon Haiyan Change World Attitudes? Don't Hold Your Breath! (Letter)

Dear Editor,

You have to wonder how many more monster storms it's going to take before the world takes meaningful action on climate change. Just one example is Haiyan, the "super-typhoon" which devastated vast areas of The Philippines this month. It was the biggest storm to hit land, ever! 

A poor Filipino man living and working right here in my home community of Neepawa apparently lost as many as 30 members of his family in this horrible tragedy. As the storm was raging, his country's Chief Climate Negotiator was making a tearful appeal at a UN conference in Poland. He pled for an end to the "madness," of climate change. He asked that we turn away from our addiction to fossil fuels, which is the root-cause of it all. 

Many climatologists remain reluctant to link any single storm, including this one, to climate change. But they have repeatedly warned that warmer oceans brought about by rising global temperatures, stoke the ferocity of both wind and waves during what they call these "severe weather events." As a result, the waves hitting the shore in The Philippines were more like a tsunami than a surge, the wind more like a thousand tornadoes than a typhoon.

Sadly, neither that brave negotiator's plea for change, nor the hunger strike he began at the time, seem likely to make a dent on a world community bent on maintaining a society fuelled by hydrocarbons, and little else. 

Japan has backed away from its targets for greenhouse gas reduction, saying they are just not realistic. Our own Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, has simply added to Canada's shameful litany of lies and deception over the years, by proclaiming at the same UN conference, that a carbon tax wouldn't be effective (even thought the preponderance of evidence points to the contrary). And Australia, a nation which has suffered so severely from the effects of climate change itself, has just elected a Conservative government, which has vowed to repeal an existing carbon tax there.

Yet, even as I look out my window and watch the semis rolling by as unrelentingly as ever, I can't afford to give up! After all, as an older person, I  have surely contributed to this mess, myself. So it is now up to me to help fix it.  

And, damn it, with your help, we will!

Larry Powell
Neepawa, Manitoba, CA
(A version of the above has now been published in the Roblin Review and Neepawa Banner.)

P.S. I'd like to thank fellow members of the Green Party of Manitoba for supporting my resolution at our recent Annual General Meeting in Winnipeg. The Party agreed to extend heartfelt and deepest sympathies to the many surviving family members and friends of victims killed by the typhoon.  
We also adopted a resolution calling on the Government of Manitoba to "substantially increase" its pledge of $200 thousand dollars to the Filipino relief effort. The resolution noted, "If this provincial government can afford to pay a wealthy corporation like Ikea some $8 million to set up shop in Winnipeg, it can surely be more generous to a country so devastated by this super-storm. We mustn't forget that many Filipinos live and work here in Manitoba, giving to this province's economy and social life. It's time that Manitoba gave back to the Philippines."

Friday, November 22, 2013

Climate Change Driving Weather off the Charts

Earth Policy Institute

The world is literally moving off the charts. With the global average temperature up over half a degree Celsius since the 1970s and with more warming in store, we are starting to witness weather anomalies so severe we need to update our metrics and extend our graphs. Details here.

UN Court Orders Russia To Release Greenpeace Crew and Ship

Huffington Post

BERLIN (AP) — A U.N.-mandated tribunal has ordered Russia to immediately release a Greenpeace ship and its crew in return for a 3.6 million euro ($5 million) bond. Details here.

Green Party of Manitoba Searches for a New Leader

by Larry Powell - GPM member
James Beddome, leader of the Green Party of Manitoba for the past five years, (above, centre) has resigned. Beddome told the Party's recent Annual General Meeting in Winnipeg, he was leaving with regret, but that it would be unfair to carry on due to the increasing duties required by his law career. As he put it, "The interests of my (law) clients must come first." 

He did make it clear, however, it was not his intention to break his ties with the party. On the contrary, he added, it was "quite likely" he would continue to serve one way or another, even as a candidate. 

I met this dedicated young man with a ready sense of humour, at a public event in Brandon a few years ago. It was both educational and fun as we tried to convince a sometimes reluctant media to carry our message that the provincial government needed to ban harmful pesticides used on lawns just to make them look good.  

Now, a scant few years later, the NDP provincial government is on the verge of doing just that. 

During his time as leader, Beddome got used to seeing the government adopt Green policies in this way while claiming them as their own.

For example, in 2012, he spoke out strongly against the idiocy of the provincial government licensing the operation of peat-mines in provincial parks. The following year, the province banned the practise.

In a statement, the Party President, Pam Sanford said, "James has left some big shoes to fill. We accept his resignation with regret and wish him well as he completes his law degree."

The party executive is expected to choose an interim leader "in the near future" and set a date for a leadership contest.

Green Party of Manitoba

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Talisman Frackwater Pit in British Columbia Leaked for Months, Kept From Public


A pit storing contaminated fracking water in northeast BC was leaking into the surrounding soil and groundwater for up to six months before owner Talisman formally notified..Details here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Feeding the Flame of Revolt

OpEd News - by Chris Hedges

New York - I was in federal court here Friday for the sentencing of Jeremy Hammond to 10 years in prison for hacking into the computers of a private security firm that works on behalf of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, and corporations such as Dow Chemical. Details here.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Arctic 30 Day 59: Global solidarity protests


Hi Larry,
263 cities, 43 countries. Today, thousands of people took their outrage over the ongoing detention of the Arctic 30 straight to the doorsteps of Russian embassies and oil giants Shell and Gazprom. In a massive global day of action people all over the world demanded the release of the Arctic 30 and showed the oil companies that we will not let them get away with the silencing of peaceful protest.

Stop the Bee-Killing Lawsuit Against the EU! - Please Donate!

In just 3 weeks, Bayer could succeed in defeating the bees' best chance of survival -- by overturning Europe's landmark ban on the pesticides that are killing them. Details here.

Bees on sunflower. PLT photo.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Blame Canada’s Carbon Complacency for the Philippine Typhoon


Anyone who thinks that this typhoon is not due to the atmospheric disruption and rising sea levels resulting from our changing climate has their head firmly planted in the comfortable soil of ignorance, ideology or both. Details here.

Friday, November 15, 2013

US Backs Away From Years of Commitment to Producing Ethanol Fuel Additive

Huffington Post

The Obama administration wants to reduce the amount of ethanol in the nation's fuel supply, acknowledging the biofuel law championed by both parties in 2007 is not working as well as expected. Full story here.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Harper and Enbridge Join Forces on Lawsuit

Dear Larry,
Big Oil and the Harper government have officially tied the knot. 
It’s now ForestEthics Advocacy and Co-Plaintiff Donna Sinclair vs. 
the Federal Government, the National Energy Board (NEB) and 
Enbridge Pipelines Inc.
A Federal Appeals Court Judge recently ordered that Enbridge 
could join our lawsuit as a Co-Respondent. In its Motion to 
intervene, Enbridge argued that any delay in its plans to transport 
tar sands crude through its Line 9b pipeline—running from Sarnia 
to Montreal and through Toronto—would hurt its bottom line. In fact, 
they said their economic rights were at stake in describing their 
legal interest in the outcome of this lawsuit.
Enbridge's position couldn't be clearer: Profits trump YOUR 
DEMOCRATIC RIGHT to speak freely about tar sands pipeline 
projects at hearings conducted by the NEB.
Well, we have a message for Enbridge that they can't bury under the 
weight of their hefty financial coffers. And we need your help to 
deliver it.
 Spread the word by sharing this photo of an Enbridge Energy bill 
on Facebook, Twitter, and with your address book contacts. Better yet, 
if Enbridge is your energy service provider, please get out your monthly 
bill and write your own message! You can add it to our Facebook album 
or email it to us and we'll add it for you. We will then send all the pictures 
we receive to Enbridge’s headquarters in Calgary.
The fact that Enbridge has gone to the trouble of joining our lawsuit 
means they're worried. And justifiably so. If we win in the Federal Court 
of Appeal, two things happen:
  1. The new rules that make it so difficult for Canadians to apply to 
  2. participate in NEB public hearings on pipeline projects—not just 
  3. Enbridge Line 9b but all pipeline projects across Canada—get axed.
  4. The NEB hearings process on Line 9b will be re-opened and the 
  5. agency will be required to give everyone the chance to voice his or 
  6. her concerns about this project.
We may be the underdog in this fight but that makes us no less likely to 
succeed, as the legendary story of David and Goliath proves. Canada’s 
best-known constitutional lawyer Clayton Ruby is representing us and 
thanks to your generosity, we’ve now raised $150,000 to offset a number 
of costs related to this suit.
Please take action today! Either share our photo or post your own now 
and let Enbridge know that you will not be silenced!  
Thank you,

Tzeporah Berman
Board Member, ForestEthics Advocacy

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hydro's Nelson River Sturgeon Plan Problematic: Expert

Winnipeg Free Press 

A Canadian expert on lake sturgeon poured cold water Wednesday on Manitoba Hydro’s plans to re-stock the Nelson River with the prehistoric fish after the Keeyask generating station is built. Full story here.

Resurrecting a River


Parched for more than half a century, California’s San Joaquin -- and its salmon -- are coming back. Details here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's Business That Really Rules Us Now

The Guardian

Lobbying is the least of it: corporate interests have captured the entire democratic process. No wonder so many have given up on politics. Full story here.

Writers Come To My Defence For My Letter About Fossil Fuels & Climate Change

PLT: It all began back in October when the Roblin Review (a weekly paper printed in Roblin, Manitoba, CA), published  my letter/article which I've dubbed, "Have Our Servants Become Our Masters?" In it, I suggested such fuels had now become a human "addiction" and were no longer our friends because of the role they are playing in climate change, severe weather events and even rail disasters.
Another writer, John Titanich responded, accusing me of being out to kill Canadian jobs with a bunch of "disgusting drivel."
That, in turn, sparked the two letters, below, (also in The Review) plus my own response, here.

Dear Editor,

If John Titanich has a little spare time on his hands, I will suggest that he might learn a lot more from some serious reading, as to what is actually happening and taking place on our planet….earth! 
We are 100 years ahead of schedule right now and if a great many of us do not take heed to the warnings that have been predicted,(and now being realized) there will not be inhabitants on this place, we call home. We have surpassed 350 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and closing in on 400 ppm. We're too high!
If we don't smarten up and very soon, forget the grandkids future. This will be the crises and folly of our doing. 
Reading "eaarth" Making a life on a tough new planet, by author
Bill McKibben, would be a good beginning.

John Fefchak,
Virden, Manitoba

The Philipine's Chief Climate Negotiator Goes on Hunger Strike to Protest World Inaction on Climate Change (Video)

PLT: Democracy Now captured this brave man's speech (below) at the climate summit in Warsaw. Holding back tears during its dramatic delivery, he took his seat, and wept. Will the world weep with him? One can only hope.

Watch the video here.

Related: "Have Our Servants Become Our Masters?"

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

CLIMATE ALERT! Given Typhoon Haiyan, UN Must Fully Assess Climate Change Risk and Feedbacks


By ClimateArk a project of Ecological Internet,
November 10, 2013

TAKE ACTION to have top scientists fully assess climate risk and feedbacks:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Global Treaty on Mercury Pollution Gets Boost from United States

United Nations Environment Program

The United States has strengthened the international effort to bring down emissions and releases of a notorious heavy metal after simultaneously signing and ratifying the Minamata Convention on Mercury. Details here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reached New Highs In 2012: WMO

Huffington Post

Atmospheric volumes of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change hit a new record in 2012, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said on Wednesday. Details here.

Please also read: 
Greenhouse Gases in Atmosphere Reach Record High, Says UN Agency

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Moratorium on Fracking Announced by Newfoundland Government

St. John's Telegram
Reviews, public consultations needed before policy developed, minister says. Full story here.

A Global Ban on Left-Wing Politics?

That’s what the new rules being smuggled into trade agreements are delivering.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 5th November 2013
Remember that referendum about whether we should create a single market with the United States? You know, the one that asked whether corporations should have the power to strike down our laws? No, I don’t either. Mind you, I spent ten minutes looking for my watch the other day, before I realised I was wearing it. Forgetting about the referendum is another sign of ageing. Because there must have been one, mustn’t there? After all that agonising over whether or not we should stay in the European Union(1), the government wouldn’t cede our sovereignty to some shadowy, undemocratic body without consulting us. 
Would it?

A Century of Scientific Discovery That Brought Life and Death

The Guardian

It's 100 years since Fritz Haber found a way to synthesise ammonia – helping to feed billions but also to kill millions, and contributing to the pollution of the planet…Details here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Climate Change Report Predicts Warming Will Only Make Human Ills Worse

Huffington Post

Many of the ills of the modern world — starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease — are likely to worsen as the world warms from man-made climate change...Full story here.

Floodwater blocks access to a rural home near 
Yorkton, Saskatchewan, CA - 2011. PLT photo

Canadians Head to Parliament Hill to Lobby for Carbon Fee and Dividend

Citizens Climate Lobby. 
In mid-November, as climate leaders gather in Warsaw, Poland for the 19th meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, citizens from across Canada will be lobbying for Carbon Fee and Dividend on Parliament Hill. Full story here.

Storm clouds near Regina. PLT photo

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Help Save The Bees

We are writing to ask you to send an email to Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency calling for a ban on neonicotinoids pesticides.  You may have seen media reports over the summer describing the critical situation of beekeepers. It is estimated that 40% of the bees in Ontario and Quebec were killed in 2012 and early reports from 2013 are looking just as bad.

So bad in fact the Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency has posted this statement:

“(we’ve) determined that current agricultural practices related to the use of neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seed are affecting the environment due to their impacts on bees and other pollinators”. 

PMRA went on to invite public comment on the use of neonicotinoids and we are passing the invitation on to you, please let them know what you think!

Just click here, fill in the form and click “send”.

The Arctic may be sea-ice-free in summer by the 2030s

  Nature Communications                                                 Photo by Patrick Kelley   The Arctic could be sea-ice-free during th...