Archive for the 'International Affairs' Category

Climate Crisis: Radical Action or a New Battlefront in the War on Nature?

Climate change is happening, but geoengineering schemes are not the solutions we need

by Rachel Smolker and Almuth Ernsting
(cross-posted from Common Dreams)

Will declaring a ‘climate emergency’ help to finally prompt radical action to address climate change?  A growing number of campaigners as well as scientists think so and hope that a major wakeup call about unfolding climate disasters will spur governments and people into action.

The planet needs a break from humanity's assault, not a new 'war' on nature in the form of geoengineering schemes.

The planet needs a break from humanity’s assault, not a new ‘war’ on nature in the form of geoengineering schemes.

Whether a lack of scary-enough facts about climate change has been holding back real action is questionable.  After all, it requires a fair amount of psychological denial to not be alarmed by the escalating heat waves, droughts, floods and destructive mega storms. Continue reading ‘Climate Crisis: Radical Action or a New Battlefront in the War on Nature?’

Youth Call Out Fossil Fuel Companies & Obama Leadership Failure at Doha Climate Talks

This post was written by SustainUS delegate Anirudh Sridhar and cross-posted on

Youth call out fossil fuel industry corruption at Doha climate negotiations. Credit: Kyle Gracey/SustainUS

Youth call out fossil fuel industry corruption at Doha climate negotiations. Credit: Kyle Gracey/SustainUS

When Hitchcock’s first black bird landed on the frame of the playing ground, it seemed individual, particular. There was no need to derive a common theory about the bird in the larger scheme of things as a harbinger of anything significant. By the time the children looked out the window again, 4 more birds had arrived. Soon, the sky had become dark with the descent of an avian blanket of hundreds of birds. As delegates entered the U.N convention center at Doha for the second week of the COP 18 in Doha, they saw the first bird perched atop the escalators.

SustainUS, a youth led organization, along with Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition and Canadian Youth Climate Coalition gathered around the entrance of the convention center and stood disenchanted and disenfranchised from the process, with a somber gloom. They held black cancerous spots that had been clogging the arteries of the negotiations, speaking about the chronic and acute influence of the fossil fuel industry on the levers of global climate change policy.

Mike Sandmel, the media chair of SustainUS and co-organizer of the event stated that “we hear a lot of stories about countries being painted as evil actors as if they were monolithic. Often, even in the choke points of the climate negotiations, there is a huge internal struggle for the environmental soul of the country. The fossil fuel industries control the strings of the country’s fate because of their financial influence and this event is to bring it out in the open.” As the delegates went past the signs that read “Fossil fuel industry groups spent upwards of $376 million on TV ads to influence 2012 elections in the US.” and “Preventing the tragedies of a  2°C temperature rise means staying within a carbon budget of 565 gigatons”, their minds were arrested as their bodies glided limply past. There were a few skeptical voices heard as one delegate from India remarked “Do these people not know that half the world’s population doesn’t have electricity?” Mostly, as the delegations passed, they documented the event in film while the media rushed onto the scene to get the individual perspectives.

Democracy Now interviewed Chi Tung-Hsien, a Taiwanese youth, and he said “Hurricane Sandy has recently shaken Americans awake from a deep sleep about the disastrous effects of climate change. In Taiwan, Sandy is the norm. With mudslides, a food crisis that is likely to lead the country into famine and constant threat of the rising oceans on their island, they live at the constant mercy of climate change.” Continue reading ‘Youth Call Out Fossil Fuel Companies & Obama Leadership Failure at Doha Climate Talks’

From Pillars to Platform: Demystifying the Durban Outcome

“If we accept this text, we are killing ourselves.” These were the words of an ambassador from a small island nation in the final hours of the longest UN climate negotiations in history. “We may be small, but we are not dead,” he continued. With these strong statements, the ambassador sought to rally other countries like his to push back against the weak agreement the conference had produced.

Continue reading more on the Fletcher Forum.

One Year to Earth Summit 2012: A New Generation Goes to Rio

This post was written by Michael Davidson.

12-year old Severn Suzuki Delivers Youth Plea at 1992 Rio Earth SummitOne year from this week, government leaders, civil society members and representatives of the business community will meet in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the future of the planet. The Earth Summit (also called Rio+20 after the first such global event in 1992) can help lead to a more prosperous world that utilizes natural resources more efficiently and responds to the needs of the most impacted communities of environmental degradation. But only if youth help write the story, and here’s why.

Rio 1992 was a watershed moment for the global environmental conscience. Treaties were signed, commissions created, and action plans drafted. Yet one of the most memorable speeches from the two-week conference was by a 12-year old girl (here’s what she’s doing now).

Now, a generation later, my generation is faced with two seemingly insurmountable challenges: the world is changing at a rate never before seen, and the current governance structures are insufficient to meet even the environmental problems of the 1970s.

Continue reading ‘One Year to Earth Summit 2012: A New Generation Goes to Rio’

Endbridge – Why The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Proposal And All Tar Sands Expansion From Alberta To The B.C. West Coast Will Be Stopped In Its Tracks By The Unity Of Indigenous Nations

Endbridge – Why The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Proposal And All Tar Sands Expansion From Alberta To The B.C. West Coast Will Be Stopped In Its Tracks By The Unity Of Indigenous Nations

If you have ever driven on most of the northern highways in northern Alberta you will be presented with a picture of a tame prairie terrain, with sprawling fields and farms holding cows and the occasional conventional oil pump jack. A few kilometers on any of the gravel access roads however and you will see a much more bleaker picture of out of control industrialization and poisoning of the land. This is unless of course you witness the tar sands machines of death on Highway 63 near Fort McMurray and Fort McKay, or the massive underground mining operations in the Peace River and Cold Lake regions disrupting and contaminating underground water. What most modern thinkers fail to understand is thousands years of history from the ancestors of Cree, Dene, Blackfoot, Nakoda and Metis people. Living nations of people who simply cannot afford the luxury of packing up and moving as settlers when there is no longer work. These lands are home to these nations and are not sacrifice zones. And like a deadly contagious all-consuming disease, what has been done to Alberta by the oil industry cannot be allowed to spread to other parts of the world killing indigenous ways of life and jeopardizing the future for all.

Enbridge, and the expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands Gigaproject, is attempting to retrace the steps taken by the Hudson’s Bay Company with classic colonial strategy. The Hudson’s Bay Company was the first corporation on Turtle Island, here in North America. The Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading forts also became the first settler governments for the British Empire. In Alberta, the first settlement and colonial government in Alberta was in Fort Chipewyan, which would today is seen as the international poster community for a Cree, Dene and Metis community directly impacted by 40 years of out of control open pit tar sands mining. The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline is renewing a pipeline proposal and expansions originally proposed nearly 10 years ago and is supported by the Stephen Harper Conservative Canadian Government.

Just one week after the largest oil pipeline spill in Alberta in 30 years in unceded Lubicon Cree Territory, a spill that took six days for the Alberta government to respond in a half-assed, indifferent manner, starting with faxing a one-page “fact sheet” update about the disaster, a large contingent from the Yinka Dene Alliance from the northwest interior of B.C. were arriving in Calgary to confront Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project and tanker traffic.

On May 11th, 2011, on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Calgary, Alberta, a historic solidarity statement of opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal was signed by leaders of the Blood Tribe, Alexander First Nation, Lubicon Lake Nation, Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation, Sai’kuz First Nation, Nadleh Whuten, Takla Lake First Nation and the Nakazdli First Nation.

The day after the Enbridge AGM a rally was held in Prince Rupert, B.C. on May 12th, outside a meeting sponsored by Enbridge for the Northern BC Municipalities Convention. With a historic turn-out of over 500 Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents of the island of Lach Kaien, known in the mainstream society as Prince Rupert, publicly and loudly demonstrating their opposition to the Enbridge Gateway Pipeline proposal as well as any tar sands tanker traffic that would support the industry of dirty crude oil and liquid condensate.

Lach Kaien, or Prince Rupert, is known to the Tsimshian as the “Cradle of Tsimshian Civilization,” according to a hereditary chief of the Gits’iis tribe, Sm’ooygit Nisyaganaat. The Prince Rupert Harbor contains the most dense archaelogical sites north of Mexico City and is the second deepest harbor in the world. Lach Kaien is surrounded by Tsimshian communities traditionally comprised of 11 Tsimshian villages, as well as neighboring nations from the Haida, Haisla, Heiltsuk, Gitksan, Nisga’a, Tahltan, and Tlingit. To this day the indigenous population of the town of Prince Rupert is still between 40-50%, with all industries heavily dependent upon the commerce, labor and resources of Indigenous coastal nations.

A few coastal communities however have not yet made a clear position on whether or not to support the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker project and any western tar sands crude oil expansion. These include among the largest of coastal communities of Lach hlgu K’alaams (Lax Kw’Alaams) or Port Simpson, and Gitkxaahla (Kitkatla), where the still active traditional laws and feasting systems of hereditary chiefs is still strong and holds much influence over the non-surrendered tribal territories in the region of Prince Rupert, Hecate Strait, and the Skeena and Nass Rivers.

These are nations still waiting to awaken to take their place and decide for themselves what is allowed into the lands and waters of nations that have lived and thrived on this edge of the world for thousands of years. To uphold the traditional laws and protocols of respect and responsibilities known as Ayaawk and Gugwiltx Yaans and not be steered by any settler government, environmental group, or any funding body with non-Indigenous agendas. Especially is true that Indigenous grassroots leaders are still fighting the oppression of the Indian Act system and the federal Canadian employees of many Band Councils maintaining the silencing of traditional hereditary leadership systems through which the sole jurisdiction of all territories flows through.

Indigenous lands and waters are to be spoken for and by Indigenous minds and communities. Enbridge Northern Gateway, and all tar sands pipelines and expansions such as the Kinder Morgan TMX Northern Leg Extension, the Pembina Pipeline, the PNG KSL Pipeline, the Kitimat and Prince Rupert Liquid Natural Gas Terminals, and the Prince Rupert “New World” Container Ports are just a few of the many modern obstacles in the path of standing up the original structures and ways of life with which to free Indigenous nations on this edge of the world.

Links to the rally and demonstration held in Lach Kaien and declarations of war against Enbridge -

Statement of Solidarity of Indigenous Nations opposed to Enbridge Northern Gateway -

May 10th, 2011 – Calgary, Alberta, territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy

Our Nations are bound together by the water which is our lifeblood. We have protected our lands and waters since time immemorial, each according to our laws and traditions. The waters of Indigenous peoples throughout the lands known as western Canada are being threatened by fossil fuel exploitation and transportation.

We exercise our rights to sustain our cultural and economic well-being. The laws of each of our peoples are deeply embedded in our cultures and practices. These laws have never been extinguished and our authority continues in our lands. Our peoples continue to live by them today.

We have come together on May 10, 2011 in the city of Calgary, Alberta, in the traditional territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy, to declare to the governments of Alberta, British Columbia, as well as Enbridge Inc., all of its subsidiary bodies, and the domestic and international financial institutions supporting Enbridge, THE FOLLOWING:

The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and tankers project will expose Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities from the Pacific Coast across to Alberta to the risk of pipeline and supertanker oil spills, just as we have seen recently with Enbridge’s massive spill in Michigan, the recent devastating spill in Lubicon Cree territory, the recent TransCanada pipeline spill in North Dakota, as well as the effects of the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon disaster. Tar sands bitumen has been demonstrated to corrode pipelines more rapidly than conventional oil, increasing the likelihood of catastrophic spills. Given the seismic volatility of the region, the recent earthquake in Japan also underlies our grave concerns about the risk of oil spills.

The urgency of global climate change, and the fact that Indigenous peoples are among those most impacted by climate change, also compels us to act.

We have witnessed the Coastal First Nations Declaration banning crude oil tankers on the Pacific North Coast, and the Save the Fraser Declaration banning crude oil transportation through the Fraser River watershed. Each of these Declarations is based in Indigenous law and is an expression of Indigenous decision-making authority.

Enbridge states that it intends to proceed with its Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers, with or without First Nations consent. A decision by Canada to approve this project, without the free, prior and informed consent of affected Nations, will be a violation of our Treaties, our rights, and our laws, and will be in breach of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international accords.

THEREFORE we stand in solidarity with the Coastal First Nations, and the Nations who have signed the Save the Fraser Declaration, and are united in stating that Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and tanker project, as well as other fossil fuel development projects including Keystone XL, must not proceed without obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of all affected First Nations.

AND FURTHER if such consent is not obtained, no construction of such projects shall proceed.

SIGNED in the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy, at the city of Calgary, May 10 2011

Sai’kuz First Nation

Nadleh Whut’en

Takla Lake First Nation

Nakazdli First Nation

Blood Tribe

Alexander First Nation

Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation

Lubicon Lake Nation

On Mother’s Day, Hundreds of Events for iMatter March

In 25 countries on five continents, the next generation of youth climate activists are participating in the iMatter march by taking to the streets and to the courts to demand action. Here at It’s Getting Hot in Here, we have seen a youth climate movement explode in Montreal, grow up (quite literally) organizing events like Power Shift, and launching organizations like, Summer of Solutions, the Indian Youth Climate Network, and so many more.
Yet, sometimes when the energy starts to flag you look back and realize there is another generation, even younger and with new passion, learning from the tools built by organizations like and to bring more young people than ever together to take on the climate challenge. Today is one of the those days and I am very excited to welcome a generation of teenagers who have been fighting their whole life as a teenager for action on global warming. Today, the work of one of the these teenagers, joined by hundreds of organizers like himself, has come to fruition at the iMatter March. Let’s hear them in their own words:
“We trust our leaders to protect the planet, but our government is more focused on profits than our futures,” said Alec Loorz, the 16-year-old visionary of iMatter, who has been tirelessly working on the issue of climate change and global sustainability for the past three years. “World leaders aren’t moving fast enough to confront this crisis, so my generation is stepping up to demand progress. It’s not about money or convenience – our future is at stake.”
The iMatter movement has grown quickly because youth worldwide feel the urgency of the crisis and are ready to stand up for themselves. Overwhelmingly the marches have been organized by teens no older than 16, mobilizing for the first time around an issue they know will affect their future. Among the 100+ marches are:
· San Francisco, CA: iMatter founder Alec Loorz will be joined by Ted Turner, Story of Stuff creator Annie Leonard and other teens, parents and grandparents from across California.
· Salt Lake City, UT: A team of high school students and their mentors have announced a marching parade with walking “floats” organized by different groups. When the Utah Department of Transportation imposed stiff fees and unreasonable roadblocks to getting a permit, the kids approached the Utah ACLU to fight these unconstitutional limits on free speech. More at
· Kuwait City, Kuwait: The 17 year-old son of an oil executive has organized a march of his peers.
· Munich, Germany: Led by 13 year old Felix Finkbeiner, who leads Plant for the Planet, a non-profit organization of youth worldwide who are committed to planting one million trees per country.  Felix and his friends are leading 4 marches in Germany and two in Mexico.
“If we wait any longer to start decisive action against global warming, our children are likely to face drastic consequences,” said Dr. James Hansen, one of the nation’s leading climatologists, who will be joining the Washington, DC march with his grandchildren.
Earlier this week, young people nationwide initiated legal and administrative actions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government to force action on climate change. This effort is the first time climate litigation has ever gone back to the bedrock legal principal that the government must protect the public trust. It’s being led by a high-profile legal team,  including former Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey and his firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy.

Continue reading ‘On Mother’s Day, Hundreds of Events for iMatter March’

Bank of America and Citi: Closed for the Climate’s Sake

Shortly after noon on Sunday, visitors to Bank of America and Citi branches in downtown Portland found local ATMs temporarily closed.  Notices on the ATMs informed customers that the bank was “temporarily closed until in invests responsibly in renewable energy.”  It seems both Bank of America and Citi have been up to no good again, lending financial support to projects that destroy the planet and human health while contributing to irreversible global warming.

Bank of America and Citi have gotten a lot of flack for their past investments in activities like rainforest destruction and mountaintop removal.  Thanks to years of pressure from groups like the Rainforest Action Network, these two largest banks in the US have taken at least some steps to pull their support for those projects.  However they still haven’t gotten the message that responsible investing means no loans given to high-carbon industries.  Even as they distance themselves from destructive extraction in the eastern US, both banks are funding the drive to make the Northwest a fossil fuel import-export zone. 

To take an example, Citi and Bank of America are major lenders to Arch Coal: one of the companies now looking at building coal export terminals on the Columbia River.  If Arch and its allies get their way, the Columbia could soon be pumping millions of tons of coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming to the gargantuan coal market in China.  Meanwhile as Arch tries to ship fossil fuels out of the Northwest, other companies are bringing extraction infrastructure in, shipping drilling equipment up the Columbia en route to the Canadian tar sands.  Banks like Citi and Bank of America are helping to fund that activity, too. Continue reading ‘Bank of America and Citi: Closed for the Climate’s Sake’

U.S and China Race to the Clean Energy Future PART 1: Discourse on Action

Adapted from a press briefing between American and Chinese youth in Cancun. Click here to see a clip from this briefing aired on China Central TV.

For the past two weeks at the U.N negotiations in Cancun, youth representing the major world powers, from the Chinese Youth Delegation, Sierra Student Coalition, SustainUS, and Cascade Climate Network, have converged in Cancun to form the U.S China Youth Climate Exchange, an innovative, multi-pronged initiative and to demonstrate the sort of cooperation and creativity that our nations’ leaders should be working toward to solve the climate crisis.

One crucial aspect of our efforts is a shared action to send the message to U.S. and Chinese politicians; we need both China and the U.S rising to the occasion, racing toward the clean energy future. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work closely with Yingao, my counterpart on the Chinese youth delegation to plan and drive forward this action. In planning this action, what began as a very tactical alliance turned into a much more meaningful and beneficial experience than I had ever expected.

U.S and Chinese youth met with lead-negotiator Jonathan Pershing to voice our vision for greater cooperation between our two countries.

As a young person from the U.S, I am very concerned with our nation’s role in climate change, and in stalling progress on international cooperation. I am also committed to the notion that in order to make a difference as youth, we have to be blunt and we have to be specific. Specifically, in order to fulfill our mitigation responsibilities and make a real contribution to international progress in time for COP17 in South Africa, we need to demand that President Obama match China’s solar growth rate and double wind capacity in the next year.

After my first few meetings with Yingao and other Chinese youth delegates, I began to realize that American and Chinese youth have very different perspectives on our governments and the best way to inspire political progress. As I encountered these differences, I began to fear that my vision for this action would be compromised and so I asserted my own will as if it was inherently at odds with those of the Chinese youth. These meetings left me feeling somewhat discouraged and fatigued- and as if I was coming up against a wall.

Then things started to shift- the platform on which U.S and Chinese youth were interacting and collaborating was expanding under my feet- the action was just one, important but not self-sufficient, aspect of these efforts. Throughout the first week of the negotiations, I participated in many eye-opening experiences. I attended a workshop led by U.S and Chinese youth on our unique histories and educational backgrounds, our governments and their approach to tackling climate change, and a philosophical evaluation of our own cultural assumptions and patterns of behavior between people from such distinct nations.  Also, during an “open space” session at our “diplomacy dinner,” I conversed with Chinese youth on issues as diverse as the role of religion in China, national security in U.S and China energy policy, and the Kyoto Protocol “Common but Differentiated Responsibility” clause.

"I took a philosophical glimpse at the cultural assumptions and patterns of behavior between U.S and China"

The overarching message and importance of the U.S China shared action was as evident in the planning process as it was in the execution of the action. I felt firsthand what it feels like to negotiate one’s own values, principles, and objectives with those of someone from a very different background. I also began to realize the importance of engaging the other and of acting in the spirit of cooperation, rather than opposition. As I got to know Yingao and other Chinese youth as individuals, we started examining our cultural assumptions and explaining our histories and the reasoning behind our beliefs. Once we began to share these insights, it became clear that we did not inherently disagree- in fact, most times we could understand where the other was coming from. Our dialogue did not feel like a series of traded concessions- it felt like a collaboration.

I say all this because I firmly believe that in order for our countries to reach any agreement and enable international progress to solve the climate crisis, we need to learn, use, and listen to the language of shared understanding. It is my hope that U.S and Chinese negotiators examine their own assumed boundaries to cooperation and begin to find opportunities for mutual collaboration.

Stay tuned for Part 2, Taking Action

Canada’s Chance to Lead

Cross-posted from Corporate Knights

The Canadian Government has been aiming to lead the charge on government accountability since the day they entered office.  However, when it comes to accountability of climate change actions, their stance remains unclear.

The story begins with the usual suspect: the United States. The US is insisting that they will not be a part of any global climate change agreement unless there is some level of transparency and review of emission reductions from big polluters - such as China and India. And rumours have it that countries such as Canada, Japan, Russia and Australia are apt to follow suite.

The flip side of the coin is that China will not move on transparency (measuring and reporting its emissions) until the United States proves that it is serious about cutting emissions. There are a number of proposals on the table right now from various countries on how to deal with this disagreement. Continue reading ‘Canada’s Chance to Lead’

US and Canada: “Show the World that Cancun can.”

While climate change has become increasingly political among some countries, there is an increasing need to break away from this over the next two weeks in order to come down on key decisions here at the negotiations. And Canada, the United States, and Mexico may just be the ones to lead.

Mexico opened the annual United Nations climate change conference this week with candor and genuine thought. Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretary and this year’s President of the negotiations, opened the climate change talks with enthusiasm. She encouraged countries to have “dialogue in good faith,” and to urged negotiators to “preserve a collective good of enormous importance.” She spoke of the “flexibility needed from all” in order to find a common denominator amongst the room. She reiterated that this “will mean breaking out of our paralysis.”

Lykke Friis, Danish Minister for Climate and Energy and President of the previous Conference, set the bar by telling negotiators to “keep a legally-binding treaty in our sights.” This is the ultimate goal, to be worked towards in the coming year. In strong-suggestion, she ended with, “Let’s show the world that Cancun can.Continue reading ‘US and Canada: “Show the World that Cancun can.”’

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