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New Brunswick's shale gas protests

Dallas McQuarrie, New Brunswick shale gas protests

By Dallas McQuarrie, Saint-Ignace, New Brunswick

When 150 RCMP officers, a sniper team and dogs stormed a previously peaceful camp of those protesting against shale gas exploration near Rexton, New Brunswick on …

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Lac Mégantic rail disaster

Lac-Mégantic, Que. in flames. Sûreté du Québec photo

There is an important public policy backdrop to the disaster that befell the good people in Lac Mégantic, Quebec in July, when a freight train — with five locomotives and 72 tanker cars — jumped the tracks. The crude oil leaked and then exploded, killing at least 47 people, destroying much of the town, and contaminating the soil and a nearby lake.

The core responsibility of government is to protect its citizens from harm when at all possible. The question here is whether Ottawa has met its responsibility to safely regulate railway transportation. I was surprised to learn, for example, that there was but one engineer for the train. That driver had reached the limit of how many hours he could drive on that day and he left the train, unattended, on the tracks uphill from Lac Megantic while he went to a hotel to rest. In his absence, there was no one else attending the train.

Transport Canada allowed Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Inc. to operate in this way. The company, preposterously, has defended the one-engineer practice, saying that it is safer to have only one driver because that creates fewer distractions. I must say that I have always felt safer in a jetliner with a co-pilot aboard than I would if there were but one pilot.

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New Brunswick arrests in fracking standoff

Dallas, Susan McQuarrie, non-violent resistance in New Brunswick

Those of you who read the Comments posted to this blog will be familiar with the name of Dallas McQuarrie, who frequently responds to what I have written or what others have to say in their Comments. Dallas and his wife Susan are at this moment involved in an intense and profound non-violent action in New Brunswick, where they live. Dallas writes about it below.
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Rogersville, New Brunswick is 90 kilometers north of Moncton on Highway 126 and is home to about 1200 people. Nearby are two Trappist monasteries, noted for their silent retreats, and major tourist attractions like Kouchibouguac National Park and the world-famous Miramichi salmon fishery. This year, in what has become a summer of anger and frustration in rural New Brunswick, it’s not tourist traffic on Highway 126 people are seeing on the supper news, but swarms of RCMP officers hauling people protesting shale gas development off to jail.

People are protesting against the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) that is occurring in their region. Fracking in the quest to extract shale gas has had catastrophic environmental consequences elsewhere, and many of us want no part of it here. Television images of contaminated tap water bursting into flame and other environmental horrors haven’t helped shale gas promoters.

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Bill McKibben on global warming catastrophe

Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone magazineon global catastrophe

The American teacher and environmentalist Bill McKibben is one of the most convincing writers around on the topic of global warming. He has just published an article in Rolling Stone magazine in which he talks about “three numbers that add up to global catastrophe.” Let’s follow him through those numbers but a couple of preliminary points before we do.

Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide and other gases pumped into the atmosphere heat up the planet as a by-product of our burning fossil fuels. There is by now a growing and near overwhelming scientific consensus about this reality. There are to be sure those who continue to deny the science, much as some people still deny that the handling of asbestos causes cancer.  Some of them are sincere but frequently the claims are made by or on behalf of industries that profit from business as usual.

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Elizabeth May, churches and climate change

In October 2011, the leaders of about 30 faith communities met in Ottawa to talk about the urgent need to take a stand on climate change as a moral issue. These deliberations were organized by the Commission on Justice and Peace of the Canadian Council of Churches. The faith leaders crafted and released an interfaith call for action in advance of an international conference in Durban, South Africa. They held a news conference, lobbied politicians on Parliament Hill and created a petition that MPs could table in the House of Commons. Recently about 100 people, including Green party leader Elizabeth May and three other MPs, gathered in a meeting room near the Hill for a panel discussion about whether last October’s interfaith call is having an impact.

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Jim Manly at Northern Gateway pipeline hearings

Jim Manly, Rabble photo

Public hearings are occurring for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that would transport crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands to the northern British Columbia port of Kitimat. There the crude would be loaded onto oil tankers plying the B.C. coastal waterway and sent to China.

There are billions of dollars at stake and the Prime Minister, it appears, will not tolerate anything but a swift and affirmative decision for the project. Various government ministers have, in effect, labelled those who raise concerns as “radical environmentalists” and enemies of the state who are financed from abroad. The government signalled in its recent budget that it will have the Canada Revenue Agency crack down on charitable organizations considered to be too political. It is no secret that they are taking aim at environmental groups.

David Suzuki has chosen to step down from the board of the foundation that he created so that he can continue speak his mind – and he hopes that the Suzuki Foundation will not become a target of the government. The government has also promised that it will shorten the time that it takes to hold an environmental hearing. This kind of activity by governments is common in most petro states. The amount of money at stake is astronomical and that usually trumps democratic process or environmental concern.

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Quakers save cloud forest in Monteverde

When I was a CBC Radio host in the late 1980s, I bought title to one acre of cloud forest in Costa Rica for 25 dollars and then did an interview about it with someone from one of the environmental organizations supporting the project. Now, 25 years later, I may just have seen my acre of forest in a visit that I made with my wife Martha to Monteverde.  On one of our hikes, our guide to the trees and trails in the reserve was Ricardo (Ricky) Guindon. He is the son Wilford and Lucky Guindon, one of the Quaker families that settled there in the 1950s, and who have played an important role in protecting the forest. It’s quite a story.

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CIDA, Barrick Gold, new partners in development?


Bev Oda, CIDA minister

When she shut down the 35-year relationship between the ecumenical group KAIROS and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in 2009, it seemed that Conservative minister Bev Oda had lost her tongue. It was left to a faceless bureaucrat to call KAIROS and tell them their human rights projects in some of the world’s most troubled countries no longer fit CIDA’s criteria. When Oda was questioned about this in the House of Commons, she had nothing to say and sat there mutely while other (male) cabinet ministers tried to parry the blows. But Oda has plenty to say these days, including a recent lengthy interview with the Ottawa Citizen, in which she speaks with great enthusiasm about CIDA’s new support for pilot projects abroad with Canadian mining companies and select NGOs. 

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