Category Archives: Oil, Gas, Coal, Pipelines

Building On Victories For A Stronger Climate Justice Movement

While the climate justice movement has been winning important victories, stopping and slowing pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, and putting the future of fossil fuels in doubt, the political system, long connected to the fossil fuel industry, is still fighting the urgently needed transition to clean sustainable energy. Both President Trump and former Vice President Biden put forward energy plans that do not challenge fossil fuels.  The only candidate with a serious climate plan is Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins.

The movement needs to build momentum from these successes for more actions to stop fossil fuel infrastructure. As the reality of the climate crisis hits more people, fossil fuels will become high-risk investments while the cost of solar, wind, thermal, and ocean energy is declining.

Propped Up by Massive Subsidies

The fossil fuel industry is being propped up by massive subsidies without which its extinction would be faster. A 2019 IMF report found that $5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017, the equivalent of over 6.5% of global GDP. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found “the $649 billion the US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget and 10 times the federal spending for education.”

In the era of the climate crisis, COVID-19, and recession, these subsidies are not justifiable. Christine Lagarde of the IMF has called for removing fossil fuel subsidies, noting the investments made into fossil fuels could be better spent elsewhere. She notes: “There would be more public spending available to build hospitals, to build roads, to build schools and to support education and health for the people.”

The era of fossil fuel domination is coming to an end. It is up to people to organize to hasten the transition to a clean, sustainable energy economy. The deeply embedded fossil fuel industry can be defeated. The people have shown they can make it impossible to build fossil fuel infrastructure.

Friends of Nelson Facebook page

Movements Can Stop Fossil Fuels

In early July, three pipeline projects suffered major blows. Their defeats were the result of more than a decade of activism by thousands of people. People risked arrest, went to jail, confronted police, petitioned, lobbied and litigated, slowing the projects down and making it impossible to profitably build pipelines and other infrastructure.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was canceled on July 5. On July 6, a federal court ordered Dakota Access Pipeline to shut down pending an environmental review. Unfortunately, a court of appeals ruling allows the pipeline to continue to operate while the litigation is resolved. That night, the Supreme Court let a Montana court ruling on the Keystone XL pipeline stand, meaning the project cannot be built until much of the litigation is settled.  Construction of the Keystone XL is blocked until 2021. Joe Biden has pledged to oppose the Keystone XL. If he is elected, activists will have to hold him to that promise.

The Keystone XL pipeline was designed to carry Alberta’s dirty tar sands oil across the US-Canada border into Nebraska and has been fought since 2011 by the Tar Sands Blockades, Bold Nebraska and others.  The Dakota Access pipeline was opposed by the Standing Rock Sioux uprising that brought Indigenous nations and climate activists together in a months-long struggle, often facing violent police repression. The DAPL is transporting fracked oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin to Gulf Coast refineries. And, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would have carried fracked gas through the Appalachian Mountains from West Virginia to North Carolina. All along the route, people aligned to oppose the project. Litigation and delays forced the large companies, Dominion and Duke Energy, to cancel the project even after investing $3.4 billion in it.

In another defeat that will empower climate activists, on June 30 in a 10 to 1 decision, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to allow people impacted by fossil fuel infrastructure to sue 31 days after filing an administrative appeal on a permitted project. FERC had been preventing litigation by delaying the 30-day administrative appeal an average of 7 months and up to 15 months during which pipelines were being built.

FERC has been critical for the fossil fuel boom of the Obama and Trump eras. FERC and the fossil fuel industry act as one as all FERC funding comes from industry fees, not taxpayers. According to Ted Glick of Beyond Extreme Energy, which has been battling FERC for a decade, in an interview on WBAI, the vast majority of FERC commissioners since it was founded in 1978 have come out of the fossil fuel industry and many go back to the industry after leaving FERC. The same revolving door exists for many staff members too. FERC and the oil and gas industries have been working together to prevent court review, but with this new DC Circuit Court decision, that should stop.

All of these victories were the result of grassroots struggles by the climate justice movement. As one activist tweeted, “In case you thought that small actions don’t matter . . . this is a result of every tree-sitter, each person who chained herself to a piece of equipment, sat at an air board mtg, blocked a site.” Campaigns that challenge infrastructure at every turn make a difference. These victories are part of a nationwide uprising against fossil fuel infrastructure and the resultant thievery of private property by abusing eminent domain, the pollution of farms, rivers and forests and FERC’s steamrolling over communities.

The movement is making pipelines more expensive to build. Increased costs combined with low fossil fuel prices and low costs for solar and wind energy are making the industry a risky investment. There have been hundreds of bankruptcies. Symbolic of this is the recent bankruptcy of Chesapeake Energy, which was a leader in the fracking boom. It started to decline after one of the CEOs, Aubrey McClendon, died in a car crash in 2016 after being charged with corruption. Steve Horn reports on their ongoing corruption, writing, “Just a month ago, in fact, Chesapeake executives showered themselves with $25 million in bonuses, despite the company tumbling toward bankruptcy.”

USA Today reported that 24 oil and gas companies have already filed for bankruptcy since the COVID-19 pandemic and recession began. The Wall Street Journal reports that potentially 200 fracking corporations could declare bankruptcy in the next two years if the price of oil stays at current levels.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 22, 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Fossil Fuel Industry is Not Defeated

Fossil fuel industry ties to presidents have run deep for decades. Both George H. W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, were oil men. President Obama, who made the US a top producer of oil and gas, bragged, “We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to circle the Earth and then some.” During his term, over a period of two years, the US built 29,604 miles of new pipeline. According to NASA, the equatorial circumference of the Earth is 24,873.6 miles.

President Trump, who denies climate change, is seeking to expedite the approval of oil and gas infrastructure. Former Vice President Biden said he will protect the fracking industry and opposes the Green New Deal. His recently announced climate plans do not confront the fossil fuel industry.

The Trump administration has issued a proposed rule to undermine the 50-year old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by not requiring any consideration of climate impacts as part of the review of fossil fuel infrastructure. His proposal will play out over months or years during a public comment process. If it is approved, litigation can be used to stop it.

Trump is building on the work of the Obama-Biden administration that issued executive orders to speed up environmental reviews and did not include climate considerations in NEPA reviews until his final year in office. Their administration allowed large pipeline projects to be broken into small segments to skirt the NEPA review. Through the signing of the FAST Act in 2015, which led to the creation of a Federal Permit Improvement Steering Council, federal permits and the NEPA review process were streamlined.

Biden is doubling down on fossil fuels and trying to confuse people with the fraudulent phrase of “net-zero” emissions, which is a shell game that will not cut fossil fuel production. He is calling for investment in carbon capture utilization and sequestration to claim he will offset carbon emissions, but this is a political fraud as the technologies are unproven. Even inside the DNC, this strategy is questioned by their Council on the Environment and Climate Crisis, which opposes reliance of offsets and asks, “Why would we rely on it when we already have much less expensive, proven, clean green technologies?”

The movement must be clear in its demand to replace fossil fuels with solar, wind, and other clean sustainable energy sources. We must demand policies that are consistent with the reality of the climate crisis requiring urgent action.

Indigenous Environmental Network

Building On Our Victories

The recent victories indicate that the more we show our determination, risk arrest, challenge projects in the courts and build the case against fossil fuels in the era of climate crisis, the more infrastructure projects will be shelved. For those projects currently underway, the movement must continue to challenge them at every turn using the creativity and tactical variety that come from a movement composed of a broad base of people with different backgrounds, experiences and concerns.

The profitability of pipelines is already in doubt due to the strategic nonviolence of the movement and the changing energy market. Even with Trump and Biden mouthing support for the industry, they will not be able to overcome the realities of the market failure, the climate crisis and that people want funds spent on public health, remaking the economy and transitioning to a clean energy economy.

The nationwide uprising against racism and the movement against pipelines already have close connections due to environmental racism and alliances with Indigenous struggles. We need to make these cross-issue relationships stronger.

The economic collapse is an opportunity to remake the economy with the Green New Deal as the centerpiece of massive job creation, investment in education and the development of new industries. There is a growing labor uprising with PayDay Report tracking more than 900 wildcat strikes since March 1. Workers need to understand that confronting climate change will create 30 million good-paying union jobs and the Green New Deal is key to rebuilding the economy.

The climate movement against fossil fuels has already shown the ability to create this broad movement. Native Americans, climate scientists, farmers and ranchers, big environmental groups, veterans and activists all came together for the first time in some of these struggles. Future efforts can link climate justice, anti-racism, and workers’ rights work, as well as the anti-war movement because the US military is the biggest polluter and fossil fuel user on the planet, to create an unstoppable movement no matter who is the next president.

Planet of the Humans Backlash

The backlash may be more revealing than the film itself, but both inform us where we are at in the fight against climate change and ecological collapse. The environmental establishment’s frenzied attacks against Planet of the Humans< /a> says a lot about its commitment to big money and technological solutions.

A number of prominent individuals tried to ban the film by Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore. Others berated the filmmakers for being white, male and overweight. Many thought leaders have declared they won’t watch it.

Despite the hullabaloo, the central points in the film aren’t particularly controversial. Corporate-industrial society is driving human civilization/humanity towards the ecological abyss and environmental groups have largely made peace with capitalism. As such, they tout (profitable) techno fixes that are sometimes more ecologically damaging than fossil fuels (such as biomass or ethanol) or require incredible amounts of resources/space if pursued on a mass scale (such as solar and wind). It also notes the number of human beings on the planet has grown more than sevenfold over the past 200 years.

It should not be controversial to note that the corporate consumption juggernaut is destroying our ability to survive on this planet. From agroindustry razing animal habitat to plastic manufacturers’ waste killing sea life to the auto industrial complex’s greenhouse gases, the examples of corporations wreaking ecological havoc are manifold. Every year since 1969 humanity’s resource consumption has exceeded earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources by an ever-greater volume.

It is a statement of fact that environmental groups have deep ties to the corporate set. Almost all the major environmental groups receive significant cash from the mega-rich or their foundations. Many of them partner directly with large corporations. Additionally, their outreach strategies often rely on corporate media and other business-mediated spheres. It beggars belief that these dependencies don’t shape their policy positions.

A number of the film’s points on ‘renewable’ energy are also entirely uncontroversial. It’s insane to label ripping down forests for energy as “green”. Or turning cropland into fuel for private automobiles. The film’s depiction of the minerals/resource/space required for solar and wind power deserves a far better response than “the data is out of date”.

The green establishment’s hyperventilating over the film suggests an unhealthy fixation/link to specific ‘renewable’ industries. But there are downsides to almost everything.

Extremely low GHG emitting electricity is not particularly complicated. In Québec, where I live, electricity is largely carbon free (and run by a publicly owned enterprise with an overwhelmingly unionized workforce, to boot). But, Hydro-Québec’s dams destroy ecosystems and require taking vast land from politically marginalized (indigenous) people. Likewise, nuclear power (also publicly owned and unionized) provides most of France’s electricity. But, that form of energy also has significant downsides.

In the US in 2019 63% of electricity came from fossil fuels, 20% from nuclear and 17% from ‘renewables’. But, even if one could flip the proportion of fossil fuels to ‘renewables’ around overnight there’s another statistic that is equally important. Since 1950 US electricity consumption has grown 13-fold and it continues to increase. That’s before putting barely any of the country’s 285 million registered private automobiles onto the grid. Electricity consumption is growing at a fast clip in China, India and elsewhere.

Oil is another source of energy that is growing rapidly. Up from 60 million barrels a day in 1980 and 86 million in 2010, 100 million barrels of oil were consumed daily in 2019. That number is projected to reach 140 million by 2040.

On one point I agree entirely with critics of the film. It’s unfair to (even indirectly) equate Bill McKibben with Al Gore. Representing the progressive end of the environmental establishment, McKibben has engaged in and stoked climate activism. Gore was Vice President when the US led the destruction of the former Yugoslavia, bombed Sudan and sanctioned Iraq.

Still, it’s ridiculous for McKibben and others to dismiss the film’s criticism of his decade-long promotion of biomass and refusal to come clean on 350.org’s donors as divisive. “I truly hope that Michael Moore does not succeed at dividing the climate movement. Too many have fought too long to build it”, he tweeted with a link to his response in Rolling Stone titled “‘A Bomb in the Center of the Climate Movement’: Michael Moore Damages Our Most Important Goal.” Echoing this theme, Naomi Klein came to her 350.org comrade’s defence tweeting, “it is truly demoralising how much damage this film has done at a moment when many are ready for deep change.” Democracy Now, Common Dreams, the Guardian and other media picked up her remark.

If it is divisive to criticize McKibben’s positions, then the same must be said of his own criticisms aimed at those demanding the Pentagon be highlighted in decarbonization efforts. In a June New York Review of Books column titled “The Pentagon’s Outsized Part in the Climate Fight” McKibben pours cold water on those who have asked him about the importance of “shrinking the size of the US military” (the world’s largest single institutional emitter of fossil fuels) in the fight for a sustainable planet. In fact, his piece suggests the Pentagon is well-positioned to combat the climate crisis since right wingers are more likely to listen to their climate warnings and the institution has massive research capacities to develop green technologies. McKibben seems to be saying the green movement should (could) co-opt the greatest purveyor of violence and destruction in the history of humanity! (In the Wrong Kind of Green blog Luke Orsborne offers a cogent breakdown of McKibben’s militarism.)

McKibben’s repeated advocacy of the private electric car could also be considered divisive. In Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? McKibben calls for “millions and millions of electric cars and buses” (alongside “building a hell of lot of factories to turn out thousands of acres of solar panels, and wind turbines the length of football fields.”) Does anyone believe the planet can sustain a transportation/urban planning system with most of the world’s 7.8 billion people owning 3,000-pound vehicles?

When an electric car is powered from a grid that is 63% fossil fuels the GHG it contributes per kilometer of travel is generally slightly less than an internal combustion engine. But the production and destruction phases for electric vehicles tend to be more energy intensive and they still require the extraction and development of significant amounts of resources. Additionally, the private car underpins a land, energy and resource intensive big box retail/suburban economy. (For details see my co-authored Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay.)

Moreover, as Death by Car recently pointed out, “electric vehicles are haloware — a product that exists to distract attention from continuing SUV and pickup sales. If this thesis is correct, then it is a huge mistake for progressive forces to express enthusiasm” for electric vehicles. Of the 86 million new passenger and light commercial vehicles sold globally in 2018 about 1.2 million of them were powered by battery-only electric engines while 37 million were pickups and SUVs. In other words, for every new battery-electric car there were 30 new SUVs/pickups sold. Alongside growing buzz about electric vehicles, the number of SUVs increased from 35 million to 200 million between 2010 and 2018.

McKibben and associates’ ability to frame the film as divisive rests on the stark power imbalance between the ‘green’ capitalist and degrowth outlooks. While there are few profits in the consume-less worldview, McKibben is situated at the progressive end of a network of organizations, commentators and media outlets empowered by hundreds of billions of dollars of ‘green’ capitalism. This milieu has counterposed solar, wind and biomass to the hyper fossil fuel emitting coal, natural gas and oil industries. But, they aren’t keen on discussing the limitations of their preferred energies and the fundamentally unsustainable nature of limitless energy (or other) consumption. And they certainly don’t want any spotlight placed on environmental groups ties to the mega-rich and an unsustainable model.

But, in reality it’s not the criticism that bothers. Wrong Kind of Green, Death by Car, Counterpunch and various other small leftist websites and initiatives have long documented McKibben and associates’ concessions to the dominant order. Often more harshly than in the film. What is unique about Planet of the Humans is that these criticisms have been put forward by leftists with some power (Michael Moore’s name and the funds for a full-length documentary, most obviously.) In other words, the backlash is not a response to the facts or argument, per se, but the ‘mainstreaming’ of the critique.

The environmental establishment’s ability to generate hundreds of hit pieces against Planet of the Humans suggests the movement/outlook has amassed substantial power. But, it’s not always clear to what ends. Most indicators of sustainability are trending in the wrong direction at the same time as top environmental figures have risen to the summits of power. Québec’s most prominent environmentalist, Steven Guilbeault, recently became a cabinet minister in the Liberal government while the former head of World Wildlife Fund Canada, Gerald Butts, was Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff. These individuals happily participate in a government that oversaw a 15 million tonne increase in Canada’s GHG emissions in 2018 and then decided to purchase a massive tar sands pipeline.

The incredible popularity of Planet of the Humans — seven million views on YouTube — suggests many are worried about the ecological calamity humanity is facing. Many also sense that the solutions environmental groups are putting forward don’t add up.

The lesson to be learned from the film and the frenzied attacks against it is that questioning the system — be that capitalism or the mainstream environmental movement — won’t make you friends in high places.

Canada should Treat Climate Change With Same Urgency as COVID-19

While governments’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic proves significant resources can be marshalled quickly in a crisis, there is little evidence official Canada sees global warming as a comparable emergency.

Even though Justin Trudeau’s Liberals say they take climate change seriously, Canadian greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are actually increasing. According to the inventory report the government filed with the United Nations last week, Canada’s emissions grew to more than 729 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and its equivalents in 2018. This represents a 15 million tonne increase over 2017.

Incredibly, the editors at the Globe and Mail decided this information deserved a 75-word brief in the bottom corner of page 15. While Canada’s paper of record buried the story, it deserved front-page attention. The situation is dire. Temperatures are increasing steadily and so too the frequency/intensity of “natural” disasters. In 2019 there were 15 natural disasters linked to climate change that caused more than a billion dollars in damage. Seven of them destroyed more than $10 billion. Hundreds of thousands have already died as a result of anthropocentric climate disturbances and the numbers will grow exponentially.

At the 2015 Paris climate negotiation the Trudeau government committed Canada to reducing GHG emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 (a major step backwards from Canada’s commitment under the Kyoto Protocol and 2009 Copenhagen Accord). But, this target is unlikely to be achieved. In December Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, said Canada was expected to emit 603 million tonnes of GHG in 2030, far above the 511 million tonnes agreed to in Paris (to meet the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Canada would need to reduce its GHG emissions to 381 million tonnes by 2030).

A November Nature Communications study seeking to reconcile the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5-to-2 C concluded that if the rest of the world flouted its commitments in a similar way to Canada temperatures would increase between 3 C and 4 C by the end of the century. A Climate Transparency report card release that month found that Canada’s plan to meet its GHG targets was among the worst (along with Australia and South Korea) in the G20. The November study found that the emissions intensity of Canada’s buildings, transportation and agriculture were all above the G20 average and that Canadians produced nearly three times more GHG per capita than the G20 average.

Expansion of the tar sands guarantees that Canada will flout its international commitments to reduce GHG emissions. According to the Parkland Institute, “bitumen production grew 376% from 2000 through 2018” and is projected to grow by another 1.41 million barrels per day by 2040. To expand extraction of heavy carbon emitting Alberta oil, the Liberals are spending $9 billion on the Trans Mountain pipeline and related infrastructure. Last week the government announced $1.7 billion to clean up orphan wells in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. While energy workers should be offered work cleaning up environmental devastation, the initiative is, in effect, a subsidy to a historically profitable industry that should be covering the costs.

This was not the first time the Liberals broke their pre-election promise to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Ottawa continues to offer billions of dollars (as much as $46 billion, according to one IMF working paper) a year in assistance to oil, gas and other fossil fuel firms. While Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s 2015 mandate letter from the PM said he should “work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to fulfil our G20 commitment and phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the medium-term”, there was no mention of this objective in either Morneau’s or Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson’s 2019 mandate letters.

Despite claiming to take the climate crisis seriously, the Trudeau government has failed to put the country on track to meet even dangerously insufficient targets for reducing GHG emissions. This is largely because of the oil industry’s power. The profits from oil and natural gas flow to their producers and distributers, as well as the banks that finance them, and other investors whose portfolios include these stocks. These are the people who, under the current economic system, mostly determine government policy.

Toronto Wet’suwet’en Solidarity March

February 22, 2020. The sun was brilliant, the slogans and posters striking, the round dance in the heart of Canada’s financial district, the 6 concentric circles of the real Canadians, those who honour Canada’s First Nations, made February 22, 2020 a historic occasion. The largest show of native solidarity in Canada’s history, the day was celebrated across the country. Here are a few memories courtesy of my cell phone.

And here’s my take on Presstv. I’m on at 3:30.

Not only is it obscene to dig up and export our precious natural resources, but this particular pipeline is doubly odious. It is to export FRACKED gas. That means pounding the priceless lands in the Rockies, effectively bludgeoning Mother Nature, raping her to squeeze the last gasp of poisonous gas, so we can heat up her up even faster.

Passing around the burning sage at Queens Park

The demonstrators were/are young, newly ‘energized’, using our renewable ‘energy’ without any pollution. We sense that time is short, that Mother Earth’s human children look evil these days, that we have a moral duty to protest, to stop this ‘Coastal GasLink’ pipeline, to stop all pipelines.

Passing the memorial to Canadians who died in the Boer War; i.e. , for Apartheid

 

 

GasLink snake in the grass

 

I love the homemade, heartfelt cardboard posters best.

Passing our halls of justice

 

Dancing round East, South, West, and North (black, red, yellow, white)

Long live Mother Earth! Long live the Wet’suwet’en!

• Photos by Eric Walberg

Shut Down Canada Until it Solves its War, Oil, and Genocide Problem

Indigenous people in Canada are giving the world a demonstration of the power of nonviolent action. The justness of their cause — defending the land from those who would destroy it for short term profit and the elimination of a habitable climate on earth — combined with their courage and the absence on their part of cruelty or hatred, has the potential to create a much larger movement, which is of course the key to success.

This is a demonstration of nothing less than a superior alternative to war, not just because the war weapons of the militarized Canadian police may be defeated by the resistance of the people who have never been conquered or surrendered, but also because the Canadian government could accomplish its aims in the wider world better by following a similar path, by abandoning the use of war for supposedly humanitarian ends and making use of humanitarian means instead. Nonviolence is simply more likely to succeed in domestic and international relations than violence. War is not a tool for preventing but for facilitating its identical twin, genocide.

Of course, the indigenous people in “British Columbia,” as around the world, are demonstrating something else as well, for those who care to see it: a way of living sustainably on earth, an alternative to earth-violence, to the raping and murdering of the planet — an activity closely linked to the use of violence against human beings.

The Canadian government, like its southern neighbor, has an unacknowledged addiction to the war-oil-genocide problem. When Donald Trump says he needs troops in Syria to steal oil, or John Bolton says Venezuela needs a coup to steal oil, it’s simply an acknowledgement of the global continuation of the never-ended operation of stealing North America.

Look at the gas-fracking invasion of unspoiled lands in Canada, or the wall on the Mexican border, or the occupation of Palestine, or the destruction of Yemen, or the “longest ever” war on Afghanistan (which is only the longest ever because the primary victims of North American militarism are still not considered real people with real nations whose destruction counts as real wars) , and what do you see? You see the same weapons, the same tools, the same senseless destruction and cruelty, and the same massive profits flowing into the same pockets of the same profiteers from blood and suffering — the corporations that will be shamelessly marketing their products at the CANSEC weapons show in Ottawa in May.

Much of the profits these days comes from distant wars fought in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, but those wars drive the technology and the contracts and the experience of war veterans that militarize the police in places like North America. The same wars (always fought for “freedom,” of course) also influence the culture toward greater acceptance of the violation of basic rights in the name of “national security” and other meaningless phrases. This process is exacerbated by the blurring of the line between war and police, as wars become endless occupations, missiles become tools of random isolated murder, and activists — antiwar activists, antipipeline activists, antigenocide activists — become categorized with terrorists and enemies.

Not only is war over 100 times more likely where there is oil or gas (and in no way more likely where there is terrorism or human rights violations or resource scarcity or any of the things people like to tell themselves cause wars) but war and war preparations are leading consumers of oil and gas. Not only is violence needed to steal the gas from indigenous lands, but that gas is highly likely to be put to use in the commission of wider violence, while in addition helping to render the earth’s climate unfit for human life. While peace and environmentalism are generally treated as separable, and militarism is left out of environmental treaties and environmental conversations, war is in fact a leading environmental destroyer. Guess who just pushed a bill through the U.S. Congress to allow both weapons and pipelines into Cyprus? Exxon-Mobil.

Solidarity of the longest victims of western imperialism with the newest ones is a source of great potential for justice in the world.

But I mentioned the war-oil-genocide problem. What does any of this have to do with genocide? Well, genocide is an act “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.” Such an act can involve murder or kidnapping or both or neither. Such an act can “physically” harm no one. It can be any one, or more than one, of these five things:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Numerous top Canadian officials over the years have stated clearly that the intention of Canada’s child-removal program was to eliminated Indigenous cultures, to utterly remove “the Indian problem.” Proving the crime of genocide does not require the statement of intent, but in this case, as in Nazi Germany, as in today’s Palestine, and as in most if not all cases, there is no shortage of expressions of genocidal intent. Still, what matters legally is genocidal results, and that is what one can expect from stealing people’s land to frack it, to poison it, to render it uninhabitable.

When the treaty to ban genocide was being drafted in 1947, at the same time that Nazis were still being put on trial, and while U.S. government scientists were experimenting on Guatemalans with syphilis, Canadian government “educators” were performing “nutritional experiments” on Indigenous children — that is to say: starving them to death. The original draft of the new law included the crime of cultural genocide. While this was stripped out at the urging of Canada and the United States, it remained in the form of item “e” above. Canada ratified the treaty nonetheless, and despite having threatened to add reservations to its ratification, did no such thing. But Canada enacted into its domestic law only items “a” and “c” — simply omitting “b,” “d,” and “e” in the list above, despite the legal obligation to include them. Even the United States has included what Canada omitted.

Canada should be shut down (as should the United States) until it recognizes that it has a problem and begins to mend its ways. And even if Canada didn’t need to be shut down, CANSEC would need to be shut down.

CANSEC is one of the largest annual weapons shows in North America. Here’s how it describes itself, a list of exhibitors, and a list of the members of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries which hosts CANSEC.

CANSEC facilitates Canada’s role as a major weapons dealer to the world, and the second biggest weapons exporter to the Middle East. So does ignorance. In the late 1980s opposition to a forerunner of CANSEC called ARMX created a great deal of media coverage. The result was a new public awareness, which led to a ban on weapons shows on city property in Ottawa, which lasted 20 years.

The gap left by media silence on Canadian weapons dealing is filled with misleading claims about Canada’s supposed role as a peacekeeper and participant in supposedly humanitarian wars, as well as the non-legal justification for wars known as “the responsibility to protect.”

In reality, Canada is a major marketer and seller of weapons and components of weapons, with two of its top customers being the United States and Saudi Arabia. The United States is the world’s leading marketer and seller of weapons, some of which weapons contain Canadian parts. CANSEC’s exhibitors include weapons companies from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.

There is little overlap between the wealthy weapons-dealing nations and the nations where wars are waged. U.S. weapons are often found on both sides of a war, rendering ridiculous any pro-war moral argument for those weapons sales.

CANSEC 2020’s website boasts that 44 local, national, and international media outlets will be attending a massive promotion of weapons of war. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Canada has been a party since 1976, states that “Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.”

The weapons exhibited at CANSEC are routinely used in violation of laws against war, such as the UN Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact — most frequently by Canada’s southern neighbor. CANSEC may also violate the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court by promoting acts of aggression. Here’s a report on Canadian exports to the United States of weapons used in the 2003-begun criminal war on Iraq. Here’s a report on Canada’s own use of weapons in that war.

The weapons exhibited at CANSEC are used not only in violation of laws against war but also in violation of numerous so-called laws of war, that is to say in the commission of particularly egregious atrocities, and in violation of the human rights of the victims of oppressive governments. Canada sells weapons to the brutal governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

Canada may be in violation of the Rome Statute as a result of supplying weapons that are used in violation of that Statute. It is certainly in violation of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty. Canadian weapons are being used in the Saudi-U.S. genocide in Yemen.

In 2015, Pope Francis remarked before a joint session of the United States Congress, “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.”

An international coalition of individuals and organizations will be converging on Ottawa in May to say No to CANSEC with a seris of events called NoWar2020.

This month two nations, Iraq and the Philippines, have told the United States military to get out. This happens more often than you might think. These actions are part of the same movement that tells the Canadian militarized police to get out of lands they have no rights in. All actions in this movement can inspire and inform all others.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs Grant CGL One-Time Access to Shut Down Man Camp

Under the supervision of Lihkt’samisyu Chief Dsta’hyl, and following the eviction of Coastal Gaslink from unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs granted Coastal Gaslink one-time access to Dark House yintah to winterize Site 9A. The Eviction Order we signed as Dinï ze’ and Ts’akë ze’ of these territories remains in effect, and Coastal Gaslink (CGL) will not be authorized to build the pipeline on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.

This limited access was offered in good faith as a demonstration of wiggus or respect by us as Dinï ze’ and Ts’akë ze’ in our dealings with CGL, despite the lack of consent for CGL’s property and pre-construction activities on our unceded territory.

We remain steadfast in our position that no pipeline will be built on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. As Hereditary Chiefs, we will continue to uphold Wet’suwet’en law on these lands and ensure that our eviction order stands.

Canada’s Cops Were Ready to Shoot Indigenous Anti-Pipeline Activists

RCMP officers were instructed to use as much violence as they wanted at the blockade of the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline. Kanahus Manuel, an Indigenous activist in British Columbia, said it’s part of Canada’s long colonial legacy.

Anglophone vs Francophone in Cameroon

On an ugliness scale of one to ten, if the U.S. Guantanamo prison is 7, the French military in Algeria 8, Pinochet’s controls of Chile 9, and the Inquisition 10, the severity, scale and number of Cameroon military human rights violations is possibly 4 and a half. Still, is the suffering of any victim ever forgotten.

The Republic of Cameroon continues to endure a low intensity conflict with its English minority. After Anglophone attorneys struck for better legal and civil rights in 2016 and were joined by teachers and students, there were arrests and some expectable government-initiated violence. The movement rekindled historical grievances and spread. In Anglophone regions armed militia began attacking government facilities and closing schools, kidnapping uncooperative teachers and students while the government military responded as militaries do. There are alleged war crimes by both sides.

English and French are languages imposed by colonial rule and an addition to the peoples’ tribal languages and vernacular pidgeon. The conflict of “English” and “French” concerns who controls the money, jobs, schools, laws. To some degree it is a conflict between power elites. It’s certainly of no help at all to the half a million Anglophones who have fled from their homes and are internally displaced. This is not a freedom struggle.

With the world public aware of the military’s human rights violations Cameroon’s President Biya (democratically elected by a substantial majority), was persuaded to negotiate with the Anglophone leaders. Anglophone militant leaders finding support outside the country speak with an authority that exceeds the power and numbers of their constituencies. An Anglophone secessionist state of “Ambazonia” has been declared on the border of Nigeria and includes Cameroon’s only oil refinery which is currently inoperable. The local militias do not want “their” oil sold by the state. Ambazonia’s militias and enforcers, the “Amba boys” are generally feared. A diverse rebel military is at war with Cameroon’s military.

Ambazonia is also likely to include the Bakassi peninsula oilfields, a resource rich section of coast abutting Nigeria assigned to Cameroon by the International Court of Justice in 2002 and with its own history of attempted secession (“The Republic of Bakassi”). The Peninsula had its own armed resistance movements. Negotiations between Nigeria and Cameroon were able to avoid war in 2006. The Peninsula’s Anglophone fishing people remain Nigerians but under the caretaking of Cameroon. Cameroon’s exploration and development of the Bakassi oilfields relied on the use of the country’s only oil refinery (Cameroon is the 12th largest African oil producer, Nigeria the first) it is quite possible that the current struggle for Anglophone rights has more to do with international oil interests than Cameroon’s languages.

President Biya’s efforts to appease the Anglophone cause include freeing many political prisoners as well as a willingness to negotiate anything but the breakup of the country. He has encouraged negotiations in preference to using military force. But the twenty percent Anglophone minority leadership is increasingly intransigent. Militant Anglophone forces have refused to negotiate without additional conditions, the freeing of leading political prisoners and withdrawal of Cameroon’s military forces from their regions. Now the government has passed legislation assigning the two predominantly Anglophone regions of the country “special status,” addressing issues of the judicial and educational systems raised by the strike, placing these and control of the regions’ cultural life in Anglophone hands. Anglophone militant leadership rejects the new plans saying it wants nothing less than full independence as initially represented by the declared state of “Ambazonia.” This would grant it control of and profit from sale of oil. This position makes negotiations difficult and is only tenable with foreign country support.

To the far North the Cameroon military tries to improve its response time as villages are attacked by Boko Haram raiders, from Nigeria usually. Following the killing of New Testament translator Angus Fung in Wum last September, Benjamin Tem was killed in his home October 20. Both were involved in the project of translating the New Testament into the northern Cameroon language of Aghem.1 In December by the 17th, Boko Haram killed seven Camerounais Christians and took twenty-one boys and girls age 12 to 21 prisoner.2 Last November 6, Boko Haram attacked a Christian church in Moskota killing a former pastor and a deaf child. Others escaped as the church was destroyed. Much of the village was burned after its food supplies were removed. The motive for the Boko Haram attacks is guessed to be part of a program to eliminate Christians and so move the region toward the rebirth of the Sokoto Caliphate which the British destroyed some centuries ago.3 Boko Haram is also attacking Christians in neighboring Nigeria and Chad.

Christians in the region are under a threat of genocide which NGO reports on human rights violations in Cameroon strangely but consistently ignore. Fortunately the government is making some effort to protect Christian villages. And there is a U.N. presence. Despite Anglophone leadership’s orders to close schools, UNICEF reports that school attendance for students in the Northwest and Southwest (Anglophone) regions increased from 4% last September to a current 38.49%, while teachers working rose from 2% to 30%.4

The gears of very large machinery are turning but risk crushing the lives of the Anglophone community.

To remember accounts of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, General Romeo Dallaire would write of the “third force” moving among the catastrophic events. There are accounts of militia away from the cities, young men with new cellphones, modern communications and functioning cellphone services.

Several other things seem strange or out of place here. The Anglophone diaspora’s representatives are well connected. With exception the wealthy and privileged are allowed to become the diaspora while a low income and oppressed population stays at home or joins the half a million current refugees in Cameroon.

The human rights atrocities of the Eastern Congo took many years to be noticed by the world public while millions died. In Cameroon alleged human rights violations have been raised repeatedly with a death toll of three thousand since the attorney strike of 2016. The U.S. cut military aid to Cameroon’s armed forces due to reports of human rights abuses. This may have simply been an excuse as part of the professed U.S. policy change to withdraw troops throughout the continent. Some Anglophones attempt to blame government forces for the destruction of government built hospitals and schools. In poor communities people are not likely to burn their own hospitals, or schools, or community centers. These policies are made by the elite. Anglophone leadership has forbidden state education to proceed and so closed down regional schools damaging a generation of Anglophone youth. Any teachers and students standing for their right to education are endangered.

When a government hospital serving an Anglophone region is burned down, the report goes into a file collected by a University of Toronto’s “Database of Atrocities on Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis,” as in the instance of the burning of Muyuka District Hospital at the end of March5: the event is verified by the database which avoids assessing responsibility for this attack. The report’s material unrealistically accuses the “terrorist Republic of Cameroun military.” Reports of atrocities are submitted anonymously. Toronto teams in this effort with a variety of English, U.S. and former Commonwealth universities. Not one of them is Francophone.

This kind of information collection is usually the domain of the United Nations. It is unclear just who will control or censor the data collected by the University of Toronto. The public will have access to news reports from global media sources such as Deutsch Welle and Voice of America. For instance, currently the Separatists are kidnapping election candidates for government positions in Anglophone areas.6 Neither corporate media nor NGOs point out that there is no indication at all of consensus or democracy in the management of the Anglophone policies.

An important information source for troubles in Cameroon is the International Crisis Group,7 providing verifiable information with good depth, continuity and minimal slanting, except in the areas it neglects, such as tribal identifications or factors of income. Its faults as an information source reflect the wealth of its donors (such as Canada, France, the Henry Luce Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund etc.), and lack of noticeable African representation.

In a previous essay,8 I’ve noted the extensive joint report of Canada’s Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa & Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.9 The report discusses the crisis in Cameroon as if unaware of the country’s war with ISIS and the government’s attempts to protect the Christian villagers from slaughters by foreign forces. The report provides a source for the International Crisis Group as well as Lawyers Rights Watch Canada which I’ve resigned from to maintain impartiality. The CHRDA founder, an attorney among those initiating the Cameroon Anglophone lawyers strike of 2016 which precipitated the current struggle for Anglophone Independence in Cameroon, spoke for Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, in General Debate at the UN Human Rights Council, September 13, 2019.

I find LRWC’s recent “Cameroon: Open Letter to President Macron about Human Rights Abuses in Cameroon” unwise in attributing to France the power to arrange Cameroon’s submission to Swiss-led talks. It denigrates African independence and is a disingenuous request since objections to any serious negotiations rest with the Anglophone leaders. A line — “We trust that France does not want to be complicit in another genocide in Africa after Rwanda” — is ominous. The letter is signed by fifty primarily Anglophone experts on genocide and human rights, and NGOs, of various stature and weight including Lawyers Rights Watch Canada.

The difference of language is being used to remind groups of their difference, to insist on their difference, to occasion casualties and destruction of the social fabric, for more casualties, and I worry for the survival of the Anglophone community in Cameroon.

With a thought to history, in the 1961 UN administered plebiscite of British Cameroons the south voted to join what is now the Republic of Cameroon. The north which was heavily Muslim, voted to join Nigeria. Some attributed the vote in the south to the people’s difficulties in getting along with the Igbo peoples who lived on the Nigerian side of the border. In the late Sixties, the forced or contrived secession from Nigeria of the Igbo state of Biafra was attempted, right across the border from the Anglophones’ current creation of “Ambazonia.” Biafra’s formation and secession as an independent state led to the deaths of possibly two million Biafrans by the extremes of starvation. The British as primary supporters of the victorious Nigerian government were vulnerable to charges of genocide. France’s interests generally supported Biafra. I think the Anglophone minority in Cameroon is much too small a minority to risk such adamant stands — without substantial foreign support. So this attempt at secession should be looked at very carefully. If you consider what the ‘game plan’ of the major powers is with yet another resource-rich sliver of Africa, and what the independence of an Anglophone region could mean for the lives of its people, the amount of pure hatred for Africans is astounding.

A genocide warning continues then for the Anglophone population of Cameroon. Their adversary isn’t necessarily the Francophone government but rather a consensus of non-African states, corporations, individuals, motivated by greed or the arrogance of technological superiority (perhaps these have become the same), who have openly and covertly managed country after African country into the abyss of insecurity, conflict, loss of life, to be followed by corporate pillage.

  1. “Second Bible Translator Killed in Northern Cameroon,” October 24, 2019, Persecution.
  2. “Boko Haram Targets Cameroonian Christians,” Decmber 17, 2019, Persecution.
  3. Retired Pioneer Pastor and Others Killed in Latest Boko Haram Attacks,” November 16, 2019, Persecution.
  4. “UNICEF Cameroon Humanitarian Situation Report, November 2019,” UN Childrens Fund, reliefweb.
  5. Breaking News-Muyuka Hospital Burnt Down by LRC Thugs after that of Kumba,” YouTube: Top10News, March 30/31, 2019, Open Source Investigations Lab, Human Rights Center, UC Berkeley School of Law; “Universities to track atrocities in Anglophone Cameroon,” December 11, 2019, DW; “A Household Name in Cameroon,” April 24, 2019, International Crisis Group.
  6. “Cameroon: Separatists Kidnap Candidates to Protest Election,” Moki Edwin Kindzeka, December 17, 2019, VOA.
  7. “A Household Name in Cameroon,” April 24, 2019, International Crisis Group.
  8. Genocide Warnings for Three African States,” J.B.Gerald, September 17, 2019, nightslantern.ca.
  9. “Cameroon’s Unfolding Catastrophe, Evidence of Human Rights Violations and Crimes against Humanity,” June 3, 2019, Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa & Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.