tar sands

Tar Sands Action: Informative, Fun, INSPIRING!

** Good article by Stephen Leahy entitled "Jail Before Climate-Wrecking Tar Sands, Canadians say" here

So, I took part in the Tar Sands Action in Ottawa yesterday (September 26th).

Great 10-minute YouTube on it here - includes coverage of the civil disobedience training session & speeches on Parliament Hill. Well done!!

So glad I took part!!

The Non-Violent Civil Disobedience (NVCD) training we received on Sunday was awesome! Well-organized & run, lots of great people involved (both trainers & participants), & super practical (we even got fed!!)

The action on Parliament Hill was fabulous.

First of all, a rousing rally of very inspiring speakers.

A number of native people from affected communities (& oh my, are they affected. Bad water, cancer clusters, young people dying of cancer; this is a huge tragedy & our First Nations people are right on the front lines) who spoke so eloquently & passionately, they brought tears to one’s eyes.

Actress/activist Tantoo Cardinal spoke so inspiringly of the traditional role & value of women in native culture that I had goose bumps. Wow…

Union reps, Council of Canadians, young Bridget who held up the STOP Harper sign in the Senate (speaking of feisty young people!!)

It was a most impressive line-up.

Then, a bunch of us climbed over the fence the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the federal police force in charge on Parliament Hill) had put up, knowing that a rally & civil disobedience were planned for the day.

In the end I think it was around 200 people who chose to go over the fence & be arrested in order to make a very loud statement to prime minister stephen harper(1) that he was not elected to turn the House of Commons into a House of Corporations (great phrase eh?? Not mine, I’m quoting) & that the horrific environmental & human health disaster that is the Alberta tar sands must be STOPPED.

Then we all sat on the lawn in the very hot sun & were passed water & fruit & granola bars by people standing on the other side of the fence (we’re such dangerous characters, we “protesters,” eh?), & chatted & got to know people we had not met before (there were people from all provinces across Canada & one or two – not sure how many – from the U.S.).

Eventually we were handcuffed & told we’d be charged with Obstruction, then were taken off to a tent that had been erected to process the arrestees, handed over to the Ottawa police, who wrote us out a ticket for having been “Engaged in Prohibited Activity in Premises” (I think that’s what the messy scrawl says).

We are being fined $68 (actually, I can’t read my ticket properly so am not 100% sure of the amount) & told we are to stay off the grounds of Parliament for a year.

What an odd thing to forbid us to do! It’s our Parliament – our House of Commons (isn’t it??) & now we are being told to stay away.

Well. Whatever. Harper & his minions of course don’t want people like me hanging around where he hangs out, I do get that…

I could say lots more (never at a loss for words, eh??) but I gotta get back home & back to work.

Just want y’all to know I couldn’t be more delighted to have taken part in this historic action, protesting the tar sands & being arrested in order to send a strong message to politicians (& everyone!).

I’m also proud of having sat in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s office in November 2009 & being arrested there, & of having taken part in 2 protests against clear-cutting in old growth forest in Temagami (Ontario).

& just in case anyone who feels terribly “spiritual” wants to lecture me about being negative & what I resist persisting, please read the post here that explains why I view protesting as a celebration.

I celebrate the strong voices of citizens who know when we’ve had enough.

I celebrate the power of individuals coming together to act like members of a very large & very caring “tribe” (or beehive) who know if we don’t set aside our personal agendas & our personal fears & our personal greed, & begin to venture outside our personal comfort zones, we are doomed as a species (we may be doomed anyway! But taking action is far more empowering than pretending everything is OK & that all I really need to care about is me, me, me).

As my (now two-time fellow arrestee & grassroots climate crusader buddy) Sharon Howarth says, “Speaking up about something that matters is the best recreation ever.”


P.S. the posting here lists/links to several good videos/shows/YouTubes about the tar sands – the single most environmentally destructive project taking place here on Planet Earth today.

P.P.S. Good quotations on civil disobedience here

P.P.P.S. Ontario election time!! Lotsa good quotes on democracy here

P.S. # 4: Other posts about this experience

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “In the long run, the real choice is not jobs or environment – it’s both...or neither. What kind of jobs will be possible in a world of depleted resources, poisoned water and foul air, a world where ozone depletion and greenhouse warming make it difficult even to survive?” ~ United Steelworkers of America, 1993

(1) I don’t feel he deserves to have his name “capitalized” when he is such a woeful "leader" to Canadians & such an utter lackey of the global oil industry.

Tar Sands: Civil Disobedience Called For

Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Wendell Berry Call for Civil Disobedience on Tar Sands From June 23rd, original found here

Today, a group of eleven leading activists and environmentalists released a letter calling for people to join them in Washington DC this August to take part in civil disobedience to help stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Want to join in? You can sign up to take part here.

Dear Friends,

This will be a slightly longer letter than common for the internet age—it’s serious stuff.

The short version is we want you to consider doing something hard: coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will likely get you arrested.

The full version goes like this:

As you know, the planet is steadily warming: 2010 was the warmest year on record, and we’ve seen the resulting chaos in almost every corner of the earth.

And as you also know, our democracy is increasingly controlled by special interests interested only in their short-term profit.

These two trends collide this summer in Washington, where the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a  certificate of ‘national interest’ to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth. These corporations want to build the so-called ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries.

To call this project a horror is serious understatement. The tar sands have wrecked huge parts of Alberta, disrupting ways of life in indigenous communities—First Nations communities in Canada, and tribes along the pipeline route in the U.S. have demanded the destruction cease. The pipeline crosses crucial areas like the Oglalla Aquifer where a spill would be disastrous—and though the pipeline companies insist they are using ‘state of the art’ technologies that should leak only once every 7 years, the precursor pipeline and its pumping stations have leaked a dozen times in the past year. These  local impacts alone would be cause enough to block such a plan. But the Keystone Pipeline would also be a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.

How much carbon lies in the recoverable tar sands of Alberta? A recent calculation from some of our foremost scientists puts the figure at about 200 parts per million.  Even with the new pipeline they won’t be able to burn that much overnight—but each development like this makes it easier to get more oil out.  As the climatologist Jim Hansen (one of the signatories to this letter) explained, if we have any chance of getting back to a stable climate “the principal requirement is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground.” In other words, he added, “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.” The Keystone pipeline is an essential part of the game. “Unless we get increased market access, like with Keystone XL, we’re going to be stuck,” said Ralph Glass, an economist and vice-president at AJM Petroleum Consultants in Calgary, told a Canadian newspaper last week.

Given all that, you’d suspect that there’s no way the Obama administration would ever permit this pipeline. But in the last few months the president has signed pieces of paper opening much of Alaska to oil drilling, and permitting coal-mining on federal land in Wyoming that will produce as much CO2 as 300 power plants operating at full bore.

And Secretary of State Clinton has already said she’s ‘inclined’ to recommend the pipeline go forward. Partly it’s because of the political commotion over high gas prices, though more tar sands oil would do nothing to change that picture. But it’s also because of intense pressure from industry. TransCanada Pipeline, the company behind Keystone, has hired as its chief lobbyist for the project a man named Paul Elliott, who served as deputy national director of Clinton’s presidential campaign. Meanwhile, the US Chamber of Commerce—a bigger funder of political campaigns than the RNC and DNC combined—has demanded that the administration “move quickly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” which is not so surprising—they’ve also told the U.S. EPA that if the planet warms that will be okay because humans can ‘adapt their physiology’ to cope. The Koch Brothers, needless to say, are also backing the plan, and may reap huge profits from it.

So we’re pretty sure that without serious pressure the Keystone Pipeline will get its permit from Washington.  A wonderful coalition of environmental groups has built a strong campaign across the continent—from Cree and Dene indigenous leaders to Nebraska farmers, they’ve spoken out strongly against the destruction of their land. We need to join them, and to say even if our own homes won’t be crossed by this pipeline, our joint home—the earth—will be wrecked by the carbon that pours down it.

And we need to say something else, too: it’s time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces.

We don’t have the money to compete with those corporations, but we do have our bodies, and beginning in mid August many of us will use them. We will, each day through Labor Day, march on the White House, risking arrest with our trespass. We will do it in dignified fashion, demonstrating that in this case we are the conservatives, and that our foes—who would change the composition of the atmosphere are dangerous radicals. Come dressed as if for a business meeting—this is, in fact, serious business. And another sartorial tip—if you wore an Obama button during the 2008 campaign, why not wear it again? We very much still want to believe in the promise of that young Senator who told us that with his election the ‘rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet start to heal.’ We don’t understand what combination of bureaucratic obstinacy and insider dealing has derailed those efforts, but we remember his request that his supporters continue on after the election to pressure the government for change. We’ll do what we can.

And one more thing: we don’t want college kids to be the only cannon fodder in this fight. They’ve led the way so far on climate change—10,000 came to DC for the Powershift gathering earlier this spring. They’ve marched this month in West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal; Tim DeChristopher faces sentencing this summer in Utah for his creative protest.  Now it’s time for people who’ve spent their lives pouring carbon into the atmosphere (and whose careers won’t be as damaged by an arrest record) to step up too. Most of us signing this letter are veterans of this work, and we think it’s past time for elders to behave like elders. One thing we don’t want is a smash up: if you can’t control your passions, this action is not for you.

This won’t be a one-shot day of action. We plan for it to continue for several weeks, to the date in September when by law the administration can either grant or deny the permit for the pipeline. Not all of us can actually get arrested—half the signatories to this letter live in Canada, and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred. But we will be making plans for sympathy demonstrations outside Canadian consulates in the U.S., and U.S. consulates in Canada—the decision-makers need to know they’re being watched.

Winning this battle won’t save the climate. But losing it will mean the chances of runaway climate change go way up—that we’ll endure an endless future of the floods and droughts we’ve seen this year. And we’re fighting for the political future too—for the premise that we should make decisions based on science and reason, not political connection.  You have to start somewhere, and this is where we choose to begin.

If you think you might want to be a part of this action, we need you to sign up here. As plans solidify in the next few weeks we’ll be in touch with you to arrange nonviolence training; our colleagues at a variety of environmental and democracy campaigns will be coordinating the actual arrangements.

We know we’re asking a lot. You should think long and hard on it, and pray if you’re the praying type. But to us, it’s as much privilege as burden to get to join this fight in the most serious possible way. We hope you’ll join us.

  • Maude Barlow
  • Wendell Berry
  • Tom Goldtooth
  • Danny Glover
  • James Hansen
  • Wes Jackson
  • Naomi Klein
  • Bill McKibben
  • George Poitras
  • David Suzuki
Gus Speth

p.s.—Please pass this letter on to anyone else you think might be interested. We realize that what we’re asking isn’t easy, and we’re very grateful that you’re willing even to consider it.

'Quote of the day' w. this post: “Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy, it is absolutely essential to it.” Dr. Howard Zinn

P.S. from me: I've blogged about the tar sands before. The post here lists some good viewing if you want to learn more about the awfulness of the Alberta tar sands horror.

Who Knew??

<Jan. 15/11>

Just got the idea to do a bunch of “Who knew??” items. We’ll see where this goes….

  • Who knew I’d develop an addiction to latté – live without it for weeks & weeks at a time while out in the boonies (at “home”), but buy one almost daily while in Toronto? And discover a crazy (& surely unaccountable) price range. The place at the corner of Dundas & McCaul (near the Art Gallery, a handy spot for which I had such high hopes) charged me $5. for one. Sure won’t be darkening their door again!?
  • Who knew that, at the age of 56, I’d sell my dear little house (it really was a dear little house) & become a virtual nomad? Proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that you can indeed teach an old(ish) dog new tricks…
  • Who knew that after more than 20 years as an environmental activist, I’d learn of a new (old) issue & become so fired up about it? (I’m referring of course to the lead issue, my latest issue-to-be-fired up-about.)
  • Who knew that the lead industry would turn out to be as venal & nasty as the nuclear one? & who knew that I spent so many years being so darn naïve that if naivete were an indictable offence, I’d have been thrown in the slammer years ago for my fatal case of it?
  • Who knew that, as it turns out, the lead & nuclear industries have so much in common?
  • Who knew that the wonderful vegetarian restaurant ‘The Commensal’ in Toronto (right near the bus terminal at Bay & Dundas) serves beer?? OMG – I think I’ve died & gone to heaven!!
  • Who knew that microwave popcorn contains a chemical called diacetyl that is used to enhance taste, & that this chemical causes a horrid lung disease to the workers who are exposed to it? Yikes! (Learned this from the book Dodging the Toxic Bullet, mentioned below.)
  • Who could ever have told me that 16 years into a very (perhaps even prize-winningly) civil/civilized divorce, there would still be so darn much pain involved?? Not over the loss of the person so much as over all the other related, inevitable losses, fallout & “collateral damage.” Yikes. Who knew, indeed… (Funny. I wanted to make a joke about this in my remarks at the recent Darlington (new nuclear) hearings. I was tempted to say “We’re talking here about nuclear waste that will be horrifically dangerous/life-threatening for 100s of thousands of years. And I thought the fallout from my divorce was long-lived!?)
  • Who knew how much awesome fun I’d wind up having, & the amazing friendships I’d wind up making, when I began to “follow my bliss” & became an environmental activist & writer?
  • Who knew 20 years ago that “…lake trout in the alpine lakes at Banff National Park in Canada…are loaded with toxic pesticides used in Russia”?? (This from David Suzuki’s foreword to the David R. Boyd book Dodging the Toxic Bullet – How to Protect Yourself from Everyday Environmental Health Hazards.) Yikes. & sheesh, is about all I can say on that score (also, I’m mighty glad about all that work I did as a volunteer to help educate others about pesticide use. That was sure a good call!)
  • Who knew that the author of the Toxic Bullet book just mentioned would wind up with a headache & burning eyes during his “Toxic Tour” of Sarnia, Ontario’s “Chemical Valley”? Again, yikes, & sheesh, & very happy I’m engaged in environmental work. Sure feels a whole lot better than just sitting around expecting it all to stop on its own (or, alternatively, pretending it isn’t happening).
  • Who knew that Canada, so widely regarded as a civilized country (Americans in particular seem to harbour some grand illusion about how good we are up here… & civilized. Ha!), would actually repeatedly earn truly deserved fossil fuel awards. And, like the U.S. & Australia, continue to allow a wildly toxic pesticide (atrazine) to be used (unlike the European Union, which has banned its use). Oh Canada indeed! We of the “corrupt petrostate” designation… The tar sands: our national disgrace & scandal (excellent documentary on it here)
  • Who knew I would come to be sooooooo sadly disillusioned about how “great” Canada is, & how self-interested our governing political party is? (John Kenneth Galbraith’s quote “The modern conservative…is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness” springs helpfully to mind here.)
  • Who ever-ever-ever knew that my knee-jerk proclivity to be … natural? ... would protect me from so many harms? I’ve never much cared for wearing make-up (turns out most of it is full of toxic stuff) or perfume (chemicals) & have felt like a weirdo anytime I’ve ever put on lipstick. Gave up dry-cleaning eons ago (had heard about perchlorethylene being vastly toxic, not to mention one of the “dirty dozen” we need to studiously avoid); have used clotheslines & a clotheshorse for years (to save money, but it also saves energy & thus helps with the climate change issue) – & it turns out that dryer sheets (which I used to use once upon a time occasionally, but also gave up eons ago when my favourite appliance repairman dude told me they can cause a fire in your dryer) contain dangerous VOCs - volatile organic compounds – & am always too “poor” to spend money on painting & renovations – which, it turns out, can also be a minefield of toxins (go here for how to renovate with care).

Seems as though “modern” life is awfully mighty toxic… so glad I have never felt obliged to “keep up!” (Although of course I do breathe in the same polluted air & drink the same tainted water as everyone else.)


P.S. & finally, who knew that that dysfunctional childhood of mine would wind up giving me so many useful lifelong habits? My not-very-nice father hated the ads on TV with a fierce passion – & was wildly, shall we say frugal – & these influences of his have helped me far more than I can say. Being independent of all those darn ads – & adept at living frugally …well, what can I say? Except a belated thank you to that not-very-nice father for some of his wildly useful & lasting attitudes!!

Quote of the day w. this post: “The single most important contribution any of us can make to the planet is a return to frugality.” – Robert Muller, former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations

The B Word

If I have to listen to one more major destroyer of the planet use what I’ve come to think of as “the B word,” I think I’ll scream!

The word I keep hearing these people use over & over again is … balance. They always say they have to … balance… their concerns for the environment with economic concerns. (Guess what invariably loses??)

If I were a cartoonist instead of a word person, I’d draw a clever picture showing what their cockeyed view of balance really looks like inside the mind of one of these bigshots from the nuclear industry. (Or the chemical industry. Or the forestry industry. Or the oil industry – those Alberta tar sands defenders give me the willies!).(1)

Because, let’s face it, it’s quite abundantly clear to even the average 10-year old, surely, that the health of this planet is the LAST thing any of these supposedly “concerned” corporate types care about. When they pay it lip service, even, it’s only because they’ve been browbeaten into it.

Balance, my foot.

More like bullshit, frankly.

(& they say it with such straight faces! Great actors, aren’t they?)

There’s a slogan that’s been inside my head for a very long time now. I think I once saw it on a placard, or the front of a Greenpeace magazine. Years & years & years ago now.

No jobs on a dead planet.”


Of course, the only thing all the corporate raider types really care about is the “p word.”


And the problem with all the rapacious greed we human beings have been so consumed by, for so long now, is that we all inhabit the same planet. Fouled air, poisoned water & toxic…well, everything else, pretty much; even the rich can’t get away from it anymore, can they??

Now that we’ve polluted seemingly every square inch of this wondrous planet of ours (our only home!) are we finally “getting” that what we really need to work on is something else that starts with the letter “b”?

A big tent.

It’s what we’ve needed all along, of course. An ethic (& behaviour to go along with it) that recognizes that everything really is all connected. Peace within…peace without. Care for every piece of this earth – and all of us who inhabit it.

Well. We’re liable to keep hearing that “b” word from the planet-wreckers. Maybe we all need to get a wee bit … braver…& be a little quicker to spot & confront “Bullshit” when it’s clear that’s what we’re really being subjected to.

And too, of course, always continuing to do our “big tent” work, one way & another. As Joanna Macy has said, “Grace happens when we act with others on behalf of our world.” It’s true! She has also said “If the world is to be healed through human efforts, I am convinced it will be by ordinary people, people whose love for this life is even greater than their fear. People who can open up to the web of life that called us into being.” And… “But now comes the daunting revelation, that we are all called to be saints – not good necessarily, or pious or devout – but saints in the sense of just caring for each other.”

Stirring words!


P.S. Henry David Thoreau said “If [oppression] is of such a nature that it requires you to be an agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine.”

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “Each day we are born again to start our life anew. What we do today is what matters most.” ~ Buddha

(1) Of course there are lots of wildly dishonest people in other industries, too. Like the financial world (see “Inside Job”)… & no doubt many others…

What is a Person to DO??

Just returned from a conference on climate change in Toronto. Excellent workshops & speakers & later also some time spent chatting & strategizing with fellow activists (some of whom I’d known before the conference, plus a couple new acquaintances).

Bought a copy of Eaarth – Making Life on a Tough New Planet, by Bill McKibben – long-time environmental activist/writer & founder of 350.org & now major push behind 10/10/10 - "Global Work Party."

If there is one book you really ought to read right about now, it’s this one. It’s chockfull of wildly sobering facts about climate change & what needs to be done about it. McKibben has me thoroughly on-side with his view that from here on in, we must learn to deal with a changed Earth. It simply isn’t the place it used to be – between one thing & another, with climate change in a starring role – & so there isn’t much point in making plans the way we used to, for a place that has changed – & is changing utterly, as we speak.

Also watched a short film called “Climate Change: Does anybody care if Bangladesh drowns?” – & I’ll write more about that another day (you can watch the film free at that link I just gave you, btw...).

The main thing I want to say right now is this:

The question “What is a person to do??” is one that rings inside my own head often. Well, daily. Or even moment-ly, you might say.

Those of us who are activists feel as though we really need to clone ourselves. There is just so very, very much that needs doing. (And still so many folks caught in that deer-in-the-headlights stunned immobility stance.)

As previously referenced, I’m an addictive reader. Another book I gobbled up on the weekend (for relief, I suppose, from the so-sobering facts about climate change), was Grace (Eventually) – Thoughts on Faith, by American writer Anne Lamott, another of my very favourite writers. I’d read this one before, but it was a perfect time to re-read it, & I did, with great enjoyment, amusement, & appreciation.

In the essay ‘Bastille Day,’ Lamott tells about her cool idea (in 2006) for a Bastille Day event.(1) She’d floated the idea on Salon (an entity about which I am ignorant; one can only keep up with so many things, hmm?) & had talked about it some during a book tour. As she put it in the essay, “In the Spring of 2006, I believed that good people who had watched their country’s leaders skid so far to the triumphal right would want to do something. I mean, wouldn’t they? Otherwise, those people’s children would ask them someday, when we would all be living in caves, “What did you do to try to save us?” And the children would be angry, and …”

But when July 14th arrived, as it turned out, Lamott herself really didn’t feel up to the revolution. She’d kind of run out of steam, & besides, hadn’t actually coordinated with any local friends, & so decided to take a pass but after watching CNN for a while, she became “agitated.”

And as she tells it, “And then I did the single most important thing one can do to save the world: I got up off my butt.”

And went downtown & stood on the sidewalk for a few hours with a placard that read “One People. One Planet. One Future.”

God I love reading this woman!! Her writing is brilliant. She is laugh-out-loud funny, wondrously compassionate and searingly honest – about herself, which turns out to mean she exposes the nasty underbelly we all have. And then you don’t feel so bad about your own all-too-numerous faults & failings.

But back, finally, to the question raised by this post.

What is a person to DO?

Why, get up off your butt, of course!


P.S. You could definitely become involved in the 10/10/10 initiative. The idea behind this is to DO some practical things on October 10, 2010, that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions & demonstrate to our “leaders” that we the people (all over the world) are taking action, so we can then ask them “What are YOU doing??” & put their feet to the fire so they start to do what needs to be done!

P.P.S. The 10/10/10 site will give you plenty of ideas. Here are a few that flew right off my pen onto the page as I was drafting this post:

  • Plant a tree (or a whole bunch of them. Maybe 350??)
  • Put up a wind turbine or solar panels
  • Plan & construct a bike path
  • Sell your gas guzzler
  • Buy a transit pass
  • Buy a bike
  • Cut your electricity consumption – at home, at work, at church…wherever!
  • Write to a politician or better yet, politicians at every level of government
  • Become politically active!!!!! Ensure that candidates of integrity are elected
  • Distribute brochures about something to family members if, like me, you’re Canadian & will be seeing family for Thanksgiving dinner on October 10th – I’ll be distributing ones about OntariosGreenFuture.ca, from the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (I’ll do other stuff too – but this one is so simple I can’t say no to it!!)
  • Donate money toward groups working to shut down the Alberta tar sands [this post lists & links to numerous short films about the tar sands]
  • Organize a public event…boycott…whatever…

(As you can see, the possibilities here are truly infinite!!)

‘Quote of the day’ w. this post: “If the people lead, eventually, the leaders will follow.” – Source unknown

(1) Inspired by a novel her father had written, The Bastille Day Parade, in which he’d had protesters use the slogan, “Turn off the Lie Machine.” Wow. Gotta love that line!!

G20 Protests in Toronto

It’s been almost a week since I was in Toronto, taking part in the G20 protests.

I’m not nearly as smart or articulate as the folks I heard speak at Massey Hall last Friday night, but I think I’ll make a few comments about my own experiences, then quote from a few of the amazingly intelligent speakers at that “Shout Out for Global Justice!” event organized by the Council of Canadians. I’ll do a separate post of the contents of a newsletter I received the other day that has oodles of good links/resources in it.

My protest observations:

First of all, the 2 rallies/marches I took part in were utterly peaceful. They weren’t just peaceful; they were joyful! It’s so energizing & inspiring, always, taking over the streets of a big city & marching with thousands of others who don’t just give a darn about what’s going on in the world, they are raising their voices together & DOING something about it!!

I walked along with some folks I know who make music & occasional rousing chants about some of the craziness that’s happening in the world. I loved their music & their spirits, & for sure they cheered up everyone who could hear them. Music, eh?? So essential – so inspiring – so spirits-lifting…

I loved the chant I heard on both days: “Whose streets?? Our streets! Whose streets?? Our streets!” The governments of Canada & Ontario & perhaps Toronto & definitely the police seem to have forgotten that the streets are indeed ours

Someone also chanted “THIS is what democracy looks like” & I loved that too. Democracy isn’t always quiet & sedate & well-behaved & all about colouring inside the lines. It’s noisy & messy & loud & sometimes fractious & eclectic & unpredictable – & for sure it’s about diversity (not sameness), & it’s fun & funny & music is definitely involved (or should be!!) Think about families. If they are not little tinpot dictatorships, they are all those things I just listed. Life is messy, & sometimes it’s loud!! That’s just real!

Protesting is fun!! For sure, we protesters were having a whole heck of a lot more fun than the black-suited & scarily-attired cops who later in the day Saturday began to get out of control (speaking of out of control!) Yes, there was destruction of property – & while I am not personally the brick-throwing type, I am also not cool with cops arresting innocent bystanders indiscriminately, or taking away our basic civil rights (with the federal & provincial governments’ help) or leaving people locked up without charges for days...

When I had to break with the marchers on Friday afternoon (nature, as they say, called), I went over to a bar for a bathroom break & a beer. I heard the Queen song “We are the champions, my friend, & we’ll keep on fighting, ‘till the end!”  & I thought “Yeah………”


Friday night some of the finest minds/best voices on the planet spoke at Massey Hall.

Clayton Thomas-Muller from the Indigenous Environmental Network spoke about aboriginal issues & the tar sands (unfortunately, I arrived late & missed much of his talk). Tar sands: a horrific blight on the earth. To put it very, very mildly indeed…

Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya, who said she was there because of her relationship with Council of Canadians head, Maude Barlow. I had not been aware that Ms. Shiva was once upon a time involved in the nuclear industry (one of the smart ones – who bailed!). She is very, very concerned about the nuclear agenda being pushed in India, & also pointed out that the G20 agenda cannot be achieved without militarization (the United Nations is able to meet without all the security associated w. the G20 gatherings…).

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! spoke of “drilling, spilling & killing,” & pointed out that instead of prosecuting actual criminals, cops are arresting peaceful protesters. Dissent has been criminalized – yet it is dissent that will save us.

She pointed out that it is the “uninvited guests” at the G20 who have something to say – yet those are not the voices that get heard. In the U.S., the Tea Party gets lots of media coverage, while the voices of dissent – who have lots of constructive world-changing advice & efforts to offer – are not heard. Not invited – not wanted – not heard – not represented in the corporate media (we have achieved invisibility, it seems!)

& she pointed out that we should not have to get a (criminal) record when we try to put things on the record. There must be some truth that the G20 organizers don’t want to get out, she added.

John Hilary, Executive Director of the War on Want, said he works with some of the most inspiring people in the world.

Pablo Solon, Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations, spoke passionately about the need for water to be declared a human right.

Naomi Klein said the G20 is an attempt to sideline the United Nations, & Maude Barlow used the phrase “savage capitalism.”

David Coles, President of the Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union of Canada said “We don’t accept their bullshit!” & invited all to attend the “People First” public rally & march at Queen’s Park (home of the province of Ontario’s legislature) on Saturday.

I wish I’d taken lots more notes! I was in “the nose-bleeder” section, seat-wise, was kind of tired & fried & couldn’t hear (or think) all that well (probably ‘cos of hours of marching in the sun & chanting & all, during Friday afternoon’s march. Not complaining, you understand, just stating a fact!)

You can find the speeches, though, at rabble.ca

At least one more posting (& maybe more) on the G20 to follow…


'Quote of the day' w. this post: To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men.” Abraham Lincoln

Tar Sands Actions: check out Derek Leahy's blog!

I've done a few postings about Canada's obscene tar sands scene. The most recent is here Just heard from my buddy Steve, whose son Derek Leahy is organizing protests about the tar sands in several European cities.

Go to his blog on the Sierra Club of Canada Web site, & see what he's up to!


Tar Sands: Europe actions coming up!

I wrote about Canada’s obscene tar sands in the post ‘Tar Sands: Canada’s (Oil) Shame’. In that post you’ll find links to several YouTubes & info about Greenpeace’s tar sands film.

This post is about something kinda cool that happened the other day when I was in Washington, D.C. at the NSP (Network of Spiritual Progressives) conference.

I was wearing my current favourite T-shirt. It’s black, & on the front it has a map of Alberta (Canada), home of the infamous tar sands project. The red blotches on the map represent tar sands sites. On the back of the shirt it says, “Stop the tar sands. Greenpeace.”

Someone behind me tapped me on the shoulder. When I turned around, I saw an older man (in his 70’s, perhaps?), who said to me, “I used to work in the tar sands. I’m sorry.”

What a moment!

(We all do things we later regret, hmmm? When we hurt individuals we love (who among us has not??), we can apologize.(1) When our errors have had wider impact, there is always the possibility of atonement. I know this man has greatly atoned for whatever he may have done way back when, in the tar sands. But his words really moved me. Bless you, Lee!!)

Well. Later that day I had a very quick look at my e-mails. There was one from old friend Steve Leahy, another Canadian activist/writer. Steve’s son Derek is organizing anti-tar sands protests in several European cities this summe (London, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna & Berlin).

You can read about his activities on Facebook. Also on the Sierra Club of Canada blog here.

Let me point out that Derek became an activist only months ago. Because he’s been working in Berlin & could do so, he went to Copenhagen for the climate meetings his father was there to write about. Clearly, he got inspired!!

Check out what he’s up to.

What can you do?

For sure, you can learn about the tar sands & climate change.

And lessen your personal carbon footprint.

Join with individuals & groups working to end our poisonous dependence on fossil fuels.

I’m repeating myself here, but here I go again: Activism is the best possible antidote to despair (& apathy).

Activism (like virtue) is its own reward.

You can quote me on that.


(1) I love this quotation about apology: “Apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.” – Margaret Lee Runbeck. How about this one? “A clear conscience is more valuable than wealth.” – Filipino proverb

Tar Sands: Canada’s (Oil) Shame

I am really busy right now working on an issue & not able to blog regularly. Frustrating, trust me!!

But I want to put a list here of some links folks can visit to learn more about the scandal of Canada’s tar sands.

In a previous post ‘We Are TOO (Freakin’) Polite I did touch on this issue.

There is also a post (‘Canada: Corrupt Petro State?’) in which I refer to Canadian smugness, a quality we seem to see much in evidence (yet with very little justification). There is a reference in that post to the George Monbiot column in which he calls Canada a corrupt petrostate.

I’m writing this post to share (& remind about) some links on the tar sands issue.

Most recent one that came to me (thanks, Angela!) is this one:

The Other Oil Disaster: Cancer and Canada's Tar Sands "I can't blame you if you've never heard of "Ft. Chip" - after all, there are only 1000 residents, and it's only accessible by plane or boat. But you should hear about it, because what happens there will affect all of us.  The town has been suffering for more than ten years from surprisingly high rates of cancer."

Then, please go to any of these to find YouTubes or films on the tar sands.

  • From National Geographic: here

Finally, visit this site (Dirty Oil Sands: A threat to the new energy economy) for lots of good info (incl. a tab at the top for "Funny + Wacky Stuff." Fun is always good!)

After that, please-please-please (see: I am still ever so polite!) get off your butt & DO something!!!!


P.S. Please also check out my [no longer most recent!!] post on the tar sands - to learn about Derek Leahy's tar sands actions in Europe & Canada..

'Quote for the day' w. this post: "Do we want to be remembered as the generation that saved the banks and let the biosphere collapse?" ~ George Monbiot

Courage, Apathy...& Evil

*** Quotes on courage here! <March 18/10>

I’m reading a book called Country of My Skull – Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa,(1) by Antjie Krog. Bit of a tough read, at times – but very well-written, provocative & rife with interesting thoughts, insights & quotations. Rough because one learns in detail some of the horrific acts of violence & cruelty visited upon so many citizens of South Africa in the apartheid era. Its recounting of the operations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission makes for fascinating reading (parenthetical thought: I ought to let the author know of my deep appreciation for her book!).

We human beings are certainly a curious lot. We can be so marvellous, generous, compassionate, creative, loving & wise – & by the same token, so thoughtless, self-absorbed (2), cruel, violent, homicidal, and … dare I say, evil?

I will leave it to the philosophers to debate whether or not evil really exists. (though I personally feel we are a bit short of time here on Planet Earth for long-winded philosophical debate & time-consuming study; seems to me more like a time for concerted ACTION.)

I will add that I have encountered my fair share of nasty (even homicidal & sociopathic & kind of scary) characters in my time – in a professional capacity, shall we say – so I am not unfamiliar altogether with the sheer nastiness capacity of some human beings…

Anyway, whether or not evil exists, I will say that I think the apathy of so many people I know & meet – in the face of the most serious & horrendous crisis our species has ever known – borders, to my way of thinking, on evil. (Edmund Burke said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” I rest my case…)

It frightens me.

It astonishes me that most people I know would be more upset to hear me describe myself as an anarchist (3) than they would to hear that our robot-man prime minister is quite knowingly destroying a huge swath of Canada (read up on the tar sands ) in the name of profits for his corporate buddies (George Monbiot has described Canada as a ‘corrupt petrostate’).

It surprises me that the thing most people seem most curious about when they ask me about my sit-in/arrest experience last Nov. 30th, just before the Copenhagen meetings, is what it was like to have to wear a diaper all day. They are dying to ask me whether or not I peed in it. (The answer, for the record, is no. I skipped my morning coffee that day, which for caffeine addict me was frankly the most challenging aspect of the whole experience!) But the experience wasn’t so much about using a diaper as about getting outside my comfort zone – something I think a lot more of us need to start doing.

I know there are a lot of reasons for our apathy.

But it scares me.

I heard a report on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) radio yesterday, on ‘The Current Review.’ It was about a TV show in which participants were asked to cause fellow participants to be given electric shocks. Apparently, most did order the shocks.

What kind of people are we?

It worries me.

Author Antjie Krog asks in Country of My Skull (in reference to the goings-on in South Africa during the apartheid years, & afterward, during the time of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, which began operating in December 1995), “What the hell does one do?”(4)

& I wrestle with this question myself, pretty much daily. What the hell does one do?

I am not a philosopher, dear Reader, nor any kind of “expert” nor (supposedly) brilliant scientist.

I’m a woman, mother, environmental activist & writer (a person who is unpaid for the work I do; that’s not a complaint, just a statement of fact) – & I am no longer confident about the ability of our species to survive.

We have made/are making such a frightful botch of things.

Still & all, what is one to do??

Throw up our hands?

I say, Take action.

Let’s raise our voices.

Let’s quit stepping over the elephants in the room, & start calling them.

Let’s grow some courage. Grow some balls...as it were. Shake things up a little.

In Country of My Skull, Chilean philosopher & activist, José Zalaquett (who served on the Chilean Truth Commission) is quoted as saying, “The most important lesson the struggle taught me and my friends is that no one is endowed with remarkable courage. But courage is another name for learning to live with your fears. Now, after eighteen years and the Chilean Truth Commission, courage has again evolved a new definition: the guts not to give in to easy justice. To live within the confinements of reality, but to search day after day for the progressing of one’s most cherished values. Merciless. Accountable.”(5)


I wonder, might we all try growing a little more courage in the face of the grave dangers now facing us? I surely do hope so….


p.s. A buddy of mine said to me in an e-mail message recently, in reference to the sorts of people who defended tobacco use until they were finally wrestled to the ground, & the people who were responsible for trashing the ozone layer (fully aware, btw, that they were doing so), & the ones who are now defending the oil business with their criminal conspiracy (do read Climate Cover-up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming, by James Hoggan, with Richard Littlemore), “These big business issues, like the pro-smoking debacle, are beyond my capacity to understand – it’s like there is a parallel universe of animal things that look like humans but behave like something else.” Rather nicely put, Richard!!

I’d say it’s time we turfed out politicians who look & act like robots (& criminals), & bring in some real human beings for a change!!

p.p.s. Shortly after I scrawled this essay, riding the GO bus to Oshawa, I resumed reading Country of my Skull. Author Antjie Krog relates on page 159 that just before midnight on May 10th, 1997 (the deadline for amnesty applications), “six black youths walk into the Truth Commission’s offices in Cape Town.” She goes on to explain that they had decided at the last minute to apply for amnesty because they had realized it had been wrong of them to be apathetic, & do nothing. “So, here we stand as a small group representative of millions of apathetic people who didn’t do the right thing.”


Quote of the Day’ with this post: “Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy, in a speech in Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966.

(1) Times Books/Random House, 1998.

(2) I have a very rude name for a condition I feel all too many of us suffer from. “Terminal heads-up-our-own arses” disease. (Sorry; I did try to warn you!)

(3) The Collins dictionary defines anarchist as 1. A person who advocates the abolition of government and a social system based on voluntary cooperation. 2. A person who causes disorder or upheaval. Kurt Vonnegut has a character in his novel Jailbird say “Anarchists are people who believe with all their hearts that governments are enemies of their own people.” I think a lot of us are anarchists, by this latter definition…

(4) Page 118.

(5) Country of My Skull – Guilt, Sorrow & the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa, by Antjie Krog, Times Books/Random House 1998. Page 32.

Canada: Corrupt Petro State?

Many of us Canadians have often felt a tad on the smug side. We think we’re so darn civilized - & for sure, we are mostly a pretty polite bunch. But the days of wearing a Canadian flag on our knapsacks may be over.

We’ve allowed our federal government – the Stephen Harper government - to do horrendous damage to the environment (& Canada's reputation) with the Alberta tar sands project.(1)

Super-articulate British writer/columnist/blogger/activist George Monbiot has referred to Canada as a ‘corrupt petrostate.’

Them’s fightin’ words.

Check out the Toronto Star item about this here

Or Monbiot’s Web site here

Canada isn’t quite the country it used to be.

What are we going to do about it??


P.S. Here’s a great phrase with which to greet Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper when he returns from Copenhagen: “Go green, or don’t come home!”

Thanks to Angela B. for this great, punchy phrase! Another phrase in current frequent use about our (very not-illustrious) PM is “climate criminal.”

(1) The blog post ‘We are too (freakin’) polite has some references near the end to the tar sands project & some YouTubes & a documentary you can watch about it. The tar sands are a horrendous stain on the planet…

We Are TOO (Freakin’) Polite!

<Oct. 5/09>

This is a rant about being TOO polite. For sure, just to be clear, I was raised by my parents to be a very polite person. I always (almost always) remember to say my “pleases & thank-you’s,” and dutifully taught my children to do the same.

It’s a form of obedience, really. We are taught from Day 1 (by our parents & if not by them, by our culture) to be very obedient to the rules of our society. Not to “colour outside the lines,” as it were – and to be sure that we “play by the rules” and all that jazz. Yes??(1)

Sure we are. We live in an insanely (obscenely?) voracious culture that is destroying the Earth (a remarkably abundant and beautiful place, by the way, not to mention being our only home), yet we are all so damn polite that not only do most of us not speak up about what is taking place all around us, those of us who do are looked upon as “weirdos.” I know this because I’ve been perceived as a weirdo (by a lot of the folks who know me) for the past 20 years.

There are 3 things I’d like to cite about this being too polite business:

1. What got me started musing on this (again) recently was my attendance at an anti-uranium rally held at Queen’s Park in Toronto (Ontario, Canada) on Sunday, September 27th (2009). Increasing numbers of Ontario citizens have begun to oppose the mining of uranium – and with good reason. The rally was held at our provincial legislature to let our MPP’s (Members of Provincial Parliament) know that we want uranium mining stopped. There were several dynamic speakers to inform those in attendance about the issue & what needs to be done about it (namely, demand a legislated ban on uranium mining for all of Ontario – similar to the bans already in effect in three of our other provinces – British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick – & the territory of Labrador).

Native elder Bob Lovelace told the crowd at the rally that in his view, we Canadians are too polite. He knows a lot about this, having been sent to jail for his part in trying to protect his native band’s territory near Sharbot Lake, Ontario, against uranium exploration. What he said really resonated for me. We are, indeed, much too polite.

If you want to learn more about the Ontario uranium mining scene, go to the Web site of Cottagers Against Uranium Mining & Exploration (CUME) There is also a ton of useful information at the site of CCAMU – the Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium.

2. Something that had got me thinking about this politeness business some time ago were the insights I had as a result of attending several Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) hearings in Ottawa. These were about tritium light facilities in Pembroke & Peterborough, Ontario (the companies are called SRB Technologies and SSI, for Shield Source International, respectively). Oh yes, there was also one on Zircatec Precision Industries Inc. a nuclear facility in Port Hope, Ontario – that I sat in on.

At each of these hearings, I’ve been absolutely blown away by the intelligence and information possessed by the citizen interveners who object to these 3 privately-run, profit-making nuclear facilities. Intervener presentations (firmly limited to 10 minutes per person, although the proponent – that is, the nuclear facility representative – has almost unlimited time and endless opportunities to state his case) are fact-filled, well-researched, and passionate, often, given the fact that their citizens, their neighbourhoods & their communities are bearing the brunt of the emissions and releases from these facilities.

The government-appointed CNSC commissioners seem to have very limited understanding indeed of the complexities (& risks) involved in nuclear technologies. Their knowledge very clearly represents a tiny fraction of that possessed by the citizen interveners (toward whom, btw, their demeanour is extremely patronizing).

My take, overall? These are “kangaroo” courts. They’re a joke. The CNSC does not exist to promote nuclear “safety” for Canadians; it exists to promote the nuclear industry.

I could go on here at length, because I have other insights & strong opinions about the CNSC hearing process – but I won’t.

It does frustrate the heck out of me that a) the “average” Canadian citizen has probably never even heard of the CNSC, has certainly never attended one of their kangaroo courts (oops, I mean hearings), & has no idea what this taxpayer-funded outfit gets up to & b) those of us who oppose these various nuclear operations can talk ‘till we’re blue in the face, present impressive evidence & studies from all over the world, cite human health impacts until the cows come home – but nothing ever changes. We put on our very best clothes, talk very, very politely in the hearings (which I suppose, come to think of it, are a little reminiscent of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party), and the commissioners (and the CNSC’s very considerable-sized & no doubt well-educated & well-paid staff) go right on ahead & do what they’re going to do – with no apparent real concern for the safety of the Canadian public they are all supposedly being paid their generous salaries to protect.

It was this that got me thinking some time ago now that we are too damn polite

It was either Benjamin Franklin or Albert Einstein (I’ve heard both being credited) who said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

So who is it who’s insane here, anyway??

3. All of this motivated me to take part recently in a Greenpeace “Climate Action Camp” to learn about civil disobedience. So glad I went!!

I learned lots, and had a lot of fun, too! It was interesting to be reminded of some of the very early & well-known practitioners of civil disobedience. Jesus Christ was one of its early agents when he kicked the money-lenders out of the temple. There was Gandhi in India, & Martin Luther King & Rosa Parks in the U.S.

Civil disobedience has a very proud history. Henry David Thoreau. Harriet Tubman. Nelson Mandela. Vaclav Havel. And so on & so on. People most of us now recognize as heroes for having put their necks on the line – for going to great lengths, and at considerable personal cost – to speak up very loudly & initiate change on critically important social issues.

Now Greenpeace is making itself heard loudly & clearly on the climate issue, with recent actions in the Alberta tar sands – home of the world’s dirtiest oil.

You can love Greenpeace or not love them, but one thing you have to admit: their stunts get our attention – and they force us to think & become better informed.

If you want to learn more about Greenpeace &/or the Alberta tar sands project, go here Scroll down on the left under ‘What we do’ for tar sands information. GP has also recently commissioned a film about the tar sands. Watch for it! (I believe it’s now making the rounds of film festivals & will be released to the public soon.)

Meanwhile, why not muse on this being too polite business?

Is it really necessary – or wise – or even excusable – that we remain silent – and “polite” – in the face of crimes against the planet – and humanity?

We all have to decide this for ourselves, of course – but surely it’s worth a little thought.


P.P.S. A while after this (end of November 2009, to be precise), I took part in some "civil disobedience" myself. There are several blog posts about this - good one to start with is 'Busted for Climate Justice.'

P.S. There are other films/YouTubes on the tar sands. I’ve heard of these so far (they are all also listed in the posting 'Tar Sands: Canada's Oil Shame.')

1. “The Dark Side of the Boom: Canada’s Mordor” - here

2. From National Geographic: here

3. “Dirty Oil: Alberta’s Tar Sands Explained

4. Tipping Point: The Age of the Oil Sands. 2 hour documentary.

(1) The blog essays ‘Looking Good’ and ‘Looking Stupid’ speak to this societal dynamic we’re all caught up in from Day 1. So does 'Good Girls & Boys.'