Ice is nice

By Scott Harris

For The Chronicle-Journal Oct 12, 2017

THAT’S what they say. Who are they? Well, geophysicist Henry Pollack for one.

In his book A World Without Ice, Pollack explains the delicate geological balance between the Earth and its ice, and why it is important that we humans pay attention to this balance, especially since human activity is accelerating the planet’s race toward a tipping point with respect to its ice.

Ocean floor core samples reveal that the last time Earth was free of ice was 55 million years ago, when the greenhouse gas methane warmed the atmosphere, melting the polar ice sheets and reducing the planet’s ability to reflect solar energy back into outer space.

We currently live in what scientists describe as a Goldilocks environment, not too hot and not too cold. As we look for life on other not-so-fortunate planets, we can see clearly that indeed we are a Goldilocks planet – not too close to the sun to lose all of our water to evaporation, or far enough away to be just another snowball rocketing through space.

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Why council must oppose pipeline

By Ruth Cook

Special to The Chronicle-Journal May 27, 2017

On Monday, May 29, Thunder Bay’s city council will once again consider a resolution asking members to vote in principle against the TransCanada /Energy East Ltd.’s Energy East Pipeline. This resolution has been deferred for two years due to concerns about lack of complete information (as well as unforeseen administrative delays).

A group of representatives from five local groups has been working on understanding the implications of the Energy East pipeline for five years now, and are adamantly opposed to the development of such a pipeline.

The Energy East pipeline would be the largest oil pipeline in North America. It is to be partly newly constructed, and partly be repurposing an old natural gas pipeline. The part passing through Northwestern Ontario is the old to-be-converted pipe, some of which has been in the ground for 50 years.

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A Lappe consensus on Energy East pipeline

By Peter Lang

First published in the Chronicle Journal January 24, 2017

In contrast to the Common Voice forum at the Oliver Road Community Centre on the subject of “significant water crossings,” there was a consensus outcome at the Lappe meeting on Saturday morning, Jan. 21. Despite slippery road conditions about 15 people attended. While the first part of the meeting was a prepared presentation to set parameters for the discussion, instead of breakdown, this time the meeting achieved consensus. And to make it clear that the meeting wasn’t ‘stacked by the pipeline opposition,’ this consensus arose from a group where only a few knew each other prior to the meeting.

Essentially, after it became obvious that virtually all of us were opposed to the Energy East pipeline proposal itself, we held a vote — and all but one agreed that the CVNW consultation process was flawed.

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Converting gas pipe to tarsands is unproven process

By Tom Cook

First published in The Chronicle Journal January 21, 2017

The proposed Energy East pipeline is to carry tarsands bitumen 4,500 kilometres from Alberta to New Brunswick for export. Of this, approximately 3,000 kilometres will be 50- to 60-year-old natural gas pipeline through Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario to Cornwall. There will be new sections in Alberta and from Cornwall to New Brunswick.I have several reasons to be concerned with the 3,000-kilometre old section.

First, it’s been buried in the ground since 1954 or so. To me that looks like 60 years. How do we know that it’s not all rusted on the outside?

Second, it was made to carry a gas, not a liquid. To transport bitumen which is full of sand, thinned 25 per cent with lighter gases like naphtha and benzene, so it will flow, is a whole different thing.

Read moreConverting gas pipe to tarsands is unproven process

If there ever was a time . . .

By Scott Harris

First published in the Chronicle Journal January 18, 2017

Right-wing Fraser Institute’s Ken Green champions the “rule of law” vs “special interests” (Protesters Aren’t in Charge – Guest Column, CJ, Jan. 16). He states that pipeline protesters should take heed.

He qualifies that civil disobedience “is most appropriate when a group faces oppression without representation.” How better to describe future, unborn generations, a group which has no voice, which nevertheless has a right to a tolerable climate, but whose present-day governments don’t see it that way.

Read moreIf there ever was a time . . .

Narrow scope of forums shows task force bias

By Peter Lang

First published in the Chronicle Journal January 17, 2017

Having followed the Energy East pipeline issue for a number of years, I believe that the very narrow scope of the upcoming Common Voice forums, as noted in The Chronicle-Journal, Jan. 2, clearly shows its bias. To suggest that our main concern for the Lake Superior watershed boils down to identifying ‘significant waterways’ and installing supposed state-of-the-art valves is simplistic and foolish.

First and foremost: The stretch of pipeline slated for conversion from natural gas to tarsands bitumen is decades old, and has already suffered a long, documented list of leaks and explosions. From the Ontario Energy Board hearings, and from various Canadian Transportation Board investigations we have learned that those incidents most often resulted from a combination of stress corrosion cracking, and aged, defective coatings. If safety was their overriding concern, why isn’t Common Voice demanding a brand new pipeline to safeguard our region?

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Common Voice Northwest out of turn on pipeline

By Tom Cook

First published in the Chronicle Journal January 13, 2017

I would like to take this opportunity to comment on the Jan. 2 article about Common Voice Northwest and their Energy East forums. Who is Common Voice Northwest?

They are a Thunder Bay-based non-profit group which was formed via a collaboration of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) and the regional chambers of commerce. NOMA is an ‘old boys’ network’ of representatives from Northwestern Ontario municipalities to share information and concerns, and to promote business in the area. Their president is Mayor Dave Canfield from Kenora and board member, Coun. Iain Angus from Thunder Bay is executive director of Common Voice Northwest.

Unfortunately, NOMA sometimes makes pronouncements such as support for the Energy East Pipeline proposal which has not been supported by either Thunder Bay city council or Kenora city council. Given this situation, I have some concerns about a possible bias in Common Voice Northwest research.

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Confirmation bias: Science and the Internet form a double-edged sword Story

First Posted: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 in the Chronicle Journal

By Scott Harris
For The Chronicle-Journal
‘By either stressing or ignoring the information that bombards us, we create our own reality” (author unknown). Such, perhaps, is what it means to be human. Our own opinions are formed by our own unique experiences, cognitive intake and reflection.
The advent of universal, electronic transmission tools such as the Internet amounts to an information strafing unlike anything we humans have experienced before.
But the Internet is a double-edged tool. With the current availability of electronic information, one can find validation for virtually any opinion, no matter how bizarre. On the other hand, there are impeccable, peer-reviewed sources which help us separate truth from fiction. That distinction is becoming increasingly important, as we begin to address global issues triggered by human behaviour.

Read moreConfirmation bias: Science and the Internet form a double-edged sword Story

Brexit, Trump offer lessons for climate change policy

First Posted: Monday, July 11, 2016
BY JASON MACLEAN

SUSTAINABILITY MATTERS

People are sick of experts, evidently. Facts, too, are becoming troublingly unpopular. Brexit and the popularity of U.S. presidential candidate Donald J. Trump are cases in point. A closer look at each offers lessons for the design of an effective and democratically accountable climate change policy.
First, Brexit. Experts hated it. In a poll of 639 British economists, 88 per cent predicted that a vote to leave the EU would decrease economic growth and efficiency. 52 per cent of voters opted to leave anyway.
Why? A revealing geographic analysis of the referendum conducted by the Resolution Foundation found that the parts of Britain most supportive of Brexit were the parts that have historically been the poorest, particularly in the north. Brexit supporters didn’t share the experts’ obsession with economic efficiency. They care more about economic equality. About the affordable houses that aren’t being built. About the good, secure jobs that aren’t being created.
Whether they’re right or wrong is beside the point. Neoliberal globalization has left many in Britain (and elsewhere) feeling alienated, dispossessed and voiceless. Hence the highly effective slogan “vote leave, take back control.” The Brexit plebiscite was the plebs’ chance to make themselves heard. And now the experts are scrambling to figure out what comes next, both in Britain and the EU. Only 38 per cent of the French, for example, view the EU favourably. Alors, Frexit? What about Scotland? Sexit?

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Pondering Pipeline Possibilities

Gordon Laxer Energy East Position Evolves.

Published in the CJ Thu May 19, 2016 as Pondering Pipeline Possibilities

Gordon Laxer spoke at the Finlandia Hall Wednesday, hosted by Environment North and the Thunder Bay Environmental Coalition. He outlined the theory behind his latest book, After the Sands: Energy and Ecological Security for Canadians. Laxer is a PhD, the founding director and former head of the Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, political economist and professor emeritus at the University of Alberta, and a prominent public intellectual. He was a founding member of the Council of Canadians. He endorses Naomi Klein and the Leap Manifesto and offers a workable framework for a transition to a green economy.

Laxer’s position on the proposed Energy East pipeline has evolved since the publication of his book. In it he had indicated that he was supportive of EE for the sake of Canadian energy security and sovereignty. He qualified this stance by stating as we phase out our dependence on fossil fuels, Energy East should ship conventional oil to Eastern Canadian consumers for another 15 years, (as opposed to rip and ship bitumen overseas).

Read morePondering Pipeline Possibilities