Our Times 3


  • Scouring Scum and Tar from the Bottom of the Pit

    Faced with the undeniable reality of “Hubbard’s Peak” in global conventional oil supplies, the world’s largest multinational energy corporations are now hell-bent on squeezing oil out of tar in northern Alberta, like junkies desperately conniving for one last giant fix in a futile attempt to quench America’s insatiable “addiction to oil” (described so eloquently by President George Bush II). Along the Athabasca River near Fort McMurray, a sub-arctic town almost 1,000 kilometres north of the U.S. border, tar literally seeps out of the riverbanks where Aboriginal peoples once used it to patch their birch-bark canoes. But most of the tar sands lie hidden below northern Alberta’s boreal forest, in an area larger than the state of Florida.

  • Peak Oil and Alternative Energy

    The world is beginning to wake up to the fact that peak oil is real. Various financial institutions, as well as oil companies, independent geologists, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a range of corporations eager to cash in on alternative energy sources have stressed its importance. Sweden and Norway have both initiated plans to be essentially free of fossil fuels by 2020, and a small number of municipalities are beginning to incorporate energy consumption and production into their core planning activities. In other words, plans are already underway to prepare for an energy future that no longer relies on cheap energy.

  • Responding to the Challenge of Peak Oil

    Over the past two years the price of oil has climbed relentlessly. This is true not just of the volatile spot price, but also of the five-year futures price, which for many years held reliably close to the U.S. $20 mark. At this time of writing, both the spot and futures prices are near $70. North Americans know that this translates to high gasoline prices, and, since they can scarcely live without their cars, many are worried and angry.

  • The American Empire Meets Peak Oil

    Following the Soviet collapse in 1989, the U.S.’s economic empire was left without any effective constraints except two: global warming and peak oil.

    While Canada’s economic elite continues to push further integration into the American economic empire, it seems blissfully ignorant of the fact that globalization, the American Empire, is a falling star that is simply running out of gas.

  • The Gap Between Rhetoric and Action

    Exactly one year ago, during the coldest months of 2005, Canada had its second major climate-change debate of the millennium. The first one, on whether Canada should ratify the Kyoto Protocol, occurred in the fall of 2002. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was at an environmental conference in South Africa when he announced, seemingly out of the blue, that Canada would ratify the protocol before the end of the year.

  • Northern Temperatures Rising

    You’ve probably heard the old joke about Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory: it’s not the end of the world, but if you look hard enough, you can see it from here. These days, the joke isn’t quite so funny anymore. Climate change has arrived in the Yukon. And although climate change doesn’t actually herald imminent global disaster, it does have dark implications for existing Yukon ecosystems.

    The Yukon is one of the planet’s climate-change hot spots, a fact that has attracted considerable interest in the academic research community. At the same time, the Yukon government is working hard to attract the interest of the oil-and-gas industry. Both exploration and research are touted by government as sources of economic diversity and job creation. The government argument is that work for Yukoners will be created by establishing an oil-and-gas sector. Perversely, too, the Yukon will create academic and industry opportunities in the study of–and adaptation to–climate change! This is ecological madness, sort of like paying someone to burn down their house in order to develop their firefighting skills.

  • The Heart of the Taku

    Today the Taku is best known as a salmon stream, with commercial and sport fisheries in both B.C. and Alaska, and also as an endangered river, popular with eco-tourists and adventurers. But before it was any of these things, the Taku was the traditional hunting grounds of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN).

  • Top 10 Canadian NGO strategies & tactics to combat climate change

    Canadian environmental organizations play a wide range of roles in combating climate change. Some analyze and popularize the science and impacts of climate change, some challenge industry and many target governments. Others are focused on long-term public education campaigns, grassroots initiatives and building the movement.

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