Tag Archives: Environment

By: Chris Burke

The Earth has reached a milestone, and not one worth celebrating.  Rather than a moment in history where humanity can raise a glass in celebration of its’ achievements, we find ourselves sitting here wondering where things went wrong: Carbon in the atmosphere has hit 400 parts per million (ppm).

carbon emissions

Why is this fact cause for the bleak opening of this post?  For starters, many scientists argue that we need to maintain a level of 350ppm of carbon in the atmosphere to avoid runaway climate change.  The UN provides a higher threshold, somewhere around 420ppm, but with the current path we are on that threshold is likely to be broken.  Second, as the National Geographic puts it:

“The last time the concentration of Earth’s main greenhouse gas reached this mark, horses and camels lived in the high Arctic. Seas were at least 30 feet higher—at a level that today would inundate major cities around the world.

“The planet was about 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer. But the Earth then was in the final stage of a prolonged greenhouse epoch, and CO2 concentrations were on their way down. This time, 400 ppm is a milepost on a far more rapid uphill climb toward an uncertain climate future” (Source)

Read More


By: Chris Burke

During my, increasingly limited, spare time I’ve taken to reading What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism by John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff.  The book is a critique of the ideas of “green capitalism” that have emerged over the past two decades or so.  “Green capitalists” promote the use of technology, market mechanisms, regulation, and changes in consumer behaviour to ensure that the impacts of climate change are reduced, while, and this is key, continuing to grow and prosper under a capitalist system.  Some have taken to promoting a “zero growth” economy, shifting focus to developing the goods and services we need rather than growth for its own sake.  This is where the notion of “green capitalism” starts to run into a problem.


There’s little question that the rapid growth happening in the capitalist world is consuming resources at an alarming pace, pumping out more greenhouse gases than the planet can handle, and causing a general deterioration of environmental conditions across the globe.  What is debated, however, is whether a capitalist economy could survive a transformation to zero growth.  After all, there’s a word for a capitalist economy in a state of zero growth.  It’s called a “crisis”.  As North America crawls its way out of a recent crisis, and Europe descends further into it, there isn’t a huge need here to elaborate on why we want to avoid a crisis.  Those in the upper class will continue to consolidate their wealth and power (think the DOW reaching a record high while unemployment rates remain high and the fact that companies that have improved since the recession haven’t been hiring), while the rest of us are left to struggle in the mess that’s been created.

Read More

By: Chris Burke

Here’s some disheartening, and sadly unsurprising, polling information from the International Social Survey program:

Environmental issues rank low and the issue of climate change is not a priority for people around the world, an international study indicates.

People were five times more likely to point to the economy over the environment as an issue and when asked about climate change, people said they saw the issue more as a national problem than a personal concern, the study found.

post sandy

The surveys were sent out to 33 countries from 1993 to 2010.  Given that the economy was listed as being a greater concern, I suspect that since the recent economic crisis the environment has taken a seat even further back.

Read More

By: Chris Burke

On Sunday (February 17th), protestors rallied in Washington D.C. to speak out against the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline, “which would carry Alberta oilsands bitumen to refineries along the Texas coast”, has faced strong opposition from environmentalists both in the U.S. and Canada (From CBC).


President Obama made a decision last year to delay the Keystone XL pipeline after facing pressure from protestors across the country, many who threatened not to vote for him if he allowed the pipeline to go through.  With the election over, what pressures does Obama face to push him towards rejecting the pipeline?  Though his words suggest that the President wants to take strong action on climate change, his actions are what matter.

Call me a cynic, but I don’t see any reason (politically) why Obama would reject the pipeline now that he doesn’t have anything to lose.  Read More

By: Chris Burke

One of these days I’m going to have to write a piece on the role social media plays in protest movements.  Sure many words have already been dedicated to that subject, but as someone who has been using social media to advance his own ideas the subject can’t be ignored.  Today, however, I want to draw the attention of 1837’s readers towards the latest movement that owes, at least part of, its growth to social media. Idle No More.


First, a brief history lesson.  Idle No More started back in October as a reaction to Bill C-45.

Idle No More began with 4 ladies; Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon & Sheelah McLean who felt it was urgent to act on current and upcoming legislation that not only affects our First Nations people but the rest of Canada’s citizens, lands and waters (Source)

The movement is a direct to response to actions of a colonial government seeking to impose laws on the Indigenous people who have rightful claim to this land, and is doing so without the consent of those people.  Idle No More is by no means, of course, the first time we have laid witness to Indigenous resistance.  It is, however, one of the more visible movements in recent memory.  Resistance has been going on since the first settlers came, and the colonial state of Canada was established.  From the Trudeau government; up to the current government under Stephen Harper Liberal, resistance has always been here.  Liberal or Conservative (and perhaps NDP someday soon), Indigenous people have resisted the efforts of a colonial government seeking to control the land, and resources, and oppress a people.

Read More

By: Chris Burke

Today’s sad, but unsurprising news, is the announcement that Canada was ranked as the worst performer in the developed world on climate change.

Canada won a sad distinction today, falling to 58th place out of 61 countries analyzed for their policies and action on climate change this year, trailed only by Kazakhstan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, according to Climate Action Network Canada (CANC) (Vancouver Observer).


Following years of the Harper government’s efforts to ensure that Canada poses an obstacle to international climate talks, setting of dismal emission reduction targets that are unlikely to be reached anyway, and continued support for the environmentally destructive tar sands; this ranking should come as no surprise though it should come with a great deal of shame.

Read More

By: Chris Burke

Tonight (Nov. 19th), local activists in Kitchener-Waterloo will be gathering to protest Enbridge’s planned reversal of Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline.

The pipeline, known as Line 9, has been buried under the Grand River and North Dumfries Township since the mid-1970s. It’s a major artery for foreign crude headed west to refineries in Sarnia

But a proposed change to Line 9 is bringing new concerns about the safety of the 40-year-old pipeline. Environmentalists warn that a plan by Calgary-based Enbridge Pipelines to reverse the direction of flow and start pumping crude oil eastward from Alberta could expose our region to contamination (The Record).

Read More