This is not progress: Contemplating fracking and pipelines to the East Coast

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

As we contemplate fracking and the possibility of a pipeline to bring not so much crude oil as diluted tar sands bitumen to the East Coast, it would be useful to remind ourselves of the big picture -- something we're not very good at.

Even now, worldwide, we're subtly in the process of heading for the hills in retreat from climate mayhem, and at huge and mounting cost, but we have almost amusing -- if it wasn't so serious -- ways of not admitting it.

A recent back-page article entitled "Climate change plans in works" grabbed me. It explained that local governments across the country need to come up with a climate change plan in order to tap into federal gas tax money.

That would be Harper government tax money. Here's what Harper's about: triple tar sands production, declare environmentalists enemies of the state, fire the scientists, ransack environmental and fisheries laws and generally make sure that Canada remains a world leader in profitable pollution.

So what's with giving money to municipalities to batten down the hatches? Isn't that admitting the obvious, anathema to Harper dogmatists?

Actually, it's probably an accurate political reading: our addiction to the dirtiest growth trumps self-preservation. The message is: climate change is just a local problem, so let's indeed stop building on the lowlands, and have emergency plans for if the bridge or the dam collapses. Furthermore, nurse the following strategy for the long term: hunker down and hope the next catastrophic event misses us and hits the other guy.

Just don't make a big deal about us causing it with our unsustainable ways. That would ruin the whole game.

In the above-mentioned article, the planning director of the Municipality of West Hants was quoted saying: "When our committee looked at it (warming) as one of the hazards, I think they had their eyes opened a bit."

Eyes opened "a bit." That would be where the public is at, after decades in which mounting evidence has clashed with societal and economic inertia and outright ideological hostility to the facts. And they'd open more than a bit if even the last six months worth of news were properly contemplated.

Here's some of it.

In May, scientists recorded, for the first time, at a monitoring station in Hawaii, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at 400 parts per million. That's considered a danger point, and halfway to the civilization-wrecking 800 ppm which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has projected for the end of the century if we stay on the same track.

The first danger point, established in 1988, was 350 ppm. One prominent activist noted: "With the last 50 ppm we melted the Arctic. What will the next 50 bring?" Let alone the next 400.

Outfits like the World Bank and the U.S. Academy of Sciences have been working on the business of rising seas. Hurricane Sandy caused an estimated $50 billion in damage in New York. By 2050, says a World Bank study, the global bill could be over $1 trillion annually as rising seas, driven by storms, slam into low-lying cities and communities. We have plenty of those in Atlantic Canada.

Meanwhile, southern Alberta went under water at a cost of $5 billion, ruining Alberta's finances. So did Toronto. The tornadoes, the droughts, the fires all worsened. True, it's not all global warming. We've unwisely built in harm's way -- but that was before 100-year storms became every-year storms.

Back to fracking. The news there is, at first glance, wonderful. Fracked natural gas, along with economic recession and other factors, dropped U.S. carbon emissions by 13 per cent since 2006 by replacing coal.

At second glance, not so good. Fracked wells were found to leak like sieves with suspicions that this makes fracked gas as dirty as coal. Furthermore, because oil shales are also being fracked, and the gas "flared" off into the atmosphere, this wasteful and polluting practice is rising again in North America after declining for years.

In Nova Scotia, fracking would only be justified if the technology improved and we actually needed the gas locally.

And about the pipeline. The pipeline companies made the pitch that this would be a great nation-building project, rather than a third choice after neither the U.S. nor British Columbia wanted it.

There are tons of variables. I doubt it will get here just on straight economics. However, if it must, on grounds that tar sands oil is going to keep expanding no matter what, let us at least admit that this is not progress, but rather a substitute for what we should be doing if we respected our world and our own future.

Ralph Surette is a freelance journalist living in Yarmouth County. This article was first published in the Chronicle Herald.

Photo: Paul B. (Halifax)/flickr

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.