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A Sober Assessment on the Tar Sands Campaigns

NGO-is-born

Media Co-op

January 8, 2013

by Macdonald Stainsby

In thinking about a new rant on the tar sands to begin 2014, thinking of trying to sum up the previous year seems nearly impossible. So that, really, is a summation. Let me explain.

In previous eras of tar sands resistance we had a few flash points. This, of course, is in the time since it began to get attention beyond the families it ravaged through disease, or families it kept separate through cross-country employment. Since the call of climate change made attention to tar sands inevitable the “flag” of tar sands resistance has sprung up in such a varied, continent-wide and even international manner that even betrayals from Big Green would likely not do much more than wound resistance that has sprung up in locale after locale.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Foundation Funding

Inside the Big Green Machine

Counterpunch

Weekend Edition, October 25 to 27, 2013

by Macdonald Stainsby

When discussions begin among environmentally concerned people about foundation funding and how it offsets resistance, a common complaint is that such a discussion is unnecessarily negative. With all of the world at stake, so goes the argument, we need to involve as many “diverse” views and strategies to stop climate chaos as possible. Rather than “being divisive,” we need positive thinking.

While Big Capital and Big Green are trying to propose they are building a bridge to a better, healthy planet– whatever you do, don’t look down. The bridge is faulty, and you’re already half way over the chasm. Just trust the bridge– and keep walking.

A politics based, more or less, on the Beatles maxim “All you need is Love” is demanded. Then, many questions– both real and imagined– to a critique of the fundamentally authoritarian Big Green movement will often come most derisively from those who one would believe have the most in common with the democratic values desperately needed inside Big Green.

Fracking Indigenous Country

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Photo: Mi’kmaq – True resistance

Big Green, Sun Media and Elsipogtog

Counterpunch

October 22, 2013

By Macdonald Stainsby

 

If anyone doubted that it’s a good thing that Sun News in Canada has been both going broke and also denied the ability to force their way onto Canada’s basic cable system (vastly expanding their audience and getting themselves included in most homes with television subscriptions by default), the racist rantings of Ezra Levant in response to the recent RCMP attack on the Mi’kmaq community of Elsipogtog ought to clear it up.

How Tides Canada Controls the Secret North American Tar Sands Coalition

Tzep

[photo] Ms. Berman presenting a “Green” Award to former Liberal Party of B.C. premier, Gordon Campbell … the man who privatized British Columbia, sold it to General Electric and other international corporations, who built highways across farmland and called it “green;” who reversed dioxin effluent safeguards that we fought for and instituted in B.C. to protect our water; who sold off the public and natural heritage of British Columbia and opened the doors to General Electric to occupy hundreds of watersheds, devastate riparian ecosystems, and destroy forests for transmission lines to carry expensive power to mines in the north and to sprawling cities in the U.S. – Photo source: BC government.

Repeat This Aloud

Counterpunch

October 16, 2013

By Macdonald Stainsby

Before Tzeporah Berman began her current position as head of the North American Tar Sands Coalition, Tides Canada had already established these structures to create near-total control over budgets– and therefore, most decisions– for staggering numbers of organizations. Berman was around at the time, working for PowerUp pushing forward offsets garnered by river destruction. Some of the participant organizations already had working partnerships with multiple tar sands producers. The over-whelming majority were already greased by primarily high donors and foundations. Thus, joining the NATSC meant, essentially, double dipping.

The Tides Foundation began the NATSC as a project with earmarked funding coming from other large philanthropic foundations. This unelected and unseen structure was created to stand as a vehicle to help forge a similar backroom strategy for and likely negotiation of a “final agreement” to end campaigns against either certain segments or corporations involved in tar sands, likely borrowing from concepts involved in crafting similar deals with forestry corporations.

In 2009, as a part of producing Offsetting Resistance, a full strategy paper document was leaked to myself and Dru Oja Jay. It was an internal paper from a few months prior that outlined the secret nature of the coalition, the internal structures, the over-all short, middle and long term goals of a foundation funded, and foundation directed entity that was earmarked as a project of Tides Canada, and not as a separate NGO.

The pressure applied and leveraged would be out of the hard work of other people. The people who had worked at a community or first nations grassroots level were not only to not be consulted, if deal negotiations were to happen it was without anyone but a select few ever knowing anything about it. Until the press conference.

The documents make this point specifically: “This document is confidential” reads the front page of the strategy paper for the single most important climate campaign of their multi-million dollar philanthropy. But the real kicker is the breakdown of the structures. Under the heading “Enroll key decision makers while isolating opponents” : We will not make the decisions to slow and clean up the tar sands – those in positions of authority will.”

Though there are many problematic proposed solutions contained within the program (carbon offsets, for example), this was written by Michael Marx, then head of Tides’ Tar Sands Coalition in 2008. Specific demands, strategy and more may well have moved on, especially in the face of new coalition partner, Bill McKibben, and the PR group that has brought the world 350.org. Pipeline struggles, in years past, were not as heavily focused upon as now. Keystone (both of them) gets only a whiff in the paper by name; Enbridge Gateway is described but not named. Indeed, how times have changed.

Instead of predictions about the terms of a sell-out, the focus here should be on the structures as they are described. We know automatically the terms will be detrimental to the needs of the climate or of community, simply because the Canadian Boreal Initiative, Environmental Defense, WWF, CPAWS and other organizations who do more than negotiate backroom deals– but publicly embrace and partner with corporations like Suncor, Nexen, Dow Chemical and more– are leading members. The coalition groups are now under the twin auspices of Tides and Pew funding, as well Tides and Pew membership as further “partners.”

This further blurring of foundations who are increasingly “activist” in their own right, speaking and campaigning as “just another green group” is accelerating. In the past few years, new brazen language has come from Tides Canada, previously unthinkable: “At Tides Canada we are working to bridge these two polarized camps (environmentalists and tar sands corporations– MS). As a convener of diverse interests, we’ve played this role before, most notably in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest.1”

The quote above was a letter penned by President and CEO of Tides Canada, Ross McMillan. When the Great Bear Rainforest backroom deal was announced, it was publicized as a triumph of “Rainforest Solutions Project,” then comprising ForestEthics, Sierra Club BC, Greenpeace Canada and the Rainforest Action Network (RAN has since withdrawn support for the agreement). Tides was then, to use their jargon, “invisible to the outside,” but now speaks publicly as both a “stakeholder” and financial lifeblood. Now they advertise prior secretive involvement.

When looking at the real structures of the “North American Tar Sands Coalition” remember that it “shall remain invisible to the outside and to the extent possible, staff will be “purchased” from engaged organizations.”

“Purchasing” staff means that a person who is acting in the capacity of the directives of the paymaster coalition is never to public refer to the actual job, or even the organization. As such, even though someone took a leave from, say, the Pembina Institute to become a coordinator within the Tar Sands Coalition steering committee, and cashed paycheques from Tides referencing this work, they would publicly identify with their former employing organization, the Pembina Institute.

In fact, the above perfectly described the Canadian tar sands coordinator for Tides previously, Dan Woynillowicz. Google his name and he appears only as Pembina. The fact that demands, media, talking points, statements and interviews and paydays all then came from Tides direction was to “remain invisible to the outside.” He stepped aside for Jennifer Lash, who appears publicly as Executive Director of Living Oceans BC. She is, in fact, coordinator of Tides Canadian section.

Michael Marx is the former “lead coordinator” from the tar sands steering committee, above the American and Canadian coordinators. These three, in collaboration with media coordinators, form the power nucleus. Other foundations centralize campaign contributions to the Tides Coalition, and will re-direct appeals for tar sands funding to the national coordinators from this one group. This has effectively narrowed the overwhelming portion of all tar sands funding from foundation sources, leaving astronomical power in the hands of an unseen entity.

How does the final say evolve? According to Marx while he was still coordinator: “While NGOs generally prefer a network structure that allows for maximum communication, and minimal centralized control, foundations investing most heavily in the campaign have a vested interest in exercising some control over the process”(emphasis mine).

Michael Marx has moved on as mentioned, for Tzeporah Berman to become head of the North American Tar Sands Coalition. Marx himself is officially a campaigner once again with the Sierra Club in the United States.

The “Tar Sands Solutions Network” appears to be the vehicle for a public face to negotiate a “win-win” deal. A couple of years ago, the Mediacoop.ca and later on the Globe and Mail reported a leak of an attempted “fireside chat” that was to happen with no fanfare, media or record of its existence. This chat was to involve some of the largest players in energy corporations operating in the tar sands, “with beer in hand” alongside some of the more compromised and right wing environmental organizations.

That particular meeting was aborted after the leak.

There are other secret meetings as well, ones where you have to sign before hand not to release any information about what is discussed. There– without the input of the multiple indigenous communities and other active community resistance movements that target tar sands on both sides of the colonial border– strategy for the short, middle and long terms are drawn up.

Foundations spring for the event, foundations also “influence” talking points, strategy is laid out and so on. Recently, for example, there was such a meeting held off the coast of British Columbia. People who organize in other areas would likely know many of those who attended. Attendees are all sworn overtly not to speak out about its mere existence.

The coalition is the same invisible Trojan Horse that so many “collaborative model” agreements have come from in the past. Berman is simply the public face of capitalism’s last ditch attempt to save itself. The system needs reinvention as it collapses under strain, and the new class of would be green capitalists seek to emerge out of this crisis like Henry Ford did from the Depression. Exploitation of the working class, continued indigenous colonialism at home, war mongering imperialism, permanently expanding growth economics– all with climate effects being transferred onto the over-exploited majority world– this is all “just the way things are,” because “we don’t have time to try and transform the system,” and so on are invoked in defending a strategy of accommodation to capital.

The reality is it results in defeat; the tar sands are a cornerstone– as is all oil– to a growth economy. Fracking, tar sands, offshore, coal to liquids, mountain top removal and the prize of Utah and Colorado’s oil shale, every last bit of it and more must be opposed. Growth is the problem. Green capitalism is a false promise to unite a growth economy with a healthy atmosphere. It is a lie.

If the economic framework of assigning value to land to be converted to resources for dollars is not challenged, oil will continue. It is not a renegade or rogue industry. It is a perfectly normal, capitalist industry.

Big Energy’s power is a reflection of the centrality of energy, leading to influence. It is a logic completely at peace with accumulation of profit and the dominance of capital. More than “not a rogue industry,” it is the flagship, the pinnacle of industries under late industrial capitalism.

Oil exploitation has existed in every industrial society of the last few centuries; however, like the arms industry, the power nexus of its placement in the over-all economic structure of the West makes it absolutely impossible to decouple a dismantling of the power structure with any hope of weakening some falsely labelled “rogue” industry. We need at minimum to declare no right of any backroom negotiation around tar sands. Nothing can green them, nothing can legitimize discussions. Public or private.

Growth is the elephant in the living room we must confront. We must reject a “green shift” that panders to “have your cake and eat it too” eco-populism, the lefty-green rhetoric of a new green bourgeoisie trying to burst forth.

By making capital sacrosanct (“[F]oundations investing most heavily in the campaign have a vested interest in exercising some control over the process.”), the negotiation process cannot do anything about the situation of capital dominance.

Capital is most dominant in the North American political party system. The pro-Obama language of the “Tar Sands Solutions Network” likely indicates a nod to board member Bill McKibben, whose own Rockefeller funded, pro-Obama organizing in 350.org has become stuck on a hamster wheel chasing the Keystone XL. Simply put, the same PR professional thinking below the border that designed the Democrats’ Moveon.org are now more than likely having influence on crafting part of the over-all trajectory of tar sands big money organizing. Brand Obama sells, but the products are made of oil.

Let us ask: Can choreography win the day? In the excellent article “The Climate Movement’s Pipeline Preoccupation” from last week, four Rising Tide community organizers pointed out:

“[T]he mainstream Keystone XL and Northern Gateway campaigns operate on a flawed assumption that the climate movement can compel our elected leaders to respond to the climate crisis with nothing more than an effective communications strategy.”

The people who would negotiate away the work done in other diverse communities are unseen, unelected, unaccountable and have friendly relations with large corporations for a reason. They are not even a large minority of those organizing in opposition to tar sands and the energy industries, however. Those whose resistance have done the most to create this situation?

Some have warm relations with certain facets of Big Green, but all have organized independent of Big Green structures, built separate movements of their own, evolving community directed demands. Through a process of building, what it is that cannot be negotiated has evolved for every different movement in their own manner. There is not just one movement, and there are just as many different sets of principles.

Impacted indigenous communities are building opposition to Line 9 expansion with allies of theirs from outlying communities; People in Utah & Texas are engaged in creative responses of resistance to proposed tar sands mining or pipeline construction; indigenous territory has been reclaimed and rebuilt blocking all energy pipeline construction: Tar sands oil, fracked gas, none of it is being allowed across Unist’ot’en Territory near the Pacific Ocean coastline. There are other paths being walked.

People can now raise a clear voice in opposition to further moves to negotiate a final agreement that no one has any mandate to work on. We must reject the collaborative model succinctly for the tar sands, whether expressed by pipeline deals or in Alberta and Saskatchewan at the source of developments. The impacts globally from setting a North American tar sands collaborative process in motion could irreparably damage resistance to tar sands in places where it is now just getting off the ground around the world.

The current Big Green structures are undemocratic and cloak and dagger in appearance. The participants are organizations and certain individuals with a history of bad democratic practice and serious pro-corporate sympathies.

There comes a time, as has been said, when silence is betrayal. Let this be known as just such a time. Let us celebrate the existing diversity of the movements in opposition to tar sands and fossil fuels, and that have targeted the immediate, essential need to make clear the impossibility of parceling the land as a solution.

We must make certain solidarity is a true bottom line for those who are seen as allies in the battles over tar sands and climate. Solidarity cannot come from secret conversations with the enemy. Let us speak too, of this reality: Big energy is the enemy. Not bad practices within it, but the energy and growth economy itself.

The equivalent of the Canadian Tea Party crowd has filled newspaper columns with stories to frighten you and I about the power of American money. Much of the foundation-led anti-tar sands cash has been coming from the United States, and as such we are supposed to cringe at the origin. Yet it would not matter if the paper trail led one to the moon– resources in and of themselves are not the issue. Were spending resources to be the issue, big energy companies and the federal government within Canada itself have vastly outspent the foundations on both sides of the 49th parallel, promoting unfettered tar sands. The problem is the distortion of active resistance, and the hi-jacking of a public process.

These are battles that determine whether or not we can make a grim situation survivable. Capital has caused this near calamity, we surely need to stop trying to save it from itself any longer. Capital has also polluted our own thinking– and actions– from within. We must reinvigorate a democratic environmental movement through a refutation of back room deals– and organize active resistance to those who would try and negotiate one.

 

[Macdonald Stainsby is an anti-tar sands and social justice activist, freelance writer and professional hitchhiker looking for a ride to the better world, currently based in Vancouver, Canada. He can be reached at mstainsby@resist.ca]

 

The Problem With Bill McKibben and John Kerry

obama2ObamaBranding

Decisive Indecision

Counterpunch

Sept 3, 2013

by Macdonald Stainsby

Ah, so the Obama administration announced yet another delay in the Keystone XL pipeline review. And what a brilliant decision is this non-decision. If you have been opposed to climate change, tar sands or the oil and gas industry and live in the United States, you now know– thanks to Obama and Bill McKibben– what you are supposed to do for the next minimum several months. Isn’t it wonderful to have strategy handed to you by the US administration, and your so-called leaders?

I hope that I don’t date myself too harshly by referencing Peanuts right off the bat. Hopefully you recall the famous comic strips featuring Snoopy, Linus and the gang. There was that famous routine where Lucy, who had lied and lied many times before on the same promise, would swear to Charlie Brown that if he attempted to kick a football that she was holding, she would not pull it away– despite the fact she had done exactly that countless times before.

Of course, the joke is that we all know Lucy will pull the ball away, and Charlie will miss, falling on his rear after sailing through the air having just whiffed on kicking the ball. His injury, for us apparently, is part of the humour. He gets up, dusts himself off and we all well know it will happen again soon enough.

What we don’t know, since the ball never gets kicked, is if Charlie Brown can actually boot a football in any meaningful sense. Can he get it very far, will it be an effective kick? Since Charlie Brown has never kicked the ball it can’t be said he has failed. The anticipation of what may happen, should he get to kick the damn thing, keeps him coming back. Lucy has him right where she wants him.

A Tar Sands Partnership Agreement in the Making?

By Macdonald Stainsby
Canadian Dimension
August 1st 2011

 

Campaigns against tar sands production have grown rapidly over the last four years. From the relative obscurity in Alberta to an international lightning rod for people trying to address all manner of concerns from indigenous and community self-determination to peak oil and climate change – criticisms of the largest industrial project in human history have gained a major voice.

The voices are certainly not homogenous, but a large contingent of these voices call for a shut down of tar sands production and a move away from fossil fuels – if not an outright move away from market-led growth of any sort. But, in the language of the environmental elite, what are the “decision makers” preparing to do with all this anti-tar sands resistance?

While there are still small scale, community led victories against certain developments – like the defeat of the recent Prosperity Mine proposal in British Columbia – I contend that mainstream environmentalism has effectively become a means by which corporations (who used to be anathema to environmentalists) now get the social license necessary to operate. There are obvious examples such as the World Wildlife Fund running commercials with Coca-Cola. But the real social management is done out of sight, and involves some of the most important players in the circles of the North American ruling class.

Co-opting Environmentalism

In the United States, major foundations – led at the time by the Sunoco-oil founded and controlled Pew Charitable Trusts – stopped fighting against environmentalism and sought instead to co-opt it and make it a “partner.” This model expanded over the next couple of decades until it slowly began to creep north of the border into Canada. Now this same technique dominates the Canadian enviro landscape as well, in some cases with a new twist. The Canadian Boreal Initiative [CBI] – a champion of “working with industry to find common solutions” – is not even an organization, but receives their money from Ducks Unlimited Canada who receive theirs from Ducks Unlimited in the United States. All of this funding originates with the Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia. The Pew Foundation was started with a multi-billion dollar grant from Sunoco and today their board of directors is more than 50 percent tied to Sunoco, either through the Pew family or executive work with the oil giant. This same Pew gives funding to other well-known policy right-wing hawkish think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

The CBI spearheads something they call “the Boreal Conservation Framework,” a plan to protect at least half the Boreal Forest. Fact: far, far less than half the boreal forest has been developed or is slated for development. This “initiative” partners openly with corporations such as Suncor, Nexen and several leading forestry corporations. The CBI, funded and directed by the Pew, also signs on to their framework the International Boreal Conservation Campaign – another Pew front group in the US. Along with corporate friendly organizations like the WWF, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservancy and of course, Ducks Unlimited are a smattering of First Nations governments. Also among their signatories are the Tides Foundation and the Ivey Foundation.

With this behind them, the CBI then “negotiates” what the final deal of a particular industry should look like. Guaranteed at the outset is that corporations will continue operations, and that the general public is out of the loop right up until the moment the “deal” is announced.

Many other foundations – most but not all American – now play the same game of social manipulation in the environmental field. Foundations such as Rockefeller Brothers, Ford and Hewlett have not only entered into the fray in a major way, in the case of the tar sands campaigns, they have collaborated with the Pew to take social manipulation to a new level. The aforementioned Tides Foundation was set up as a sort of clearing house for other philanthropists and foundations, for many years receiving the overwhelming bulk of their money through the Pew. Today, other groups and foundations give them money and earmark where they want it spent. Tides exercises total control over something you are not supposed to hear about: The North American Tar Sands Coalition.

The Tides and the North American Tar Sands Coalition

The routine is fairly straightforward. After a long stretch when grassroots and community led struggles build up support using a multitude of strategies – from direct action blockades to boycott campaigns and speak outs, demonstrations and more – suddenly many of the organizers who started the campaign are shuffled aside. Professionals are either appointed within the ranks or are imported from outside and all are given foundation-led salaries. With or without public knowledge (almost always without) a “stakeholder” negotiation is undertaken between corporations, government and the new “professional” environmentalists will take place. The terms of the negotiations do not reach the public until a smiling photo-op of the “stakeholders” appears at a press conference to announce an “end” to a particular “campaign” now called a “win-win.” Details will vary, but they always include three things: A promise to stop organizing against a particular industry, market-based incentives that would lead to “change practices” and a guarantee for that industry to be allowed to develop, now unhindered. Such a process is slowly being constructed for tar sands production in Canada.

As if on cue, once the multitude of forces against tar sands development began to crack into both national and international media the large foundations appeared in the background. In this particular case, they had set up a spider’s web of control from the getgo. All the usual foundations – Pew Charitable Trusts, Hewlett, Rockefeller Brothers, Ford Foundation – now use the Tides Foundation as a singular source to centralize control over the would be recipients of funding.

By funnelling all money through the Tides Foundation all organizations and movements that approach any of these sources can be directed to only one source – the Tides Foundation and their “North American Tar Sands Coalition.” The NATSC is headed by one Michael Marx. While they also have “Canadian” and “American” campaign leaders, Marx has near total authority to forge the funding decisions, policy directions, media strategy and over-all focus of how the “coalition” will operate. Who then, is Michael Marx?

Marx is known as a “corporate responsibility” campaigner. Previously working with Forest Ethics and now, along side his control over the tar sands campaign, he is a head of Corporate Ethics International. His own personal bio celebrates that he has previously helped “green” Wal-Mart, one of the largest and most labour exploitative corporations in the world. He does not believe that the tar sands can or should be shut down, and is shaping political messaging to that end. The list of ENGO’s that are funded by Michael Marx’s NATSC is long, but to list merely the largest of the Canadian ones that have been with them from the beginning of the “invisible to the outside” coalition: The Pembina Institute, Environmental Defense Canada, ForestEthics, World Wildlife Fund (Canada), The Sierra Club of Canada (and associated regional chapters), Eco Justice and the Canadian Boreal Intiative. Perhaps most important to note is that the coalition also involves Greenpeace Canada – important because historically GPC did not take foundation funding but has now been listed for several grants from Tides Canada for this work.

There are also many regional only organizations – working on regional only campaigns, such as to ostensibly stop the Enbridge Gateway Pipeline across arts of unceded first nations territory in northern British Columbia. These groups involve Living Oceans society, The David Suzuki Foundation, west Coast Environmental Law and the Dogwood Initiative with a host of community led groups. These regional grants are controlled by Canadian understudy to Michael Marx, Jennifer Lash.

Since the highly criticized deal called the “Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement” was signed in 2010 between what was called nine environmental NGOs and 21 forestry companies, Tides has started muttering in public as their own voice – calling for the “bridging of the two camps” of environmentalists and energy companies over the tar sands. No first nations have been mentioned in their pronouncements. Nonetheless, in Europe they have moved in to steer the direction of anti-tar sands campaigning. Marx himself showed up recently in the UK, speaking out on campaigns to “stop tar sands expansion” in ads paid for by Corporate Ethics International. These same ads have appeared in Alberta; Marx himself lives in San Francisco.

Astro-turfing is a term often applied to various Republican or Tea Party ventures in the United States, ones where money and slick marketing are used to build an appearance of a grassroots network where, in fact, none truly exists. While there most certainly is such a grassroots network against the tar sands – and it is expanding globally – the astro-turfing of “demands” to go into the backroom negotiations is tailored to appear genuine. The manner it is done is to put forward a vague and almost completely uncontroversial call and ask people to sign on to some declaration.

As of late that has appeared to be towards the blight of the toxic tailings ponds littering the landscape by the vast open-pit mines. In recent months as well, Suncor (the original tar sands corporation, former property of Sunoco oil and largest energy company in Canada) announced they had developed “dry tailings technology” and that they planned over time to roll out and implement it. Considering that Suncor is openly partnered with the Canadian Boreal Initiative, it seems strangely convenient that the astroturfing campaign is now targeting tailings ponds – shortly after many of the more corporate environmental organizations and the largest players among tar sands operators were caught – trying to have a private, unreported meeting together.

The first attempt at such a meeting, last April, was spearheaded by the Pembina Institute. The Pembina is employed as consultants for Nexen, Suncor, TD Financial and many other industrial corporations and has partnered with the original tar sands giant Suncor Energy since 1982. That meeting was to be a “fireside chat” but it was cancelled when people got wind of it and it appeared first on the mediacoop.ca and later on in the Globe and Mail. Today, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Tides Foundation and others are calling for “dialogue.”

What Would a Tar Sands Partnership Agreement Look Like?

Based on the market trajectory of the Marx-led team, it will involve beyond promises on water and tailings – including carbon offsets, promised investments in “green” energy technology alongside perhaps some announcement on further research into carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

Based on all previous deals in Canada and the United States, such a framework could only be announced as the “end to the war over tar sands” – to effectively give social license to tar sands operations permanently. This would then eliminate Tides based on all previous deals in Canada and the United States, such a framework could only be announced as the “end to the war over tar sands” – to effectively give social license to tar sands operations permanently. This would then eliminate Tides based anti-tar sands funding for all organizations in the NATSC. Certain groups such as Greenpeace, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Rainforest Action Network as well as several community initiatives have official positions to end tar sands development. The Pembina Institute, CBI, Tides, David Suzuki Foundation, Sierra Club, and near the totality of ENGO’s who receive NATSC funding in the United States do not call for the cessation of tar sands development, but mitigation of the “worst” impacts.

The breathtaking pace and size of tar sands development in Canada has not gone unnoticed to other would-be producers; many countries around the planet have deposits of bitumen that would require much the same technology. Those investors have been visiting Canada, learning, and heading elsewhere where bitumen beckons. A partial list of locations that are now threatened with tar sands extraction includes Trinidad and Tobago, The Republic of Congo, Madagascar, the US state of Utah, China, Russia and Jordan. There is also the country that may have even larger deposits than Canada – the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

With the exception of Venezuela, whose production is still but a fraction of Canada’s, none of these countries have gone into commercial production at this point. It will be nearly impossible to stop tar sands developments in Africa, Latin America Asia and elsewhere if all of our collective work in opposition to the development of tar sands is sacrificed to a “partnership deal” that allows for continued tar sands extraction. Corporations like France’s Total in Madagascar could then argue: “If this development is clean and responsible enough for Canada, why not so for Madagascar?” Such a dynamic must be avoided at all costs on many levels, not least of which is the remaining sliver of hope that the worst effects of climate change can be avoided, rather than simply managed or mitigated.

Climate justice organizing is, in part, an attempt to go beyond the counting of C02 emissions and to get to the heart of solutions to the climate crisis – solutions that involve the end of oppression of the communities that bear the brunt of the climate crisis, and do so in ways that respects their self-determination. Addressing the needs of these communities as they speak for the solutions they want cannot be a part of a backroom, anti-democratic model of development pushed forward with money from the very industries trying to eliminate them from history. It will take a global effort to hear and then amplify the voices – from Africa to Asia, and north to south in the Americas. None of these voices can be heard if someone closes a door to hold secret meetings with the financial powers whose assets already scream so loudly – as we edge ever closer to a point of no return.

MacDonald Stainsby is a social justice activist and journalist currently living in Edmonton and is the coordinator of http://oilsandstruth.org.

http://ecosocialismcanada.blogspot.com/2011/08/tar-sands-partnership-agreement-in.html

http://canadiandimension.com/

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