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Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 2]

Wrong Kind of Green

December 6, 2016

by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

Part two.

 

“In crushing detail and shining a floodlight on the history of the co-optation of Indigenous struggles since the pivotal year of 2010, Cory Morningstar has put together this series to give deep context to the events at and around Standing Rock. Most vitally, this series contrasts the tiny amounts of money spent at the grassroots against the vast sums spent at the ‘business’ end of the non-profit industrial complex where personal data helps behavior-change B-corporation executives exercise the will of corporate philanthropists, corporations, and imperialist governments.

In this “age of peak spectacle” Morningstar and Forrest Palmer present the invisiblization of crude-via-rail and the manipulations of Warren Buffett and his BNSF empire while showing that not all water is treated as precious, not all pipelines get scrutiny, and not all Indigenous land needs to be treated as sacred if it doesn’t serve the interests of the non-profit industrial complex and those brands that maximize profits through Dave Matthews concerts. You will find stunning passages of clarity in each of part of this series which includes indispensable details of political context and networked hegemony for any true fireball activist.” — Activist Michael Swifte

 

Religion Meets Extinction (“Last Chance”) Tourism 

Last Chance Green Road Sign Over Clouds and Sky.

Last Chance Green Road Sign Over Clouds and Sky

 

October 24, 2016, from the article Planning to Travel to Standing Rock? Now Is The Time published on the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale:

 “‘The entire training experience was so insightful, not just as I looked into myself, but also tried to understand things from the eyes of the oppressor,’ Lopez said… Thanks to this training, I realized that when engaging in non-violent direct action, I can go straight to prayer. This reminded me of who I am, and what I am here for. I remembered that prayer, peace, and love can take us farther than anything.”

November 25, 2016 from the article People are treating the DAPL protest like Burning Man, Standing Rock has reportedly been overrun with white demonstrators trying to soak up the ‘cultural experience’:

“The concerns have been raised by protestors in a series of tweets and Facebook posts. According to them, people have turned up to the Standing Rock demonstration to soak up the ‘cultural experience’, and are treating the camp like it is ‘Burning Man’ festival or ‘The Rainbow Gathering’….  ‘I even witnessed several wandering in and out of camps comparing it to festivals. Waiting with big smiles expectantly for us to give them a necklace or an ‘indian’ name while our camp leader was speaking… The situation has reportedly got so bad that an open letter detailing the camp’s ground rules has started trending on Twitter. Responding to the new influx of support, it reminds demonstrators that the camp is ‘not a vacation.'”

The Saviours: 350.org

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350.org website

“The international environmental movement soon took notice, including, 350.org, an environmentalist group that helped defeat the Keystone XL pipeline. In July, the group sent a delegation to the Sacred Stone Camp to see how they could help. In many ways, the Dakota Access pipeline drew its inspiration from the fight to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, according to organizers from 350 and other environmental groups. ‘We didn’t have to totally reinvent the wheel,’ said Josh Nelson of Credo, a progressive advocacy group.” — From prairie to the White House: Inside a Tribe’s quest to stop a pipeline, September 26, 2016

On cue, standing in the shadows until the campaign becomes so colossal it is somewhat safe from accusations of co-optation, 350 corrals Standing Rock supporters to bring the various individuals and groups back into the fold of the NPIC.  Sign the petition: Tell President Obama to stop the Dakota Access pipeline – sign the petition now. (At the time of this writing their live petition progress was: 105,336 signatures.)  Few (if any) stop and question who exactly benefits from personal information divulged to NGOs for their many campaigns. This information is shared with “allies” such as Unilever, Ceres, The B Team, Avaaz, Purpose, etc. etc.:

“We may share your name and/or email address with trusted organizations that share our mission to solve the climate crisis. These organizations include the 350.org Action Fund (350.org’s affiliate organization) and partner organizations that may be organizing climate action events in your area. We will not share your information with any individual or organization who is not engaged in furthering the success of 350.org… In an ongoing effort to accomplish our mission and understand Web Site visitors better, 350.org may conduct research on its visitor’s demographics and interests based on the Personal Information and other information provided to us. This research may be compiled and analyzed on an aggregate basis, and 350.org may share this aggregate information with its affiliates and allies. 350.org may also disclose aggregated visitor statistics in order to describe the size, scope, and demographics of its network.”

To be clear, 350.org and its partner NGOs are STRONG ALLIES of corporations that have redefined their goals to fall under the faux banner of “sustainable capitalism” and behavioural change agents such as Avaaz and Purpose. This data is of tremendous value to those whose expertise is behavioural change – the modification of whole societies to conform to the wishes and desires of the elite classes.

“We’ve been talking in a broader way about the future of consumer activism, of organizing people not as citizens but as consumers.” — Jeremy Heimans, Avaaz/Purpose, 2011

The Continued DeKlein of the Postmodern Imperial-Liberal Left

Lending credence to George Orwell’s “doublespeak”: “first they steal the words, then they steal the meaning” doublespeak today functions in tandem with ever evolving holistic linguistics crafted by 21st century Euro-American anthropocentrists amidst a thriving networked hegemony. The word “radical”, Latin meaning radix “root”, going to the origin, has been turned on its head. Radical has been made into a word equated with terrorists. Radical has been employed by McKibben to describe Exxon CEOs and their ilk.

Marketed and branded opposition to capitalism by 350’s Naomi Klein et al is not opposition to dismantle capitalism in its entirety as is required (a concept unapologetically outlined by the unwavering Stephanie MacMillan), rather, the “opposition” is limited to specific forms of capitalism identified and categorized by our 21st century thought-leaders. “Crony capitalism” , “corporate capitalism” and “the excesses of capitalism” (terms used by Avi Lewis for Klein’s NGO campaign, “The Leap Manifesto”) comprise the framework for capitalism as a whole in an attempt to make it wholly acceptable. Simultaneously, the national and global “clean energy” campaigns thrust into the public domain by these same institutions and individuals who claim to oppose “corporate capitalism” in reality guarantee the expansion of capitalism. Critical discussion on imperialism has been wholly replaced with “extractivism”. Anti-capitalist expression has become hollowed rhetoric made vogue for social media metrics dispersed by those of privilege by elite foundations via their pet NGOs.

“… the higher up the media chain where Naomi Klein speaks, the farther she detaches herself from any critique of capitalism as being the root cause of the global warming emergency. In fact, notwithstanding the subtitle — “Capitalism Vs. The Climate” — of her 2014 best-selling book, there is very little hard, anti-capitalist critique in her writings and speeches. That is also true of the many uncritical published reviews of the book and of the [Leap]manifesto itself. — Taking forward the political vision that inspires the Leap Manifesto, October 14, 2016

In similar fashion, Avi Lewis (Klein’s husband and son of pro-interventionist Stephen Lewis), submits that “the heart of the problem with capitalism is the variant he calls ‘extractivism’. Lewis considers ‘extractivism’ to be a distinct phase and element of the capitalist system, explaining that capitalism and extractivism emerged in parallel at the outset of the industrial revolution. He calls the surge of human economic pillaging emanating from Europe in the early stages of mercantile expansion ‘extractivism’ and ‘colonialism'” and explains that “these were then “turbocharged” by “industrialism.” [Source]

Black revolutionary Omali Yeshitela succinctly explains how capitalism is in fact imperialism developed to its highest stage. Yeshitela explains capitalism as a product of imperialism – not vice-versa. Both Lewis and Klein avoid making any connection between imperialism and capitalism. Consider the word imperialism receives one mention in Klein’s 505 page book about climate change and capitalism.[1]  This must be considered a creative re-framing of history by our “thought leaders” thus it is worth asking why such a glaring omission exists while the term “extractivism” is concurrently pounded into our psyche. The reality is simple. The global “clean” energy structure Klein campaigns for (at the bequest of her many funders) is dependent upon and impossible without both the expansion and acceleration of imperialism. This is indisputable. Those very Indigenous Nations Klein, et al, profess to support – are the very Indigenous nations that will be impacted in the future. The very same Indigenous nations being impacted now. Like the gross undermining of Indigenous nations at COP15 in Copenhagen. Like the gross undermining and marginalization of the Indigenous led 2010 Peoples Agreement drafted in Bolivia at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth that ultimately was deliberately made invisible by NGOs who comprise the NPIC. These were ultimately replaced with Manifestos espousing western, white and empirical values such as Klein’s Leap.

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In the documentary video produced by Avi Lewis for Al Jazeera English (uploaded  May 20, 2010) Lewis devotes significant film footage to the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (35,000 participants from 142 countries) hosted by Bolivia. More than two thirds of the Bolivian population has Indigenous origin giving Bolivia the largest proportion of indigenous people in Latin America. The film contains great footage of commentary by both the late revolutionary Hugo Chavez and Indigenous President Evo Morales. In this footage Lewis focuses  on extraction while ignoring the global economic capitalist system and the 1% it serves who create 50% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. He notes that 80% of Bolivia’s extraction is exports that drive the extraction. Lewis observes “it’s no surprise that in climate negotiations Bolivia is emerging as a leader among developing countries advancing radical proposals and analysis that’s making rich countries distinctly nervous.”

“In Bolivia we like to dream. And we like to dream so much that we have the first Indigenous president. We love to dream. We love to dream so we have fifty percent of women that are ministers now. We love to dream so much that we have a new constitution now that has more rights than even the United Nations. So is it worth dreaming? It is absolutely worth dreaming.” — Angelica Navarro, Bolivian Climate Negotiator, 2010

boliviacochabambapeoplesclimatechangeconference

Bolivia’s progressive positions also made rich elites distinctly nervous. By the following year (2011), Klein had joined the board of Rockefeller’s 350.org. Providing critical discourse by way of the single most radical declaration to ever be recognized by the United Nations (thanks only to the efforts of the Bolivian state), a divestment campaign designed by both McKibben, Klein, as well as 350.org and it’s “friends on Wall Street”, would soon be global in scale in partnering with such entities as the United Nations and The Guardian. By 2015, with the Indigenous led “People’s Agreement” (which Klein and Lewis both participated/attended) now completely and utterly buried by the NPIC, Klein would introduce her own “Leap Manifesto” to the world.[2] Omali Yeshitela  sums up Klein, et al’s actions best: “Today’s white left is also locked into a worldview that places the location of Europeans in the world as the center of the universe. It always has.”  Meaning that no matter how progressive and radical the thought processes, concepts, ideologies, and proposals that Indigenous Nations or non-Anglos propose – we whites can do it better. We are smarter. We are superior.

“The climate summit that just wrapped up in Cochabamba was the polar opposite of Copenhagen, not only because it occurred literally on the other side of the world. Instead of being led by the most powerful people of the world, it was led by those at the margins: the poor countries, indigenous peoples, and social movements.” – The Cochabamba AccordAn Alternative to Copenhagen’s Failure, June 28, 2010

It is vital to watch the following video “World People’s Conference on Climate Change Part 2”  which highlights praise for the Indigenous led People’s Agreement, by climate change “leaders” from Nnimo Bassey (Friends of the Earth), Klein, and Maude Barlow (Council of Canadians)  all who possess a far reach and all of whom allowed the agreement to be buried. Here it must be noted that a mere five years later, many of these same “leaders” would flock to endorse, highlight and campaign on Klein’s Leap manifesto (including Maude Barlow).

At the end of the above video Morales is filmed speaking to the people: “Now our job is to convince, persuade and explain. And if they do not listen to us, we will have to organize and gain power through our social movements around the world, to focus the developed countries to respect the conclusions made by the worlds social movements. Homeland or death! Long live the first worlds social movement gathering for the rights of Mother Earth!”

“When Morales invited “social movements and Mother Earth’s defenders…scientists, academics, lawyers and governments” to come to Cochabamba for a new kind of climate summit, it was a revolt against this experience of helplessness, an attempt to build a base of power behind the right to survive.” – Naomi Klein, April 22, 2010

peoples-climate-march-2

But the First World’s social movement gathering for the rights of Mother Earth would not live. Bolivia’s “attempt to build a base of power behind the right to survive” would be dismantled via deliberate marginalization. Akin to Jeremy’s Hemans, co-founder of Avaaz/Purpose who concluded “progressive” capitalists would have to  “kill green” in order to save it – this radical blueprint for a global transformation of economics and superior ideologies, would also have to be killed in order to save capitalism. This would be accomplished using empire’s most potent weapon: the NGOs that comprise the NPIC. Adding salt to the wounds, tiny land-locked Bolivia, one the poorest nations in Latin America (in a monetary sense only), paid for the flights of many privileged North American NGO “activists” to attend.

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Participants sit in bleachers at the packed World People’s Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth’s Rights, Photo by The City Project

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Naomi Klein (right) with Council of Canadians’ Maude Barlow at the Leap Manifesto launch.

Between 2010 and 2015, Bolivia, under the Morales government, went from an emerging global climate leader (2009-2010) to being cast as a demonized as “extractivist” state. Throngs of articles regarding “extractivisim” (written by the 1% creating 50% of the global greenhouse gas emissions being anyone who can afford to get on a plane) would paint Morales as a hypocrite. Bolivia as a model for climate change was thrown in the trash bin. Mission accomplished. [Further reading on how anti-imperial governments of vulnerable states must work within the confines of existing structures/systems inherited from capitalists or western puppets: FUNDACIÓN PACHAMAMA IS DEAD – LONG LIVE ALBA | PART III]

Land-locked Bolivia stands on the front lines with Indigenous Nations as those that feel the deepest impacts of climate change and ecological collapse as the world turns a blind eye. Bolivia’s Chacaltaya glacier (home to the highest ski lift in the world at 5,421m)retreated and disappeared in 2009, six years earlier than predicted by scientists. In 2009, the World Bank warned of the disappearance of many glaciers in the tropical Andes within the next 20 years. These glaciers provide fresh water for nearly 80 million people in the region. Lake Poopó, once Bolivia’s second-largest lake, was officially declared evaporated in December 2015. With it, biologists report the disappearance of 75 species of birds and the displacement of hundreds of locals. [Source] This month, Bolivia has issued a state of emergency due to drought. Like vultures, imperial forces have seized this opportunity in an attempt to create civil panic and strife (for possible and continually sought destabilization).

In summary, Indigenous president Evo Morales would be demonized for extractivism by the very people attending the climate conferences, individuals possessing first world privilege, and those entitities that drove (and continue to drive) extractivism.  Bolivia would present alternate proposals to REDD/UN-REDD (The United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) and lead the fight by Indigenous nations worldwide, while simultaneously, the NGOs and the NPIC establishment ensured it would not succeed.

NGOs are accomplices of the elite power structures. The postmodern NPIC today serves as the key instrument for the furthering of both colonization and imperialism in the 21st century.  The non-profit industrial complex cannot be reformed – it must be abolished.

Further dystopian framing is in full display – to an audience blinded by rose-tinted glasses. Guerrilla rebel/freedom fighter revolutionary Jose Mujica must be considered perhaps the single best example of selflessness and environmental stewardship (in exchange for the pursuit of knowledge) for aspiration by all global citizens. Yet, empire has instead manufactured actor Leo Dicaprio – one of the planets most self-indulgent egoists to ever walk the earth – to serve as the hero for climate change and environment (and incidentally divestment). In an age of peak spectacle combined with savoir-faire social engineering – the masses applaud.

In Klein’s April 22, 2010 article “A New Climate Movement in Bolivia” (written while participating in the conference) she writes: “In Copenhagen, leaders of endangered nations like Bolivia and Tuvalu argued passionately for the kind of deep emissions cuts that could avert catastrophe. They were politely told that the political will in the North just wasn’t there. More than that, the United States made clear that it didn’t need small countries like Bolivia to be part of a climate solution. Yet Bolivia’s enthusiastic commitment to participatory democracy may well prove the summit’s most important contribution.”

Yet the following year, in 2011, Klein would join the board of 350.org. This was a major reversal on her part since 350.org is one of the key NGOs that undermined Bolivia’s and the G77’s proposed deep emissions and radical targets. This was accomplished via the Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA ) umbrella it founded (with 19 other NGOs – most famous for the TckTckTck campaign) that dominated both the Copenhagen climate conference and the collective Euro-American psyche. To further illustrate Klein’s support of empire even outside the realm of environmentalism, additional irony arises by her support of Canadian MP Nathan Cullen, who voted in support of NATO’s intervention in the sovereign nation of Libya also in 2011. This regime-change invasion would destroy a prosperous Libya – a country were the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya upheld a national direct democracy movement. This slaughter resulted in over 500,000 dead, 30,000 in terrorist-run prisons, 2.5 million exiled, tens of thousands of refugees and horrific ethnic cleansing and lynching of black Libyans and migrant workers.

“But you won’t find Naomi Klein writing the Libyan chapter of the ‘shock doctrine’ (Gulf News, 26/10/2011)–Naomi Klein was too busy throwing her support behind a Canadian politician, Nathan Cullen, who voted in support of NATO’s intervention in Libya, with little regret.” – Author Maximilian Forte, February 19, 2013,  Counterpunch

Further, when 4 simple questions were put forward to Klein (via twitter) challenging her silence on 350.org partner Avaaz campaigning for No Fly Zones on Libya (followed by Syria), and 350.org’s undermining of Indigenous Nations in both Copenhagen and Bolivia, Klein’s only response was to immediately block.

This clearly demonstrates a terrifying observation that has became more and more apparent over the past few years following the Bolivian conference held in the tiny town of Cochabamba. No has acknowledged it, let alone discussed it. The observation is clear: the NPIC has full control of the “grass roots movements’. When those who comprise the NPIC (including designated/appointed thought leaders deemed acceptable by the establishment) stopped momentum for the Indigenous led People’s Agreement – it all stopped. The whole world went silent.

Indeed while the NPIC continues to shove the illusion of a third industrial revolution that intends to be global in scale, into the collective consciousness, Indigenous Nations around the world are already fighting industrial solar and wind projects, land acquisition disputes and a host of other clashes (mining conflicts, eco-tourism, REDD, etc. etc.) that come with the “new economy”. Yet, the NGOs continue, un-phased, unabated. They do not bat a proverbial eyelash. Here and there, multi-million dollar certification schemes are introduced to ensure business as usual – the worst of humanity, the unfathomable, made a little more friendly/bearable with a green rubber stamp to mollify guilt. With the postmodern imperial liberal left, solidarity is not a given. Solidarity is extended only when and if it is of benefit to the NGOs (branding) or their benefactors (strategy). NGOs are not allies. NGOs are tentacles of power under the guise of friendship. NGOs are friendly fire.

Stephen Lewis (father of Avi Lewis) has suggested that the Canadian New Democrat Party (NDP) could gain support (votes) by using The Leap Manifesto as a means of embedding itself and utilizing momentum created by popular movements (which time and again have become quickly co-opted): “And when you consider the social movements in this country … Idle No More, Occupy, Black Lives Matter … there is a ground swell with which we can amalgamate to make our presence dramatically felt in the next campaign.” [Source]

Perhaps the best example of “Indigenous solidarity” demonstrated by NGOs is a very recent Canadian “victory” on a tar sands deal spearheaded by Leap author and initial signatory, Tzeporah Berman. Due to her machinations and scheming, the Alberta tar sands industry will be allowed to further emit up to 100 megatonnes (from the current 70 megatonnes) of GHG emissions under the guise of victory. Berman, who works hand in hand with We Mean Business (350.org divestment partner Ceres, The B Team, Carbon Tracker, etc.), Suncor and other corporate entities will continue to enjoy luxurious lifestyles (on stolen native land) while the Indigenous nations downstream will continue to suffer the worst impacts.

 

Any vestiges of a legitimate movement belonging wholly to citizens – completely outside and independent in all forms from the NPIC, are gone. There is absolutely no hope for legitimate revolution rising from the liberal class. This class is now wholly indoctrinated.

The only hope that remains lies with the working class and Indigenous nations. Thus, it should be of no surprise that we now witness a new level of co-optation, in essence a national pacification experiment, being carried out via the Standing Rock campaign in North Dakota.

 

End Notes:

[1] “Extractivism is also directly connected to the notion of sacrifice zones—places that, to their extractors, somehow don’t count and therefore can be poisoned, drained, or otherwise destroyed, for the supposed greater good of economic progress. This toxic idea has always been intimately tied to imperialism, with disposable peripheries being harnessed to feed a glittering center, and it is bound up too with notions of racial superiority, because in order to have sacrifice zones, you need to have people and cultures who count so little that they are considered deserving of sacrifice. Extractivism ran rampant under colonialism because relating to the world as a frontier of conquest—rather than as home—fosters this

particular brand of irresponsibility. The colonial mind nurtures the belief that there is always somewhere else to go to and exploit once the current site of extraction has been exhausted.”  (p. 148)

[2] The problem begins when more radical environmental thinkers and activists, including would-be Marxists, choose not to rock the Leap Manifesto consensus. They opt to limit their vision to the limited outlook of Klein, Lewis and the proposals in the Leap Manifesto. [Source]

 

Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation, and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can follow her on twitter @elleprovocateur]

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

 

Further Reading:

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 1]

350: Agent Saboteur

McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part XIII of an Investigative Report] [The Increasing Vogue for Capitalist-Friendly Climate Discourse]

Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA [Part VII of an Investigative Report]

This Changes Nothing. Why the People’s Climate March Guarantees Climate Catastrophe

The Collaborative Model Takes Root in Alberta’s Tar Sands

Pictured above (May, 2015) is Tzeporah Berman (first row, third from right). Berman is one of many who contributed to the text of the “Leap Manifesto”, an initiative founded by Naomi Klein‘s “This Changes Everything” project. It is critical to note the almost non-existence of non-anglos in positions of power and decision making (with the exception being photo ops) within the foundation financed “movements”. This institutionalized racism has become so normalized that it goes almost unnoticed unless it is pointed out (as in this instance). The one exception is the only group of people that the state still fears – that of Indigenous peoples. The undermining of Indigenous people by the non-profit industrial complex (350.org, etc.) is well documented. The 2009 COP15 and the 2010 People’s Agreement in Cochabamba, Bolivia, are just two examples of Indigenous undermining, so egregious, that they could easily be considered crimes against humanity.

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A friend sent me an email note two days ago, with the intro line “The NGO’s finally did it!” which caused a moment of terrorized confusion. I didn’t realize it would relate to this, but for the first time ever last November, the province of Alberta has instituted a potential cap on tar sands development. However, this is not the achievement my colleague was referencing. It was more a statement of alarm than laudatory glee.

The cap was alongside several other notable achievements, such as a fairly rapid phasing out of coal (that currently supplies the bulk of the electrical grid across the province) and several economic measures, such as a carbon tax that scares the Ezras right out of your average Levant. All of these things and more were rushed and cobbled together in the short time since Notley took office. Timing was clearly a factor in order to take these proposals to Paris as a triumphal delegation to the UN Climate talks. In the short term, many of these things may seem very hopeful. But it has also been leaked that there was another part of how the tar sands portions of the plan were drawn up.

There were secret talks that involved some of the perhaps expected Big Green players (ForestEthics, Environmental Defense, Equiterre and the Pembina Institute) meeting with Big Oil. The reason it was leaked? Some oil companies are upset that the other oil companies negotiated without them. Small world, I guess.

Wait a minute, everybody.

Are we not noticing something far more troubling than previous backroom negotiated deals? This time around the deal was not to be public at all. Ever. It stands to good reason that since this one was not to be released specifically, perhaps there are others as well.

The corporations involved are among the biggest players in all of the tar sands: Suncor, Cenovus, CNRL and Shell Canada. Suncor is the largest Canadian energy company and has been a major backer of (among other green groups) the Pembina Institute for many years. Shell, always trying to play the greenwash game, has been targeted by Greenpeace direct actions in the past, yet collaborates with the WWF elsewhere, and hired James Hoggan as a consultant, despite (or rather, because of) his leading role with the David Suzuki Foundation.

As far as those groups and individuals who were previously embarrassed by leaks over potential tar sands “fireside chats” and politically eviscerated over concerns about the now-defunct Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement announcement, rather than learn a lesson to not engage in backroom talks they have instead learned to not tell the public at all.

The Alberta NDP, in a slight twist to the usual narrative, claimed the bulk of the credit (“the win”) at the presser– but the Orange Crush still had no fizzle and were a non-entity on the margins of Alberta’s political landscape when the bulk of these discussions took place.

The head of Shell Canada, president Lorraine Mitchelmore, sheds some serious light on how these talks happened, both in what she says and in what she clearly does not: Interviewed in Macleans (Canada) Magazine, she was asked by Jason Markusoff:

Q: It’s been reported that this work started quite a while ago, with dinners between environmentalists and energy executives. Who was there?

A: I don’t want to say who was there. I want to say that it was some members of industry, and it was some members of the environmental groups, and it was really progressive members in both camps […]

Even after the public realization that the “change in narrative” has been a backroom exercise, she dutifully plays well with others in the corporate sandbox and maintains the Greens anonymity (as best she can), but she does let us realize Big Oil and Big Green began these talks multiple years ago, as “[t]his was happening long before Keystone, so [she] wouldn’t put Keystone as the catalyst for this,” but it has the effect of reducing grassroots activist visibility– and that, too, is the point. When asked what would have happened without this deal?

“Continued conflict. It was going nowhere. What was it going to achieve for Canada, continued conflict? I think that us being on the stage was something that was symbolic for Canadians. I believe that collaboration is something that Canadians do well.”

Leaving aside how “Canadian” it is, collaboration agreements are an expanding, growing industry that is learning from past mistakes. Without collaborative models, there would indeed be far more resistance (“conflict”), more visible community led actions, and a primacy placed on grassroots organizing.

So we now know the lessons learned for energy corporations and for Big Green are essentially the same when it comes to pointed questions about said discussions, fireside beer chats and long table dinners between well-paid foundation-directed environmentalists and oil company executives.

Tired of the backlash from anti-democratic deals being announced? Stop announcing them, but simply cut them in a way that makes the funders happy and let someone else announce an entirely separate result.

Then, allies from other eNGO’s (often people who have worked for ostensibly conflicting organizations) can celebrate what was negotiated secretly without even truly allowing the public to know that negotiations happened in the first place. Big Oil is very good already at guarding market secrets, discussions with Big Green can simply fall under the trade secrets mentality.

There is a history to this new approach, a minor victory of sorts in fact. In April of 2010, Dru Oja Jay was the first to report on attempts to hold private talks with tar sands producers in the Dominion:

Ten representatives each from tar sands operators and high-profile environmental groups were invited to the “informal, beer in hand” gathering. The David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence Canada, Forest Ethics, Pollution Probe and Tides Canada were among the invited environmental groups.

Merran Smith of ForestEthics was listed without affiliation, as was Tzeporah Berman, who worked to privatize BC’s rivers as director of PowerUp Canada, and who is slated to start work this month as Greenpeace International’s Climate Campaigner. Among invited oil companies were Shell, ConocoPhilips, Total and Statoil. Leading tar sands investor Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) was also on the guestlist.

The event would be, the invitation explained, “an opportunity for a few ENGOs and a few companies to share their thoughts on the current state of relations and explore ideas on how a deeper dialogue might occur.”

Three days later, Raynolds sent a second email, cancelling the gathering, owing to “the level of tension” between “a subset of companies and a subset of ENGOs.” The follow-up email specified a legal dispute. Sources in Albertan environmental circles suggested pressure to cancel came from threats to expose the meeting publicly. (emphasis added–MS)

“I personally believe we all need to find a way to create the space and conditions necessary for deeper and meaningful conversations to find some solutions,” wrote Raynolds, explaining the cancellation. “I do hope that in the coming months, we can work to create those conditions.”

…and create those conditions they did. In light of that prior result of such talks, it goes to further reason that these discussions have shown in part the expanding of the relationship in 2015 that began in 2010. Faced with the rejection and unpopularity of anti-democratic secret negotiations when announced, further secrecy was layered upon secret talks by these organizations. Sources from environmental struggles today allege a role played directly by Greenpeace in assessing these deals, to get a “victory” in Alberta.

We essentially now have reason to believe that modern capital-driven organizations will make concessions on issues as large as pipelines and caps and more without even telling the public that there was a process they were not involved in. ENGO’s acting with a distrust of the public that rivals the Harper administration.

ForestEthics itself began almost entirely as a vehicle to carve out such a collaborative agreement and lay the framework for this model in the Great Bear Rainforest of BC (accepting far less protection than grassroots groups and independent scientists wanted, shunting aside indigenous nations in the process and eliminating democratic oversight all in one fell swoop). One of the other signatories to the GBR deal and also apparently a non-signatory observer to the new tar sands deal was Greenpeace. The organization still has an official position calling for the “phasing out” of the tar sands and as such cannot publicly be seen to pledge no resistance to export (or any) pipelines, but in the days following the Alberta climate plan?

Mike Hudema of Greenpeace was talking up the plan thusly:

This announcement is a major victory for people and communities that have long raised concerns about growing tar sands emissions. With the announced cap the government has finally set a limit on tar sands extraction. The days of the infinite growth of the tar sands are over and investors should take note.

So what part of the deal are investors told to take note of, exactly? Well, we do know some of the points. Total tar sands development can add more than another one million barrels per day of tar sands gunk to the grid. Put in perspective, tar sands were pumping at around 1.2 million barrels a day before Greenpeace parachuted into Alberta in mid 2007.

Slightly less than 2 million barrels are extracted from the various deposits of bitumen in Alberta today, meaning that in the last 8 years– 8 years of development with:

*Massive economic backing, some of the largest investments in human history all pulled together

*Federal and Provincial governments that facilitated every single project that came forward

*Record high global prices of crude, alongside one of the strongest Canadian dollars in history

*The global attention of nearly every major energy company from China to the Middle East to the UK

*In these 8 years Tar sands projects– mining and in-situ– added some 3/4 of a million barrels (roughly the equivalent of three of the giant mines at full operating capacity) to the global grid.

Since that time of the tar sands gold rush we have seen:

Peak in oil prices brought down by financial collapse spreading around the globe and Saudi Arabian oil reserve dumps

Massive development of other technologies such as fracking to take alternative investment dollars,

The removal of the most outwardly pro-oil governments at all major levels in North America,

The gutting of the loonie.

At the current rate of expansion, and the current level of resistance to further sprawl based on tar sands, the idea of getting to 3 million barrels a day would need major subsidization to make it even partially practical. It is not, and in a reminiscence of the Protected Areas Strategy in the Arctic North, what is announced to be a limit is actually a promise to investors to make things economical and operate business as usual for possibly another pair of decades.

While it is certainly of the best news that the Notley plan also includes the removal of coal fired electrical generation across Alberta, this combined with further de facto unbridled expansion of the tar sands themselves will mean two giant changes to the physical landscape are set to come about:

One: There will now be a massive introduction planned of nuclear energy. Even with the reports of the ongoing melting of Japan into the sea (Fukushima is still destroying the largest ocean on earth, we just stopped paying attention to it as it is happening) multiple nuclear reactors discussed during the first tar sands boom times of 2002-2008 will be revisited and pushed. Just ask James Hansen, a brilliant scientist who is being asked to be a sociologist when it comes to solving the climate crisis. His take is the same as Big Green: Never mention powering down or reducing consumption, that is a non-starter for “modern” capitalist Canada.

Two: this is a spectacular means to allow BC to expand the growing fracking footprint that is in the Northeast of the province, for shipment to Alberta as a “cleaner” source of the power needed to build up tar sands operations. And to produce the fracking gas means that the giant Site C dam on BC’s Peace River will provide the energy to frack to provide the energy to mine for tar sands.

Perhaps the key point is that this will mean a better situation for the investors than exists currently. Their DNA is still made up of seeing any regulation as a restriction on profit, but they have been granted at least another decade of developments at the rate of acceleration we have been accustomed to over the last several years. The Athabasca river and the forested areas of all four major tar sands regions in Alberta will continue to get poisoned or disappeared outright.

The tar sands free for all will continue but with the caveat that many will think it is now regulated. But the earth knows no law but natural law and climate markers know no future endeavour announcements. There is no savings account for the climate.

The collaborative model of developers (corporations), “stakeholders” (in particular First Nations governments subject to the Indian Act), “environmentalists” (NGO’s who receive foundation-directed money to achieve funder-driven objectives) and governments (provincial and federal) has been in place in Canada for a couple of decades now. In point of historical fact the birth of ForestEthics essentially took place to create a situation that has since become almost a template for social control and political license given to developments that prior to the agreements were unpalatable and unpopular in the extreme.

While sidelining indigenous representation either in whole or in part, such collaborative models gain little and surrender the kitchen sink. More importantly than their horrible ecological impacts, however, are the wholesale anti-democratic means of coming into being, and their quite conscious role in subverting, blunting and silencing resistance that exists. The President of Shell just announced that was why she was involved– like a linesman at a hockey game, just trying to contain conflict.

There have been many watershed moments on the advancement of the collaborative model in the past, starting in the 1980’s in the US (heavily funded by the Pew Foundation and later, Pew Charitable Trusts, et al) and advancing to cover not only BC, Alberta and many Canadian provinces, but the Arctic as well setting up similar collaborative models to effectively give away the mostly undeveloped giant lands of what get called the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon.

Perhaps most disastrously, the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement was celebrated by 9 pro-development eNGO’s alongside multiple forestry companies, but was denounced as anti-democratic and an attack on sovereignty by most indigenous voices. It ultimately failed under its own weight.

At this late day when environmental discourse should be prominently louder and more uncompromising than ever, now collaboration is moving in to save capitalism from itself. And using silence to do so.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask Rachel Notley, Premier of Alberta.

“I’m hopeful that these policies, taken overall, will lead to a new collaborative conversation about Canada’s energy infrastructure on its merits, and to a significant de-escalation of conflict worldwide about the Alberta oilsands…”

Various tar sands pipelines, from Line 9 in Ontario to Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion in greater Vancouver, have seen large grassroots opposition. With either fly-by-night, media grabbing appearances from Big Green with little to no support provided or the most deafening silence possible, people have gone to prison in many cases without seeing any help emerge from Big Green.

The NDP, once elected in Alberta, made achieving their climate deal one of the most important immediate goals. In order to go to Paris for UN COP discussions happening now– standing alongside the Federal Liberals saying “Canada is no longer obstructionist,” having a deal between greens and government as well as energy corporations in international venues is extremely important. For that, even with no tangible difference on the ground, Environmental Defence executive director Tim Gray (based in Toronto) explained their willingness to help: “We were more than happy to help them track toward something that could get support from elements of the environmental community as well as the business community, and that is what happened.”

But what else has happened? Tar sands operations elsewhere around the world must still be prevented from ever getting off of (or out of) the ground as well.

Operations of other tar sands projects around the planet will once again have the great example of “responsible tar sands developments” apparently requested by Notley. Some of the international projects have stalled and been shelved but nowhere have they yet been killed.

The shroud of secrecy around Ottawa has changed, even if that is mostly a public relations exercise that will lose the shine very quickly. Falsely or not, people hold a belief that far less secrecy is the order of the day. But in terms of the unaccountable results of foundation-directed eNGO’s, they have moved into new territory of deception, no longer telling after what used to only be hidden before.

And in this, a perfect refinement of the current administrations of progressiveness, done in time for Paris with Suncor hanging out with Environmental Defense to forge forward a brave new path—in France now are the signs of just what kind of administrations people living north of the 49th parallel on Turtle Island can expect: Of social control through farce, and democratic participation as a mass marketed phenomenon. With all the bells and whistles, but please turn off the lights on your way out.

[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]

KXL Opponents Causing Disaster

A Culture of Imbeciles

October 5, 2014

Bakken Oil Shale Bomb

 

As noted in the New York Post, Keystone pipeline opponents are partly responsible for the environmental disasters and human catastrophes caused by exploding oil trains. Had these misguided liberals given any thought to their KXL protests, they would have found they were being herded by people on the bomb train payroll, and that their protests would not stop Tar Sands mining or Bakken Shale fracking; they would, however, make a lot of money for railroad magnates like Warren Buffett.

Duped liberals will undoubtedly plead innocent to the charge, but ignorance is no excuse, especially when the KXL charade was known from the outset as a Buffett/350 PR hoax.

While this uncomfortable truth might cause some anguish and despair among liberal activists, it is way past time for them to wake up and smell the coffee. Our civilization is dependent on fossil fuels, and while so-called clean energy is fine in the few limited circumstances where it can help reduce carbon emissions, the reality is that only significant reduction in consumption will make any difference. Playing PR shell games with peoples lives at stake is utterly unforgivable.

The Climate Movement Needs to Stop ‘Winning’

Counterpunch

November 24, 2013

by Maya Lemon

As a child my favorite chore was hand-pumping water from the thirty-foot well on our family homestead. The pump was shiny black and the water ice-cold. Then my father was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer linked to chemicals used in oil and gas production. It’s been nine years since I drank that water.

I am from an impacted community in East Texas, home to oil and gas industry, on the southern route of the Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline. My involvement in the climate movement is motivated by the reality my community faces.

Nacogdoches, Texas lies along the southern path of KXL and cannot escape tar sands. From Cushing, Oklahoma down to Beaumont, Texas pipe is buried in the ground and scheduled to go online by the end of the year. We are waiting for the shoe to drop, for tar sands oil to flow through the pipe, for the bend of welded metal to respond to the heat and corrosion of bitumen. We are waiting for an event over which we have little control, despite its potentially disastrous impact on our lives.

Within this experience lies the insight I have to offer the climate movement. My experience is limited by the fact I am a young, white woman from an unconditionally supportive family. Incomplete as it is, however, my perspective is the best thing I can offer. And so, I ask that the climate movement stops talking about “winning.”

Are Green Groups Ready for Tarsands Deal?

Straight

Nov 20, 2013

By Dawn Paley

Gone are the days when the tarsands were an obscure experiment in making oil from tar. Today, the bitumen deposits in central and northern Alberta have become a political hot potato, an issue forced onto the world stage by coordinated protests and direct actions.

But a look at the history of the environmental groups that have signed on to the tarsands protests raises the question of whether or not an agreement between green groups and tarsands operators is on the horizon.

In Canada, Native-led opposition to the Enbridge pipeline through central B.C. has become one of the most visible faces of anti-oil protests. An ongoing 14-month blockade near Smithers, B.C., stands in the way of proposed gas and tarsands pipelines. Campaigns to stop oil tankers from travelling the B.C. coast have raised the spectre of an oil spill in the province’s coastal waters. Protests in Ontario have picked up against the Enbridge-proposed reversal of the 38-year-old Line 9 pipeline, which would pump tarsands crude to the East Coast.

Actions against the tarsands, though, are not limited to Canada.

Since 2011, thousands of people in the U.S. have been arrested protesting tarsands infrastructure, like the Keystone XL pipeline proposed to carry tarsands crude from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. In June, protesters dogged Prime Minister Stephen Harper during his visit to London, England, where, among other actions, they interrupted his speech to Parliament.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, according to Edward R. Royce, the chairman of the U.S. Committee on Foreign Affairs. “Canada is the single largest foreign supplier of petroleum and natural gas to the United States. After Saudi Arabia and Mexico, it is the United States’ third-largest supplier of petroleum,” Royce told the committee last March 14. Today in the U.S., securing access to oil is synonymous with national security.

Tarsands, shale gas, and related infrastructure are increasingly important environmental themes in B.C. But there’s a deal-making trend among some of the key players on the West Coast enviro scene that some consider greenwashing and others portray as pragmatism. As resistance to the tarsands mounts, will a conciliatory brand of anti-tarsands activism also take root?

The Tar Sands Solutions Network is a new coalition—headed up by controversial environmentalist Tzeporah Berman—that brings some of Canada’s biggest environmental groups together with smaller organizations to get the word out about their activism.

Reflections On Power Shift 2013: An Impromptu Interview

Groundwork for Praxis

October 27, 2013

powershift collage

See Also: “Are Mainstream Environmental Groups Keeping Racism Alive?” By Kat Stevens.

*Notes Via Kat Stevens: “This piece originally appeared as part of a series called, “Millenials Take On Climate Change” on the website, Policy Mic. The title I had wanted to go with for this piece was, “How  Big Green NGOs Are Harming the Environmental Movement”. Only 800 words were allowed. Policy Mic asked me to become a regular contributor after this piece but I declined once they repeatedly told me that a piece featuring an interview with a frontline indigenous organizer fighting tar sands pipelines wasn’t relevant for their readers.”

 

Moving Beyond Keystone XL

Direct Action on Line 9

Counterpunch

September 04, 2013

by DAVID OSBORN

On the morning of June 20th a group of people walked onto the Canadian energy corporation Enbridge’s North Westover pumping station and occupied the facility. They called this blockade “Swamp Line 9”. The facility is part of what is called Line 9, a pipeline that moves oil west towards Sarnia and the refining facilities there. However, the industry has been engaged in an effort to slowly gain regulatory approval to reverse the pipeline, allowing it to carry tar sands oil east for refining or to the Atlantic coast for export. The pumping station for Line 9 had been shut down for work and remained shut down during the occupation as Enbridge employees were unable to access the site. The direct action effectively stopped all activity at the pumping station until June 26th when the Canadian authorities raided the occupation and arrested twenty people (you can support their legal fund here).

Direct Action and Line 9 Final Draft_html_537a1758

This action came after over a year of growing grassroots opposition to Line 9 and represents another escalation in the climate movement to address the failure of existing political institutions to deal with the climate crisis. It also has had the effect of continuing to raise the profile of the various efforts to move tar sands oil out of Alberta and engage people in Ontario about the issue. Here, outside of Hamilton in Ontario, much like in East Texas, Maine, Washington State, Oklahoma, British Columbia, and elsewhere communities are taking direct action to confront the root causes of the climate crisis.

In confronting the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure we also resist the devastating ecological transformation that occurs in service to markets and profit. In this sense this action, like those taking place across North America and the world, also represent people resisting the transformation of their communities by capitalism, which fundamentally drives the climate crisis with its need for exponential growth, its utilitarian view of the natural world as human-centered “resources” and its value of profit above all else.

Working for Warren: Corporate Greens

 

buffet

Intercontinental Cry

June 4, 2013

By Jay Taber

 

In Keystone XL: The Art of NGO Discourse–Part II, Cory Morningstar examines the political theatre of the non-profit industrial complex around the transport of oil, and how corporate greens — financed by oligarchs like Rockefeller, Gates and Buffett — are effectively destroying any meaningful activism in the US. At a time when half the total energy produced in the US is wasted due to inefficiencies, protesting pipelines only to have oil shipped by rail is arguably a meaningless activity. But as Morningstar explains, it is funded.

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, an author, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as the administrative director of Public Good Project.]

 

Keystone XL: The Art of NGO Discourse | Part I

Keystone XL: The Art of NGO Discourse | Part I

Counterpunch

April 12, 2013

Part one of an investigative report by Cory Morningstar

Keystone XL Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IV

Gloat Like Rockefeller When Watching Trains

buffet

March 5, 2013: Buffett Says Gloat Like Rockefeller When Watching Trains

On Nov 3, 2009, Berkshire Hathaway, the investment vehicle of Warren Buffett, announced its plan to purchase the 77.4 percent of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) that it did not already own for $26 billion in cash and stock – the largest deal in Berkshire history. The deal, which included Berkshire’s prior investment and the assumption of $10 billion in Burlington Northern debt, brought the total value to $44 billion. Buffett remarked it was a big bet on the United States.

It was TO be a bet that both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, would ensure he DID not lose.

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
– Warren Buffett

Tar Sands development edging closer in Trinidad and Tobago? | Rainforest Action Network

Tar Sands development edging closer in Trinidad and Tobago?

RBC appears at Trinidad government forum extolling their record in Canada’s tar sands

by Macdonald Stainsby

In December of 2010, Rainforest Action Network [RAN], issued a press release that was full of praise for the Royal Bank of Canada adopting a new framework around investments in companies involved in tar sands production.

RBC was coming under increasing pressure to end their investments in tar sands extraction, and on December 22nd of 2010 RAN announced an end to the campaign to force RBC to divest from tar sands production, citing a ‘victory’ when RBC announced their intentions to use Free Prior and Informed Consent [FPIC] in evaluating future investments in energy and related projects.

FPIC means many things, but the core component of the concept is the ‘right to say no’ to development on the part of an affected community. RBC uses many words to describe how they interpret FPIC– but the absolute right of a veto is nowhere in their description. “The policy also recognizes the importance of community relations, and in particular aboriginal community relations, in operating and growing a business, and we look at how our clients consult and meaningfully accommodate these communities,” said Gordon Nixon, the CEO of RBC in their announcement.

This is the same exact language used by the Federal government of Canada: the language of consultation and accommodation, which is different from Free, Prior and Informed Consent. That RBC wants to end the public pressure and remake their image as one of friendly to indigenous and frontline communities is of no surprise– but why would an organization like RAN want to help in this endeavor, and even go so far as to counsel other activists to “lay off for awhile”?1

This question of the impacts of RBC’s new policy was urgent from the get go of the RAN announcement– but is made even more urgent by the recent moves of RBC in Trinidad and Tobago– where the government has recently begun advertising for possible tar sands mining.

(The glossy advertisement from the current Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs for Trinidad and Tobago is available here.)

RBC involvement in Canadian tar sands has not abated, nor has there been any actual commitment to removing any level of investment, but RBC can now publicly state they have been given “applause” from the Rainforest Action Network in Canada. “RBC is raising the bar for the financial sector and signaling to oil and gas corporations that it is time to take environmental and human rights seriously,” said Brant Olson, campaign director of RAN, in a release applauding the policy.

RAN’s involvement in such a climb down has no small implications. Not only have many of the activists opposed to RBC tar sands investment become dormant, confusion about what exactly is Free, Prior and Informed Consent has been sewn. FPIC means the right to say no, something that the communities near tar sands in T&T have already done through social struggle to developments such as smelter plants and steel mills.

In Trinidad and Tobago, it was in 2009 (during the annual Carnival) that then Minister of Energy and Energy affairs Conrad Enil announced that the People’s National Movement [PNM] government would be opening tar sands mining to exploration. Previous work on deposit evaluation came from a joint venture consisting of Canadian based Western Oil Sands alongside T&T’s own Petrotrin in the early 2000s. After Marathon Energy of the US bought out Western Oil Sands the arrangement with Petrotrin was abandoned in 2008.

On February 13 of 2009, Enil announced exploration blocks of pilot projects extracting bitumen for synthetic petroleum production. During the announcement of licenses for the Parrylands and Guapo Field, Enil also stated that T&T was trying to follow the Canadian model, a model that people of all stripes across North America have labelled the most destructive industrial development on earth today.

Having seriously slowed down the campaign against them without divesting a single penny, RBC has moved on to other sources of energy revenue. Having bought the Royal Bank of Trinidad & Tobago [RBTT], RBC recently attended a “Green Business Forum” held by the T&T Environmental Management Authority [EMA] in Port of Spain (the capital of the Twin Island Nation).

RBC sent their “Director of Corporate Environmental Affairs” Sandra Odendahl to the forum, to tout their socially and environmentally responsible policies as potentially large investors in Trinidad and Tobago (one of 58 countries in which RBC operates).

As reported in the T&T Newsday on March 31, 2011 “Now that RBTT is part of the RBC umbrella, Odendahl would like to introduce RBC’s Capital Markets Policy (CMP) to TT, once the integration process has been completed. [….] It was developed after extensive stakeholder consultation, much of it headed by Odendahl, on Canada’s oil sands energy sector.”

The Royal Bank of Canada has received further publicity help from environmental organizations as well, with Odendahl recently appearing on panels held in Canadian cities alongside well-known environmental organizers to ostensibly debate whether bank funding for major industrial developments can be made socially responsible. Given the small attendance at such events, the appearance of environmental organizers along side Ms Odendahl will further help the RBC spokeswoman shore up the image of the bank that only months ago was in dire straits.

In the months right prior to the 2009 announcement around possible tar sands development in Trinidad’s South there was a major turning point in the so-called battle over tar sands in Canada. A campaign was launched by grassroots groups and environmental Non-Governmental Organizations [ENGOs] alike to force the hand of RBC out of their tar sands investments.

The campaign was effective, and RBC took serious hits to their credibility thanks to RAN and grassroots organizers– even going so far as to target the ostensibly green sensibilities of RBC chairman Gordon Nixon’s wife, Janet. In recent months RAN has ended their participation in the activist campaign against the Royal Bank of Canada.

Like Canada, in Trinidad and Tobago companies that wish to develop are required to go through a hearing process with affected communities. In the recent past Trinidad has seen such hearings into a now cancelled plan to construct an aluminium smelter in Southern Trinidad, the same region where bitumen deposits exist at a depth suitable to the energy industry for mining.

From Canada, with neither divestment nor the right to say no established for indigenous and frontline communities, RBC may attempt to start investments in Petrotrin for the development of tar sands in the south of the island. If such were to happen, RBC may try to use such applauded policy at the Trinidadian Environmental Management Authority [EMA].

In environmental struggles against industrial development in Trinidad the Rights Action Group has been front and centre as a part of the resistance. “The EMA said you had to have consultation, but really didn’t define what consultation was. So they would do something and say they had consultation,” said Rights Action Group executive Burton Sankeralli.

Regarding the piecemeal approach to approvals, Sankeralli says that the EMA would give licensees a certificate to clear, and a separate certificate to build, so they can clear without disclosing they will put there. This approach scattered the permitting process. “It would be like you were getting one certificate for the first project you were planning, another certificate for the port, another certificate for the power plant so it was like a jigsaw puzzle,” he said. “There was no overall assessment on cumulative impacts and all that, it was a mess.”

How the EMA holds such hearings would fit RBC fairly well.

“The environmental impact assessment [EIA] is done by a company hired by the corporation or the government agency who want the land cleared or who is putting up the structure. So they do the EIA and they anticipate the ending. And then they do the consultation. With this whole farce of consultations when the decision has been made and no clear things on all these consultations has been done,” said Sankeralli.

According to Attilah Springer, journalist at Gayelle TV in Trinidad,

“There was one extra consultation that happened which the head of the EMA attended. This meeting went on for about four hours and at some point somebody came up and said ‘Can you tell me what I said at 3:05pm?’, then it was discovered that nobody was taking notes. So there was this long meeting going on that was not being properly documented or recorded. At that point people had no more faith in the consultation process and realized that it was completely flawed.”

This breakdown led to more determined resistance to the Smelter outside of the consultation process.

“After the consultation began a new phase, outside the process that started with a replanting of areas cleared for the proposed smelter, in a buffer zone on the edge of the proposed site,” explained Springer. Also important in the resistance was community level cultural activities and gatherings.

“Culture played a huge role in everything that we did and we used a lot of things in our cultural landscape to drive the point home.”

When permits were granted resistance did not stop, but increased. Springer explains in this quote:

“It was soon after that it was announced that the CEC had been granted and that’s when the shit really hit the fan and things went into high gear and there were protests and general wildness that I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about considering some of the parties involved are still alive.

People would go on the site, you know, and liberate things… a lot of the stuff that happened we didn’t share information on.”

“What started happening was that the government of the day started to accuse some of the more prominent environmental activists of being outsiders, when the case was that these communities had asked for help. Here you had two communities that absolutely and unequivocally said to Hell with Y’all and Hell no.

Nobody was ever convinced that the EMA was concerned with protecting the interests of communities.”

The EMA is now getting ready to help the RBC use their recently applauded “policy” developed around tar sands for effected communities in Trinidad. Despite the retreat of RAN, and the greenwashing of tar sands projects in Canada, perhaps the first victory against tar sands developments will take place in the Caribbean– which would not only protect dwindling water supplies and the forests themselves near La Brea, it may indeed help Canada reverse course on the tar sands gigaproject right from the global ground zero of Alberta, where a global fate tied to locking into the worst fossil fuel developments around the planet has begun to export.

Macdonald Stainsby is a freelance journalist, social justice activist and the coordinator of http://oilsandstruth.org. He can be reached at mstainsby@resist.ca

1 http://understory.ran.org/2010/12/22/rbc-takes-a-step-away-from-tar-sands/ (note comment below article, also written by Brant Olson)

http://www.mediacoop.ca/story/tar-sands-development-edging-closer-trinidad-and-tobago/7003