Sunday, June 08, 2014

Let's Be Honest about Rejecting Resource Extraction

My response to an interview with Dan Miller on CBC Radio's The 180:

Your interview with Dan Miller contained more misinformed views than I have probably heard in any single interview.

I am resident of Vancouver who is very much opposed to new LNG infrastructure, new pipelines and new coal exports. But that doesn't mean I don't understand the resource industries. I was born in northern BC. My family has worked in resource industries for generations. I have worked for oil refineries in this region and in the tar sands in Alberta.

He claims that my position is simply an “emotional” argument. But it is not. It is based firmly in science. The science is clear that we need to reduce green-house gas emissions by 80-90%. That means that it makes no sense to build any new fossil fuel infrastructure.

On the other hand his arguments were entirely emotional with no evidence offered to support his position.

He claims that those opposed to expanding fossil fuel infrastructure don't care about human lives. This is Orwellian double-speak at its worst. Solving the climate change issue isn't about saving the environment. The environment will survive, although likely with much less biodiversity. However, global warming will bring about immense human suffering. And that is why so many of us dedicate time and effort to this issue. It is very much about saving human lives.

He also claims we don't care about the poor. But the overwhelming evidence is that climate change will disproportionately affect the poorest of the world. In fact, it is already affecting the poor of the majority world. Some estimates have hundreds of thousands already dying in sub-Saharan Africa as a result of anthropogenic climate change. Mr. Miller seems to think we should only be concerned about middle-class workers in Canada. His attitude smacks of neocolonialism and racism.

He made a passing reference to the amount of single-occupancy vehicles in the Metro Vancouver area. He conveniently ignores that fact that surveys showed that the the majority of Metro Vancouver residents favoured investment in cleaner public transit infrastructure. But the provincial government with a majority primarily elected outside Metro Vancouver ignored those wishes and built infrastructure that primarily supports those single-occupancy vehicles.

In his bizarre fantasy world it seems that resource industries are the only way to fund education and health care. Again he conveniently ignores the evidence of the real world. Countries like Japan, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands which have social program as good, if not better, than Canada but have little or no fossil fuel resource extraction.

He makes the unsubstantiated claim that environmentalists have ignored the labour movement. Apparently he has not heard of the Blue-Green Alliance, an organization that exists in both the US and Canada. The Canadian organization includes two of Canada's largest unions. Dan Miller also ignores the research that shows that green industries like renewable energy and public transit employee more workers than fossil fuel industries.

Of course we will need to transition our economy so that it is less fossil fuel dependent. But there is on evidence to suggest that it is not possible or that it will have a negative affect. Sweden saw its economy grow by 44% while surpassing the Kyoto targets for green-house gas reduction.

He claims that his organization is dedicated to a “positive” discussion of resource issues. In reality it seems he is more interested in misrepresenting the views of others.