Customers of banks are getting sick of their money being spent on destroying the world so they’re doing something about it. The Dirty Dozen banks are a group of banks that Greenpeace argues are the worst when it comes to investing. Barclays is one of those banks thanks to their investments in the shameful Canadian tar sands. Greenpeace started their awareness campaign and now people are taking the next step by losing their accounts with Barclays. It’s a great direct action to send an important message.
Of those who signed the petition, 6,000 told the environmental group that they were ready to close their accounts if Barclays did not heed their warning, while some said they had already done so.
“Moving your bank account is quite a big undertaking so we were genuinely surprised when people started doing it without us even suggesting it,” said Greenpeace oil campaigner Hannah Martin.
“This new information shows that the opposition to Barclays funding dirty tar sands projects isn’t just broad, but deep.
“People are prepared to put themselves through a bit of bureaucratic hassle to try to persuade their bank to do the right thing.”
Alberta has finally decided to update their energy and environmental policies after years of ignoring the fact that their policies are killing nearly everything within the province. Premier Rachel Motley has announced sweeping changes that will bring Alberta into the 21st century. They are going to phase out their coal plants and put on caps on how awful the tar sands can be!
Notley and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips dropped nothing less than a policy cluster-bomb of mandated targets, rules and often the mere hint at mechanisms and subsidy packages to enact it all. Alberta will follow British Columbia in introducing a cross-economy carbon tax, $20 per tonne in 2017 and $30 the following year—rebate and offset programs to come. The province will mimic Ontario and mandate the end to coal power by 2030—compensation and negotiated phase-outs to come. Methane emissions from venting, flaring and leaking, will have to be cut nearly in half in a decade—a goal that drillers and others will struggle now to meet in near-lockstep with the Obama administration’s approach on the greenhouse gas that’s more intense than carbon.
Lastly, there’s the oilsands policy, designed to get the biggest nods and high-fives out of foreign partners and environmentalists: a hard cap on emissions from that sector, 100 megatonnes. When Notley was asked about Oil Change International’s tweet that this means “no new tar sands growth,” the premier furrowed her brow and said no. Furrowing and shaking their heads along with her were four oilsands executives invited to share the announcement, from Suncor, Shell, Cenovus and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. Murray Edwards, the CNRL chairman few watchers expected to appear at such an event, was gushing in his congratulations about the collaboration between industry, the province and green advocacy groups: “This plan recognizes the need for balance between the environment and the economy.” The cap was set at 100 megatonnes, with more room for bitumen upgrading; Alberta’s oilsands currently produce 70. So there’s room to expand the traditionally vilified resource for years to come, and much more if they make good on pledges to slash the per-barrel emission rates. CNRL and counterparts get room to grow, and the climate change panel report by University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach predicts that in most cases, the designed changes won’t cost more than $1 per barrel for most operators.
We’ve all seen sad, depressing, and otherwise disturbing photos of animals or people suffering after a human made disaster. You know, like the ducks dying in the tar sands or photos from the Bhopal disaster. Photographers have long thought that by showing these disturbing and truth-capturing photos people will start to care about the damage we are doing to the environment. Years of neglect and a lack of change has proven this point wrong.
So what do we do?
Artist Chris Jordan examined this very question and has found new ways to use art to get people to acknowledge the natural world and what we’re doing to it.
Slowly, the way Jordan thought about his work on Midway changed. His job wasn’t to soak up what he calls the darkness of the world; he could face it, he realized, without taking it in. “You acknowledge the presence of the darkness,” he says, “and you shine your light into it.” And his job wasn’t to be transformed by fire or to find a hidden door to hope: “We have this cultural obsession with hope. I’m not sure how useful hope really is.” When he gives a talk and someone stands up—someone always does—to ask, “But what do I do about this? What’s the solution?” he no longer wants to answer them. “That person,” he says, “may be feeling something uncomfortable that they don’t want to feel. They’re feeling the enormity and the complexity of the problems of our world, and that makes them feel anxious.” To give them an easy answer, he says, would be “like pulling the plug in a bathtub: the feeling all drains out. My job is to help people connect with what they feel, even if it’s uncomfortable.”
Despite the fact that the tar sands get more subsidies than green energy solutions in Canada, the green energy providers employ more people. Clean Energy Canada released a report today that examines the state of green energy in Canada and they have some remarkable findings.
“Clean energy has moved from being a small niche or boutique industry to really big business in Canada,” said Merran Smith, director of Clean Energy Canada. The investment it has gleaned since 2009 is roughly the same as has been pumped into agriculture, fishing and forestry combined, she said. The industry will continue to show huge growth potential, beyond most other business sectors, she added.
While investment has boomed, the energy-generating capacity of wind, solar, run-of-river hydro and biomass plants has expanded by 93 per cent since 2009, the report says.
Kate Beaton of Hark a Vagrant fame once worked in the Alberta tar sands. She recently made a short comic about her time working there (which she did to pay off student debt) and it provides a wonderful human side to the tar sands narrative.
Read the comic here.