The Importance of Mapping Fossil Fuel Companies

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The Corporate Mapping Project in Canada tries to connect the dots between corporations, organizations, and governmental bodies in regards to the oil and gas industry. Despite all evidence that the tar sands are horrible for the planet the Canadian taxpayer continues to subsidize the fossil fuel industry. Why?

That the answer the mapping project looks to help investigate. By showing the connections between corporate and political players we can expose anything from sketchy polices to blatant corruption. This project is great for researchers and economist trying to understand why Canada props up a dying (and lethal) industry.

You can see their list of the top 50 companies in terms of power and influence in Canada’s oil and gas industry.

We focus on “mapping” how power and influence play out in the oil, gas and coal industries of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan. We will also map the wider connections that link Western Canada’s fossil fuel sector to other sectors of the economy (both national and global) and to other parts of society (governments and other public institutions, think tanks and lobby groups, etc).

Our mapping efforts are focused in four key areas:

  1. How are the people and companies that control fossil-fuel corporations organized as a network, and how does that network connect with other sectors of the Canadian and global economy? That is, how is economic power organized in and around the fossil-fuel sector?

  2. How does that economic power reach into political and cultural life, through elite networks, funding relationships, lobbying and mass-media advertising and messaging? What are the implications of such corporate influence for politics and society?

  3. How is corporate power wielded at ground level, from fossil-fuel extraction and transport right through to final consumption? If we follow a barrel of bitumen from its source to the end user, how does it affect the communities and environments all along the way? How and why do certain links along these commodity chains become flashpoints of intense political struggle, as we have seen particularly with pipeline projects?

  4. How can we build capacity for citizen monitoring of corporate power and influence, while expanding the space for democratic discussion?

Read more.

This Doc on Bellingcat Inspires You to Act

Since 2014 an innovate research team has been looking into major news events in a way never done before, that team is known as Bellingcat. Bellingcat is comprised of volunteers (and a small paid staff) which use social media and other publicly available information to investigate in an organized and world-influencing way. A documentary about them, Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World, explores the organization from its founding to its recent popularity.

I watched a screener (provided by Topic) of it and it was quite inspiring! Here on this site we look at good news, and over at Bellingcat they look at bad events to make the world a better place. Given that Bellingcat is online, needs a lot of researchers, and explores digitally public data, you can help make the world better while you’re at home!

Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World explores the promise of open source investigation, taking viewers inside the exclusive world of the “citizen investigative journalist” collective known as Bellingcat. In cases ranging from the MH17 disaster to the poisoning of a Russian spy in the United Kingdom, the Bellingcat team’s quest for truth will shed light on the fight for journalistic integrity in the era of fake news and alternative facts.

Watch it on Topic.com

Defund the Police, Spend Taxes on Better Things

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In my life team I have seen nearly every public service get defunded except the police, meaning people who would otherwise be housed, have mental care, or otherwise not be neglected end up in confrontations with the police. This is not working well for anybody. Yet defunding the police is an idea that people reject.

A website was built this past summer which showcases the absurd amount of money we give to the police throughout North America compared to social services that can actually help people.

The city of Toronto spends just over 25% of taxpayer dollars on funding the police. That’s a cost of $1.13 billion dollars.

This is comparable to the tax dollars spent on public transportation, the library, children services and public health combined.

Toronto is spending just under $3.3 million dollars per day on police services.

Toronto police are present in some—not all—schools in the Toronto Catholic School Board.

Read more.

Caring About the GDP is Passé

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In 2009 we looked at how Bhutan uses Gross National Happiness instead of the bizarre Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measurement to see how “successful” the country is. The GDP doesn’t reflect lives lived since things like oil spills and other disasters actually make the GDP go up despite the damage done. GDP is disconnected from reality.

Now, in the UK people want the government to care more about health and well being before upping the GDP numbers.

“It’s clear the vast majority of the public think we should worry more about people’s health and wellbeing than economic growth,” said Fran Boait, the executive director of Positive Money. “The government must not be tempted to pursue policies that would boost GDP at the expense of lives, wellbeing and the environment.”

In a report entitled The Tragedy of Growth, backed by politicians from several parties, including Clive Lewis of Labour, the Green party MP Caroline Lucas, and the former Conservative environment minister Lord Deben, who chairs the committee on climate change, campaigners call for a shift away from GDP as the government’s core measure of success.

Read more.

How One Person Exposed Republican Attacks Against American Democracy

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As a Republican President in the states is undergoing an impeachment trial the Republican Party is also going under many trials. For the last few decades the Republican Party has engaged in gerrymandering to ensure that their party wins instead for the Democrats (or independents). This modification of electoral maps has been argued to be everything from racist to classist and everything in between. The predominantly old, white, and male Republican Party has been denying all the allegations against them, and now they’ve met their match.

The daughter of the leader of the gerrymandering effort, Stephanie Hofeller, has released documents that prove true all the Republicans are denying in the courts. Sometimes it takes one brave person to speak up to help ensure a nation’s democracy can continue.

Stephanie says she connected with the North Carolina chapter of Common Cause, an advocacy group that had brought a lawsuit against Republican state officials to overturn political maps Thomas Hofeller helped draw. After mentioning the hard drives to Common Cause, Stephanie received a court order to turn them over as potential evidence for the lawsuit. She did so in March after making a copy of some of the files for herself.

Since then, the Hofeller files have led to bombshell developments in two major legal battles in the political world.

In September, Common Cause won its legal challenge to political maps in North Carolina, where a state court cited some of the files as evidence of gerrymandering designed to unfairly give Republicans an advantage in winning elections and maintaining control of the state legislature.

Read more.

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