The Wayback Machine -
How to Boil a Frog


The Official Weblog of:
How to Boil A Frog The Movie

Back to the Main Site

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Tar Sands, China, Enron & the Fall of the US Dollar: A Frog Overview

We here at How to Boil a Frog recently took a break from badminton and margaritas to fit together the pieces of the real world (as opposed to the fictional world being discussed in the US presidential debates - you know, the one where global warming doesn't exist).  As usual, it still seems to be about energy, at least until someone repeals the laws of thermodynamics.  And we happen to be in British Columbia, where the Dutch Boys and Girls of Activism are busy sticking their fingers into oil pipelines to plug the Dyke of Global Catastrophe (to mix several metaphors).  Our report on the current situation as we see it:

The lesson that all oil companies learned from the Exxon Valdez was: don’t own the tankers.  So oil tankers are all now owned by foreign-flag numbered companies that go bankrupt and disappear anytime there’s an accident.  That’s why the taxpayers of BC -- and no company who mines or transports tar sands oil -- would pay for an oil spill cleanup in Vancouver waters (which could cost
up to $40 billion). 

The pipelines don’t own the tankers, and the oil companies don’t own the pipelines.  Enbridge wants to build the Northern Gateway pipeline, but it’s pretty much dead at this point unless Prime Minister Stephen Harper is willing to send out troops and go to war with the First Nations bands that have vowed to get in the way of the bulldozers (over 131 so far, including our own valiant Tsleil-Waututh). 

 So the Canadian government is making, as teenagers do, some poor choices.  But the co-villain of the piece – and this is quite a scandal – is Kinder-Morgan.  Bill Kinder and Rich Morgan are ex-Enron executives, who retired with billions while Ken Lay went to jail for fraud, even though they were the architects of that whole shell corporation scam.  They took Enron’s pipeline assets and made them into Kinder-Morgan Energy Partners, now one of the largest pipeline companies in North America

 In 2005, they bought BC's Terasen Gas for what was originally reported to be $5.6 billion, but ended up being $6.9 billion, and stopped all maintenance and repairs for the 365 days they were required, as a foreign firm, to hold the company before selling it.  They then flipped the company and kept the TransMountain pipeline, which is what they wanted. Specifically, they sold the water & utility services for $125 million a few months after buying Terasen, then sold the natural gas distribution part to Fortis BC for $3.7 billion at the beginning of 2007.  So what they ended up with – the pipeline – was apparently worth $3.1 billion to them.  Still, they paid less than BC’s taxpayers paid for the Gateway to China.

 This is the scandal part:  Emma Pullman’s investigative reporting has uncovered ties, in 2005, between Harper and then-Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon.  The implication is that the $5 billion that BC taxpayers paid for the Gateway Project – ostensibly to build bridges and widen highways for those poor super-commuters – was actually used to build infrastructure for the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, so that they could ramp up oil shipments to China.  So BC taxpayers are already $5 billion in the hole on this pipeline deal.  Wonder what the ROI will be?

 The long-term plan is playing out. Kinder-Morgan now plans to more than twin the pipeline, and increase shipments of tar sands "dilbit" (it's not actually oil yet) through Vancouver Harbour to 750,000 barrels per day – 3 times what the Valdez spilled.  Here’s their 2011 sales pitch to investors.  They’re also planning a spur, midway down the pipeline, that would go up to Kitimat, and either supplement the Enbridge pipeline or render it moot.  That spur would carry an additional 400,000 barrels per day, total 1,150,000 barrels per day from the tar sands, most of it for China, which just started to denominate oil sales in yuan, breaking Kissinger’s 1971 deal with the Saudis that has kept the US dollar afloat, and allowed the US to export its inflation, for over 4 decades.  This could be the end of the US economy, and clearly Harper got the memo 7 years ago and set all of this in motion. 

Expect Canada to start taking yuan for tar sands oil – the new global reserve currency.  Expect the next US president to have difficulty creating “North American energy independence” when they can no longer tap the tar sands.  Expect the tar sands to have an ecological meltdown long before it gets to 2 million barrels per day, disappointing all of these plans.

So How to Boil a Frog nominates billionaires Bill Kinder and Richard Morgan as the poster boys of global catastrophe in Canada, notwithstanding that they’re Americans.  Enbridge, with all the sound and fury it has attracted, has essentially become a decoy for the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, and Harper will try to ram through that expansion even if he has to suspend civil liberties to do it.  He’s working on it.

As a result, those who want today's children to reach middle age will have to do anything and everything to block the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, as part of the larger blockade of the tar sands.  Of course, there will also be attempts to transport tar sands dilbit by rail and truck, and the government is already planning other pipelines through Eastern Canada, in addition to Keystone XL.  But Kinder-Morgan is what WE here in BC can stop, on our little piece of ground.  Big protest in Victoria next Monday as part of that.  Will you be there?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Peak Oil is Real - Middle Eastern Conflict Remix

Another guest post by Friend o' the Frog Rex Weyler!


Oil company cheerleaders proclaiming huge supplies of oil are dead wrong. Peak oil is as real as rain, and it is here now. Not 2050. Not 2020. Now.

Oil production has been flat since 2005. This is not by choice. The producers cannot increase production because new fields cannot keep pace with declining production from old fields. The plateau is the top of the global depletion curve.

(The oil plateau: The calm before the decline. Reference: The Oil Drum.)

Furthermore, this end of energy growth only accounts for volume. Energy quality and net-energy are falling like stones as environmental devastation increases.

Every producing oil field on Earth is in decline (unless it is brand new), and peak discoveries are well behind us.

(Peak discoveries occurred 50 years ago. Reference: Exxon Mobile, from The Oil Drum.)

Meanwhile, the aggregate decline rate appears to be about 5% per year. To maintain world production, we would need to bring a new Saudi Arabia (3-billion barrels annually) into full production every three years. There exists on Earth not one single promising field that remotely approaches those requirements.

When you read or hear about “10 billion barrels” of oil discovered somewhere, here is how to think about that: A third of that is probably not recoverable or entirely illusory. The recoverable portion will require a billion barrels of oil equivalent energy to produce (in the tar sands it would take 3 billion barrels). What is left, about 5 or 6 billion barrels, equates to about a 2-month supply for humanity. Two months.

Quantity and quality

We won’t “run out of oil” because, simply, we’ll never get it all. What petroleum geologists point out is that all oil fields have a production curve, a peak, and a decline. Therefore, Earth’s total supply has a peak and decline.

But that’s not all: The volume decline includes a decline in quality and net energy. As oil fields reach old age, energy returned on energy invested plummets and production costs soar for a lower quality product. Over the last century, oil producers high-graded Earth’s energy storehouse, and the best net-energy reserves disappeared seventy years ago.

Oil in its heyday – 1930 and 40s – produced 100:1 net-energy, a hundred barrels out for one barrel of energy invested. Today oil fields range from 20:1 to 10:1. The US average is 11:1. We are now digging into the 3:1 net-energy tar sands.

Charles Hall at the State Univ. of NY has calculated that it is not possible to run our complex civilization on a net-energy below about 6:1, because the society needs that reserve energy to run its transportation, agriculture, health systems, and so forth. The tar sands 3:1 net energy is simply pathetic. A salmon does better chasing herring. An Amish farmer gets 10:1 net energy with hand tools!

Blood and Oil

Energy expert Howard Odum warned of the net energy curve in the 1970s and geologist M. King Hubbert graphed oil peak and decline in the 1950s. US oil production peaked in 1970, exactly as Hubbert predicted. In this era, the US spent millions to topple governments in oil nations and install US-friendly dictators such as Shah Pahlavi in Iran. Lately, the US has spent billions to fight its own creations – Saddam, Taliban – to gain access to the oil fields. They now contemplate opening a front in Syria to go after Iranian oil, of which they lost control when the Iranians toppled their puppet Shah.

In 2010, the US Military Joint Forces Command predicted the end of “surplus oil production capacity” -- their way of saying “peak oil” -- and warned: “the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10-million barrels per day.” They also predicted that this oil decline “would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and have serious economic impact on China and India.” This is the US military talking. When politicians tell you the next war is “not about the oil,” rest assured, it’s about the oil.

In 1912, as the British navy switched from coal to oil, Winston Churchill said flatly: “You have got to find the oil ... purchased regularly and cheaply in peace, and with absolute certainty in war.” In the end, World War II was about oil, and won by oil. During the war, the US produced 880 million tons of oil, Russia 100 million tons, Japan 5, and Germany 30, and most of this by expensive coal-to-liquid technology. Germany entered North Africa to secure oil, and entered Russia to reach the Caspian Baku oil fields. German Minister for War Production, Albert Speer, conceded in his post war interrogation: “the need for oil certainly was a prime motive.” They failed, and the German war machine literally ran out of gas, as Rommel abandoned empty, fuel-gobbling tanks in the Libyan desert.

Prior to the 1990 Gulf War I, bush henchman Dick Cheney revealed, “We're there because the fact of the matter is that part of the world controls the world supply of oil, and whoever controls the supply of oil … would have a stranglehold on … the world economy.” So there you have it. All this bloodshed is over dwindling oil reserves and the pipelines to deliver the black goop to refineries and markets.

Burning the storehouse

I suspect most of the industry cheerleaders talking about “giant discoveries” and “energy gluts” know this. Still, they spin every new oil discovery as an arrival in the Promised Land, pump stock plays, and promote their industry. In our world, that’s legal, but it isn’t really honest. In April 2011, Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency, revealed what the industry knows: “We think that the crude oil production has already peaked, in 2006.”

And since the population is growing, peak oil per capita occurred in 1979. We have now reached the absolute peak. Without increasing energy sources, we cannot increase economic activity. We can print money and consume Earth’s assets and make it look like growth – for a while – but the piper will be paid. Nature shall not be mocked.

In 2008, when the economy appeared to be roaring and swindlers at Goldman Sachs pitched mortgage-backed securities on unsuspecting clients, energy production had ceased growing. As a result, the oil price almost tripled from $50/barrel to $147. This equated to a $3-trillion increase to the world’s annual energy bill, which sucked discretionary income from every other market and helped crash the global economy.

When the economy collapsed, oil prices fell, but as economies recover, even slightly, the price will rise again since supply is restrained. Blaming US President Obama for rising energy prices is another con job. Blame nature. She just can’t make more of the stuff fast enough.

During the last century human society burned the best half of recoverable hydrocarbons that represented 500-million years of captured sunlight, a one-time storehouse of high quality, concentrated energy. We squandered it on drag races, traffic jams, private jets, and overheated office buildings. We burned this valuable asset and called it “income.” If you did that in your home, you’d go bankrupt.

Peak oil is real. The consequences – at best – will be a slowly scaled-down industrial civilization. If we continue to ignore these facts, the consequences will be far worse. Nature just isn’t sentimental.


References and sources:

Charts: See The Oil Drum

Howard T. Odum: Pioneer of energy analysis and thermodynamics in ecology and economics, predicted the net-energy predicament in the 1970s.
Environment, Power, and Society (Wiley Interscience, 1971)
Essay: Energy, Ecology & Economics, May 1974:

Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, (1971)
Georgescu-Roegen integrated energy laws into modern economics.

M. King Hubbert: In 1956, he correctly predicted US peak oil in the 1970s. Hubbert’s curve applies, to every oil field ever known, and to Earth as a whole.

“US military warns oil output may dip causing massive shortages by 2015,” Terry Macalister, The Guardian, April 11, 2010.

Charles Hall: Biophysical Economics, State University of New York, Syracuse; developer of “Net Energy Analysis.”
Charles Hall, Stephen Balogh, David Murphy, Energies Journal, 2009
What is the Minimum EROI that a Sustainable Society Must Have
Dr. Charles Hall, Dr. Cutler Cleveland, 1986
Energy and Resource Quality: The Ecology of the Economic Process,
Oil Drum: “Why EROI Matters”, Charles Hall
Oil Drum, David Murphy on Net Energy

Cutler Cleveland, Boston University, Center for Energy and Environmental Studies; Senior Fellow, National Council for Science and the Environment, Washington D.C.; Editor-in-Chief, Encyclopedia of Earth. History of Energy, Cutler Cleveland (Academic Press, 2009)

Gail Tverberg, Oil Drum, on Energy, peak oil, nuclear option

Vaclav Smil: The time scale and challenges of energy transformation.
Energy Transitions: History, Requirements, Prospects, University of Manitoba

David Hughes: The Energy Sustainability Dilemma

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Negotiating With Sharks

Up here in Canada, we’re in the middle of a sort of “dirty tricks” campaign by the federal government that’s so lame that even our right-tilting newspapers have called them out on it. The campaign is ostensibly designed to pre-empt opposition to the Enbridge pipeline, which would carry 550,000 barrels a day of unrefined tar sands crude oil to Kitimat, British Columbia, where it would then be taken by tanker through some of the most dangerous straits in the world on its way to China. The potential downside, aside from twenty more nails in the coffin of catastrophic global warming, would be oil spills in pristine BC waters that would make the Exxon Valdez seem like the aftermath of a Mormon grad night party, as well as innumerable pipeline leaks and spills throughout some of the world’s last great wilderness.

So how do you put lipstick on that zombie pig while it’s munching on the brains of our hapless children? Part 1 was the “Ethical Oil” campaign, arguing that the Middle Eastern countries (the ones that Eastern Canada imports its oil from) are less ethical sources of oil than the tar sands because they’ll kill you for adultery, as opposed to making you the Republican presidential candidate. The other argument has been that “foreigner billionaires” are “hijacking” a home-grown Canadian process – a National Energy Board review that’s hearing from people along the pipeline route – these alleged billionaires being distinct from the foreigner billionaires (Rex Tillerson of Exxon, Richard Kinder of Enron, etc.) who are doing everything they can to expand the tar sands and profit off shipping it to China through these pipelines.

But my point isn’t about the amusement factor of watching Prime Minister Stephen Harper imitate the Richard Nixon playbook circa 1973, although the 40 year time lag between American and Canadian politics does sometimes make watching the news feel like watching a familiar re-run of “Gilligan’s Island.” My concern is that the absurd Kabuki being performed by the Harper government is intended specifically to give the Movement (I won’t call them the Left because species survival is not a left-right issue) something to engage with. “Hey, I recognized their framing! I’ve cleverly countered it with my letter to the editor!” In brief, my concern is that we are being manipulated by high-functioning sociopaths who know exactly what kinds of shiny objects to dangle.

And what are they doing while we’re earnestly engaged in our media counter-offensive? They’re getting set to make shit happen. They’re getting ready to roll over democracy and aboriginal rights and all other human considerations and build those pipelines to China. China, which has developed a sociopathic government by its own mechanisms, is buying into the tar sands like crazy and getting the refineries ready. Steady as she goes. The desires of the people – your desires, as a human being, and a citizen -- are simply irrelevant. Which is kind of icky.

So how do we engage with these sociopaths, if they control most of the world’s wealth and power? It’s tempting to say we’ll fight them on their own terms – climb the corporate ladder ourselves, or marshall a billion micro-donations from every treehugger with a paypal account. But I think that’s an illusion, because a) an equivalent number of non-sociopaths will never rise to that level of power and wealth, given the time-frame of disaster and the remaining available resources for new CEO’s to exploit, and b) even if we did manage to field a team that big, we would never be willing to fight the sociopaths the way they fight, because we're hampered by moral considerations, like fairness, truth and where we get our coffee. So how to fight as ourselves, and win? I think there are two ways.

The first is to use the language of accounting. For sociopaths, it’s comfortable to make everything about money, because they have no internal way to value things. Brilliant economists like Mark Anielski have co-opted the language of money and described non-material things that way: “happiness” becomes human capital; “friendship” becomes social capital; wilderness becomes “natural capital”. The downside, of course, is that the misguided sociopath may set up a leveraged set of friendship derivatives, and you’ll find yourself bundled in with 670 people from Indonesia and sold to an investor in Hamburg. Still, it may be that sociopaths can be trained to extrapolate the “win-win” transaction – which is a sociopathic version of empathy – to incorporate externalities that provide him or her with benefits, like absorbing toxic wastes and making food riots more collegial.

The second and more inspiring weapon at our disposal is simply human emotion, and not least because it’s the wild card that sociopaths don’t think to factor in. In an era of sociopathic oligarchy, projects like these pipelines will only be stopped by us putting ourselves physically in the path of bulldozers – this will be our version of what sociopaths call “changing the facts on the ground”. But again, that can feel icky – it’s sad to think that all our democratic institutions have been reduced to physical resistance. It’s a loss of innocence. But if we are willing to feel that grief, and help others feel it, then we can move on to the fun part – the excitement and laughter and meaning when it’s 100 or 1,000 people in front of that bulldozer. The fun and the friendship are what How to Boil a Frog is all about.

The most useful metaphor that covers both these strategies is the shark, the world’s oldest predator. It didn't stick around for 400 million years by eating everything to extinction. Sharks, though they were top of the food chain and unchallenged in the ocean, nonetheless developed a sense of enough, and came into balance with the defenseless fish around them. Had they not done that, they would’ve gone extinct along with the Canadian Liberal Party. That lesson - sustainable preservation of prey (i.e., customers) - will not be lost on a sociopath. It will not make him or her consider the humanity and happiness of the little fish (meaningless and irrelevant concepts), but it can be used as manipulation within the small realm that he or she understands: the realm of the economy and money.

And for us, the shark metaphor is a reminder not to expect them to have good table manners if we invite them to dinner. We're not negotiating with ourselves. We’re little fish negotiating with sharks for the preservation of our ecosystem, and need to think and speak accordingly for the good of all - including the sharks.

BONUS ROUND: Empathy for sociopaths

It isn’t just sociopaths, by the way. We all set aside either our belief in science, or our consciences, to get through the day.

For instance, if you don't believe that humanity is causing global warming, given the simple workings of a greenhouse, then you have set aside your belief in the Laws of Thermodynamics (which still govern our existence whether we believe in them or not). Here's a back of the napkin calculation, for instance, on the effect of driving:

There are roughly a billion cars in the world, putting out around 1 pound of CO2 per mile. If the average car is driven 12,000 miles per year, that means 12,000 pounds of CO2 more or less - 6 tons. (This is about 1/3 of the average North American's annual output of 20 tons per person). There are about a billion cars in the world, each putting out 6 tons apiece, so that equals 6 billion tons of CO2 per year from driving, about 1/5th of our total CO2-equivalent output of 31 billion tons.

But the earth can only absorb about 11 billion tons annually without warming. So whenever you or I drive a car (and I do have one) we’re participating in the generation of droughts, hurricanes and other extreme weather that brings misery, disease, war and death to billions of people around the world.

So: did you just give up driving, or did you just make an instant unconscious calculation that you are exempt from responsibility for the harm done to those other people, so you can keep doing what you want?

Now you know how a sociopath thinks.

Monday, December 12, 2011

7 Billion and One

As part of a discussion of a series of videos by Jack Alpert about rapid population decline (RPD), Tim Murray shared some personal experiences of life as seen through the lens of awareness of overpopulation, overshoot, and their inevitable consequences for children born today. His comments follow - yours are welcome.


Nearly two years ago, I received news that there was a new addition to my
family. My niece Gethsemane had just given birth to my "grand-nephew",
Oliver. That morning, my friend Michael noticed that my face carried a
different expression than was customary. It was a blend of expression of pride
and sadness. As soon as I told him about the birth, Michael reflexively
congratulated me, and when I confessed reservations, he was perplexed. "You
should be happy!" he exclaimed. I tersely responded, "Why?" His
answer was equally terse, and I think, profoundly revealing of our predicament.
"It's renewal!", he proclaimed.

At that point I wanted to tell him the truth. I wanted to tell him that we were
already getting 350,000 cases of "renewal" every day, that we are
adding more than 150 people to our numbers every minute, and 200,000 every
day---that's right----one city the size of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
every day-----and nearly 80 million every year. I wanted to tell him that were now
more people being born every day than there are primates in the world. That we
are pushing 50 other species off the plate every day, and pushing people in our
own species off the plate every day in the competition for scarce resources. I
wanted to tell him this, but didn't. I didn't because he was among those vast
numbers of people who didn't even understand that there was a problem. So where
could I begin, and when? Certainly not on a Tuesday morning when he was busy
with so many errands.

I faced a similar situation later that month. My neighbour Peter announced that
they had a new grandson. And not long after that, another neighbour, Rob, made
a similar announcement. Both were bursting with pride. How could I dare to
introduce the topic of overpopulation?

Now, earlier this week, I received a photo of my grand-nephew, Oliver, just a
month shy of his second birthday, sitting on Santa's knee for the very first
time. It instantly reminded me of my first time some 56 years ago. The memories
are still vivid. As soon as I saw Oliver, my heart warmed with delight. My
Malthusian beliefs were instantly overwhelmed by a raw emotional bond with this
little guy. If that was my reaction, you can imagine how the rest of the people
on the email list responded. They were, for the most part, grandmothers. People
over 60. They all gushed at this cute young boy.

All of us on the list replied with our thanks for having been chosen to share
this wonderful moment. But one of them responded to me as well. She was once my
sister-in-law, now a 65 year old woman and grandmother of two. She noticed my
email address, "gloomndoom". Like Michael, she was perplexed. What
was there to be gloomy about? Doom? What doom? Am I depressed about something?
Did a friend of mine die? Did I have a breakup with someone? Do I have a severe
illness? Once again, I initially wanted to tell her the whole truth, but then I
realized that now was not the time and place, and that it would take more than
one conversation to make her understand why there was cause for gloom. I would
need to walk her through a serious of mental decompression chambers. Telling
her, from the outset, that she was a murderer, or that we were in overshoot by
a factor of 100 would not likely secure her audience. She would more than
likely take it as an insult from a madman. I am obviously deranged, or in the
depths of clinical depression.

What lesson can I draw from the forgoing experiences? Jack believes that we can
build a grass roots "belief" consensus for RPD by first targeting
grandmothers. The kind of ordinary grandmothers who look at young children like
Oliver and find in them a source of love, pride and hope. He thinks that
youtube [videos] like the ones he has made can convince them to over-ride their
natural preferences and come to accept the bitter medicine of RPD and very low
fertility rates.

We know that we have our work cut out for us, but I think that it is very much
more than the most pessimistic of us can really imagine. While many people can
agree, on an intellectual level, that we are very much in overshoot, on a
personal level, those very same people apparently find no reason not to get in
on the party. We love kids and we love the idea of leaving a legacy. It's in
our cultural and genetic DNA. It's the tragedy of the commons....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

When Corporate Media Goes Rogue

While Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes Freudian pronouncements about ramming his tar sands pipelines through the West Coast, the Vancouver Sun newspaper leaps aboard the PR train, doing its part to boil you even faster. Here is guest outrage from Friend o' the Frog Rex Weyler, co-founder of Greenpeace International and a member of the citizen's group Tanker Free BC:


The Vancouver Sun announces promotional partnership with Enbridge!

This week the Vancouver Sun made it perfectly clear that it no longer pretends to be
in the business of journalism, and has accepted a full promotional partnership with
Enbridge, Kinder-Morgan, Syncrude, Shell Oil, Petro-China, and other large corporations
that would like to turn British Columbia into the tar sands shipping port

For example, see the photograph below from Jens Wieting at Sierra Club BC.

On Friday, the day after 70 BC Indigenous nations added their signatures to the Fraser River Declaration, bringing the total number of indigenous nations to 131 BC nations declaring "No Tar Sands development on our traditional territories" -- with a public ceremony at Vancouver's Public Library, with public presentations by chiefs, from nations who had completed in-depth research, due process, legal analysis, and after conferring with their people and councils, the Vancouver Sun ran two front page stories about ..

"Dog Rescuers" and "Problem Gamblers"

Then, on Saturday, when one lone member of the Gitxsan Nation allowed his name to be associated with a story promoted by Enbridge that the Gitxsan Nation would take the Enbridge bribe of $7 million to support the pipeline -- a story that turns out to be completely false according to a statement from the Gitxsan people later that day (see below), who say no such deal has been completed, that the community had not been consulted, and that they are "outraged" by this premature and false announcement -- the Vancouver Sun ran a full, 5-column banner headline declaring:

"Gitxsan support Enbridge pipeline"

With this act of corporate public relations, the Vancouver Sun has made it clear once and for all that it no longer considers itself a "news" paper or voice of the people of BC, but has fully accepted it's role as an arm of oil company and corporate promotions. Without checking its sources, without confirming the story with the Gitxsan community, the Vancouver Sun accepted this piece of Enbridge public relations hype as "news" and blasted out a front page headline, ignoring the 171 BC First Nations who had just declared:

"No tar sands development on our traditional territory," and who stated unequivocally: "These pipelines will not be built."

The Vancouver Sun and its editorial board and reporters have exposed themselves as the Fox News of BC. They can change their name to the Foxcouver Sun, "bringing you the corporate spin as soon as it is available."

Thank Gaia we have The Tyee, Vancouver Observer, Watershed Sentinel, Common Ground, Common Dreams, and other means of getting actual news.

Adios, once great newspaper of BC.

See photo below of the front pages, and read the actual Gitxsan statement below.

On the left, Friday's Vancouver Sun cover page the day after 131 First Nations announced they will not allow the Enbridge pipeline through their territories. On the right, Saturday's Vancouver Sun cover page the day after one First Nation individual erroneously announced that his nation would make a deal with Enbridge and support the pipeline.

[Thanks to Jens Wieting at Sierra Club for this visual comparison.]

December 2, 2011 Gitanmaax, B.C.…

…“The Gitxsan people are outraged with the Enbridge Northern GatewayPipeline Agreement”…

Contrary to the announcement of Elmer Derrick of today’s date, therepresentatives of the Plaintiffs to the British Columbia Supreme Court Action No. 15150, cited as Spookw v. Gitxsan Treaty Society, oppose the Agreement. TheGitxsan plaintiffs include Hereditary Chiefs and four Gitxsan bands with apopulation of over 6,000 Gitxsan people; the majority of whom are House members in the Gitxsan traditional system represented by Hereditary Chief, Spookw, inthe court action.

The representatives do not support Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline agreement entered into by Elmer Derrick and state “Elmer Derrick and the Gitxsan Treaty Society/Gitxsan Economic Development Corp. does not speak for all Gitxsan. The Gitxsan people had no knowledge of the proposed Agreement nor were they consulted”. The Plaintiffs contend that the Gitxsan Treaty Society, or the Gitxsan Development Corporation, does not have the authority to enter into such Agreements without consulting or being authorized by the Gitxsan people.

Knowledge of the signed Agreement was only obtained through media, much like the Gitxsan Alternative Governance Model of May 2008, the subject matter of litigation in Spookw v. Gitxsan Treaty Society.

The representatives say that not only were the communities not consulted, but importantly, the Environmental Review Process is not yet complete with community hearings being scheduled for January 2012; therefore, a decision to support it is, at best, premature. Until the Environmental assessment is complete there is no basis for saying this project is safe to build.

The Representatives say the 7 million dollars is a pittance in comparison to the potential environmental impacts which will be catastrophic. The GTS/GED is willing to jeopardize the sustenance of the First Nations people for a few million dollars is reprehensible and is not supported by the Gitxsan people.

Mr. Derrick espouses the importance of Gitxsan Law; however, breached such law by announcing and celebrating the Agreement on the day of the funeral of an elder matriarch and Hereditary Chief. This type of conduct brings shame and is disrespectful to the grieving family and the traditional system.

The representatives say that Mr. Derrick has embarrassed and shamed the Gitxsan people by undermining the 61 First Nations who are opposed to the project. The representatives say “We stand in solidarity to those opposing it.”


For an added comedy bonus, Rafe Mair has contributed his excerpts of an actual interview with Chief Elmer Derrick (the kind of news-related work the Vancouver Sun didn't do before publishing Enbridge's press release), that came out yesterday in the Terrace Daily Online:

REPORTING · 3rd December 2011
Merv Ritchie

One week ago, on Friday, November 25, 2011, the Regional District Kitimat Stikine (RDKS) took the extraordinary step of unanimously supporting a single project for the Provincial Governments “Community Recreational Grant Program”. They had more applicants and could have even listed their choices in order of preference, but they were steadfast and determined. The Gitxsan Nation had worked so hard, united and together for this one dream, the new Sports Arena to replace the crumbling Ken Trombley Memorial Arena in Hazelton, they decided they would risk everything to show their support for the Gitxsan people and their demonstration of unity by offering the Province no other alternatives.

Elmer Derrick may have just flushed that new found hope and dream of a unified people down the toilet. Just what did Enbridge promise him? He claims one fortieth of ten percent. That made one media spokesperson openly chuckle.

Three and a half years ago Derrick did essentially the same thing. He heads up the Gitxsan Treaty Office (GTO) and the Gitxsan Treaty Society (GTS). Without consulting the Gitxsan people he held a media conference and announced to the world a new Gitxsan Governance Structure. The Gitxsan people heard about it first through the media just like today they are hearing they suddenly support Enbridge on the nightly news.

Even Derrick fumbled badly when asked who he speaks for and where he gets his authority he had the following answers to these questions:

Are the Band Councils on Board with this decision?
I don’t know […] I haven’t solicited any opinions from the Band Councils

Can you legitimately speak for all the people?
Our title holdings (referring to being a Hereditary Chief) have been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada.

But you didn’t confer with any of those elected officials?
Well we send out information and talk to ah, we’ve been talking to as many people as possible in the past six years.

Who was actively participating in reaching this agreement with Enbridge, just you?
No input from Band Councils but we have a staff

Was it ultimately your decision then?
Not necessarily, I just do the negotiations for the nation.

Do the actual members of the first nation support this, do you even know?
Most of them do.

How do you know?
Just from talking to people.

So, no consultation, no referendum, no Chief meetings, no community polling, no input whatsoever, “just from talking to people”, and that is good enough for Elmer and Enbridge to host an international media scrum.

When asked why he chose now to make this announcement he answered this way:

Why did you choose now to sign?
The opportunity to sign today that’s all

How much did the announcement this week, by many First Nations that didn’t support the pipeline or tankers, influence today’s announcement?
I really wasn’t aware, unfortunately, of the details of the announcement that came out yesterday or the day before. So this announcement today has no bearing on what’s been done over the past day or so.

Just another coincidence it appears, only a couple of days after a united statement of solidarity by BC First Nations communities, Enbridge suddenly makes a signing opportunity available for Chief Derrick.

How many kilometres of that pipeline will run through your nation’s territory?
There is actually none that will run through our territory.

How do you think your decision will affect your relationship with other first Nations in the Area?
Hopefully it will not impact our relationship negatively, we’ve always been frank with our opinions on different projects and we respect the positions taken by the other First Nations, our neighbours.

At the end of the day will it be Hereditary Chiefs who decide how the money is spent?
It’ll be, ah, it’ll be ah, it’ll involve the whole community.

So you don’t really have a structure for the money will be distributed?
Oh, we do.

So how will you consult the community?
Well we ah, um, like we always do, we have continual meetings with everybody.

Where does the decision making process end?
Well there will be a board and professional administrators

The complete interview is here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

15 Tactics to Create Social Change

Another guest post from Friend o' the Frog Rex Weyler!

1. Ignore the dying paradigm and spend your time creating the new one.

2. Expose the hypocrisy and deceit to embarrass the perpetrator & rally the public conscience.

3. Flip the perpetrator's greenwash images and messages around to expose the deceit.

4. Use humour and satire to mock the absurdity, while informing the audience (as How to Boil a Frog does).

5. Stage outrageous events that shatter the old paradigm, expose absurdity, and inspire the public (Greenpeace, Provos, Saul Alinksi .. )

6. Make a legal case and take the perpetrators to court (danger: it's usually the perpetrator's court and rules, so be careful).

7. Get someone powerful within the status quo system on your side to help fight for change on the inside (same danger as above; easy to get co-opted and sucked into fruitless posing).

8. Lay the groundwork for the future recovery of the addicted consumer or perpetrator (& have lots of patience).

9. Confront abuse with nonviolent resistance so the abuse exposes itself .. (courage .. Gandhi, Jesus, Aung San Sui Kyi, .. etc.)

10. Start a revolution and confront abuse with superior physical strength. (Rarely successful, but sometimes works as in the case of the teenage son who gets big enough to protect his mother. And of course there is the classic danger of the new powerful protector turning into the abuser. Iran kicked out the CIA, but look what they got; the Bolsheviks got Stalin; America kicked out the Brits, but got their bankers.)

11. Become an artist and create beauty / feeling in another realm; inspire and let social change take care of itself.

12. Go insane and ignore everything and live in a new psychic universe (popular tactic in physical abuse cases).

13. Escape, build community, grow food, and protect your community from the pain of collapse. Create the alternative society (see #1).

14. Get rich and invest in change. (hmmm ... risky)

15. etc. ..

I find it difficult to say which tactics work in various battles, so it seems worthwhile to preserve the options.. and get used to using the ones that are effective. A powerful movement might happen by working on most or all of these at the same time. On the other hand, something can be said for picking your strategy and sticking with it.

Combined tactics can be effective: nonviolent resistance + satire + crazy antics ..

Social change doesn't appear to have any fast rules.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From Claudia Morgado's interview with Jon Cooksey, writer/director of "How to Boil a Frog", about the intersection between art and climate change. We're posting his answers here in hopes of giving him some sort of credibitility as a mature adult, because god knows he doesn't act like it.


CM: Climate Change is one of the defining issues of this age with far reaching impact in all aspects of our lives and the natural environment. As a filmmaker and artist, what is your cultural relationship with science on the issues of climate change?

JC: I think we have a love/hate relationship with science now, fuelled by the kind of narcissism and ignorance that fuels all love/hate relationships. We expect science to provide for us, to feed us, to make us new and better iPods, to make the magical internet work, to make the lights go on when we flick a switch – but when it threatens to bring us into contact with reality, particularly the consequences of our wasteful lifestyle in the developed world (monstrously selfish in a global context), we revolt and start a Tea Party or the equivalent so we can collectively feel justified in disbelieving science. And as the Vancouver riots show us, people are willing to suspend their consciences in a collective situation in order to do whatever they please for a short while, if everyone is doing it. Thus denial of climate change – the ultimate act of disbelief in the face of overwhelming science fact – is naturally paired with the ultimate negative consequence of the “scientific revolution”, the amoral unleashing of technology to satisfy our immediate desires. They go hand in hand. They’re twins.

So my relationship to science, culturally, is to stop talking about science, and start talking about our resistance to it, our relationship to it – in other words, I deal with psychology, what we want from science (or from Santa), and what we project onto it. I think science fact is irrelevant to getting people to change their behaviour, though I do believe that being willing to face and accept the scientific facts of runaway global warming is one of the greatest moral duties of our time. So from psychology, I seem to have wandered into morality, and the two don’t mix well, because we have also projected our denial onto psychology, and want it to be a non-judgmental self-help book that accepts us along with our unsustainable consumption. But psychology, at best, is an understanding of why we’re afraid – or even physiologically incapable – of grasping the global consequences of our actions, and making a moral decision to join the indigenous people of the planet in saving some planet for the 7th generation to follow us.

CM: Do you think that your work can communicate/advise/suggest solutions and how?

JC: I think there are only a few ways to effectively communicate something as traumatic as climate change, the potential that it has to end mammalian life on earth, and the enormous change that it asks of us, in terms of consumption in the developed world. One is music, which seems to bypass emotional defences; another is images, particularly human faces, in which all but sociopaths read subtle emotions that evoke empathy; a third is story – fictional or non-fiction narratives that give a larger meaning to smaller events; and the fourth is humour. In making “How to Boil a Frog”, I tried to use all of those, but focused on humour as the marketing hook, because a movie can’t accomplish anything if people don’t go see it. Once I get past people’s emotional defences, then advice per se isn’t strictly necessary – people already can see where they’re off-base if they admit to the facts, however briefly – but offering solutions is key. I went out of my way to develop a set of solutions based on global overshoot, that is, solutions to the systemic disease (consumption/waste, amplified by overpopulation and technology) rather than symptoms like climate change.

CM: Do you see a positive collaboration between art (films, visual arts, etc.) and science that calls upon people’s awareness of the consequences of climate change?

JC: Absolutely. I’m just a self-educated citizen, though I was lucky to get a solid grounding in math and science in secondary school, which allowed me to wade through the science behind global warming, peak oil, deforestation, hydrology, etc. (Specialization has been one of the main causes of our current catastrophic state of affairs – we need generalists who understand whole systems – not specialists who only understand isolated parts. That’s how you end up with Nazi guards who were just following orders.) Once I understood the basic science, then I was free to come up with metaphors – preferably funny ones – that would let the average person grasp the basic issues in a very short time, because comedies move very fast. But artists will interpret and present science in all kinds of different ways, based on their chosen media, and that’s important, because there are all those different ways to get past the anti-science brain barrier, and different ways work on different people.

CM: Does your artistic/storyteller voice see a need to promote mutual understanding between art and science?

JC: Yes, in two senses. One, science needs to be brought in out of its isolation – a result of both its ascent into areas of specialty that common people could no longer understand, and of the ego of scientists who wanted to be gods – and reintegrated with everyday life, with emotions and the vulnerability of the planet, which does not specialize, but presents us with one interconnected system of which we are a single (though very unruly) part. Two, scientists themselves need to let down the barrier between their knowledge and their humanity. The truth is that many many climatologists – maybe most – are scared shitless about what’s happening, but very few will admit that in public (our own brilliant Andrew Weaver being an exception). If art is the expression of truth by other means, then scientists need to become artists, and learn to communicate with people in a way that they can hear. Foot-thick IPCC reports are obviously not the way to do that, and in any case will always be counteracted by the clever – artistic? – counterattacks of the denialists. Art can bypass that sort of intellectual argument, which is accomplishing little besides giving people something to argue about in internet chat rooms, and enriching those in the fossil fuel industry (not to mention the Denial Industry).

CM: Is your intention as an artist/filmmaker to create a dialogue and to engage people in action and behavioural change?

JC: Definitely. I’m not sure anybody has ever made a mass-market movie and asked everyone to write him after they’re done watching. So that could get a little overwhelming if the movie ever gets popular. But people need more support than that, and the internet is a unique tool to make global issues local and personal. That’s why the movie ends with an invitation to go to The Pond, the part of our website (still under development) where people who are ready to learn more and/or take action can find one another, find resources, find fellow-troublemakers. I can’t talk to everybody, though I do try. The endpoint of all of it is action – behavioural change – on several levels: consuming and not-consuming, changing the way we relate to each other and the world, kicking corporate and government ass, and transitioning to a more resilient way of life before the shit hits the fan in a more obvious way in the developed world.

CM: How do you see your film/writing work as finding/shaping solutions to this global problem?

JC: It quickly became obvious to me that I couldn’t just cut together a bunch of talking heads, because no one person was suggesting a set of systemic solutions to overshoot. But they educated me in systemic thinking, and I put pieces together based on their knowledge and wisdom. So to some degree I was organizing, but beyond that also thinking through the implications of what they were saying on a personal level, an emotional level, a logistical level. Holy crap – do I have to live in a hut? How do I stop driving when I have three kids in soccer? Will I get arrested if I protest that nuclear plant? Is anybody else doing these things or would it just be me? So finding a palatable way to present the solutions was just as important as the solutions themselves.

CM: Do you think that artists’ involvement in Climate Change is consistent with the history in which artists’ involvement in social change and or education?

JC: I hope so. If we lose this one, we’re fucked.

CM: How do you think the language of your artistic expression contributes to the larger climate change dialogue?

JC: Well, Rex Weyler – a co-founder of Greenpeace International – refers to “How to Boil a Frog” as “the world’s funniest movie about global warming”. That’s how I’d like it to be known, not only so people will see it, but so that everyone – including artists – will remember that these things have to be presented with humour, or else everyone will just jump off a bridge before they take action. Bad for repeat business.

CM: Do you think the language (of emotions and associations) that you as an artist/filmmaker possess is powerful enough to engage and encourage behavioural change?

JC: Based on the reactions I’ve gotten from all over the world, from an audience that still probably only numbers in the thousands, I’d say it can have that effect, at least on people who are at some personal tipping point. As to whether it can work on the level it was engineered for – creating a global tipping point – well, we’ll have to wait and see. Buy a DVD and loan it to somebody and let’s find out.

CM: How has your perception of climate change motivated you to act on your art and in your daily life?

JC: Well, it got me to spend half a million dollars making a movie, which was definitely not on my agenda, and isn’t what I do for a living. And I did that specifically because I realized that making personal-level changes was necessary, but insufficient, to save my daughter’s life. I cannot save her without saving everyone – so I had to try to do something that would defend the global commons. Very few people have the potential means to do that. I was (maybe) one of them. So therefore I had to do it. That doesn’t mean I’ll succeed, but I couldn’t do anything less. And making the movie ultimately engaged my instincts for story-telling and how to reach a mass audience – specifically, I realized that the totality of our situation was so grim that nobody would ever pay to hear about it unless it was delivered inside of a comedy. As a comedy writer, that became an intriguing challenge.

Just because I’m trying to save civilization, of course, doesn’t mean I get a free pass in my personal life. I’m hardly a paragon of virtue – in fact, I lean on the fact that I’m a confused, struggling hypocrite to make sure people know that whatever I’m doing, they can certainly do too (and probably do it better). But now I take mass transit whenever possible and avoid driving my car, I don’t eat beef (and I’m eating less meat in general), I buy used stuff (clothes, books, etc.) rather than new if I can, I don’t buy gas from Exxon, I grow vegetables in my back yard, I’m constantly involved in activism and lending my talents to local and global causes where I can do some good, I communicate with people I’ve gotten to know all over the world, and I’m building a local community of friends largely based on great food, laughter and playing live music. So my life is definitely not the same as it was 5 years ago.

CM: You talk about yourself as a storyteller, what are the important stories about climate change that need to be told and why?

JC: Principally two, I think. One, the Nightmare Scenario of systemic collapse needs to be told in every way possible – that’s where we’re headed if we don’t take a sharp turn now in consumption, population, and waste. That’s a very dark future, with unimaginable population collapse in this century. And two, the Positive Scenario needs to be visualized for people – the sustainable future we CAN have if we make changes now. My friend Vandy, who did focus groups for years on various products, points out that very few people can visualize something they haven’t seen before. That’s what artists can do, at least potentially. So we have to lay out all the positives of a sustainable future, and I don’t mean by saying it’s sustainable – that motivates approximately nobody. I mean we have to show that that future means people are back in community and out of isolation and loneliness, that they feel their lives are meaningful and important to others, that they’re having fun, laughing, eating healthy food they feel good about, consuming in a way that they know everyone (including their children and grandchildren) can consume in (not just a privileged few at the expense of the many), having great sex in the afternoon, and so on. People have to be reminded that, yes, their present has a lot of neat stuff in it, but they’ve also lost some things along the way that are apparently more important to their happiness than the iPad, based on the number of anti-depressants people are taking.

CM: What is your relationship to the scientists that are documenting climate science?

JC: I’ve interviewed a few along the way, and sent rough cuts of the movie to others for comment. My relationship has always been very positive. I love scientists, especially when they get cantankerous and swear.

CM: Has your relationship with scientists changed before and after your documentary?

JC: Yes, in the sense that before that, I didn’t know any. But maybe more importantly, I think I looked at scientists – and journalists – as infallible purveyors of truth. The picture, of course, is much more complex than that. Climatologists, as a group, are some of the best human beings we’ve ever produced – they’re meticulous, dedicated to not saying more than they know, dedicated to the public good (often at great personal cost), massively cooperative across disciplines – but they’re also, generally, wonks. They’ve been boxed into a scientific culture that says they can’t talk about their feelings, because then they wouldn’t be objective. Of course, 99.9999% of humanity couldn’t care less about facts – ALL they hear is feelings. If 98% of climatologists came out and said “Holy shit, we’re about to go over a fucking cliff and these bastards who say we’re not are just lying greedy assholes who are trying to kill you for one last buck before the collapse! Let’s stop putting out CO2 right the fuck NOW before we all end up burning in a hell we made ourselves!”… Well, I think people would pay more attention. Did I mention I like it when they swear?

CM: Do you perceive yourself as an active audience of the contemporary issues of climate change?

JC: Maybe too much so. The danger of diving into this particular abyss is that there’s such an attraction to keep reading articles that say the same things over and over. “See? I KNEW we were fucked that way!” So, as my friend Anita told me at one point: “You know enough.” At some point you have to realize that you’re reading instead of acting, because reading is easier, and doesn’t take any commitment.

On the other hand, once I became global-warming literate, I began to see the web of systemic causation that binds so many different news stories and cultural issues together. Food shortages, extreme weather, loss of indigenous cultures, income inequality, resource wars, widespread depression and anxiety – these and many other big issues are bound together by climate change, and in the bigger picture by global overshoot. So the world stops being a confusing mass of bad news to be avoided, and starts to look like a global system having a logical response to really shitty input. That calms me down, in a weird way, because it gives me some focus in terms of what I can do to make things better. I don’t have to give to a million different causes. I can just take action on solutions to global overshoot, which is what I present in the movie.

CM: Do you think that you must know scientific facts about climate change to make climate change art, films, stories?

JC: No. I think some of the most powerful art in the world on this subject will probably be made by people – indigenous or developed world – who just intuit the truth, and present it emotionally through their chosen medium. They could potentially reach the most people because they’re bypassing completely the scientific debate clusterfuck that has everyone stuck in their recently-evolved forebrains, rather than taking action from the limbic system that we’ve relied on for millions of years to save our asses.

CM: How can the artist avoid the anxiety of a changing global phenomenon?

JC: It would be a disservice to humanity to avoid that anxiety. It’s our job as artists – and I include everyone in the world in this statement – to experience and process that anxiety, and then transform it into action and community-building through the alchemy of our own psyches.

CM: Where do you see your artistic endeavor in the broader climate change dialogue?

JC: I am the court jester of global warming. I’m just trying to tell the truth without getting beheaded.

    Your Cart
    Your cart is empty