Monthly Archives: May 2010

“Joint” agreements: The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement.. just plain bizarre

Greenpeace Boreal image

I’ve been reading through the leaked version of the recently announced Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement – the touted historic agreement signifying a new era of Joint Leadership in the Boreal Forest.

This Agreement apparently covering Canada’s Boreal Forest (which stretches from the Yukon and B.C. all the way across the country to Newfoundland) was signed last week by twenty-one forest companies that operate in Canada’s Boreal forest  and nine “leading” environmental companies.

Reading through the leaked agreement (a final copy of which still isn’t posted on the website) I am left wondering what sort of “Joint” is being referred to (or reefered to).

As another writer has suggested, Dawn Paley, in an online article on The Dominion: The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement Reconsidered Paley suggests: “the numbers game is far from the only Orwellian aspect of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement” referring to some of the ‘communication’ activities and organized campaigns of the nine “leading” environmental groups involved — and how this Agreement controls and dictates how those activites can now be conducted by those organizations.

In the agreement these types of ‘activities’ are “legally” defined in the “Definitions” section of the agreement (I say legally because only lawyers could develop these sorts of legalese definitions and my experience negotiating agreements that points to the lawyerly joy of ensuring these sorts of things are “legal”), :

page 4 of CBFA

Some important words to highlight here: “any”; as in the fifth word of this definition.

Therefore “any advocacy or communication activities” by the nine ‘leading’ environmental groups — signatories to this agreement — with any relation to:

  • paper recycling campaigns — i.e. reduce, reuse, recycle;
  • the importance of forests (e.g. home to critters like salmon, caribou, grizzly bears, bees, owls, and so on — oh yeah, and humans…;  carbon sequestration; oxygen producers; and all those other silly things that forests do…); and
  • maybe truly “conserving” and “protecting” forests in the real meaning of those words (i.e. like leaving alone, or maybe just for walking through, or hunting in, or simply being in — as opposed to the completely co-opted use of these words.

Now that we have a legal “definition” to work with… I used the ‘search’ function to look through the 70+ page agreement to see where “ENGO Advocacy Work” is used and why it had to be defined.

It first comes up on page 37 of the Agreement, under the section “Goal 6: Marketplace Recognition“.

CBFA is the Agreement -- FPAC is Forest Products Association of Canada, the logging companies

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Section 6 follows Section 5, which is “Forest Sector Prosperity“….  And here’s where things begin to get odd (ENGOs are the nine enviro groups):

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page 38 CBFA

So, if you remember back to the definition of ENGO advocacy work, enviros are going to have to have their lawyers review any advocacy or public communications and ensure it fits with this Agreement and anything to do with the Canadian Boreal Forest. (Last time I checked, climate change was having a significant effect on the Canadian Boreal Forest)

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Greenpeace banner at Abitibi, Montreal headquarters 2007

Apparently they’re not doing very well as I checked Greenpeace’s website today and if I wanted I can still send a letter to “Abitibi-Consolidated” headquarters called “stop looting the Boreal Forest“.

(click the image to see related page on Greenpeace website – but do it soon because apparently it’s supposed be gone according to the “Agreement“).

Side note: Abitibi-Bowater, the world’s eighth largest pulp and paper producer is still under bankruptcy protection…)

Side note II: if you watch the YouTube video on Greenpeace’s website you can see images of their campaign against companies operating in the Boreal Forest…

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Besides the clever banners and vandalizing ocean freighters, there are images of logging trucks, clearcuts, the rumble of forestry equipment and so on. My question is: how does this agreement change any of that?…

There’s still going to be frigging logging trucks, road building, and logging equipment rumbling through the Boreal forest by at least 21 companies (i.e. FPAC members) and whatever other logging companies operating in the Boreal Forest that didn’t sign this agreement…

Greenpeace defends their position in a Q & A paper on their site.

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OK – now here’s the Orwellian section… and apologies I recognize the legalese is onerous to read through — but this part blows my mind!

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(First, one of the legal definitions of “third party” is: any individual who does not have a direct connection with a legal transaction but who might be affected by it.)

12 (a) — am I now going be getting emails, phone call, or visits to my door suggesting that I, or any other “third party” making statements contrary to the principles and intents of the “Agreement” (it’s a sad piece of crap), should be worked with “proactively” to minimize my actions against the “principles and intent” of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement?

Or are the signatories going to move straight to 12 (c) (v) and suggest I “modify” my position, and/or public statements (i.e. weblog entries)?

Under 12 (b) — if any of the FPAC, FPAC members, and ENGOs figure I, or other third parties, may continue to hack away at this shoddy agreement, they have to immediately notify the other signatories.

This is just down right school yard tattle-taling…

OK, so how about this?

As I searched around online over the past couple of days, I came across a Facebook page called “Save the ‘Bou” (as in caribou). Save the ‘Bou is apparently:

“a campaign to protect Canada’s last remaining Woodland Caribou by environmental groups, Canopy, David Suzuki Foundation, ForestEthics, and Greenpeace Canada.”

If you visit this facebook page – and say scroll down near the bottom there’s a particular entry:

Kim Fry Greenpeace released a report last week which details how the Ontario government has allowed AbitibiBowater to destroy intact forests and Caribou Habitat in the English River Forest.

Well, Kim Fry, I hope you’re ready to be worked with “proactively” by the FPAC, FPAC members, and ENGOs to modify your position. You are “affiliated” with the four environmental groups that created this Facebook page, by just being on the page. Hope you’re not a “fan” or a “friend”….

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So, are the four enviro groups going to erase this Facebook page that they created because the ‘Bou are now “saved”, “protected”, “conserved” and/or “well-managed by “ecosystem-based planning”… Or, erase all entries from the last while, or entries to come (under article 11 of the Agreement) “where applicable all of their publicly available materials (both current and future) are consistent with the principles and intent of the CBFA”?

Peek-a-’bou…

What about donors or members of any of the enviro organizations involved — if they blog, or comment negatively about the “Agreement”, will action be sought? What level of action are environmental groups willing to take? or the forestry companies?

Will we start getting “joint” Greenpeace-AbitibiBowater banners put on our houses: “STOP MAKING STATEMENTS THAT ARE CONTRARY TO THE PRINCIPLES AND INTENT OF THE CANADIAN BOREAL FOREST AGREEMENT!”?

Donors, members, Facebook fans, attendees of conferences or events, and so on — would fit the definition of affiliated third parties “through membership or otherwise” (Article 12 of Goal 6 above). About 10 or 12 years ago I gave the Suzuki Foundation (in its early days before it had over 60 corporate employees) some membership fees, donations, and bought some reports — I guess I better watch what I say on this weblog….

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All of this, and I haven’t even got into the lost meaningless language, half-truths, bullshit bumpf, and other sad pieces of this agreement… and why do I care?

to be continued…

continued contradictions and lost language: BP, DFO and Enbridge

This is brilliant thinking… and are you surprised the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans is involved?

An article from the Canadian Press: “Arctic oil spill test is scrubbed

Ottawa has dropped plans to dump crude into northern waters next to a proposed ocean park to test new ways of cleaning up oil spills in the Arctic…

“This test will not proceed this year,” said an email from Nelson Kalil, a spokesman for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.”

Last Thursday, the department applied to a northern regulatory board for permission to dump up to 1,200 litres of oil into Lancaster Sound in the Northwest Passage this summer. The area is adjacent to a proposed national marine conservation area.

…the tests were planned for the same time as the annual migration of thousands of beluga whales.

brilliant… just brilliant.

See, when it comes time for the Conservatives or whatever other party in federal power to decide to start drilling for oil in the Arctic (or off the British Columbia coast), we’ll be serenaded with endless stories about how we have “world-class technologies” and “unparalleled safety standards” and oil companies are “fantastic neighbors” and “incredible community contributors”.

The situation in the Gulf of Mexico will have retreated into news article archives; news headlines taken over by more MPs in Ottawa (or Provincial Premiers) being charged for drunk driving, engaging in unethical and immoral behavior, and day-to-day sandbox-like bickering — or the latest headlines from the stock market.

Look at media headlines now and it’s already happening.

(sheez, I’m cynical sometimes…)

The application to the Nunavut Impact Review Board said that increased accessibility in the Arctic is also increasing the risk of oil spills. It said current cleanup techniques are of limited use in ice-choked water and new methods have to be tested.

If we can’t drill safely in the tropics even with “world-class” standards in place:

Clips from BP health and safety manual on website

And we can’t run tankers safely through northern inlets (e.g. Prince William Sound);

And we have passenger ferries running into islands (Queen of the North) even though BC Ferries webpage states:

Our Safety and Environmental Policy

Safety of life, prevention of injury to passengers and employees, protection of the environment, and environmental stewardship shall be given the highest priority in the operation of our vessels and terminals.”

Should drilling in the Arctic even be an option? Should ocean drilling at all – be an option?

(hold on I have to go fill-up my car… I go full serve though so that I can support local jobs and “sustain” my community…)

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Salmon, salmon guy… what about the salmon? you might ask…

If you’re familiar with energy company Enbridge and its proposal to build an oil pipeline (Gateway Project) from Alberta to Kitimat, on the British Columbia coast then you might see where I’m going with this.

Yesterday (May 29th) Enbridge filed for regulatory review with the National Energy Board.

proposed Gateway route

Oddly enough, yesterday in our mailbox here in Prince George, BC we received our usual array of junk mail; one of the pieces was a nicely laid out little book:

Enbridge: “We’re Building More than Pipelines”.

I’ve made a few additions to the cover to better portray some truth:

Enbridge Propaganda: what's our real legacy?

If you’re not able to make it out, I used paper for my captions that better represents what this pamphlet should be used for… (hint: it’s initials are t.p. and I got it from the part of the house where I do my best reading)

http://gapingvoid.com/

If you remember from an earlier post I inserted this little-bit-crude but effective thought from Hugh Macleod’s weblog: Gaping Void.

This Enbridge propaganda is no different.

Open to the first few pages, and my disgust only grows…

Apparently Enbridge is “building Canada, bringing growth to the north“.

Oh yeah, I know. Growth of trees and such as they move up mountainsides and further north onto the tundra due to global warming — and growth of rip-rap barricades on places like Haida Gwaii (formerly referred to as Queen Charlotte Is.) as they further “armor” the coastline highway from rising sea levels and more intense storm fronts.

Yup… “Growth”.

Last time I checked, the reason a significant amount of people live in the “north” is because it’s a slower pace, smaller communities, and not so much “growth”  (but maybe that’s just me). Maybe ask the folks in Kelowna or other Okanagan communities how they feel about “growth” of their communities…

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Enbridge is also apparently: “building sustainable communities…”

What the #@^% is a “sustainable” community?

Is this a community that sticks around for awhile…?

Well, Enbridge, Ft. St. James, Vanderhoof, Burns Lake, and otherwise have been around a little while, the First Nation communities nearby — much, much, much longer. Plus I’m not so sure 525,000 barrels of oil per day and 193,000 barrels of condensate flowing past these communities on a daily basis is really going to “sustain” these communities for the longer haul.

(and what about when the oil runs out?)

Language is important — it’s largely how we all communicate with each other. I have been known to spout off emphatically on a few occasions “say what you mean, and mean what you say”.

Sustainable means “capable of being sustained.”

Hmmm.

Sustained has several definitions. One definition: “To supply with necessities or nourishment; provide for.”… Well, we can’t eat oil or condensate. So that’s not it.

Another definition means: “To support the spirits, vitality, or resolution of; encourage.” Well… maybe for a little bit when some folks have some construction jobs for a couple of years — after that? not much.

Maybe as all that oil gets shipped to Asia (approximately 200-300 oil tankers a year), it might support spirits, vitality, or resolution of; and encourage folks there.

It’ll also add to the climate change issue and spewing CO2, which affects all of us…

Another definition of sustain means: “To experience or suffer” as in sustain an injury.

Maybe I’m getting closer…

Stay tuned for more contradictions and lost language… you’ve probably heard the saying: “same shit, different pile”.

Pew Charitable Trust: Environmentalism and contradictions

ahhh…PEW (gesundheit)

Contradictions… a great force in the social world. In some languages the word “contradiction” does not have such negative connotations as it does in English. Some consider contradiction to be a change agent… a balancing force between opposing ideas.

Maybe a sneeze could serve as an example… I know that when I sneeze it generally feels great; a tickle in the nose is satisfied, phlegm is cleared, a burst of energy is released. However, in this day of H1NoFun and other panic hysteria and “germs gone wild” epidemics where few people just trust their immune system (one of our oldest most ancient body systems) — my sneeze may represent a threat to someone’s personal existence and comfort. And ghad forbid I sneeze into my hand and then touch a book or say hi and shake their hand. (I also recognize that sneezes mean different things in different cultures)

As a result of germaphobia — little antibacterial/germ killing stations (motion activated dispensers) are located at various points around the library and other public facilities. (I’ll quietly mention the fact that more and more research is suggesting that this sort of assualt on germs may be doing us all much more harm than good…)

And thus, a simple sneeze becomes a loud, saliva-spraying, snot clearing contradiction….

… parallel to the Pew Charitable Trust.

First, the Pew Charitable Trust was formed through “the sole beneficiary of seven individual charitable funds established between 1948 and 1979 by two sons and two daughters of Sun Oil Company founder Joseph N. Pew and his wife, Mary Anderson Pew.”

I’ve alluded to this reality in a post from the other day — regarding environmental organizations — many are funded by U.S.-based philanthropic organizations that were formed as a result of an individual or individuals or family making their fortune in some business that exploited natural resources.

This is a curious contradiction.

The Pew Charitable Trust funds some fascinating and potentially meaningful work: civic engagement, media research, environmental issues, health, justice, minority empowerment, and so on, and so on. They suggest that they are “driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems.”

Good on ya, Pew.

However, does this negate the fact that the funds were generated from exploiting oil?

I don’t have the answer.

If BP (British Petroleum, the folks responsible for the ongoing Gulf of Mexico oil spill; now suggested to be the worst oil spill in history) forms a large philanthropic organization, or long-time executives of BP form a foundation from over-inflated salaries, bonuses, and stock options — and these funds go to environmental work — does that negate the irreversible damage they’ve done to the Gulf and through their other operations?

Tough one to ponder…

Second, the Pew Charitable Trust is the organization that apparently funded much of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement – “the historic agreement signifying a new era of Joint leadership in the Boreal Forest” — signed between several environmental groups and logging companies operating in the Canadian Boreal Forest.

(If you’re interested you can watch some very stilted, scripted, stiff ‘discussion’ between logging company, or at least Association executives and environmental organization executives at the “media” section of the website facilitated by Pew.)

The Trust suggests that their International campaign regarding Wilderness Protection and Public Lands is focussed on:

The world’s wildest places, the last refuges for nature, are under constant pressure from population growth and associated resource development, including logging, mining and oil and gas drilling. Protecting these global treasures is a difficult challenge, but it is one we must meet. The fate of so many of the world’s endangered species is at risk.

Now, Pew also has an environmental campaign focussed on “Protecting Ocean Life” :

Our marine work is aimed at preserving the biological integrity of marine ecosystems and primarily focuses on efforts to curb overfishing, reduce bycatch and prevent the destruction of marine habitat.

As part of their “marine work”, Pew recently published a news release criticizing the Marine Stewardship Council in its decision to certify the Antarctic Krill fishery. (If you haven’t read my criticisms of the Marine Stewardship Council simply plug their name into the search function of this website). I applaud the criticism; however, here’s the curious contradiction:

The Pew Environment Group today criticized the decision by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to certify Antarctic krill. The certification gives the false impression that the entire fishery for Antarctic krill is sustainable when in reality it is not…

…“Unfortunately, perception is reality,” said Gerald Leape, director of Pew’s Antarctic Krill Conservation Project (AKCP). “The MSC’s label falsely advertises the message that all krill are sustainably caught and that consuming krill-based omega 3 supplements or purchasing farmed salmon raised on krill meal is okay. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Yes, Pew folks (and Greenpeace, and Suzuki, and Forest Ethics, and Nature Conservancy, and so on), isn’t “perception reality”…?

Is not facilitating, co-signing and mass marketing an agreement such as the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement as a “historic agreement” of “conservation”; “protection”; and “sustainability” simply nothing more than giving a false perception of reality?

Especially when we’re only talking about a small portion of the entire Canadian Boreal forest in this “Agreement” .

And truly, please, if this agreement is about:

the true purpose.

Then why didn’t the companies flip the bill themselves if they’re so concerned about securing market share – based on their apparent intention to:

what is this... really?

Businesses green-washing themselves is the flavor of the month these days — I’m not too sure why environmental groups and an organization like the Pew Charitable Trust decided to assist in the greenwashing.

P.S. for those wondering: there are wild salmon inhabiting some large sections of the Canadian Boreal Forest, and certainly into Alaska.

environmentalists and Tar Sands operators to announce eco-agreement

Eco-certified?

Well, maybe the subject line to this post is not quite true… but probably soon enough. We can call the products: the eco-tar sands; or Greenpeace Oil; or Suzuki Sustainable Bitumen; or otherwise.

There’s about one word that I would like to send along to the nine environmental groups that signed the “historic agreement signifying a new era of Joint leadership in the Boreal Forest” — The Canadian Boreal Initiative, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, David Suzuki Foundation, Forest Ethics, Greenpeace, Canopy, The Nature Conservancy, Pew Environment Group International Boreal Conservation Campaign, & The Ivey Foundation –

It’s called co-opt.

The definition I think we can run with is: “To neutralize or win over (an independent minority, for example) through assimilation into an established group or culture.

The example given by the Free Online Dictionary is fitting:

co-opt rebels by giving them positions of authority.

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There was a time when several of these organizations were considered “rebel-like” — voices in the wilderness speaking up for things that matter. Maybe many folks didn’t always agree with messages, or tactics, or otherwise; however it was still good to hear another opinion; another perspective in opposition to whole-hog development.

Now don’t get me wrong… I think there is definitely a place for industry, communities (First Nation and settler alike), environmental groups, governments, investors, and so on to come together and devise solutions, or even developing good working relationships.

In fact, I think it’s essential.

However, pardon the cliche, this starts at the ground-level, at the community-level. Not in the ivory tower boardrooms of corporations and environmental corporations (what almost all of these organizations have become).

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Somebody please explain to me where large environmental organizations and large logging companies differ.

Large logging companies seek to remain as sensible, valuable, affordable investments for their investors  — often large mutual fund companies, pension funds, institutional investors (e.g. banks), and so on. These companies pump out distributions, or return on investment, or profits, or whatever else to their investors. In return governments (federal and provincial) give them access to timber and land, with the expectation that jobs and community investment will come along with that.

On the parallel hand, large corporate environmental organizations have created institutional structures that absolutely rely on the philanthropic foundations (largely from the U.S. and Europe) that fund them — and ironically enough, often large foundations that were created as a result of some individual or family exploiting natural resources or otherwise to make their fortune (i.e. there is no such thing as clean money) — with the addition of some individual donations.

Large environmental organizations do what any large organization does these days: they set up a corporate structure — the root of the word corporate comes from Latin corpus: to form into a body. (I’ll quietly point out that’s the same Latin root for: corpse).

And thus, the corpus/corpse/corporate process begins: form a hierarchy or command structure (e.g. we know who the general is of the Suzuki Foundation), draft a strategic plan with vision, mission, goals, objectives, strategies and so on, hire administrators and financial controllers, and year-in and year-out grind out “proposals” and shmooze the philanthropic foundations…

(there’s a reason they call big whitewater rafting trips, or yacht cruises up the “Great Bear Rainforest”, or whatever else — FLOAT & BLOAT)

The funny thing with corporate environmental organizations is that they often operate with the same corporate culture of many big business organizations — secure the cheapest labour possible and demand the longest hours all in the name of “save the planet”.

There are no “environmentalist labor unions”… and I’d be quite surprised to hear of the environmental organization that offers an industry competitive wage with full benefits…

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And thus… organizations (environmental) faced with securing donations and grants to continue (and justify) their existence must enter negotiations and sign deals that render them neutral and ineffective — all in the name of “results-based” operations… They have to resort to signing agreements that use empty meaningless language that parallel insurance agreements that leave insurance buyers screwed when they actually have to make a claim.

I don’t want to paste much of the agreement into these posts as it’ll drive the few readers of these posts away faster than fellow diners after sneezing on the group appetizer tray…

From the “definitions” section of the agreement; ecosystem-based planning which forms the foundation of this agreement:

“Ecosystem-based management” or “EBM” means management systems that attempt to emulate ecological patterns and processes, with the goal of maintaining and/or restoring natural levels of ecosystem composition, structure and function within stands and across the landscape;

This is the same bogus, bullshit language whereby early foresters suggested that clearcuts emulate natural disturbances (e.g. fire, blowdown, insect attacks, etc.).

Horseshit… the only natural disturbance that actually physically removes the wood from the ecosystem is maybe tornadoes — and that still results in wood being deposited elsewhere in an ecosystem –  not cut into 2×4′s and used to hold up cheap plaster walls in an Arizona suburb, in a house bought with a sub-prime mortgage, by someone who probably shouldn’t have been given a mortgage, but the bank sold the mortgage to bank in Greece, or Iceland –  so-fuggedaboutit…

(forget about it)

So tell me –  Greenpeace-Mr. Suzuki-ForestEthics, etc. –  how does a tree leaving the forest on the back of a logging truck in north-central Saskatchewan “emulate ecological patterns and processes”?

And “maintain” and “restore” framed by “and/or“…

For crying out loud! these are not parallel terms, which is generally what “and/or” implies.

Maintain means to keep up or carry on; to keep in an existing state. Thus, something cannot be “maintained in an existing state” if something is being taken out — for example: trees.

Restore means to bring back into existence; reestablish. I haven’t quite met a “restoration” process that means remove indigenous critters — for example: trees.

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This is horseshit, bullshit, cowshit language. Instead of framing things in an agreement like this, in empty meaningless language why not say it, as it is.

For example, Ecosystem-based Management (in this agreement anyways) means:

a system of economic trade-offs formulated in boardrooms in urban environments  that may/may not include local communities, governments, or organizations (aboriginal or settler) by individuals that may/may not have an understanding of actual ecosystem processes and probably couldn’t tell a caribou from a cow.

Oh yeah, I know Mr. Greenpeace, “EBM” is informed by the “Precautionary Approach”… wait lets define that as it should be:

Precautionary approach (definition from page 5 of agreement) means that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage to the revenue streams of the corporations and/or environmental corporations involved see definition of EBM and don’t let a good story get in the way of sound corporate decision-making.

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What does this have to do with salmon?

These types of empty, bumpf-filled, bullshit agreements between industries and “stakeholders” are becoming more commonplace.

Am I against logging? – absolutely not (I grew up in a logging town).

Am I against decisions on rural landscapes being made in urban corporate boardrooms (industry or environmentalist industry)- absolutely!

Where should rural decisions be made… I think you know my answer.

thoughts?

when environmental organizations become meaningless and pathetic

Apparently, the other day a “historic agreement signifying a new era of Joint leadership in the Boreal Forest” was signed between environmental groups and the logging industry in Canada. You can click the link in the last sentence to read the fancy, expensive PR-firm bullshit-version of the agreement with fancy maps and pictures of lots of guys in suits shaking hands — or if you like you can read part of the actual agreement (Canadian Boreal Forest_leak) that was leaked and can’t be found anywhere on the fancy PR website.

(update: here’s full 71-page agreement CBFA Final)

Gee, ain’t this “transparent”… when the actual agreement can’t be read… smells a bit fishy (pardon the pun) like the Afghan detainee documents fiasco, which apparently aren’t fit for public consumption (just a select few folks…)

Let me be clear on this… what an absolute piece of shit — joke of an agreement.

If for any reason I was an individual who donated to the nine environmental organizations involved (which I don’t — for this very reason), I’d be yanking my funding and sending it to the nearest homeless shelter, or Oxfam, or otherwise.

Not only is the agreement full of empty bumpf languageecosystem-based planning, adaptive management, and so on; I’d be curious to know when environmental groups were granted some sort of rights to the land-base which allows them to launch a bullshit PR campaign that suggests to the general public that everything is good in woods.

bullshit bumpf... if I've ever heard it

Not to mention that this agreement is largely focussed on one animal — caribou. And the fact that neither environmental organizations or the industry groups involved consulted First Nations on this agreement.

(oh yeah… we’ll include First Nations “later”… hmm, where have I heard that before…)

This is becoming a rather dangerous operating practice for environmental organizations — running around with funding from U.S. philanthropic organizations (otherwise known as “foundation puppies”) largely ignoring First Nation government and organizations (of course some environmental organization executive or donor will jump on this post citing all their great agreements with indigenous organizations…)

the true purpose.

What’s the true purpose of this mass PR campaign:

“…Recognition in the marketplace…”

And what are we talking about here in terms of actual area.

Well… here’s the agreement map:

Curious how the entire Boreal Forest of Canada is in gray… doesn’t really show up all that well.

Here’s a more colorful map of the Boreal Forest region in Canada:

So this “agreement” is actually quite a small portion of the forest…

more comments to come…

Ah… yes… finger pointing at its finest.

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BP Chairman and President, Transocean President & CEO, and Halliburton’s chief health, safety and environmental officer are sworn in for Congressional Hearings over the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform and resulting spewing oil well that is threatening a large portion of the Gulf of Mexico.

"Not our fault!"... high five buddy!

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And let the finger pointing begin… “so help us god”.

As these three clowns sat there and pointed the fingers at each other on who was to blame… various initiatives were underway in the Gulf to try and deal with the issue.

burning off spewed oil

fishery shut down... but work available

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As the CEO of BP CEO Tony Hayward has explained to the media that the impact of the continued spill would be/are “very modest“… (click to watch video — I will save my scathing rant on these comments as my inside voice)

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.(images from CNBC website)

dead fish from Gulf coast

Yeah… modest indeed – you clowns.

Folks should be going to jail; there are dead workers, dead sea life, and dead coastal communities to come.

too much talking – not enough doing.

A fitting post over at one my favored morning blogs Good at talking vs. good at doing — at least in relation to marketing…. But then… pretty much everything is marketing these days. Consider my post from yesterday which discusses recent news articles surrounding an effort to have salmon as our Provincial fish.

barriers to migration

What is this? but little more than marketing.

Some folks figure that by having a fish as some provincial or national icon that this will change how we treat them. Fair enough; however, I see it as little more than marketing — or talking about things rather than actually doing things that matter.

Plus… how has this changed things for bald eagles in the United States? — a national icon. (not much…)

(This of course leads back to salmon — ironically enough — as some estimates suggest that over 75% of North America’s bald eagles migrate to the NW coast of this continent to feast on salmon every summer and fall — riding the thermals of the Rocky Mountains and other sections of crashing land masses.)

So then let me ask you this — with the decent little nugget of a post from Godin first:

Good at talking vs. good at doing

This is the chasm of the new marketing.

The marketing department used to be in charge of talking. Ads are talking. Flyers are talking. Billboards are talking. Trade shows are talking.

Now, of course, marketing can’t talk so much, because people can’t be easily forced to listen.

So the only option is to be in charge of doing. Which means the product, the service, the interaction, the effluent and other detritus left behind when you’re done.

If you’re in marketing and you’re not in charge of the doing, you’re not going to be able to do your job.

My question is: what is the Cohen Commission (the public inquiry into the decline of Fraser River sockeye)?

Is it little more than a marketing exercise?

What will be “the product, the service, the interaction, the effluent and other detritus left behind” when the Commission is done?

The Commission is not to find fault with any particular organization (e.g. Department of Fisheries and Oceans) or individual — and Justice Cohen will simply make non-binding recommendations.

Here’s to hoping the detritus left behind is substantial, not simply marketing, and includes a whole lot of doing. That “doing” (in my mind) will hopefully include a fundamental overhaul of the federal department responsible for looking after wild Pacific salmon.

As you may notice in yesterday’s post — it appears that the department is failing salmon on both coasts: East and West. As I’ve suggested in past posts, there’s a disease it’s called East Coast cod-itis.

It’s symptoms include: change lethargy, repeated public inquiries, bulging of employee budgets, and an overall bureaucratic malaise. It does not appear to be terminal, and cures are as far away as cures for the common cold.

inspired by Saul Steinberg

And thus, I suppose when it comes to wild salmon we might as well settle into a prolonged period of snotty noses, sniffling, and fishy smelling sneezes when it comes to wild salmon…. or maybe — just maybe — the overall approach to looking after wild salmon may move from a mass marketing exercise to a mass doing exercise.

For example, further empowering the thousands upon thousands of folks involved in salmon stewardship (there have been short whiffs of this in the past from Fisheries and Oceans, things like the late 1990s $100 million Habitat Conservation and Stewardship Program) — as opposed to spouting off about “ecological mysteries” when Fraser sockeye populations have gone from highs of 160 million in the 1800s to devastating lows of 1 million last year.

The “ocean productivity” story is getting a bit old and stale… is it really so bad that we can go from 160 million to 1 million (remember of one species of salmon in one river) in about a 150 years?

If the productivity is really, truly that devastatingly bad — what does this mean for us? Aren’t we simply just one more critter in the ecosystem?

would the salmon really care…?

There are a few curious salmon headlines from the last few days. On the weekend, the Vancouver Sun ran an article suggesting: “It’s time we honoured our province’s icon

We might want to find ourselves an official fish. Many people think we already have one. Actually we don’t. It’s time we honoured the salmon. Salmon are the icon of this province…

…salmon remain a vital part of the ecological food chain that feeds those grizzly bears, bald eagles and orcas that make us one of the continent’s last, great wilderness destinations.

I’m not sure this type of hyperbole is really all that useful — e.g. “last, great wilderness destinations”… I might suggest there are no shortage of “wilderness destinations” in Canada – like most of the flippin’ country north of the 51st parallel; and other places around the world.

This article was supported yesterday through a separate article by Ms. Iona Compagnolo, the former lieutenant-governor of B.C. and former MP from northwestern BC:  “Salmon is a true symbol of our province“.

Salmon have long meant much more to British Columbians than a source of income or a fine meal. As with so many of our signposts in this time of immense change, the species of salmon found in our countless rivers, streams and waterways represent a precious inheritance that is deserving of our formal recognition.

I mean no disrespect to this effort or individuals involved — on one hand I can understand how some folks hold this ‘emblematic’ significance, on the other hand there is part of me that asks “so what?” or “would the salmon really care?”

The Atlantic Salmon is on the coat of arms of New Brunswick with a crown on its head, and the old flag and coat of arms of Nova Scotia had a salmon on it.

And yet “Federal Funding cuts hurt Atlantic Salmon“; a CBC article from earlier today.

‘At a time when the Atlantic salmon need the most help from our federal government, the resources just aren’t there.’— Bill Taylor, president of the Atlantic Salmon Federation

Yeah… I think I might know a similar story on this side of Canada.

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Here’s a related story:

“Fish are the canaries in the mine shaft,” said Felix Breden, chairman of SFU’s biology department. “They can help us learn much more about climate change and human impacts on the environment.”

This a quote coming from an international symposium on these past few days at Simon Fraser University (SFU). The next quote from this article is certainly a bit of a shocker.

“The missing sockeye in the Fraser River are obviously telling us that there is a problem,” he said, citing B.C.’s most infamous ecological mystery.

random intersections…

Some sanity-seeking thoughts as I sat at the lake the other day enjoying the sun:

this is actually being discussed...

Believe it or not, some folks are discussing this as a possibility. Who knew that salmon could follow traffic signs?

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Maybe this is part of the problem?

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As the Cohen Commission into Fraser Sockeye Declines gets rolling:

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Day one...

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so what?

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modeling model limits

Attending the Ecological Interactions between Wild & Hatchery Salmon conference hosted by the State of the Salmon organization in Portland, Oregon last week — I was struck (again) by the huge dependence of scientists on mathematical and computer modeling in trying to ‘understand’ salmon. An entire day was spent — in a dimly lit room — watching PowerPoint after PowerPoint presentation of various equations, models, and graphic representations suggesting we “know” about salmon.

The image below is not one of them… it’s my sanity-finder:

Ecological modeling?

One equation was so damn long that I swear it took a couple of PowerPoint slides to show it all… And the equation apparently had all of the various “factors” affecting salmon survival– the freshwater environment, estuary, ocean, and so on and so on.

Yet… to “know” about salmon, and to model salmon populations, we need to make “assumptions”.

It is this type of language that peaks my curiosity. See, assumption, has a few definitions. There’s the one that I use in my marriage — as in don’t assume, it makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me“. Generally, assumptions in a relationship are not a very good thing.

Dictionary definitions suggest:

The act of taking possession or asserting a claim; The act of taking for granted; Something taken for granted or accepted as true without proof; a supposition; presumption — arrogance.

Now there’s no question that there is no shortage of arrogance in science… it was not in short supply at this particular conference, and other scientifically-slanted events I’ve had the pleasure of attending… However, when it comes to modeling, or ecological modeling, there are things that must be taken for granted, or accepted as true without proof.

Without proof… that sounds so… so… un-scientific.

Now various definitions of ecological modeling suggest that these are meant to “simplify complex foodwebs“. Ok, now we’re getting somewhere.

Wikipedia continues with some enlightening thoughts:

Ecosystem models are a development of theoretical ecology that aim to characterise the major dynamics of ecosystems, both to synthesize the understanding of such systems and to allow predictions of their behavior (in general terms, or in response to particular changes).

[hold on to this thought of " response to particular changes" for a few more paragraphs..]

Because of the complexity of ecosystems (in terms of numbers of species/ecological interactions), ecosystem models typically simplify the systems they are studying to a limited number of pragmatic components. [my emphasis]

Uh, huh. Simplify to a limited number

The Wikipedia definition continues by suggesting there are various factors driving the simplification process inherent in ecological models:

ignorance:

while understood in broad outline, the details of a particular foodweb may not be known; this applies both to identifying relevant species, and to the functional responses linking them (which are often extremely difficult to quantify)

computation of complexity:

practical constraints on simulating large numbers of ecological elements; this is particularly true when ecosystem models are embedded within other spatially-resolved models (such as physical models of terrain or ocean bodies…)

[oh yea... like salmon, maybe?]

and limited understanding:

depending upon the nature of the study, complexity can confound the analysis of an ecosystem model; the more interacting components a model has, the less straightforward it is to extract and separate causes and consequences; this is compounded when uncertainty about components obscures the accuracy of a simulation.

[hmmm... maybe like wild salmon that spend lives in gravel, freshwater, estuaries, the North Pacific, estuaries again, fresh water again... and so on, and so on]

“Uncertainty… obscures… accuracy”… important points to ponder.

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On day two of the conference, the agenda suggested that we would get into the: Human responses to hatcheries: understanding the social, cultural, legal and economic dimensions (of hatchery and wild salmon).

One of the panel presentations discussed an: “Economic analysis of a Columbia River fish hatchery program”. One of the most stunning comments to come out of this presentation was:

…it is impossible to economically model social and cultural impacts…

Thus, despite all of the various economic metrics, modeling, graphing and equations as part of this study and thousands of others… “it is impossible to model social and cultural impacts“.

During the question period, I asked the obvious question: “ok, how do we measure and deal with the social and cultural impacts then?”

There was no answer of substance from scientists present — to this thorny issue…

Is there an answer?

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On the afternoon of the second day, the famed “break-out” sessions came. I attended a sure-to-be-interesting session involving northern British Columbia and Alaskan representatives — two regions that have very different approaches to salmon hatcheries.

I won’t regurgitate the entire conversation here; however, some curious points:

Alaska pumps out billions of baby salmon from around southern portions of the state in salmon ranching programs run by non-profit (cost recovery) operations. These ranching (hatchery-like) operations continue despite the fact that many Alaskan government reps suggested most rivers naturally get enough spawners to support salmon populations.

It’s strictly an economic enterprise — not an ecological (even though there is an ecological impact).

British Columbia pumps out about 600 million baby salmon — some for ecological reasons, but most for economic.

Much of the discussion in this session, and much of the conference, surrounded “carrying capacity” of the North Pacific. What sort of ecological impact is occurring as a result of sending out over 5 billion baby salmon from hatchery/ranching operations around the North Pacific?

I kept asking the obvious question to me: “what is the carrying capacity of the North Pacific?… It sure as heck has seen a lot more baby salmon in the past then it does now…”

The answer quickly spouted by many scientists around the table was “we’ll never really know… it’s impossible to model… it’s too big…”

But then that would be followed up by comments such as: “it’s sure not what it used to be”… “it’s way less now”… “climate change is affecting it”.

Oh, OK, well if climate change is impacting it… how much is it impacting it — the carrying capacity? What are the effects of climate change? How are these effects changing the carrying capacity?

“Well… we don’t know… we’ll never really know… it’s impossible to model… it’s too big…

however, we are seeing some of the impacts in ocean acidification…which is rising at an alarming rate

I pointed out, that from what I have read, all the various models used to predict ocean acidification rates were way off, way wrong. We are already seeing rates that were not anticipated until at least 2050 (according to the models).When it comes to wild salmon, ocean acidification can be devastating, as the acidification will dissolve the shells of little critters like copepods that are essential food sources for baby salmon as they head out to sea.

So, OK, if ocean acidification can be devastating to salmon; is happening faster than expected — how can we get a better understanding of what the impacts might be?

you probably know the answer… “we’ll never really know… it’s impossible to model… it’s too big…”

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Remember that piece from above though, about “response to particular changes”:

Ecosystem models are a development of theoretical ecology that aim to characterise the major dynamics of ecosystems, both to synthesize the understanding of such systems and to allow predictions of their behavior (in general terms, or in response to particular changes)

If we don’t understand:

  1. Carrying capacity of the North Pacific
  2. Effects and rate of climate change, and thus also
  3. Effects and rate of ocean acidification

And we can’t model the social and cultural impacts of losing wild salmon, of building thousands of hatcheries, and of building hundreds of salmon farms along wild salmon migration routes.

WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING?

Sanity-finder #2:

Suzie Sockeye