Tag Archives: environmentalism

“There’s always the human factor…” says U.S. Coast Guard, as oil tanker hits San Fran Bay Bridge

from Silicon Valley Mercury News

from Silicon Valley Mercury News

The headline from the National Post reads: Oil tanker crashes into San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge:

An empty oil tanker caused minor damage Monday when it struck a tower in the middle of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge while navigating beneath the hulking span, officials said.

The 752-foot Overseas Reymar rammed the tower about 11:20 a.m. as it headed out to sea, according to the Coast Guard and state transportation officials. It didn’t affect traffic on the busy bridge, which is the main artery between San Francisco and Oakland, Ney said.

OSG Ship Management Inc., which is the parent company that owns the Marshall Islands-registered ship, said the vessel hit an underwater portion of the massive bridge structure.

Investigators had not yet determined the cause of the crash.

“There’s always the human factor,” Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Shawn Lansing said. “That is again what we’ll look into and see whether, in fact, it was a human error or something else and take that into consideration in the development of future regulation.”

Visibility at the time was about a quarter-mile, but officials didn’t say if that was a factor.

from Silicon Valley Mercury News

from Silicon Valley Mercury News

The Silicon Valley Mercury News reports Pilot in Bay Bridge oil tanker crash had three accidents since 2009:

…The pilot of the ship was identified as Guy Kleess, 61, of San Francisco, a former Exxon oil tanker captain who has been involved in at least three other shipping accidents since 2009.

The incident provided a stark reminder of a similar Bay Bridge collision five years ago, when the Cosco Busan, a 901-foot-long cargo ship, hit the adjacent tower of the Bay Bridge, spilling 53,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel into the bay, fouling 69 miles of shoreline and killing thousands of birds.

That an oil tanker similar in size to the Exxon Valdez, with the capacity to haul millions of gallons of heavy crude oil, hit a bridge in San Francisco Bay alarmed environmentalists.

This last line is particularly entertaining… what exactly is an environmentalist in the eyes of these writers? Is it only ‘environmentalists’ concerned about this?

The Washington Times reports:

Monday’s mishap brought back memories of a major crash in November 2007 in which the 902-foot Cosco Busan rammed the bridge and spilled 53,000 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay.

That accident contaminated 26 miles of shoreline, killed more than 2,500 birds and delayed the start of the crab-fishing season. Capt. John Cota, the pilot of the Cosco Busan, was sentenced to 10 months in prison after pleading guilty to two misdemeanors.

Apparently, that’s just more than those ‘pesky’ environmentalists fronting concern… I’m guessing the maybe 7 million+ residents of the Bay and surrounding area might be a bit concerned if this ship had hit the bridge with its full capacity of some 500,000+ barrels of oil which it had just offloaded.

from mercury news

from mercury news

The Silicon Valley Mercury News

Biologists for years have said that if a large oil tanker spills in the bay, the currents could carry much of it southward, where it would devastate egrets,herons, harbor seals, salmon and other species in the marshes and wetlands. Because of the weak tidal action in the southern part of the bay, the oil would take months, if not years, to remove.

The article continues with some key questions:

Among the key questions Monday: Why was the ship sailing in significant fog? After the Cosco Busan spill in 2007, the Coast Guard put in place rules limiting large ships from sailing when there is less than half a mile of visibility. Coast Guard officials said Monday that the visibility was a quarter-mile at the time of the accident.

Also, did Coast Guard officials who track ships on radar warn the vessel it was about to hit the bridge tower? [what about the ship’s own radar…?]

And why did the ship or its contracted emergency response crews not deploy boom — floating barriers that protect against oil spills — until hours after the accident?

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Shawn Lansing said the ship, which was built in 2004, had a double hull, which is required under a federal law signed by President George H.W. Bush after the Valdez spill. At a news conference Monday afternoon, Lansing said investigators don’t yet know the cause of the crash but are looking at human error as a possibility.

There it is again… ‘likely possibility’… ‘may’… and now we’re back into the circle of ‘evidence absence’ and ‘absence of evidence’… and… well…

… then the great news cycle… this accident will blow away or float away in the Bay tides in coming days and weeks.

Except maybe in places where people are contemplating the ‘human error’ risk factors present in shipping oil, bitumen, fuel and otherwise in areas where collisions between land, and land-based structures could be absolutely disastrous – as the Exxon Valdez and numerous other accidents demonstrate.

Here’s an image from the Vancouver Sun of the community of Kitimat and the Douglas Channel stretching west:

Vancouver Sun image

Vancouver Sun image

And a more complex view of the Douglas Channel from the Dogwood Initiative website;

from Dogwood Initiative website

from Dogwood Initiative website

And the Bay Bridge… pretty darn tough to see that thing…

Fog City

Double-hulled, triple hulled, highly trained pilots, radar, Coast Guards, regulations (current or future), policies, judicial reviews, ministerial imperatives, etc. … it don’t matter when it comes down to old faithful “HUMAN ERROR“…

It’s not a matter of ‘if’… it’s only a matter of ‘when’… that is… when we’re talking shipping, ships, and oil.

Risk… Reward?

[Remember this post from almost exactly one year ago today: Proposed Northern Exit-gateway Pipeline: Accidents happen because of human error… and are not averted due to elaborate statistical anlayses…  [or elaborate regulations… which may not be followed anyways… as in this case and half mile visibility and big bridges]

Enbridge Northern Exit-way II

Enbridge Northern Exit-way II


Sadly misplaced focus…? $30 million to ‘eco-terrorists’ opposed to irresponsible oil and gas dev… Yet,$10 Billion of PetroChina ‘investment’ in Canadian sovereignty?

do you know the story of Cerberus the mythical three-headed dog that guarded the gates to Hades?


Shhhh… nobody tell the “Harper”- Reform government that maybe they are misplacing energy, time and resources barking up the wrong tree..

And… maybe opening a real can of worms that some folks flapping their Right wings may not want opened… (not mentioning any – Fraser Institute – names…)

Or… is this ruse to bark up the enviro-terrorist tree simply an effective ploy to keep us all:

Hush, Hush

…about the huge increase in PetroChina (Chinese government owned corporation) multi-BILLION dollar investments and direct purchases of Canada tar sands projects, and natural gas, and… and… and…

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Coming from the National Post newspaper:

Are new guidelines for charities just upholding current law or a way to silence oil-sands critics?

The Conservative government will keep a closer eye on environment-focused charities accused of breaking rules that cap their political activity, cracking down on groups that allegedly engage in politically charged work beyond the legal limit.

Thursday’s budget arms the Canada Revenue Agency with $8-million over two years to ensure charities devote their resources to charitable work and to improve transparency by asking them to disclose the extent to which their political activities are funded by foreign sources.

“[Some charities] are not acting like they’re a charitable institution; they’re acting like they’re an environmental lobbyist — that’s the big objection,” said [Professor] Frank Atkins, a University of Calgary economist. “They’re hiding behind their charitable status.”

The revenue agency says a charity is allowed to devote up to 10% of its total annual resources to political activities, but Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said this week the government has received “a lot” of complaints from Canadians who worry their donations are going toward political action rather than charity work.

“There is clearly a need, in our view, for more vigilance,” Mr. Flaherty said.

The question of foreign money being used to affect Canadian policy is chief among the government’s concerns, Prof. Atkins [at University of Calgary] said.

“What’s happening out here is that whenever there’s a regulatory approval process, it gets loaded up with all these obscure groups seemingly out of nowhere,” he said, referring to “deep-pocketed foundations in the United States” challenging oil-sands development and the pipeline project. “Even those using Canadian money are still not acting like a charitable institution.”

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Hmmmm… is that the same Professor Frank Atkins that is listed on the Fraser Institute website as:

Frank’s main academic areas of interest are monetary policy and the application of time series analysis to macroeconomic data. Frank had the privilege of supervising the Master of Arts (Economics) thesis of Stephen Harper, who is now the Prime Minister of Canada.

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Well… geee… National Post reporter that sounds like some credible, un-biased ‘sources’…?

Seems the Fraser Institute got quoted twice in this article… as the article finishes with:

Niels Veldhuis, a Fraser Institute vice-president, said there is no question the federal government believes some environmental groups are not abiding by the rules.

“The government ought to look into that,” he said.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Right… this is the same Niels Veldhuis who thinks that Stats Canada numbers are wrong on many Canadians ability to meet basic needs:

as of 2005, only 4.7 per cent of the Canadian population did not have enough income to meet basic needs

(Stats Can suggests its almost twice that…)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Oh wait… is that also the same University of Calgary that has various “Research Chair” positions in its Faculty of Medicine sponsored by the likes of Enbridge, Husky Energy, and no shortage of either pharmaceutical companies or other corporations?

For example:

AstraZeneca Chair in Cardiovascular Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Who’s AstraZeneca? Well, they’re a “global biopharmaceutical company…”

Or, the GSK Professorship in Inflammatory Lung Disease — what’s GSK?

Oh that’s just GlaxoSmithKline Inc.:

“GlaxoSmithKline is one of the largest research and development (R&D) investors in the industry, collaborating with academic institutions, governments and other pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to help people live healthier lives.”

Or, the Novartis Chair in Schizophrenia Research. Who’s Novartis?

Oh just this little company that:

Over the past decade, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada has introduced 20 new medicines that have had an important impact on patients suffering from a wide variety of major illnesses…


Not that I’m necessarily saying this is “bad” or “good”…

Just asking the ‘fair question’…

as, when Harper and buddies start barking, they should probably think it through a bit, and maybe ask around their caucus:

S.H.: “hmmm Joe [as in Oliver] is there maybe some worm cans we might open here?”

J.O.: “Oh no, Steve-O we’ll just shit-can those enviro-terrorists out there in BC…”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

It’s also the same University of Calgary Economics dept that lists one of its “Affiliates” as the Canadian Energy Research Institute.

Who has the mission to:

to provide relevant, independent and objective economic research in energy and environmental issues to benefit business, government, academia and the public.


CERI’s economic studies are highly relevant and objective and the analysis and advice contained therein are sought by government and business planners and decision-makers.

Ahhh, yes… I read one of those highly “objective” studies from their website:

Oil Spills and First Nations:  Exploring Environmental and Land Issues Surrounding the Northern Gateway Pipeline

Here’s one of the many fine “objective” comments from the report (and it quickly becomes clear who is “to benefit”…:

A major oil spill in the Kitimat estuary region may cause a high number of sea bird mortalities as well as marine mammal and fish deaths due to the abundance of species living there and the diversity of the habitat. However, there are controls in place to reduce the likelihood of widespread and catastrophic spillage of an oil tanker or within the oil pipeline.

Even if such an event should occur, the habitat range of most species is vast enough that populations should be able to recover in time…

Oh yea… interested to see where that ‘objective’ theory comes from… (e.g. don’t worry about the effect of oil spills on migratory species…)


Conclusions on the Environment 

…Construction activities will cause a deterioration of habitat, but this deterioration is short-lived and species will be able to recover.

And, apparently, this ‘objective’ organization that wrote this little 50-page report (including relying on several references from the 1970s), is also an expert on issues of aboriginal law & aboriginal rights and title:

Aboriginal law is not cast in stone, with much depending on the nation involved and the context:

ancient Code of Hammurabi (written in stone...)

Huh… fascinating… I’m not sure that I know of any “law cast in stone”.

Oh wait… there is the ancient Code of Hammurabi…



But don’t worry say the authors:

CERI recognizes the various environmental concerns and does not hold a position for or against the pipeline…

(Funny, but reading the report I caught a strong whiff of bovine deposit surrounding that statement…)

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Where’s the root of some of this enviro-charitable-crimes theory coming from?

Well… Vancouver-based researcher Vivian Krause (@fair questions) seems to be tooting her horn on this one…

She wrote an article in January in the Financial Post suggesting that maybe her research was at the root of Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s and honorable Steve-O, great leader’s, crack-down on these apparent ‘enviro-terrorist’ organizations…

So much so that she was actually asked to come and testify at the federal House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources in early Feb. 2012.

the National Post newspaper opinion piece:

Vivian Krause: Oil sands money trail

Last week, on the eve of the environmental review for the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline project that would carry Alberta oil to Kitimat for export to Asia, Canada’s Minister for Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, expressed concern that foreign-funded environmentalists would jeopardize the review and block the pipeline.

Oliver didn’t mention my name, but the research that raised concerns about the foreign funding of environmentalism in Canada is apparently mine.

For five years, on my own nickel, I have been following the money and the science behind environmental campaigns and I’ve been doing what the Canada Revenue Agency hasn’t been doing: I’ve gathered information about the origin and the stated purpose of grants from U.S. foundations to green groups in Canada. My research is based on U.S. tax returns because the U.S. Internal Revenue Service requires greater disclosure from non-profits than does the CRA.

Speaking on CBC last night [Jan. 16, 2011], Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “But just because certain people in the United States would like to see Canada be one giant national park for the northern half of North America, I don’t think that’s part of what our review process [for the Northern Gateway] is all about.”

_ _ _ _ _ _

Krause has been getting some federal government airtime on this one…

A Vancouver Sun article (Feb. 9, 2011) reporting on her testimony to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources:

Vivian Krause’s conspiracy theory — you decide

Vancouver researcher Vivian Krause is one of the most controversial figures in the rather incredible battle shaping up over the Northern Gateway pipeline.  You can google her name and find various profiles, but the bottom line is that this personable Vancouver researcher has portrayed herself as a woman of marginal means who has devoted the past five years or so of her life to unearthing details about U.S. financial influence on the Canadian environmental movement…

… I should add that hers is a rather remarkable story, as she is surely more influential on Canadian natural resource policy right now than the vast majority of parliamentarians we’re paying lavish salaries to in this town [Ottawa].  Her theory about a grand “plan” behind all this money has been given credibility by none other than Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Enbridge Inc. CEO Pat Daniel.

[link to Edmonton journal article also by same journalist: “American anti-pipeline trusts just blowing smoke? Right and left have conspiracy theories about groups’ funding” with quotes from great-leader Harper and CEO Daniels]

Krause appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources today, and there were some lively exchanges…

The article goes on to quote some of her testimony…

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Now, if you’re curious at all, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources was:

Established by the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, the mandate of the the Standing Committee on Natural Resources is to study and report on matters referred to it by the House of Commons, or on topics the Committee itself chooses to examine.

It can study all matters relating to the mandate, management, operation, budget and legislation of the Department of Natural Resources and of organizations pertaining to its portfolio.

The issues being dealt with by the Committee that Krause was called to testify at is the:

Current and Future State of Oil and Gas Pipelines and Refining Capacity in Canada.

She testified on Feb. 9, 2011 and the transcripts are available by clicking on the link.

Here are some curious components:

What hasn’t been known until recently, however, is that some of the opponents of various pipeline projects, and the campaigns against the Canadian energy sector also have some deep-pocketed supporters south of the border. In order for the joint review panel to conduct its work in a manner that is open, fair, and transparent, I believe that funding on all sides should be out in the open.

In my review of the American tax returns of the foundations that are funding the environmental movement both in the U.S. and in Canada, I’ve traced $300 million that has gone from American charitable foundations to environmental campaigns affecting our country. Most of my analysis is based on American tax returns because the IRS requires greater disclosure than the CRA.

The $300 million is from roughly 850 grants that I’ve traced from 10 foundations. In addition to these foundations, there are an additional dozen or more American foundations that have granted substantial funds to Canadian environmental groups.

By my analysis, American funding from the foundations I’ve followed has increased ten-fold over the past decade, from about $4 million in 2000 to $50 million in 2010. Of the $300 million in American funding I’ve traced, at least $30 million is specifically for campaigns targeting the oil and gas industry in Canada

… It’s not small amounts of money from a large number of foreign sources; it’s very large amounts of money from a very small number of billion-dollar foundations.

Actually, my blog and most of my writing has been about the science and the money behind environmental campaigns. Really, it’s the use of the flawed science and some of the exaggerated claims that are my biggest concerns. Some of what the environmental organizations are saying is simply untrue…

When billionaire funders are involved in influencing public opinion and public policy on a major issue of national importance, I think the money should be out in the open, whether the billionaire funders are American or Canadian.

I believe that this applies to foreign investment and philanthropy, as well.

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Well… Ms. Krause… you are EXACTLY RIGHT!

Just like Professor Atkins of the Fraser Institute… errr… University of Calgary… errr… Fraser…

What was it he said again at the beginning of this article…?

“They’re hiding behind their charitable status.”

Seems Fraser Institute (a charitable organization) researchers might be hiding behind the ‘objectivity’ and ‘neutrality’ of an academic institution…?

I find it quite curious actually… I agree with many aspects of Ms. Krause’s research and even Professor Atkins… I’ve asked similar questions since working and serving on a Board for a large enviro organization over a decade ago.

Not in a “conspiracy theory” manner, but more in a: Whose mandate are we fulfilling here?

I called these types of enviro-organizations: US-foundation puppies — and decided to find a little different line of work…

It’s pretty hard to imagine that one is doing good, principled work on environmental issues and otherwise when one’s work is simply being funded by money that was basically made by oil tycoons or computer giants, or otherwise…

As the old saying goes: “there is no such thing as clean money”…

It’s all dirty.

_ _ _ _ _ _

So What?

And, as Ms. Krause asks in her testimony, some folks suggest: “So What?…” about her findings.

I ask the same: SOOO what?

What difference does $300 million… or… errrr… ‘targeted $30 million’ make…

…when compared to the Billions of dollars that PetroChina has offered to invest in the proposed Enbridge Northern Exit-way pipeline,

Or the $2.5 Billion that PetroChina invested to buy out Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. MacKay River oil sands project.

Or, just a few months ago… (Feb. 2012)

PetroChina takes stake in Shell gas field in B.C.

Canada’s push to access Asian energy markets got a shot in the arm Thursday after China’s largest oil and gas firm agreed to buy a 20-per-cent stake in Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s shale gas properties in British Columbia.

With the planned investment, PetroChina International – a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corp. – has underscored its commitment to participate in a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project that Shell is planning for Kitimat, B.C.

Neither side would release the value of the deal Thursday, but reports in Asia pegged it at $1-billion.


PetroChina to invest $5.4 billion Canada gas

CALGARY—PetroChina has agreed to invest $5.4 billion for half of Encana Corp.’s Cutbank Ridge shale natural gas assets, enabling an enormous chunk of land on the Alberta-British Columbia boundary to be developed more quickly than would otherwise have been the case.

“This agreement is the culmination of more than nine months of discussions between PetroChina and Encana and represents both a significant achievement and a major milestone in the developing relationship of our two companies,” Encana CEO Randy Eresman said in a statement Wednesday.

That’s just a cool, $8 – $10 BILLION DOLLARS of PetroChina investment alone in Canada’s resource sector — in the last year or so…


What percentage is this $30 million of conspiracy-theory U.S. foundation money in comparison…

I think we’re far below 0.1%…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Hmmmm… like Ms. Krause testified…

When billionaire funders are involved in influencing public opinion and public policy on a major issue of national importance, I think the money should be out in the open, whether the billionaire funders are American or Canadian [or Chinese?]. I believe that this applies to foreign investment and philanthropy, as well.

Yes, let’s get those ‘books’ opened.

And while we’re at it, lets’ get those book of The Fraser Institute open as well. And maybe the the Canadian Energy Research Institute, and, heck, while we’re at it how about the Van Horne Institute as well. (Another of those neutral objective ‘think tanks’ affiliated with universities in Alberta — and consisting of a longgg list of executives from oil and gas and pipeline companies).

The Fraser Institute is also listed as a charitable organization in Canada.

Go read its Annual Reports and see if they report any real numbers…

Where is the Fraser Institute getting its money? (some suggest players like Exxon Mobil).

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

All in all this fuss over where environmental organizations are getting their funds seems like the difference between peeing from a helicopter on a pine-beetle-ravaged-forest-fire (e.g. potential $30 million in opposition funds to Canada’s oil and gas sector) and the all-out Asian-giant-resource-gobbling population-exploding BEAST

of BILLIONS and BILLIONS of dollars… and this little issue of a Billion people or so…

And yet, the Conservative/Reform crew just allocated $8 million to the Canada Revenue Agency to ‘crack down’ on this crazed-funding frenzy to enviro-terrorist organizations… that apparently will stop at nothing to protect their backyards…

Come-on… let’s get a grip here folks.

Where’s the potential bogey-man… in OLD oil money flowing north out of the States to pay minimum wage to enviro-researchers and organization?


in NEW oil money flowing in the BILLIONS & BILLIONS & BILLIONS from a government (directly as PetroChina is owned by the Chinese government… they have to do something with all that American debt they’re holding)…

…that has a rather shady and questionable practice of dealing with several things… like basic human rights (ever heard of the Tibetans? or the veto on doing something in Syria…?), the environment (have you checked Beijing’s air quality today…?), dissenters (check recent headlines), and so on…?

Which is not to suggest there is a bogey-man — simply asking where should the inquiring eye, research, and questions really be directed?

Should Canada’s “Standing Committees” be spending time on small potatoes… or the entire quarter section potato farm…?

Should Canada’s “Standing Committees” be spending time inquiring into ‘conspiracy’ theories about how the soon to be bankrupt neighbors to the south want to keep all the oil to themselves…?

Does anyone really think that these BILLIONS of dollars of Chinese investment in Canada’s oil sector are simply going to be used to ship oil and gas to the U.S. through existing transportation networks?

No frigging way!!

BILLIONS of dollars of investment by a government-owned corporation mean that that Government is going to damn well want the resources they paid for… and… well… OWN. (like the former Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. MacKay River and other projects).

Let’s maybe call off the Conservative/Reform-Cerberus (three-headed dog)… and have an honest discussion about handing away Canadian resources to a foreign entity.

Remember when Canadians ‘lost it’ over Mulroney handing away Canada to our southern neighbors through the Free Trade Agreement?

This new brand of “Conservatives” (which even the old Conservatives are uncomfortable with… eh, Joe Clark?… seem to have lost that “progressive” tagline…) seem ‘hell-bent’ on putting the dogs at the gates of selling Canadian sovereignty, selling Canada’s future, and doing a brilliant job of making a fuss about little things, so as to provide the infamous diversionary tactic…

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What does this have to do with wild salmon?


and marine resources… and ocean protection… and shoreline preservation… and fish habitat… and water pollution… and… and…

This whole crackdown is like busting the kid that takes spare change left in a phone booth tray, while in the lobby of Enron…

It smells of something much, much more ominous… (and sadly, this is no April Fool’s…)

one fish, two fish, three fish…

Endangered fish, endangered fish! We must do something…

Figure this one out, it’s a curious story (if you’re into fish stories… I know the Cohen Commission into Fraser sockeye is into this sort of stuff):

I’m pretty new to this sturgeon issue; however, it still leaves me shaking me head at where priorities and planning within federal government institutions come from.

White Sturgeon in the Upper Fraser River and Nechako River were listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2003 along with some populations in the Columbia River — they were listed as a species of concern as early as 1990. The SARA listing means there are various prohibitions and other fuss over these ancient fish (fossil records suggest these fish — that can live to be over a hundred years old and grow to great lengths — have been around 175 million years or so).

There are things like protecting critical habitat (remember this as we move forward on this post), developing recovery plans, and ensuring that these species are not subject to ‘death, harm, harassment, capture, or possession.’

The population of upper Fraser white sturgeon is apparently distinct from the Nechako River sturgeon. The last population estimates done on these fish was in the late 1990s (as far as I can tell from poking around).

At that time, sturgeon were “managed” by the Province as they are a freshwater species. Once they became listed under SARA, they came under the domain of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. (please… you cynics out there, I heard the groan, just hear this piece of the story out).

_ _ _ _ _

By catch of White Sturgeon: Discussion of Potential Mitigation Options” was the name of the recent PowerPoint presentation by Department of Fisheries & Oceans in Prince George.

This sounds serious. When I hear the term “by catch” I have visions of huge trawlers on the open ocean dumping 70% of their catch overboard dead because they’re simply looking for some specific fish. (for example, the Bering Sea pollock fishery that catches impressive amounts of Yukon River salmon and simply dumps them overboard as “useless by-catch”).

However, by-catch can also mean so much less than that.

What is the target of this DFO “by-catch reduction” on endangered upper Fraser and Nechako white sturgeon?

Well… it is the First Nation food, social, and ceremonial fisheries for salmon.

Apparently, during the spring and summer months when First Nations in the upper Fraser and Nechako areas are salmon fishing (something happening less and less frequently due to salmon population declines across the board in the upper Fraser areas), the occasional juvenile sturgeon or older fish might get tangled in nets.

First Nation folks who have had this happen explain that they remove the sturgeon and release them back to the river.

_ _ _ _ _

So let’s take a little sidebar trip here…

In the meeting I attended, an expert from the Province explained the main issue for declining sturgeon populations around the world… and this isn’t a shocker… habitat loss and impacts.

And pretty much any quick search on the Internet will confirm the long list of well-known impacts: dams, pollution, loss of critical habitat, warming waters, disease and pathogens and so on. Dams are known to be a very serious issue — whether it’s in the upper Colombia River or in the Nechako River or other parts of the world where sturgeon live.

This is explained quite clearly on DFO’s webpage and fancy brochure on sturgeon:

Over the past century, white sturgeon populations have been adversely affected by over-fishing, construction of hydroelectric dams, diking and drainage projects, dwindling food resources, and declining water quality as human populations and activities intensify

In the early 1990s harvest of white sturgeon in the upper areas of the Fraser watershed (inc. the Nechako) was stopped to try and protect what was considered a dwindling population. There was also an intensive 5-year study launched to attempt population estimates.

The last known estimates appear to be 1999 with an estimate of just under 600 Nechako sturgeon and just under 300 upper Fraser sturgeon. One thing I haven’t found in my relatively quick searches is how this compares to historic populations. All that folks suggest is that there have been dramatic declines.

However, this is not necessarily the point here. It appears quite clear that sturgeon populations aren’t doing very well. One of the main examples cited is that there simply aren’t enough juveniles growing into reproductive adults.Why?

No one can say with any certainty.

Except with maybe the issues on the Nechako River. See, there’s this rather large dam in the upper reaches that was created in the middle of the 1900s, or so. The dam was built by Alcan so that it could reverse water through the mountains back to Kitimat so that it could produce power for the aluminum smelter there. The company is now known as Rio-Tinto Alcan.

This is the same company, based on the northern BC coast (e.g. near the mouth of the Skeena River) that would like to use more Nechako River water, which should be flowing down the Fraser — so that it can produce more power and sell it back to BC Hydro.

Due to the dam, the Nechako River has been completely altered. Flows of the river are controlled by the massive upstream dam, temperatures have changed significantly within the river since it was dammed and so on, and so on.

And, thus, it’s not really rocket science to figure out what has caused an apparent precipitous decline of white sturgeon.

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Back to the by-catch of sturgeon meeting.

We do know (more or less) that habitat is the issue worldwide for sturgeon populations — and yes, fishing does have an impact.

But… what is the impact that we were discussing in this particular meeting?

How many of these endangered sturgeon are being caught in First Nation salmon fisheries?

Well… survey says:… one, two, three!

Anecdotal information, not scientific or actual, but largely rumor, suggests that there might be about three sturgeon killed as by-catch in First Nation salmon fisheries.

On an apparently declining population of approximately 800 or so — is this an impact? Yes.

What might be the best way to deal with this issue?

Well, how about a focused communications campaign?

And then focus other resources on the real impacts — like the massive dam on the upper Nechako that has not posed much good for Nechako fish populations (including salmon).

Water flow estimates in Nechako pre and post Kenney dam

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No, instead, a meeting is funded (travel costs and hotels and so on) for about 30 individuals from a variety of organizations. About 6 – 8 DFO staff. And meeting agendas that suggest formation of “Working groups” and potentially significant changes to how First Nations fish for salmon, and training funds, and policy development, and, and, and…


For three fish.

One, two, three…

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There are suggestions on the agenda for the meeting that either the group comes up with changes or DFO will “impose” them.

Well, gee, isn’t that nice ‘relationship-building’ language.

And the response from many folks: ummm… ok… so you’re threatening to impose changes on salmon fisheries (based on aboriginal rights and the Constitution) because there is anecdotal information suggesting an impact on three fish. What sort of threats of imposing changes is RioTinto Alcan facing?

DFO: “oh, well we’re in discussions with them about a ‘conservation agreement’ and potentially helping to fund a hatchery.”

participants: “but no ‘imposed’ changes potentially coming for them?”


Yet, we know — worldwide — that the main issue facing sturgeon is habitat.

_ _ _ _ _


If you’d like more perspective on this issue read one of the most popular posts on this site: Cull the endangered Orcas?

The relationship here?

Well… the resident Orca pods in the Salish Sea (Georgian Strait) are also listed under SARA. And their main food source during the spring and summer months?

Chinook salmon.

These orcas will actually knock other salmon out of the way to get to the Chinook.

Some of these Chinook populations, bound for the Fraser, are also in trouble — yet, not listed under SARA. But the orcas are listed — and yet sport fisheries remain open on one of their main food sources. And, it is certainly more than three Chinook being caught in those sport fisheries. (and population estimates on the Orcas is in the low hundreds… highlighting even more the importance of the Chinook as a food source).

Any “imposed” changes being talked about there…?

How about, working groups, and training and funding and all-expenses paid meetings, and so on…?


_ _ _ _ _

This isn’t to question lots of the hard work that many folks are doing on these issues… more simply to ask, what are the priorities here?

And where is the cost-benefit analysis on these sorts of DFO initiatives?

And, more so, why don’t we direct funds and professional staff to the really tough issues, the issues that might mean making changes that have potential significant economic impacts and impacts on rather powerful stakeholders?

Spending $50,000 – $100,000 or more (total estimates on my part) to fund meetings to discuss big changes based on anecdotal evidence of, one, two, three fish mortalities…

When DFO staff repeat time and time again at meetings, that they can’t get the resources — for example — to properly implement the Wild Salmon Policy.

good use of dwindling resources?

Maybe we could recreate those three dead sturgeon out of Alcan’s aluminum foil?

_ _ _ _ _

(Hopefully the Cohen Commission is considering funding priority setting within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?)

Kill the geese! Kill the geese! save a salmon…?

The east coast Vancouver Island goose plot thickens. First those pesky critters cause planes to crash in the U.S. … now they’re destroying a neighborhood near you. Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail:

Bird lover advocates eradication of Canada geese

As a leading bird expert and a lifetime bird lover, Neil Dawe is the most unlikely advocate of a radical new idea that is calling for “the eradication” of virtually every Canada goose on the east coast of Vancouver Island.

“I don’t like doing it. They are beautiful birds. But what I am saying is we messed up and it’s urgent that we take action,” said the retired Canadian Wildlife Service biologist, who thinks wiping out the Island’s 15,000 resident geese can’t happen soon enough.

“You can cull the population, but that takes time, or you can eradicate the population … rounding them up during the summer molt,” he said. “Nobody likes talking about it, but it has to be addressed. They have exceeded the carrying capacity of the ecosystem.”

Hmmm. Geese exceeding the carrying capacity of the ecosystem…?

I recognize they can be a nuisance… many farmers get excited about them eating fresh seed in the spring and so on. But really… could we not have a bit more measured discussion about this. Such as, how did the geese get there in the first place?

Oh right, we humans introduced a non-migrating form of these geese earlier in the 1900s. Brilliant.

_ _ _ _ _ _

For 31 years, Mr. Dawe managed national migratory bird sanctuaries on Vancouver Island, publishing more than 80 scientific papers and co-authoring the encyclopedic, four-volume tome, The Birds of British Columbia.

He noticed the estuaries he’d first seen in the 1970s were radically changed by the 1990s and a few years ago set out to find out why. Working with Andy Stewart, a biologist in Victoria, and Ron Buechert, a Qualicum Beach biologist, the researchers have confirmed, in two papers that are not yet published, that Canada geese are the prime cause of widespread habitat degradation.

Before the great goose kill of 2011 begins… maybe we should look at a few other factors in the estuary degradation. Like, maybe, what was the human population of Vancouver Is. in 1970 as compared to the 1990s, and now?

Or… maybe look at some of the efforts of eel grass planting in other areas. Or… Or…

_ _ _ _ _ _

Mr. Buechert, who examined the Englishman River estuary, said his findings of habitat damage mirror those of Mr. Dawe’s on the Little Qualicum. “We are talking huge changes in the vegetation; massive areas; many hectares,” he said.

Mr. Buechert said he’d like to see hunting encouraged, but it might not be possible in some estuaries, because of nearby housing.

Hmmm, I don’t imagine all those folks in nearby housing have had any impact on the estuaries?

Is there any ‘eradication’ proposed for those growing suburban multiple thousands of square footage, breadbox neighborhoods? (which in turn flush their toilets, and wash their cars, and the occasional spillage at the gas station that ends out in nearby estuaries, or the increased run-off due to the local WalMart parking lot…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

“many hectares” is considered “massive areas”?

What does that, then, make all the clearcuts on the upper slopes of these watersheds? (which might very well be the cause of increased silting of the estuaries).

Or, maybe increased acidification of the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait) might be playing a part too?

Or, increased pollution levels?

That’s not the geese’s fault, is it?

_ _ _ _ _

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a position similar to folks that flip out about the proposed rabbit kill at the University of Victoria. I’m not a contributing member of PETA, or even the local enviro organization.

It’s the somewhat ridiculous-ness (with respect to the researchers quoted here) of simply proposing another narrow-viewed human intervention to a problem we created in the first place.

Narrow-viewed folks introduced geese in the first place — just like the deer, raccoon, squirrel, rats, and other species introduced to places like Haida Gwaii (formerly referred to as: Queen Charlotte Is.) — for narrow-viewed reasons e.g., increase hunting opps, or to be predators of previously introduced species…

It’s not all that different than the raging debate over wild salmon vs. use of hatcheries to augment wild runs.

Or re-introducing species like wolves to an area, then, a few years later proposing culls or sterilization because wolves are killing cattle, or too many moose, etc.

Or building communities in prime cougar habitat then flipping out when they kill the family dog in the wooded backyard.

There must be some other ideas out there that take into account the wider impacts?

_ _ _ _

It’s a mirror image of the great search these days for the great salmon killer — must have been the seals… must have been he squid… must have been the mackerel… must have been the ocean currents.

Well, sure, all of those probably play a part — but are they THE reason? No.

We are – for the most part.

It’s like some biblical prophecy gone wrong.

Man has dominion over the earth. Thou shalt introduce animal species wherever thou pleases… Oh wait… (a few decades later) thou shalt cull thous’ introduced animal species because they are a scourge upon the estuary.

Thou shalt throw $75,000 (or so) at the issue and presto thous’ estuary is healed… and the salmon fry will prosper and, thus, thou will prosper.

There’s a reason why nature is often referred to as: The “Wild”.

You know… that word that has a variety of definitions, such as:

Lacking supervision or restrain“;

marked by extreme lack of restraint or control”;

Lacking regular order or arrangement; disarranged“;

Based on little or no evidence or probability; unfounded.

Or one of my favorites: A natural or undomesticated state.

Hmmm…. all of these seem to suggest that maybe we’re just a cog in the gears, or a little screw in the mechanics — not the one driving the bus.

_ _ _ _ _

Maybe a little wider camera angle on this would prove more fruitful? Or, as the saying goes, maybe we should stand on the balcony and look at this issue from a little further back… as opposed to up to our knees in mud and goose shit.

This continued interventionist view, as if we humans can really “fix” the issues we are largely responsible for in the first place, is akin to sending the population of Prince George to pee on summer wildfires burning pine beetle killed forests.

Or, introducing policies through the United Nations to stop all cattle on the planet from farting and thus reduce greenhouse gases.

Or, telling all the latest leadership candidates in BC politics to stop blowing so much hot air and thus reducing coastal erosion due to increased storm events and climate change. (or maybe suggesting they actually talk about things that matter)

_ _ _ _ _

When it comes to living in “the wild”, maybe a little more adaptation and a little less useless mitigation efforts might be the way to go?

Just a thought… or did I get your goose?

Cull those damn geese… save the salmon.

Salmon Killer!!

I’m somewhat speechless… but maybe not fully speechless. Unfortunately, this headline is a bit disconnected from the actual story. It’s a Mark Hume story from the Globe and Mail a little earlier this week:

B.C. plan aims to bring back the salmon by driving away the geese

“The restoration project, which has been planned in detail but which is still awaiting some funding, hopes to restore the Englishman and Little Qualicum River estuaries “to full productivity” for coho and Chinook salmon.

But to restore a balance to nature they have to drive out the geese, an introduced species that has done extensive damage.

The B.C. Conservation Foundation project does not propose to cull the geese, but rather seeks to exclude the birds from large areas of marshlands by creating habitat that provides cover for predators.”

With full respect to the many folks and organizations involved in this project and to Mr. Hume the writer of the article… but really, are geese the problem?!

“Restore a balance to nature” … by driving out geese?

maybe we need to look up definition of “restore”?

“Provide cover for predators”?

Which predators are those? The rare red-necked Vancouver Island sharp shooter or the less common four legged feline house dweller that favors Purina?

In my humble opinion, I don’t think geese are the problem — but then I’m not in on full details, other than being well aware of a few other impacts some years before geese became a “problem”… (and to be fair some of those impacts are mentioned in the article.)

Sure maybe the geese are munching on eel grass and what not; however, I think the problem just might be a different two-legged critter. One without wings (other than those good Halloween costumes).

The kind that logged off upslope areas of the Englishman and Little Qualicum watersheds, then built a powerline across bench areas where Chinook and coho used to spawn, then a pipeline, then a four-lane divided highway, then add in some of the most sought after retirement property and climate in the country.

Oh right, then throw in a commercial fishery gone wild (buy the video online for ($9.99), sport fisheries (now a dwindling species on East Coast Vancouver Island), maybe a little dose of well-intentioned salmon hatcheries — oh right, throw in a gauntlet of salmon farms a little further north, a polluting mine or two on migration routes… and shit… by the townload…

And… well… shit… we have a problem.

(and don’t forget those ghad-forsaken seals, oh and those pesky orcas, and who can forget those not-so-cuddly bears… why can’t nature just leave those damn salmon alone…?) (now there’s: “restoration”)

The list of organizations involved in this project is quite impressive… maybe if all of those organizations were able to attack much larger issues, then all East Coast Vancouver Island salmon might stand a chance at avoiding extinction, rather than simply existing as hatchery supported populations.

But then how would that differ from farmed Pacific salmon… or the already existing self supporting Atlantic salmon populations in B.C. streams?

This seems like one of those “feel good” projects that some organizations love to attach their name to — but then that’s the more cynical side of me, which will probably take some flack for the comments.

Who knows? Maybe all the “social capital” built on a feel good project like this will lead to real solutions sometime in the future?

And something that actually has the smallest semblance of real “restoration”…

Just a bit disappointing that the Globe and Mail editorial staff chose to attach such a disconnected headline to this article. Disappointing that even ‘nature’ stories get pasted with drama-inducing, gasping, fake headlines like the breast-augmented, plastic surgery induced “news” of primetime TV…

(Maybe it’s just a slow salmon news time with the Cohen Comish on hiatus for the time being?)

Really… though… I’m not so sure how dropping big pieces of wood in an estuary is “driving away the geese”…  Unless of course they’re throwing that wood at the geese… Or dropping those wood chunks from the air to land on those pesky grass-eating geese… maybe they need some stumps from those trees in Lord of the Rings… the Ents? (was that their name?)


Geese eating, rock throwing Ents save the salmon… (more fitting… and maybe more realistic).

Euphemisms for sex…

This is a fitting addition to the Bumpf Word Bingo card:

from Jessica Hagy's blog: "Indexed"

I took some liberties and added in a circle and a few other bumpf-word, bureaucratic bafflegab, don’t-know-what-I’m-trying-to-say catchphrases — straight out of Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy or the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, or any other “agreement”, “accord”, governmental policy, or other empty marketing pitches.

or... cooperative copulation

And in the spirit of Ms. Hagy’s blog here’s another:

Mean what you say... less is more

(Maybe I should remember that: “less is more”… some of these blog posts carry on for quite some time)

This next piece also seems to fit in well here from Hugh Macleod’s Gaping Void morning emails.

Mediocrity loves slavery - "Gaping Void"

Some of the text from Macleod that goes with this:

…my peers and I have a different kind of slavery to contend with, the slavery we impose upon ourselves.

Enslaving ourselves to the jobs, careers and lifestyles we hate, just in order to pay the bills. Just in order to buy fancy stuff that makes us look good on paper.

It never occurred to me when I was younger, that this kind of slavery has an element of complicity to it.

We got ourselves in this situation, partly because we willed it. We WANTED that outcome. We wanted the fancy stuff. We didn’t want to do the hard work work that would keep us away from it. We just wanted an easy life….

Mediocrity seduced us. Mediocrity won.

It’s never too late to break out of this cycle, luckily.

It all depends what you’re willing to give up. Only you can answer that.

_ _ _ _ _

And, yes, there is this element of slavery in the decisions we make with our lives — there is also a level of “complicity” and “slavery” when using empty, meaningless, bumpf-filled language. Verbal junk-food as some folks refer to it.

Sure it sounds all gooey and sweet when you’re surrounded by your peers in a boardroom or committee meeting; you fill yourself up on “best practices potato chips” and “ecological benchmark cake” all covered in “sustainability icing” and “conservation cookies” with “socially significant chips”…

You know the routine.

We don’t have to do it. We don’t have to become a slave to meaningless language – because as Macleod’s cartoon suggests, it breeds mediocrity. And it breeds obesity… obesity in language, which clogs arteries; the same arteries that deliver oxygen to the brain. If we aren’t getting oxygen to the brain, we aren’t thinking clearly.

Let’s think a little more clearly. Let’s eat a few more fresh vegetables and stop filling ourselves on verbal junk food.

To finish this today on a pretty funny note, to a devastating event; if you’ve followed some of the ‘tactics’ that BP has utilized to try and clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill (for example, human hair over the well along with garbage such as tires, balls, etc., celebrity input, blown estimates on how much oil is leaking, and so on) you’ll most likely get a good laugh out of this, it’s pretty clever:

how much basing on ‘based’ is the best basis for ecosystem-based…

This is not a nursery rhyme I intend to teach my kids. I think I’ll stick with: how much wood can a woodchuck chuck?

Hey, wait… that’s not a bad question — how MUCH wood can a woodchuck chuck?

Well… if that woodchuck is made by Finning, or Caterpillar, or Madill (wait… they went bankrupt) — then it can chuck a lot of wood. So if a woodchuck is chucking wood in Canada’s Boreal Forest — how much wood can it chuck before it chucks a caribou or two?


I suppose the nine enviro groups and multiple logging companies that signed the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement are suggesting that we should trust that they know how to accurately measure (or will learn quickly) how much wood a ‘sustainable’ woodchuck can chuck before it chucks a caribou… or a woodchuck for that fact (oh… the irony). But wait… in the logging industry it’s called hoe-chucking (when a track hoe moves fallen wood from the previous forest, to landings at roads).

So how much wood can a woodchuck hoe-chuck…? (ok… enough)

_ _ _ _ _

See this is where ecosystem-based planning comes in… But then whenever I see anything followed by (or even preceded by) “based”… I always tend to ask: how “based”?

Like a Hollywood movie “based” on a true story… it’s true story-based, but how much truth-based? and how much entertainment-based? And how much just plain made-up-based?

Or protein-based smoothie… how much protein-based? All? 86.78%? 50%? 10%?

Or how about one of my new favorites: vegetable-based plastics? Apparently Sony has been doing work in this area. Sounds good, hey? But how “-based”?

Then there’s biodiesel; vegetable-based fuel.

Or soy-based inks? — supposed to be way better than petroleum-based inks…

_ _ _ _ _ _

From the “Abridged” Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement:

basing the basis for based

I’m not to sure the theory behind having to state “on-the-ground” within the agreement — last time I checked that’s where forestry happens… And even sustainable forest management; but then maybe that’s the point — the folks that concocted this thing realized that some critical individuals (not mentioning any names…) might suggest: “sustainable forest management practices” are a nice idea on paper, but rarely practiced “on-the-ground”…

But here we have it: confirmation that these “sustainable” practices will be “on-the-ground”. Or better yet: “on-the-ground”-based.

Because, as this goal states the sustainable forest management practices (the on-the-ground ones) will be “based” on the principles of ecosystem-based management, etc.

So how much will they be “based” on them? As much as the movie Apollo 13 was “based” on actual events — or more like the yam-based excrement of my infant son who has taken to solid foods like a seal to salmon.

_ _ _ _ _

Maybe I’m being overly picky with wording; however, as I can’t say enough… when folks start marketing something as “world-leading”, or the “world’s biggest conservation agreement” (but oh yeah, it didn’t include any governments…), or “historic”… then it better have some substance, some serious grit. It better say what it means, and means what it says.

To try and understand what this first “Goal” is suggesting is near impossible. To understand what “ecosystem-based” actually is, or “active adaptive management” — one needs to turn to the definitions section of the agreement.

Trust me… clarity is not to be found there.

from Final version - now posted on website

“Management systems that attempt…”

1. What the heck is a management system in relation to ecosystems…?

2. Ecosystem-based is defined by “attempting…!?

3. And worse yet, attempting to  “emulate”!?

Folks, please, please check your definition of words before using. Emulate means… basically to imitate: “To strive to equal or excel, especially through imitation” . So, sticking with the theme here… it’s “imitation-based” .

So what we have here is a “management system” that is “attempting” to imitate “ecological patterns and processes”… with the goal of maintaining and/or restoring natural levels of ecosystem composition, bla, bla, bla?

How does one “attempt” to imitate “restoration” of an ecosystem by logging it, or pieces of it?

Like… really… how does one best “maintain natural levels of ecosystem composition, structure, and function”?

Well…leave it the hell alone is not a bad starting point.

_ _ _ _ _

Wait though… the number one goal of this agreement is to have this great “sustainable” forest management (by 21 companies — many of them massive multi-national conglomerates with one sole purpose secure as much “wood fibre” as possible — like I alluded to at the beginning how much wood can a “sustainable” woodchuck chuck…?) BASED on principles of Ecosystem-BASED management.

You know….. that management system that attempts to imitate nature…

So how “based” is this sustainable forest management going to be “based” on principles of ecosystem-based management??

“Principles” is another curious choice; it means: “A basic truth, law, or assumption.” Well… ecosystem-based management is neither a “truth” or a “law” and thus it must be an “assumption”.

And so folks you have designed and signed a “voluntary”, “aspirational” agreement that has, as its #1 Goal an airy-fairy statement about some loosely defined ideal — sustainable forest management —  (oh but wait, it’s not actual management… it’s “practices”: something done to polish skills…).

This “practicing” for sustainable forest management (which is not defined in the agreement) will be “based” (we don’t how much) on “principles” (i.e. assumptions) of ecosystem-based management — which is a system of imitating nature.

And this will all be confirmed through a system of “Audits”.

Audit: “An examination of records or financial accounts to check their accuracy.”

Auditing nature.


Environmental groups & the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

Some sanity-finding, sketchbook release, for “turd polishing” agreements like the “voluntary“, “aspirationalCanadian Boreal Forest Agreement signed a little over a week ago by nine environmental groups and a collection of Logging companies (21 apparently, but only a handful that actually operate in Canada’s Boreal Forest) and being marketed heavily in industrialized states as a “historic” agreement – the largest conservation agreement ever signed.

You know… like a Guinness World Record (side note — did you know that the Jim Pattison Group own the Guinness World Records name? they do…)

You know… when I “aspire” to something I draft up 60+ pages of legalese, bumpf, and empty language. And, most certainly, when I enter “voluntary” programs, like community sport team coaching… or community boards, or… I also look to sign a 60+ page agreement full of legalese, etc.

This entire marketing effort is full of so many contradictions, stretching of truths, un-Orwellian language (remember he was an advocate of keeping language simple and would cringe at the ‘un’…), and I think some folks have lost track of what “aspire” means… generally to “desire or to hope” for something.

So this is an agreement that:

  • aspires to be historic,
  • aspires to be world-leading,
  • aspires to be the world’s biggest conservation agreement…

It’s a long, long, long ways from getting to those aspired to goals. Sort of like a 6-year old Canadian kid that aspires to be the world’s best hockey player, or the 6-year old Brazilian kid that aspires to be the word’s best soccer player… they have a long road ahead of them before they can tag themselves with things like “historic” and “world leading”.

And we won’t even discuss the odds that they face…

Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

Logging companies "Active Adaptive Management"

Words are our servants, not our masters…

These are the words of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in a book he wrote in the mid-1980s The Blind Watchmaker: Why the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design:

For different purposes we find it convenient to use words in different senses. Most cook books class lobsters as fish. Zoologists can become quite apoplectic about this, pointing out that lobsters with greater justice could call humans fish, since fish are far closer kin to humans than they are to lobsters…

And thus, fair enough… we conveniently use different words for different purposes. Yet, maybe we should be cautious about just how ‘convenient’ that use becomes…

From the “abridged” version of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement:

Major forestry companies as represented by the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) working in the Boreal region of Canada have come to a historic agreement with nine leading environmental organizations, setting down collective wording on joint activity regarding the future of the Boreal Forest in Canada

However in this cookbook — or “roadmap” — that has been drafted into the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (or prevalent in the Wild Salmon Policy for example, or all of the Provincial efforts I highlighted in my last post regarding the latest trend in: “ecosystem-based management” ; more akin to polishing turds…).

Everyone’s doin’ it… it must be good…

Unfortunately, “ecosystem-based management” is the proverbial bandwagon. Everyone’s on it and has the t-shirt to prove it – even Gordon Campbell, and Arnie, and “Steve” Harper. I’ve got the design picked out… it’s the tag line from the Vancouver Olympics “Believe“… but it will be on a green toque… made of eco-certified (third party verified), shade grown (fourth party certified), fairly-treated sheep (sheep audited), fairly traded Shetland wool (Scottish certified).

"Believe" Bandwagon gear

See… I received an email today from another enviro group involved in the signing of the Boreal Forest Agreement (a group that has generally always operated strongly at the margin).

They don’t agree with my analysis — fair enough (folks often don’t agree with me…for example “no, Dad, it’s not bed time…I’m not tired.”)

Unfortunately, the message reeks of corporate spin doctoring, cut-and-paste, rinse-and-repeat if necessary…and…well… “believe” (or, we know best):

The CBFA establishes a process for resolving the conflicts between nine environmental organizations and FPAC and its member companies, as well as a roadmap to shared goals.

These goals include a network of protected areas throughout the Boreal Forest; the recovery of species at risk, including woodland caribou; and development and enforcement of improved forestry practices at a standard of the Forest Stewardship Council or higher.

The cynical elf on my shoulder asks: if logging companies were so concerned about building a network of protected areas, recovering species at risk, and developing better forestry practices… why didn’t they just do it themselves? They have the tenures to those areas… and the simple ability to work all of those “goals” into their forest development plans…

Well… because the part that isn’t mentioned in the enviro-spin-doctoring is what the industry is really after: consistent fibre supply, without those nagging “market campaigns”.

_ _ _ _ _ _

And unfortunately, this “roadmap” (or cookbook) of “collective wording” (suggesting “wording” by committee — and we all know how well that goes…) has decided to sell “ecosystem-based management” as expensive lobster, listed in the fish section of the cookbook. Yet, the lobster is probably closer to a caribou, then it is to a fish… (fish being closer to us, then lobster…). And this goes back to ‘convenient wording’.

_ _ _ _ _

This also harkens back to the email I highlighted the other day that suggested that another particular enviro organization PR-rep had full faith in the “science underpinning the Agreement”.

Sadly, the science “underpinning” ecosystem-based management is about as clear as using a cookbook to perform biological classification, or a roadmap to understand caribou migrations.

_ _ _ _ _

If you had a chance to read posts last week, you may remember my quotes from George Orwell’s 1946 essay Politics and the English Language, for example:

Adjectives like epoch-making, epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, … are used to dignify the sordid process of international politics…

I would add in the term “world-leading” to Orwell’s list –as I’ve come across it a couple of times in just the past week, Enbridge Pipelines propaganda that landed in my Prince George mailbox, and from the “abridged” version of the Agreement on the CBFA website (original still isn’t posted):

Goal 1.
World-leading Boreal “on-the-ground” sustainable forest management practices based on the principles of ecosystem-based management, active adaptive management, and third-party verification.

If that’s the case folks… then how do you reconcile “world-leading” principles of ecosystem-based management with, for example, Ecuador’s Constitution adopted in 2008, which gave rights to nature — the only one of its kind in the world… otherwise known as “world-leading”?:

Chapter: Rights for Nature

Article 1. Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.

Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognition of rights for nature before public institutions.

_ _ _ _ _

Spin-doctoring can be hard work… however, it’s even harder to say what you mean, and mean what you say. As… words truly are our servants, not our masters. Lobsters are not a fish… and ecosystem-based management is not a “science”, and certainly not world-leading anymore, it’s as prevalent as… well… the term: “world-leading”

Boreal Forest Agreement… absurdity grows + Greenpeace, read your own material, are you not “polishing a turd”?

Maybe it’s a general feeling in the air… maybe it’s a universal force that has decided to crack down on the waste of hot CO2 emissions — the biggest culprit?

Us. Humans.

It’s called how to say a whole lot, without saying anything at all. Seth Godin has a great short little post on this very issue today — I’ve taken the liberty to replace his example, with empty, meaningless language from the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. His post:

But you’re not saying anything

And this is the problem with just about every lame speech, every overlooked memo, every worthless bit of boilerplate foisted on the world: you write and write and talk and talk and bullet and bullet but no, you’re not really saying anything.

It took me two minutes to find a million examples. Here’s one, [“The shared challenge is to address sometimes conflicting social, economic, and, and environmental imperatives in a manner that captures the economic opportunities that are emerging for forest products of the highest environmental quality.”]

Write nothing instead. It’s shorter.

Most people work hard to find artful ways to say very little. Instead of polishing that turd, why not work harder to think of something remarkable or important to say in the first place?

Funnily enough, if you visit the Greenpeace USA website there is an entire campaign dedicated to “Stop Greenwashing“.

Every day, Americans are bombarded with advertising about environmentally friendly goods and services. But how many really are green, and how many are just pretending?

Yeah, Greenpeace, I couldn’t agree more. And how does Greenpeace define this issue?:

These days, green is the new black. Corporations are falling all over themselves to demonstrate that they are environmentally conscious. The average citizen is finding it more and more difficult to tell the difference between those companies genuinely dedicated to making a difference and those that are using a green curtain to conceal dark motives.

Uh, huh. And better yet Greenpeace has four criteria for their “Stop Greenwash” campaign: Dirty Business, Ad Bluster, Political Spin, It’s the Law Stupid.

Dirty Business:

Touting an environmental program or product, while the corporation’s product or core business is inherently polluting or unsustainable. For example, if a company brags about its boutique green R&D projects but the majority of spending and investment reinforces old, unsustainable, polluting practices.

Hmmm, could this maybe be like many of the signatories to this “historic” “world-leading” Agreement. This has been raised by other critics to this Agreement. For example, go visit Environment Canada’s website: National Pollutant Release Inventory for the Pulp and Paper industry. I went to, for example, ID number 1 on the list, which is one Alberta Pacific’s (signatory to Agreement) mills in Alberta.

What is it releasing? Well…in 2008:

  • 171 kg of Arsenic
  • 282 tonnes of Volatile Organic Compounds.(things like formaldehyde, acetone, chlorofluorocarbons — great things for living critters to process).
  • 763 tonnes of sulphur dioxide.

Logging in the Boreal Forest, and particularly this agreement are about: “maintaining essential fibre supply for uninterrupted mill operations” (CBF Agreement website). That fibre supply is meant to keep pulp and paper mills going. Producing pulp and paper at its very nature — is a polluting business.

Thus, Greenpeace, is this Agreement not “allowing companies to brag about [green logging practices but keep the] majority of spending and investment reinforcing old, unsustainable, polluting practices” ?

Sure a couple of caribou might be happier out there in the hinterland — but what about the people that are left breathing, absorbing, and circulating the long time pollutants released from the pulp and paper mills from your partner signatories?

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Ad Buster:

Using targeted advertising and public relations campaigns to exaggerate an environmental achievement in order to divert attention away from environmental problems or if it spends more money advertising an environmental achievement than actually doing it. For example, if a company were to do a million dollar ad campaign about a clean up that cost less.

Hmmm… so Pew & Ivey Foundations; how much has negotiating, brokering, and funding this “Agreement” cost to this point in time, and over the next three years?

And Greenpeace, what about the Greenhouse Gas Emissions of all the jet flights involved?

worth it?

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Political Spin

Advertising or speaking about corporate “green” commitments while lobbying against pending or current environmental laws and regulations. For example, if advertising or public statements are used to emphasize corporate environmental responsibility in the midst of legislative pressure or legal action.

Ummm, Greenpeace, I’m guessing you’re familiar with aboriginal and treaty rights in Canada… only a “few” outstanding legal actions there. And how many of the logging company signatories have outstanding legal actions surrounding their logging practices and/or pulp and paper production?

Are these companies going to share their current lobbying efforts in all of the Provincial capitals and in Ottawa — surrounding logging practices, effluent and toxins releases, and other matters? What about caps on carbon emissions, or sulphur dioxide, or formaldehyde… like the elevated levels in the Prince George, BC area?

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It’s the Law Stupid

Advertising or branding a product with environmental achievements that are already required or mandated by existing laws. For example, if an industry or company has been forced to change a product, clean up its pollution or protect an endangered species, then uses PR campaigns to make such action look proactive or voluntary.

So when I did a quick search online I found that several (if not all) Provincial governments are already enacting “ecosystem-based management” as a core principle in forestry and other resource industries, for example:

Your B.C. Government is applying ecosystem-based management to protect key elements of old growth forests, such as representative ecosystems, freshwater ecosystems and critical grizzly bear habitat. (Province of BC website: entire site dedicated to ecosystem-based management)

To maintain ecosystem health the Conservation Strategy recommends “that the Government of Alberta and forest land users adopt and implement ecosystem-based forest management as quickly as practicable.

To provide direction for developing long-term forest management plans that are consistent with Saskatchewan’s commitment to both ecosystem-based and sustainable forest management.

A pilot project on the east side of Lake Winnipeg was conducted as a first step to implementing Manitoba’s Forest Plan Towards Ecosystems Based Management. The forest plan is a long-term framework to create ecosystems-based forest management.

The Ministry of Natural Resources manages wildlife to ensure it is healthy today and available for future generations to enjoy. Ontario’s wildlife managers know that individual species are part of complex ecosystems. While management decisions are often directed at certain species, these decisions are made in the context of the entire ecosystem. This is an ecosystem-based approach to wildlife management.

Identification of ecosystem management zones (EMZ) for multiple resource use, accounting for approximately 70% of the available productive forest. In the EMZs, ecosystem-based management with the goal of increasing the supply of goods and services derived from various forest resources (e.g. timber, wildlife, leisure and tourism, etc.) with a view to achieving integrated management. (Government of Quebec document Forests: building a future for Quebec)

(make sure you read all of these with the voice of a cheesy radio announcer… it’s more fun that way).

So, who really is advertising a product or brand (e.g. Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement) when several of the ‘celebrated’ principles of this agreement are already required or mandated by Provincial forestry laws?

Maybe the nine enviro signatories to this agreement should return to that thing… that place… that cliche that everyone likes to use…ummm….uhhh…. oh right: the drawing board.

Ecosystem-based management? Read yesterday’s post and other posts on “Bumpf” on this website. The term “ecosystem-based management” now has about as much meaning as the old Ford slogan “Quality is Job 1″…

Good luck on this dirty business, ad bluster, political spin, already in law, stupid — campaign.

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The most ridiculous aspect of this whole exercise — as communicated by one of the executive leaders of one of the “enviro” signatories:

…it is important to put the CBFA in proper context. It is an aspirational agreement, based on voluntary commitments between participants and a number of goals which will require a great deal of goodwill and hard work to achieve. It is not legally binding on anyone, even those participating in the agreement. It doesn’t compel anyone to do anything against their own interests… [my emphasis]

Oh yeah, I know that whenever I, or someone apparently representing me, spends two years negotiating an agreement — it makes sense that the agreement be “aspirational” and “voluntary” and “not legally binding”. What a great use of resources…

Back to the words of Godin:

Instead of polishing that turd, why not work harder to think of something remarkable or important to say in the first place?