Why I may quit Greenpeace and Open Minds

I must disclose that I have been a Greenpeace member for most of my life. I am an environmentalist and regularly write on this topic.  Free enterprise and a good environmental policy are not antonyms, they are in fact two pillars of a modern sustainable culture.  The reason I believe this is that there has been a major shift in how people buy in BC.  Many of us buy local, we buy hybrids and we buy organic foods even though they all cost more.   We support our neighbours and farmers, the small produce suppliers and our blossoming wine industry because we know it is better for the economy and the environment.  We also know we cannot put people into poverty en masse.

Wednesday night I received a call from Greenpeace that disturbed me somewhat.  One of the three reasons they were calling me was to raise awareness of the importance of climate change and that we should “vote for the climate”.   When I asked what that meant, the response was “vote for the party that will keep the tar sands from happening”.  He then reported to me in another sentence that “the NDP opposes the pipeline”.  The implication being I should vote for the NDP.   What does “oppose the pipeline mean”?  I have a suspicion that no matter what any party says (perhaps with the exception of the Green Party), that the pipeline will be build.  The rational?  It is simply the most environmentally friendly way to move the product.

Greenpeace is supposed to be non-partisan.  I found it very interesting that the person on the phone did not mention the Green party but rather the NDP.  I am not sure why a Greenpeace phone volunteer is spending the money we donate to Greenpeace every month to call me and tell me about our political situation but that is for Elections BC to figure out.

The question that I had to ask when he stated we must oppose the pipeline is “what do you propose will be done in the alternative to move the oil“?  There was stunned silence before a reply to the lines of “well we oppose everything about the Alberta Tar sands.  If we do not build the pipeline we will cripple that operation“.  I had to think about this for a while longer.  This was a person who actually believes that if the Northern Gateway Pipeline is not built, the entire oil sands will cease production.  Better yet, if we elect the NDP who formally “oppose” the pipeline, we can shut down Alberta’s Tar sands.  I am sorry but this is simply not true.  If the pipeline if not built, the alternative is trucks and rail.  We do not have the rights to restrict traffic on national railroads and highways based on hatred of a particular industry. Those are national resources to which we all have equal rights to use.

If we had that power, I will aver that this is a very slippery slope.  For the record, I wish we all lived in a utopian society that did not require fossil fuels, but the reality is we do not and change takes time.    There is also an important concept of self government.  I do not support BC being able to tell Alberta that they cannot develop their natural resources any more that I would support Saskatchewan being able to unilaterally shut down the BC movie industry based on a belief that they are polluting and films are not necessary.  What about fishing?   If Ontario could shut down our technology industry over concerns about computers containing dangerous substances, it would put many people out of work.  What if someone in New Brunswick stopped UBC building condominiums on un-ceded native territory.   This is a very dangerous slope to slide down.  I understand the dangers of the Tar Sands project and know we have to change.  At the same time, I do not believe our students should graduate with $100,000 of debt.  We need balance in all policies.

So how does one stop the Tar Sands?  Simple.  Refuse to buy anything made with energy that comes from the Tar sands.  Stop buying cosmetics, cars, tires, bicycles, electronics, clothes and anything plastic made with Alberta crude.  Stop buying New Zealand apples and don’t buy green smoothies from Happy Planet, shipped in plastic bottles.     If no one wants to buy those products, the market for that product will dry up very quickly as no manufacturer would allow it in their products. This would cause a slump in demand and a reversal of the trend.    While sounding easy though, this equation is not so simple.  What if companies like Enbridge actually used the profits from the tar sands to invest into renewable energy sources to prepare the world for a better future?  Well guess what?  They do this.

Enbridge now generates over 1,365 MW of clean and renewable energy.  Do not believe me, read the website page at http://www.enbridge.com/DeliveringEnergy/RenewableEnergy.aspx. By contrast, the BC Carbon Tax has invested zero dollars and produced not one single MW of clean energy.  That tax is revenue neutral and only shuffles money around.  It also does not stop GHG emissions (read the increased amounts of GHG’s going into the environment on page 66 of the BC Provincial Budget).

So who are the bad guys and who are the good guys?  There is no right answer to this question.  My only hope is that I can invite anyone reading this to widen their thoughts and be a little more open minded.  We all need to work together on this.  No matter who wins the Provincial election May 14, we all have a deep responsibility to move forward to clean energy.  If you are a protestor, keep protesting to raise awareness.  If you have an idea to move to renewable energy, help Enbridge and others use the proceeds of the tar sands to invest into clean energy.  They are an energy company.  Oil is only one currency in that market.  If they invest all their money into oil, they will due as a company when the oil runs out.  The people I know at Enbridge told me that they know they need to move off oil to be successful in the future.  Some top environmentalists have noted this and are helping them with this change.

We all know oil is running out.  We have to reduce GHG’s.  I have a plan to use Geothermal energy to both produce clean and renewable energy for British Columbians.  We can do this.  It is not that complicated but it requires educating people on how this will work.

Conservatives (and anyone else with a sane brain) do not want our planet ruined. We are entrenched to fight against this and restore BC as an economic leader. In the meantime, some have advocated raising taxes on gasoline to cut back on people using cars.  Fine, I can personally afford $20/litre gas yet I found even the most hardened environmentalists are stating that this is not going to work for them.  “My life will be hell and my food and transportation bill will be through the roof” they claim.  True I replied, but we will achieve the goal of reducing your contributing to GHG emissions.  Most of them did not realize this was purely a rhetorical statement and got angry with me thinking it was an attack on their ability to exist.  When I pointed out that this is the same logic they are using on others, many then thanked me for helping to raise their awareness.

I am a friend of both clean energy and environmental causes.  I will not favor one at the expense of the others though.  We all need to work together on this.

We have an answer to meet the GHG targets for 2020 but also know that we have to measure them in a way that is fair and realistic.  Simply outsourcing the GHG’s used in manufacturing to China is not the answer.  After all, this is global warming, not BC warming.

Please give this some thought.

10 responses to “Why I may quit Greenpeace and Open Minds

  1. I have always stated that whether you believe we are responsible for accelerated climate change or not we are still responsible for pollution. It seems to me climate change arguments have taken the place of caring for the environment. I visited Cairo and the Pyramids back in 2007. When our cruise ship pulled into Alexandria I experienced being literally overcome with choking pollution. It burned deep in my throat. My excitement was tempered with crushing reality. Now we have made our living selling cars and today we sell tires. The automotive business has endured justified scrutiny and keeps meeting the environmental challenges because of expectations to improve standards. You set an attainable goal, industry can meet it. So we all have to keep the pressure on with our buying habits. We also cannot ship off our polluting problems to other countries. We must make consumer demands on how they treat their workers and environment.

  2. Duane, that is all nice but it is merely a distraction from the real issue and that is greed. There is no way the tar sands mining should ever have been permitted in the first place. There is such a huge catalogue of issues that this is looney tooney land and paying off of local decision makers and government officials provaricating that we have seen time and time again. Stop and think for a second if the tar sands happened to be on the other side of the Lion Bridge instead of conveniently in the middle of nowhere aka tribal lands. You think that mining would have gotten approved? Of course not. No amount of window dressing and donations to good causes can deflect away from what is really happening. Hard to blame Green Peace activists when the other side has already used every dirty trick in the book to pull this one off. Slavery was highly profitable and created jobs and cheap products, how about we bring that back too? Hard to point to other countries excesses; holding them accountable has to start by setting a higher standard and stopping the same dirty tricks that worked there becoming the norm here too.

  3. David: Sadly, you are correct and I have to be honest and say there is nothing I, nor any politician can do about this other than holding people accountable. The company behind the pipeline has already donated thousands of dollars to my main political rivals (the NDP and Liberal parties).

    We also have oil flowing in and out of Vancouver already. For fifty years as a matter of fact so it is happening right under the Lions Gate bridge.

    You hit the nail right on the head. Systemic change! I want to bring back jobs into BC for manufacturing and do it with clean and renewable energy sources. Jobs, prosperity and protecting the environment at the same time. I wish I could make this happen overnight. I need to get help from people to start this process. The other parties will offer business as usual. I will create change.

    BTW – I have vowed to have a fair campaign. Cheers!

  4. “Conservatives (and anyone else with a sane brain) do not want our planet ruined.”
    Then why vote for Harper? He and his party are dismantling Canada’s environmental protections as we speak. He’s reducing the environmental responsibilities of Tar Sands operations and muzzling the government scientists who can produce the data to show what he’s doing.

  5. Aaron.

    Thank you for taking the time to drop us a note. Democracy is best when citizens like yourself take part and seek truth.

    Please note however that Stephen Harper’s federal Progressive Conservative Party is not affiliated with the BC Conservative Party. They are two totally independent parties. Muzzling scientists is wrong as this violates free speech. If you read the other blog entries, you will note that the topic of free speech is central to many of them and nothing written supports censorship.

    At the provincial level, our own Auditor General (those who are charged with ensuring our public interests are being met by our government) have been silenced by the Liberals (Ref: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/01/29/bc-rail-court-doyle.html ). The Auditor General, a fair and impartial voice of reason, also recently came out against the Carbon Tax (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/03/27/bc-carbon-neutral-report.html ).

    Thank you for being engaged.

  6. Duane,
    Thank you for your post. I read your comments and have similar feelings. I went ‘thru the Wall’ so to speak and quit being an Idealist after getting burned out trying to sell a set of goods that, after a while(sigh) just didn’t work. Yes, the environment and renewables and sustainability are great ideas but until we can find a way to make renewables competitive in the open market, with cheaper, dirtier hydrocarbon fuels(dilution is the solution to pollution mentality) had to give it a rest. Until Society values the diseconomy of the damages of pollution from hydrocarbon fuels(in terms of actual $ cost), the pragmatic short-term convenience of dirty fuels outcompetes cleaner, long-term societal benefits of clean energy renewables…

  7. Gary:

    Thank you for writing in. I am still very optimistic that we can make renewables work but it has to be done smartly. Imagine if all the energy people are putting into stopping the Northern Gateway Pipeline and into the Carbon tax that does not work were re-directed into a positive work program that helped bring jobs back into BC while at the same time developing our clean and renewable energy sector? We could accomplish so much.

    I almost lost faith too for a while but am now working on a master plan for BC that will both protected the environment and build the economy. I need to get elected first to start turning the plan into reality.

    Happy Easter!


  8. Mark Crawford


    Nice blog. As others have noted, I fear that the bumper of “Global Warming” hides the true problem – pollution in any form. Manipulating data, silencing opposing scientific evidence, and enlisting mindless celebrities all in the name of combating natural cyclical occurances has greatly damaged the environmental movement. This coupled with rush to judgement regulations and mindless “investments” here in the US that are done in a manner of dictatorial edicts rather than working with business to find solid long term solutions do nothing to really attack the problem – just cause more economic misery. You are correct – only if we can find a way to explore more partnerships and responsible behaviour by both the idealists and the business interestes, and more importantly – how to address the polution in China and third world countries who have a need to develop new industries to keep pace with their population explosions, will we truly attack the real problem.

  9. Now that the Northern gateway pipeline and possible XL will likely not be approved, oil is being shipped by rail. That is both environmentally more damaging, riskier (say a whole train falls into a river vs. a small leak in a pipeline) and more expensive.

    And that is celebrated as a solution ?

    BC’s loss is Ontario’s and Quebec’s gain as oil will be shipped east. This is smart BC politics ? First the $s will leave, then the young people who will not find decent jobs. Look no further than Greece or Spain for it. Huge solar subsidies for “green” energy projects that did not make economic sense – followed by shutdowns and 20%+ unemployment. Is this BC’s goal ? Hardly !

    The solution is to make oil and gas last longer, i.e. make engines that are more efficient, and make use of the best technology available to transport oil. This world today, and for the foreseeable future will not function without oil or gas. So, if we don;t sell it, someone else (with a far worse human rights or environmental track record) will ! We live in a global economy.

    Yes, clean energy such as solar or geothermal makes sense, but it is far too expensive today to produce, roughly factor 10 to today’s prices of a kwh in BC, namely 50-60 cents vs. 5. So let’s phase them in as “classic” energy gets more and more expensive.

    More windmills on Vancouver’s north shore – an eyesore ! This is green energy we want ? hardly !

    What is the future in BC with no gas exploration, no mining, no oil pipelines, no forestry. Mining is required for 9 billion people to survive. Incl. mining for oil or gas or uranium. So let’s produce it – as environmentally friendly as possible – and do not let other do it for us while those jobs are lost here and the work gets done elsewhere !

    Another problem is pollution. LA’s or Rhein/Ruhr or UK’s air was dirty 30 years ago, today it is pretty clean. China’s air is very dirty today but they get their act together after enough people have died of lung cancer and fled the cities to cleaner air environments like BC. Just like LA or UK or Rhein/Ruhr area with its coal plants.

    Shutting down domestic industries and killing jobs by the 10,000’s is not the solution. The solution is smart taxation of stuff we want less of. So, we want cleaner cars: tax gasoline use, for example. Gasoline at $1.30 a liter: forget it. How about $3, phased in over 10 years: that surely will change behavior, will reduce in many more smaller cars, less cars and more public transit like a UBC line. See more here on that topic in an op-ed I wrote for the Vancouver Sun in Dec, 2012.


  10. Pingback: Green Politics | Freedom House - Cameroon

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