Planet Watch

Canada's high court upholds aboriginal title

First nations across British Columbia are celebrating a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada on June 26 that recognizes aboriginal title to their traditional territories outside reserves. The court upheld the Tsilhqot'in Nation's claim to lands in the Nemiah Valley, some 160 miles north of Vancouver, rejecting the provincial government's argument that aboriginal title should be restricted to actual settlement sites and other places frequently occupied by semi-nomadic native peoples. Joe Alphonse, chief of the Tsilhqot'in Nation, said the ruling is a victory in a struggle that had its roots in deadly conflict with a wave of Gold Rush settlers during the 1860s. He said the communities need more control over resources to support more people living on reserves. "We didn't fight in this case to separate from Canada," Alphonse told a news conference in Vancouver. "We fought in this case to get recognized, to be treated as equals in a meaningful way."

Obama climate plan: too little, too late

For the first time, the US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to limit emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. The response has been predictable. Environment News Service notes: "Democrats and public health and environmental groups rejoiced in the proposal of a measure they have advocated for years to fight climate change, but Republicans cried doom, warning that the rule would destroy the American economy." The New York Times writes: "[E]nvironmental advocates praised the proposed rule for its breadth and reach while the coal industry attacked it as a symbol of executive overreach that could wreak economic havoc." The Daily Beast's Jason Mark dubbed the program "Obamacare for the Air" because both plans are "numbingly complex," "based on a market system," "likely to transform a key sector of the economy," and "guaranteed to be intensely polarizing." In other words, a market-based plan is being attacked by the right as green totalitarianism. This would be perverse enough if the plan's goals were anywhere close to sufficient to actually address the climate crisis—which, again predictably, they are not.

Lubicon Cree fight injunction on anti-frack protests

The Lubicon Lake Nation of Cree in Alberta, Canada, is appealing a court order prohibiting the indigenous community from blockading gas operations on unceded territory. Calgary-based Penn West Petroleum won the order from an Alberta court last month, barring the blockade set up in December by Lubicon Cree protesters for a period of six months. "The judge denied [us] the opportunity to raise any of the constitutional issues and arguments for the Lubicon," said Garrett Tomlinson, Lubicon Lake Nation communications director. Lubicon Cree leadership argued that Canada has never entered into a treaty with them, which renders permits for oil and gas development on Lubicon land null and void.

Polar Vortex: Yes, it's global warming!

The much-hyped "Polar Vortex" that plunged much of North America into dangerously low temperatures is giving the climate change denialist crowd an opportunity to gloat—and, typically, display their ignorance. Bloomberg on Jan. 7 presented a sneering Tweet from Donald Trump dismissing global warming as "bullshit" because the "planet is freezing." But the Bloomberg account, as well as a video on the Greenpeace Blog, quotes Rutgers University climate researcher Jennifer Francis explaining how the Vortex was likely unleashed by—yup, global warming! It seems that the Jet Stream, which normally serves as a boundary separating cold air to the north from warm air to the south, is being destabilized; receding arctic sea ice lessens the temperature difference either side of the Stream, thereby slowing its velocity and causing large loops and meanders to form, and even for it to get "stuck." When this happens, North America and Europe are going either into extreme heat or extreme cold, depending on where the jet gets jammed. Recent record-breaking highs in Chicago and Fairbanks, as well as shriveling heat waves across the Great Plains, may have been caused by the same phenomenon now sending the mercury plunging in the Midwest and Northeast.

Native resistance to North American pipeline plans

On Nov. 13, members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota brought representatives TransCanada to the reservation to make the case for the Keystone XL Pipeline—where they met an angry response from many in attendance. Debra White Plume of the Owe Aku International Justice Project told them: "Run home and tell your corporate headquarters in Canada that the Lakota are going to make a stand. Tell them, you're going to have to run over them or throw them in jail.  That's the message you have to take home… So I think you need to leave our land!  We're ready to go to jail to get you out of here NOW, so you can leave on your own or be escorted out now…" A YouTube clip of the meeting shows speaker after speaker echo this sentiment—followed by the TransCanada reps heading for the door, visibly shaken. (Causes.com, Nov. 16)

WHY WE FIGHT

From the San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 8:

Man who sought safe streets killed in S.F. crash
A wheelchair-using San Francisco man who fought for safe streets for the disabled is being mourned this week by friends and family after he was fatally struck by a car in one of the city's most dangerous intersections.

RCMP attack Mi'kmaq anti-frack protesters

Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers on Oct. 17 used tear-gas and rubber bullets to break up a protest roadblock by members of the Elsipogtog Mi'kmaq First Nation outisde Rexton, in New Brunswick. An injunction was issued two weeks ago against a blockade in front of a SWN Resources compound, where the oil exploration company is carrying out seismic testing as a precursor to fracking. Elsipogtog Chief Aaren Sock, council members and elders who had been conducting a ceremony at the blockade were among at least 40 arrested by heavily armed police in full riot gear. Some protesters responded by setting police vehicles on fire. Supporters from across Canada are said to be mobilizing a convergence on the area to support the Elsipogtog. (ICTMNCanada.com, Oct. 17)

Nez Perce block tar-sands 'megaload'

A 225-foot "megaload" of oil field equipment being hauled along US Highway 12 through northern Idaho and Montana, bound for a tar-sands site in Canada, was repeatedly blocked by protesters this month. As it passed through the Nez Perce Indian Reservation Aug. 6, some 100 tribal members and their supporters blockaded the road, some throwing rocks as state police moved in. Authorities said 20 protesters were arrested, charged with misdemeanors for "disturbing the peace." Several Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee members were among those removed by police. The load was able to proceed after two hours, but was blocked again Aug. 13 by environmentalist protesters outside Missoula, Mont. (AP, Aug. 13, AP, Aug. 8, AP, Aug. 7; AP, Buffalo Post, Missoulia, Aug. 6)

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