11 November 2012

TRMS lays out the reality. Let's start from there.

It's been a rugged couple of decades here in the USA. The transition to a mass media fueled society with an Internet turbo booster has nearly ripped the country apart.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 14:  News Corporation head...
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 14: News Corporation headquarters is seen in Manhattan on July 14, 2011 in New York City. The widening News of the World phone hacking scandal has led to an FBI investigation in the United States. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
In my day job I am part of that Internet Turbo charging phenomenon, pushing change forward, teaching businesses how to use the Internet to reach their objectives. Since most of what I do is set up defenses for organizations to help them fend off criminals and malcontents I don't generally feel too badly about my role in the acceleration, although there are the rare days when my (old style) hacker background reaches out and grabs me by the throat, telling me "Information wants to be free!".

Much like my former work in the US Defense establishment my internet security activities sometimes create a conflict, but in general I have been good with what I've been asked to do. Little did I realize what a poisonous combination the fragmentation of specialty news channels, email, web sites, and blogging could do to wrench a country into pieces.

Over the last couple of decades I've watched, and sometimes inadvertently participated, in ripping our United States into bleeding hunks of a once viable country. I worried about politicians recrossing the Church and State boundary during the late 1970s, not realizing that religious partisanship would begin to raise its blood soaked head again. In the 1980s and 1990s we re-established the witch hunts, but not in the old way. No, now we used mass media as the tool of choice to burn people at the stake.

By the late 1990s it had spread to the once pristine Internet. Now we had mass communication on steroids. Anyone who wanted could put any nonsense up on a web site and claim it was truth, no matter how outrageous. It was like watching the 'Net being taken over by 'snake oil' salesmen. And then in the late 2000s politicians finally overcame their fear of the 'Net and began to employ it to push their agendas.

In our two party system it is terribly important that we have diversity. As most folk who study systems know, diversity is key to any system's survival. Monolithic systems invariably fail at some point from lack of diversity. In the case of a representative federal republic like the United States of America this is particularly true.

In our Republic we permit multiple parties, but we seem to have stabilized around a two party system. We don't form coalitions, we're too combative for that. Instead, it's pretty clearly an "us/them" proposition. When one half of our two party system, a major part of our political system, effectively implodes, turning inward, and begins a pogrom against their own members to root out diversity, it weakens us as a nation. Ideology tests and loyalty oaths have pushed part of the country into an Orwellian nightmare, one that they cannot discriminate from the real world.

We have seen the effects of pogroms on the world stage, in Asia in the 1920s, in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. After a relatively short time those societies were rotting from within because they enforced singular ideologies and suppressed the naturally occurring diversity. Those efforts to "cleanse" their nations of improper ideology resulted in conflicts that the rest of the world has been afflicted with for over 60 years.

We really do NEED the Republican party to return from their bubble of unreality. There are existential threats to our nation out here where the rest of the world lives that must be addressed. Selfishly hiding in their own delusional world is not helping anyone, not even themselves.

The November 7th Rachel Maddow Show aired a segment reviewing the previous nights election results. Part of that episode was a call to the GOP and the Conservative movement to break out of their bubble of self-generated reality and come join the rest of us. Being a fan of Ms. Maddow's clarity of thought and incisive wit I chose a two minute segment of her show that night to summarize our country's situation. Have a look at it here:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Since that broadcast we have seen the same forces, like the Roger Ailes controlled parts of NewsCorp continue efforts to lure members of the GOP and the Conservative political movement back into that alternate reality. They are pushing really hard to keep the "Conservatives" inside their fictional universe. Every tactic is being employed by the "brains" like Karl Rove, and the "leaders" like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, seeking to prove that they were right, and the Liberals are all at fault. They are blaming everything they can think of, even the weather.

We need "real" Republicans to stand up and take back their party. We need them to yank it back out of the grasp of special interests, multinational corporations, extremists, and fools. I can only hope that the Republicans I have met, and those that I work alongside will step up and tell these pretenders like Limbaugh and Hannity to take a hike. The real people need to stand up, take a stand and declare that "the People are back in charge". 


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06 November 2012

Wen Stephenson - A Convenient Excuse

 Wen Stephenson has posted a very clear and evocative letter to fellow journalists through the kind agency of The Phoenix in Boston. Unfortunately, the editors at the Phoenix have chosen to break this well thought out piece into about 8 chunks.

Well, like many out there, I use text to speech software to read articles, particularly on days when my vision is giving me fits, and I found having to page through, deal with the "to read more please go to http:// etc" and the hassle of restarting the software detracted from the article's message.

Because I believe this is an important article that should not ave any barriers, I've replicated the article in one long blog entry for the convenience of others like me. I hope the Phoenix and Mr. Stephenson do not mind that I have taken this liberty with the content. If so, I hope they will contact me directly so that I can remove the offending content. The original article can be found here:
http://thephoenix.com/Boston/news/146647-convenient-excuse/

Here is the entire content of the article, with all links intact. Along with a couple that Zemanta added.




A Convenient Excuse

By WEN STEPHENSON  |  October 31, 2012
COVER_Climate-Silence_ChristopherHarting
On October 2, I led a climate protest inside the offices of the Boston Globe.
OK, it was really a meeting in a small conference room with editorial page editor Peter Canellos and members of his staff. But it was, in essence, a protest.
I used to be a card-carrying member of the mainstream media; just a few years ago, I was the editor of the Globe's Ideas section. Peter is a former colleague.
With me was Craig Altemose, founder and executive director of Better Future Project, a Cambridge-based non-profit dedicated to climate action, on whose working board I serve as a volunteer. We were joined by two members of BFP's advisory board: MIT's Kerry Emanuel, one of the country's leading climate scientists (and, until recently, a Republican); and Boston College's Juliet Schor, a sociologist and economist who is a respected thinker on climate and the economy. Last year, Altemose was arrested protesting the Keystone XL pipeline at the White House along with another advisory board member, Bill McKibben of 350.org, and 1251 other concerned citizens.
After a quick round of introductions, I explained to my former Globe colleagues that I wasn't there to "save the planet" or to protect some abstraction called "the environment." I'm really not an environmentalist, and never have been. No, I said, I was there for my kids: my son, who's 12, and my daughter, who's 8. And not only my kids — all of our kids, everywhere. Because on our current trajectory, it's entirely possible that we'll no longer have a livable climate — one that allows for stable, secure societies to survive — within the lifetimes of today's children.
And I told them that I was there, in that room, because the national conversation we're having about this situation, this emergency, is utterly inadequate —or, really, nonexistent. And I looked Peter in the eye, and told him that I'm sorry, but that's completely unacceptable to me. If we can't speak honestly about this crisis — if we can't lay it on the line — then how can we look at ourselves in the mirror?
Since I had requested the meeting, I told Peter that I hoped to frame the discussion around two points:
First: We need to see a much greater sense of urgency in the media's coverage of climate change, including in the Globe's editorial and opinion pages. This is more than an environmental crisis: it's an existential threat, and it should be treated like one, without fear of sounding alarmist, rather than covered as just another special interest, something only environmentalists care about. And it should be treated as a central issue in this election, regardless of whether the candidates or the political media are talking about it.
Second: Business-as-usual, politics-as-usual, and journalism-as-usual are failing us when it comes to addressing the climate threat. If there's to be any hope for the kind of bold action we need, a great deal of pressure must be brought from outside the system, in the form of a broad-based grassroots movement, in order to break the stranglehold of the big-money fossil fuel lobby on our politics. And in fact, there is a movement emerging on campuses and in communities across the country — especially here in New England — and the Globe should be paying attention to it.
But that wasn't the conversation Peter was prepared to have — and we never got around to having it.
Canellos, the paper's former Washington bureau chief, was more interested in the short-term politics of the Keystone pipeline debate, and the economic impact of natural gas expansion in Massachusetts, and what raising renewable energy standards would mean for regional jobs. Smart, sensible questions. Balanced. Analytical. Above the fray. In short, what counts as serious on the opinion pages of mainstream American newspapers.
And, it has to be said, they were questions that revealed precisely the kind of narrow, incremental, politically straitjacketed mindset that's leading us off the climate cliff. Indeed, they were the kind of questions that make you wonder whether the speaker is even aware of the cliff we're racing toward — or what planet we're living on.
Yes, the Globe's editorial page supports policies to curb greenhouse emissions. It recently called, in the lead editorial on August 26, for lowering the emissions cap imposed by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which has already reduced carbon emissions from power plants in the Northeast faster than expected.
Good for them. But that same editorial was telling, and representative, in a far more important way. With its underlying message that, hey, we're making real progress here, things are going better than planned — that, in short, we're winning —it revealed an utter failure to grapple with the scale and urgency of the climate crisis. It revealed the same outlook that was on display in that meeting.
But it's not only the Globe. This failure is repeated across the mainstream media landscape — the product of a mindset in which climate change is simply another environmental problem, albeit a particularly complex one for which we'll eventually find a technical fix, mainly by doing more or less the same things we're doing now, only more efficiently and with better technology. It's nothing to get too excited about.
It's certainly not anything to sacrifice your career over.
About a year and a half ago — having left my job as the senior producer of NPR's On Point the year before — I took a deliberate leap of conscience and became a climate activist.
There was no single moment when I knew that I had to jump — any more than there's a single moment when night turns to day. It was a gradual process of coming to see the facts that were right in front of me. In December 2009, while still at On Point (a show that has since done better than most in conveying the urgency of the climate crisis), I watched the collapse of the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, a make-or-break moment for the planet. In the voices of cool-headed climate experts, I now heard the sound of something new: something like fear, and disbelief, and the sound of real anger, bitterness, outrage. Then in the spring and summer of 2010, as it became clear that Congress would fail to pass even the weakest bipartisan climate legislation, and that the president of the United States would fail to lead, and that all the lobbying the environmental movement could muster would fail to match the power of the fossil fuel lobby, I watched the tragedy of our democracy unfold and felt in my gut the futility of a corrupt and paralyzed political system.
But in the end, even more than any play of events, or any rational analysis of the hopeless political situation, perhaps it was this: I found it increasingly difficult to look into my children's eyes.
As an editor and producer covering national and global issues since the mid-1990s, I'd always been relatively well informed about climate change. Or so I thought. In fact, like most of my peers, I'd never really wrapped my head around the full implications of climate science, or internalized how little time we have left to make a difference. As I dove into the subject in 2010 and 2011, going deep in a way that time-pressed editors and producers rarely do, I felt an overriding responsibility — especially in light of my own lackluster record covering climate — to engage. If that meant working outside the bounds of mainstream journalism, then so be it.
I knew that if I was really committed to the path of activism, I would almost certainly never be hired again by a mainstream media outfit like WBUR or the Globe, or PBS Frontline (where I was managing editor of the web edition from 2001 to 2004), or even a magazine like The Atlantic (where I was an editor from 1994 to 2001 and served as editorial director of TheAtlantic.com). I knew that once I'd crossed the line to the "other side," there could be no turning back.
Over the past 18 months, I've helped organize and spoken at rallies, joined the board of Better Future Project, and helped launch 350 Massachusetts, a statewide grassroots network, allied with 350.org. And as I've become deeply involved in the climate movement, I've often thought about what I'd say to my old friends and colleagues in the mainstream media if we were all together in the same room, or if I could address them in an open letter.
Now the Phoenix has offered me that opportunity, and this is what I want to say.

Dear friends and colleagues:
This is hard. Coming to grips with the climate crisis is hard. It's frightening. It's infuriating. It's heartbreaking.
Likewise, what I have to say here is hard. But it's honest, and it's necessary. And it's for real.
Our most respected climate scientists, people like NASA's James Hansen and MIT's Kerry Emanuel, as well as global energy experts such as Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency — people who, it's fair to say, may not always agree on politics and policy — are increasingly clear and vocal about one thing: we're rapidly running out of time to address climate change in any meaningful way and avoid the risk of global climate catastrophe, with the incalculable human suffering that it will bring, quite possibly in this century.
In the face of this situation — as much as it pains me to say this — you are failing. Your so-called "objectivity," your bloodless impartiality, are nothing but a convenient excuse for what amounts to an inexcusable failure to tell the most urgent truth we've ever faced.
Let me be clear: the problem isn't simply a matter of "false balance" — for most of you, that debate is largely over, and you no longer balance the overwhelming scientific consensus with the views of fossil-fuel lobby hacks. No, what I'm talking about is your failure to cover the climate crisis as a crisis — one in which countless millions, even billions, of lives are at stake.
In our current media landscape, it apparently takes a magazine like Rolling Stone — in an issue with Justin Bieber on the cover — to offer a writer like Bill McKibben the opportunity to spell out the facts, in cold hard arithmetic, for a mass audience. McKibben's landmark article this past summer, "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math," boiled the hard truth about climate down to three stark numbers:
  • Two degrees Celsius: the amount, according to international consensus, that we can raise the global average temperature above preindustrial levels and still maintain a so-called "safe" climate, beyond which all bets are off. "Safe," of course, depends on where you live. We've already raised it almost one degree, with disastrous results; if you live in Africa, or Kiribati, one degree is too much.
  • 565 gigatons: the amount of CO2 scientists agree we can still pump into the atmosphere and hope to remain below the two-degree threshold.
  • 2795 gigatons: the amount of CO2 contained in the world's proven fossil-fuel reserves, which the fossil-fuel industry shows every intention of extracting and burning.
The bottom line: we have to find a way to leave 80 percent of accessible fossil fuels in the ground, forever, and make a rapid shift to clean energy, if we're going to avoid the very real risk of catastrophic climate change within this century. When you get a grip on those numbers, something like the Keystone protest — driven by the idea that the Alberta tar sands, the planet's second-largest pool of carbon, should be off-limits — comes into focus. It's more than math: it's a moral imperative. That's why 1253 people were willing to get arrested in front of the White House in order to stop that pipeline, even temporarily.
"Unsafe" climate change is not a distant threat. It's here, now. We've fundamentally altered the planet's life-support system, and conditions are going to get much worse. If you've enjoyed this year's record heat, wildfires, drought, and spiking global food prices — if you enjoy monster storms like Sandy — get used to it.
Of course there's uncertainty about exactly how these changes will unfold. There will always be uncertainty in anything as complex as climate science. But as MIT's Emanuel has said, "Uncertainty doesn't translate into 'no worries, mate.' " In fact, it's the opposite. Uncertainty, he notes, "is a double-edged sword." It's possible, Emanuel and his colleagues acknowledge, that the impacts of climate change will be less severe, and arrive more slowly, than the most sophisticated models predict. But it's equallyprobable that the impacts will be much more severe, and arrive much faster, than predicted. So far, mounting evidence like the rapid melting of the Arctic ice cap — one of the planet's largest physical features, which reached its lowest extent ever recorded this summer, blowing away all predictions — suggest that the latter may well be the case.
What's more, as Emanuel and others go on to point out, because of the inherent inertia of the planet's climate system, and the sheer amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere, our "window of opportunity" to prevent catastrophic warming is extremely narrow. It may even have already closed. We don't know. According to the IPCC, global emissions need to drop at least 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 — eight years from now — and at least 80 percent by 2050, if we're going to have a shot at maintaining a livable climate.
Yet even as climate scientists sound increasingly alarmed, there's virtual silence in the mainstream media — even in the midst of a crucial election campaign — about the urgency of the threat. This is the case even in places that feature serious coverage of climate science, including the New York Times and NPR. A welcome exception was this quote of Rutgers scientist Jennifer A. Francis in Times reporter Justin Gillis's August 27 piece on Arctic sea ice: "It's hard even for people like me to believe, to see that climate change is actually doing what our worst fears dictated . . . . It's starting to give me chills, to tell you the truth." (The story didn't make the front page.) In the Globe, a piece like David Abel's lead A1 treatment, on June 25, of increasing sea-level rise along the northeastern seaboard, and what it means for Boston — the fact that in coming decades a mere nor'easter could put a half dozen Boston neighborhoods under water — was an all too rare acknowledgment of what's really at stake.
The Atlantic, now edited by an old friend of mine, has failed to run a single in-depth feature, much less a cover story, on the climate crisis in almost two years — since Jim Fallows' December 2010 cover story on the daunting problem of coal. But in the magazine's annual "Ideas" issue this summer, Chrystia Freeland cheerily noted that "fossil fuels are here to stay" — without a hint that she, or the editors, are aware that climate change is happening. (The editors of theatlantic.com seem to know climate change is happening, but true to prevailing Beltway wisdom, they apparently consider it a lower-order concern.) PBS Frontline has just aired the welcome though belated Climate of Doubt, a disturbing look at the people driving the climate-science denial machine. We should be grateful. But it's been almost exactly four years since the series produced a documentary on climate: 2008's Heat. Indeed, even the New Yorker, home to the invaluable climate reporter Elizabeth Kolbert, has devoted more space and more serious consideration in the past year to the insanity of geo-engineering (in a piece by Michael Specter) than to the kinds of policies, such as an economy-wide price on carbon, that economists across a wide spectrum say are necessary — and the kind of politics that could make them possible.
What's needed now is crisis-level coverage. And you guys know how to cover a crisis. In the weeks and months — nay, years — following 9/11, all sorts of stories made the front pages and homepages and newscasts that never would have been assigned otherwise. The same was true before and after the Iraq invasion, and in the months following the 2008 financial meltdown. In a crisis, the criteria for top news is markedly altered, as long as a story sheds light on the crisis topic. In crisis coverage, there's an assumption that readers want and deserve to know as much as possible. In crisis coverage, you "flood the zone." You shift resources. You make hard choices.
The climate crisis is the biggest story of this, or any, generation — so why the hell aren't you flooding the climate "zone," putting it on the front pages and leading newscasts with it every day? Or even once a week? Why aren't you looking constantly at how the implications of climate change and its impact pervade almost any topic — not just environment and energy stories?
And yet, I'm less worried about the news pages, where editors do seem to be slowly waking up, than about the opinion pages and magazines, the commentariat and wonkish mainstream blogs — the "thought leaders," the Very Serious People who define the conventional wisdom and the parameters of what passes for serious discussion. Because here, there's essentially no debate of any kind that reflects the scale and urgency of the crisis. Forget the pathetic and deeply cynical climate silence in the presidential debates — and forget CNN's Candy Crowley, who can't be bothered to select a question from "all you climate change people." Even on the left and center-left, climate is barely mentioned when the stakes of this election are discussed — and when the topic does come up, it's without any sense of urgency. Witness the recent endorsement issues of The Nation, the New Republic, and the New Yorker. It's as though many of the best journalistic minds of multiple generations quail at the thought of seriously addressing what a crisis of this magnitude implies about their long-held assumptions — the unquestioned primacy of endless economic growth, for example, or the notion that there can be economic justice without climate justice.
The same goes for these pages: why has the Phoenix covered the Occupy movement and not, until now, the climate movement?
At the end of the day, I think we agree, a journalist's ultimate responsibility is to the public. And yet, by that measure, you are failing. You are failing to treat the greatest crisis we've ever faced like the crisis that it is. Why?
Look, unlike most of your critics, I know you. You're not just names on a page or a screen to me: you're living, breathing human beings, with lives and families. I've shared the stresses and anxieties of journalism in this era. I know how hard you work, and how relatively little (most of) you are paid. I know how insecure your jobs are. And I know that your work — even your very best work — is most often thankless. Believe me. I know.
I also know that you take your responsibility as journalists, as public servants, seriously. Why is it, then, that you are so utterly failing on this all-important topic? I could be wrong, but I think I understand. I'm afraid it has to do with self-image and self-censorship.
Nothing is more important to me as a journalist than my independence. Yes, I'm still a journalist. And I'm as independent as I've ever been — maybe, if you can imagine this, even more so. Because leaving behind my mainstream journalism career has freed me to speak and write about climate and politics in ways that were virtually impossible inside the MSM bubble, where I had to worry about perceptions, and about keeping my job, and whether I'd be seen by my peers and superiors as an advocate. God forbid.
In short, I'm freed of an insidious form of self-censorship, based on a deeply misguided self-image all too common among mainstream media types, in which journalists, including "serious" opinion journalists, are supposed to remain detached and above the fray — not to say cynically aloof and perpetually bemused — in order to be taken seriously. Once you've become an advocate, once you've taken an unambiguous moral stand, so the thinking goes, your intellectual honesty is compromised.
Well, I'm sorry, but that's just bullshit.
When I became a journalist, I didn't check my conscience, my citizenship, or my humanity at the door. Nor, when I became an advocate and activist, did I sacrifice my intellectual honesty. If anything, I salvaged it.
It's time to end the self-censorship and get over the idea that journalists are somehow above the fray. You're not above the fray. If you're a human being, you're in the fray whether you like it or not — because on this one, we really are all in it together. And by downplaying or ignoring the severity of the climate crisis — or by simply failing to understand it — you're abdicating your responsibility to your fellow human beings.
What it all comes down to, then, is this: Which side are you on?
If you're on the side of your fellow human beings — and of your own children and grandchildren — then it's time for you to level with the public about the severity, scale, and urgency of the crisis we face.
Bill McKibben recently told me something that hit home: we need to start asking hard questions not only of the climate denialists and obstructionists, but of our friends and allies. For example, he said, we need to ask our universities, such as Harvard (Bill's alma mater and mine) — institutions that have contributed so much to our understanding of climate change — why they invest any portion of their endowments in the fossil fuel industry, the very industry that is standing in the way of climate action and foreclosing our future? Growing numbers of students at Harvard, Brandeis, Tufts, Amherst, and dozens of other schools, are beginning to ask just that — as part of an emerging campus divestment movement —and they deserve your attention.
We also need to ask far tougher questions of progressive political leaders, like Elizabeth Warren and Barack Obama, who accept climate science and make various encouraging gestures, but nevertheless fail to spell out how seriously they take the climate crisis — and exactly what they propose we do about it.
Such silence, and near silence, is no longer acceptable. To use a phrase from the heroic struggle for AIDS awareness in the '80s and '90s: silence equals death. For countless millions of people, climate silence equals death.
In other great moral crises — the civil rights struggle, the Vietnam War, the long fight against apartheid, and many others — journalists have had to confront their conscience. So here are my hard questions for all of you, the very same questions I ask myself:
As individuals of conscience, where will you stand? If you don't have what it takes to level with the public about the situation we're in, and what it requires, then what are you doing in this business? Why are you a journalist? How do you get out of bed in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror? How do you look your own children or grandchildren — any children — in the eyes?

Your friend and colleague,
Wen

Wen Stephenson is a former editor at The Atlantic and The Boston Globe and, most recently, was the senior producer of NPR's On Point. He writes frequently about climate and culture for Grist magazine and has written for the Globe, the New York TimesSlate, and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @wenstephenson.
350.ORG'S "DO THE MATH" TOUR |THURSDAY, NOV 15 :: ORPHEUM THEATER, ONE HAMILTON PLACE :: 7 PM, $10 :: MATH.350.ORG
Following up his Rolling Stone article, Bill McKibben brings a nationwide tour to Boston with author Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine) and musical guest Charles Neville. Come be part of the historic movement to take on the fossil fuel industry.


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07 October 2012

The "Greater Good" has become the "Greater Greed": Life Before and After Baytex Moved In - StopBaytex.ca

Life Before and After Baytex Moved In

Posted at September 26, 2012 | By : | Categories : Letters | 2 Comments

My Life Before Baytex Moved In

Looking at the title of my letter, it sounds like when people refer to the time as pre-911 and post-911, the point being your life is changed forever.  Damage done, can never be fixed.  Although I’m writing this letter for the Stop Baytex website it’s not something I want to do but as I see it, it’s something I have to do.  People must understand what happens when Baytex moves in.

I lived on a bush quarter about 8 miles north of the town of Donnelly.  I had built myself a modest little cabin in the middle of the quarter in a big spruce patch.  It took a couple of years to put together, depending on materials I could buy or people would give me.  I would tell people, well if you’re going to throw it away, I can use it.  For example, my tin roof probably has 3 or 4 different colours. Suffice to say my wife and I were very happy there.  It was our Paradise, 160 acres of it.  I enjoyed carving out walking trails, they were anything but straight.  I refused to cut down any living tree.  I loved them all so I’d go around them taking out only dead ones.  But what beautiful trails I had.  The place was overrun by moose and deer.  Elk were beginning to move in.  We all got along just fine; even the squirrels became a constant form of entertainment.

Life was good.  A small solar panel provided some lights.  A wood stove kept our small cabin cozy.  Winter months I did a lot of reading often by candlelight.  It was super quiet.  I had a small library in the corner.  I’m trying to paint a picture for whoever reads this to understand where we came from.  Think of it: no power bills, no water bills, no phone line bills, no vehicle bills and no rent.  We were basically retired.  We had little money but didn’t really need much either.  I used to laugh when my wife would walk through the West Ed Mall and say when walking out, there’s nothing I need here.  We had it good folks.

Now Our Life After Baytex

When Baytex moved in, there was quite a flurry of activity.  Numerous wells being drilled.  Drilling sites were being developed, it seemed everywhere around me and I thought, “OK, so our peace and quiet time is over.  At least they’re not drilling on my property and my neighbours are profiting from this, so I’ll just mind my own business.”  After all when oil is found by your place every one must pay the price one way or the other whether whether it comes in the form of more traffic on your once quiet little gravel road or the 24/7 engine noise around you.  So I determined I would just get used to it and make the best of it. After all I was still the master of my 160 acre island.  I was soon to learn that these things would be the least of my problems.

Then the big black tanks at the oil sites increased in numbers, heated to over 100 degrees.  Just free venting in the air.  I’m told this is done to separate the oil from the sand, and helps the oil flow more easily into the tanker trucks.  Now if that wasn’t bad enough, they seem to be introducing different chemicals in the tanks (to speed up the process I’m guessing).  At any rate, we don’t know exactly what they’re doing.  I only know these things by being a human guinea pig or lab rat, whatever you prefer.  When we had made a lot of calls to the ERCB about the awful oil stench, it took a few months then the strong oil stench seemed to be masked by a powerful pesticide smell.  When we complained about this sometime later we were treated to a new experiment this one left us with the odour of a strong detergent of some sort.  By this time, we were leery of complaining again fearing the next new experiment.  Please understand that while all this is going on we are experiencing very strange physical effects such as burning sensation of the tongue and nose sometimes accompanied by headaches and extreme fatigue. This spring while I was still living there, I noticed that if I was outside for 30 minutes or so, all these symptoms would intensify.  So I called health agencies and described my symptoms and our situation.  Some recommended we not go outside and keep our windows shut while others said we should leave the area right away.  We were told later to avoid walking in the bush or grass because it stirs up the chemicals or gases on the ground.  That was it for us.

If that’s the only solution offered by experts we decided we should heed to their warnings and flee.  So on June 1, 2012 we made the painful decision to evacuate.  We took the backseats out of our minivan, put a mattress in, and then threw whatever we felt we needed for camping.  We had a little money saved up but we felt if we took motel rooms we’d soon be broke.  We were fortunate our sons had 5th wheel campers so we could stay in those at times.  I went to see our local MD to see if there was any arrangements in case of evacuation.  They said there was nothing in place for a case like ours.

Because I worked in the McLennan Extended Care Unit for 21 years I had a pension fund which we had to cash in and consequently lost almost half of it through taxes and penalties for withdrawing it prematurely.  But hey, we were able to purchase a used travel trailer in Faust, Alberta.  Where we reside at present is a camp ground which closes Sept 30th for the year and will open again May 1, 2013.  So on the road again until May 1st.  After this experience I have to ask if it’s safe for people in our area to drink the water from a dugout or eat from their gardens or whether hunters should ask themselves if the wild life harvested in this area is safe for consumption.  Gone are our family gatherings and BBQs with grandchildren.

I am one of many families with this sort of story and I encourage them to share theirs openly.

~Andy Labrecque

Comment

  • Caleb west

    September 26, 2012 at 3:16 am

    Ths is so friggen stupid, why would you want to work for baytex? I wonder how long this will go until something happens.

  • DOLORES BASTIEN

    September 27, 2012 at 2:07 am

    wow what a powerful letter, I can’t believe an oil company is not proud of their company name and that they would do anything to save face. I have a son who works in the industry and they are so proud of what they have accomplished by being Environmental Safe that I am appalled thaf Baytex have not been investigated

Leave a Comment

Can anyone remember when "for the Greater Good" became "for the richest people"? No? It really did start out as "for the Greater Good" of all the people. Then like most "weapons" it was taken over by the "richest people" to get what they wanted while trampling the rights of everyone else, especially the poorest.

If it wasn't for the fact that there were cheaper, cleaner, more effective ways to do things for that "Greater Good" then there could be a potential basis for these actions. But those days are gone. The "Greater Good" has become the "Greater Greed".

04 October 2012

2012 SkS Weekly Digest #39

2012 SkS Weekly Digest #39

Posted on 1 October 2012 by John Hartz

SkS Highlights

Inuit Perspectives on Recent Climate Change could very well be the most important article to be posted on SkS during 2012. How  climate change is impacting the Inuits of Nain, Nunatsiavut is eloquently captured by Caitlyn Baikie, an Inuit geography student at Memorial University of Newfoundland and a close personal friend of Robert Way, a key member of the SkS author team. Thank you Caitlyn for sharing this story with us.

Toon of the Week

2012Toon39

What say you?

What topical issues would you like to see SkS pay more attention to?

20 September 2012

Skeptical Science has a Roundup!

Some days it's hard to get started when writing a post.

Long ago and far away, in a galaxy much like ours... 

Wait, that's not right.

It was a dark and stormy night...

Yeah, forget that...


Let's try it this way:

Somewhere back around 2010 I started noticing twitter messages from a guy named John Cook in Australia. His web site was great!

Once I managed to sort out that John was providing real, factual information instead of the pseudo-scientific crap being handed out at other blogs with names like "Real Science", or "Climate Depot" it was like an oasis in the desert of fact free claims. Much like an oasis, the problem was finding it to start with.

Skeptical Science
"'Real Science"






And it wasn't that the others were hard to identify as charlatans. No, if you knew anything at all about science and how the scientific methods worked it was evident that Morano, "Goddard", and Watts were great source material for Onion Network News (The Onion). Confusing "Skeptical Science" with "Real Science" would be like confusing Neil de Grasse Tyson for Sarah Silverman.


NEW YORK, NY - JULY 29:  Astrophysicist Neil d...
Sarah Silverman



John founded the site, and still pays for it out of his pocket, although donations are usually appreciated. Here's the short bio from his site.

John is the Climate Communication Fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland. He originally studied physics at the University of Queensland. After graduating, he majored in solar physics in his post-grad honours year. In 2011, he co-authored the book Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand with Haydn Washington.

There are lots of reasons why I'm excited by this roundup but I'm wasting column inches babbling about it. Check out the embedded list below, and become better informed.

Tweeting Donal.




2012 SkS Weekly News Round-Up #1 (via Skeptical Science)
Posted on 19 September 2012 by John Hartz Welcome to the inagural edition of the SkS Weekly News Round-Up. It is a spin-off from the SkS Weekly Digest. Enjoy!  Note: Given the breadth of issues covered in the articles cited, the comment thread to this post is open ended. All comments posted must…

19 September 2012

Taxes Taxes Taxes.... it's enough to give you a headache.

Could the big argument over the top 1% and their taxes be another false flag operation?

 Maybe it's to keep us from paying attention to the other group not paying taxes?

 Take a look at this and see what you think.


How Corporations Get Out of Paying Taxes
 
Via: OnlineMBA.com
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Fox's Overflowing Data

If I told the average reader of this blog that Fox News Channel, or more properly Rupert Murdoch's Fixed Noise Channel, has recently been "Foxifying"... uh, falsifying the numbers and charts in the Presidential races there would be little surprise.

The fine folk at Flowing Data have been staying on top of all this for us and I thought I'd share some of their findings.

It turns out that local affiliates were having a tough time keeping it all straight. Way back in 2009 there was a pretty interesting example of math as done the Murdoch way when Fox Chicago provided us with this pie chart.



Yup, 63 plus 60 plus 70 adds up to 100. Right?

It's tough keeping all those foreign names straight you know, like Murdoch, Lonergan, O'Neil, Obama, Usama... so a while back, Fox 40, a local Fox News Network affiliate provided us with this charming image:


Since the guys in the back spend all day saying bad things about this "Obama" person, I suppose their fingers just automatically typed "Obama" when it should have been "Usama". You know how it is when you spend all day spinning the news, it gets repetitive, almost mindless.

 

After a feat like that, screwing up other things when referring to a sitting President are easily done. For example, we all know that this Obama bin Laden guy can't get anything right, especially since he's dead. And the chart below proves it!

In December 2011 the jobs data indicated a drop. Now it wasn't a big drop, and these statistics are always subject to differences in opinion. Rupert's troops took matters into their own hands and published this image on their channel:


Having problems spotting the discrepancy? That's OK, it seems as if the Fox anchors and the on air crew didn't see it either or they surely would have corrected it immediately. Right? I mean the November 8.6% number being higher than the 8.8% number in March is all that Obama guy's fault.

Here's how the chart should have looked:



Odd that the shapes don't match. Well, vaguely.

And then there's the really old school tricks. I remember Ross Perot pulling chart magic like this during his presidential bid. The man was sitting there doing Power Point presentations that absolutely lied in nearly every respect. He used this technique and I suppose the Fox folk figured it would work again.


Nothing wrong with that chart, right? Well, right, so long as you want to make a difference look seven times larger than it is. I guess they gave the 35% a full one percent on the chart instead of just leaving it off completely. The idea of bar or column charts is to look at the whole figure for comparison, not just the change.

Flowing Data kindly provided the correct column chart so that you can easily see what the difference implies. Have a look.



OH MY GOD! WE'RE ALL GONNA GO BROKE AND STARVE TO DEATH!

Right?






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