Environmental Leader Spotlight: Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein is an author and activist and has dedicated her life to climate change and unpacking the choices we make that has large consequences on our environment. She is the author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” (2007) and “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies” (2001). She is currently working on a new book and film on how the climate crisis can spur economic and political transformation. You can follow her on Twitter at @NaomiAKlein.

In this TED talk she speaks broadly about climate change and specifically about the complexity of human choice and risk that enables oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, the lunacy of oil extraction in Alberta’s Oil Sands, and our willingness to push mother nature to its extreme limit and thus our existence on this planet.
Throughout the talk, she often refers to the ‘jump shot’. The ‘jump shot’ involves following solutions that are pushing the boundaries of science, that are untested and require a stretch of the imagination–seemingly magical solutions to our most pressing problems. One highly publicized solution to the Gulf Oil leak was to shoot golf balls into the leak. This ‘jump shot’ solution came after 4.9 million barrels of crude oil spilled into the sea. It highlights the lunacy and zeal that we pursue to meet our energy wants–not ‘needs’.

She also highlights Alberta’s Oil Sands as another example of our lunacy and zeal. In a previous post, David Suzuki, a prominent Canadian environmentalist, speaks specifically about the massive effects of oil sand extraction and how it represents some of our last efforts to exhaust our fossil fuels. The process of oil sand extraction involves 3 times more pollution than conventional oil extraction. Furthermore, it produces large amounts of toxic by-products that sit in a tailing pond and have been reported to be leaking into major water ways that supply thousands of people.

The main point that she makes throughout the talk is about the risks that we are willing to take to continue living our lavish lifestyles. We continually ask ourselves, “how much hotter can we let the planet get before we HAVE to change our lifestyles?” This question is absurd on its own, but is also irrelevant. We have to change our lifestyles because we have pushed our limits already. Check out some science at the 350.org, a popular climate change movement, on which Naomi Klein sits on the Board of Directors.

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie

Simply, an amazing movie about a very famous Canadian that deserves all the recognition and respect. David has done so much to advance the environmental movement and continues to do so. It is sad that there is an undertone of David’s mortality in the movie, but he seems to be at peace with that eventuality. It is a deeply personal and moving film about his life–that is, a life dedicated to the preservation of the environment, as well as, the native Aboriginal cultures of Canada. Even though he clearly spells out that our situation on this planet is dire and needs special attention, he seems optimistic about our ability to rise above our current consumerist and exploitative culture to that of sustainability and peaceful cohabitation with nature.

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About the film

At 73 years of age, David Suzuki, the iconic Canadian scientist, educator, broadcaster and activist, delivers what he describes as “a last lecture – a distillation of my life and thoughts, my legacy, what I want to say before I die.”

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie interweaves this lecture with scenes from Suzuki’s life and lifetime – the major social, scientific, cultural and political events of the past 70 years.

In this biography of ideas, Suzuki articulates a core, urgent message: We have exhausted the limits of the biosphere and it is imperative that we rethink our relationship with the natural world. He looks unflinchingly at the strains on the interconnected web of life and offers up a blueprint for sustainability and survival.

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie is directed by Sturla Gunnarsson and produced by Entertainment One in co-production with the National Film Board and in association with the CBC.

Check out The Test Tube with David Suzuki, an interactive parable about the fallacy of growth.

Change Agent Series featuring Geoff Cape: award-winning social entrepreneur

Date: June 22, 2010

Time: 6:00pm to 7:00pm followed by reception
Location: Accelerator Centre, 295 Hagey Boulevard, Research and Technology Park

—From the Exchange Magazine—-

WATERLOO – Geoff Cape, award-winning social entrepreneur and Executive Director and co-founder of Evergreen, will be the featured speaker at Capacity Waterloo Region’s third Change Agent Series event June 22 in Waterloo. Cape will talk about Evergreen’s expansion into social enterprise with the new Brick Works development, a centre for innovation and fresh thinking that will inspire future generations to rethink their place in the world.

“We’re delighted to feature Geoff in our Change Agent series,” said Cathy Brothers, Executive Director in Residence at Capacity Waterloo Region. “The series highlights the stories and strategies of social entrepreneurs whose ideas are making change and Geoff is a fantastic example of a leader who is doing just that. He and Evergreen are pushing boundaries and exploring new territory for non-profits, including new ways to fund great work.”

Cape has headed up Evergreen since he co-founded it in 1991. In 1999, he was selected as one of Canada’s “Top 40 Under 40” by The Globe and Mail Report on Business magazine. In 2005, Cape was inducted into an International Fellowship by Ashoka: Innovators for the Public and two years later he won the prestigious Schwab Foundation’s “Canadian Social Entrepreneur of the Year” Award, Canada’s top social entrepreneurship honour.

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Evergreen engages Canadians in creating and sustaining dynamic outdoor spaces—in schools, communities and homes. By deepening the connection between people and nature, and empowering Canadians to take a hands-on approach to their urban environments, Evergreen is improving the health of our cities. Evergreen’s Brick Works is a unique environmental community centre and green cities centre for urban sustainability currently under construction in the heart of Toronto’s Don River Valley. This natural and industrial heritage site and its ongoing engaging programming, from Farmers’ Markets to seminars and plantings, is already inspiring and educating the community to embrace a sustainable future.

The Change Agent series is part of Capacity Waterloo Region’s efforts to develop an enabling environment for non-profits and social ventures that brings together resources from all sectors to support the people and ideas that build lasting social change.

The evening will also feature a major announcement from The Cowan Foundation and Capacity Waterloo Region. Cowan is also the sponsor for this event.

Chevron’s Oil Exploits in Ecuador

 
I recently watched the documentary, Crude, by filmmaker Joe Berlinger. It has received wide praise and awards including an official selection at Sundance, best documentary of the year from the National Board of Review, and an International Green Film Award from Cinema for Peace.
 

“A fascinating and important story. CRUDE does an extraordinary job of merging journalism and art.”Christiane Amanpour, CNN Chief International Correspondent

In short, Crude is about Chevron’s oil exploits in Ecuador, the consequent environmental damage caused by the oil extraction operations, and the adverse health effects on the local, indigenous culture. It has been cited as a ‘David versus Goliath’ landmark court case that involves profit over human rights, profit over environmental protection, and profit over freedom of speech. The plaintiffs are suing for 27 billion which is the estimate costs of the damage to the environment, the indigenous culture, and the health of thousands of Ecuadorians. This is set to be the most lucrative case involving the environment.

Crude Trailer

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Quickly, the viewer becomes aware that it is a very complex case involving many parties and influencers. In addition, while the documentary overall favors the plaintiffs in the case, they do provide a balanced perspective on the evidence being presented that support each side. Both sides of the case are also using the internet very extensively in their pursuit to declaim the opposition including the site, ChevronToxico and Chevron’s own Ecuador Site. This documentary is largely a story about a court case and the complexity of the law system between the US and Ecuador. It also involves political affiliations and considerations between a more socialist Ecuador and capitalistic United States.

A Web of Influence (created by Chevron, so it is biased in favor of Chevron)

Trial timeline link (provided by ChevronToxico, the main website supporting the plaintiffs)

Brief Historic Timeline:
– 1964 to 1990 – Texaco drills for oil in Ecuador
– 1992 – Texaco hands over operations to Petroecuador
– 1993 – the lawsuit is filed in New York City
– 2001 – Chevron takes over Texaco and inherites all debts and liabilities
– 2008 – Damages estimated at 27 billion by court-appointed experts
– 2010 (a few days ago) – Chevron subpoenas the filmmaker, Joel Berlinger, for obtain over 600 hours of footage from Crude and wins.
(it is much, much more complicated than this simple timeline)

The Ecuadorian People are the plaintiffs and are represented by a group of lawyers from both Ecuador and the US with financing backing from a prominent law firm in the US. The law firm, Kohn, Swift & Graf PC, makes it clear that they are involved in this case because it is a “lucrative case for the firm” (Joe Kohn). Also involved, are several large environmental groups including Amazon Watch and Amazon Defense Front. While Amazon Watch is a US activist group involving many celebrity spokespeople such as Sting and James Cameron, Amazon Defense Front is a grassroots collection of Ecuadorian NGOs.

In this case, the ‘David’ is not as small as you might think, because the financing backing of a prominent US law firm. However, the head lawyer is the stereotypical ‘David’ and comes from a very humble background from the jungles of Ecuador, and the area of the jungle where the environmental dispute is occurring.


Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair.

Pablo Fajardo

Pablo Fajardo is the lead Ecuadorian lawyer involved in the litigation and has been fighting this case for almost 16 years. He was raised in the jungles where Chevron’s exploits took place. He also works at a human rights claims office in Ecuador that provides advice and guidance for the Ecuadorian people. He has been awarded with CNN’s Hero Award for his landmark work with the Ecuadorian People as well as being a feature in Vanity Fair’s acclaimed Green Issue. Pablo grew up in the jungles where Chevron has been operating for nearly three decades and has witnessed first hand the environmental damages taking place there. He has been personally touched by the dispute raging in the jungle including watching his friends die from cancer, as well as, his own brother being killed amongst the complexities of the dispute.

Chevron’s Strategy

As explained throughout the documentary, it is Chevron’s strategy to prolong the case for as long as possible to, essentially, bankrupt the plaintiffs. However, much of the evidence uncovered through the litigation process has been equal among Chevron and the plaintiffs. The documentary ends by stating that case is still on going and no final decisions have made yet. It now seems to be dependent on a PR campaign to oust Chevron for their activities and lack of responsibility in Ecuador.

Main issues:
– Chevron (under the name Texaco) operated in Ecuador from 1964 to 1990 until handing over operations to the state-run Petroecuador
– Petroecuador has a very poor record for environmental protection and has been blamed for part of the environmental degradation
– The plaintiffs have not been involving Petroecuador in the case because it changes the lawsuit against Chevron
– Chevron claims that because President Correa is in favor of the case against Chevron, the plaintiffs have not focused their efforts on Petroecuador. Chevron claims that they are the ones being sued because they are a US based company and have the money.
– Much evidence supports that there is indeed environmental degradation in the jungle because of oil exploits, but Chevron claims that it is not their responsibility because they haven’t operated there for the past 20 years
– The plaintiffs argue that Chevron (under the name Texaco) set up the oil operations in such a way that environmental degradation was inevitable and did not take proper precautions to protect the drinking water. Thus, Chevron needs to take financial responsibility for their part.
 
Considerations:
– Only in 2008 does Chevron announce to its shareholders that they are involved in a multi-billion dollar liability in Ecuador. This can be considered borderline illegal because Chevron has been misleading its shareholders over a very important issue in its financial stability.
– Chevron has conducted its own assessments on the health of the indigenous people and have determined that there is no substantial difference in the prevalence of cancer among its population compared to other similar socioeconomic populations. They claim that poor sanitization and sewage is to blame for the rates of cancer and diseases.
– However, the evidence (conceived by court-appinted experts) that there has been environmental damage caused by oil exploits is hard to ignore when considering the rates of cancer and diseases in the area.