Naomi Klein, the Paris climate conference, and the Alberta tar sands

I was listening to Naomi Klein on the radio this afternoon.  In view of the upcoming Paris Climate Conference, the Canadian author, social activist and critic of corporate globalization was discussing her latest book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate”.

“In the wake of the disastrous Copenhagen climate conference,” she said, “it became clear that we cannot count on our politicians to act.  We need to exert pressure on our governments, engage in acts of citizen mobilization and even civil disobedience.”

She cited a glaring example concerning French President Hollande’s November 2014 state visit to Canada.

While addressing the nation’s parliament in Ottawa, Hollande broached the urgency of dealing with climate change.  “The world must act to bring down gas emissions caused by fossil fuels,”  he exhorted.  “Climate change is almost entirely man-made and a lack of action will lead to a disaster.”

While visiting Alberta however, home to Canada’s vast oil reserves, his discourse changed radically.  Needless to say, the presence of 40 French business leaders in Hollande’s party was testament to the economic focus of his visit.

“I would like France to showcase the immense riches of Canada’s Northwest Territories, whether it is exploration, transformation or hydrocarbon transport techniques, or infrastructure building,” Hollande said. “French firms are especially well placed in these areas.” 

Showcase?  That’s a veiled word, I guess, for securing lucrative contracts.

French oil and gas company, TOTAL, one of the six “Supermajor” oil companies in the world is already present in Alberta, but the region’s infrastructure and service needs are attractive to other French businesses.  (TOTAL is focused on oil and gas exploration and production in the Athabasca Oil Sands region of Alberta.)

The Alberta Tar Sands

Did you know that Canada is the single-largest exporter of oil to the United States?  And that after Saudi Arabia, Canada holds the second largest oil reserves in the world?  It’s even dubbed “the Saudi Arabia of the North.” 

Canada’s exports to the US are worth more than $37 billion and account for some 707,316,000 barrels of oil per year (1,938,000 barrels per day) — a whopping 99 percent of its annual oil exports, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Statistics.

Canada is also the world’s biggest environmental polluter and has shown no willingness to rein in its energy industry.  In December 2012, Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, confirmed the country’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol.  So as Naomi Klein says, we cannot rely on our politicians to seriously tackle climate change and global warming.  Politicians lie to us.  Here’s cowboy Harper, I mean Harper wearing a cowboy hat. 


Oh, look…now he’s an Indian chief.

indian chief

Please do two things – make your next car purchase an electric car, and watch this edifying, beautifully-filmed documentary entitled To the Last Drop: Canada’s Dirty Oil Sands.  I learned a lot from it.

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