Monthly Archives: November 2015

Hauling canoes across the globe to demand emission reductions

Apart from people traveling by canoe to the Paris conference, there are also people that want to bring in their canoes from oversea. One of them is the Lummi Youth Canoe Family wanting to ship their 39 foot traditional cedar canoe over the big ocean to Paris, in order to take place in a media event.

This is how they explain their project (emphasis by the Lummi):

The Lummi youth canoe family will be traveling to Paris, France for the United Nations climate negotiations, December 5th – 12th, 2015!

And they need your help!

They are joining the Indigenous Environmental Network’s Indigenous Delegation to Paris and their Canoes to Paris action.

In recognition of the sacredness of Mother Earth and the spiritual relationship to the water, Indigenous communities from across North and South America will be bringing canoes to Paris to highlight the risks our people face because of climate change and rising sea-levels! We will be performing a highly visible and media focused direct action in the Seine River right through the heart of Paris! That’s right! We wish to bring our 39-foot traditional cedar canoe to Paris!

Although I understand that this is a symbolic action and with all due respect, but I don’t think they thought that part through very well. The Lummi are living in the west of Washington. That is very far away from Paris. Crossing the United States and the Atlantic Ocean, that is more than 6,100 kilometers. Hauling a 39 foot canoe and (if I can rely on the photo of their group) about 16 people from Washington to Paris (and probably back again), will no doubt require a substantial amount of fossil fuels. I am wondering whether they really believe that emissions are impacting them, as they are telling us? The 185 who liked the project and the more than 4,100 people who shared the story via social media, didn’t mind or didn’t noticed this either.

They raised already $16k+ from the $20k they seem to require. Unbelievable how much money can be available for a symbolic action that obviously requires a huge amount of fossil fuels … in order to demand emission reductions. They are willing to invest a lot of (other people’s) money and that makes them no different than our political leaders that are now flocking together in Paris.

The worst way to demonstrate a sustainable society without fossil fuels

There are various ways in which people traveled to the COP21 conference. Like trains, buses, cars and undoubtedly airplanes (the COP21 conference is situated at Le Borguet airport, probably for a reason). But there were also some unconventional transport modes used. Apparently quite some people went on foot, by bicycle or paddling a canoe. This is just a small selection of the hikers, canoeists and cyclists that went for Paris. There were several initiatives and hundreds of them that went that way.

The hiking tour that was linked above, started in Utrecht (the Netherlands) on November 1 and expected to finish on November 29. The bicycle tour starts in Aachen on November 22 and ended just before Paris on November 28. The guys in the canoes start peddling in Brussels on November 19 and expected to reach Paris in ten days.

That is certainly admirable and I am the first one to admire their performances. But these achievements are more of a symbolic nature. This was the goal of the hikers (translated from Dutch):

“We show on our route how we now can convert to a sustainable society. Many individuals and organizations don’t wait for others, but take the initiative for a world without fossil energy. You see this movement grow in several countries and with the Climate Miles we show this in the Netherlands, Belgium and France”, according to the director of Urgenda, Marjan Minnesma. “Climate Change is the most important problem of this century. We have to get starting to work together and realize a new circular economy, running on green resources and sustainable energy.”

This is what the cyclists tried to achieve:

We aim at creating an awareness that a bicycle is the best means of transport to save CO2.

And the canoeists (translated from Dutch):

He starts on November 19 and want to cover the complete route in a sustainable way, independent of fossil fuels (no support car!).

While I am impressed that so many people are willing to travel several hundred kilometers on foot, by bicycle or by canoe, I am not sure if this sends the right signal. If one looks at the time and effort needed to travel that distance (between 7 and 29 days) and the preparation beforehand (for example, the canoeists prepared for a month before their attempt), they definitely experienced first hand how much effort it takes to travel such distances without the use of fossil fuels.

I am puzzled why they didn’t demonstrate a viable alternative for our current fossil fuel travels. Traveling from Brussels to Paris takes about 1 or 2 days by electric car, a week by bicycle, about 10 days by canoe and two weeks on foot. Compare this when traveling with the aid of fossil fuels: about 3 hours by car or 1,5 hour by train. So if they really want to show the world that a conversion to a sustainable society is possible, then going on foot, by bicycle or by canoe is the worst signal that one can give. Wouldn’t it be better to cover that distance with a mode of transportation that can compete with fossil fuels? That would be a strong signal that a society could run perfectly without fossil fuels. Now they just proven that traveling without the use of fossil fuels requires quite some training, preparation and a lot of time on your hands…

Energy policies: Left versus Right

In response to the reopening of the nuclear power plants of Doel 3 and Tihange 2 there was a debate about Belgian energy between Bert Wollants (NVA) and Johan Vande Lanotte (SPA). The two nuclear power reactors were put offline because of the detection of tiny gas inclusions, but after several investigations qualified safe by the FANC (Federal Agency Nuclear Control). The Green Party was not amused and tried to convince the majority to retire Doel 1 and 2 (the two oldest Belgian nuclear power reactors) now Doel 3 and Tihange 2 will be put online again. Bert Wollants (from the current majority) was not in favor of this idea. Johan Vande Lanotte (current opposition and previous Minister of Energy) believed that now Doel 3 and Tihange 2 would go online again there is enough energy and the two old reactors should be retired.

The debate between the two opponents was interesting because it illustrates well the divide between the previous and current government in terms of energy. One could even say the difference between politically left (SPA) and right (NVA), between one-sided information and realism. Although Wollants was by far the youngest of the two, he was quite knowledgeable about the subject.

I first wanted to translate the complete debate, but settled with the main part that had the arguments.

It started with the question to Wollants what the significance was of this startup (translated from Dutch):

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Migration and the emissions of the scared white men

Being back from a two weeks stay in the South of France, I am picking up blogging again. After such a long period staying in the middle of nowhere, I usually try to catch up with the news and one of the first thing that I read was this article in Knack magazine: Does De Wever wants to make a sanctuary of scared white men and women in Europe.

It is an interview with Bart Staes, an European representative for the Flemish green party, and it in fact is about the fugitive crisis and the stance of his political opponent (Bart De Wever) in this regard. This is however not what this post will be about. Staes linked the fugitive crisis with our emissions (translated from Dutch):

Empty funds

It seems – even in the facts – that Europe refuses to acknowledge that partly thanks to our CO2 emissions developing countries pay the heaviest toll of climate change. Many studies show that failed harvests, unrest, mass migrations, and even war in North Africa and elsewhere, can be directly linked to the climate issue. An adult Europe recognizes that we have to carry the consequences of the climate change. But we do still more in words than in deeds.

This paragraph came as a lighting on a clear day. There was no mention of anything about climate until that point and without introduction it was weaved in seamlessly in the story.

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Who exactly is the one pounding the table?

A last post on the Mair/Cruz questioning on climate change. Two days after the hearing, Mr. Mair made a video: Climate Denial is Not an Option: A Message to Ted Cruz. I had the hope that he and his advisors would have looked into the data and brought some arguments to the table. That would have been interesting. But in that reagard, this message was disappointing. It became clear rather quickly that he wasn’t prepared to argue the arguments and instead threw in some other fallacies.

But, as a friend to big polluters, you derailed the whole hearing with misinformation, claiming there was a “pause” in rising global temperatures – misinformation already debunked by scientists and the non-partisan

It is of course perfectly possible that Cruz is a friend of big polluters, but this has no relevance to their discussion. Both men agreed that climate change is about rising temperatures, so shouldn’t the arguments be related to whether temperatures are increasing or not? Or which dataset is the most reliable to prove this? Or what is the relevance of the pause? The arguments shouldn’t certainly not related to whether Cruz is a friend to big polluters or whether someone believes the pause is misinformation. The particular claim that Senator Cruz made (that according to the satellite record there is a pause in global temperatures in the last 18 years) was factual and could be checked. Mair also agreed that the satellite data are “objective numbers”. So it is hard to understand why Mr. Mair called this “misinformation already debunked”. It showed that he still didn’t look at the satellite datasets. He was even more vague than he was at the hearing by pointing to the “scientists” (in the hearing he pointed specifically to the Union of Concerned Scientists and NOAA). He now also points to Politifact. I don’t really know whether they are the ones that would settle the scientific debate. As far as I know they are fact checking politics, not science.

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