Global Economic and Climate Change along the Silk Road: Crisis in Central Asia and Afghanistan

In the age of the Silk Road, Central Asia and Afghanistan came to prominence by facilitating global trade between China and the Mediterranean. Today, the fortunes of the region are still tied to global trends, but these are taking an increasingly negative turn.

 

 

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A profound economic crisis is gripping the region. The causes are diverse: decreasing oil and gas prices, an economic slowdown in China, the falling Russian Ruble, and for Afghanistan – even the withdrawal of NATO forces. Under such circumstances, households and national governments are scrambling to cope.

But the economy is not the sole global force challenging Central Asia and Afghanistan. In recent years, climate change has put growing pressure on this fragile and mountainous region. Rising temperatures, irregular rainfall, and increasingly devastating natural disasters are the new normal.

In a rapidly changing environment, what processes, policies, and plans are in place to help citizens and their governments to deal with these new global realities?

Join the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and Carleton University for a panel discussion on the future of Central Asia and Afghanistan. Speakers will bring insights informed by decades of experience in the fields of economic development, public policy, and climate change. In addition Dr Bohdan Krawchenko and Dr Dietrich Schmidt-Vogt from the University of Central Asia will reflect on lessons learned from the UCA’s Research and Public Policy Initiative, funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and AKFC, which sought to strengthen research capacity and evidence-based policy-making in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

 

Date: Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Time: 1:00 – 4:00PM

Location: Carleton University, River Building Room 2228

Cost: Free (please register)

https://www.akfcnetwork.ca/akfc-events/2016/global-economic-and-climate-change-along-the-silk-road

Contact: tyler@akfc.ca

Refreshments will be provided

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Taylor Donaldson, “Bill C-51: You’re Probably A Terrorist”

Bill C-51: You’re Probably A Terrorist

Taylor Donaldson

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Now let me get one thing straight: I am not a terrorist. Sure I have made some questionable decisions in the past (like eating an entire pizza at 4 am or watching Netflix for twenty hours straight just to name a few…) but I love my country and would do anything to defend our rights and freedoms (including the right to pizza).

This is why I have decided to write this blog post concerning Bill C-51: The Anti-Terrorism Act put forth by the majority elected Canadian, Conservative government. If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks you will by now have heard the backlash this bill has received from former politicians, university professors, environmentalists, indigenous groups, students, regular citizens, and pretty much anyone not in the Conservative caucus, people who are scared of the direction Canada is headed in and the decline of our freedoms and rights.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • ‘Security’ takes on a whole new meaning. Bill C-51 defines security so broadly that anything from supporting Quebec separatism to obstructing a highway route peacefully can all be considered threats to national security.
  • The broadening of definitions continues as the government must now use “good judgment” when deciding which group or individuals are threats. Therefore, this “judgment” will change as governments change and as the goals of these governments change. Any citizen discontent could be targeted as a potential security threat.
  • ‘Advocating or promoting terrorism’ has been added to the criminalization of speech; however, there is no burden of proof needed to illustrate that the offence will actually take place.Therefore, anybody who speaks of ‘terrorism’ could be detained or pose a potential threat. This point is very interesting as the Conservative government released an ad (at the beginning of March) attempting to gain support for Bill C-51 on Facebook© that showed terrorist pictures and had terrorist speech on it.The propaganda put out by the conservatives directly violates the Bill itself!
  • Freedom of expression comes into direct conflict with the Bill as being a grounds for detainment or arrest.
  • The no-fly list in Canada would become so secretive that only a review of a one-sided secret, government court proceeding would confirm its legality. These court proceedings are to determine whether CSIS is justified in going against the Canadian Charter; we will never know the evidence given or if it concerned us.
  • The RCMP would be able to request confidential documents from Health Canada or the Canadian Revenue Agency without a warrant.
  • Arrest and Detention would become a daily occurrence, as this bill doubles the amount of time an innocent person can be detained, while also justifying detention based on might or future dangerousness.
  • CSIS would now have the ability to act on, rather than just collect data, turning CSIS into a secret police force with more power, even though we already have a more than confident RCMP to carry out police duties.

Bill C-51 is a fear-mongering campaign that is using terrorism and security threats as its justification. All of the issues addressed in the Bill are not so much to protect Canadians from outside security threats as to protect the government from Canadians who disagree with their policies or economic practices. Any terrorism or security aims that are met with Bill C-51, are at the expense of the rights of each and every Canadian by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Bill C-51 effects all of us, not just ‘extremists’ or ‘environmentalists’.

There is no denying that the world system is concerned most with securitization, privacy, and economic development. What is not understood is why these concerns are directly challenging not only our economic, social, and political rights but also our fundamental rights and freedoms upheld under the Canadian Charter. Why must we take 10 steps back for our constitutional rights just so we can . . . move “forward” in the name of security?

If you feel the same way I do, I urge you to contact your local MP or MPP, join the peaceful protest in front of Parliament right now and get the conversation going! I know we all have our own lives and taking to the street may be a thing of the past but write a letter, talk to your friends, read the bill (if you like horror novels). I urge you: do not be stagnant!

I want to be proud of my country, but most importantly I want to be proud of the Canadian people for not letting our rights be stripped from us and undoing all the hard work of our ancestors. Let us remember that it was not the government that decided to implement Universal Healthcare but people like you or me protesting in the street against the government that got us to where we are today.

It is not the end goal but the road that gets us there, and right about now I would like to do a U-turn and find a road less travelled because I do not like where Canada is headed in the very near future. I am not a terrorist, nor do I wish bad things on any Canadian, but standing up for our rights and freedoms against a government that wants to take them away is our duty as citizens, and if that makes us terrorists, so be it. I have faith and hope in every Canadian to express his or her concern for this undemocratic and repressive bill, so that all of our rights are protected and we can continue to hold ourselves to the anti-repressive and democratic country that we are.

Taylor Donaldson is a 4th-year student at Carleton University obtaining her Undergraduate degree in Political Science and Human Rights. Graduating this summer, she hopes to continue her studies through travel and volunteering, while furthering her involvement in the environmental community.

Smoke & Mirrors: The New Ethos of Fossil Fuel Divestment

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Smoke & Mirrors: The New Ethos of Fossil Fuel Divestment

Maya Stewart

The stage was set. As I sat at the back of Carleton University’s cramped English lounge, I observed the nervous anticipation that filled the space around me. Perhaps no one had expected such a large turnout. It seemed somewhat amusing, the ritualistic nature of the movements within the room. Strangers all around me were shaking hands and uttering small talk in hushed whispers, trying not to disturb the sanctity within the room. A show seemed like it was about to begin.

And then, the curtains fell back with a “swoosh”, and it had suddenly begun. The moderator emerged, Sara Collins, a PhD student in the Department of Biology, to present to us with the reason for our gathering. Only the occasional sound of shifting of limbs, now: a hand rubbing a jaw, a back shifting straight to get a better view. All of our eyes were set on the speakers before us, as if waiting for the wisdom of prophets and deities.

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“Scientists have done the math…” The moderator began her speech. She spoke eloquently, straightforward and clear. Her speech was the materialization of the scientific method, I thought. She told us what we were all aware of, the reason why we had gathered: that everything has been calculated, measured, and weighed. The facts stand as plain as day. The numbers can’t be denied. There is no need to flourish it: carbon emission is a problem. A big part of that problem is fossil fuels. So, how does divestment from companies that exploit fossil fuels fit into that picture? What does divestment do for environmental activism? The moderator seemed to hear this unasked question. She ended her speech just as she had started it: “It simply means getting rid of . . . ”

For some reason, I can’t remember how she finished that sentence. But that is okay. That was our question anyway, tossed to us like a kid who’d gotten lost on the way to Grandma’s house. “Divestment simply means getting rid of what?” My head turned from the moderator to the audience members, who all turned expectantly towards the four speakers before us. It was like everyone was silently asking, “What do we do with it? Where should it go? It’s not my kid, you know.”

The topic that had drawn us all in was quite clearly on divesting from fossil fuels. But the real argument amongst the speakers would actually become, “What is the goal of divestment?” As the first speaker was cued for her spot in the limelight, I realized the “play” had begun. How would it end?

Her name was Bilan Arte, the Deputy Chair of the Canadian Federation of Students. She spoke largely about the impacts of environmental activism on campus, and about divestment as a tool for social change, how education and the divestment of fossil fuels could be used like a beacon of change to gather both the student body and the public alike, in the name of “environmental justice.” The ultimate aim would be to freeze accounts associated with private organizations involved with fossil fuels, to divest, and to invest in renewable resources. Her point was that, as she aptly claimed, “The goal is to have the institution divest.”

But, what is the true goal of divestment? This was the question of focus in the next speaker’s speech. His name was Michael Bueckert, PhD Candidate for the Department of Sociology and Political Economy. He introduced an analytical analysis of the effectiveness (or rather, the lack thereof) of divestment. “In economic terms,” he said, “divestment is really irrelevant”. He spoke about the difference between corporate investment and personal intent, and that public divestment in the stock market could have unpredictable consequences. In the end, Michael argued that ethical investment “is really tricky,” that the primary goal of the divestment movement is symbolic, and that divestment is ultimately not a solution to the fossil fuel problem.

The third speaker, Lenore Fahrig, a faculty in the Department of Biology, spoke of the ultimate consequences of fossil fuel usage and carbon emissions that will plague us in the near future if we do not quickly desist. She claimed that the people’s voices combined with green energy investment and conservation will create change. In contrast to Michael’s speech, she called for the necessity of rapid divestment, as the solution to the serious issue of climate change.

The fourth speaker, Kevin Skerrett, a CUPE research officer, spoke of the seven constraints on shareholders and investor activism. While he claimed to be sympathetic to Lenore’s argument, he agreed with Michael in saying that divestment is at the end of the day ineffective. He believed that the ultimate goal is to get fossil fuel companies to move away from fossil fuels, and to change corporate behavior. But this would call for a change in the very way our economy functions, as the political sphere is becoming increasingly dominated by private sectors.

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The conversation and questions that arose in the questions section of the roundtable reflected the discord that existed amongst the speakers. I could not help reflect on the difference between the beginning and the end of our conversation. As we left the room, there seemed to be a complete and utter lack of consensus as to what to do – is divestment a fruitful pursuit, or are its trees barren for want of effect? What is the goal? The conclusion of our roundtable seemed to be that the discussion was not nearly that simple, and that the solution was as complex as the problem. It stood in start contrast to the simplicity and clarity of the moderator’s opening speech. I still wish I could remember what she had said. That would be the answer, would it not? So, we must keep asking hard questions, until we find the right answers. Once more: “It simply means getting rid of . . . ” what?

Maya Stewart is currently a third-year undergraduate student of English and Philosophy at Carleton University. Her writing has been published in various places, including Anthem Little Mag and Carleton University’s Learning Log.

Call for Papers: Poles Apart, Melting Together

Deadline: Deadline Extended: April 10, 2015
Contact: R. S. Deese, Lecturer, Boston University
Email: rsdeese@bu.edu
Phone: 857 998 7209

June 27th, 2015 at the Boston University Center for Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning. DEADLINE FOR PROPOSALS EXTENDED TO APRIL 10, 2015.

Keynote Address by Paul Robbins, director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

The second biennial conference on Teaching Globalization at Boston University will explore the convergence of science and the humanities as we seek to understand the impact of current ecological and technological trends on the planet and on humanity itself. We invite presentations of interdisciplinary research and pedagogy addressing what has variously been termed the “end of Nature” and the “Anthropocene.” Featured topics will include, but will not be limited to, the following: catastrophic climate change, mass extinctions, geoengineering, synthetic biology, AI, and transhumanism. We seek original papers that integrate topics from science and the humanities in order to confront those aspects of globalization that have compelled scholars to rethink their conceptions of both “nature” and “human nature” in the twenty-first century. Papers presented at this conference will be considered for publication in a forthcoming volume published by Lexington Books (Rowman & Littlefield) as part of an ongoing series on Ecocritical Theory and Practice edited by Douglas Vakoch. Please send a curriculum vitae and a 200 to 250 word paper proposal by April 3 to Richard Samuel Deese, Center for Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning at Boston University: rsdeese@bu.edu

Energy East and the Illogical Dance of Overwhelming Energy Consumption

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Energy East and the Illogical Dance of Overwhelming Energy Consumption

Marc St. Dennis

Graduate Student, Carleton University

 

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Barbara Leckie, a founder of The Carleton Climate Commons Working Group (CCC), asking if I would like to write a blog post for the website. It didn’t take me long to answer with an enthusiastic affirmative: a) I enjoy writing (unless it’s for a twenty-five page essay that I forgot is due in twelve hours) and, b) I think it’s really cool that I have been invited to participate in the beginning stages of CCC.

The purpose of this group is admirable; to bring together people of different backgrounds, experience, and expertise in order to facilitate discussion regarding the ever-more-present issue of climate change. It is a forum of varied perspectives with a goal of “seeing things in a new light”.

The science is sound; climate change is real, it is present, and we need to work together to create a solution. This will not be easy. Climate change is not a linear problem, where its roots are found at Point A and the answer at Point B. Rather, climate change is inherently complex. It affects every aspect of life on this planet in both subtle and obvious ways.

The first step to understanding this requires that we share our experiences and knowledge with one another. A great example of such a scenario is the aforementioned ‘pipeline meeting’ which I attended on a cold February evening.

The event took place in Franny Nudelman’s house (another founder of CCC), which is located in Ottawa’s charming ‘Glebe’ community. It took me a few moments to figure out that there was no doorbell and that I, in fact, had to use the large metal door knocker mounted at eye level (one just does not assume to look for these anymore)!

The first thing I noticed was Franny’s friendly smile and the warm atmosphere of her house (and not just because it was cold outside). The second thing I noticed was the life-sized wooden artists’ mannequin lounging in the corner – points for awesomeness; this was going to be a great night!

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Indeed, I was right. Thirteen people of various professions, ages, and backgrounds squeezed into Franny’s living room. The guest of honour was Ben Powless from Ecology Ottawa. He was there to talk to us about the Energy East Pipeline that TransCanada is trying to push into existence.

One of the ways in which we can prevent climate catastrophe is by cutting back – dramatically – on the use of fossil fuel. In Canada, this means keeping 80% of our oil in the ground. Pipelines, and their creation, are not conducive to this goal (surprise)! Thus, I knew that Energy East was problematic. But I did not fully understand the scale of its proposed operation until Ben explained it to us.

Let me break it down:

The proposed route is approximately 4600km long and stretches from the Alberta tar sands to the East Coast.

If you’re a resident of Ottawa you should probably know that the Energy East pipeline will go under the Rideau and Mississippi river. These both flow into the Ottawa River, which in turn happens to be our source of drinking water. What could possibly go wrong…?

A significant portion of this pipe work is already in place and is currently being used to transfer natural gas to Ontario. TransCanada intends to appropriate this for bitumen.

These pipes are 46 inches in diameter. That would equate to the ability to transfer 1.1 million barrels; or 175 million litres; or 80 Olympic sized swimming pools of oil. Every day. That’s over 1 billion litres of oil a week.

The kicker: It costs more energy to create and ship a single barrel of bitumen oil than that barrel itself can create.

Here is why:

Pure bitumen is so thick that in order to push it through pipelines a hydrocarbon based dilutant must be added to create a mixture that is thin enough to flow easily through a relatively narrow channel. But guess what? The dilutants cannot be found in Canada. They are shipped from the Middle East, added to the bitumen in Alberta, and transported through the pipelines to a refinement centre. Here more energy is used to separate the bitumen from the dilutant and to then turn the bitumen into usable oil. Then the dilutant is shipped back to Alberta to be used once again.

On top of this, the pumping stations for the pipelines use hundreds of kilowatts of energy just to keep the bitumen flowing.

But the proposed Energy East pipeline doesn’t really end at the East coast. That bitumen has to go somewhere. This means the involvement of massive tanker ships (more energy consumption, really…?). These will pass through important ecological environments such as the Bay of Fundy.

Finally, consider the fact that in order to get tar out of the ground it has to be mined. This is one of the most energy intensive ways of extracting anything.

It is like some sort of ridiculous and illogical dance of overwhelming energy consumption all for the almighty dollar.

On the bright side, it’s not like this project will be approved without proper debate! Sort of…

TransCanada submitted their application for Energy East to the National Energy Board (NEB) in October, 2014. It was only a measly 35 thousand pages. You know, light reading…

They also had the discourtesy to not translate the document into French, even though the proposed pipeline stretches across the entirety of Quebec and other French speaking communities.

The bureaucratic process requires the NEB to review TransCanada’s application – somehow – and offer their recommendation to the Government of Canada. But here’s the thing: Prime Minister Harper recently made Cabinet responsible for the approval or disapproval of these types of projects. All NEB can do is provide their opinion. And if their opinion happens to be an overwhelming “NO” Harper can simply say, “thanks for the advice, but we’ll proceed regardless of your sound judgement”.

Yet all hope is not lost! We can still act.

Contact your MP and MPP! If you live in a city that is affected by Energy East, contact your city councillor. You can do this by phone, email, snail mail, carrier pigeon; I don’t care how. Just do it! Let them know you are concerned!

Next, get your smart phones out and tweet, update your Facebook status, and send Snapchats to your friends letting them know how totally uncool Energy East is. We need to talk about these sorts of issues if anything is going to be done to stop them.

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious you can file an application to the NEB’s review of Energy East by following the steps in this handy link (http://www.canadians.org/energyeast-neb-application-guide). Help flood them with climate concerns.*

And hey, worst-case-scenario, I hear there’s a federal election coming up.

*The last day for submission was Tuesday, February 3. According to 350.org, “at least 65 per cent of the total number of applicants … want to talk about climate change”. (http://ow.ly/JVRfX)

Marc St. Dennis is a graduate student at Carleton University where he studies environmental philosophy in Canadian politics. marc.stdennis@carleton.ca