2 Percent. It’s not the milk, but a percentage of the Canadian economy reliant upon tar sands production. For the Harper Government it’s a much larger number, because the Harperites– a Frankenstein’s monster emerging from years of the Ontario-centric Federal Liberal Party and major subsidies of the tar sands production– are a financially oil and gas grouping from southern Alberta.
But the fraction of the economy in Canada that relies on tar sands is only 2 percent.
There are problems with this over-simplification. It doesn’t account for all the related numbers. But within that, perhaps the number becomes even more problematic for the industry, as the growth of the Canadian dollar from tar sands (combined with the mortgage and housing collapse globally beginning in the US) has seen the decimation of industries in Ontario such as auto manufacturing, as whole plants are moved to other free trade “partners” in countries such as Mexico, or even China. But leave all that be. For now, 98% of Canada’s GDP is not related to tar sands bitumen.
So it’s the summer, the final Healing Walk has happened in Fort McMurray and alongside the tar sands plants on Highway 63. Now what? Neil Young has come and gone, money for court challenges to singular approvals has been raised, people continue to get sick and die and Enbridge Gateway has been approved. Not built– it never will be. But how to understand tar sands and their role now? What is next?
Venezuela, home to the only bitumen reserve on earth larger than the Athabasca and smaller deposits in Canada, is going to be the host of the pre-COP meetings to address climate change. Within this large gathering, I will propose a possible very radical change of course in addressing climate change and even the development of these reserves.
Canada’s role in trying to undermine the democratically elected government of Venezuela is not news, and is likely advancing. Because for North American imperialism, tar sands and oil development itself is not the end goal. It is to use this giant, destructive resource to control the world financially, to create the jet fuel necessary to fly their Trillion dollar funded fighter jets, and to have not just a “decent” standard of living but one that controls the rest of the planet and holds them in poverty.
The Bolivarian Revolution is reliant upon oil even more so than Alberta. The difference is that their development is geared towards emancipating a people and ultimately, a world from extreme poverty and ultimately, poverty itself. Within an industrial, capitalist world order, this has rather glaring contradictions. But in seeking to decimate oil and gas developments– especially those of tar sands, fracking or oil shale– climate work is confronting power but refusing to call it by name.
We are fed a steady diet from mainstream environmentalists of notions about the need for solar panels, wind farms and other “replacements” for the energy and consumption that is currently directed into the grid of Turtle Island. It is easy to find the speech, full of accurate descriptions of capitalist destruction of the environment and the climate, given by Hugo Chávez in Copenhagen. But the speech may inspire yet was vague. The real question was put by Amy Goodman (who else?) when she asked him informally what level of carbon emissions reduction was up for real negotiation. The answer, then, was “All of them,” but do not expect countries that have suffered from artificially imposed poverty to lead the way.
North America’s energy needs are not for all peoples who live in North America, not even close. Yet at the same time, not only do they account for the bulk of the emissions and the primary place where reductions must happen, systemically speaking they are also completely unavailable to make such targets because it would undermine their own power.
It is for reasons of power that the government of Iran is a pariah to the US; If Tehran controlled only sand and mountains then they would be likely “free” to do whatever they wish. Iraq, everyone correctly states, was attacked for oil– but this is stated as the end of the discussion rather than the beginning of where the discussion must get deeper. Ukraine and gas, Libya and oil, one of the most brutal dictatorships in Africa? That would easily be in Equatorial Guinea– where you should not feel bad for knowing little of the country, for it is by design as the vicious, cruel state makes a rather amazing amount of petro dollars off the destruction of the land and people.
And on it goes. This is, of course, a simplistic overview, but it is also far more sophisticated than any silly notion that a single conflict anywhere has been engaged covertly or overtly by western imperialism for the notion of democratic participation, while the death of just the same continues at the base of their power just in time for the global systemic collapse.
Now back to my musings on the Pre-COP meetings. Venezuela has long understood that in order to chart a course that is not at the behest of the BP’s, the Shell’s, the TOTAL and Boeing’s, the private murderer armies called “security firms” and more, means to confront power itself. By demanding their right to be independent they have stoked the ire of the global capitalist elite.
The same global cabal of capitalists are the Halliburton’s, the Bush and Cheney family, the Rupert Murdoch’s and so on. This grouping of peoples are the 1 percent of the one percent of the one percent and then a smaller grouping still. They revolve around oil, gas, coal and the imperialist military structures that are propped up by them all. Do we truly think we can ask this– the single most destructive, venal, arrogant, bloodthirsty and violent grouping of human beings ever devised– by showing them the benefits of a wind turbine or solar panel? Really?
Most of those who have taken up the banner of fighting climate change and/or tar sands are doing so with the main point unspoken: We are confronting– hopefully tackling, dismantling and destroying– power. Power that seeks itself for its own reasons. Every time one individual from this rancid, entropic class of people sees the suicide in their mission and a little thing– like promote a park or a hydrogen fuel cell– we trip over ourselves to congratulate that individual and coax more like it. It is quite sad, really, children looking for their parents in the dark. “Look under the bed for us, please?”
Horrible industrial practices are systemic to capitalism, as is imperialism. At the periphery, the need for capital (without the capitalists) has seen nations embrace the same destruction time and again.
But the reality is, to paraphrase from Doctor Michael Parenti, let me say: If you know that the people with power will do anything to keep that power, kill anyone, resort to any war crime and carry out any endeavor to maintain that power, but you know absolutely nothing else– then you already know more than someone who knows every president, law, country flag, regulation, language and all knowledger in the world– except how power works. If you understand that and that only you know the single most important reality in the way humanity is organized in the world today.
When there are peoples around the world organizing to create a serious break with imperialism– the heart of oil and gas power– we should see that, because we know that if imperialism has power, imperialism will use it– those who seek to break that imperial power clusterfuck are strategically our friends. And all of those who seek to get environmentalists into deals with oil companies– to treat them as partners for tomorrow, who seek to fawn at the feet of government every chance they get– they are our enemies.
The slogan is not new: Change the system, not the climate. The reality of giving it content must also begin to be realized. If pre-COP is to re-align peoples with the global south and away from imperialist solutions to an imperialist problem, then let us shout clearly:
See you in Caracas! The fourth world war began here in 1989– oil elites attempting to crush the people into starvation, the people rose in the Caracazo. Where is our climate Caracazo? Where is our collective resistance that understands the enemy?