On May 14, a federal judge ruled that Imperial Oil (Exxon Canada) could not proceed with draining muskeg at Kearl in northern Alberta in preparation for a new Tar Sands extraction project, even though it had a permit from the federal government, because the government had not conducted a full environmental review.
On June 5 — less than four weeks later — the federal government quietly announced that an environmental review panel had concluded that the project would not have a “significant adverse environmental effect” despite its “considerable” greenhouse gas emissions.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Cabinet immediately endorsed the panel’s super-quick review, clearing the way for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to issue a water use permit. [UPDATE: On June 6, one day after the Cabinet decision, the DFO re-issued the permit that the court had ruled invalid, allowing Imperial Oil to go ahead with its destructive project.]
We often hear that it takes time to implement change, that governments must consider all the options, consult all the stakeholders, draft documents carefully, allow lots of time for second thoughts.
But as this example shows, capitalist governments can move very quickly, when their class interests are at stake.
We saw the same thing with the Mike Harris government: they moved very quickly on several items there had an adverse effect on the poor. There is absolutely no doubt that if the world’s governments actually wanted to combat GHGs and climate change they could do so very quickly and in one or two year’s time reduce GHGs 80 or 90%. They simply don’t want to. They want to continue with the status quo: endless growth and environmental destruction. The message that c.c. is important to them is simply to quell the public, as a PR stunt. Greenwash has to be exposed everywhere: in advertising, in government policy, in corporate claims to be “sustainable.” At the same time we need to say what “sustainable” really is, and to envision a future that does respect the environment and the rights of current and future generations to live with clean air and water and enough food, and free from the negative effects of industrialization. The positive future, from my point of view, is summed up as “food and energy sovereignty” – and a future free from cars and other such machines that have done so much to destroy the Earth.