Anyway, I awoke yesterday morning to find an email from John. This is what John had written:
Morning Paul, hope everything is fine up there. I have a question. We rescued a dog the other day (part pit bull), lovely fellow, but needs a lot of nursing to get him back to health. Vet thinks he’s around 2 years old. I’d say closer to 1.5. We have him here, in the front of the house (keeping our animals inside and out the back), but he’s a barker. Not aggressive, but seems to enjoy “responding” to other dogs in the street barking… of which there are too many. Do you have any tricks for teaching a dog not to bark? I’ve tried putting him on a leash back on the house (to keep him from the front gate) as a sort of conditioning, but that hasn’t seemed to of worked. I bought a muzzle and put that on when he’s barking, but that hasn’t worked either. Any ideas?
Obviously I looked across at Jean, mentioned the email from John, and read it out to here wondering what would be her advice.
A very good morning in return.
I have just shared your email with Jean and she offered the following.
Namely, that he is most likely barking for attention. If you have the time then stay with him and each time he barks say “No!” firmly and when he stops give him a treat as a reward.
Jean acknowledges that this a difficult one but let’s take it one step at a time. Let us know what you do.
Want me to make it a post on the blog? Do you have a photo of him?
Best of luck!
John is full in terms of taking on rescues just now and is looking for a caring home for this lovely-looking boy; his name is Max by the way.
Here are some photographs of Max.
What a kind, loving face!
These are some photos from last Thurs, when we got him. He’s put on some weight since. He was covered in oil, and his blood test has come back: low platelets, and ticks disease. Yeah, I’ve been out with him heaps, sitting with him and spending time. He knows its wrong, but seems to react to everything and every noise. I introduced the girl dogs to him this morning, and he was great. No problem. No aggression. Didn’t stop him barking, though 🙂 Our street has some noisy dogs (bad owners), so I guess he’s having trouble responding.
He is lovely. Would love to keep him, but we’re full, and can’t afford another. Had to get him off the street, though. He was in real trouble.
PLEASE!!! Can anyone find Max a home? If finding the money to transport Max to that new home is going to be an issue then I’m sure we can ‘pass the hat around’ to resolve that challenge.
The main thing is to find Max a home!
Finally …. my apologies to a number of you who have sent in guest posts for this place. You are not forgotten but you do understand why this plea from John had to be published today!
I included a photo of Socks and wished him the very best of luck in finding a home.
Well, miracles of miracles, when I came to my emails last Saturday morning awaiting me was this email from John Zande.
Paul and Jean, Socks has a wonderful new home!
I really don’t want to jinx it by writing this email (I am the superstitious naked ape, after all), but the morning started out with not much hope as we drove and drove out into the countryside, wondering where on earth this petshop was that was hosting the adoption fair.
When we eventually found it, it was a tiny storefront, little more than a dog-bath business. We thought, “nothing is going to come from this.” They were just opening as we arrived and met the young girl who runs it. Lovely person. Literally two minutes later a family walk up the road dropping off their two dogs for a bath. We got to talking. They fell in love with Socks.
After a phone call to the woman’s husband (a serious, serious dog lover, we’re told, as she is too) we heard the words we did not think we’d hear: “If it’s OK, we’d love to give him a home.”
Ten minutes later we were in their house, which was about 50 meters down the road. Nice place, lots of room, and Socks has full run of the outside, and a huge enclosed laundry-come-Socks-home for the night. He won the lotto! Three young boys full of energy. He took to them like a champion. I still can’t believe it. It’s like this every time we find a home. It just doesn’t seem real.
Anyway, I’ve attached two short videos of Socks and his new home, and a photo. And yes, the family is keeping Jean’s name, Socks. They loved it. I’m sure G will write you later tonight, but you both played a huge role in this. Your help paid for his neutering, and for that we’re eternally grateful.
Here is that photo and those videos.
A little later on ‘G’, John’s nickname for his wife, sent me these further details:
Hello Paul and Jean – I guess you’ve been cheering since John’s e-mail, right? So have we, since this morning.
Well, I have to say I still can’t believe how lucky we (and Socks) have been. Virginia and Fabiano and their three boys: Lago (11 or 12 y.o, not sure); Marcos (turning 8 tomorrow, Sunday) and Raphael, 6. Lovely family, she invited us to go to their place (he was working), showed us around.
As I said at the outset: It doesn’t get more beautiful than this!
Glenn Greenwald Unveils New Project to Build Animal Shelter in Brazil Staffed by Homeless People
Published on May 10, 2017
http://democracynow.org – Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald unveils his plans to build an animal shelter in Brazil with his husband David Miranda, a city council member in Rio de Janeiro. The shelter will be staffed by homeless people who live on the streets with abandoned pets.
If you, like me, needed to be reminded as to Mr. Greenwald’s background there’s plenty online.
Glenn Greenwald is one of three co-founding editors of The Intercept. He is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times best-selling books on politics and law. His most recent book, No Place to Hide, is about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world. Prior to co-founding The Intercept, Glenn’s column was featured at The Guardian and Salon. He was the debut winner, along with Amy Goodman, of the Park Center I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism in 2008, and also received the 2010 Online Journalism Award for his investigative work on the abusive detention conditions of Chelsea Manning. For his 2013 NSA reporting, he received the George Polk award for National Security Reporting; the Gannett Foundation award for investigative journalism and the Gannett Foundation watchdog journalism award; the Esso Premio for Excellence in Investigative Reporting in Brazil (he was the first non-Brazilian to win), and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award. Along with Laura Poitras, Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the top 100 Global Thinkers for 2013. The NSA reporting he led for The Guardian was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for public service.
(And, please, make a note of my final remark at the end of today’s post.)
Those who are regular visitors to this place will know that John Zande, who lives in Brazil, is a good friend, and, for that matter, I try to be a good friend of his place. (If you didn’t read my recent review of John’s latest book On The Problem of Good then it is here.)
So when a couple of days ago I received the following email from John you can imagine my positive response to his request.
Paul, hi, I have a favour to ask.
My wife’s sister, Dee (who lives in Australia) has started a gofundme campaign to help cover a rash of vet surgery bills we’ve had recently. These past few months (most of summer, really) has been appalling with the number of dumped animals in our area.
Together with a few other people in our loose group we rescued about ten and got them adopted out to good homes. Plus, we have three in temporary shelters as we nurse them back to health. We took one into our house, Nina, thus making eleven here now, who had her tail amputated last Tuesday. We were fortunate in that our vet worked for free (a 3hr operation) and only charged us for the anesthetist.
We’re lucky to have these wonderful people around, but we’re a tad snowed under right now with the accumulated surgeries and medicines, which is why Dee started this little campaign.
Now there was no question that Jean and I wanted to help. Not only by making a modest donation ourselves but by promoting Dee’s campaign. I emailed a reply to John saying just that.
John then responded with more details, including some photographs:
Dee is married to a very good friend of mine from Uni. She started this campaign to help Dionete, my wife, and I (and if possible a few other Vista Verde folk who’re in our rescue network) here in Brazil. Dee was here just before Christmas and saw the problem first hand. She actually helped us rescue a wonderful little fellow, Terrorista, who now lives a few streets away with a wonderful family.
I didn’t know, but Dionete was chatting to her a week or two ago and it came up just how many vet/surgery/medicine expenses we’d accumulated over the summer. Without either of us knowing, she, Dee, then started this gofundme campaign to lend a hand and help clear the vet bills. We’re not an NGO (we actually help four here in Sao Jose dos Campos, two in Sao Paulo, and Sandra’s Maxmello in another city south of Sao Paulo). Because we’re not an NGO we’ve never thought about doing a campaign ourselves, so was surprised when Dee started this one. It’s quite modest, $1,000 Australian dollars (the goal) converted to Brazilian Reis will make a sizable dent in our backlog of vet surgery bills. Our bills are tiny compared to a guy we know who does have an NGO and owes his network of vets 90,000. He’s a wonderful fellow and I’m actually working with him to try and get a mobile neutering unit started here in Sao Jose dos Campos. But that’s another story. So, to be clear, the campaign is for us here in Vista Verde, which is sadly a dumping ground for animals. Surrounding districts seem to think we’re all wealthy here and therefore they can dump their animals. It’s infuriating, and the animals never stop coming.
I am sure that Jean and I aren’t the only ones that want to help.
And John could offer no better reason for seeking some financial support from the wider world. Here’s some of his later email:
My apologies if there was some confusion. I’m actually heading out right now to feed a new fellow I found a few days ago and is sleeping outside a house in another district. When I get back I’ll send some more photos, OK.
Let me close with some more photos of dogs that have been helped by John, Dionete and the rest of the great band of the Vista Verde Fund.
Please offer whatever you can to help. Even the smallest amount makes a real difference.
The following glorious story, a true story I should have made clear, was sent to me recently by Cynthia, wife of my long-term Californian friend Dan Gomez. It’s a story that was broadcast by TV Globo, not a station I had previously heard of. Unsurprising really when a quick web search finds their details:
Rede Globo, or simply Globo, is a Brazilian television network, launched by media mogul Roberto Marinho on 26 April 1965. It is owned by media conglomerate Grupo Globo, being by far the largest of its holdings.
Here’s that story.
The Bricklayer and the Penguin
This penguin swims 5,000 miles every year for a reunion with the man who saved his life.
Todays most heartwarming story is brought to you from a beach in Brazil. The story of a South American Magellanic penguin who swims 5,000 miles each year to be reunited with the man who saved his life.
Retired bricklayer and part time fisherman Joao Pereira de Souza, 71, who lives in an island village just outside Rio de Janeiro , Brazil , found the tiny penguin, covered in oil and close to death, lying on rocks on his local beach in 2011. Joao cleaned the oil off the penguin’s feathers and fed him a daily diet of fish to build his strength. He named him Dindim.
After a week, he tried to release the penguin back into the sea. But, the bird wouldn’t leave.
He stayed with me for 11 months and then, just after he changed his coat with new feathers, he disappeared, Joao recalls. And, just a few months later, Dindim was back. The penguin spotted the fisherman on the beach one day and followed him home.
For the past five years, Dindim has spent eight months of the year with Joao and is believed to spend the rest of the time breeding off the coast of Argentina and Chile. It is thought he swims up to 5,000 miles each year to be reunited with the man who saved his life.
I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me, Joao told Globo TV. No one else is allowed to touch him. He pecks them if they do. He lays on my lap, lets me give him showers, allows me to feed him sardines and to pick him up.
Everyone said he wouldn’t return but he has been coming back to visit me for the past four years. He arrives in June and leaves to go home in February and every year he becomes more affectionate as he appears even happier to see me.
Biologist Professor Krajewski, who interviewed the fisherman for Globo TV, told The Independent: “I have never seen anything like this before. I think the penguin believes Joao is part of his family and probably a penguin as well. When he sees him he wags his tail like a dog and honks with delight.”
And, just like that, the world seems a kinder place again.
Unsurprisingly there are numerous videos of Joao and Dindim to be found on YouTube but I have selected the following one for you.
It’s wonderful how our worries about the nature of us humans can be swept away just as easily as an ocean wave breaking on a beach near an island village just outside Rio de Janeiro.
A wonderful story of the love for dogs and cats shown by two people in Brazil.
As is the way in this world of blogging, a few months ago I connected with John Zande. He is an Australian living in Brazil and blogs under the name of The Superstitious Naked Ape. John is also the author of the book The Owner of All Infernal Names, which I reviewed last October (and greatly enjoyed!).
All the proceeds from the sale of John’s book go towards animal rescue and shelter in Brazil and that offers a strong clue to the purpose of today’s post.
So with that in mind, please read the following post published by John on February 3rd and republished here with John’s permission. (And please make a note to return tomorrow and read the sequel that will explain how you and I can make a positive difference.)
The MaxMello Association for the Support of Animal Life needs an urgent hand
“You can judge a man’s true character by the way he treats his fellow animals.”
― Paul McCartney
Twelve years ago, Sandra Guilarducci and her husband, Francisco, started the NGO Associação MaxMello de Amparo à Vida Animal (MaxMello Association for the Support of Animal Life) in Ibiuna (a small city in Sao Paulo state, Brazil), to rescue, treat, house, and place stray and abandoned dogs in loving homes. Animal dumping is a tremendous problem in Brazil, and MaxMello today is home to over 350 dogs and 32 cats sheltered in two properties’s separated by 200 kilometres; a drive Sandra undertakes every single day. Sandra and Francisco never once imagined taking care of so many, but over the years their shelter has become a convenient dumping ground with boxes of puppies simply left on the road, together with the old, the sick, and the unwanted. These are not people who can say, “No,” so every four-legged case left on the road, or rescued by Sandra and Francisco in and around Ibiuna, gets a home and all medical assistance they require.
Today, MaxMello burns through 5 tonnes of food every month, and a small army of vets help with reduced fees. But it all adds up. It has added up, and over this past weekend, Sandra was forced to admit that she and Francisco (weighed down with over 30,000 reis debt, about $10,000 US, to vets and pet food suppliers) had reached the point beyond which they simply could no longer afford to keep the shelter open. Sandra put out an urgent call to other NGO’s, saying she will keep the sick, the crippled, and the old (the one’s that stand little to no chance of adoption) but new shelter-homes would have to be found for the hundreds of other rescues under their care. With every NGO we know of here in Sao Paulo being already full, this is, in all honesty, an impossible situation. These are good people, and they (and their keep) are in genuine need of a hand.
Please, help keep MaxMello open and donate to the MaxMello PayPal account: firstname.lastname@example.org. This urgent and immediate appeal has so far raised R$4,500 since the weekend, which is truly fantastic, but we are still a long, long way from giving Sandra and Francisco the breathing room they need to keep this shelter open.
Below is a MaxMello video (in English), with other videos on their You Tube page, including news reports produced by the TV stations, Record and SBT. This link, Associação MaxMello de Amparo à Vida Animal, will take you to their Facebook page, and for anyone interested, you can review their current debts there. Please take 30 minutes to scroll through the Facebook photos and watch the videos, and you will see the selfless work Sandra and Francisco do. Any help anyone can provide would be enormously, enormously, appreciated.
Donations, again, can be made via PayPal, at: email@example.com
As I wrote in my introduction, please come back and read the sequel post tomorrow.
Shakespeare wrote The Winter’s Tale in 1623. The title came to my mind following another tale written slightly more recently; just five days ago to be exact.
It’s a story published by George Monbiot that has a wonderful shape. When I read it on Christmas Eve it seemed yet another story that Learning from Dogs readers would enjoy. So, as ever, grateful for Mr. Monbiot’s permission to republish it. His story is called Unearthed.
December 23, 2013
A winter’s tale of guns, gold and greed.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 24th December 2013.
Perhaps I should have been more careful. Last year I decided that every Christmas I would tell a winter’s tale or two(1). Through a long history of doing stupid things, I’ve accumulated a stock of ripping yarns. But I failed to explain myself. Some people interpreted the tale I told last Christmas as making a political point about Travellers I had no intention of suggesting; a point that is in fact the opposite of what I believe(2). So please read what follows as a story and no more: true to the best of my knowledge and memory but without a polemical purpose.
I was told this tale by a gold prospector in the garimpos of Roraima: the illegal mines exacavated among the river gravels in the forests of northern Brazil. He and his friends swore it was true. Though parts of the story must have been filled in later, in the light of what I had seen I found it easy to believe.
To say that the mines were lawless is not quite correct. They stood outside the laws of the state, but had established their own codes, which were informed by power and honour and greed and lust. Every week, thieves were taken into the forest to be shot. Duels were fought on the airstrips, in which men took ten paces, turned and fired: the miners circulated Wild West comics and acted out scenes that might once have been mythical, but there became horribly real.
To illustrate the point, before we get to the tale itself: one evening João, a remarkable man from the north-east of Brazil, who, after leaving home at 14 then spending ten years crossing and recrossing the Amazon on foot, had found work as a minder for two prostitutes, took me and his charges to a bar at the end of the airstrip village in which I was staying. The bar and the strip of dirt were owned by Zé, a man who spent some of his vast earnings on causing trouble: roaming around with his band of pistoleiros, starting fights and roughing people up. Zé, in whose house I was staying (by his choice, not mine) was said to have killed five men, starting with his business partner: by this means he had acquired control of the airstrip, and the extortionate fees for landing and leaving.
The bar was a flimsy shack in which a ghetto blaster was turned up so high that you could scarcely hear the music. Ragged men swayed and lurched and sprawled across the more sober prostitutes. On every table there was a bottle or two of white rum and a revolver. The men who had stayed in their seats drummed their fingers nervously on the tabletops, halfway between their drinks and their guns. The door was shoved open, and Zé and his thugs walked in.
His was at all times an arresting presence: charming, mercurial and terrifying. A machete scar ran from one cheek, over his nose and across the other cheek. He wore a sawn-off denim jacket and two revolvers on his belt. He opened his arms and announced, in a voice loud enough to carry above the music, that he would buy drinks for everyone. Zé moved through the bar, slapping backs and shaking hands, flashing his gold teeth. João’s eyes darted around, watching people’s hands. Bottles of cachaça were passed down from the bar.
Suddenly João shoved me so hard that I almost fell off my chair. He grabbed my arm, managing at the same time to seize the two prostitutes, and propelled us towards the door. As we hurtled out of the bar it erupted in gunfire. Amazingly, only one man was killed: he was dragged onto the airstrip with a hole the size of an apple in his chest. He was one of an estimated 1,700 people murdered, in a community of 40,000, in just six months.
So here’s the story. Two men established a small stake in the mines, in a remote valley some distance from the nearest airstrip. They cut down the trees and began to excavate. They found the digging and hosing and sifting of the gravel exceedingly hard and, though they had discovered very little, they decided to hire two other men to do it for them. They agreed to split any findings equally with the workers. The two hired men dug for four months without success: with high pressure hoses they scoured great pits into which the trees collapsed; they turned the clear waters of the forest stream they excavated red with clay and tailings; they winnowed the gravel through meshed boxes; they dissolved the residues in mercury and burnt it off; but they produced almost nothing. Then they hit one of the richest deposits ever discovered in Roraima: in one day they extracted four kilos.
If you find a lot of gold in the garimpos you keep quiet – very quiet. A single shout of triumph can amount to suicide. You gather it up, hide it in your bag and explain to anyone who asks on your way out that months of work have brought you nothing but disease and misery. But first it must be divided.
The two men who owned the stake began to comprehend, for the first time, the implications of the deal they had done. “We risked our lives to establish this stake. We spent every cent we had – and plenty we didn’t – travelling here, buying the equipment and the diesel, hacking out a clearing in the forest, hiring these men. And now we have to split the gold equally with people who are no more than manual labourers, who would normally be paid a few dollars a day.” They told the two workers that they wanted a special meal that night, and sent them to the nearest airstrip to buy the ingredients.
As the two workers walked they began to ruminate. “We’ve nearly killed ourselves in that pit. We’ve been up before dawn every day and have worked until dusk. We’ve had malaria, foot rot, screw worm, sunstroke, while those two bastards have done nothing but lie in their hammocks shouting instructions. Now we’re expected to give them an equal share of the gold that we and we alone found.” When they reached the store, they bought cachaça, rice, beans, a packet of seasoning and a box of rat poison. They mixed the poison into the seasoning and set off back to the camp. Before they reached it, they were ambushed by the two owners and shot. The owners then picked up the bags and went back to the camp to celebrate over the first hot dinner they had had in weeks.
Some time later a party of men moving through the forest to look for new stakes walked into the camp. They found two skeletons over which vines were already beginning to creep. And four kilos of gold.
It’s really terribly easy – we just have to leave the oil in the ground!
The current issue of The Economist has an article on page 43, under The Americas section, headed Cheap at the price.
It’s a review of the biggest oil auction this year.
A single bid for a vast field shows the weakness of Brazil’s state-led approach to developing its oil reserves
SIX years after discovering giant offshore“pré-sal” oil deposits, so called because they lie beneath a thick layer of salt under the ocean bed, Brazil has finally auctioned the rights to develop some of its deeply buried wealth. On October 21st the Libra field, off Rio de Janeiro’s coast (see map), was sold to a consortium led by Petrobras, Brazil’s state-controlled oil firm, and including France’s Total, Anglo-Dutch Shell and China’s state-owned CNOOC and CNPC. Libra’s estimated 8 billion-12 billion barrels of recoverable oil make it the biggest oil prospect in the world to be auctioned this year. Once it reaches peak production, sometime in the next decade, it should increase Brazil’s output from 2.1m to about 3.5m barrels per day.
The article was critical of the way Brazil managed the auction resulting in just one consortium bidding, against the expectation there would be strong competition for the oil from possibly 40 companies despite the huge costs in extracting it from over 6,000 metres (nearly 20,000 feet) below sea-level. The article didn’t even hint at the madness of even thinking it should be extracted but I guess that’s The Economist for you.
So with that in mind, let me turn to a recent essay from TomDispatch by world-renown climate-change activist Bill McKibben. As regular readers will be aware Tom Engelhardt of the TomDispatch blog has given blanket permission for TD essays to be republished here on Learning from Dogs.
Tomgram: Bill McKibben, Can Obama Ever Stand Up to the Oil Industry?
Recently, “good” news about energy has been gushing out of North America, where a cheering crowd of pundits, energy experts, and government officials has been plugging the U.S. as the “Saudi Arabia” of the twenty-first century. You know, all that fracking and those luscious deposits of oil shale and gas shale just waiting to be pounded into shape to fill global gas tanks for an energy-rich future. And then, of course, just to the north there are those fabulous Canadian tar sands deposits whose extraction is reportedly turning parts of Alberta into an environmental desert. And that isn’t all.
From the melting Arctic, where the Russians and others are staking out energy claims, to the southernmost tip of South America, the dream of new energy wealth is being pursued with a fervor and avidity that is hard to take in. In distant Patagonia, an Argentinean government not previously known for its friendliness to foreign investment has just buddied up with Chevron to drill “around the clock in pursuit of a vast shale oil reservoir that might be the world’s next great oil field.” Huzzah and olé!
And can you even blame the Argentinean president for her choice? After all, who wants to be the country left out of the global rush for new energy wealth? Who wants to consider the common good of the planet, when your country’s finances may be at stake? (As with the Keystone XL pipeline protest movement here, so in Argentina, there actually are environmentalists and others who are thinking of the common good, but they’re up against the state, the police, and Chevron — no small thing.) All of this would, of course, be a wondrous story — a planet filled with energy reserves beyond anyone’s wildest dreams — were it not for the fact that such fossil fuel wealth, such good news, is also the nightmarish bad news of our lives, of perhaps the lifetime of humanity.
There is an obvious disconnect between what is widely known about climate change and the recent rush to extract “tough energy” from difficult environments; between the fires — and potential “mega-fire” — burning wildly across parts of overheated Australia and its newly elected government run by a conservative prime minister, essentially a climate denier, intent on getting rid of that country’s carbon tax. There is a disconnect between hailing the U.S. as the new Saudi Arabia and the recent report of the prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warning that fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground — or else. There is a disconnect between what our president says about climate change and the basic energy policies of his administration. There is a disconnect between what the burning of fossil fuels will do to our environment and the urge of just about every country on this planet to exploit whatever energy reserves are potentially available to it, no matter how “dirty,” no matter how environmentally destructive to extract.
Somewhere in that disconnect, the remarkable Bill McKibben, whose new book, Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist, is at the top of my personal reading list, has burrowed in and helped to create a global climate change movement. In this country, it’s significantly focused on the Keystone XL pipeline slated, if built, to bring tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. For the last several years at TomDispatch, McKibben has kept us abreast of the most recent developments in that movement. Here is his latest report from the tar sands front. Tom
X-Ray of a Flagging Presidency Will Obama Block the Keystone Pipeline or Just Keep Bending?
By Bill McKibben
As the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline has worn on — and it’s now well over two years old — it’s illuminated the Obama presidency like no other issue. It offers the president not just a choice of policies, but a choice of friends, worldviews, styles. It’s become an X-ray for a flagging presidency. The stakes are sky-high, and not just for Obama. I’m writing these words from Pittsburgh, amid 7,000 enthusiastic and committed young people gathering to fight global warming, and my guess is that his choice will do much to determine how they see politics in this country.
Let us stipulate at the start that whether or not to build the pipeline is a decision with profound physical consequences. If he approves its construction, far more of the dirtiest oil on Earth will flow out of the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, and reach the U.S. Gulf Coast. Not just right away or for a brief period, but far into the future, since the Keystone XL guarantees a steady flow of profits to oil barons who have their hearts set on tripling production in the far north.
The history of oil spills and accidents offers a virtual guarantee that some of that oil will surely make its way into the fields and aquifers of the Great Plains as those tar sands flow south. The greater and more daunting assurance is this, however: everything that reaches the refineries on the Gulf Coast will, sooner or later, spill into the atmosphere in the form of carbon, driving climate change to new heights.
In June, President Obama said that the building of the full pipeline — on which he alone has the ultimate thumbs up or thumbs down — would be approved only if “it doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” By that standard, it’s as close to a no-brainer as you can get.
These days, however, as no one will be surprised to hear, brainless things happen in Washington more often than not, and there’s the usual parade of the usual suspects demanding that Keystone get built. In mid-October, a coalition that included Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell, not to mention the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Business Roundtable, sent Obama a letter demanding that he approve Keystone in order to “maintain investor confidence,” a phrase almost guaranteed to accompany bad ideas. A report last week showed that the Koch brothers stood to earn as much as $100 billion in profits if the pipeline gets built (which would come in handy in helping fund their endless assault on unions, poor people, and democracy).
But don’t think it’s just Republican bigwigs and oil execs rushing to lend the pipeline a hand. Transcanada, the pipeline’s prospective builder, is at work as well, and Obama’s former communications director Anita Dunn is now on the Transcanada dime, producing TV ads in support of the pipeline. It’s a classic example of the kind of influence peddling that knows no partisan bounds. As the activists at Credo put it: “It’s a betrayal of the commitments that so many of us worked so hard for, and that Dunn herself played a huge role in shaping as top strategist on the 2008 campaign and communications director in the White House.”
Credo’s Elijah Zarlin, who worked with Dunn back in 2008, wrote that attack on her. He was the guy who wrote all those emails that got so many of us coughing up money and volunteering time during Obama’s first run for the presidency, and he perfectly exemplifies those of us on the other side of this divide — the ones who actually believed Dunn in 2008, the ones who thought Obama was going to try to be a different kind of president.
On energy there’s been precious little sign of that. Yes, the Environmental Protection Agency has put in place some new power plant regulations, and cars are getting better mileage. But the president has also boasted again and again about his “all of the above” energy policy for “increasing domestic oil production and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.” It has, in fact, worked so well that the United States will overtake Russia this year as the biggest combined oil and natural gas producer on the planet and is expected to pass Saudi Arabia as the number one oil producer by 2017.
His administration has okayed oil drilling in the dangerous waters of the Arctic and has emerged as the biggest backer of fracking. Even though he boasts about marginal U.S. cuts in carbon emissions, his green light to fracking means that he’s probably given more of a boost to releases of methane— another dangerous greenhouse gas — than any man in history. And it’s not just the environment. At this point, given what we know about everything from drone warfare to NSA surveillance, the dream of a progressive Obama has, like so many dreams, faded away.
The president has a handy excuse, of course: a truly terrible Congress. And too often — with the noble exception of those who have been fighting for gay rights and immigration reform — he’s had little challenge from progressives. But in the case of Keystone, neither of those caveats apply: he gets to make the decision all by himself with no need to ask John Boehner for a thing, and people across the country have made a sustained din about it. Americans have sent record numbers of emails to senators and a record number of comments to the State Department officials who oversee a “review” of the pipeline’s environmental feasibility; more have gone to jail over this issue than any in decades. Yet month after month, there’s no presidential decision.
There are days, in fact, when it’s hard to muster much fire for the fight (though whenever I find my enthusiasm flagging, I think of the indigenous communities that have to live amid the Mordor that is now northern Alberta). The president, after all, has already allowed the construction of the southern half of the Keystone pipeline, letting Transcanada take land across Texas and Oklahoma for its project, and setting up the beleaguered communities of Port Arthur, Texas, for yet more fumes from refineries.
Stopping the northern half of that pipeline from being built certainly won’t halt global warming by itself. It will, however, slow the expansion of the extraction of tar sands, though the Koch brothers et al. are busy trying to find other pipeline routes and rail lines that would get the dirtiest of dirty energy out of Canada and into the U.S. via destinations from Michigan to Maine. These pipelines and rail corridors will need to be fought as well — indeed the fights are underway, though sometimes obscured by the focus on Keystone. And there are equally crucial battles over coal and gas from the Appalachians to the Pacific coast. You can argue that the president’s people have successfully diverted attention from their other environmental sins by keeping this argument alive long past the moment at which it should have been settled and a decision should have been made.
At this point, in fact, only the thought of those 900,000 extra barrels a day of especially nasty oil coming out of the ground and, via that pipeline, into refineries still makes the fight worthwhile. Oh, and the possibility that, in deciding to block Keystone, the president would finally signal a shift in policy that matters, finally acknowledge that we have to keep most of the carbon that’s still in the ground in that ground if we want our children and grandchildren to live on a planet worth inhabiting.
If the president were to become the first world leader to block a big energy project on the grounds of its effects on climate, it might help dramatically reset the international negotiations that he allowed to go aground at Copenhagen in 2009 — the biggest foreign policy failure of his first term.
But that cascade of “ifs” depends on Obama showing that he can actually stand up to the oil industry. To an increasingly disillusioned environmental movement, Keystone looks like a last chance.
President Obama turned 52-years-old on August 4th this year. Michelle, his wife, will be 50-years-old next January, 17th. Their children, Malia and Sasha, are aged 15 and 12 respectively.
Thus this family of four are all sufficiently young to be alive when the consequences of burning all this oil will be very painfully obvious, when all the power and money in the world will come to naught.
So it strikes me that young Malia and Sasha should be shown where Planet Earth’s master circuit-breaker is located. Would be such a shame to leave the lights on when there’s no-one at home.
Many of you will have watched the video of the dolphins being rescued off a Brazilian beach that I published a week ago under the title of Wet eyes warning. That was sent to me by Capt. Bob. Bob, like my son, is a commercial airline captain.
Now Bob has sent me this. Some day, I’ll natter on about my own amateur love affair with flying, both gliding (sailplane in USA speak) and power. But for now just marvel at the skills on display as in the name of fire control these crews quite deliberately do all the things that most would consider suicidal in aviation affairs.
Sent to me by Capt. Bob D., whom I have known for many years.
The video has been widely published on many blogs but so what! It involves a school of dolphins becoming stuck on the beach in Brazil and they get rescued by a group of upstanding citizens. Just 4 minutes long but not short on displaying the love man has for these wonderful animals. Would be nice if we held all animals with equal esteem.