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Neil Young Stands With First Nations on Anti-Tar Sands Tour

Energy

By Emily Saari

Rock legend Neil Young launched a week long concert tour in Canada this week in solidarity with First Nations fighting against oil sands development in their territories. 

Neil Young’s latest tour, Honor the Treaties and also featuring Diana Krall, is a music tour with a political message.

Young is using his spotlight to draw attention to the massive injustice and environmental degradation associated with tar sands development in Alberta. In an interview regarding the message of his tour, Young said:

Canada is trading integrity for money, that’s what’s happening under the current leadership in Canada… It’s an embarrassment to any Canadians.

The Honor the Treaties tour began on Jan. 12 in Toronto and ends on Jan. 19 in Calgary. Prior to each concert, Young is taking part in a press conference about oil sands development alongside environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki, Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, and climate scientists.

All the proceeds from the Honor the Treaties tour go to the legal defense fund of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN). ACFN spokesperson Eriel Deranger said:

We are honored that Neil Young and Diana Krall are standing with ACFN during this crucial time. Our struggle to preserve the Athabasca Delta isn’t about us but for all Canadians who care about protecting our lands.

The ACFN has been embroiled in a legal battle on several fronts against both the Canadian government and the extractive industry, challenging the encroachment of tar sands development into their land and the violation of their treaty rights.

In Dec. 2013, Shell Oil received approval from the federal government to nearly double the size of its Jackpine Mine in ACFN territory on the Athabasca River.

The Jackpine Mine expansion would devastate the river and its surrounding ecosystem, and severely limit the ability of the AFCN to practice their traditional livelihood—a right that is guaranteed to them in treaties between the sovereign leadership of the First Nations and the nation of Canada. To make matters worse, Shell has also proposed a new, additional mine in northern Alberta, the Pierre River Mine. The ACFN are taking legal action against both projects to protect their people, land and way of life.

If the Canadian government goes forward with its plan to fully extract the Alberta oil sands, the consequences of the development have been described as “game over for the planet.” The mining, refining and combustion of the oil sands would emit dangerous amounts of greenhouse gases that could warm the world past a global climate tipping point.

Because of these global consequences, Young is asking for widespread support of the ACFN legal defense. Early indications show that the public is behind Young, as initial polls suggest Young’s comments are supported by nearly 70 percent of respondents.

I want my grandchildren to grow up and look up and see a blue sky and have dreams that their grandchildren are going to do great things and I don’t see that today in Canada. I see a government just completely out of control.

Visit EcoWatch’s TAR SANDS page for more related news on this topic.

 

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Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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