Oil and Gas Mining: The Devastating Effect on Communities

Sustainable Deception (Deception Durable)

Directed by Michelle Moore and William Ray (2017)

Film Review

Sustainable Deception is a bilingual documentary about the devastating effects of oil and gas mining at opposite ends of Canada. What I found most interesting about the film were the uncanny similarities with our experience with fracking here in Taranaki.

The French segments of the film cover the town of Sept Iles in Quebec and the English segments the massive tar sands project in Alberta. French and English segments are placed back to pack to highlight the parallels between the two regions:

  • Despite constant promises of jobs and prosperity, all the oil and gas revenue exits local communities, leaving them with a net decrease in income and struggling to pay for increased infrastructure costs.
  • Environmental destruction from oil and gas mining converts pristine forest landscapes into industrial brown sites, pollutes waterways and destroys organic farms, fishing and other local businesses. It also increases local cancer rates.
  • Fluctuating global commodity prices lead to boom and bust cycles, fueling higher rates of homelessness, hunger, domestic violence and alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Oil and gas companies subsidize a succession of corrupt right wing governments who systematically deny local residents any input into planning decisions around oil and gas and other mining.
  • Despite treaty obligations, indigenous communities are never consulting regarding decisions to allow mining (likewise there is no consultation with local Maori here in Taranaki.

For me, one of the most interesting parts of the film was a commentary by an Alberta activist about the need to transition from “extractive economies” that only benefit a handful of people to “value added” economies that rely on a diversity of businesses. Here in New Zealand, the Green Party is calling for a transition from an extractive economy – based on dairy, oil and gas – to a value added economy based on a renewable energy and information technology.

The most concerning part of the film was at the end, where one of the anti-mining activists is elected mayor of Sept Iles and talks openly about the enormous pressure the oil and gas industry (and the banks that finance them) put on elected officials. When they don’t get their way, these economic powerhouses have the capacity to generate economic instability that can bankrupt a small community.

The Real Cause of the Revolutionary War: Preserving Slavery

The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Black Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America

Professor Gerald Horne

In this lecture about his 2014 book, African American history professor Gerald Horne exposes important events that triggered the so-called War of Independence. He makes a compelling case that the decision of the 13 colonies to declare independence in 1776 was a direct result of George III’s 1775 decision to establish all-black Ethiopian regiments to fight colonial regiments in Virginia (the colony that produced Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and other high profile members of the independence movement). Odd, isn’t it, that white historians neglect to mention this important fact in our high school textbooks?

According to Horne, there was a clear precedent for arming African troops in North America. In the 18th century, both the French (who occupied Quebec) and the Spanish (who occupied Florida) armed escaped slaves to attack the English colonies. Collaboration between the armed Africans and black slaves led to several major slave revolts in the 18th century. Two of the most important were the 1712 slave uprising in Manhattan (backed by the French) and the  1739 Stono’s Revolt in South Carolina (led by a coalition of Spanish armed Africans from St. Augustine Florida and Portuguese-speaking slaves from Angola).

Horne also believes the timing of the 1776 “War of Independence” also related to Britain’s decision to abolish slavery in 1772 – and fears King George would extend the ban on slavery to the 13 colonies.

In summing up, Horne traces how this willingness to go to war over the diabolical (but immensely profitable) institution of slavery would shape the ruthlessly greedy and mean-spirited character of the American nation. Unlike the US, Canada, which never adopted slavery nor fought two wars to preserve it, has made a genuine effort to look after its poor and underprivileged. Horne gives the example of the universal single payer health system.

Horne believes this hidden history also accounts for the special persecution of the descendents of slaves, as opposed to non-US natives with black skin.

There is a very long introduction. The actual talk starts at 9:24.

Street Politics 101

Street Politics 101

SubMedia.tv (2013)

Film Review

Street Politics 101 is a half hour video describing the six month student strike in Montreal in February 2012 against a $325 tuition increase. At one point, there were 400,000 protesters in the street, and they eventually overwhelmed police with smaller (numbering thousands) protests focused on “economic disruption” (e.g. blockading businesses, destroying corporate property and disrupting conferences). They eventually forced the Quebec premier to call a new election. When the Party Quebecois came to power, they rescinded the tuition increase.

The film outlines the step-by-step strategy the student organization Classe employed to expand the tuition hike protest to embrace broader anti-capitalist, indigenous and environmental issues. This strategy was extremely effective in drawing non-students into the movement. However, as often happens, unprovoked police violence was the most important draw card. Demonstrations were initially nonviolent until police viciously attacked nonviolent protestors. This led to both rioting, as well as “masking-up” to reduce protestors’ fear of defending themselves.

Peter Gelderloos notes the success of the Montreal student strike in his 2013 book The Failure of Nonviolence: From Arab Spring to Occupy. It meets all four of his criteria for a successful direct action: it gave hundreds of thousands of students direct experience in self-organization through debate and peoples assemblies and spread critiques of debt, austerity and capitalism throughout Quebecois and Canadian society. It was also uniformly denounced by ruling politicians and media and ultimately successful in winning student demands.