no tar sands
Stop swooning over Justin Trudeau. The man is a disaster for the planet | Bill McKibben
Donald Trump is a creep and unpleasant to look at, but at least he’s not a stunning hypocrite when it comes to climate change
By Bill McKibben

Donald Trump is so spectacularly horrible that it’s hard to look away – especially now that he’s discovered bombs. But precisely because everyone’s staring gape-mouthed in his direction, other world leaders are able to get away with almost anything. Don’t believe me? Look one country north, at Justin Trudeau.

Look all you want, in fact – he sure is cute, the planet’s only sovereign leader who appears to have recently quit a boy band. And he’s mastered so beautifully the politics of inclusion: compassionate to immigrants, insistent on including women at every level of government. Give him great credit where it’s deserved: in lots of ways he’s the anti-Trump, and it’s no wonder Canadians swooned when he took over.

But when it comes to the defining issue of our day, climate change, he’s a brother to the old orange guy in Washington. 

Not rhetorically: Trudeau says all the right things, over and over. He’s got no Scott Pruitts in his cabinet: everyone who works for him says the right things. Indeed, they specialize in getting others to say them too – it was Canadian diplomats, and the country’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna, who pushed at the Paris climate talks for a tougher-than-expected goal: holding the planet’s rise in temperature to 1.5C (2.7F).

But those words are meaningless if you keep digging up more carbon and selling it to people to burn, and that’s exactly what Trudeau is doing. He’s hard at work pushing for new pipelines through Canada and the US to carry yet more oil out of Alberta’s tar sands, which is one of the greatest climate disasters on the planet.

Last month, speaking at a Houston petroleum industry gathering, he got a standing ovation from the oilmen for saying: “No country would find 173bn barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.”

Yes, 173bn barrels is indeed the estimate for recoverable oil in the tar sands. So let’s do some math. If Canada digs up that oil and sells it to people to burn, it will produce, according to the math whizzes at Oil Change International, 30% of the carbon necessary to take us past the 1.5C target that Canada helped set in Paris.

That is to say, Canada, which represents one half of 1% of the planet’s population, is claiming the right to sell the oil that will use up a third of the earth’s remaining carbon budget. Trump is a creep and a danger and unpleasant to look at, but at least he’s not a stunning hypocrite.

Continue Reading.


Behind the Scenes of Planet of the Dead - Part Six

Excerpts from Benjamin Cook’s set report in DWM 408:

[on trying to film during a sandstorm]
“Not only was what we were shooting looking horrible,” James tells DWM, “because we had no light… and this massive desert landscape, you couldn’t see it… I mean, we could have been in a car park at Upper Boat… but also sand was being blown in our faces constantly. The actors couldn’t open their eyes.”

“Problem is,” says make-up designer Barbara Southcott, “it’s on high-def, so you’ll see every bit of sand on their skin.”

“You’ll have to paint it out,” make-up artist Steve Smith teases The Mill’s Dave Houghton.

“Frame by frame,” nods Dave, “grain by grain.”

“I know it’s not easy, guys,” calls out John [Bennett, First Assistant Director]. “Let’s just do what we can.” But David’s hair has turned blonde. (Daniel [Kaluuya, who plays Barclay] dubs him “Barry Manilow”.)

The sand is sticking to everything. Worst hit is Tracie Simpson, whose lips are actually yellow. This is her first episode as Doctor Who’s producer. It’s a baptism of fire - no, of wind! Of wind and sand and lipstick.

Forgetting that Dubai is four hours ahead of the UK, DWM decides to text a message of support to Russell T Davies in Cardiff - you know, something encouraging and inspiring. But somehow we manage to send one that says: “SANDSTORM! CODE RED! ABORT! ABORT!” Surprisingly, Russell messages back: “I’ve got you texting with ‘SANDSTORM!’ and Julie [Gardner, executive producer] phoning with ‘SANDSTORM!’ I’m hooting. Save yourself, Ben.” Perhaps we should hide in a Portaloo until it’s all over? (We don’t last long. It stinks in here. Besides, a queue was forming.)

Back outside, the majestic crane shots intended for this morning are abandoned. The crane is dismantled and taken away. “I thought, let’s shoot everything that we can against the bus,” James explains later. “…but the actors all looked like they’d been tarred in sand and dragged through a hedge.”

Other parts of this set:  [ one ] [ two ] [ three ] [ four ] [ five ] [ seven ] [ eight ] [ nine ]
[ Masterlist of all Doctor Who Behind-the-Scenes Photosets ]

Witchcraft is already dead as a hag, as barren as the moon, as contaminated as the tar sands. Yet Witchcraft is born again in this sacred despoiled landscape, and will be despised as an abomination by those who cannot navigate by the candlelight of guttering stars. Those who seek to escape the fates and furies will learn that they are inexorable
—  Peter Grey, Apocalyptic Witchcraft

Raise a Paddle: a journey from the Pacific Islands to the tar sands

In May 2017, a group of Pacific Islanders travelled half way across the world to visit the Canadian tar sands.

Justin Trudeau’s recently approved pipelines will unleash catastrophic climate change — for Pacific islanders this means rising sea levels threatening their homes, communities, and cultures. The Pacific Climate Warriors embarked on this journey in order to bear witness to the project responsible for unleashing destruction on their homelands. Along the way, they built solidarity with Indigenous Peoples in Canada whose traditional territories are threatened by tar sands.

Creating gifs from Google Earth historical imagery on GNU/Linux with Bash

First, I downloaded Google Earth for Linux and installed it on my Chromebook (which is running a chroot with crouton). I then proceeded to find deforested zones in Brazil, which was not difficult. I used the history tool to go back in time.

Google Earth contains decent images from Landsat/Copernicus that goes back to 1984. This allows one to see troubling forest destruction in South America, the damages of tar sands extraction in Alberta, and many other things I did not have the time to look at yet.

I figured out it would be too long to do all the clicking and screenshots-taking by hand, so I wrote a dirty bash script to do that for me. This script uses xdotool to place the mouse and perform clicks. I hardcoded the “next year” button’s position into the script, so if you try it, you may have to change the position to match the button’s position on your screen (#cleancode). The script uses import, an ImageMagick utility which is able to take cropped screenshots from a window and save them.

Once all the pictures are taken, I call convert to create a gif. I tweaked the settings to make the gif small enough for publishing on the internet without slowing everyone’s tumblr. Normally, I try to keep my GLSL gifs’ size under 100K, but since the environment is important, I allowed myself to keep some image quality here and go a bit above 200K.

# Note: I have to go to year 1984 before the script starts
# Sleep to let user move to other terminal tab
# and monitor memory with top ;)
sleep 3
echo "starting"

# For every year:
for i in `seq 1984 2016`; do
    # Print current year
    echo $i
    # Take screenshot
    import -window "Google Earth" -crop 500x400+500+120 $i.png
    # Go to next year
    xdotool mousemove 512 155 click 1
    # Leave some time for the image to load
    sleep 4

echo "Creating anim.gif"

convert *.png +repage -fuzz 20% -layers Optimize -colors 6 +dither anim.gif

Now that I have this script, I can animate whatever land that humans have destroyed since 1984, how fun! I had to reboot my Chromebook a couple of times during the development process because Google Earth was a bit exhausting for the small computer.


Artist: Joan Miro

Completion Date: 1936

Style: Surrealism

Genre: abstract painting

Technique: oil

Material: masonite, sand

Gallery: Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Spain

In the late twenties Miró questioned paint as a medium and began to search for new vehicles of expression. Later, while working on his paintings on masonite, he grew aware of certain poetic qualities inherent in the material and sensed their aesthetic potential.

Miró was in pursuit of the interpenetration of materials, which often appears imposed by force. The contrast of the materials (casein, black shoe polish, tar and sand, in addition to oil colours) and the rough support of the “masonite” express the violence of the execution.

It’s Getting Hot in Here: Mother Nature Lays the Climate Cards on the Table

Another brilliant climate-themed cartoon from The Los Angeles Times’ David Horsey. Check out more of his work here.


Vikings Locations in the Real World - Götaland

Götaland (also known as Gothia, Gothland, Gothenland, Gautland or Geatland) is the southernmost of the three lands of Sweden, bounded to the north by Svealand (Sweden proper), with the deep woods of Tiveden, Tylöskog and Kolmården marking the border. It’s named after the Götar or Göter, one of the two North Germanic tribes from whom modern Swedes are descended. It is generally agreed that these were the same as the Gēatas, the people of the hero Beowulf in England’s national epic, Beowulf

The earliest known mentions of the Götar is Ptolemy (2nd century AD) who mentions the Goutai. In the 6th century, Jordanes writes of the Gautigoths and Ostrogoths (the Ostrogoths of Scandza); and Procopius refers to Gautoi. The Norse Sagas knows them as Gautar; Beowulf and Widsith as Gēatas. Norwegian and Icelandic sources sometimes use Gautar only for the people of Västergötland (Westrogothia), or the western parts of today’s Götaland, but sometimes as a common ethnic term for both the people of Västergötland and those of Östergötland (Ostrogothia).

Västergötland and Östergötland, once rival kingdoms themselves, constitute Götaland proper. The small countries to the south of Finnveden, Kind, Möre, Njudung, Tjust, Tveta, Värend, Ydre were merged into the province of Småland (literally: [the] “small countries”). Off the coast of Småland was the island of Öland, which became a separate province. Dal to the north west became the province of Dalsland. Småland, Öland and Dalsland were already seen as lands belonging to Götaland in (Scandinavian) medieval times (12th–15th century). In the Treaty of Roskilde (1658), the Danish kingdom ceded Blekinge, Halland, Scania, and Bohuslän to Sweden. These provinces are since then counted as parts of Götaland. The island of Gotland shifted allegiance between the Swedes and the Danes several times. Although the island may be perceived to have closer links to Svealand, it is counted as part of Götaland.

Before the consolidation of Sweden, the Geats were politically independent of the Swedes or Svear, whose old name was Sweonas in Old English. When written sources emerge (approximately at the end of the 10th century), the Geatish lands are described as part of the still very shaky Swedish kingdom, but the manner of their unification with the Swedes is a matter of much debate. Today, historians believe that the medieval kingdom of Sweden was created as a union to oppose foreign forces, mainly the Danes, where the mainly inland Västergötland was easier to defend and be protected in than in the coastal areas.

The Geats were traditionally divided into several petty kingdoms, or districts, which had their own things (popular assemblies) and laws. The largest one of these districts was Västergötland (West Geatland), and it was in Västergötland that the Thing of all Geats was held every year, in the vicinity of Skara. In his Gesta Danorum (book 13), the Danish 12th century chronicler Saxo Grammaticus noted that the Geats had no say in the election of the king, only the Swedes, but Saxo did not know how kings were chosen in Sweden around 1120. When in the 13th century, the West Geatish law or Westrogothic law was put to paper, it reminded the Geats that they had to accept the election of the Swedes: Sveær egho konong at taka ok sva vrækæ meaning “It is the Swedes who have the right of choosing ["taking”] and also deposing the king" and then he rode Eriksgatan “mæþ gislum ofvan” – “with hostages from above [the realm]” through Södermanland, the Geatish provinces and then through Närke and Västmanland to be judged to be the lawful king by the lawspeakers of their respective things. The king was “taken” by the first thing possibly similar to the customs in early medieval Norway where the king was chosen by acclamation.

After the 15th century and the Kalmar Union, the Swedes and the Geats appear to have begun to perceive themselves as one nation, which is reflected in the evolution of svensk into a common ethnonym. It was originally an adjective referring to those belonging to the Swedish tribe, who are called svear in Swedish. As early as the 9th century, svear had been vague, both referring to the Swedish tribe and being a collective term including the Geats, and this is the case in Adam of Bremen’s work where the Geats (Goths) appear both as a proper nation and as part of the Sueones. The merging/assimilation of the two nations took a long time, however. In the early 20th century, Nordisk familjebok noted that svensk had almost replaced svear as a name for the Swedish people.

Today, the merger of the two nations is complete, as there is no longer any tangible identification in Götaland with a Geatish identity, apart from the common tendency of people living in those areas to refer to themselves as västgötar (West Geats) and östgötar (East Geats), that is to say, residents of the provinces of Västergötland and Östergötland. The city Göteborg, known in English as Gothenburg, was named after the Geats (Geatsburg or fortress of the Geats), when it was founded in 1621.

Götaland is mentioned in connection to Ragnar Lodbrok in Ragnarssona þáttr (Tale of Ragnar’s sons), Ragnars saga Loðbrókar (Ragnar Lodbrok’s Saga) and the skaldic poem Krákumál (‘Lay of Kraka’, Ragnar’s death-song as he’s dying in Ælla’s snake pit) as well as Bósa saga ok Herrauds and Gesta Danorum. Ragnar met his second wife, Þóra borgarhjörtr, in Gautland (Västergötland) where he saved her from a lindworm (a wingless, venomous serpent or dragon) which her father, the jarl of Gautland had given her as an egg. In order to protect himself from the venom he covered his legs in animal furs treated with tar and sand, which earned him the nickname Loðbrók “hairy-breeks”.

As recounted in the first stanza of Krákumál:
Hjoggum vér með hjörvi.
Hitt vas æ fyr löngu,
es á Gautlandi gengum
at grafvitnis morði;
þá fengum vér Þóru,
þaðan hétu mik fyrðar,
es lyngölun lagðak,
Loðbrók at því vígi;
stakk á storðar lykkju
stáli bjartra mála.

“We swung our sword;
that was ever so long ago
when we walked in Gautland
to the murder of the dig-wulf.
Then we received Þóra;
since then
(at that battle when I killed the heather-fish)
people called me Furry-pants.
I stabbed the spear
into the loop of the earth.”

('Dig-wulf’, 'heather-fish’, and 'loop of the earth’ are all kennings for the serpent.)

Photographer Stuart Hall captured the Athabasca tar sands in Canada by leaning out of the plane’s window 5,000 feet up —an exhilarating rush despite the nausea bubbling in his stomach.

The Athabasca deposit lies beneath a boreal forest and peat bogs, but you’d never know it from Hall’s gritty photos. The landscape is stripped of color and texture, leaving a vast expanse of gray and black dotted by enormous machines.

Hall shot Giga Project during three week-long visits over three years. “It just goes on forever,” he says. Hall insists he isn’t trying to be political, but his photos nevertheless make you examine the ugly cost of society’s insatiable thirst for oil.

MORE. Disturbing Aerials Reveal Canada’s Vast Tar Sand Mines


Over the past four years, the Unist'ot'en clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation have literally built a strategy to keep three proposed oil and gas pipelines from crossing their land. Concerned about the environmental damage a leak could cause on land they’ve never given up, they’ve constructed a protection camp to block pipeline companies. As opposition to the development of Alberta’s tar sands and to fracking projects grows across Canada, with First Nations communities on the front lines, the Unist'ot'en camp is an example of resistance that everyone is watching. 

Why do people want to be racist to natives then claim they’re “honouring” us? You want to “honour” us for some reason? Stand with us to stop violence against indigenous women. Stand with us to prevent fracking, pipelines, and the tar sands. Stand with us to reduce rates of poverty, homelessness, and unemployment. Do something useful. Don’t make us into your disgusting mascots, tattoo racist caricatures onto your skin, or appropriate the war bonnet. Obviously, it raises the question of why they think we’re some sort of mystical, magical people to be “honoured” instead of just regular people looking for justice and recognition, but that’s a whole other story.