All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

Marc Jaccard on the protest line.

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Something quite remarkable happened today, even though it didn’t garner much media attention.

Dr Marc Jaccard at a conference

Mark Jaccard, the distinguished energy expert and SFU professor, was arrested today.  He was a participant in a civil disobedience action, blocking coal trains on the BNSF tracks in White Rock.

This was organized by British Columbians for Climate Action.  Six coal trains were stopped.

coal train protesters

This is particularly newsworthy because of Jaccard’s presence.  Jaccard is no radical; rather, he has a lot at stake, both in academia at SFU and for his consulting work.  Jaccard was in the news a few years back, famous – some would say infamous – for his role advising the Campbell government on the carbon tax.

“That’s how I’d rather live my life,” he said. “But I feel I am in a world now where there isn’t any place for sane analysis.”

Asked how his actions might reflect on his academic career, Jaccard said: “I don’t know. That’s partly what I’m worried about.”

Why does this matter?  To me, it represents a sort of tipping point – where high profile experts leave the comfortable confines of academia and join the protest lines.  You know something big is at stake.  James Hansen, possibly the world’s foremost expert on climate change, did the same last summer, getting arrested for protesting the Keystone pipeline.

Rafe Mair – a former minister of the environment himself – is now calling for widespread civil disobedience as the only means left to protect our environment.

But I believe that this is about more than protesting government inertia.  Our government is no longer inert, distracted or indifferent; it is now actively hostile towards the environment and environmentalists, labelling us extremists, radicals, terrorists and criminals.  This is a rebirth of McCarthyism.

The most recent is the accusation by Peter Kent that environmental groups are laundering money.  This is a blatant lie, and is a dishonorable conduct from what should be the honorable minister of the environment.

Sierra Club Canada president John Bennett has denounced Kent for what he is – a liar – and has challenged him to produce evidence.  But I think further action is warranted.  I would like to see Kent taken to court for slander.  After all, money laundering is a criminal act; and accusing someone of money laundering is not a simple matter of opinion or interpretation.

Sierra Club, along with several other environmental NGOs (David Suzuki, Equiterre, CPAWS, many others) is calling for a day of protest June 4th, called BlackOutSpeak Out (a good campaign, please spread the word!)

I don’t know whether one can sue a sitting member of parliament for speaking out of turn. But this is demonstrable slander.  And whether now or when he eventually steps down, Kent has now made himself open to such an action.  And I hope it happens.  Think of it as similar to the war criminals court: at some point, people in power have to be made accountable for their actions.  I’m not talking about boneheaded government decisions; God knows, most politicians would end up in court id f so.  No, I mean when someone clearly commits an illegal action, like taking bribes.  Or committing electoral fraud.  Or slander.

There has to be a belief in the rule of law, fairly applied, for society to function properly.  Ironically, it is the party that bills itself as the defender of law and order that now gives all indications of breaking the law without a second thought.  This is the very thing that is pushing ordinary law-abiding citizens to the civil disobedience barricades.  And making extraordinary citizens like Marc Jaccard and Rafe Mair join them.  A pretty remarkable development.


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  1. […] low capacity.  Yet, enormous amounts of another fossil fuel, coal, are shipped by rail (that’s a whole other issue), and even the residue from refining bitumen, petroleum coke, is shipped by rail – so what’s […]

  2. […] joined her SFU colleague Marc Jaccard in a civil disobedience action against coal trains, one of her first participation in a protest.  She gave a lengthy interview about it to JB […]

  3. […] appears to irritate Jaccard, a highly influential scholar and environmentalist, is the often repeated claim that while the costs of Site C keep climbing, those of renewables keep […]

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