If you want to know what the so-called “freedom” convoy’s next act will look like, cast your eyes to the Netherlands.
Over the last week, Dutch farmers have ratcheted up their protests against the European Union’s plan to halve emissions from livestock producers by 2030. They’ve dumped manure and set hay on fire on highways to draw attention to legislation they say will put thousands of farmers out of business for good, and they’ve won the backing of far-right, anti-climate politicians like Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and Donald Trump.
“Conspiracy theorists have also painted the protests as an anti-establishment, anti-migration movement, arguing the government has laid out anti-democratic restrictions on individual freedoms,” Politico’s Camille Gijs writes. Sound familiar?
In fairness, the Dutch government hasn’t exactly helped itself here. In a statement about its policy, the government said livestock farmers had three choices: “Becoming more sustainable, relocating or ending their business.” That’s the sort of language that’s kindling for conspiracy theories about climate policy and its impact on the average citizen, and it’s threatening to set Europe ablaze right now.
Canada’s agricultural emissions targets aren’t as aggressive as those in the Netherlands, and it’s hard to imagine our federal government saying anything remotely as cavalier about the future of its farmers. Even so, the goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer 30 per cent by 2030 has still drawn the ire of Canada’s farmers and their political proxies.
“If you push farmers against the wall with no wiggle room, I don’t know where this will end up,” Gunter Jochum, president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, told Bloomberg. “Just look at what’s happening in Europe, in the Netherlands. They’ve had enough of it.”
Here in Canada, the battle lines are being drawn on this issue. On the one hand, you have climate activists quite rightly pointing out fertilizer’s role in increasing nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas approximately 300 times as effective at trapping heat as carbon dioxide. On the other, you have farmers quite rightly underscoring its role in increasing crop yields and productivity. In the middle sits a federal government that seems determined to meet its climate targets without stepping on any prominent toes.
What people are reading
One of those belongs to Fertilizer Canada, an organization whose members are quite literally in the business of selling more fertilizer. It came out swinging against the federal government’s plan last year with a report suggesting that if Canada followed in Europe’s footsteps, it could cost farmers as much as $48.4 billion over the next eight years due to lower crop yields.
But as Canada’s National Observer’s Marc Fawcett-Atkinson pointed out in July, that was never actually on the table. Fertilizer Canada’s report “was based on the premise Canada would follow the EU’s lead and require a blanket reduction in fertilizer use,” he wrote. “Except the government had never said such a thing.”
Instead, the federal government wants to see a reduction in emissions from fertilizers, and there are farmers — like Darrin Qualman, the director of climate policy for the National Farmers’ Union — who believe that could actually help farmers reduce costs and improve profit margins.
As a 2022 report from Farmers for Climate Solutions showed, there are costs associated with inaction as well. Climate objectives are being baked into the purchasing decisions of companies that buy Canada’s agricultural exports, and being a higher-emitting producer will quickly become a competitive disadvantage. “Other countries already invest more on a per-acre basis in agri-environmental programs,” the FCS report said, “and without new support in the next APF [agricultural policy framework], we risk losing our competitive edge in the clean economy of the 21st century.”
There is a legitimate and important conversation to be had here about the best way — and, crucially, the least costly way — for Canada’s farmers to reduce their emissions. The appeals being made by farmers for a temporary reprieve from Canadian tariffs imposed on Russian fertilizer imports — that have added to the inflationary pressures being felt by farmers — deserve a proper and prompt hearing.
But that can’t happen when politics take precedence over policy, and sucks all the oxygen out of the room in the process. And right now, the Trudeau Liberals are suffocating on this issue. The fact they don’t have a single MP in any of Alberta or Saskatchewan’s agricultural communities surely doesn’t help. Neither does the constant drumbeat of fear and loathing directed at the federal government and Justin Trudeau from the right-wing politicians and pundits who are popular in these communities.
In a recent tweet, UCP leadership race front-runner Danielle Smith described the federal climate plan and its impact on the agricultural sector as a “direct attack on Alberta farmers,” while The Line’s co-founders Jen Gerson and Matt Gurney asked “how are pious climate-change goals going to look if they have to be measured against piles of emaciated bodies in the developing world? Because that’s the danger.”
It’s one that you can be sure the convoy and its familiar cast of local leaders and political enablers will be all too happy to point out in the weeks and months to come. Time will tell whether they get around to dumping actual manure onto major highways in protest, or whether we’ll merely have to contend with the metaphorical version being thrown at our federal government.
I hope the federal levels
I hope the federal levels aren't as weak on messaging as the American Democrats who seem to leave the field open to their opponents. I saw one of PP's recent YouTube videos out in Saskatchewan with Andrew Scheer and a couple of other MPs saying exactly what this article is warning about: "The federal government is trying to strangle farmers with their fertilizer rules and the hated carbon tax". PP is an actual menace to society. He's the slick, smiling face of bad faith arguments.
"federal LIBERALS" Grrr
"federal LIBERALS" Grrr autocorrect!
No governing party for the
No governing party for the past 50 years at least has had a good policy on farming, although the Conservatives are worse. It actually amazed me that farmers kept on voting Conservative after Harper killed the Wheat Board. But both parties have gone along with the basic trend where farmers were squeezed so they had no choice but to go bigger and bigger, less and less labour intensive, and increasingly forced to sell out to big agribusiness corporations. Both parties have gone along with the trend to more and more expensive inputs, due to oligopolies in supply of seed, pesticides and so on.
Despite the hippie image, organic agriculture can be high yield--indeed, it can be higher yield overall than intensive monocropping. What it can't be is both high yield and heavily mechanized--you can't have one person running a giant tractor handling a gazillion acres when you're integrating various different crops in the same plot, doing crop rotation with livestock and so on (One side effect of this is that if high yield organic agriculture dominated, first, food would be just as plentiful but might be more expensive, and second, rural communities would come back to life because they'd need more people doing the farming). And making it high yield is complicated, takes a lot of knowhow to do it well. You can't expect farmers to just play it by ear without any supports. Government should be getting serious about helping farmers get this stuff working.
On the positive side, organic farming tends to have fewer and cheaper outside inputs. They're not going to be spending more on fertilizer and herbicides and patented seed and pesticides than they make from their crop.
"PIOUS climate change goals?"
"PIOUS climate change goals?" So now WE'RE the religious extremists?
I just had this "extremist" argument put forth in a facebook discussion that started from a quote about the dangers of religious belief providing a natural springboard for conspiracy theories, something atheists have long warned about, and is currently being born out. All the usual religious apologists surged forward to irrationally and erroneously declare atheism an extreme "belief system" comparable to religious fundamentalism, vaulting right over the fact that the god idea itself is the very definition of an extreme idea. But ultimately it IS a binary one, i.e. can you buy such a fantastical, "out there" idea or not? Does "God" exist anywhere outside of the realm of ideas that comprises human imagination? Yes or no?
Clearly to the conservatives us "believers" in the science of climate change are "evangelical" about it, extreme believers i.e., because it's "like a religion" to us. This blithe reframing of science with religious terminology is proof positive of just how insidious religion has become. It can be seen as a basic defensive posture regarding one's precious "beliefs," (I've come to despise that word) but it can also be seen as SO saturating a person's worldview as to be irreplaceable, inarguable. Coincidentally, an overall description of the basic difference between conservatives and liberals is their minds; one is closed, the other open. I've always liked a line of poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks, "do not be afraid of NO who has so very far to go."
But I no longer agree with that...
Fawcett: "In the middle sits
Fawcett: "In the middle sits a federal government that seems determined to meet its climate targets without stepping on any prominent toes."
In which alternative universe?
Partisanship gets in the way of the facts.
Climate Action Tracker's 2021 report rates Canada's efforts overall as "highly insufficient". Same rating since 2011 -- in every year but one in the last decade.
"Feds approve offshore oil project days after IPCC begged world to say no to oil and gas" (National Observer, April 6)
"Canada leads G20 in financing fossil fuels, lags in renewables funding, report says" (CP, 2021)
Barry Saxifrage: "Canada’s fossil-fuelled sprint away from climate safety" (National Observer, July 27 2022)
Boosting fossil fuel production is antithetical to climate action. Choose one.
Canadians are some of the
Canadians are some of the biggest food wasters on the planet.
Food insecurity is a complex problem. It's not just about production.
One third of all the food produced globally is lost or wasted.
Stop wasting food, and feed more people.
Some diets are far more energy-, resource-, water-, and greenhouse gas intensive than others. North Americans and the West generally eat a heavy meat diet. Using land and water to grow grain to feed cattle instead of people. If you are concerned about feeding people, go vegetarian.
"Americans throw out 40% of food, study says" (CBC, 2012)
"Every single day, in Canada alone, families waste the equivalent of one million cups of milk, three-quarters of a million loaves of bread and more than half a million bananas.
"In a year, Canadians throw away 2.2 billion kg of perfectly good, perfectly edible food.
"Producing that food creates CO2 — tonnes of it.
"If food waste were its own country, it would be the third-largest emitter of GHGs in the world, after China and the U.S..
"Canadians trash $27 billion worth of food a year" (Edmonton Journal, 2014)
"In Canada, the value of the food waste is greater than the combined Gross Domestic Product of the 32 poorest countries in the world, according to the World Bank."
Statistics Canada estimates that about 40% of all the food we produce in this country goes to waste, to the tune of $27 billion a year — that's more than the value of all the food purchased by Canadians in restaurants in 2009. American statistics are even more unsettling, with roughly 50% of all food that's produced for people going to waste.
"The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates nearly 40% of the food produced in India is lost or wasted every year due to inefficient supply chains.
"A lack of cooling and storage facilities in India also means 20% of the entire food production gets lost before it reaches the marketplace.
"The situation in India has been a wake-up call on the need to reconfigure food systems and the millions of livelihoods and lives depending on them."
"How COVID-19 worsens hunger in India, the world's largest food basket" (July 28, 2020)
"Food waste, overeating threaten global security" (CBC, 2013)
'There's growing concern that western eating habits are affecting more than health'
"'In the U.K., we end up throwing away 20 to 30% of the food that we buy. The waste that we throw away in Europe and North America is about equal to all of the food that sub-Saharan Africa produces.'
"Food waste is only one problem. Overeating is another.
"Research shows that based on average weight gain through adulthood, people are consuming 20 to 30% too many calories. So eating a healthier, more balanced diet would not only help tackle the obesity epidemic, it would also take as much as a third of the caloric demands out of the global food chain.
"'If everyone in the world chose to live like your average North American, it would require four Earths to produce all the necessary food.
Eating a healthier, more
Eating a healthier, more balanced diet is also more expensive. People buy what they can afford. I've heard it said that the wealthy appreciate food by its presentation/appearance, the middle class for its nutrients and flavor, and the poor by how full a day's food allowance can make one (and one's kids) feel.
I'm sure the faux farmers -
I'm sure the faux farmers - like the faux truckers in January - they weren't truckers we all know they weren't truckers - dumping manure on Ottawa streets and setting export grains on fire - will win them the same lack of support from Canadians they got in January.
There were many brand new
There were many brand new John Deere farm machines used in an anti-vaxx convoy in Edmonton during the weekend seiges at the beginning fo the year.
One wonders who financed all these expensive, brand new machines? Where these farm machines insured for use during a protest in a city? Does John Deere anti-vaxx the convoy domestic terrorists now infesting Canada? How much did Alberta tax payers subidize all the farm vehicles used to protest the government through the Alberta Farm Fuel Benefit?
I talked to a number of the young rural people who came to distrupt Edmonton. I was saddened by the ignorance and lack of curiosity. I can see why rural Albertans only vote one way, often against their own interests.
Happily, I will be exiting Alberta soon and moving back to Canada!
Read the "Prize 3" essay from a young Alberta girl. Recently removed from the UCP government web site but still here: https://web.archive.org/web/20220731002159/https://www.assembly.ab.ca/me...
should be "Does John Deere
should be "Does John Deere support the anti-vaxx convoys of domestic terrorists now infesting Canada"
Lucky you, but where are you
Lucky you, but where are you moving that feels like Canada? Any province with a conservative government is at risk....
BC! It's beauty is way more
BC! It's beauty is way more diverse and it's just next door! The South Coast alone has a population that is equivalent to ~75% of Alberta's and is as diverse as the surrounding mountain-ocean landscape with a higher than average liberal-mindedness and tolerance. Half of the Coastal population (~3.5 million) is firmly against TMX, and half of the rest are ambivalent. Hardly ripping support. More than half of Vancouverites speak English as a second language and have offered the Metro new layers of culture and perspective, not to mention exciting food. Absolutely love it!
I made the move 43 years ago after nearly a quarter century there and have never gone back, except for increasingly frequent elder care trips before my parents passed off this mortal coil in the 20-teens. On the plane home from my mother's funeral in the summer of 2015 I remember looking down at the receding Calgary cityscape and thinking, I don't have any reason to return. But I will miss certain relatives and friends, and the mountains, foothills, prairie fields and river valleys.
A couple of years later TMX blasted its way into the BC psyche and the anti-BC rhetoric from Alberta became acidic, repulsive and highly unprofessional, notably at the highest levels -- Rachel Notley, Jason Kenney, the Calgary Herald editorial board, CPC and CAAP talking heads -- and as seen in online comments extolling extremist sentiments. At the point where TMX tactics became offensive against local city councils and provincial officials, I made an email promise to some family and friends to never return to their province, which offended some of them. Well, tough. My closest family and circle of friends reside on the Coast. Alberta doesn't need me, and I certainly don't need Alberta. Go ahead, cut off the oil. I live in a walkable community and I'm ready.
One event stands out. If the BC wine industry needs a boost in sales, just have the Alberta premier ban it. Sales were never better when locals British Columbians bought cases en masse. Some even smuggled trunkloads of BC wine into Alberta. The manager of the largest liquor store in the province said he couldn't keep enough stock on the shelves. And he pointed out that several wineries are partly owned by Albertan oil executives. Oh, the irony.
BC of course. The politics
BC of course. The politics aren't much better but the people sure are. The stereotypical rube Albertans who run the province are ignorant, selfish assholes whose idea of long term is three months.
The money I extracted was good though :-)
All the status quo activists
All the status quo activists are acting out of existential fear and the fervid unwillingness to accept any change - even though the current situation is less than healthy. When the wildfires come to consume you - do you run or fight? Risk assessment is essential to survival and wilful ignorance will not help make the decision.
The risk averse in our complex societies are acting in the interest of extinction. Humanity exists only because our genetic forebears were willing to take risks
Speaking of farmers and John
Speaking of farmers and John Deere, which supports anti-vaxx domestic terrorists.....
Oooops. Turns out John Deere may be less than ethical on more fronts .