- by Douglas Nadler

“Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top, top priority for everyone, everywhere.” António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

“The first step to fighting the extinction of countless species and the scourge of global poverty is to turn off the spigot of dangerous fossil fuels. That’s the only way we can build a just, peaceful future that protects the dignity of humanity and all life on Earth.” Jean Su, director of the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Globally, governments spend three times more money on fuel subsidies than the annual amount needed to eradicate poverty.” UN Development Programme.

Two weeks ago, in my article “Colonialism’s legacy brings havoc today to Earth inhabitants,” I explored how colonialism’s 500-year impact and ultimately the expanding use of fossil fuels to further conquest have never stopped. In Canada, the vast expansion of tailing lakes (now covering more than 100 square miles) that hold toxic waste resulting from bitumen extraction from tar sands—by no means a low-energy process—is hazardous for wildlife and humans. Indigenous groups no longer drink water or fish from the Athabasca River, which runs through the tar sands. Migrating birds die in the tailing lakes. Air and water pollution are constant sources of health problems in the area, but the industry’s boreal deforestation and wetland clearance also contribute to an utterly depleted land. (A quick look on Google Earth at the astonishingly large area of tar sands exploitation will convince any sceptic of its immensity.) Although it would take around 33 billion dollars to clean up these toxic sites, only 1.5 billion has so far been given by the multinationals. [https://tinyurl.com/ecocide-tar-sands] Whether an oil company is in Canada, Iraq or Nigeria, no consideration is given for the welfare of wildlife or local people. Large-scale oil extraction is generally a poor excuse for disappearing democracies

To truly understand the extent of the misery dealt to most of the world’s populations, this article looks at how fossil fuel extraction guts the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A 118-page report, Fuelling Failure: How coal, oil and gas sabotage all seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (FF), documents how insidious climate breakdown brought on by fossil fuel industries undermined the 2015 launch of these goals (further separated into 169 targets), which need to be achieved by 2030. The goals were created after the UN Millennium Goals ended in near-failure.

What can be done? Is the implementation of these laudable goals to be left solely to governments? Are not individuals also responsible for the success of a liveable planet?

When 6 out of 10 new cars sold in Canada are gas-guzzling SUVs, who is listening to the scientists? SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global carbon emissions from 2010 to 2018 and continue usually to increase their pollution as they get bigger and heavier. Individuals clearly need to re-evaluate their priorities and not wait for governments to legislate a quick pathway to shutting down oil extraction, as they are capable of initiating important changes.

In contrast to colonialism’s myopic view of the world, consider that for tens of thousands of years Indigenous communities have had no need to consciously contemplate creating a “sustainable” approach to life, simply because their entire way of existence is a testament to that way of thinking. In a deeply tragic though seemingly optimistic sense, the SDGs aim to give back to those communities and the rest of the world what colonialism takes away: a oneness with the rest of Nature.

SDG 1 speaks of “No Poverty,” yet climate breakdown caused by oil, gas and coal contributes massively to drought and floods, thus taking away already fragile livelihoods. Canada has been one of the worst offenders, giving generous fuel subsidies while allowing its Indigenous peoples to die from a lack of sanitation and clean drinking water.

SDG 13, “Climate Action,” speaks of ending the aggressive lobbying and misinformation perpetrated by fossil fuel industries as well as their total lack of ambition to do anything of significance to foster renewable energies, despite the greenwashed promises to transition to them. Not only is worldwide poverty worsening, with the gulf widening between rich and poor through the expanding use of fossil fuel and its disastrous transportation infrastructure, but also education prospects for children, and especially girls, are hampered by increasing extreme weather conditions that stop regular attendance at schools. These ramifications of fossil fuel monopolies on energy can also be found in other SDGs.

SDG 2 is “Zero Hunger.” Like its UN Millennium predecessor, it strives to accomplish this, but recently there has been backsliding on achieving this goal. For example, major climate-induced heatwaves in India have halted the export of grains. Temperatures of 40-plus Celsius make for smaller harvests, and elevated levels of carbon dioxide have been shown to lower nutritional levels in wheat, corn and rice, with a direct link to child wellbeing. Ukraine is no longer able to feed 400 million people, because oil and gas revenues are funding the Russian invasion, which is preventing Ukraine sunflower oil and wheat from getting to world markets. Food prices are soaring, so that people already affected by marginal incomes face starvation, and others are looking at extreme food insecurity.

SDG 3 is “Good Health and Well-being.” The documentation of air pollution on health that is caused primarily by burning fossil fuels is not new. “Roughly 8.7 million people died prematurely due to fossil fuel pollution every year between 2012 and 2018. The worsening climate crisis, driven by fossil fuels, is linked with increases in disease, infant mortality and displacement…” [FF]

SDG 14 sets out the goals for “Life Below Water,” and SDG 15, for “Life On Land.” Both are increasingly put at risk by the construction of pipelines that destroy forests and rip out corridors of biodiversity. “In the U.S. alone, there have been more than 3,300 incidents of oil and gas pipeline leaks and ruptures since 2010.” [FF] Coal, oil and gas extraction are continually suffering infrastructure failure, which quickly renders the sites ecocide zones. The use of water for extracting methane by fracking alone creates toxic conditions for communities. And let us not ever forget how the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster changed the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico.

Please see the short executive summary of Fuelling Failure to better understand how fossil fuel addiction has a calamitous impact on the SDGs: https://tinyurl.com/fuelling-failure-summary

June 8 is World Water Day and the prime message for 2022 was “revitalization” of our oceans. Rising sea levels and increasing temperatures threaten life on Earth. Collective action is being called for, but how will that be possible unless fossil fuel exploration and extraction are quickly prohibited? “Our oceans…are under severe threat from a variety of sources, including plastic pollution, acidification, eutrophication, ocean heating, overfishing and marine ecosystem collapse. At 2°C of global heating, 99 percent of coral reefs are forecast to enter decline.” [FF] Fossil fuel production must therefore be rapidly constrained, Fuelling Failurestresses. Governments must have programs that give oil workers a way to transition to renewable energy work. Canada’s present government has promised to do so, but those efforts are not to be found easily.

Recently I read an article by a biologist who said that the “seven deadly sins” found in Christian thought did not include the greatest collective sin, which is allowing climate breakdown to happen. The UN Sustainable Development Goals are meant to bring all of humanity and other species into an equitable and compassionate community. By not accelerating a phasing-out of oil production, we cannot attain our finest capacity for ethical accountability. Oil is not compatible with our most lofty goals. Humanity must do what is necessary to rid the world of fossil fuels, and do it now. Clearly, everything is at stake.







CopyRight ©2015, ©2016, ©2017 of Hub Content
is held by content creators