Enviros need to get social, says Marshall Ganz

By Gregory Dicum

Most of us can probably name a grandfather or great-aunt who was active in a chapter of a national association. My own uncle was a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Yet how many of us can say the same about ourselves?

Marshall Ganz.

As voluntary associations fade from our cultural landscape, political participation is threatened, especially on the left, says sociologist Marshall Ganz. And, he says, that trend is undermining the environmental movement, which has long depended on engaged members to carry its banner. That’s why Sierra Club leaders recently turned to Ganz to figure out how to get people fired up again.

In 1964, Ganz dropped out of Harvard to become a civil-rights organizer in Mississippi. The next year, he returned to California, where he had grown up the son of a rabbi and a teacher, to work for Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers, eventually becoming the director of organizing. In 1991, after years of union, electoral, and community organizing work, he returned to Harvard to finish his undergraduate degree. And he’s been there ever since: a Ph.D. in sociology in 2000 led to Ganz’s current position as a lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

His background led Ganz to the study of social movements, and the ways in which leadership and direction are nurtured. Now he focuses on finding ways to revitalize democratic organizations, develop their leadership, and engage their members — work that he says is critical to rebuilding a base of political power on the left. To that end, he has worked with the Howard Dean campaign and the national Democratic Party, as well as in local campaigns around the country. His just-completed, two-year project for the Sierra Club examined the group’s organizational effectiveness, pointing the way toward energizing its 750,000 members as the core of a revitalized environmental movement.

This fall, the largest-ever meeting of Sierra Club members convened in San Francisco as a way to begin the club’s revitalization. Grist caught up with Ganz after that gathering.

Much of your work has looked at social organizations that sound a little quaint in an age of online connectivity — the Loyal Order of Moose comes to mind. What did those organizations provide that’s lacking today?

Traditionally, membership associations, volunteer organizations, and advocacy organizations provided connective tissue between citizens and government, and public policy in general. There’s been a substantial breakdown in that over the last 30 or 40 years, and it’s left a vacuum.

What’s replaced the traditional organizations are these mailing-list operations — Greenpeace, Children’s Defense Fund, things like that. They’re like advocacy firms, where there’s a few professionals [who] do lobbying, but they don’t really have any kind of mobilizing capacity. They don’t provide vehicles for broad participation.

In these groups it’s very easy to disappear into an elitist mentality where, “Oh, everybody out there is dumb, so we gotta get with people like us and figure out the smart thing, blah blah blah.” Well, that’s deadly to a democratic movement that needs to be figuring out how to engage the broad community.

What’s missing is the link between them and groups that actually get people engaged. That process traditionally had a couple of important features: one was that it linked local with state with national; and secondly it brought people together and trained and developed leadership.

The word leadership figures heavily in your work. What do you mean when you use it?

Leadership is not just someone giving a good speech. Leaders are people actually capable of mobilizing other people and getting them engaged in public life and public action. Participation isn’t just a million individuals making individual choices: it’s a social activity in which some people take responsibility to mobilize others.

This may sound simplistic, but leadership means knowing how to have a good meeting: how to hear all sides, how to make a decision, how to include different points of view. It’s not a particularly mysterious skill set, but if people haven’t been trained in it, or they’ve only learned it as individuals and not as a group, then they don’t know how to do it.

In San Francisco, at the Sierra Summit, you said that “grassroots organizing is about building power.” What does that mean?

Well, the traditional formulation is that there’s two kinds of resources that can yield power: money and people. Democracy is a way to balance money with people. And for that to work, people have got to act together, because it’s through collective power that people can challenge the economic power of private wealth. So the goal is the power to alter policy, to alter circumstances, to change the world around you. It’s not just, you know, come to a nice meeting or something.

And the best way to reach that goal is through membership organizations?

Power is built in collective capacities — the capacity to act together. But that requires mastering the skills of collective action. And for years those skills were taught by large voluntary associations. But it’s sort of fallen into atrophy, and that’s actually where a lot of the Sierra Club groups and chapters are struggling. It’s not just that they’re trying to make better strategy, but they need to be able to mobilize their numbers.

That sounds like the kind of strength we’ve seen more of on the right than the left.

Well, [the right has] more successfully sustained the local/national linkage. We’ve seen that in election after election: they are able to put together local mobilization with national strategy in a way that has worked very well for them. National Right to Life, or the Christian Coalition as it used to be, or the NRA — those are national organizations that actually have local bases, and that actually mobilize them.

The right has this pre-existing base of church organizations. Isn’t that a big part of it?

That’s right, and they seem much more comfortable with a populist political style. They seem much more to “get it” about … being committed and cooperating with other committed people, and going out and evangelizing more. There is an evangelic spirit in their movement that is a great strength to them.

Church-based organizing has also been effective on the left: civil rights-era black churches produced some of the greatest leaders in American history. But they were having weekly meetings of their congregations. Is there anything with that kind of regularity in the environmental movement or in liberal society in general right now?

No, but what’s interesting is that people who came together weekly came together to worship, right? And worship was a collective activity. They weren’t coming together to do something that they could have done individually.

That’s why the Sierra Club’s recreational side is a tremendous strength. Because people come together to do that stuff, and they need to come together in order to do it. It gives the organization a reason to exist aside from getting together and figuring out what to do about public policy.

What do you see as promising sources for leadership on the left? Where do people get it?

I think if the Sierra Club buys into [the idea that it can be an incubator for leadership] it can have a huge impact on the environmental movement. Unions are [also] very important, the SEIU [Service Employees International Union] in particular, and a reenergized labor movement could really help with this. There’s a lot of activity in new immigrant communities — they’re much friendlier to this kind of approach and have had more success with it. Churches have a lot of experience in working in the way that I’m describing. That’s mainly benefited the right; it could benefit the left.

Conspicuously absent from that list are political parties.

Well, the logical thing would be political parties, and in any other industrial democracy it would be a political party. But we have such a screwy electoral system … political parties have become marketing instruments: it’s all about polling and about message and message delivery. There’s really no investment in, interest in, or even understanding of organization building. In the 2004 election, even ACT [America Coming Together] and the other groups were all canvassing operations, which is simply a way of marketing person-to-person as opposed to marketing over the phone. But actually creating collective capacity, organizing groups, developing leadership, and creating organizational capacity? That wasn’t happening — that’s what was missing.

Talk of organization often seems to have a corporate model as the underlying mind-set. It’s common to see MBAs coming into an advocacy situation trying to apply those skills. Is that part of the problem?

I think it’s a huge problem. For many years, the model of large organization in America was representative organization. Then, toward the end of the 19th century, corporate organization became an alternate model. One was about representation, the other was about control.

So now, as the interests and constituencies represented by large organizations like unions have been losing ground, and as this whole market thing has come to be so dominant since Reagan, and public institutions themselves have been increasingly viewed as illegitimate, everybody says, “Well, we gotta do everything like the private sector; we have to do everything like the market.”

It means that creative, intelligent individuals can legitimate a way of operating that doesn’t require them to engage with a constituency, to educate, to lead, to bring people together — to do the kinds of things that people used to have to do to earn leadership in a large organization. It lends itself to a very elitist approach to social change.

Yeah, I’ve noticed a lot of executive directors recently calling themselves CEOs.

Oh yeah. They call them CEOs, they have marketing plans. See, the language is a real giveaway: the language expresses an understanding of how organizations work that makes them basically a question of command and control. And so you wind up with this pull to make advocacy groups look more and more like firms: with boards of directors, managers, efficiency tests, and so forth — not as inclusive, mobilizing social movements or democratic organizations, which is a really different proposition.

What do you make of the demographic overlap between the corporate and environmental worlds? Environmentalists are often typecast as middle-class and white, just like the people who run corporations.

To me that’s one of the great potentials of the environmental movement. It is a middle-class constituency that is committed to a set of values that are not market-driven. It’s a set of values that requires strong public action in order to protect common interests and the common good. The movement plays a very important role in which middle-class, educated people are challenged to turn their values into political action and community action.

A lot of Grist readers — and writers — are the classic sort of environmentalists who recycle and have compact fluorescents and that sort of thing. They’re very on top of the consumer end of environmentalism. So do they need to plug into this organizational end?

Is living your life in an individually responsible way enough to bring about the kind of change that you would hope for? I think the answer is no. It takes collective action. It takes mastering the tools of power, because there are very powerful institutions committed to making your preferred way of life impossible.

Enviros need to get social, says activist-turned-sociologist Marshall Ganz

Coal Dust, Pollution and the Port of North Vancouver

Not many pay attention. But here are pictures of attempts to suppress coal dust in Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver. The coal piles are being sprayed with water and chemicals to suppress the dust. The issue is; is any agency monitoring the run-off pollution into Burrard Inlet and the effect on water and wildlife? The last picture in the series are oil tank cars in North Vancouver by the Port of North Vancouver.

Coal Port of North Vancouver
Coal Port of North Vancouver
Coal Port of North Vancouver
Coal Port of North Vancouver
Coal Port of North Vancouver

Oil train car Port of North Vancouver

Oil train car Port of North Vancouver

REPORT: Rally to mark 6th Anniversary of the Westridge pipeline rupture

Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE) organized a rally on July 24, 2013 to mark the 6th anniversary of the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline rupture on Inlet Drive, Burnaby. In that pipeline accident, 240,000 liters of crude oil was spilled, residents had to be evacuated, some required hospitalization, homes were covered by oil and some leaked into Burrard Inlet. 14 million has been spent on remediation but the area has not been totally cleaned to this day. The accident occurred because Kinder Morgan did not maintain an accurate map of the pipeline location and so a construction crew inadvertently ruptured the aging pipeline. The Kinder Morgan pipeline rupture was the worst so far in the Lower Mainland. Speakers Included Carleen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Mary Hatch of BROKE, Pietro Calendino, Councilor, City of Burnaby and Kennedy Sewart, MP, Burnaby North.


Global News report of the rally.


Pietro Caledino, Burnaby City Council

Kennedy Stewart, MP Burnaby North

Carleen Thomas, Tsleil-Waututh Nation

Mary Hatch, BROKE

Westridge Rally July 24 in pictures

Colleen Thomas Mary Hatch
Kennedy Stewart, MP Burnaby North Pietro Calendinoh
Westridge Rally Westridge Rally
Westridge Rally Kinder Morgan Tanks and Berth
Chevron Refinery Chevron Refinery

Bubbling bitumen a black eye for oil industry

When it comes to describing the accident at the Canadian Natural Resources’ oilsands operation near Cold Lake, “leak” doesn’t do it justice. Neither does “spill.”

A “leak” can be plugged. A “spill” implies a one-time event.

What’s happening at CNRL’s project is neither. For the last three months, 7,300 barrels of bitumen have uncontrollably bubbled to the surface from deep underground and seeped into muskeg and water on four sites at the company’s operations, creating an ecological mess, killing wildlife and damaging the reputation of CNRL in particular and the oilsands industry in general.

The company has cut down trees, hauled away tons of oily muskeg and put containment booms on a contaminated lake. But the bitumen keeps coming, seeping out of the ground through long, narrow fissures. Not only has CNRL been unable to stop it, the company doesn’t know for sure why it keeps coming.

The Pembina Institute based in Calgary disturbingly describes the leak as an “uncontrolled blowout in an oil reservoir deep underground.”

On the surface, though, it is not a “geyser” as some environmental groups have dramatically described the flow. It’d be more accurate to say the ground is suppurating bitumen, or maybe festering. Or, if you insist on being dramatic, weeping.

But those descriptors don’t do justice to the size of the surface contamination. Enough bitumen has oozed out of the ground to half fill an Olympic swimming pool. Put another way, in volume, it’s about one-third the size of the Enbridge accident that dumped more than 20,000 barrels of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010, causing the largest inland pipeline spill in United States history and creating an $800-million cleanup job.

No matter the size or how you describe it, an oil spill is not a pretty sight, not that it’s been easy to take a peek at the CNRL accident. The affected area is not only remote, it is on the Cold Lake Air Weapons range, which means it is out of bounds to civilians. Its inaccessibility has made the story all the more intriguing to journalists, not only in Canada but around the world.

On Thursday, company and military officials took a gaggle of local, national and international reporters to the site to see for themselves. My colleague, Sheila Pratt, was among them and reported that 200 workers are urgently trying to clean up the mess and prevent migrating birds from landing on a small lake in the contaminated area: “In an effort to scare off birds, noise cannons are booming, flags flutter on the site, decoys of predators dot the lake and bizarre mannequins peek out of trees,” wrote Pratt.

The problem seems to be related to the company’s in situ process for recovering bitumen. In what’s called “high-pressure cyclic steam stimulation,” CNRL injects steam into deep wells to melt the bitumen. After weeks of injection, the process is reversed and bitumen pumped to the surface. CNRL officials think the leak was caused by an old well bore that couldn’t withstand the massive underground pressure and they say the problem should improve as the underground pressure decreases.

However, the province’s governmental watchdog, the Alberta Energy Regulator, says it’s too early to reach any conclusions about the cause, and the regulator has ordered the company to stop steaming in the affected area. There remains the possibility the problem was the result of a crack in the overlying cap rock created by the high-pressure steaming process. That would be a much larger problem for CNRL. It’s one thing for the company to plug up an old cracked well bore, but quite another to deal with cracks in a geological formation.

It would also be a much larger problem for the oilsands industry that is moving away from open pit mining to in situ methods designed to be less environmentally disruptive. The CNRL incident is raising troubling questions and providing ammunition for environmental groups to once again attack the industry.

Also troubling is the fact this is the second CNRL leak in the same area. In 2009, 5,600 barrels seeped into the environment. A cause was never conclusively reached, but the provincial regulator said “geological weakness, in combination with stress induced by high pressure steam injection” may have contributed to the incident.

Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema says regulators need to review the in situ methods: “How do we identify what formations are safe to take high-pressure steam?”

Given that the industry plans to recover 80 per cent of the oilsands through the in situ process, CNRL and regulators must come up with some answers. The first and most obvious is what happened at the operations near Cold Lake?

It doesn’t matter if you call it a leak or a spill or an underground blowout — we need to know what caused it and what it means to the integrity of the oilsands industry.

Graham Thomson is a columnist with the Edmonton Journal.
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Harper government faces legal challenge over rules restricting pipeline comments

Environmentalists have launched a court challenge attempting to strike down Harper government legislation that restricts public comment on energy proposals, including Enbridge’s proposed Line 9B Reversal, which runs in part through the Toronto region.

ForestEthics Advocacy and activist Donna Sinclair — represented by civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby — filed the suit Tuesday in Federal Court. The application asks the court to throw out new rules created by the National Energy Board, on the grounds that they violate Charter rights and silence dissent.

“Freedom of expression, guaranteed under the Constitution to all Canadians, is vitally important,” said Ruby at a news conference. “The government can only interfere with that right if they can justify it under the Charter.”

Under the new rules, introduced in the federal government’s 2012 omnibus budget bill C-38, Canadians may no longer freely show up at public hearings on energy proposals and present their opinion or send a written statement to the energy board.

Instead they must fill out a nine-page application to the board justifying their right to speak on the issue. The board then decides which individuals or organizations get to comment, reserving the right to refuse anyone who isn’t “directly” affected by the matter.

Ruby pointed out that during the Enbridge Northern Gateway hearings that took place in British Columbia before the new rules came in, 1,544 people or entities gave testimony. This year, under the new rules, only 175 will be heard.

“What they want to do is reduce the number of critics that can be heard,” he said. “That chilling effect works. Few people are willing to take the time or feel comfortable enough to fill out a nine-page form.”

The lawsuit names the National Energy Board and the Attorney General of Canada. The board declined to comment on a matter that’s before the courts, while the attorney-general is named as a formality.

Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver defended the rules.

“Focusing submissions ensures the review is informed by the facts material to the scope of the hearing and protects it from being used as a tool to delay decisions,” he said in a statement.

Oliver said the rules were implemented after more than 4,000 people signed up for the Northern Gateway hearing, but less than a third showed up.
Ruby is also seeking an injunction to prevent the energy board from making a recommendation to cabinet on Enbridge’s Line 9B application until after the court challenge is wrapped up.

Line 9 is a pipeline built in the 1970s to carry oil from Montreal to Sarnia. It runs roughly parallel to the north shore of Lake Ontario and crosses the GTA. In Toronto, it runs near Finch Ave.

Enbridge now wants to reverse the flow of the 9B section of the pipeline to carry western oil east. It also plans to boost the line’s flow to 300,000 barrels a day from 240,000 barrels a day, carrying either conventional crude or diluted bitumen from the oilsands.

Plaintiff Donna Sinclair applied to write a letter outlining her environmental concerns about the Line 9B proposal. However, she was rejected because she does not live close enough to the pipeline and is not considered to be “directly” affected.

The new rules also limit the topics that can be discussed at hearings. The application form states: “The Board will not consider the environmental and socio-economic effects associated with upstream activities, the development of oilsands, or the downstream use of the oil transported by the pipeline.”

Public hearings for the Line 9B reversal are planned for the fall. Of the 177 parties that applied, 60 have been granted the right to speak and 110 have been granted the right to submit a letter of comment, said energy board spokeswoman Carole Léger-Kubeczek.

The omnibus budget bill also took final decision-making power over energy proposals out of the hands of the board and transferred it to the federal cabinet. Despite this, members of ForestEthics Advocacy say that public hearings still matter.

“Canadians deserve the right to engage freely in these debates,” said group member Tzeporah Berman. “We deserve the right to say yes or no and not have the process harshly limited by our own government in favour of big oil.”
With files from John Spears



PROTEST AND GATHERING, at the Coquihalla summit, on Saturday, August 17, at 11:00 AM

11:00 – 11:10 Welcome and outline of day’s events, David Ellis, bookseller and pipeline critic

11:00 – 2:00 speakers, from the Fraser Watershed, and Lower Mainland
Chief Art Adolph, Chair, Lillooet Tribal Council
Chief Archie Patrick, Stellat’en First Nation, Nadleh Bun (Fraser Lake)
Mr. Guy Dunstan, Aboriginal fisherman, Siska, B.C. (near Lytton)
Mr. Eddie Gardner, member, Skwah First Nation (Stolo), Coordinator, Feedlot Salmon Boycott in Chilliwack, founding member, The Water Wealth Project, Chilliwack
Mr. Roy Sakata, Former Commercial Salmon Fisherman, Retired School Principal, Educational Consultant
Ms. Susan Davidson and Mr. Michael Hale, PIPE UP Network, “leaving fossil fuels in the ground and getting alternatives in place now, so we can phase out fossil fuels”
Mr. Stan Proboszcz, Watershed Watch “Biological Effects of Oil on Juvenile Salmonids”

(note: more speakers, are much welcome; also can anyone bring some tarps? so we can give some shade)


2:00: Begin hike down 2 miles to the recent oil spill site in the Coquihalla Canyon
2:20 – 2:35 Information session and photo op, at the “Coquihalla Jump Off”, an area rated “Class 4, extreme” on new Kinder Morgan maps, and thus very probably the next major oil spill location; David Ellis will speak and technical handouts will be provided
2:35: begin walk to recent spill site
2:50: arrive at recent spill site. Photo op of the spill site, and of the isolated and steep Coquihalla canyon below, inaccessible for 5 winter months every year, making a “world class spill response” impossible. Information session: David Ellis will provide technical handouts. Speakers to the spill issue, invited.

Kinder Morgan has been holding “Information Sessions” throughout the Fraser watershed. These have not taken into account the other side of the story, the story of the salmon people.

Also invited to the “Information Sessions”, are the Premier of British Columbia (now declined) the Prime Minister, the First Nations of the Fraser watershed, the sport and commercial fishing communities, the conservation community, and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners’ (NYSE:KMP)

David Ellis cell 604-916-6081

Alberta Oil Spill History Uncovered, 1975-2013

Leslie Young, Anna Mehler Paperny, Francis Silvaggio, and a production team from GlobalNews.ca have just compiled and published the most comprehensive chronology of Alberta oil spills, spanning a period from 1975 to 2013. Following an eleven-month investigation, the reporters acquired a nearly complete set of records regarding spills of crude oil, crude bitumen, and synthetic crude in the province of Alberta for the past thirty-seven years. The data came from Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development and the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), revealing the spill volume, location, cause of spill, and facility operator for each spill incident.

Here are some of the highlights from this ground-breaking report:

Since 1975, Alberta has averaged two oil spills every day

Between 1975-2013, Alberta’s oil pipeline transportation network (which now totals more than 400,000 kilometres) has suffered 28,666 crude oil spills

The largest oil spill in Alberta since 1975 occurred in December 1980 on a pipeline operated by Pembina that released more than 6.5 million litres of crude oil (41,500
barrels) into an area east of Valleyview

The province does not keep records of oil spills under 2,000 litres that originate from somewhere other than a pipeline (wells, pump stations, etc…)

The most useful feature of this impressive investigative report is its geographic information. The GlobalNews.ca team acquired geographic data for each of the 28,666 crude oil spills and plotted that data on a searchable map. While I hope the team makes this data readily available for other researchers, the current tools are quite useful for understanding the spatial dimensions of this history of oil spills:

Map of the Number Oil Spills in Alberta, 1975-2013

This map plots the number of oil spills on pipelines and other facilities regulated by the Energy Resources Conservation Board between 1975 and 2013. It is searchable by company and by cause. Unfortunately, the data on this map is not sortable and it cannot be extracted easily for further analysis.

Look-Up Map of the Volume and Location of Oil Spills in Alberta, 1975-2013

This map shows the volume, location, operator, and cause of all oil spills in Alberta on pipelines and other facilities regulated by the Energy Resources Conservation Board. It includes a tool to search by location. Again, this map has its limits. For some reason, users cannot zoom out fully to see the entire map of Alberta. It also does not permit users to extract the data for analysis.

In spite of the inability to analyze this data with more detail, this report is outstanding. It comprehensively uncovers the chronology of oil spills in Alberta history in staggering detail and provides excellent context and analysis of the contemporary regulations that govern the industry. This work now calls for historians to chart the findings on a timeline, analyze the data, and explain the context for this important period of Canadian economic and environmental history.

Such analysis of historical data is necessary for assessing the potential risks associated with future oil pipeline construction. The most recent field surveillance summary report from ERCB indicates that liquid hydrocarbon spills on pipelines and other oil facilities continues to be a problem in the province of Alberta. In 2011, more than 5 million litres of liquid hydrocarbons spilled on the provincial oil pipeline network. According to ERCB data in this report, the volume of oil spills has been variable from year to year, spiking in certain years as a result of particular catastrophic oil spills, such as the 2011 spill near Little Buffalo. Hopefully, the complete set of oil spill records from ERCB will be made publicly available online so that researchers can analyze the complete timeline of this important historical period.

Willingdon’s Community Fair

Willingdon’s Community Fair

Date: August 15, 2013
Time: 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Location: Willingdon Community Centre
1491 Carleton Avenue
Burnaby, BC
Carnival games, raffles, barbecue, displays and live entertainment. Rain or shine!

Willingdon’s Community Fair

Kensington Community Fair

Date: August 10, 2013
Time: 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Location: Kensington Park
Kensington & Hastings
Burnaby, BC
BROKE Tables

David Ellis: A Pipeline the PQ Should Learn to Like

“A Pipeline the PQ Should Learn to Like” Editorial, the Globe and Mail, Friday, August 2, 2013

The Editor, the Globe and Mail

According to the website of the existing Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, this pipe, often carries gasoline, as well as heavy crude.

Thus the Quebec tragedy should actually now be a warning bell for B.C. residents along the pipeline route, both through the dry interior, and the heavily populated lower mainland areas. What if the spills in Burnaby, Abbotsford, or the Coquihalla, had been gasoline, and had ignited? Whole communities, such as Kamloops and Hope, and our forests, are also at risk.