Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?

A new study sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of ‘collapse’ are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.” Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to “precipitous collapse – often lasting centuries – have been quite common.”

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary ‘Human And Nature DYnamical’ (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:

“The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.”

By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.

These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity”; and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” These social phenomena have played “a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse,” in all such cases over “the last five thousand years.”

Currently, high levels of economic stratification are linked directly to overconsumption of resources, with “Elites” based largely in industrialised countries responsible for both:

“… accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels.”

The study challenges those who argue that technology will resolve these challenges by increasing efficiency:

“Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use.”

Productivity increases in agriculture and industry over the last two centuries has come from “increased (rather than decreased) resource throughput,” despite dramatic efficiency gains over the same period.

Modelling a range of different scenarios, Motesharri and his colleagues conclude that under conditions “closely reflecting the reality of the world today… we find that collapse is difficult to avoid.” In the first of these scenarios, civilisation:

“…. appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature.”

Another scenario focuses on the role of continued resource exploitation, finding that “with a larger depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse completely, followed by the Elites.”

In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most “detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners”, allowing them to “continue ‘business as usual’ despite the impending catastrophe.” The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how “historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases).”

Applying this lesson to our contemporary predicament, the study warns that:

“While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society in order to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory ‘so far’ in support of doing nothing.”

However, the scientists point out that the worst-case scenarios are by no means inevitable, and suggest that appropriate policy and structural changes could avoid collapse, if not pave the way toward a more stable civilisation.

The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth:

“Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion.”

The NASA-funded HANDY model offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business – and consumers – to recognise that ‘business as usual’ cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately.

Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies – by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance – have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a ‘perfect storm’ within about fifteen years. But these ‘business as usual’ forecasts could be very conservative.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

Public forums with Richard Smith

Corporations are relentlessly cooking the climate, wiping out life on earth, and driving us off the cliff to ecological collapse. Can this be stopped? Can our capitalist economic system be made to respect humans and the environment? Is there any better alternative to capitalism? March 24, 2014. Vancouver Public Library https://www.facebook.com/events/232051730312093/
Sponsors
Dept Sociology and Anthro SFU, Ecosocialist

Artist leading ‘people’s procession’ against pipeline

Local opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion is taking on an artistic twist, with a collaborative “people’s procession” along the pipeline route.

Vancouver artist Gabriel Mindel-Saloman has teamed up with Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion for a walk along the pipeline’s existing route and the proposed expansion routes.

“The idea behind the Burnaby walk was to try and map the pipeline route but to try and do it using something different than the maps Kinder Morgan and the government provide, and to use our bodies,” Mindel-Saloman said.
The people’s procession is set for Saturday, April 12 and is part of a bigger local rally and flotilla on the Burrard Inlet, opposing the pipeline. The walk starts at 10 a.m. at Forest Grove Park, on the south side of Burnaby Mountain. The procession goes past the Kinder Morgan tank farm to Squint Lake Park, then down to the Westridge area for the rally and towards the water for a flotilla with residents from the North Shore.

The procession will include artistic elements, such as music and performance, and Mindel-Saloman is hoping participants will bring their own creativity to the event. He’s already held a workshop at the Burnaby Art Gallery, inviting BROKE members and local residents to create screen prints related to the procession.

The Burnaby piece is part of Spaces of Contestation, a larger show featuring four artist-led walks that examines collective walks and protests as performance. For instance, one artist is designing a walk with at-risk First Nations youth, and another is working with dancers and decommissioned library books. The four walks will be featured in an exhibition at UNIT/PITT Projects, an east Vancouver gallery.

Burnaby residents can expect to see some of the elements from the local walk at the gallery, including a pipeline map Mindel-Saloman is creating as part of the project. The map will incorporate elements from stories about people’s relationships to the pipeline. (For example, Mindel-Saloman has talked to a woman whose family owned a farm in the
Westridge neighbourhood. The property was expropriated when the line was first built in the 1950s. He’s also including the 2007 pipeline rupture, when homes in the Westridge neighbourhood were sprayed with crude.) Copies of the map will be available through BROKE and the UNIT/PITT Projects gallery during the exhibition.

Mariane Bourcheix-Laporte is curating the show for UNIT/PITT Projects. The NOW asked her what made the Burnaby walk art and not simply another protest.

“In the larger scope, it fits within what we call a social practice, which is a type of artwork that developed in the 1990s, where the process is more the artwork than the end results. I think all of the collaboration we’ve had with BROKE would fit within that, … The artwork becomes more (about) conversations that happen,” Bourcheix-Laporte said. “The line becomes quite fine in this area,” she added.

Local resident Ruth Walmsley, an active member of BROKE, said the event is not just a protest.

“We are hoping people will bring their creativity and their love for this place where we live and our desire to preserve the beauty of this place,” she said. “We are optimistically hoping we will get hundreds if not thousands of people to come out and walk the route of the existing and proposed routes of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and raise awareness of the risks it poses to us in our community.”

Walmsley is also hoping to have a wide range of groups attend, including environmental organizations, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s Sacred Trust Initiative (the nation’s anti-Kinder Morgan campaign), SFU student groups and other residents’ organizations.

“Our biggest hope in fighting this whole pipeline issue is building a mass movement of people, who are aware of it and who are working together to deal with it,” Walmsley said.

For more information on the people’s procession, rally and flotilla, go to www.brokepipelinewatch.ca.

The UNIT/PITT Projects gallery is at 236 East Pender St., Vancouver. The exhibition starts March 22, but the opening is on April 18.

For more information on Spaces of Contestation, go to www.helenpittgallery.org.

© Burnaby Now

Another Firm That Evaluated Keystone For State Department Had Ties To TransCanada

WASHINGTON — The contractor that evaluated greenhouse gas emissions for the State Department’s Keystone XL report is the latest company to come under fire for its ties to TransCanada, the prospective builder of the controversial pipeline.

A conflict-of-interest statement from the consulting firm ICF International, submitted to the State Department in 2012, reveals that the company had done other work for TransCanada.

ICF International analyzed greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands oil, the kind that would flow through the pipeline, for the State Department’s supplemental draft environmental impact statement, released in March 2013. Its website states that the firm was hired to compare life-cycle emissions associated with oil derived from Canada’s tar sands to those associated with oil from conventional crude.

The final environmental impact statement (FEIS), released in January 2014, also includes ICF International on its list of preparers, with ICF staffers working on the greenhouse gas and market analysis portions of the report.

The FEIS concludes that the projected 830,000 barrels of oil that would flow through the pipeline every day would add between 147 million and 168 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere annually. But it also says that the pipeline would be “unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States.” In other words, the report concludes, those greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands oil would probably be produced with or without Keystone.

The State Department recently posted ICF’s conflict-of-interest forms on its website. Before it was approved to work on the supplemental draft EIS and the final EIS, the company had to make these disclosures.

ICF International submitted a letter dated Aug. 26, 2012, which said that the firm and its Canadian affiliate, ICF Consulting Canada Inc., had done work for TransCanada before. However, the letter said, “we have thoroughly considered the matter and are confident that this work does not represent an Organizational COI [conflict of interest] based on several important considerations detailed in the attached materials.”

Those earlier services included work as a subcontractor on the first environmental impact statement for Keystone XL released in August 2011, which was produced by the consulting firm Cardno ENTRIX. “This project represents by far the largest body of ICF work paid for by TransCanada,” ICF said in its letter. But it said the work did not constitute a conflict of interest because “the work was actually overseen and directed by the [State] Department.”

That kind of arrangement is, in fact, normal: A company seeking the State Department’s approval for a project with potential environmental impacts will fund contractors’ work on the EIS — instead of shifting the cost to the American taxpayer — while the department oversees the actual evaluation.

But that was not the ICF’s only tie to TransCanada. Its 2012 letter said that its Canadian affiliate had been retained by TransCanada Pipelines Limited since 2008 — and was still doing work at the time of the disclosure — “to provide advisory services related to air emissions issues associated with operations in Canada and the U.S.” Those services included “climate policy analysis and regulatory support.” ICF said that it was paid “less than $300,000” for that work between 2010 and August 2012, which accounted for “less than 0.1%” of its total revenues over that period. The company said that it believed the “nature and scale of this work do not represent an Organizational Conflict of Interest,” but that it would take “additional mitigation measures to ensure that no such conflict arises,” a description of which the company said appeared in its conflict-of-interest plans-and-procedures document. The State Department published the plans-and-procedures document, too, but it is heavily redacted and the mitigation steps are not visible.

ICF has also provided services to other oil interests that support the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The firm did consulting work in 2008 for the American Petroleum Institute, evaluating the potential effects on the oil and gas industry from greenhouse gases cap-and-trade legislation then under consideration in Congress. That study concluded that the bill would increase the cost of drilling and operating natural gas wells and would likely lead to a decrease in drilling.

Last year, InsideClimate News noted ICF’s work for pipeline and oil companies generally. The company does not list its clients online.

ICF’s disclosures feed into the allegations that environmental organizations have been making for months about contractors for the Keystone FEIS having conflicts of interest that should have precluded them from working on the report. The State Department’s Office of Inspector General released a report last month concluding that the department had adequately followed its conflict-of-interest procedures in selecting the main FEIS contractor, Environmental Resources Management. Pipeline supporters have said that the inspector general’s report should remove any remaining barriers to approving Keystone.

But the report also noted that the process for selecting contractors requires “very little” documentation and that while those “minimal requirements” had been met, the process “can be improved.” The inspector general had made similar comments about the process in February 2012, in response to earlier conflict-of-interest complaints regarding Cardno ENTRIX.

Now the ICF disclosure is renewing environmentalists’ criticism of the FEIS report. Ross Hammond, a senior climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said the disclosure is further evidence that the FEIS was “hopelessly compromised” and that the conflict-of-interest screening procedures “are a complete and total joke.”

“If there’s one thing that the oil industry and environmentalists agree on, it’s that Keystone XL is critical to developing the Canadian tar sands,” said Hammond. “By hiring a known TransCanada contractor to reach the opposite conclusion, State Department bureaucrats have proven that they simply cannot be trusted to oversee an objective and unbiased review of this controversial pipeline.”

Steve Anderson, ICF International’s senior director of public affairs, referred questions to the State Department.

“These documents were submitted to the State Department pursuant to our rigorous guidelines on selection of third party contractors,” said a State Department spokesperson in an email to The Huffington Post. “Every document submitted is thoroughly reviewed by the Department. The Office of Inspector General found that our processes not only avoided conflicts of interest, but were more rigorous than required.”

Environmental groups say that how much the pipeline will contribute to greenhouse gas emissions is a fundamental question for the Obama administration to consider as it decides whether to approve Keystone XL. While the FEIS concluded that the pipeline’s impact would be minimal, another recent study, from the group Carbon Tracker, argues that the State Department report fails to adequately consider the degree to which the pipeline would facilitate more rapid development of the tar sands because shipping the oil by pipeline is cheaper than shipping by rail. The Carbon Tracker study found that “KXL-enabled production” of tar sands oil would create as much as 5.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent by 2050.

President Barack Obama said in his climate change speech last June that Keystone should be approved only if it “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” The emissions question, he said, will be “absolutely critical to determining whether this project will go forward.”

“At this point, it’s no surprise to find yet other questionable consultant on the State Department’s Keystone XL environmental study. And it’s not surprising that an oil pipeline consultant that’s currently working for TransCanada would say there’s no conflict of interest,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “But what’s really important to keep in mind is that State’s study, compromised as it was, found that Keystone XL would create a significant amount of climate pollution — the equivalent of nearly 6 million automobiles — and that the final decision rests with President Obama.”

People’s Procession & Rally Against the Kinder Morgan Pipeline

Forest Grove Park, Squint Lake Park, Westridge area, Burrard Inlet

Take Action!

Join us on Saturday, April 12 as we walk and rally against the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline tripling the number of oil storage tanks on Burnaby Mountain and increasing the number of tankers having to pass through Burrard Inlet and Second Narrows to 408 per year.

This is a family-friendly event, with activities, speakers, artists and refreshments. Everyone is welcome!

There are two ways you can participate:
1. Join us in the Procession as we walk along a designated route to arrive at the final rally point:
• At 10 am, meet at Forest Grove Park in Burnaby
• At 10:30 am, there will be an opening ceremony and welcome
• Arrive at Squint Lake Park at 12:00 pm, where there will be speakers,
music and refreshments
• For those who don’t want to want the entire route, this is a good point at which to connect with the procession and walk the second part of the route to Westridge
• At 12:30 pm Continue down to Westridge area, arriving at 1:15 pm

2. Attend the Rally:
• Join us at Westridge Park at 1 pm for speakers, music and refreshments
• Leave Westridge at 2:30 pm to walk with us down to Westridge Terminal
• There will be a flotilla of boats organized by the North Shore NOPE in Burrard Inlet to see

The pipeline will be built near schools and homes, posing serious health and environmental risks with little to no economic benefit for our region. Larger and more tankers will pass through Second Narrows to ship heavy crude oil to China and other overseas markets. The tank farm sits on the side of Burnaby Mountain and will be built in one of the most seismically active areas in Canada. Everyone concerned about safety and climate change should join us as we take action in our people’s walk and rally. It will be a fun day of music, songs of resistance and organizing and all are welcome!

Event Partners:
• The Sacred Trust initiative of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation (http://twnsacredtrust.ca/)
• Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE)
• North Shore NOPE : No Pipeline Expansion
• Wilderness Committee
• VTACC – Voters on Climate Change (www.vtacc.org)
• Forest Ethics Advocacy (www.forestethics.org)
• Sustainable SFU (www.sustainablesfu.org, www.ancientforestalliance.org/)
• Vancouver Ecosocialist Group
• Vancouver Folk Song Society
• Pacific Wild Alliance (https://pacificwild.org/)
• BCEN – BC Environmental Network (www.ecobc.org)
• FORPA – Forest Protection Allies Association

Confirmed Speakers:
Shamentsut Slhanay – Greenpeace / Squamish First Nation
Kennedy Stewart MP
Forest Ethics Advocacy
Wilderness Committee

Big Oil Has No Place In Alberta School Curriculum Redesign: Critics

Major oil companies should not have a say in the redesign of Alberta’s school curriculum, say critics.

A document posted on the Alberta Education website this week shows companies like Cenovus Energy, Suncor Energy, Stantec, PCL Industrial Contractors and Syncrude Canada have been recruited to “help draft Alberta’s future curriculum for our students.”

The partnerships are part of a two-year education curriculum redesign, announced last month by Premier Alison Redford.

NDP Education critic Deron Bilous told the Calgary Sun the move is “appalling.”

“We’ve got corporations sitting down and redesigning curriculum. It’s no longer educators and experts. Is the purpose to develop, or is it to make young workers for the oil companies?” he asked.

Specifically, the plan includes Suncor Energy and Syncrude Canada consultation in the K-to-3 redesign, which doesn’t sit well with Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema.

“It’s time that the Alberta government realizes that what’s good for the oil industry isn’t what’s good for the rest of Alberta and especially not our children. While oil may run our cars for now it shouldn’t run our government or our schools. Ever,” he told DeSmog Canada.

However, Education Minister Jeff Johnson told the Edmonton Journal the province welcomes the opinions of critics and parents and it’s possible the model could change in the future, depending on the feedback received.

“We want the economy involved in the education system,” Johnson said Tuesday. “If we’re going to build a relevant education system, we need the voice of the employer, the business community, economic development — we need those people at the table.”

Oil and gas companies have shown increased interest in curriculum design in recent years, eager to partner with schools and teachers.

Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby group, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), partnered with the Royal Canadian Geographic Society to create ‘Energy IQ’ — an in-class learning curriculum designed to “teach Canadians about growing demand, the energy mix, emerging technologies, regulatory requirements and much more.”

In a blog post written for Huffington Post Canada last year, Cameron Fenton, National Director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, said ‘Energy IQ’ focuses on the positive aspects of Canada’s energy industry, ignoring other parts of the conversation.

“As a private company CAPP has a right to try and spread their spin by buying up advertising. As a publisher, Canadian Geographic has the same rights to work with whoever they want in putting out their magazine. They are more than welcome to erode their own credibility by putting out a magazine with CAPP, but neither of them have a right to bring Canada’s biggest oil lobby and public relations organization into schools.”
The Alberta government expects the curriculum changes to be rolled out by the 2016 school year.

Alberta Education curriculum redesign by Mariam Ibrahim

Former Liberal MLA gets $140,000 government job to study earthquake preparedness

VICTORIA — Former Liberal MLA John Les’s $140,000 new government job to study earthquake preparedness is an “outrageous” use of public funds and a patronage appointment that should be scrapped, critics charged Tuesday.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton’s announcement of the contract, which is part of a study into the province’s earthquake readiness, was quickly overshadowed by questions over whether she was awarding a lucrative gig to a Liberal friend.

“Mr. Les has the experience of being a former solicitor general and also his municipal experience,” said Anton. “That dual experience makes him extremely valuable to this project.”

Les, who was MLA from 2001 to 2009 and is also a former mayor of Chilliwack, will co-chair the earthquake study with Henry Renteria, a former director of the California Office of Emergency Services.

Both men will be paid hourly, with Les to a maximum of $140,000 and Renteria to a maximum of $100,000, said Anton.

Anton refused to say if there had been an open competition for the contracts, or if government considered anyone else but Les.

“I hope the public will look at it the way I look at it, that (Les) is an expert in this area,” said Anton. “He’s a very valuable commodity. A very valuable person to do this.”

Opposition critic Shane Simpson scoffed at the claim.

“Absolutely nothing makes him an expert in earthquake preparedness,” said Simpson. “This is simply the case of somebody else who was a Liberal minister, an insider in the government, coming back to get $200,000 of patronage. It’s outrageous.”

Les said he was approached by a deputy minister and offered the job. His compensation, about $125 an hour, is “very much in the ballpark” for that kind of work, and others bill even more, said Les.

He said his solicitor general experience and local government experience make him well suited for the job.

Les has been drawing upon an MLA transitional allowance, which pays retiring or defeated MLAs their $101,859 annual salary for 15 months after leaving office.

He said he’ll stop taking that money and begin his earthquake report salary. Les is also entitled to $60,000 in per diem as chairman of the farm industry review board, which he was appointed to by government last October.

And he’s entitled to a pension — estimated by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation at $48,290 a year — but said he’s yet to begin receiving it.

“Forget about going into politics, the real money is in getting out of politics,” said Jordan Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“If most politicians realized their post-political career was going to be this lucrative they’d jump out of politics in a heartbeat. His pay now will be twice what he made as a backbench MLA.”

The earthquake study will produce a final report later this year on how to improve the province’s management in the case of a disaster.

rshaw@vancouversun.com

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Vancouver School Board rejects corporate funding accepted in Surrey

The Vancouver School District has rejected corporate funding that provided Surrey elementary classrooms with equipment for science projects.

In Surrey, 186 projects were funded with $200,000 raised through Fuel Your School, a Chevron program. In Vancouver, Chevron is offering up to $475,000 in the first year, but the school district has refused the offer.

Chevron’s Fuel Your School program provides $1 for every person who buys 30 litres or more of gas in a district that is participating in the program, up to the maximum funding promised. The program is run at arms length through MyClassNeeds, a registered Canadian charity that serves as a crowdfunding tool for classroom projects.

VSB chairwoman Patti Bacchus said the school district doesn’t enter into partnerships with corporations, and isn’t set up to do so.

“We don’t generally as a district enter into any partnerships like that with corporate sponsors,” Bacchus said. “We don’t have a department or any staff that would be doing that kind of work. I understand Surrey does have a business development department that works on that.”

“(Donors) might be involved at (an individual) school level, but as a district we don’t have the infrastructure to do that even if we wanted to.”

She said she also has sustainability concerns.

“The idea of raising money by encouraging people to buy gas at a time when we’re really working on sustainability and getting kids to walk and bike to school, even that would be uncomfortable if we were in a position to enter into these agreements,” Bacchus said.

===

How do some districts handle corporate donations?

Vancouver: Not set up to accept corporate donations to the district, but individual schools do accept them.

Surrey: Has a business development department to handle corporate donations and district-wide fundraising.

North Vancouver: Does not have a business development department, however can receive corporate donations that meet certain policy criteria. The Board must be informed of donations of a significant amount.

Richmond: Does not have a business development department, however corporate donations are accepted and decided on a case-by-case basis by district staff and the board of education.

===

The Surrey School District has a business development department that is specifically tasked with raising money.

“The department looks after facility rentals, grounds rentals and fundraising on a more structured, corporate level, like sponsorships,” said Doug Strachan, a spokesman for the Surrey school district. “The department has been around at least 10 years and they pay for themselves many times over. They are so experienced and knowledgeable about these sorts of arrangements that it makes these things go more smoothly.”

The business development department raised more than $2.4 million during the 12 months ended June 30, 2013, according to a report to the Surrey School Board. The total cost of the department was $180,514 for the same period, meaning a $2.2-million benefit to Surrey schools.

Strachan said the Chevron program went well in Surrey. He said no promotional materials were sent home, and no corporate logos appeared in classrooms.

“It went very smoothly. Chevron and MyClassNeeds were great to work with on it,” Strachan said, adding that there were no complaints from anyone, and parents probably didn’t even know that the Chevron charity had bought any supplies.

“Other than the signs on the pumps if they went to a Chevron service station in Surrey or White Rock, parents wouldn’t even know it happened,” Strachan said.

Amy Coupal, chief executive officer at MyClassNeeds, said projects that meet the program’s eligibility requirements are all approved in the order they are received, until the money runs out. The project focuses on science, technology, engineering and math projects, and Chevron has no influence over which projects are picked, Coupal said.

She said the Surrey project went well and that teachers have been “thrilled” to receive the funds.

“The projects ranged from iPads to salmon hatching kits to rocketry kits,” Coupal said. “We received over 300 applications, and with the funds that were available we funded 186 projects. We’re still getting messages from teachers saying thank you.”

The program provides the actual materials and sends them to the classrooms, Coupal said. Examples of the types of items that are eligible include classroom supplies such as musical instruments, science equipment or gardening equipment, software, technology such as tablets or cameras, and non-textbook print materials.

As well as administering the Chevron Fuel Your School program, the charity also allows teachers from across the country to post funding requests for classroom projects online, and then interested donors can fund programs through the charity.

Students in one classroom were aware of Chevron’s involvement because Chevron and MyClassNeeds were invited to the classroom as a thank you. The visit was filmed and is now a promotional video for MyClassNeeds.

Chevron would like to continue the program in Surrey schools, but has not confirmed this with the school board yet. They are also seeking to expand the program to Vancouver. (Chevron Canada’s corporate headquarters are located in downtown Vancouver.)

“Chevron’s primary concern and rationale for the Fuel Your School program is to support education in the Vancouver school system in the areas of science, technology, math and engineering,” Chevron spokesman Adrien Byrne said. “We offer this support to the Vancouver school board in the spirit of partnership and alongside respected Canadian educational charity MyClassNeeds Foundation. Chevron is seeking meaningful dialogue between the Vancouver school board, and its parents and teachers in order to make this school funding opportunity possible.”

Bacchus is also concerned about a perception that a corporation could be having influence over which projects are picked for funding.

“I don’t think that’s what they’re trying to do with this, but there is always that risk of perception. There are all kinds of reasons why we have to be fairly cautious of corporations’ involvement in schools,” Bacchus said.

She said the subject of corporate partnerships deserves a policy and a thorough conversation, something that the VSB has not had to this point.

“It creates some real ethical challenges,” Bacchus said. “I think it raises a bigger discussion of how we fund schools. … If it’s your local coffee shop hoping to help out with hotdog day, that’s one thing, but when we start getting multinationals that can be very strategic wanting to enter into fairly wide-reaching partnerships, I think we have to be cautious and have that discussion and have clear policy to guide that.”

While the district doesn’t partner with corporations, she said sometimes individual schools do.

“There are lots of businesses and organizations and corporations who do provide grants and donations to schools. Most of those work really well,” she said.

tsherlock@vancouversun.com

Preparation for the People’s Procession & Rally Against the Pipeline

Author
Gabriel Saloman
Prepare for April 12 People’s Procession & Rally Against the Pipeline

Burnaby Residents Opposed to KinderMorgan’s Pipeline Expansion (BROKE) and artist Gabriel Saloman would like to invite you to a poster-making print workshop at the Burnaby Art Gallery this coming Tuesday evening. This workshop is part of a series of workshops in preparation for the People’s Procession & Rally Against the Pipeline, and will focus on poster and sign making, exploring image making and bold messaging using silkscreen printing techniques. The workshop is by donation and everyone is welcome – no previous experience is necessary.

The People’s Procession & Rally Against the Pipeline is being organized by Gabriel Saloman and BROKE, in connection with an upcoming exhibition at Unit/Pitt Projects in Vancouver, in order to raise awareness and mobilize people regarding the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline, the expansion of oil storage tanks on Burnaby Mountain and the enlargement of the tanker dock at Westridge. BROKE is calling for residents to join us on April 12, along with the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, the City of Burnaby, MP Kennedy Stewart, Greenpeace and many others, bringing creative expressions of their opposition.

DATE: Tuesday, March 11 | 6:30-8:30

LOCATION: The Burnaby Art Gallery, 6344 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby

For more information about the PEOPLE’S PROCESSION AND RALLY:
http://brokepipelinewatch.ca/content/call-action-people’s-procession-rally-against-pipelines
https://www.facebook.com/events/569899673105255/

Contact: info@brokepipelinewatch.ca

The Burnaby Art Gallery is dedicated to presenting contemporary and historical art exhibits and events by local, regional, national and international artists in the galleries of Ceperley House and throughout the community. The gallery facilitates the development of emerging artists and provides diverse art educational programming for children, adults and seniors as well as community projects and exhibitions in libraries and recreation centres (www.burnabyartgallery.ca/).

Gabriel Saloman is a multidisciplinary artist who explores time-based phenomena such as social practice, dance & protest through mediums including sound, text, photo and sculpture (www.diademdiscos.com/gms).