The Green Blues Show – Edition 40


In today’s edition of the Green Blues Show: ‘Unwilling or Unable’ – a radical new theory for justifying military interventions. As Earth warms, a billion people may soon be exposed to mosquito-borne viral diseases. And, trawling the oceans for plastic.


Spring is here, and with it, biblical flooding across eastern Canada. Sixty-five hundred Quebecers abandoned their homes, this past week, as mud and sewage choked flood waters fed by the St. Lawrence River breached a dike in the west Montreal neighborhood of Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac.

Washout (David Kattenburg)

Similar floods swelled by ceaseless rain have inundated New Brunswick, Ottawa and the First Nations community of Kashechewan, in northern Ontario, raising questions about the future of life close to water, in a steadily warming world. How and where to rebuild in the face of hundred- or thousand year floods now happening ever year will be a matter of “national reflection,” says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The inevitable hazards of living near water, coupled with aging, vulnerable infrastructure, are just part of the problem. The increasing frequency of extreme flooding events are largely linked to the transformation of adjoining landscapes. Canadian rivers like the St. Lawrence, St. John, Red, Assiniboine, Bow and Fraser — all rivers — are themselves fed by a network of streams, ponds and wetlands. Much like the capillary beds of the human circulatory system, surface waters receive upstream inputs, absorb, store and filter them into the ground, buffering their inexorable flow to larger rivers downstream, and the sea. Waters rise and fall, in stable fashion. Crop land clearing, urban concrete and dams have profoundly altered this system.

Think of how fat, salt and sugar-rich fast foods clog human arteries. Surface waters aren’t that much different.

Flood control in Scheveningen, Netherlands (David Kattenburg)

In search of solutions, Canadians have much to learn from the Dutch. Squeezed between rising seas and the various arms of the mighty Rhine, Dutch engineers are providing waters with elbow room. Room for the River, they call it. Age-old dikes are being dismantled, so lowlands can flood, retain water and slowly drain as they please. From New York and New Orleans to the east coast of Australia and southeast Asia, resilience-minded cities are adopting similar measures: Restoring wetlands in the heart of dense urban neighborhoods; designing floating homes that rise and fall with the tides.

Climate-resilient urban engineering costs money – cash best raised by carbon taxes Canada’s new wave of so-called “conservative” leaders staunchly oppose, and are challenging in court. Perhaps they’ll come to their senses. When creative thinking and political courage sink in, funding invariably follows.


Powerful nations have never been at a loss to justify military adventures beyond their borders. With the advent of the United Nations Charter, in 1949, rules were set for waging war. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter states: “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

Article 51 added nuance: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”

In response to “terrorism,” drug trafficking and other threats from “non-state” actors, a new standard for launching war has emerged, if the target of attack is “unwilling or unable” to deal with the issue on its own. A simple letter of intent to the UN Security Council is all that’s required. An opaque process that some fear is becoming the norm.

The “Unwilling or Unable” theory is now being challenged by a group of Latin American countries. Pablo Arrocha Olabuenaga is a Mexican lawyer specializing in public international law, currently serving as a legal advisor to the Mexican mission at the UN in New York. He spoke to the Green Blues Show in his personal capacity, from New York.

Listen to our conversation in today’s podcast, or right here:



As Earth’s surface temperature rises, ticks and mosquitoes that enjoy warm climates appear to be migrating northwards. Over eighty percent of southern Canadians are threatened by the tick that carries Lyme disease.

Now, a recent study has modeled the northward expansion of the mosquito Aedes aegypti and its cousin Aedes albopictus, that transmit the viral infections dengue, chikungunya and Zika. Over the next thirty to sixty years, over a billion people may be exposed, if Earth warming isn’t halted.

Sadie Ryan is the lead author of a scientific study on the global expansion of the Aedes mosquito vector. Ryan is an Associate Professor of Medical Geography at the Emerging Pathogens Institute, at the University of Florida, in Gainesville. I reached Sadie Ryan at the Emerging Pathogens Institute in Gainesville, Florida.

Listen to our conversation in today’s podcast, and right here:



Earth’s oceans are choking in plastic. At the present rate of plastic pollution, by 2050, experts war that there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.

Macroplastics are consumed by marine mammals and fish. Doesn’t do them any good, and often kills them. Ground down to micro and nano particles, plastics settle down into the deep, consumed by the tiniest of invertebrates. Toxics in the plastic may move up the food chain.

The steady increase in plastic pollution in the north Atlantic and adjacent seas has now been documented by a group of researchers in the UK. Clare Ostle is a research scientist at the Marine Biological Association, in Plymouth. Listen to our conversation on today’s podcast, and at the link below.


In this edition of the Green Blues Show, music by Stefan Grossman, Blind Willie Johnson and Winnipeg’s own Al Simmons.