The Green Blues Show – Edition 24


The Green Blues Show

In today’s edition of the Green Blues Show: the social costs of burning carbon exceed the value of the Big Five Tar Sands producers, and the province of Alberta’s entire GDP, by a country mile. Reflections on this rock humans live on, and what happens when it melts. And, the plight of children in war-ravaged Yemen.


Here’s a trivia question: Which U.S. Presidents had pets in the White House? Answer: All of them. That is, until Donald Trump. Trump is the first President of the United States to have no pets at all.

FDR and Fala

The tradition of presidential pet-ownership goes back to Thomas Jefferson, who shared the Oval Office with a mockingbird and two bear cubs. Warren Harding had an Airedale terrier named Laddie Boy. Theodore Roosevelt had 30 pets, and his cousin Franklin Delano’s dog, Fala, earned pooch fame on FDR’s foreign trips. Gerald Ford kept company with Shan, a Siamese cat — as did Ford’s immediate successor, Jimmy Carter, whose Siamese was called Misty Malarkey Ying Yang. Barack Obama had his two Portuguese water dogs, Bo and Sunny, and Bill Clinton had a cat named Socks and a lab named Buddy.

Although we can assume Presidential pet-lovers simply loved animals, there were other, more self-interested reasons for them to own pets, and to  go public about it. Pets was good for their image, made them more likeable.

Of course, having pets is good for your health. Pets reduce stress, ease loneliness, and boost cardiovascular function. Dogs must be taken out and exercised. So must dog owners. Pet owners befriend other pet owners.

Of America’s 126 million families, about 85 million own at least one pet. Clearly, Americans are huge animal lovers. Donald Trump, however, does not appear to be one of them. Ex-wife Ivana says he doesn’t like dogs. Trump was reportedly “embarrassed” to learn that Vice-president Mike Pence had several pets, calling Pence “low-class” and “a yokel.” Trump has trashed Obama-era laws on the humane treatment of caged chickens. When images of his big game-hunting sons Eric and Donald Jr. holding up a dead leopard appeared on social media, Trump defended them. Upon hearing that the circus had halted the use of elephants on humanitarian grounds, Trump famously declared he would never go to the circus again. At one point, Trump appeared to soften: A wealthy donor offered him an oldendoodle — a golden retriever/poodle mix. But, the Trump-dog encounter was short lived, and ended up going to the dogs.


And a sobering fact from the morass of discussion and debate about the fate of Canada’s oil and gas industry: The total financial assets of the Big Five oil and gas companies working in Alberta’s Tar Sands is estimated at about 250 billion dollars. The environmental and social costs of mining and burning all of their bitumen would cost the industry at least 320 billion, if it had to pay these costs. The total Gross Domestic Product of the Province of Alberta is only 300 billion.

Credit: Andrew S. Wright

So, in other words, neither the tar sands majors nor the government of Alberta have deep enough pockets to cover the full social, developmental and human health costs of burning fossil fuels at business-as-usual rates. Which seems to be what they want to do.

Such is the conclusion of a recent report from the Parkland Institute, based at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton. What the Paris Agreement Means for Alberta’s Oil Sands Majors is a product of the institute’s Corporate Mapping Project. I reached lead author Ian Hussey by Skype.


This past week on Big Island, in Hawaii, Earth’s tectonic system put on a big show, and it ain’t over yet. Molten magma bursting out of cracks in highway asphalt, devouring cars, rolling slowly downhill towards the camera. Earth is indeed in motion. From the Earth Chronicles seemingly bottomless vault, here are some voices on that. They are: Bill Fyfe, Robin Riddihough, Mary Lou Kelly, Lester Howse, Ben Gadd and Digby McLaren.


The civil war in Yemen, on the southern margin of the Arabian Peninsula, grinds on. In the throes of civil war since 2015, pitting Shiite Houthi rebels in the capital Sana’a and northwestern part of the country, against government loyalists in the south. Yemen’s deposed president is supported militarily by a coalition of Gulf states lead by Saudi Arabia.

The Yemen Data Project has reported that a third of some seventeen thousand air strikes have been on non-military targets. Just last week, an airstrike demolished the presidential palace in rebel-held Sana’a, killing six and injuring thirty. Ten thousand Yemeni civilians have been killed since 2015, and some three million displaced. Infectious disease is rampant, including cholera and diphtheria.

For insight on the impact war has had on Yemeni children, I reached out to Fouzia Shafique. Shafique is country director for UNICEF in Yemen. She spoke to me by Skype from Sana’a. Fouzia Shafique is Chief for Health and Nutrition at the Yemen Country Office of the UN Children’s Fund – UNICEF – in Sana’a, Yemen.

In this edition of the Green Blues Show, songs by Big Bill Broonzy, Original Sloth Band and Davy Graham