The Green Blues Show – Edition 31


Credit: Andrew S. Wright

In today’s edition of the Green Blues Show: Scientists warn that Earth may soon slip into hothouse mode. An update on Palestine’s case against Israel at the International Criminal Court, and air pollution from Alberta’s tar sands threatens to acidify lakes across the region.


Legalized pot and proportional representation — Two very different issues rubbing up against each other in our minds.

During the 2015 federal elections, up here in Canada, Justin Trudeau made two big promises: he would legalize cannabis and replace Canada’s ‘First Past the Post’ electoral system with a fairer one where parties win seats in proportion to the votes they receive. In April 2017, the Cannabis Act, Bill C-45, was introduced in Parliament. Two months later, having consulted with other political parties, Trudeau announced his “difficult but necessary” decision to scrap proportional representation.

So, pot is now legal, for both medical and recreational use. Between this Fall and next spring, weed will start to be sold over a variety of counters, in bland packaging, from coast to coast. Eventually, Canadians will be able to buy cannabis edibles and drinks. Cannabis beer. Cannabis shooters. Cannabis gummy bears. Deep-pocketed corporations are now jostling for market share, estimated in the billions, and government tax collectors are rubbing their hands in anticipation of sumptuous tax revenues.

Whatever the benefits of legalizing pot – public health and law enforcement officials are divided on the issue – no one can argue that weed is good for you. As the old saying goes, they don’t call it ‘dope’ for nothing. Proportionally-based electoral systems, on the other hand, make votes count, and bring smaller political parties into the democratic equation. Coalitions form, consensus becomes the norm and diversity is strengthened. Proportional voting systems of one sort or another are in place in 87 countries around the world. Canada will have to wait.

Oh well. A year from this coming November, when millions of Canadians realize, once again, that their vote was meaningless, they’ll be free to toke away their sorrows – in perfectly legal fashion.


Earth’s surface is one degree warmer today, on average, than it was at the start of the industrial revolution 200 years ago. One degree doesn’t seem like much. The Paris Agreement pegs greenhouse gas emission reductions to a two-degree rise. Sounds like a conservative precautionary measure.

Possible future pathways for Earth’s climate. (PNAS, Used with permission)

Perhaps it isn’t. In a landmark report published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers warn that a two degree rise in global surface temperature may actually exceed a critical planetary threshold, pushing Earth down a cascade of tipping points into “hothouse” mode, unlike anything this third rock from the sun has experienced since the mid-Miocene epoch, fifteen million years ago.

The Green Blues Show spoke with the lead author of the report. Will Steffen is Emeritus Professor in the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University, in Canberra. Listen to our complete conversation here.


The wheels of justice turn very slowly. Nowhere more frustratingly than at the International Criminal Court, in The Hague.

The ICC began its work in July 2002, the day its founding instrument – the Rome Statute – came into force. Since then, the court has been tasked with trying people for the gravest of international crimes, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. To date, 39 individuals have been dragged before the ICC, almost all of them African despots.

Since January 2015, the ICC has been conducting a preliminary examination of the situation in Palestine, following Palestine’s accession to the Rome Statute and its referral of charges against Israel. This past May, in response to the death of some 150 Gazan protesters and the injury of over fifteen thousand, the Palestinians submitted a more extensive referral to the court, which the ICC is now digesting.

When the ICC will launch a formal investigation, if it ever does, is anyone’s guess. The Green Blues Show spoke with Amal Nasser, the permanent representative of the International Federation for Human Rights to the ICC.


The Alberta tar sands contain the world’s largest known deposits of bitumen, and lots of heavy oil. Twenty percent of accessible deposits are strip-mined. Some 900 square kilometers, centering around Fort McMurray, Alberta, have been mined to date – a huge scar on the landscape that can be observed from space. Tailing ponds cover about 80 square kilometers.

Sulphur and nitrogen deposition and aquatic ecosystem exceedances (courtesy Paul Makar)

Tar sands operations emit sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ammonia into the atmosphere, where they react to form acids. What goes up inevitably comes down, in the form of acid rain. Researchers are now trying to establish the impact of acid emissions on lakes and forest throughout the region. The Green Blues Show spoke with Paul Makar is a senior research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

In this edition of the Green Blues Show, songs by Steve Mann, John Hammond and Roosevelt Sykes and Elmore James.

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