Digby Neck Quarry Bilcon Case (NAFTA Ch 11): Tribunal Decision and Dissent

By Janet M Eaton, PhD. June 3, 2015

The announcement that a NAFTA Investor State Tribunal had overturned the decision of a Canadian Federal Provincial Environmental Joint Review Panel (JRP) decision to reject a US mega-quarry proposed by Bilcon of Delaware Inc. for Whites Point, Digby Neck, Nova Scotia, sent shock waves across the province. And it caused indignation amongst the many Nova Scotians who had been involved in the lengthy and hard fought struggle to preserve the small scale scenic, rural fishing community and economy on the ecologically sensitive and unique Bay of Fundy with its endangered right whales.

At the same time the Bilcon decision has been making waves internationally, sparking a new level of long standing debate about the failures of NAFTA Chapter 11 to safeguard laws put in place by democratic nations. In this regard it has been providing ammunition for the tireless crusade of activist lawyers, researchers and NGOs fighting to have this mechanism removed from the upcoming mega-trade agreements under negotiation: the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement ( TPPA) , the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership ( TTIP) and the Canada- EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

To access the complete paper go to http://www.sierraclub.ca/en/DigbyNeck

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Fracking Industry: Misinformation, Hype and the Financial Risks with Reference to Nova Scotia and the Wheeler Commission.

By Janet M Eaton, PhD


Much has been written about the environmental, geological, social, cultural, health, and small scale local economic concerns related to hydraulic fracturing for shale gas. At the same time there is growing awareness of the difficulties of regulating and even researching an industry where complexity of the systems involved leads to what the Wheeler Commission called ‘wicked’ problems. There is however another subject area and issue that has received little if any attention during the Wheeler Commission’s investigation, one that heralds warnings about the financial risks of investing in the fracking industry; risks that could leave Nova Scotians with significant financial losses.

The following paper provides insight into the nature and extent of the fracking industry’s misinformation and hype that led to the massive investment in the industry; examines studies and reports that have recently emerged to counter industry misinformation particularly around quantities of the recoverable resource; and exposes financial risks being taken by both the Industry and Big Banks to create a favourable environment for investing in fracking. It also warns of other external financial risks to investors. Finally, it examines the concept of ‘risk blindness’ in the fracking industry comparing it to the related concept of ‘paradigm paralysis’. It warns that ‘paradigm paralysis’ and ‘risk blindness’ in decision makers, at a time when old paradigms are collapsing and paradigm shifts are occurring , are threats to not only Nova Scotia but to our ecosystems, planetary cycles and global civilization itself. Within that framework and given the probability of collapse of the fracking industry, this paper challenges the notion of fracking as a revenue generator for Nova Scotia.

1) Industry Misinformation and Hype

Misinformation is defined by the Oxford dictionary as inaccurate information especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive. Hype, on the other hand, is defined as extravagant or intensive publicity and promotion or a deception carried out for the sake of publicity.   For critics of fracking be they professors, researchers, or journalists, the term industry hype is widely used to point out not only industry’s intensive marketing of shale gas but also the errors in the assumptions leading to their predictions. Anthony R Ingraffea, renowned Cornell professor, and former fracking industry consultant and engineer, also refers to parallel concepts of myths, falsehoods, missing information, outright lies and uncomfortable science about fracking for methane. [1]

The hyped narrative of the fracking industry and its supporters around the North American shale gas boom has been that it will continue to grow for years, turning America into the new Saudi Arabia; that we are entering a new golden era of US energy independence by fracking unconventional oil and gas; that we will break the stranglehold of imported oil using domestic gas; that we are at the beginning of a production boom and everyone who invests will get rich; and that we have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years.

Examples of the pervasiveness of the use of the term industry hype can be gleaned from a sampling of quotes from reputable researchers, journalists and Professors.

David Hughes, noted Canadian geologist retired from the Federal Department of Natural Resources, in a 2013 report for the Post Carbon Institute, entitled Drill Baby Drill: Can Unconventional Fuels Usher in a new Era of Energy Abundance, referred to B.C.’s embrace of shale gas production as a shining star of hype. [2]

The British newspaper, the Guardian, noted that, in the near future, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) would publish a new estimate of US shale deposits set to deal a death-blow to industry hype about a new golden era of US energy independence by fracking for unconventional oil and gas. [3]

Jeremy Leggett, former advisor to the British government, and author of the recent book Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance, 2014 speaking to a reporter before his speech to the Davos World Economic Forum [WEF] 2014 referred to industry hype as follows:

“The WEF likes to deal in big ideas, and last year one of its ideas was to argue that the world can frack its way to prosperity. There are large numbers of would-be frackers in Davos. I’m a squeaky wheel within the system. I’m in Davos to put the counter-arguments to Big Energy, and I’ll tell them: ‘You’re in grave danger of repeating mistakes of the financial services industry in pushing a  hyped  narrative. [4]

British author and contributor to The Telegraph, Tim Morgan, in an article Shale Gas: The Dotcom bubble of Our time wrote:

We now have enough data to know what has really happened in America. Shale has been hyped (Saudi America) and investors poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the shale sector. [5]

Even Shell’s chief executive, Peter Voser, stated that a shale revolution spreading from the US across the world is “a little bit overhyped”. [6]

Richard Heinberg, well known peak oil expert and author of The Party’s Over, The End of Growth, and Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promises of Plenty Imperils Our Future, wrote in an August 11th, 2014 article, that although CEOs of companies engaged in shale gas and tight oil drilling are undoubtedly aware of what’s going on in their own balance sheets, hype is an essential part of their business model which he summarizes succinctly as follows: Step i) Borrow money and use it to lease thousands of acres for drilling; Step ii) Borrow more money and drill as many wells as you can , as quickly as you can; Step iii) Tell everyone within shouting distance that this is just the beginning of a production boom that will continue for the remainder of our lives and lives of our children and that everyone who invests will get rich; Step iv) sell drilling leases to other gullible companies at a profit , raise funds through initial Public Offerings or bond sales, and use proceeds to hide financial losses from your drilling and production operations. [7]

Origins of Industry Hype

Richard Heinberg, in his latest book on fracking, identifies some of the better known early hypesters [my term] including Aubrey McClendon, and Daniel Yergin. He points out that what he terms the hurricane of hype began in shale gas fields of Texas, stirred by the charismatic “early bird’ investor Aubrey McClendon, then CEO of Chesapeake Energy, who hammered home the same overly optimistic and opportunistic message on every possible occasion, and became incredibly rich while building financial structures packed with risk. [8] Jeff Goodall, reporting in Rolling Stone Magazine, after an interview with McClendon, noted that his company’s primary profit came not from selling the gas itself, but from buying and flipping the land that contains the gas. He also wrote that McClendon owns some 25 million acres which he has financed with junk bonds, complex partnerships and future production deals, creating a highly leveraged deeply- indebted company that has a lot in common with Enron. [9]

Another highly visible and audible shale gas booster whom Heinberg chronicles is Daniel Yergin, chair of the Cambridge Energy Research Association and oil and gas industry consultant who wrote in The Wall St Journal in 2011 that estimates of the entire natural gas resource base, taking shale gas into account are as high as 3000 trillion cubic feet which amounts to a 100 year supply of natural gas. Yergin’s projections leave one with the impression that it’s all good news in the oil and gas world which is far from an accurate portrayal as we shall see herein. [10] His ‘century of natural gas’ number came to be repeated frequently even by President Obama, who claimed in his January 2012 State of the Union Address to Congress, that, largely owing to the shale gas revolution, We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years. [11]

BP in their Energy Outlook to 2030 sounded similar upbeat projections of shale gas and oil that would make North American energy independent of the Middle East, noting that a large swath of the world including North and South America would see its dependence on oil imports, from potentially volatile countries in the Middle East and elsewhere, disappear. [12]

2) Unmasking the Hype – Critical Oversight

Geological Survey of Canada veteran, David Hughes, has conducted the most detailed analysis of North American shale of anyone outside the oil and gas companies. He examined data on 63,000 shale gas and tight oil wells and calculated production decline rates in each active play. His data show that shale and oil fields deplete so quickly that they resemble financial treadmills where, in order to maintain constant flows from a play, industry must replace 30 to 50% of declining production with more wells. Hughes also notes that recovery rates are dismal compared to recovery of conventional gas which uses less energy, and captures up to 70% of the gas in the ground whereas shale gas barely averages 10% and employs more horsepower and more water over a greater area of landscapes. Hughes concludes: the Achilles heel of shale gas is that you need a lot of wells and environmental collateral damage and infrastructure to grow supply. [13]

Hughes shows, that in spite of the heralding of a new age of energy abundance and independence for the US, they will inevitably fall short of such expectations for two main reasons i) shale gas and shale oil wells have proven to deplete quickly, the best fields have already been tapped, and no new major field discoveries are expected. Therefore with average well productivity declining and ever-more wells (and fields) required simply to maintain production, an ‘exploration treadmill” limits the long term potential for shale ii) secondly, although tar sands, deep water oil, oil shales , coal bed methane, and other non-conventional fossil fuels exist in vast deposits, their exploitation continues to require such enormous expenditures of resources and logistical effort that rapid scaling up of production to market –transforming levels is all but impossible . [14]

Richard Heinberg notes that the work of Arthur Berman, David Hughes and other analysts provides a more realistic picture of the actual potential of shale gas and concludes that taking into account decline rates, potential drilling locations, and the variability of the regions within resource plays, the industry’s claims for how much oil and gas can be extracted, at what rate, and how profitably, is wildly overblown. [15]

Andrew Nikiforuk has also noted that David Hughes’ analysis in his report for the Post Carbon Institute, Drill Baby Drill, confirms and supports the work of Texas oil analyst and geologist Arthur Berman who has questioned the growth rate claims of the shale gas industry for years and has offered the most reliable forecasts for the industry to date. [16]

Veteran Nova Scotia journalist and regular contributor to the Halifax Chronicle Herald, Ralph Surette, revealed in his weekend opinion piece Fracking is Fool’s Gold that the Marcellus shale formation in Pennsylvania, first hyped as containing 500 trillion cubic feet [tcf] of recoverable gas, had been reduced by the U.S. Geological Survey to perhaps as little as 80 tcf. He also reported that the California government, which according to early estimates was assuming $25 billion in tax revenue from its Monterrey formation by 2020, had recently learned that geologists had found quantities too low to warrant development.   [17] British researcher and author Tim Morgan put it this way: Recoverable reserves estimates for the Monterey shale, have been revised downward by 96 percent. [18]


Other evidence of the decline in the shale gas boom that refutes the Industry hype includes the write-downs engulfing the Industry.

The Financial Times’ Guy Chazan reported that Shell, after bad drilling results, wrote off US $ 2 billion invested in US shale gas and issued its first profit warning in 10 years. [19]

William Engdahl, researcher and author writing for the Centre for Global Research reviewed large scale gas producers in the US that were forced to announce major write-downs of the value of their shale gas assets including BP’s write-down of more than $1 billion in the value of its American shale gas assets; England’s BG Group’s $1.3 billion write-down of its US shale gas interests; and Encana, a large Canadian shale gas operator’s 1.7 billion write-down on shale assets in the US and Canada, accompanied by a warning that more were likely if gas prices did not recover. He also referred to the Australian mining giant BHP Billiton as being hard hit and noted that by far the worst hit was once- super-star of shale gas, McClendon’s Oklahoma based Chesapeake Energy which, at the time of writing, was in midst of a major asset sale of an estimated $6.9 billion to lower debt, including oil and gas fields covering roughly 2.4 million acres. [20]

The Peak Oil review from January 2014, in a shale gas update, noted that the large deficits being run by the US shale oil and gas industry were starting to be reported in the financial press citing in particular the Financial Post’s reporting of large foreign investments in US shale oil and gas leases drying up rapidly. The Peak Oil Review went on to suggest:” With losses like these it is no wonder that foreign investors are bailing and staying out of the US shale market. It concluded: while it is too early to declare an end to the great US shale oil boom, there are clear signs of troubles just ahead.   [21]

Arthur Berman, referred to above as one of industry’s most respected critics of industry hype, has concluded, along with others, that gas industry players and their Wall St bankers backing the shale boom have grossly inflated the volumes of recoverable shale gas reserves and hence its expected supply duration. He notes that reserves and economics depend on ‘estimated ultimate recoveries’ (EUR) based on decline profiles that predict decades of commercial production. Berman’s analysis of shale gas well decline trends indicates that the EUR per well is approximately one- half the values presented by operators. In other words, he says that the gas producers have built the illusion that their conventional and increasingly costly shale gas will last for decades. [22]

David Hughes in his Drill Baby Drill Report also explains that while the most commonly cited metric to suggest a new age of fossil fuels is the estimate of in situ unconventional resources and the purported fraction that can be recovered, there are two other metrics that are critically important in determining viability of energy resources: i) The rate of energy supply and ii) The net energy yield or ‘energy returned on energy invested’ [EROEI]. In the case of the former, a large sized in situ resource does little good if it cannot be produced consistently and in large enough quantities, which we have seen to be a problem with shale gas. In the latter case, EROEI is, for unconventional energy resources, generally much lower than for conventional resources and lower EROEI translates to higher production costs, lower production rates and usually more collateral damage in extraction. [23]

3) Financial Risk in the Shale Gas Industry .

Jeremy Leggett, in his book Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance recounts the histories of four systemic risks in energy markets. (1) first and biggest being climate change (2) the second being the risk of creating a carbon bubble in the capital markets akin to the bubble created by Wall Street prior to the Financial crash of 2007 (3) the third being the so-called shale boom in gas and oil production and (4) the fourth being the oil shock risk.

In reference to financial risk of a shale gas bubble, Leggett recounts that oil and gas companies drilling American shale today spend a collective dollar and a half for every dollar of oil and gas income suggesting that their collective losses may mean that the ‘boom’ may prove to be another of the bubbles they are so good at creating. [24]

Ralph Surette also spoke of the financial risk in his December 2013 article noting that while protests over the environment were one concern, a deeper source of trouble was afoot for the fracking industry from the heart of the financial world where billions of dollars were being lost and the sense of having been suckered by hype was starting to settle in. He cited the conservative business magazine, Forbes, which argued that the profitability of fracking was a fantasy and that we can expect some staggering investment errors because what it’s all about is some very stupid money chasing an illusion that will surely end in tears.   [25]

Canadian Geologist, David Hughes, also believes that shale gas and shale oil represent a temporary bubble in production that will soon burst due to rapid depletion rates that have only recently been tallied and concludes that this latest shale gas panacea, championed by industry and media talking heads, is too expensive and will deplete too rapidly to provide either energy security or independence for the United States. Hughes also says that shale gas production has already peaked in every shale gas region except the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania. [26]

Richard Heinberg asks the important question who really benefits from shale gas production? and after reviewing the impact on communities, the nation, industry and Wall Street he suggests that in the final analysis the nation and the impacted communities within it lose more from fracking than they gain, and the oil industry is seeing diminishing returns on its burgeoning investments; therefore his answer is: it is Wall Street that benefits.

Further to the Wall Street involvement, Heinberg quotes a New York Times investigative article by Krauss and Lipton who state, that like the recent credit bubble, in the housing industry, the boom and bust in gas was driven in large part by tens of billions of dollars in creative financing engineered by investment banks like Goldman Sachs, Barclays and Jeffries and companies that forced drillers to keep drilling even when each new well represented financial loss.

Heinberg also refers to the analysis of Deborah Rogers, a former Wall St financial consultant and member of the Advisory council for Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas from 2008 – 20011, who further traced the toxic connections between major investment banks and shale gas in her report Shale and Wall Street : Was the Decline in Natural Gas prices Orchestrated. Rogers cites two sets of economics for the Industry, (i) field economics which is concerned with the day to day operations of the company and (ii) Wall Street economics which entails keeping a company attractive to financial analysts and investors so that share price moves up and access to capital markets is assured. [27]

Rogers also notes that shales became one of the largest profit centers within these banks in their energy M&A portfolios since 2010. She goes on to show the parallels with the financial crisis bubble noting that Wall Street began executing deals to spin assets of troubled shale companies in the industry, deals that deteriorated only months later, resulting in massive write-downs in shale assets. As well she states that the banks were instrumental in crafting convoluted financial products such as VPPs (volumetric production payments) which were subsequently sold to investors such as pension funds that had little knowledge of the intricacies and risks of shale production. Further , she concludes that leases were bundled and flipped on unproved shale fields in much the same way that mortgage backed securities had been bundled and sold on questionable underlying mortgage assets prior to the economic turndown. [28]

Other financial risks to investors in fracking have come with the increasing awareness of citizens around the world of the very serious impacts of fracking and the distribution of shale gas which has led to a growing protest movement against the shale gas industry, at both local and global levels. This backlash has led to an increasing numbers of bans and moratoria being placed on fracking and even court cases against the Industry. In addition there is the threat to the fracking industry of renewables especially as they gain entry into the market at lower prices as well as the volatility of prices in oil markets. [29]

Heinberg cites the risk to the Industry that comes from potential liability for environmental and human health damage noting that States and counties in the US are increasingly restricting and even banning fracking out of concern for human and environmental health. The result, he says, could be a sharp decline in potential revenues for operators and therefore a drop in stock value and an increase in borrowing costs. [30]

In the same vein, a recent article on socially responsible investors working to minimize fracking impacts reports that:

Across the country, grassroots coalitions of community members have succeeded in passing bans and moratoria on the practice of fracking, thus imposing heavy costs on companies whose operations are halted. Norse Energy Corporation USA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2012 as a result of New York State’s four year moratorium that idled seven of the company’s wells in the area. Royal Dutch Shell estimates 40 percent of its New York acreage could be off-limits because of potential state rules. [31]

Another serious threat to investors has come from protesters use of the courts to stop the government’s collusion with the oil and gas industry. A recent Supreme Court of Canada judgment on aboriginal title for the Tsilhqot’in First Nation in British Columbia, a decision which has potential relevance for all First Nations peoples, has thrown fear into oil and gas investors as noted in a recent article in the Financial Post:

This judgment will significantly increase the level of uncertainty in Canada’s natural resource sector and will likely deter investment and exploration in Canada…. When investors examine potential opportunities, they spend considerable time evaluating exposure to various risks, including business, economic, political, and exchange rate risk. Many of these risks can be managed and mitigated through insurance and hedging. Others, such as political risk, can leave a business exposed to uncertainty that simply cannot be controlled or mitigated. [32]

4) Risk Blindness

Jeremy Leggett argues in Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance that the traditional energy industries and their political and institutional support base are repeating the failings of the financial sector and are guilty of an enculturated risk blindness that will lead to a global energy crash. He concludes that too many people across top levels of government and business close their eyes and ears to systemic risk taking and as a result denial has become institutionalized.

Leggett also notes that military think-tanks have tended to side with those who distrust “the cornucopian narrative” of the oil industry citing a 2008 study by the German army on psychological barriers which cause indisputable facts to be blanked out and lead to almost instinctively refusing to look into this difficult subject in detail. [33]

Another way of framing this assertion is through paradigm and paradigm shift analysis. The term paradigm came into usage as a result of the landmark intellectual work in the early 1960’s of Thomas Kuhn, historian of science and Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In his Structure of Scientific Revolutions he used the term paradigm to attempt to delineate the core essence of a scientific community’s ‘shared examples’, in other words what they believed and understood their science and scientific theories to be. Paradigms are also equivalent to what present day systems thinkers call “shared mental models” theories, perceptions, assumptions, or frames of reference.

Thomas Kuhn, found in his research on scientists that their paradigms literally acted as “physiological filters” that prevented them from seeing data right before their very eyes. It seemed to him that:  professionalization leads, on the one hand, to an immense restriction of the scientist’s vision and on the other to a considerable resistance to paradigm change. In this respect management consultant, Joel Barker, who developed training strategies and materials for the business, NGO and government sectors based on Kuhn’s discoveries about paradigms, defined this inability to transcend or move beyond old paradigms as paradigm paralysis.. [31]

It should be noted that Leggett also stated that this blanking out of indisputable facts extends to the mainstream media which, he says, has enthusiastically echoed the mantras of the oil companies to the extent that the very phrase ‘peak oil’ has been positioned as a badge of baseless scaremongering.


This paper leads to the conclusions i) that the content and implications of ‘industry misinformation and hype’ must be closely examined and understood by decision makers before making commitments to pursue fracking, ii) that industry facts and perspectives must be challenged and thoroughly reviewed by any jurisdiction considering the permitting of fracking and iii) that the inherent financial risks in fracking must be carefully scrutinized because of the very real possibilities of fracking companies, if not the entire industry, experiencing financial insolvency and pulling out without warning or recompense, something that has happened in instances in the US according to Richard Heinberg.

Additionally, the concepts of risk blindness or paradigm paralysis, that prevent many specialists, business persons and professionals from thinking outside the box, must be taken seriously. Awareness of the nature of paradigms and paradigm shifts can assist in moving us beyond old paradigms as outlined in the paper cited above on Paradigms and Paradigm Shifts, by the author of this paper, which was commissioned by the Nova Scotia Department of Health in 1996. It not only explains paradigms and paradigm shifts but also shows how traditional paradigms can restrict our ability to envision future alternatives and also how a new systemic perspective or paradigm can help move us to more appropriate and sustainable policy development.

It is not possible within the scope of this paper, to review the emerging literature on the dominant paradigm shifts happening psychologically, economically, politically and socially in the world today but it should be noted that shifts going on around us demand a thorough discussion of the fossil fuel based economic growth paradigm which has been widely acknowledged to be failing humanity and our ecological systems. This Neoliberal global economic growth model that has been fuelled by fossil fuels and furthered by a flawed free trade model, deregulation, privatization of public services and the commons, militarization, and a transnational corporate agenda. New approaches that move us beyond this destructive paradigm are emerging e.g. Degrowth Economics, Ecological Economics, Localism, Transition Towns, Evolutionary Reconstructionism, Canadian academic Peter Victor’s Managing without Growth, the UK’s Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth, the South American concept of Buen Vivir, New Economy initiatives, Deglobalization, and Gross National Happiness over GDP and they need to be studied and considered, if only to have on the back burner should collapse occur without warning. [32] Economics can no longer be given priority over ecological principles, the precautionary principle, human rights, economic justice, people’s well being, and democracy, especially not with ‘limits to growth’ now foreshadowing the collapse of financial, societal and ecological systems.

When paradigm paralysis is seen as part of this broader phenomenon there is cause for alarm. Flogging a dying horse, like shale gas, a clear sign of paradigm paralysis, only complicates an already dire situation for Nova Scotia and the planet in general. Fracking has been shown to be unsustainable, unsafe, and destructive to the essentials of life including water, farmlands, the air we breathe, our communities, ecosystems and by extension, our very health.  These negative impacts have been seen by the Wheeler Commission as reasons to recommend placing fracking on hold for an interim period while waiting for insights from other jurisdictions, further research or some new technology or magic bullet that might convince the public that fracking is safe.

With all the evidence against and concerns about fracking that the Wheeler Commission has brought forward and with the added knowledge herein of financial risks that threaten financial losses and run counter to principle-centred policy making, it would be unconscionable and a profligate waste of time and money to conduct further research on an industry already in decline and egregiously incompatible with environmental and sustainability goals.

It is therefore imperative that the government of Nova Scotia place an outright ban on fracking in this province. Given the evidence herein, from some of the best minds grappling with the issues and realities of the fracking industry, it would seem little more than a ‘fool’s errand’ to do otherwise.


[1] Andrew Nikiforuk. Shale Gas: Myth and Realities. The Tyee 7 Jan 2013. http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/01/07/Shale-Gas-Realities/

[2] Andrew Nikiforuk. Fracked Gas Won’t Solve Energy Crunch: Report. The Tyee.ca 23 Feb 2013. http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/02/23/David-Hughes-Fracking-Report/

[3] Nafeez Ahmed. Write-down of two-thirds of US shale oil explodes fracking myth. The Guardian, May22, 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/may/22/two-thirds-write-down-us-shale-oil-gas-explodes-fracking-myth

[4] Alex Kirby. Fracking Won’t Avert Energy Crisis, Davos Is Told. 25th January 2014 http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2252418/davos_fracking_wont_avert_energy_crisis.html

[5] Tim Morgan. Shale gas : The dotcom bubble of our times. The Telegraph, UK. August 4th 2014 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/investing/11006723/fracking-for-

[6] Guy Chazan. Shell writedown is bad news for US shale. Aug 1, 2013 http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/cf41cc36-fab2-11e2-87b9-00144feabdc0.html#axzz39WiSf1QA\

[7] Richard Heinberg. Environmentalists Blamed for Bursting Fracking Bubble. Global Research August 11th , 2014. http://www.globalresearch.ca/environmentalists-blamed-for-bursting-fracking-bubble/5395536

[8] Richard Heinberg. Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future. Published by the Post Carbon Institute. 2013.

[9] Jeff Goodall. The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind Aubrey McClendon’s Gas Boom. Rolling Stone. March 1, 2012 http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-big-fracking-bubble-the-scam-behind-the-gas-boom-20120301

[10] Richard Heinberg. How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future.

[11] William Engdahl. Fracked–up USA Shale Gas bubble. March 13, 2013 http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-fracked-up-usa-shale-gas-bubble/5326504

[12] BP Energy Outlook 2013, London, January 2012

[13] Nikiforuk. Fracked Gas Won’t Solve Energy Crunch: Report ; David Hughes. Drill Baby Drill: Can Unconventional Fuels Usher in a New Era of Energy Abundance. February, 2013. Post Carbon Institute. http://assets-production-webvanta-com.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/000000/03/97/original/reports/DBD-report-FINAL.pdf

[14] Richard Heinberg. How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future.

[15] Richard Heinberg. How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future.

[16] Andrew Nikiforuk. Fracked Gas Won’t Solve Energy Crunch: Report.

[17] Ralph Surette. Fracking is Fool’s Gold. Chronicle Herald , December 13, 2013 http://thechronicleherald.ca/opinion/1173949-surette-fracking-is-fool-s-gold

[18] Tim Morgan. Shale gas : The dotcom bubble of our times.

[19] Guy Chazan. Shell writedown is bad news for US shale. August 1, 2013 http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/cf41cc36-fab2-11e2-87b9-00144feabdc0.html#axzz39WiSf1QA\

[20] William Engdahl. The Fracked-up USA Shale Gas Bubble.

[21] Peak Oil Review. January 2014. http://peak-oil.org/2014/01/peak-oil-review-6-january-2014

[22] David Hughes. Drill Baby Drill.

[23] Richard Heinberg. How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future.

[24] Jeremy Leggett. Energy and Nations. Resurgence July /August Issue 285 2014.              http://www.resurgence.org/magazine; Jeremy Leggett. The Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance. 2014. Routledge

[25] Ralph Surette. Fracking is Fool’s Gold. Dec 13, 2013 http://thechronicleherald.ca/opinion/1173949-surette-fracking-is-fool-s-gold

[26] David Hughes, Drill Baby Drill.

[27] Richard Heinberg. How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future.

[28] Deborah Rogers. Shale and Wall Street: Was the Decline in Natural Gas Prices Orchestrated? http://shalebubble.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/SWS-report-FINAL.pdf ; Richard Heinberg. How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future.

[29] Jeremy Leggett. UK Energy Independence: Five Hidden Costs Expose Turth About   Fracking. The Guardian. 18 August 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2014/aug/18/uk-energy-dependence-five-hidden-costs-fracking

[30] Richard Heinberg. How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future.

[31] Lucia von Reusner. Socially Responsible Investors: Working to Minimize Fracking Impacts. May 2, 2013. http://livebettermagazine.com/article/socially-responsible-investors-working-to-minimize-fracking-impacts

[32] Ravina Bains and Neils Veldhuis. Supreme Court’s Tsilhqot’in First Nation land title ruling boosts uncertainty in Canada’s natural resource sectors. Business Financial Post. July 21, 2014 http://business.financialpost.com/2014/07/21/supreme-courts-tsilhqotin-first-nation-land-title-ruling-boosts-uncertainty-in-canadas-natural-resource-sectors/ ]

[33] Jeremy Leggett. Energy and Nations.

[34] Janet M Eaton. Paradigms, and Paradigm Shifts as Broad Context for the Transition to “Health Care”. 1996. https://www.chebucto.ns.ca/CommunitySupport/NCC/SCDEFJE.html

[35] Janet M Eaton . What is Degrowth? August 4th, 2012. https://beyondcollapse.wordpress.com/2012/08/04/what-is-degrowth-by-janet-m-eaton-august-3-2012/

* Janet M Eaton, PhD, has worked as a marine biologist; as part time university lecturer in Invertebrate Zoology, Globalization Issues, Environment and Sustainable Society, Community Political Power, and Innovations in Education; as an Adult and Community Education administrator and educator, as an independent researcher ; and as a volunteer leader in many Canadian NGOs. She has also been a member and research fellow of the International Systems Institute, and an advocate of systemic thinking and systemic change for the past twenty years. In the 1990s she did workshops for various Nova Scotia government departments and NGO groups on ‘Paradigms and Paradigm Shifts as it pertained to their mandates.


Address: 133 Main St., Wolfville, N.S. B4P 1C2 ;

Ph# 902) 5420 1631 ; E-mail jmeaton@ns.sympatico.ca

Blog: https://beyondcollapse.wordpress.com/


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Australia’s Rejection of Investor-State, from AUSFTA to the Gillard Government’s Trade Policy and the implications for Canada.

By Janet M Eaton, PhD. December 31st , 2013.


This paper places the Australian Labor government’s 2011 policy of Investor -State rejection within the context of the escalating criticism of Investor-State Agreements [ISAs] and the extent to which they are being revisited and rejected by a growing number of countries. It offers insight into how and why the former Labor government of Australia came to its decision to reject Investor -State in its 2011 Trade Policy Statement while considering whether Australia’s policy of Investor-State rejection should be an option for Canada.

For the complete paper go to: http://www.commonfrontiers.ca/Single_Page_Docs/PDF_Docs/Jan08_14-AUSFTA-paper.pdf

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Manifesto of the Poor – Solutions Come from Below, By Fr. Francisco Van der Hoff Boersma, Co-founder of Fair Trade. Overview by Janet M Eaton, PhD


Father Francisco Van der Hoff Boersma or Father Frans, as he is familiarly known, is a Dutch worker priest, with PhDs in both economics and theology, who has written an impassioned, highly informed, insightful and compelling Manifesto of the Poor steeped in anti-capitalist social justice convictions and thirty years of knowledge and wisdom gained in the mountains of the Oaxaca region of Mexico working with indigenous farmers or campesinos to create a unique and successful model of ‘Fair Trade’

Although a manifesto can be personal or non political in nature  the most familiar manifestos are political, as for example the United States Declaration of Independence (1776);  The Declaration of the Rights of Man during the French Revolution (1789); The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederich Engels (1848); The Regina Manifesto (1933) by The  Co-operative Commonwealth Federation;).  Political manifestos are essentially official declarations created to make public a set of principles or values, objectives, perspectives and intentions of a political group, or social movement. As such they are intended for a larger audience as a means of increasing awareness, generating dialogue, and engaging the public in its cause. Manifestos are not simply descriptive but rather provide context and a way forward; sometimes they are said to create the future..

Father Frans lays out his case for fair trade and solutions from below within a framework of critical anti-capitalist analysis which shows why and how Capitalism and the present global Neoliberal system have left millions on the sidelines, especially the indigenous peoples of Latin America. He discusses the imperative of transformation to a better world, via bottom up approaches or solutions from below noting the vision, character, behaviour, and knowledge of the indigenous people that are essential in developing his fair trade alternative. While he recognizes that globalization has failed and calls for ‘deglobalization’ he would like to see the globalization of bottom up approaches around the world. At the same time he insists on the imperative of building social movements to achieve economic transformation.

Fr Frans grounds his Manifesto in the values of the poor campesinos with whom he lived and laboured, and whose way of life is inspired by ancestral wisdom, love of life, resistance, never falling into despair and always maintaining hope for a better future. They do not think of revolution or struggle, he says, but rather of evolution of their situation through solidarity which is seen as the social essence of humankind itself. It is from this fundamental ability to survive that the idea of the social solidarity economy came about some years ago.

Based on this idea of the social solidarity economy are the five postulates upon which his Fair Trade new economic paradigm is built:

  • the economy serves the people and not the reverse;
  • development is measured with people and not with objects;
  • growth and development are two distinct concepts, and development, precisely, does not necessarily lead to growth;
  • no economic process can take place outside of what ecosystems provide; and,
  • the economy is a subset of a larger, finite and closed system that is the biosphere. Consequently, infinite growth is an impossibility.

Critique of cataclysmic Capitalism .

According to Fr Frans, poverty does not fall from the sky but is the result of accumulation of wealth, without boundaries, in rich nations.  He says:

The system has created and segregated the poor and kept them in misery. At this time, we continue to produce poverty, leaving the numerous scapegoat victims at the side of the road.. They are indispensable for the existence and development [of Capitalism]..

While Globalist forces promise to eradicate poverty they fail to address the reality of the poor through charity and international aid which are like medicines that get applied after subjecting them to violence and exclusion. Fair trade on the other hand is an alternative to poverty and he notes that they declined all charity, especially that which comes from above, from the wealthy.  He also suggests that poverty can be addressed through the democratization of the redistribution of profits to ensure a more equal distribution between workers, employers and shareholders.

He concludes that Capitalism has lost all moral horizons, the fallout from which has been that humanity has abandoned all intelligence, all critical sense, and given priority to the religion of the unquestioned market:

The damages caused by this savage or unbridled capitalism are incalculable. It is a type of cancer.

While many advocates of economic change do so within the existing system of global Capitalism, i.e. a reformist approach, Father Frans adopts a more radical approach envisioning his version of fair trade as an alternative to global capitalism. He notes, for example that we must entrust ourselves to a different market because of the enormous failures of the global market, especially from the point of view of the excluded.

“Fair trade must keep its distance from the dominant system; otherwise it will become part of its confinement.” 

Beyond his denunciation of poverty, Father Frans develops his critique of global capitalism by i) exposing two of its dominant myths;  ii) by noting that  the power of political elites and corporations has resulted in a tragic  loss of democracy in the world; iii) by identifying the impacts on environment and climate change; and finally  iv) by reflecting upon the failure of political and economic elites to accept responsibility for the failures of global capitalism or Neoliberalism.

He also reminds us that Capitalism, far from being inherent in humankind, with less than a 200 year history, has its own contradictions that no doubt contain the seeds of its inevitable dissolution. Among those contradictions are what he, and many critics of Capitalism, have called dominant myths – especially the myth of the invisible hand, and the self –regulating market and the myth of unlimited economic growth. That the invisible hand will fix everything is, he suggests, an irrational idea especially since it depends more on a belief in divine providence than on science.  Fr Frans uses the example of free trade agreements in particular the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] to expose the flawed nature of the self-regulating market. By demanding the reduction under NAFTA of tariffs protecting Mexico’s corn, subsidized US corn imports were allowed to destroy Mexico’s dominant export market and the affordability of their dominant food source around which their local economy was built.

Another myth without any scientific foundation that he highlights is the myth of unlimited economic growth .

“The idea, commonly accepted and shared, that ‘economic’ development is a wonderful thing that is drawn from scientific progress and promises eternal growth is an absolute myth… the most harmful evil that has been unleashed on humanity, because in fact, the planet and its resources are finite. … Every day, more and more, the planet demonstrates its limits, explodes. It cannot take it anymore.”

Father Frans Manifesto also reminds us that two of the founding fathers of Noe-Liberalism, Thomas Hayek and Milton Friedman were fully  aware that they didn’t have proper scientific arguments to validate the Neoliberal system and indeed they apparently stated on various occasions that ‘we have to trust the system in order for it to work!’  For Fr Frans these seem like ample reason not to have any more faith in this system than any other

Globalization from below and how to accomplish it

To accomplish the shift to an alternate political and economic model Father Frans challenges us to rethink our rather simplistic, linear, dog- eat- dog competitive practices which deny our common humanity and destroy the planet. He urges us instead to examine our mechanistic way of thinking and world view that serves to keep our collective heads in the sand.   He recognizes that we are at the end of one dominant paradigm or system and that we must search for a new one built on fair and just principles, and a new way of thinking and questioning. He quotes Joseph Stiglitz:

The legacy of this crisis will be a global struggle of ideas and dreams to envision what might be better for humanity and the entire world.

He is concerned that under the knife of ultra-Liberalism, state responsibility is more and more limited, and unable to introduce a more social, and fair economy and that there is no longer true democracy.  Therefore a bottom up approach where citizens, NGOs, and social movements take things into their own hands, as the indigenous people of Oaxaca have done, may be the only way for immediately addressing the incredible wealth disparity in the world today.  He notes that the poor of the world, so many of whom are indigenous peoples, are furious and demanding an economic and financial shift

This means continued reliance on mobilization of peoples for awakening the social conscience.  For him it was Vietnam, for later generations it was Battle of Seattle and later still, the massive rallies to prevent War in Afghanistan and then Iraq. He notes how Seattle was an important moment for consolidating the anti-globalization movement and international consciousness.  For Fr Frans it is imperative that Fair Trade as a movement continue to merge with other movements and NGOs with related goals. Above all, he says it is at the grassroots level that all these movements must continue to evolve together to recuperate democracy, stolen by the elites and the powers that be.

But perhaps his most profound insight from his lifetime of organizing for change is embodied in a slogan he developed for his community in Mexico:

We keep protesting, but at the same time keep proposing.

From his perspective we must rethink our world and create new foundations for economic systems which leads him to briefly review the concept of Gross National Happiness which has emerged in Bhutan as an alternative to Gross National Product [GDP] . He notes that citizens in the streets of Copenhagen and around the world in general are making constructive proposals to governments which, unfortunately, are not listening.  Therefore, he concludes that popular organizations and movements must be an even more concrete propositional power.

Fair Trade a Solution from below

 Father Frans, goes on to outline an alternative future by sharing his knowledge of fair trade based on his work with the indigenous farmers of Oaxaca. He describes when and how fair trade emerged and the extent to which it has spread around the world today. He lays out the benefits of such an economy for the poor indigenous campesinos and explores a few other related models of bottom up economies particularly in Latin America.


His concept of ‘fair trade’ as noted is that of an alternate economy found in solutions that come from below and that flow from a different vision and purpose and therefore cannot be perceived as simply the introduction of a social dimension into the existing world market system.  Fair trade envisions a market where campesinos can  i) benefit from the produce they grow without being exploited; ii) can participate in the improvement of their environment and living conditions for their families; and, iii) above all, organize themselves in production cooperatives so that the efforts, means and benefits are mutual.

One of the major principles of bottom up development is recognizing diversity which means that although these alternatives will follow similar practices they may well differ from one region to the next for indeed as he notes distinct traditions compel the inhabitants of each country and culture to find their own path, a path that is not necessarily exportable. On the contrary the obsession of the global market abuses cultures and differences ruining diversity and hence resulting in a singular top down imposed model of globalization where millions are sidelines and exploited.

Fr Frans describes how the campesinos, being exploited by middlemen [coyotes] organized themselves because they could not feed their families. They came together to form an independent organization, the Union of Indigenous Communities of the Isthmus Region, UCIRI, to obtain a fairer price for their organic coffee production.  With his help they created their own pathways to improvement, self-sufficiency, food security and responsibility with respect to the lands received from their ancestors. They established cooperatives that provided them with an efficient social enterprise that allowed them to generate real added value to their agricultural products and commercialize them in the region where they were produced. They exported the surplus, at a mutually-agreed-upon minimum price, based on quality and a social premium always making it higher than conventional market prices. This enabled them to maintain their customs, culture and social way of life, while resisting the threat of western individualism.

He helped the indigenous people of Mexico to learn about their rights especially the right to organize in cooperatives, and how to draw up their contracts to sell their organic coffee at a fixed minimum price in advance, to ensure a regular income and act as a buffer when coffee prices fluctuated.

To create a market in the north for the fair trade coffee Fr. Frans helped also to create the first fair trade certification label in 1989 in Holland, under the name Max Havelaar5, which allowed the development of a market that included producers, consumers and small businesses.  This fair trade model took on global dimensions as it spread to 56 countries in the South with over a million producers and 22 countries in the North where consumer markets lay. This process permitted the poor to pass from the ranks of the excluded to being actors in an economy that does not exploit them.

Today, their fair trade products of renowned quality are found in coffee shops and supermarket stands in all of the western countries and the entire world knows what these campesinos have achieved and its significance.

Thanks to fair trade, the campesinos finally have adequate housing as well as has access to healthcare, school, earnings and work by the determination and sweat of their own brows not by charity. Fair trade has the potential to allow people to rise from misery and live with dignity as true economic actors with a means to gain true economic, cultural and political autonomy. In this sense fair trade is one of the few economic initiatives that has demonstrated its validity

Before concluding his Manifesto, Fr Frans returns to the theme of emerging social and political movements that seek economic alternatives from below, in particular those in Latin America.  He notes that they were in solidarity with Subcommandante Marcos who championed the Zapatista uprising of the mid 90’s, in Mexico.  The principle demand of zapatismo revolved around the will to live like others with the same rights, ultimately, the same struggle, that  he and the campesinos were involved in, but by different means. He also provides insight into the peaceful revolution in Bolivia where a mass movement led to the election of Evo Morales an enlightened indigenous leader. He also cites the movement in Venezuela that brought Hugo Chavez to power along with significant policy reforms.  Fr Frans notes how all of these revolutions or movements were peaceful placing them within the broader context of the non-violent tradition of Gandhi and the Indian independence.

He considers that he has provided evidence through the evolution of his fair trade model that the social economy exists, and that it is time for it to be officially recognized as an alternative that challenges the dominant economy. Yes, he says a world with more solidarity is possible, supported by an ethic of the common good that cares for planet earth and humanity as a whole.

 He concludes:

This is how we advanced from protests against an unfair market to a true, concrete alternative, the approach of fair trade. To resign ourselves to protest alone will be in vain, if we don’t have concrete solutions in order to change the situation. It is a revolution, but a peaceful one that rests on a constructive proposal that challenges the system….


Father Frans’ Manifesto of the Poor was  published in 2012 by Just Us, Centre for Small Farms, 11865 Highway1, Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  An earlier French Edition was published in 2010. To purchase a copy call I 800 668  8436   or check out the website for an online order form [this function may take awhile to appear] http://www.justuscoffee.com/node/437

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CBC`s Enright interviews founder of `People Who Share` movement & co-founder of `buynothingchristmas.org`

An excellent CBC Sunday Edition program from Michael Enright as usual.

Michael Enright notes that emerging alternatives to consumerism such as `people sharing` networks and `buy nothing Christmas` campaigns  challenge our way of life and restructure our economy and he questions whether this could be interpreted as anti- Capitalist.  The founder of the “People Who Share” movement, Benita Matofska in England, one of two people interviewed   had very intelligent and articulate  answers about what the movement signifies. The other well-spoken interviewee, Aiden Enns,  co-founder of buynothingchristmas.org  from Winnipeg  admitted that his zeal came from his religious beliefs which  had led him to question the economic injustice of  the consumer society and he questioned  whether sharing would address the issue of the present economic inequalities in society.  Very worth listening to at following URL. [1]

This was also just posted on the Degrowth of the Americas Facebook site by Bob Thompson who provides related websites including one that notes : 14th November 2012 was the first ever Global Sharing Day. It was big, it was a world first and it touched all corners of the globe! 161 partners with a reach of over 60 million people in 147 countries helped make it a big success. [2]

Obviously it is a step in the right direction but Degrowth will also demand reasoned public policy shifts  as well to halt the assault on natural resources,  ecosystems and planetary cycles that has by now reached a tipping point.   But then again moving towards a decentralized more localized model suggests that a diversity of approaches will be the new  reality – approaches that share similar values and principles but which are finding different ways to reinvent the future. Some of it will be driven by dire necessity, as economic and environmental conditions deteriorate,  as well as by common sense and  morality as was noted twenty years ago by Professor Robert Heilbroner in his CBC Massey Lectures `Twenty- First Century Capitalism`.

[1] Michael Enright CBC Radio Sunday Edition
Listen to the latest show at

Sharing, Not Buying at Christmas (Hr. 1)

Sunday, December 16, 2012 | Categories: Episodes | 4

Over the past century, Christmas has become an annual excuse for frenzied, even pathological consumerism. Sure, it helps businesses big and small, but do we really need all that stuff? Introducing … the Sharing Economy. Instead of aspiring to own everything they need, people simply have access to it.

Does everyone really need their own snow blower? Couldn’t neighbours just share one? True, Christmas is about giving, and we know it’s better to give than to receive. But more and more people argue it’s even better to share than to give. Others argue it’s better to give nothing than to give something that’s bought in a store.

Either way, emerging alternatives to consumerism seek to challenge our way of life and restructure our economy. Sharing networks … both local and international … have sparked a movement called collaborative consumption, forming a parallel economy worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

Benita Matofska is a former broadcasting executive and producer and entrepreneur. She is the founder and Chief Sharer of the British group, The People Who Share. And Aiden Enns is the co-founder of buynothingchristmas.org and the publisher of Geez magazine.


New post on Degrowth in the Americas
CBC Radio The Sharing Economy
by Bob Thomson
Alternative consumption Interview with Benita Matofska, Chief Sharer of the U.K. and Aiden Enns [Winnipeg] , cofounder of BuyNothingChristmas.org about why we don’t need so much stuff
http://degrowthcanada.wordpress.com /2012/12/16/cbc-radio-the-sharing-economy/
http://BuyNothingChristmas.org /
14th November 2012 was the first ever Global Sharing Day. It was big, it was a world first and it touched all corners of the globe! 161 partners with a reach of over 60 million people in 147 countries helped make it a big success. What did you share on the day?
http://www.compareandshare.com /global-sharing-day/


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What is Degrowth ? By Janet M Eaton, August 6th 2012 (Revised Copy)

Degrowth is a call for a radical break from traditional growth-based models of society whether ‘left’ or ‘right’, to invent new ways of living together in a true democracy, respectful of the values of equality and freedom, based on sharing and cooperation and an economy that reduces the use of natural resources and energy.  — International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas, Montreal, May 2012.

The term degrowth is a translation of the French word decroissance which was first referred to by ecological economist, Nicholas Georgescu- Roegen in his 1971 paper on ‘entropy and the economic process’ which brought into prominence the ecological limits to growth as it relates to the industrial economic growth model. The discussion which Georgescu-Roegen started led to a degrowth movement in France that critiqued conventional growth economics on the grounds that growth in the highly developed nations had become socially counter-productive, uneconomic and ecologically unsustainable. To degrowth advocates, ecological concerns like the depletion of natural resources, stagnating energy supplies, pollution, climate change and loss of biodiversity, and the ever-expanding use of resources by the developed world at the expense of the developing world all pointed to the end of the classical economic growth model.

The French degrowth movement also built upon a tradition within French political culture, critical of the social ills related to consumerism and the misguided assumptions of the economic growth model. The writings of philosophers and scholars like Marx, Gandhi, Karl Polanyi, Hannah Arendt, Ivan Illich, E.F. Schumacher and others have informed the movement. While France has been the centre of the much of the degrowth movement, it is gaining traction in other parts of Europe and in North America where it is associated to a larger degree with ecological economics and the biophysical limits to growth. In North America, ecological economics founder Herman Daly, York University Professor and author of Managing Without Growth Peter Victor, co-author of The Ecological Footprint Professor William Rees, and co-author of Energy and the Wealth of Nations Professor Charles Hall are associated with the degrowth movement and indeed the latter three all spoke at the most recent ‘degrowth conference of the Americas.

Of particular interest however, are the parallels between western degrowth discourse and indigenous perspectives and discourse which have emerged in Latin America, especially a model called ‘live well, not better’, (Vivir Bien in Spanish, Sumak Kawsay in Quechua, commonly referred as Buen Vivir ) and now a central element of Bolivia and Ecuador’s political framework. One Ecuadorian economist concludes:

 Of the alternative concepts that have been proposed , the one that presents the more options within its theoretical framework to replace the old notions  of development and economic growth, is Sumak Kawsay, good living.

As can be deduced from its name, degrowth advocates the downscaling of production and consumption or the contraction of the economy as an imperative for addressing the ills of the dominant economic growth system, not only to preserve the conditions necessary for long-term ecosystem and human survival, but also in order to live better here and now. It is important to note that degrowth proponents do not call for contraction of the economy within the existing neo-classical economic paradigm, where contraction is generally understood as Recession or Depression and the miseries they bring, but rather a planned economic contraction or equitable down scaling, leading to an alternative paradigm where the focus is on ecology, participatory democracy, community and a “good life”. In this regard work sharing, consuming less, inventing creative ways of living together, devoting more time to art, music, family, culture and community, and voluntary simplicity are all important elements of sustainable degrowth. Here we see the similarities with the Latin American indigenous concept of ‘Buen vivir’ which emphasizes the harmonious relation between human beings and their environment and between humans in their communities. In fact different societies around the world have similar views of this shared basic aim of a good life as e.g. beumran meaning thriving or flourishing, as used by the early Arab historian and philosopher Ibn Kaldûn and Gandhi’s swadeshi-sarvodaya.

Although degrowth is not considered a blueprint for change or an economic theory, many ideas for shifting the economic paradigm are discussed under its umbrella, such things as, monetary reform, substituting GDP with well- being or gross national happiness indices, income redistribution, relocalizing industrial manufacturing and agriculture, new forms of governance, the importance of citizenship and participatory democracy, embedding the economy within the social and cultural context, the ecological case for new kinds of laws and treaties, trade deglobalization, steady state economics, ecological economics and managing degrowth.

It is obvious that the growing economic, ecological and financial crises facing the planet and humanity necessitate thinking outside the box in order to challenge the nostrums of the growth economy. Within that context, degrowth serves a valuable function as a symbolic word that challenges the ‘tyranny of growth’ and the absurd pursuit of growth at all costs. Some also suggest that the term degrowth has the advantage of not being easily usurped or captured by proponents of the present flawed global economic growth model in the way that  the so-called ‘green economy’ has been appropriated.

Degrowth is also useful in the present day context of growing threats of ecosystem and financial collapse because it frames the problem as a paradigm shift which opens the door to questioning the values, assumptions, and knowledge base underpinning the present economic growth system. In this respect degrowth has been referred to as a ‘tool’ for initiating a more radical break with dominant economic thinking. One well known degrowth academic put it this way:

…. degrowth is not just a quantitative question of doing less of the same, it is … more fundamentally, about a paradigmatic re-ordering of values, in particular the (re)affirmation of social and ecological values and a (re)politicization of the economy”

Degrowth academics also speak of ‘decolonizing the mind’ or ‘decolonizing the imagination’ noting that once economic growth is recognized as an abstract idea and not an objective reality one can begin to seriously envision and espouse alternatives. Some in the movement speak of this as ‘escaping the economy’.

In the same manner Buen Vivir allows for the escape from the old notions of economic growth because it provides an alternate economic paradigm already being tested within certain Latin American countries even if only on the fringes at this time.

Another important facet of degrowth is that after forty years, it has a respectable and growing literature found in academic journals, conference proceedings from International Conferences, Paris (2008) and Barcelona (2010) and two North American Conferences, Vancouver (2010) and Montreal (2012), in respected newspapers like Le Monde Diplomatique and its own monthly magazine La Decroissance, numerous blogs and online fora, research papers from an Institute devoted to degrowth,, as well as numerous books and text books. Likewise in Latin America there is a growing literature, some conference proceedings and considerable analysis and proposals for a post-industrial or post- development world based on their own unique indigenous perspective of  Buen Vivir.

This constitutes an invaluable knowledge base and resource for not only the degrowth and indigenous movements but also for those in other related movements and disciplines who seek to better understand the current breakdown of the Neoliberal neoclassical economic growth model, its impacts, and to envision alternative economic futures.

Degrowth also acknowledges and encompasses related ideas, concepts and movements such as the end of growth, post-growth development, peak oil, voluntary simplicity, transition towns etc, alternatives to GDP, etc., as can be seen by reviewing the roster of speakers at the various conferences of late and recent writings. In the same manner those writing form other related perspectives, disciplines and movements are beginning to reference ‘degrowth. e.g. Richard Heinberg in the final section “Post- Growth Economics” of his latest book The End of Growth, reviews contributions from alternative economists and schools of alternate economic thought, including a short discussion of the origins of degrowth and philosophical influences.

Degrowth has also garnered more international attention of late, particularly after Economist Tim Jackson’s report Prosperity Without Growth was issued in March 2009 by the UK’s Sustainable Development Commission. As noted in the Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society (ISHES) annual report Life without Growth: Alternatives and Complements to GDP measured Growth, Professor Jackson’s report was remarkable in being the first such treatment of the topic issued by an official national government body and in that respect has become one of the most widely read current introductions to degrowth and an essential reference on the topic. The ISHES report also cites the collaborative work of Jackson and Canadian Professor Peter Victor which provides the key elements for  an alternative economic pathway the Degrowth movement proposes to the world with a vision for transformative change.

At the same time a recent article Greetings from the New Economy, describing a recent June 2012 Conference of the New Economics Institute characterized this US based New Economy Movement as a large tent with differing perspectives, amongst which is  found those focused on a no-growth economy. Prominent amongst the no-growth advocates is Boston College Professor, Juliet Schor.

In general  the degrowth movement and certainly the Buen Vivir indigenous approach are critical of Capitalism, Colonialism, Imperialism and Neoliberalism and as such tend to reject the concept of  sustainable development as oxymoronic, rooted as it is in mainstream development ideas that aim to increase capitalist growth and consumption.

Finally it is perhaps worth noting that the European originators of the concept of degrowth considered a potential function for degrowth as providing a platform for emerging discussion  on the necessity of a political – economic shift that moves us beyond growth. In this respect the recent conference in Montreal provided such a platform for people who included academics and scholars from diverse academic disciplines, Institutes and Research Centres,  NGO activists, and indigenous peoples all focused on finding an economic alternative to growth. Latin American scholar, Eduardo Gudynas sees a similar function for  Buen Vivir suggesting that the rich and multiple discourses around Buen Vivir, amount to a political platform for different visions of alternatives to development.

In conclusion, degrowth heralds the need for a new political economic and societal paradigm and has opened up a space for  initiating and framing discussions, analyses and strategies focused on making  that essential transformation a reality.


Samuel Alexander Planned Economic Contraction: The Emerging Case for Degrowthhttp://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1941089

Joan Martínez-Alier a, Unai Pascual b, Franck-Dominique Vivien c, Edwin Zaccai .Sustainable de-growth: Mapping the context, criticisms and future prospects of an emergent paradigm. http://www.web.ca/~bthomson/degrowth/degrowth_history.pdf

John Dillon. The Economics of Sustainability. KAIROS Backgrounder. July 2010http://www.kairoscanada.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/SUS-GF-G20-EconomicsSustainability.pdf

Valerie Fournier.  Escaping from the Economy. http://www.web.ca/~bthomson/degrowth/fournier_the_politics_of_degrowth_13mar08.pdf

Eduardo Gudynas. Buen Vivir: Today’s Tomorrow. 2011 http://www.palgrave-journals.com/development/journal/v54/n4/full/dev201186a.html

Life Beyond Growth. 2012. Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society, Japan. http://lifebeyondgrowth.wordpress.com/

Judy Kennedy. The Growth of Degrowth (Part 1) Campaign for fair, sustainable economy is gaining ground. http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/monitor/growth-degrowth-part-1

Serge Latouche. Degrowth economics. Le Monde Dkiplomatique. http://mondediplo.com/2004/11/14latouche/

Quebec Movement for convivial degrowth Mouvement Quebecois pour une decroissance conviviale.English translation http://www.decroissance.qc.ca/mouvement.html Bob Thomson (bthomson@web.ca)

Abby Scher. Greetings from the new Economy. CommonDreams.org Aug 4th, 2012

Bob Thomson. Pachikuti: Indigenous Perspectives and Degrowth. Conference Proceedings, 2nd conference on Economic Degrowth For Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity. Barcelona March 26th- 29th, 2010

Bob Thomson, Ottawa, 11 March 2011. Draft Bibliography on Convivial Degrowth http://www.web.ca/~bthomson/degrowth/draft_degrowth_bibliography.html

Degrowth Conference Barcelona 2010, March 26 – 29, 2010 the Second International Conference on Economic Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity. http://barcelona.degrowth.org/

International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas. http://montreal.degrowth.org

Janet M Eaton presented on Degrowth and Trade Deglobalization at the Montreal International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas, May 2012. That paper will later be posted on this site.

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Earth Day, Tar Sands, Free Trade & Degrowth – Connecting the Dots by Janet M Eaton

Posted on May 1, 2012

May 1st, 2012

In a short article entitled “Earth Day and Tar Sands”, published by Common Dreams April 19th  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/04/19-8 ]  Dale Wiehoff, VP of Communications and IP for the IATP [Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy], makes the link between Earth Day, the tar sands, and free trade.

First he relates how Earth Day emerged in the wake of a growing number of environmental concerns back in the 60s, not the least of which was a major oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel, all of which led, not only to Earth Day, but also to the Environmental Protection Agency in the US, significant new regulatory policies and a new generation that was defining environmentalism. In Canada we saw the parallel emergence of  Environment Canada and significant new legislative acts and policies.

Wiehoff goes on to  remind us that on this Earth Day 2012, as we look back over 40 years of corporate pillage and abuse, none of those earlier offshore disasters like Santa Barbara or the Exxon Valdez disaster come close to the environmental threats and costs of the tar sands.  Finally he reminds us of a rarely examined driver behind tar sands oil production – i.e  trade policy, starting with NAFTA and now the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

This is indeed an important insight which has been pointed out over the years by activists and academics alike but which, during recent years, has been lost in the simplistic  ‘black and white’ rhetoric used by the Harper government to confine the debate to a neoliberal box where inevitability is assumed and multi-sectoral, citizen and even Opposition input is out rightly thwarted reducing debate to a unilateral government challenge  – “you’re either for us or against the national interest”

Wiehoff reminds us as we already know  that the investor state clause in Free Trade Agreements( FTAs) like NAFTA and  CETA,  now in final stages of negotiation, place  corporate profits over all other considerations while overriding our own laws put in place to protect citizens and the environment . And  we will recall that NAFTA also inflicted Ch 6 or the Proportionality clause, another driver behind tar sands oil production”,  which requires that Canada make two-thirds of its domestic oil production available for export to the United States in perpetuity.

We have also seen free trade and the tar sands implicated again during the CETA negotiations, with Harper government officials crossing the Atlantic many times to lobby  the EU to reject placing the tar sands oil in a separate ‘dirty’ fuel category in regard to its  ‘Fuel Quality Directive’ which is part  of the EU’s effort to target climate change and reduce the emissions intensity of fuel in cars and other machinery.

And now with free trade on the agenda and a foreign investment protection-promotion agreement concluded with China, there is yet another environmentally threatening free trade- related imperative to ensure the transport of tar sands bitumen to the Pacific coast by the Northern Gateway project and other pipelines to make it available for export, regardless of  environment impacts.

Enter the Harper Budget or the “Economic Action Plan 2012” tabled March 27th with Bill C-38, the 2012 Budget Bill, fast on its heels, tabled April 26th, both of which further remind us that trade trumps the environment at every turn in what can only be described as an unprecedented, outrageous and anti-democratic assault on the environment for big oil profits as described at: http://www.sierraclub.ca/en/main-page/harper-budget-assault-environment-big-oil-profits-roundup-canadian-environmental-ngo-respo

Wiehoff also concludes that trade trumps people, communities and the environment. :”When Native American tribes say tar sands oil extraction violates their sovereignty, when communities fear tar sands oil will contaminate their drinking water, or when climate experts say tar sands oil will increase global warming, all of them are reminded that trade policy take precedent.”

But the time has come to move beyond reminders and to once again find ways to confront a global environmental devastation far worse than that faced when Earth Day, EPA and the environment movement were begun.

With the life threatening and planetary threat of the ‘tar sands’ travesty, with many of the earth’s ecosystems teetering on collapse, and with the global economy recognized by all, but the global leaders and their cheer leaders, as a failed project, it is imperative to  refocus our thinking on a   paradigmatic shift. Perhaps it is time to consider the ‘deglobalization’ of trade and a planned ‘degrowth’ of the economy. . In fact as one delves into the diverse literature of the global democracy movement, localization, ecological economics, systemic change and the newly emerging academic field of ‘Degrowth’ one discovers well developed frameworks, strategies, and credible suggestions for shrinking trade within a new paradigm of scaled down growth that would bring trade closer to home be it national or bio- regional with a focus on sustainable, democratic local and national economies.

Colin Hines, in a book called “Localization: A Global Manifesto”,  and more recently Michael Schuman , author of  “Going Local”, have both made the observation that for localization to take hold global trade rules and structures will have to be altered or in some cases eliminated. David Korten in his recently published ‘New Economic Agenda’ report notes that we will, among other things, have to:” Rewrite International Trade and Investment Rules to Secure National Ownership, Self-Reliance, and Self-Determination” because the current rules of the global economy give priority to the interests, rights, and power of global corporations over the interests, rights, and power of people and the governments responsible for their well-being. And Herman Daly, renowned ecological economist, informs us that:  “For ecological reasons we must reduce rather than increase international trade. We must move toward a more nationalist orientation that seeks to develop domestic production for internal markets as the first option, having recourse to international trade only when clearly much more efficient.”

Janet Eaton’s blogs, writings and power points can be found at:

https://beyondcollapse.wordpress.com/  and some at


Janet  is presently researching the relationship between “Degrowth and the Deglobalization of Trade” for a paper she will present at the Montreal International Degrowth Conference of the Americas, May 18th 2012.  http://montreal.degrowth.org/program.html. 


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