If Oprah Winfrey is willing to plug "Ethical Oil", why stop with the tar sands?

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So when poor developing nations reach into their threadbare pockets to buy some fireproof material they shouldn’t think about how “ethical” each of the various products are. No, no. That’s a confusing distraction. It’s the whole reason we vetoed the global labelling treaty.

Instead, our federal government can use our tax dollars and our shiny new “ethical” brand to get consumers to think deeply -- and only -- about just what kind of ethics the selling nation really has. Oh, and we mean “ethics” in a vague general sense that is unconnected to anything to do with our asbestos, our asbestos industry or our government’s actions around our asbestos.

Want to vote for the next big Canadian slogan? Try these:

a)   “Ethical asbestos. From Canada with love.”

b)   “Ethical asbestos. Canada’s moral fibre.”

c)   “Ethical asbestos. Support Canadian values.”

Ethical High-Nicotine Cigarettes

We know it is possible to make cigarettes that are much more addictive. But an unfortunate taint of “dirtier and more damaging” plus plain old-fashioned “immorality” hangs over it. That’s where Canada’s new “ethical” marketing could pry open this jobs and profits bonanza for the tobacco companies.

Yes, cigarettes would be much worse for you, but come on, there are nice people in Canada. Focus on that. In fact, we can start a focus group right now by letting you choose your favourite slogan:

a)   “Ethical cigarettes. They are worse, but we are better.”

b)   “Ethical cigarettes. Friendly Canadian cancer.”

c)   “Ethical cigarettes. We’re worth it.”

Amazingly, Canada is blessed with just the man for the job: Ezra Levant, the person who literally wrote the book on “Ethical Oil”. As luck would have it, Mr. Levant also has recent experience as registered tobacco lobbyist representing the Philip Morris subsidiary of Rothman’s Inc. How lucky can ethical Canadians get?

Ethical Meth

Talk about a loyal and committed customer base.  Wow. Ka-ching. If ever there was a growth industry being held back because its product is viewed by most people as “unethical” and “immoral”, then this is it. Let’s be honest: we know people use meth. And right now all that profit is going to deeply unethical people. If it is going to be sold anyway, the profits should go to global corporations making their meth right here amongst a bunch of ethical people in Canada. It can even be a much nastier and more dangerous meth. It just doesn’t matter because we aren’t going to talk about the actual product. Remember?


So what will it be?

a)   “Ethical meth. A Canadian no brainer.”

b)   “Ethical meth. Buy from us, not the creeps.”

c)   “Ethical meth. Speeding Canada-based multinationals to a richer tomorrow.”

“Ethical” or “Game over”?

Let’s end by returning to the current “ethical” marketing campaign: the one to dramatically ramp up our tar sands’ climate pollution.

Climate activist and author, Bill McKibben tells Rolling Stone why he is helping lead one of the largest and most sustained civil disobedience actions in decades in the USA. In one two-week stretch, hundreds of people got arrested at the White House protesting this Canadian attempt to radically expand our tar sands’ carbon pollution. McKibben:

…those tar sands are the second-biggest pool of carbon on earth, after the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. Burning up Saudi Arabia is the biggest reason the Earth's temperature has already risen one degree from pre-industrial levels, that epic flood and drought have become ubiquitous, and that the Arctic is melting away. Since we didn't know about climate change when we started in on Saudi Arabia, you can't really blame anyone. But if we do it a second time in Canada, we deserve what we get.

If you do the calculations, explains James Hansen – the planet's most important climate scientist, who was arrested at the White House about halfway through the two weeks of protest – opening up the tar sands to heavy exploitation would mean "it's essentially game over" for the climate. Which is a sentence worth reading twice.

…the guys supporting this thing [ramping up tar sands pollution] have most of the money on earth – the oil industry is the most profitable thing human beings have ever done, by far. ExxonMobil made more money last year than any company in the history of...money. If it comes down to money, and it usually does, we'll lose.

…we needed to rely on a different currency, one that we possess and they don't. For two weeks, that currency was our bodies…

On the one side, Big Oil corporations and  Stephen Harper’s government are teaming up to spend big to sell an aggressive expansion of Canada’s climate destabilizing pollution as more “ethical” than the less damaging alternatives. On the other side, climate science is saying we must leave most of the tar sands climate pollution in the ground forever if we want to avoid dangerous destabilization of our weather and nasty acidification of our oceans.

Will Canadians allow Big Oil and the Harper government to strip mine Canada’s “ethics”, the way they are strip mining our boreal forests, in the name of radically expanding Canada’s dirty and dangerous climate pollution? And if we do, then just how long before “ethical Canada” has lost its meaning -- and we have lost our way?

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