I blog about environmental and social justice issues because I am very concerned about the health of the interdependent web of life of which we are a part.

Melting Arctic ice.......beautiful and frightening!

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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Save Your Energy

It's a British made video - but a fun way to learn about conserving energy. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Week is A Long Time In Politics

I've never seen anything like the turnaround in the polls for Jack Llayton and the NDP party.  (Well - maybe once - the Progessive Conservatives did get their asses kicked in 1993.  Remember when Jean Charest and Elsie Wayne could hold caucus meetings in a phone booth?)

But why now?  Rick Mercer has been wondering the same thing - and puts it down to TV.
At first I believed Jack’s new-found success among anglophone voters in Quebec could be attributed to the fact that in the French language debates his translator sounded like Sean Connery, but clearly it’s more than that. And while the crowds are larger than Jack is used to, Jack is doing exactly what he has done for almost a decade. I watched him get a rock-star response at a Sikh Khalsa Day celebration in Toronto, I saw him talk blue-collar issues for a boisterous crowd in Saint John, N.B., and finally parlez-vous them into a frenzy in Gatineau, Que....And Jack Layton is a great campaigner but a good speech in Gatineau doesn’t put the NDP in first place in Quebec. Jack made that happen on French debate night. Again, it’s the air war.
I don't think it is only TV though.  The Conservatives underestimated the voters - you and me.
Many pollsters, and some insiders from other parties, entered this campaign sharing the belief that the vast majority of voters aren’t really in play.Then, after the leaders’ debates, all hell broke loose. Starting in Quebec, then spreading to other provinces, support started shifting toward the NDP – not just in tiny blocs, but in large numbers. If the polls are to be believed, millions of voters have moved to a party that was assumed to have hit its ceiling in the last campaign.  It is not Conservative voters, primarily, who have shifted. In Quebec, where Mr. Layton has for years been courting left-of-centre and soft nationalist voters, the NDP capitalized on fatigue and annoyance with the Bloc Québécois. Elsewhere, the gains have mostly come at the expense of the Liberals and the Green Party.  But the Conservatives, who thought they had this election fully gamed out, have not been nimble enough to respond. They have watched as anti-Harper support has consolidated behind the NDP, putting in jeopardy some of the seats they were counting on, and until the last few days seemingly refused to believe it was happening. And because they didn’t think it was worth speaking to most self-identified supporters of other parties, they’ve been unable to woo many of the disaffected Liberals leaving that party in droves..... And in future campaigns, all parties will know better than to treat us as quite the automatons the Conservatives thought we were.
The  shift in polling patterns  happened after the debates -  so perhaps Rick Mercer is correct about the "air war.".   But some of the effect has  to have been achieved by the Conservatives themselves - not talking to supporters of other parties - not permitting people without an approved Facebook profile into Conservative rallies - working from fear rather than from hope.

And, perhaps the many times the Liberals propped the Conservatives up by voting with them has come back to bite them  or maybe Jack Layton just seems -  well - warmer and nicer and more hopeful than the other two.

I hope this trend holds - I'd love to do a conga line chanting Harper's gone, Harper's gone a la 1993!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Another Reason Not to Vote Conservative

If you needed another reason not to vote Conservative in the May 2nd federal election, here's one.

There’s a hole in the Conservative platform…a hole so big, you could fit Canada’s oil and gas sector or every single one of our fossil-fuel power plants into it. The hole is projected to get bigger, and will be large enough to fit every single car, truck, SUV, train, bus, and ATV in Canada into it by 2020. These are not figures from David Suzuki. They are taken from speeches by Conservative Environment Minister Peter Kent and reports provided by Environment Canada earlier this year. ...The Conservatives are clearly aware of this hole in their platform, but they have failed to introduce any substantial new programs to close the 178 Mt gap....The Conservatives need to answer one of two questions on costs which they have not included in their platform. Either they must address the costs of meeting our targets, or the costs to our export industries and our international reputation if we don’t meet them.

Who is this pinko author? He is an Assistant Professor at the Alberta School of Business. He blogs on energy, environment, and oilsands issues at http://www.andrewleach.ca

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Steve it's Time to Leave

Watching a Train Wreck

Over the six years Alex Gardner monitored Canada's Arctic glaciers and ice caps, he says they lost almost as much water as there is in Lake Erie.

The ice loss has increased sharply "in direct response to warmer summer temperatures" since 2004 — so sharply that Gardner and his colleagues say the Canadian Arctic Archipelago was the single largest contributor to global sea-level rise outside Greenland and Antarctica between 2007 and 2009.

He says that in 2009, the ice-loss rate was four times larger than estimated by NASA for the mid- to late-1990s.  ..

"It's like watching a slow train wreck," says Gardner, noting that millions of people around the world could be displaced in coming decades as ice melts and sea levels rise.

Gardner, ... says it might be possible to avoid the worst outcomes by coming up with a "more responsible" way of managing the economy.

"Canada still has one of the largest carbon footprints in the world, so I would say we are failing on that," he said.
Watching a train wreck indeed......

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Changing Minds Part 2

The short answer: use peer pressure.

Recent research suggests that much of our consumption stems from a deep desire to fit in, to do what others do. While Murtagh has been finding ways to be diplomatic with neighbours who don't want to walk their children to school, she has been documenting similar attitudes in working parents across the UK. In a 2010 study published as a working paper at the University of Surrey6, Murtagh, and colleagues Birgitta Gatersleben and David Uzzell surveyed parents who earned at least £25,000 per year and lived in suburban or urban locations. In their sample, participants made 80% of their trips by car (compared with a national average of 71%) and 52% of their trips to school by car (also higher than the national average of 43%). More than 70% said that being a driver was important to their identity, behind being a 'parent' and 'worker', suggesting their decision to drive is partly governed by how they think others perceive them....although peer pressure may prompt us to continue driving, it can also provide the necessary incentive to switch to more sustainable behaviour. In a study motivated by reports of the enormous popularity of the Toyota Prius hybrid car in the US, even after tax rebates there ended, Vladas Griskevicius of the University of Minnesota and colleagues found that status-seeking motivates individuals to buy greener products more strongly than any desire to save energy and reduce emissions. Writing in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2010, the team reported the results of a series of experiments on the motivators behind shopping behaviour7.       ....All this suggests that we have barriers to deal with in ourselves. Some social scientists now argue that understanding how we care on an emotional level, known in the field as 'affect', is the only way to motivate society to change its energy use. “If we are recognizing a gap between what people say and what they value,” says Renee Lertzman, a climate and behaviour consultant at Portland State University, “we want to understand what's going on with people: conflict dilemmas, contradictions, ambivalence.” In other words, we need to psychoanalyse people a little bit, she acknowledges, and understand the gloomy, melancholy side of how people are facing climate change.

The slightly longer  answer:   use peer pressure; target your audience, understand them and their values, and use language they understand in an effort to get them to change driving habits  or to conserve energy.

Changing Minds

People do change their minds occasionally. About what to wear - or where to holiday. Changing one's mind seems to be a rarer thing on issues where people are heavily invested emotionally. Think abortion.... Or climate change.Mother Jones has an interesting article on this at


The writer of the article describes how an emotional investment can skew our reasoning by discussing relationships. Ze says

We all understand these mechanisms when it comes to interpersonal relationships. If I don't want to believe that my spouse is being unfaithful, or that my child is a bully, I can go to great lengths to explain away behavior that seems obvious to everybody else—everybody who isn't too emotionally invested to accept it, anyway.
Ze goes on to demonstrate, that, since this emotional skewing happens to everyone,  it is virtually useless to argue with people over the facts .

Take, for instance, the question of whether Saddam Hussein possessed hidden weapons of mass destruction just before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. When political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler showed subjects fake newspaper articles (PDF) in which this was first suggested (in a 2004 quote from President Bush) and then refuted (with the findings of the Bush-commissioned Iraq Survey Group report, which found no evidence of active WMD programs in pre-invasion Iraq), they found that conservatives were more likely than before to believe the claim.

Uh huh.  The stronger the evidence against their belifes, the more the subjects clung to their beliefs.  Gad -  what's a poor climate change or environmental activist to do in that case ? Arguing doesn't change anyone's mind. Presenting  facts entrenches beliefs! Aaagggh! One ray of hope remains:
Conservatives are more likely to embrace climate science if it comes to them via a business or religious leader, who can set the issue in the context of different values than those from which environmentalists or scientists often argue.

So sell climate change adaptation and greenhouse gas emission reduction to deniers on the basis of their values - using someone they already respect as a spokesperson if possible. Couch measures in patriotic language and present said maeasures as business opportunities.

Another ray of hope. sometimes people change their minds on the basis of their experiences. A conservative Christian campaigner against gay amrriage in the US changed his mind and recanted his opposition to gay marriage.
between what I had witnessed on the marriage tour and RJ’s post about marriage equality, I really came to understand that gays and lesbians were just real people who wanted to live real lives and be treated equally as opposed to, for example, wanting to destroy American culture. No, they didn’t want to destroy American culture, they wanted to openly particulate in it. I was well on my way to becoming a supporter of civil marriage equality. My name is Louis J. Marinelli, a conservative-Republican and I now support full civil marriage equality. The constitution calls for nothing less.

The trick is gonna be changing enough folks' minds -  in time.   Tick, tock, tick, tock.......