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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Monday, May 30, 2011

We Can Do Things Differently

We can do things differently - we've proved that in the past. 

The British made the slave trade illegal.  In 1807.  And abolished slavery in most of the Empire in 1833.  Of course, the pro-slavery lobby worked furiously to prevent this.

Arguments made then against abolishing slavery have a curiously modern tone.
 The most approved Judges of the Commercial Interests of these Kingdoms have been of the opinion that our West-Indian and African Trades are the most nationally beneficial of any we carry on... That Traffic alone affords our Planters a constant supply of Negro Servants for the Culture of their Lands in the produce of Sugars, Tobacco, Rice, Rum, Cotton, Fustick, Pimento and all our other Plantation Produce: so that the extensive Employment of our other Shipping in, to and from America, the great Brood of Seamen consequent thereupon, and the daily bread of the most considerable of our British Manufactures, are owing primarily to the Labour of Negroes. http://gallery.nen.gov.uk/audio78797-abolition.html
In other words, the writer of the pamphlet arguing for slavery felt that British manufacturing was uneconomic without the slave trade.   Of course, he was wrong.

The folks arguing that it is uneconomic to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are wrong as well. 
Current economic difficulties presented an opportunity not a hurdle to move towards a low carbon economy, said Lord Stern, an economist at the London School of Economics who authored an eponymous report in 2006 on the costs of climate change. "The case for urgent action is not just powerful, its also attractive," he said, adding that emerging countries such as China had increasingly grasped this while others, like the US, were moving backwards. http://euobserver.com/884/31778

So please reduce your own greenhouse gas emissions.  Educate others - with loving kindness.  And lobby your politicians.

PS I started thinking about doing things differently when I read the following article in the Globe and Mail. 
 Daniel Kish has no eyes, but can ride his bike down the street and walk through an unfamiliar airport on his own. 

OK - Now I'm Depressed.

The video is from Al Jazeera.  http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2011/05/2011530195212675595.html

Greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year, to the highest carbon output in history, putting hopes of holding global warming to safe levels all but out of reach, according to unpublished estimates from the International Energy Agency.  The shock rise means the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius – which scientists say is the threshold for potentially "dangerous climate change" – is likely to be just "a nice Utopia", according to Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA. It also shows the most serious global recession for 80 years has had only a minimal effect on emissions, contrary to some predictions.
Sigh ......well, no point in being depressed.  It won't help. 

So ------Write your Congressperson - MP - Senator - and tell them this is a serious problem and we expect decisive leadership - not a craven grovelling at the feet of the fossil fuels industry. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Slave Lake

The fire storm that decimated Slave Lake was incredibly traumatic for the residents. 
"It looked like the whole town of Slave Lake was on fire," said Courtorielle, who grew up in Slave Lake. "It was like it was out of a horror movie. I have never in my life seen anything like this."  http://www.edmontonsun.com/2011/05/16/resident-recalls-fleeing-slave-lake

It has happend before - in BC - in 2003.

Photo appropriated from http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2003/2003-08-25-01.html

And it will happen again. And again. and .... you get the idea.  Climate change models suggest that boral forests will be more susceptible to fire as the climate heats up.

The forests are getting warmer and drying out, becoming more fire-prone; they’re being hit by more lightning storms, which start 35 per cent of fires; and they’re being attacked by the mountain pine beetle, which is migrating steadily eastward, killing trees and making them more flammable.  “I think it’s consistent with what we expect from climate change. We’ve already seen increases in fire activity in Canada,” said Mike Flannigan, a University of Alberta wildland fire professor and Canadian Forest Service researcher.Almost annually, we’re crossing new [fire] thresholds,” said Brian Simpson, director of B.C.’s Wildfire Management Branch. “All the numbers speak to it.”h

So what's the solution?   
Population sprawl, the pine beetle and climate change are all affecting the fire season, Mr. Simpson said. And bigger fires release more carbon, fuelling a degrading cycle. Slowing climate change is the best long-term solution, Dr. Flannigan said. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/prairies/slave-lake-shows-the-increasing-risk-of-serious-forest-fires-experts-warn/article2030715/page2/
The Alberta governemnt  still seem to be living in denial, however .

Officials in Alberta, however, aren’t so quick to link their increasing forest fire problem to climate change.
“I wouldn’t relate [Slave Lake] to a situation where we’re suggesting that climate change is an issue going forward. I’d relate it to a one-off,” said Mel Knight, Alberta’s Minister of Sustainable Resource Development.
One - off situation, huh?    Does the fact that the Alberta government uses the royalties from oil and gas skew their view?  How many folks have to be evacuated in the nick of time before denial becomes impossible? 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The New Normal

Heavy rains, deep snowfalls, monster floods and killing droughts are signs of a "new normal" of extreme U.S. weather events fueled by climate change, scientists and government planners said on Wednesday.

It's a new normal and I really do think that global weirding is the best way to describe what we're seeing," climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University told reporters. "We are used to certain conditions and there's a lot going on these days that is not what we're used to, that is outside our current frame of reference," Hayhoe said on a conference call with other experts, organized by the non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists.Hayhoe, other scientists, civic planners and a manager at the giant Swiss Re reinsurance firm all cited human-caused climate change as an factor pushing this shift toward more extreme weather.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/19/floods-droughts-extreme-weather-us_n_864046.html
So when will we, as a society , act on ever increasing greenhouse gas emissions?    Are we just going to keep living in denial?

 Write your Member of Parliament and ask them to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.  Hell, ask them to start riots in the streets  - we should be very concerned about the world our children will live in.

Maybe This is Why the Canadian Government Does Nothing

That’s because global warming has the potential to be a boon for profit seekers. The reason: a hotter climate could undermine crops, leading to smaller harvests and higher prices.  By studying temperature and yield records from 1980 to 2008, the team of academics from Columbia University and Stanford University estimated that the global trend to warmer temperatures has led wheat yields to be 5.5 per cent lower than they would have been had the climate been stable, and corn yields to be 3.8 per cent lower.

The reduction spread out over the world was the equivalent to losing the annual corn harvest from Mexico and the wheat harvest of France.  There was upside for Canadian farmers from the research. In their number crunching, the researchers noted no effect on yields in Canada and the U.S., because temperatures haven’t risen in those countries as they have elsewhere around the globe. “Pretty much every climate model says that [North American farmers] will get warming too,” but it has not yet been affected by the trend, Dr. Schlenker said.
Some boon - higher food prices - more hunger.  And, as a commenter on the Globe and Mail site said  "The economic consequences of the instability created when other nations face declining crop yields and difficulty feeding all of their citizens is more likely than not to offset any benefits. One only has to look back to the the economic meltdown two years ago to see how bad things "over there" can cause havoc here."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Ethics of Climate Change

I am a Unitarian Universalist.   Recently , our minister preached  - yes, big surprise - that's what ministers do!  She explored  the subject of " neighbours."

Well, I believe that we are all connected - people, animals, insects, viruses, plants, fungi, stars - you get the idea.   So my answer to the question "Who is  my neighbour? "   is -  everyone and everything.  Therefore, it behooves me to look after my nieghbour - or not to actively harm them.   Therefore, I must  act to prevent  climate change as well as work to persuade others of the necessity of acting.

I'm not the only person who has arrived at this conclusion.
Climate change is changing our world. Not only is it changing our physical world, but also our intellectual, social, and moral worlds, in ways that we could not have imagined a  generation or two ago. The science of climate change, and the political impasses associated  with dealing with it, demonstrate that we are in a profoundly unsafe, interdependent, and uncertain world....[Therefore] be willing to take an ethical stand on climate change.  There is no place to hide form this....Regard economics as being about provisioning - that is, the way socities organize themselves to provide for the sustaining and flourishing of life. http://www.e3network.org/papers/Ethics_and_the_Economist_033111.pdf
So what do I do to live ethically and to prevent and mitigate climate change?

Little and big - in no particular order:
  • I walk to work.  If you cannot do that, take transit.  Or car pool! If everyone drove to work with one aother person, you'd reduce vehicles on the road by one -half and greenhouse gas emissions accordingly.
  • I shop at the local farmers' market and freeze and preserve food  for the winter.  Trucking and flying goods generates a lot of greenhouse gases.
  • I am a vegetarian.  Eating meat raised in the agri biz is not only cruel to animals, and  destructive to the environment,  but the industry  generates almost 20 % of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
  • I buy fair trade food.  (OK - it's trucked in  -but at least shade grown coffee doesn't destroy the environment. And as soon as I find coffee that arrives om the Bluenose, I'll buy that.)
  • We have cut our electrical bill to one- half its former total by turning off lights/ appliances/ clock radios  and installing CFLs.  We replaced our washer , dryer , and dishwasher with European models that use very little electricity or water.
  • We(me and my partner)  turn our heat backto 15 C at night and up to 17 C during the daytime.  Walking around in a sweater isn't a hardship.  And snuggling is fun!
  • We installed a solar hot water heater.   Lots of susnshine in the Interior of BC.
  • We don't fly anywhere.
  • I write letters to politicans and urge them to to take action on climate change ( and perahps salvage Canada's reputation in the process.)  
  • We donate to climate action groups.
  • We help organize climate change rallies and vigils - in fact, we volunteer a lot of time.  Not only do we work for a good cause, we enlarge our community of friends.  And have fun.
  • I educate myself  on the issue and on the psychology of climate change denial.
  • I meditate to grow my loving kindness and to generate more love in the world.
Anyone can do some of these things.  I / we didn't begin by doing all of them at once. Just begin! 

If you can only choose one, please choose creating more love in the world - for yourself as well as all others. After all, Gandhi said  "Be the change you want to see in the world."   I say once we learn to love the world and ourselves, we will not destroy it  - we will  create a velvet climate revolution.

PS The picture was taken at a candlelight vigil for the Copenhagen Conference - the action was suggested by the folks at
http://www.350.org/             Check the website out - lots of ideas for actions in the fall of 2011.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Look Your Last On all Things Lovely

Globally warmer seas, rising carbon dioxide emissions and local factors like over-fishing have pushed the threat level on the world's coral reefs into the danger zone, environmental advocates said on Wednesday. "Mounting pressures on land, along the coast and in the water converge in a perfect storm of threats to reefs," Jane Lubchenco, administrator at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said at a briefing. "Since the last 'Reefs at Risk' report ... threats have gone from worrisome to dire." "It's pretty clear that reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide, is absolutely necessary if we want any hope of preventing a lot of the dire situations that are presented in the report," Lubchenco said.
Looks like we won`t have coral reefs in our future unless we reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

We're Going to Court

More accurately, the BC provincial government is going to face off with the Canadian federal government. The federal government wnats to shut down the safe drug injection site on the DowntownEasatside  - Insite.

Located in the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Insite facility has a dozen cubicles where approximately 800 addicts per day come to inject themselves. The addicts arrive with their own drugs, unimpeded by the police, who have agreed to give them safe passage in and out of the clinic. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/bc-ottawa-head-to-top-court-over-supervised-injection-site/article2016011/
But Insite works !  Not only does it save the lives of injection drug users, it provides addictions counselling and referrals to detox.
Marjorie Brown, the legal counsel representing the BCNU at the Supreme Court, noted Insite users are 30 percent more likely to access treatment than drug users who do not use the facility.
And Insite prevents HIV infections.  In fact,
A report released by B.C.'s chief medical officer in March recommended that efforts to prevent HIV infection among injection drug users, such as supervised injection services, be expanded. http://www.straight.com/article-391894/vancouver/bc-nurses-argue-support-insite-supreme-court
So Insite prevents deaths from drug overdoses,, helps prevent the transmission of HIV (and subsequent cases of AIDS,) and provides referrals to detox.  Why does Mr Harper's government want it shut down?
...federal prosecutors insist that the Supreme Court must not let provinces meddle with federal criminal law powers by creating a legal oasis for people who voluntarily consume drugs.
In other words, saving lives is much less important than ensuring that the federal government's jurisdiction over criminal legislation is upheld.

Addiction is an illness - not a moral failing. Laws are made for people - and both they and a government's area of jusidiction can be changed . Let`s hope the Supreme Court sides with the province of BC in this case.
Five former mayors of Vancouver, plus current Mayor Gregor Robertson, have united in a heartfelt call to the Conservative government to end its strong opposition to the city’s Insite facility, North America’s only supervised injection site.  “Since opening in 2003, Insite has proven – beyond a doubt – its worth to our community,” says their open letter, signed by former mayors Sam Sullivan, Larry Campbell, Philip Owen, Mike Harcourt and Art Phillips.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Food Budget Ever Expanding?

Spending more money at the grocery store?  Notice that your food budget is consuming more of your income?  It's not your imagination....
Prices for food purchased from stores rose 3.7% in March [2011] , the largest year-over-year advance since August 2009. This increase follows a 2.0% gain in February [2011].   http://www.statcan.gc.ca/subjects-sujets/cpi-ipc/cpi-ipc-eng.htm
You can blame climate change food price increases.

 new research joins a small number of studies in which the fingerprint of climate change has been separated from natural variations in weather and other factors, demonstrating that the effects of warming have already been felt in the world..... scientists found that global wheat production was 33m tonnes (5.5%) lower than it would have been without warming and maize production was 23m tonnes (3.8%) lower. Specific countries fared worse than the average, with Russia losing 15% of its potential wheat crop, and Brazil, Mexico and Italy suffering above average losses. ...The losses drove up food prices by as much as 18.9%. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/05/food-prices-global-warming?intcmp=122

I predict food prices will continue to increase.  We don't seem to be worried about climate change - at least not enough to take  steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions .  So cliamte change will bite harder and harder - and food wil increase in price drastically.  Chew on that thought while you complain about your budget.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Voting System Problems

A visual representation of First Past the Post voiting systems - and a reason Mr harper won the election on May 2, 2011.  The Conservatives won 167 seats (out of 3080 with 39.6 % of the popular vote.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Comment By a Friend

May 2nd was a great night for the NDP: JackLayton  finally got  his break.  It was a great night for democracy: Elizabeth May now has a chance  to be heard.  (Just try excluding her from the debates now!)   And perhaps the Greens will  get more members elected next time around.   BUT !!!! What were the voters thinking to  to give Harper a Majority?  The voting public must Really not give a shit for social justice,the environment, or our global reputation. ,  We could easily be an innovator  in green solutions and we're falling behind  the US and China.  SAD, So SAD.....

I for one feel a deep sense of shame being a Canadian - I feel this is not a day to be celebrate.  We have truly chosen an elected Dictator.  Can you say  "Drill, Baby ,Drill?"  I truly feel we have elected  a Republican- style Government.  W only need look south of the 49th to see the results of the policies in place to get a glimpse of the path we have chosen......

SAD, So SAD.....