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, September 9, 2013


I have been thinking about owls,  their prey, and population cycles.  Per Wikipedia,  a population cycle is
a phenomenon where populations  rise and fall over a predictable period of time. There are some species where population numbers have reasonably predictable patterns of change although the full reasons for population cycles is one of the major unsolved ecological problems. There are a number of factors which influence population change such as availability of food, predators, diseases and climate.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_cycle

Climate change is affecting the habitat of humans.  See Calgary, floods.

Many Canadian cities and towns are ill-prepared for the rising frequency of catastrophic weather events like the southern Alberta floods, and it’s a problem that taxpayers will ultimately end up paying for, climate change experts say.   http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/06/26/f-climate-change-flooding-weather-preparation.html 

So what?  So,  - weather events on this scale are traumatic for those swept up (or away) in them.  And they're expensive.  Very expensive.    
Now, the province faces a potentially decade-long cleanup effort that could cost $5 billion by BMO Nesbitt Burns estimates. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/06/26/f-climate-change-flooding-weather-preparation.html

Would it not be prudent and sensible to acknowledge our impact on the climate and actually take effective steps to prevent and mitigate climate change?   After all, 

The problem of extreme weather will only become more dangerous. It has already become commonplace, destroying crops, riverbanks, homes, towns, factories and offices. Insurance providers, whether governments or corporations, are less willing and able to underwrite risks and compensate policy holders.  http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/blog/underestimate-climate-change-underfund-innovation
Of course it would.   Do lemmings think about maintaining their population at a level the natural resources can support?  Do they worry about the future of their children if they destroy their environment?  I dont' know if they do - but humans don't .  Or don't seem to.  Perhaps humanity has a  10,000 year population cycle.

Friday, July 26, 2013

WTF, Abbotsford?

I knew the Fraser Valley was conservative:  after all, Gramma lives there and no-one has ever called her inclusive or accepting!  However, I didn't think Abbotsford residents were heartless.  They certainly  sound  heartless to me.  For one thing,   they haven't protested a bylaw that's been in place since 2005.  The bylaw prohibits harm reduction services for addicts.   Not everyone approves of the bylaw, of course. In fact, there's a law suit in the offing.  

Three injection drug users filed a lawsuit Tuesday over an Abbotsford, B.C., bylaw that has banned harm-reduction services such as clean needle exchanges for the past eight years, arguing the prohibition violates their charter rights and needlessly puts them at risk. The lawsuit comes as councillors in the Fraser Valley community study the future of the bylaw, which health officials say is preventing them from providing harm reduction services in an area with some of the province’s highest rates of overdoses and infections of HIV and hepatitis C. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/drug-users-in-abbotsford-bc-sue-over-bylaw-that-bans-clean-needle-exchange/article12050284/ 

Moreover, Abbotsford employees  dumped chicken manure where homeless gather in an attempt to  - what?  Make the homeless magically disappear?    The City managers discussed this at length.

"Internal emails indicate that numerous City of Abbotsford departments took part in formulating a plan to dump chicken manure on a homeless camp last month. What's more, one email suggests the Salvation Army was aware of the plan to use fertilizer at the Gladys Avenue camp across the street from the charity's Centre of Hope. Managers from Abbotsford's bylaw, forestry, roads and parks departments shaped the plan, according to emails made public through a CBC freedom of information request."   http://www.abbotsfordtimes.com/story.html?id=8703896#ixzz2aC2FkJTq

(By the way, the Salvation Army denies it condoned or knew about the Drive Them Away With Shit plan. )

Moreover, Abbotsfordians say they will not support a proposed BC housing supportive recovery project - no matter the benefits of same to the community.  No matter what evidence is presented!  I'm not kidding! 

 Early July:The Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) begins to circulate a petition against the proposed ACS housing project. Emails to ADBA members include inaccurate information regarding the nature and scope of the project. July 12: The ADBA presents at ASDAC, stating that there is no possible chance that they will support the housing project no matter what evidence of its benefit to the city is presented. Objections to their stance by ASDAC members are ignored.http://www.abbotsfordtoday.ca/a-crisis-of-conscience/

Therefore,  Abbotsford is facing another law suit.

Pivot Legal Society has agreed to represent approximately 10 people in a civil suit against the city. They allege that tents and belongings were destroyed by city workers, part of the action taken by the city to stop the homeless and drug users from camping near a Salvation Army. http://globalnews.ca/news/737370/abbotsford-being-sued-for-dumping-chicken-manure-to-chase-away-homeless-people/


Just in case you need your memory refreshed on the benefits of harm reduciton strategies, here's some information from the Vancouver sun.

A large body of scientific evidence demonstrates that Insite and other harm reduction programs, such as needle exchanges, are effective in reducing the harms associated with illicit drug use. Sadly, ideological debate about harm reduction continues, despite widespread agreement among health authorities, including the World Health Organization, that such programs are essential to the fight against HIV/AIDS and other drug-related harms
. http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/op-ed/Evidence+trumps+ideology+over+public+health+benefits+Insite/8704065/story.html

 Or from Vancouver Coastal health:

"The fatal overdose rate in [Vancouver's Downtown Eastside] decreased by 35% after the opening of the SIF"… “Supervised injection facilities clearly have an important part to play in communities affected by injection drug use. “Brandon D L Marshall, M-J Milloy, Evan Wood, Julio S G Montaner, Thomas Kerr THE LANCET http://www.communityinsite.ca/science.html

  Does the City of Abbotsford and the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association realize the damage they're doing to their reputations?  Please help them make that realization:  Email them  - or phone them - and let them know. Ask them to live up to their "  city-wide initiative on diversity and inclusion that aims to build interfaith and intercultural connections and thereby reduces issues of social alienation, racism and discrimination."

Abbotsford Downtown Business Association

Telephone: (604) 850-6547
Fax: (604) 859-6507
Email: executive@downtownabbotsford.com

City of Abbotsford
Toll Free1-866-853-2281


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

That Royal Baby

That royal baby is going to inherit a royal mess!

Rapid thawing of the Arctic could trigger a catastrophic "economic timebomb" which would cost trillions of dollars and undermine the global financial system, say a group of economists and polar scientists.


New research suggests that the Arctic summer sea ice loss is linked to extreme weather. Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis points to the phenomenon of "Arctic amplification", where....Extreme weather events over the last few years apparently driven by the accelerating Arctic melt process - including unprecedented heatwaves and droughts in the US and Russia, along with snowstorms and cold weather in northern Europe – have undermined harvests, dramatically impacting global food production and contributing to civil unrest.


Climate scientists have linked the massive snowstorms and bitter spring weather now being experienced across Britain and large parts of Europe and North America to the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice.


We should all worry........

Sunday, July 21, 2013


2013 has been absolutely amazing: not the flooding or the thunderstorms or the heat waves.   Although those have been frightening - see the pic below of Toronto residents wading in flash flooding July 8, 2013. ( Picture from the Toronto Star.)  The results have been gruesome., to put it mildly.  Gruesome and traumatic for the folks affected.

Toronto flooded - with sewage as well as water.  
So when more than 90 millimetres of rainfall (more than 3.5 inches) pummeled the city in just two hours Monday, this divider was breached and a mixture of sewage and storm water overflowed onto Toronto’s streets and cascaded towards the harbour. 
Ontario and Quebec had more severe thunderstorms today: one person was killed in Quebec. .  Calgary and High River and Canmore saw  really vicious flooding  in June -I'm sure you've seen the coverage.

What's amazing is that the media and governments have actually mentioned climate change in the same breath as the severe weather.

Many Canadian cities and towns are ill-prepared for the rising frequency of catastrophic weather events like the southern Alberta floods, and it’s a problem that taxpayers will ultimately end up paying for, climate change experts say. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/06/26/f-climate-change-flooding-weather-preparation.html
Oh, that's the CBC - they're pinkos . Oh yeah?   Ok - but the Calgary Herald`s not left wing.

Canada’s insurance lobby says Albertans are less likely to be worried about weather trends linked to climate change than others in the country, despite a recent six-fold increase in insured damages from severe storms, fires and flooding. But as property and casualty carriers respond by hiking premiums up to 25 per cent this year, the Insurance Bureau of Canada says the province and its municipalities need to get serious about mitigating losses in Alberta that have mounted to an average of $670 million annually in the past four years compared to an average of $100 million annually in the previous 15 years. http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/alberta/Alberta+urged+prepare+increasingly+severe+weather+insurance+losses+mount/8446756/story.html

Another piece from the Calgary Herald:

 To put this in another context, it's been four weeks since Calgarians woke up to the raging waters of the Bow and Elbow rivers. It is the worst natural disaster that has occurred in this country and Calgarians have yet to hear from all levels of government that they are looking at every possible mitigation strategy aimed at minimizing the impact of another flooding event.  http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/Yedlin+Where+plan+prevent+future+floods/8681062/story.html

Maybe, just maybe the zeitgeist is shifting. Let`s hope so!

Monday, March 25, 2013


What in hell is the federal government advertising? 

The latest annual report on advertising by the federal government has been posted here. In the fiscal year of 2011-2012, the Harper government spent $78.5 million on advertising, which is actually the lowest total since the Conservatives formed government. http://www2.macleans.ca/tag/government-advertising/
The tar sands , among other things.   Pardon me - responsible resource development.

Natural Resources Canada ran extensive focus groups last summer to fine tune an ad campaign designed to convince Canadians of the industrial benefits and environmental stewardship of the energy sector — particularly the oilsands. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, meanwhile, is running its own campaign called "Responsible Canadian Energy" that plumbs the same themes. http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/business/natural-resources-minister-aligned-priorities-with-pipeline-lobby-documents-195632671.html?device=mobile

One of the key concerns for the federal government in a multimillion-dollar Natural Resources advertising campaign was the negative publicity around the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, according to internal government documents.

Jesus - I don't even need to comment.  Could the right Honorable Stephen Harper be any cozier with the fossil fuel industry? I shouldn't ask rhetorical questions....

Tailings ponds from oilsands production are leaking and contaminating Alberta’s  groundwater, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was told in an internal memo obtained by Postmedia News. The memo, released through access to information legislation, said that federal government scientists, including Quebec City-based research geoscientist Martine Savard, had discovered evidence of the contamination in new research that rejected longstanding claims that toxins in the region of the Athabasca River were coming from natural sources. “The studies have, for the first time, detected potentially harmful, mining-related organic acid contaminants in the groundwater outside a long-established out-of-pit tailings pond,” said the memo from deputy minister Serge Dupont, dated June 19, 2012.  http://o.canada.com/2013/02/17/oilsands-tailings-leaking-into-groundwater-joe-oliver-told-in-memo/

They didn't advertise that, did they?

Update: Perhaps they could advertise the following - maybe for speed of cleanup or speed of notifcation.....

Officials from Suncor Energy Inc. and Alberta Environment are scrambling to test for contaminants after the discovery Monday that industrial waste water from the oil sands giant’s base plant was leaking from a ruptured pipe into a pond close to the Athabasca River....People living and working downstream of the plant, including First Nations communities, have been notified of the release, Ms. Seetal added. Water in the outflow pond is already treated. But she didn’t have specific details about the content of the untreated industrial waste water, which is used in Suncor’s extraction and upgrading processes. 


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Discussion on The Restriction of Plastic Water Bottles

There is always a tension between individual rights and collective rights.
We restrict all kinds of behaviour by law: even though I can make all kinds of money manufacturing and selling crystal meth, the law prohibits me from doing so.  Ditto the manufacture of child porn:   very few people question our laws on child porn .  (Except for Tom Flanagan!)   Slavery isn't legal either.  Here in Canada, we have restrictions on hate speech. Most people would agree with restrictions on       first three:  I'm guessing or hoping  most folks would frown on urging people to kill  LGBT people because their existence is an abomination. We also regularly send folks to a forensic psychiatric hospital in spite of said folks express wishes!

Once we admit that some actions and behaviours are not socially acceptable, and should be sanctioned, the discussion then becomes one of where the sanctions  should be drawn.   We may differ on where that line should be, but will agree that a line should be drawn somewhere that restricts  freedoms.
I think that the issues of environmental degradation/ destruction and climate change are of the same calibre as slavery and child abuse. Humans stand a very good chance of destroying our natural environments as the climate warms: once we do that, then it’s goodbye Charlie for humans.  ( Please watch the video in the immediately preceding post or read Climate Wars by Gwynne Dyer for information on how bad things will get if we continue with business as ususal.) 
Even if one privileges humans over everything else, the choices we make, are causing the climate to change .  We are therefore are killing people right now with our choice of business as ususal : climate change is eroding land in Bangladesh; South Pacific islanders are buying land on larger continents so they’ll have somewhere above water to live; and people are dying of droughts in the Horn of Africa.  I think we have a moral responsibility to alter our choices and actions if our current ones are devastating other people.
So, although banning plastic bottles at the students request at TRU may seem like a small step that arbitrarily wipes out freedoms, I don’t think it is. Plastic bottles are manufactured with oil – are unnecessary for our  health as we have clean drinking water in Kamloops – and their ban would be small step on the road we have to take if we are to survive. If nothing else, the discussion on plastic bottles acts as consciousness raising and symbolizes our collective determination to cut down on affluenza.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Your Right To A Healthy Environment

I just listened to a teleconference on the right to a healthy environment.

Do countries with the right to a healthy environment actually have healthier environments and people?   
In general, these countries have smaller ecological footprints, rank higher on comparisons of environmental performance and have done a better job of addressing issues such as air pollution and climate change than countries like Canada whose constitutions lack this right. If you look at the environmental records of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes most of the world's wealthy industrialized nations, you find 14 of the top 15 nations have constitutional provisions mandating environmental protection. Six of the seven countries with the worst environmental records lack constitutional protection for the environment.  
  What is it going to take to convince our government to change the constitution?

 An amendment needs to gain the support of Parliament and seven out of 10 provinces in a three-year period. So while it will be a challenge to change the constitution, it's not impossible—especially since a recent poll found that nine out of 10 Canadians support protection of the right to a healthy environment.
It's also heartening to see how other countries have embraced such constitutional change. In France a few years ago, President Chirac demonstrated tremendous commitment in promoting a Charter for the Environment, and the people of France were overwhelmingly supportive. In Ecuador and Bolivia, Indigenous people played a key role in constitutional reforms that not only recognized the right to a healthy environment but also the rights of Nature.  http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/docs-talk/2012/10/a-healthy-environment-should-be-a-basic-human-right/
Dr David R Boyd is hoping a movement to enshrine this right in the Canadian constitution will gather momentum and become a non partisan issue in the next three years.  He wrote a book on this topic called  The Right to a Healthy Environment.  You can buy it at http://www.ubcpress.ca/search/title_book.asp?BookID=299173851  but it's $ 85.00 - let's hope local university libraries  have bought it!

Sign up for more information on this topic at Ecojustice at 


Crude Reality

Alberta's oilpatch is anxious to mine the tar sands and sell dilbit. It would be good for the economy, news media states.
Stymied by insufficient pipeline capacity, Alberta’s oil patch is facing problems in getting its product to market. The resulting glut has driven the price for Western Canadian Select oil more than $30 (U.S.) a barrel below that for West Texas Intermediate crude...However, a new report from RBC Economics says that oil patch investment will continue to provide a bright spot for the Canadian economy. It also argues that there is good reason to think that the spread between Western Canadian oil and West Texas crude will narrow in the years ahead.The report notes that swelling production from the oil patch has outpaced pipeline expansion, creating a bottleneck that will be tough to unplug without a direct southbound corridor (think Keystone XL) and an east-west pipeline (Saint John’s enormous oil refinery says hello). The good news is that the current $30-plus discount on every barrel of Canadian oil provides powerful motivation to build the needed pipelines. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/investment-ideas/the-bright-side-of-canadas-weak-oil-prices/article8123055/
There's another crude reality out there, however.  It's discussed in Scientific American.
To avoid passing tipping points, such as initiation of the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, we need to limit the climate forcing severely. It's still possible to do that, if we phase down carbon emissions rapidly, but that means moving expeditiously to clean energies of the future," he explains. "Moving to tar sands, one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet, is a step in exactly the opposite direction, indicating either that governments don't understand the situation or that they just don't give a damn."  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=tar-sands-and-keystone-xl-pipeline-impact-on-global-warming
The reality of climate change has sunk in: ome very surprising sources  and institutions are worrying about the effects of climate change.

With energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) representing the majority of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the fight against climate change has become a defining factor for energy policy-making – but the implications are daunting. Meeting the emission goals currently pledged by countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would still leave the world some 13.7 billion tonnes of CO2 – or 60% – above the level needed to remain on track with the 2°C goal in 2035. Much additional investment will need to be directed towards lower- CO2 technologies, on supply and end-use sides alike. The benefits that society would reap from these measures, beyond avoided climate impacts, would be of an equal if not larger magnitude than the cost to the energy sector. Meanwhile, energy policy-makers need to start thinking about the impact of committed climate change on the security of the energy sector . http://www.iea.org/topics/climatechange/
 The International Energy Association isn't exactly an environmental group!
A 4°C warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2°C," said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. "Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest.  http://climatechange.worldbank.org/

The World Bank hasn't had the environment on its mind either in the past.  Perhaps we should pay attention to climate scientists - and very conservative institutions such as the World Bank and the IEA.

The real crude reality is that either we quit burning fossil fuels or  kill off millions of people and ecosystems.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Homophobia Always Hurts - and Sometimes It Kills

 Brent Astle:  January 28, 2013 to September 30, 2010   (Love you, this life, next life, somewhere, always. )
In "1991 The First Presidency of the LDS Church stated on NOV-14:
Sexual relations are proper only between husband and wife appropriately expressed within the bonds of marriage. Any other sexual contact, including fornication, adultery, and homosexuality and lesbian [sic] behavior, is sinful. Those who persist in such practices or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline...." http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_lds2.htm

Odd as this sounds in 2013 to secular ears, these teachings matter.

I had a friend who was exposed to these teachings early and often.  He was born in 1971 and sadly, born into a devout Mormon family. He was taught that gay is a choice and that gayness is an abomination to "God." He told me he knew at the age of five that he was different. He realized what the difference was when he hit puberty.

He was gay.

He attempted suicide when he was sixteen. He killed himself on September 30, 2010.

He had been well indoctrinated with the teachings of the Mormon church. For example, just previous to his suicide, his sister told him it was only OK to be gay if he never had sex!  (She didn't plan on giving up sex herself, however.)  After his suicide, Brent's  family refused to attend a memorial breakfast if we were going to mention that he had been gay. His brother -in-law said "we will only attend tomorrow's memorial if is going to be a celebration of Brent as a special person, not a gay pride thing.  You cannot mention that he was gay."

They didn't attend. Their loss - Brent was special because he was gay - not in spite of it. 

My darling fag (I was his fag hag) is dead. The teachings he internalized at his mother's knee destroyed his sense of self worth and helped kill him. That's why religious teachings that preach that "gay is a choice and an abomination" are child abuse. Children born into devout families that espouse homophobic teachings are sometimes born gay - and grow up believing that they are worthless because of those teachings.

Not everyone believes that being gay is a choice and a sin.  There's a whole world out there that is accepting and loving.   

If you need resources or help, please check out the following:


Survive and thrive!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Transparency and Accountability

The Calgary Herald rants about transparency and a lack of accountability at the Attawapiskat reserve.
Canadian taxpayers want fairness and justness when it comes to how public money is being spent.....The treaties were signed by all parties involved, and that includes the federal government, which has every right to demand accountability for public money as its part of the bargain. Without transparency and openness on Attawapiskat's part, it will be impossible to create trust or foster sympathy for Spence's cause .
Rick Mercer rants about the secrecy the federal government exhibits. 

Think new fighter jets .....the Afghan detainee scandal - robo calls - the parliamentary budget officer  - omnibus bills.....Wouldn't it be lovely if the  federal government too demonstrated accountability and operated with transparency?   

Wouldn't it be lovely if the media mentioned those lacks in the same breath they chastise First Nations and the Idle No More movement?   Failing to do so wouldn't have anything with racism and a reluctance to give up privilege , would it?  

Idle No More

Idle No More reverberates with echoes from Martin Luther King and the civil righrs movement.  A commonter noted on January 9, 2013 that Idle No More began as a response to a government action - a fact that is often missed.

What is obvious from much of the coverage and commentary is that the issue of Bill C-45 has been lost in the fray. It was this omnibus bill that started the demonstrations not just because of what it purports to achieve, but because of the way it was introduced without adequate consultation with First Nation groups. Idle No More did not start in a vacuum. It started in response to Bill C-45, which is the catalyst behind this.  http://www.guelphmercury.com/opinion/columns/article/866071--there-s-lots-of-confusion-about-bill-c-45-and-the-idle-no-more-movement
Why the protests?  Why not work through negotiation?  Through the AFN - quietly - without all this fuss?  As Martin Luther King commented in 1963, no privileged group gives up its privilege voluntarily.
 My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.  http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
One group that has voluntarily declared its intention to abrogate its prvilege is the Jewish Voice for Peace.
Jewish Voice for Peace affirms its support for the Canadian indigenous rights movement known as Idle No More. In November, Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation began a 42-day hunger strike in response to legislation threatening First Nations' treaties and rights to natural resources. In the months since, Idle No More has become a global solidarity movement affirming indigenous sovereignty and self-determination, with hundreds of rallies around the world. Idle No More has shed light on shared struggles against colonialism, including the Palestinian struggle. In December, Palestinian activists released a statement of solidarity, committing to honor the leadership of women and youth and to "stand with all liberation movements challenging colonialism and imperialism around the world." As American Jews, we recognize that our escape from oppression reinforced the theft of indigenous lands, both in Palestine and in the Americas. Today, we still benefit from colonial privileges: as diaspora Jews we may immigrate to Israel at any time, while Palestinian refugees are denied entry.Instead of surviving through the oppression of others, we seek to unite with colonized and oppressed peoples in demanding sovereignty for all indigenous peoples. We call on the governments of the United States, Canada and Israel to recognize the suffering inflicted by ongoing annexation of indigenous land, knowing that justice for colonized people means a safer, more sustainable world for all  
Environmental activists should abrogate their privilige as well - and work with Idle No More.  As Elizabeth May states, we need meaningful engagement on environmental and other issues.  

The #idlenomore campaign has my full support.  ....we need a meaningful engagement on the wide range of critical issues being raised from coast to coast to coast. For that we need leadership, and right now, that leadership is coming from flash-mobs of drummers and blockaders, aboriginal women and youth.  http://www.greenparty.ca/blogs/7/2012-12-28/hunger-strikes
Find a local movment at http://idlenomore.ca/

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gee, This'll Really Hit Home!

Your morning cup of coffee is endangered.   No, really!
The study, ... focuses primarily on Ethiopia, considered to be the birthplace of coffee. Temperatures there have been going up by an average of almost 0.3 degrees per decade since 1960....What’s at stake is Ethiopia’s wild Arabica, which Davis says is home to anywhere from 80 percent to 98.8 percent of the species’s gene pool. If Arabica’s genetic diversity is wiped out, there will be big consequences. ....“The Arabicas grown in the world’s coffee plantations are from very limited genetic stock,” says Davis. “If you look at the history of coffee cultivation since the 1700s, what’s happened is the industry repeatedly goes back to Ethiopia to sort out its problems, whether they’re productivity issues or simply taste—making a good cup of coffee—you have to have that genetic diversity, that gene pool, to go back to.” http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-11-15/the-coffee-beans-endangered-gene-pool

The problem is so serious tbat  a collective, Coffee and Climate Change,  has been formed.  (OK, they call themselves a development iniative.) Find them at http://www.coffeeandclimate.org/initiative.html

Other studies have been done as well.

"Without question, all four pilot countries are still suffering from climate change impacts and are expected to  experience more or less severe changes in the suitability of their current coffee  cultivation areas. Surprisingly there  are few practical adaptation and mitigation measures
being implemented to cope with climate change." http://www.nri.org/docs/promotional/D5930-11_NRI_Coffee_Climate_Change_WEB.pdf

Doesn't look good for your morning java - it is likely to be very expensive - and harsher tasting.  Maybe this thought will galvanize climate deniers!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wade Davis: The Worldwide Web of Belief and Ritual

Not only are not other cultures failed attempts at being us, their values can give us hope.  We are not forced to be greedy and destructive -  we can learn to live within natural limits. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A New Economic Model

If you've ever thought that the way economists and accountants ignore "externalities" and consider it  beneficial  when we fire up  a new coal fired electrical plant on- line (more GDP good ! ), then you will be heartened to know some economists are thinking sustainably.

Conference Board Rates Canada

Apparently the Conference Board of Canada has been taken over by pinkos - or foreign radicals - or eco-terrorists. 

The Conference Board’s overarching goal is to measure quality of life for Canada and its peers. But a country must not only demonstrate a high quality of life—it must also demonstrate that its high quality of life is sustainable.   There is growing recognition that gross domestic product (GDP) produced at the expense of the global environment, and at the expense of scarce and finite physical resources, overstates the net contribution of that economic growth to a country’s prosperity. Canadians understand that protecting the environment from further damage is not a problem for tomorrow, but a challenge for today. Without serious attention to environmental sustainability, Canada puts its society and its quality of life at risk....Canada ranks 15th out of 17 peer countries and scores a “C” grade on its environmental performance report card. Canada’s poor record in several areas—including climate change, energy intensity, smog, and waste generation—drags down its comparative performance. Only Australia and the U.S. rank below Canada. http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/details/environment.aspx

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions
Climate change is now the most serious global environmental threat.1 Its potential impacts include global warming, sea level rise, increased extreme weather events, and altered rainfall patterns. Climate change is a direct consequence of elevated greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere and feedback mechanisms. ..Canada is one of the world's largest per capita GHG emitters. Canada ranks 15th out of 17 OECD countries on GHG emissions per capita and scores a “D” grade...Despite international commitments to drastically reduce GHGs, Canada has not seen a substantial improvement on its per capita GHG emissions. 
Who needs to criticize  Canadian government policy when  the Conference Board is doing it for environmental activists?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What Makes a Good Life

If my vision in the post below is correct; and we, the people, have a collective death wish; what should environmental activists do about this? 

How do we enhance a 'life wish' in the collective unconsciousness? 

If we each embrace life, will a complex system change?  Maybe......

Most of us don't perceive that we have a good life right now.  In fact, the Happy Planet Index, as calculated by the new economics foundation, reveals that most countries in the world are moving in the wrong direction: we are no happier in the developed world than in poorer nations, and yet we consume more and more of the world’s resources. http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/happy-planet-index

We seem to be  suffering from affluenza.

Proponents of the term consider that the prizing of endless increases in material wealth may lead to feelings of worthlessness and dissatisfaction rather than experiences of a 'better life', and that these symptoms may be usefully captured with the metaphor of a disease. They claim some or even many of those who become wealthy will find the economic success leaving them unfulfilled and hungry only for more wealth, finding that they are unable to get pleasure from the things they buy and that increasingly material things may come to dominate their time and thoughts to the detriment of personal relationships and to feelings of happiness. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affluenza

Clearly, something is very wrong with our lives as measured by the Happy Planet Index.  This isn't just an individual matter:  the cultures and societies we have made seem sick and dysfunctional. 
How do we embrace life? What makes a good life? How do we model that?

It seems to me that, on an individual basis, self - awareness  coupled with compassion; lots of social connections/  bonds; and lots of physical movement make up a good life for those of us with a place to live, enough to eat, and a job.   It also helps to have something to do/ work on that gives one's life meaning and purpose.   And that old fashioned value, self-restraint, seems to me a good one - particularly when thinking  about buying stuff!

On a national basis, a nation composed of individuals living a good life will have a collective  awareness of natural limits; a social safety net; status assigned by how compassionate we are (instead of by how much we consume) ; a physical structure that encourages us to walk, talk to our neighbours, catch transit, eat local,  a progressive income tax structure that narrows income inequality, and an estate tax to prevent the accumulation of wealth; free education; laws about truth in advertising to prevent tobacco companies from lying about their products; and beauty.

Will this work?  Maybe - maybe not.  Global catastrophe may be upon us: see http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1754/20122845.full.pdf  

 Modelling appropriate behaviour; revelling in life; and lobbying government and working for change are the best ideas I've got.

What are yours?

Self Hatred

I witnessed a soul retrieval healing for a friend in 2010. While my friend and the healer were journeying, the beat of the drum proved almost hypnotic. I wrote the following:

The healer suggested "outside, in nature find a stick...."
Are we not nature?
Not if we live in a linear world - a poverty stricken world without mess, change or growth.
And we do everything we can to destroy life and growth: spiders, bacteria, mice ....
We clean furiously,
lay traps,
sweep away cobwebs...
and we spray pesticides and weedkiller outside.
We detest life. We detest change.
We wish to end the cycle of life - death - life.
Oh - to be a machine......
We are not machines.
We are life. Stardust . Divinity. Energy.
We scintillate and shimmer and dance and coruscate and change and
die and are born once more.
From this we create balance.
We are ordered tension.
Crystals growing - decaying - shifting - changing.
When we prevent change we prevent life.
We wish to die - permanently.
That is why we try to kill Gaia.
We desire sterility.
No change. When we achieve that, we too will be gone.
We want that. We hate ourselves.
If we learn to love ourselves, we will save the world.
She is a part of us - we are a part of her -we need her.
So -
when we are healed of self hatred, we will be healed of world hatred.

I've thought about this  - off and on - ever since.   Does the collective unconsciousness have a death wish?  Do we have a death wish?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Amazon Degradation

An area of the Amazon rainforest twice the size of California continues to suffer from the effects of a megadrought that began in 2005, finds a new NASA-led study. These results, together with observed recurrences of droughts every few years and associated damage to the forests in southern and western Amazonia in the past decade, suggest these rainforests may be showing the first signs of potential large-scale degradation due to climate change. ..."The biggest surprise for us was that the effects appeared to persist for years after the 2005 drought," said study co-author Yadvinder Malhi of the University of Oxford, United Amazon rainforest shows signs of degradation due to climate change says NASAKingdom. "We had expected the forest canopy to bounce back after a year with a new flush of leaf growth, but the damage appeared to persist right up to the subsequent drought in 2010." ...The researchers attribute the 2005 Amazonian drought to the long-term warming of tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures. "In effect, the same climate phenomenon that helped form hurricanes Katrina and Rita along U.S. southern coasts in 2005 also likely caused the severe drought in southwest Amazonia," Saatchi said. "An extreme climate event caused the drought, which subsequently damaged the Amazonian trees."  http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/earth20130117.html
We cannot survive if we destroy our home.

The overall productivity of the biosphere is therefore limited by the rate at which plants convert solar energy (about 1 percent) into chemical energy and the subsequent efficiencies at which other organisms at higher trophic levels convert that stored energy into their own biomass (approximately 10 percent). Human-induced changes in net primary productivity in the parts of the biosphere that have the highest productivity, such as estuaries and tropical moist forests, are likely to have large effects on the overall biological productivity of the Earth.  http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/66191/biosphere/70861/The-importance-of-the-biosphere

Are we suicidal?  Consider the Alberta government's position.

Trains to Alaska. Pipelines to Churchill, Man. New refineries in Alberta. Oil shipments to Saint John. A step back from costly environmental rules. Alberta's government wants them all. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/alberta-scrambles-as-oil-pipelines-clogged-revenues-slashed/article7536306/

If we're not - if you're not - please  lobby your provincial and federal government.

We NEED to phase out fossil fuels! 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Ocean Acidity

Line graphs showing levels of dissolved carbon dioxide and pH measurements at three ocean stations from 1983 to 2011.

This figure shows the relationship between changes in ocean carbon dioxide levels (measured in the left column as a partial pressure—a common way of measuring the amount of a gas) and acidity (measured as pH in the right column). The data come from two observation stations in the North Atlantic Ocean (Canary Islands and Bermuda) and one in the Pacific (Hawaii). The up-and-down pattern shows the influence of seasonal variations.
More proof that we're harming ourselves by not reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Think it doesn't matter?  It does to these folks:

For four frustrating months in 2007, Mark Wiegardt and his wife, Sue Cudd, witnessed something unsettling at their Oregon oyster hatchery: tank bottoms littered with dead baby oysters...It turned out that "corrosive" seawater, which makes it harder for young oysters to build shells, was largely to blame. Like the atmosphere, the world's seas are burdened by our fossil fuel use and deforestation. The ocean has sponged up a quarter of the carbon dioxide humans have produced since the Industrial Revolution, steadily lowering its pH. Today's seas are 30 percent more acidic than their pre-industrial ancestors. http://www.hcn.org/issues/44.21/can-the-oyster-industry-survive-ocean-acidification/article_view?b_start:int=1

How  much proof do we need before denial cracks and we actually do something?    

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Climate Change Denial

Pie chart of global warming denier papers


is not credible. In any way.

Helen Boyd

Don't know Helen Boyd?  Check out:


From her recent posts:

 (3) you hate yourself because you don’t do anything, and (2) what you are inside only matters because of what it makes you do, and of course (1) everything inside you will fight improvement.  #2 especially. Being a good person doesn’t count for shit unless you engage it and can actually do things that people need done.

IMHO, most white people are clueless and in denial about their own racism, and like gender discrimination, racism is a problem for all of us – not just black people. So let’s get our act together, shall we?

How cool is this? University of Victoria has an archive of transgender materials - from Reed Erickson, Ari Kane, Virginia Prince, and other people who collected significant trans history.

How can you not love her?  Funny, smart, and suffers no fools. 

Of Course We're Racist

We - we Canadians - see ourselves as open, tolerant, and non racist.

I don't know how we manage to hold on to that view in light of the facts.  

Fact 1:  The Idle No More protests seem to have triggered racist attacks.

"A brutal sexual assault of a native woman in northwestern Ontario that is being investigated as a hate crime has thrown fresh fuel on the fires of discontent being expressed in protests and demonstrations by first nations people across Canada. She has told police she was assaulted, strangled and left for dead by two men who hurled racial epithets and denounced indigenous rights.   The Ontario assault was far from an isolated incident. At least 600 aboriginal women and girls have gone missing or been murdered in Canada in the past two decades. Native leaders say the number of victims actually runs into the thousands.  "
"But CBC.ca was so troubled by the extreme racism in comments on stories about the Idle No More movement that it asked readers on its Community Blog for advice. .... CBC.ca’s problem is that unless it takes action, it’s going to become a non-paywalled main stage to which racists flock. "http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1314100--mallick-canadian-anti-idle-no-more-racism-grows-online
Fact 2:  The brutal assault on a First Nations woman in Thunder Bay is not an isolated incident. 

"Systemic bias within the RCMP and Vancouver police led to “blatant failures” in investigating the disappearance of dozens of women from the Downtown Eastside who became victims of serial killer Robert Pickton, an inquiry found Monday."
Most of the women Robert Pickton murdered were aboriginal.  Do you think if he had killed middle class white women from Point Grey the VPD and the RCMP would have ignored them?
Fact 3: Many  First Nation communities lack potable water or decent housing.  

Their community sits on a lake that has been the source of Winnipeg’s drinking water for nearly a century, but residents of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation still rely on bottled water brought in from Kenora, Ont.... Now, a proposal by the City of Winnipeg to sell some of the water it draws from Shoal Lake to neighbouring municipalities has the community frustrated and seeking support from the federal government as it tries to challenge those plans.  
Fact 4:  The conditions First Nations are living in are not improving.  Sheila Fraser (remember her?) lambasted the federal govenment.

"I am profoundly disappointed to note ... that despite federal action in response to our recommendations over the years, a disproportionate number of First Nations people still lack the most basic services that other Canadians take for granted," former auditor general Sheila Fraser says in her parting words to Parliament.  "In a country as rich as Canada, this disparity is unacceptable."
We're racist.  
We don't have to be  racist.  But each of us must work to realize we're racist - and to exorcise that demon.    Have a look at the tools at the webiste below.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

It's Hot Ouside!

Map: Forecasted temperatures in Australia for 14 Jan.

No, not here in Canada.  In Australia.  (Although folks in Toronto might be excused for thinking 8 is a tad warm for a winter day.)

It has been so hot in Australia that the Bureau of Meteorology added new colours and mew maximums  to their predictions.

54 degrees Celsius is HOT!  So Australians are waking up to the alarming possibilities inherent in climate change, right?  Well, not the acting opposition leader.

"Australia's climate, it's changing, it's changeable. We have hot times, we have cold times...
 'The reality is that it's utterly simplistic to suggest that we have these fires                              because  of climate change.'' acting Opposition Leader Warren Truss says.  

Never mind the facts!  Or the government's Climate Commission!

No deaths have been reported from the bushfires, which have flared during extreme summer temperatures, but the unprecedented heatwave has prompted the government’s Climate Commission to issue a new report on the weather event.
It says that climate change has contributed to making the extreme heat conditions — in which record-breaking temperatures in parts of the country have topped 45ÂșC — and bushfires worse.

Meanwhile, some questions from Global Risks 2013: Eighth Edition.  http://reports.weforum.org/global-risks-2013/

1.  How will we reconcile climate change mitigation and adaptation with the desire for prosperity given current demographic trends?

2.  How can like-minded municipalities, companies and communites drive forward a new set of climate-smart approaches that avoid cognitive biases?

What are the answers?

Racist Sterotypes

Judging by the comments I've read on the Idle No More protests, we need the reminder.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Chasing Ice

Denial becomes harder and harder to maintain....


I’ve been struggling with the concept of empathy lately - empathy as it relates to climate change.  
 I’ve been wondering if I am ethically required to have empathy for climate deniers who tend to be older white straight males vigorously defending their privilege.   Am I required to vicariously experience their feelings?  Will my empathy assist me in changing their actions?
I’m not suggesting yelling at anyone or abusing them in any way :  although, if doing so got action on climate change, I would recommend it!

If I have empathy for the beleaguered and battered earth, does that eliminate a necessity to have empathy for the people who are destroying her?  Lower it?  How about if their destruction is unconscious?  How far am I permitted to go in waking them up?    Especially if they have a tonne of privilege (yes, somewhere there's  a scale that weighs it!) and revel in their privilege......
How do I decide what my actions should be?
Humanity doesn’t seem to be smart enough to take the steps we need to take to survive:  instead, articles in the business pages discuss the profits to be made from oil extraction in an ice free Arctic.
Persistently high oil prices are also making the huge engineering challenges of working in such a hostile environment look more worthwhile. In addition, the climate change that burning hydrocarbons contributes to has pushed back the ice, opening up access to, and markets for, the hydrocarbons there.  http://business.financialpost.com/2012/09/17/shell-admits-arctic-drilling-defeat-for-now/

What the fuck?  Are we mad and suicidal and determined to take every ecosystem with us as we kill ourselves?

Sharon Butula writes about her conviction that we are walking on the mind of a sentient being when we walk on the earth.  (page 127 , The Perfection of the Morning, 1994)  She wonders

What if I am walking inside the mind of a creature - call it what you will - what if the earth really is a living being and my presence here is only on sufference? If I am learning new things about myself and extrapolating from these things to his natural world....then it behooves me to wlak carefully, to pay attention, to show my growing respect in every possible way.  I stopped picking wildflowers; I went around rocks instead of stepping on them...I did not glance at plants or lichens on rocks or on the gound, I studied them. 

What of the rest of us who do far worse than pick wild flowers? 

I have a friend who says:

“No one is perfect, and the fact that some people can’t wrap their head around climate change doesn’t make them any less deserving of being treated with respect ( and empathy).  So yes, you are called to show empathy for all sorts of cretins every day in the world It’s easy to feel empathy for the earth.  The hard part is showing empathy for those destroying her.  But if we show no empathy, we don’t stand a chance at changing their minds.”

Is that true?  Or is showing empathy a way of procrastinating?  A way of demonstrating solidarity - so we don't actually havae to take action on climate change?