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, 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?