Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sorry. I hate "The Harper Government".

Well, I'm not really sorry. I just got an email from The Green Party discussing all that Harper and all the lobbyists he's pandering to have done to destroy Canada's environmental reputation. I want to share it with you.

Dear Matthew,
There is no shortage of compelling issues to discuss in a Hill Times Environmental Policy briefing.  Even listing, without describing, the catalogue of assaults on environmental law and policy by the prime minister in the last 12 months is enough to occupy the whole issue.
Canada undermined global climate negotiations in Durban in December, negotiated in bad faith, and immediately announced intent to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol when the Environment Minister touched down on Canadian soil. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver kicked off the New Year with an assault on environmentalists and First Nations as “radicals.”  The Prime Minister attacked environmental groups for accepting foreign funding, even as he courted Communist Party controlled state operations from China as investors in the oil sands.  One Parliamentary Secretary said anyone opposed to pipelines and tankers was “against Canada.”  When asked to withdraw the remark as un-parliamentary, she refused.
The legislative juggernaut, C-38, repealed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, replacing a coherent piece of legislation with a discretionary formula for confusion, conflict and court cases.  The gutting of the Fisheries Act raised the ire of four former federal Ministers of Fisheries.  Environment Minister Peter Kent insulted the four former ministers, suggesting they had not read the Act.  Mulroney era Minister Tom Siddon showed up to testify before the sub-committee on Finance and in short order made it clear he may be the only Minister who has read the act.  While Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield tried to claim the new Fisheries Act will improve habitat protection, the assault to habitat is real, underscored by the subsequent lay-off notices to all DFO habitat officers in British Columbia. The National Round Table on the Environment and Economy is scrapped.  The Species at Risk Act and Navigable Waters Protection Act amended to allow the National Energy Board to assume jurisdiction of endangered species or navigable waters are in the way of any pipeline.
Basic science and monitoring is being savaged with the end of funding to the Canadian Foundation of Climate and Atmospheric Science, elimination of the Adaptation research group within Environment Canada, the cuts to ozone monitoring, the closure of the Polar Arctic and Environmental Laboratory (PEARL) in Eureka, the sale of the 58 lakes in the globally unique Experimental Lakes Area near Kenora, Ontario, the elimination of the marine contaminants programme within DFO, the loss of scientists in Natural Resources Canada to study ice cores data (and the hope to find a university with a large fridge willing to take the 80,000 year ice core record Canada’s government no longer wants), the end of monitoring smoke stack emissions, cut backs in the Canada Oil and Gas research group in Halifax, and cuts at NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) resulting in the closing of the Yukon Research Lab at Yukon College in Whitehorse.
The thin end of the wedge of privatization has hit National Parks – first Jasper and then the hot springs at Banff, while cuts to ecological staff in the parks compelled former Deputy Minister Jacques Gerin to call on Harper to stop gutting National Parks.
It is a blitzkrieg of bad news as cut-backs and programme cancellation hit the core areas of federal responsibility to protect nature.  The multi-faceted assault has the effect of blinding media and the public to the largest threat.  In 2012, Canada still has no plan to address the threat of climate change.
While Stephen Harper has succeeded in dramatically reducing the Canadian media coverage of climate science through the muzzling of government scientists, the atmosphere does not seem to have gotten the memo.  Around the world, the force and frequency of severe weather events has woken up even the mainstream US media.  Fires, floods, tornadoes, heat waves are wreaking havoc on agriculture and running up the bills to the insurance industry.  The culprit for much of this year’s strange weather phenomenon is the rapidly warming Arctic.  As the Arctic warms the differential in temperature between the Arctic and the Equator becomes less pronounced. That causes the jet stream to lose its straight and fast course. (Francis, Vavrus study, Rutgers/Univ of Wisconsin). Slowing down, it has allowed large low pressure systems and high pressure systems to sit for far longer periods than normal in one place --  causing flooding in the low pressure zones and heat waves and fires in the high zones.
Loss of agriculture, losses to floods and fires also cost the economy, as well as human lives. Despite the Prime Minister’s attempts to destroy the collection of data, the evidence of the climate crisis is all around us.  We are sabotaging our children’s future – but what does it matter as long as the bitumen flows?

We're fucked. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

I almost ate an ant.

When an ant bites you on the lip, it really hurts. How do I know? I have a throbbing welt on my lip. That's how I know. Let me give you the whole story.
I have a vegetable garden, and in that garden I grow lettuce. This year I am growing Buttercrunch and Red Sails. Two tasty heirloom varieties that blow away the chemically treated store-bought crap I buy the rest of the year. This morning I harvested some of the crop. Just enough for supper or perhaps to bring in my lunch tonight. I brought it in and left it in a bowl. Before I left for work I took the roots off and washed and spun the lettuce. I knew it wasn't perfect but it is said that you eat a peck of dirt before you die. No big deal. So I'm munching away on my salad like a good little bunny (which have yet to invade my veggies. Knock on wood.) when I feel an intense stabbing pain on my upper lip. My first thought was "Why is there something sharp in my salad?" But when I put my fingers to my lip they came away holding a squirming ant! I flung the little bastard to the ground. I have no idea whether it survived or not. (It didn't, I went back and checked.) And I'm assuming it was a bastard because I believe most ants are male, ants don't get married, and I highly doubt the queen could tell me who that ant's father was. And it bit me. I can hardly blame the ant though. Can you imagine what the experiences he endured over the day would have been like? The majority was probably alright. Just hanging out in an environment very similar to his previous locale with a few buddies. (There were other ants) But then his whole world was turned upside down.
Violent motions as I lift the lettuce from the bowl and cut the bottoms of the leaves. Clinging for dear life as I repeatedly rinse and shake the excess water from the produce. Whirling and whirling as the vitamin rich roughage is spun like a centrifuge only to be stuffed inside a virtually air-tight box to suffocate. When at last a rush of cool fresh air washes over the bastard's thorax, he again can feel hope. That hope is quickly dashed as the ant's unfathomably huge torturer douses ant and fibrous greens alike in zesty Italian dressing. Next, the worst of the ordeal thus far. The lid is once again snapped shut and the whole prison is thrown back and forth with whiplash inducing fervor. The bastard now realizes his captor is a relentless sadist and his only chance for survival is escape. In a doubtless disoriented state the bastard desperately tries to find a way out. But now it appears his demented nemesis is done toying with his quarry. Panic begins to set in as the demon thrusts his pitchfork of death right through the very leaves the bastard sought to hide under and stuffs them into his maw, masticating them into oblivion. Against all odds, the bastard steels his resolve and decides not to go down without a fight. The queen would expect better than for one of her soldiers to die a coward. The bastard anticipates his adversary's next move. Narrowly avoiding his end by the prong of the weapon, the warrior manoeuvres himself into attack position as he is lifted towards the demon's gaping mouth. At the last possible moment, he springs from hiding and lands on the precipice. His presence does not appear to be detected by the unholy beast. Salvation is at hand. Escape is within his grasp. As retribution for the horrors the demon has subjected the poor, innocent ant to, the warrior gives the beast a parting shot before fleeing to freedom. With a battlecry of "For the Queen!!" the bastard warrior sinks his venomous mandibles into the vulnerable flesh with every microscopic ounce of his exoskeleton encrusted being. Too quickly the monster reacts to the searing pain radiating across his grizzled face and plucks our would-be hero from his anchor in a vice-like grip and with a look of disgust, flings the brave soldier to his doom.
This is where the ant's story ends. Whether the bastard succumbed to his injuries or was crushed under the gargantuan weight of some other equally foul beast is not known. His flattened body still lies discarded and forgotten on a cafeteria floor. His noble brothers and regal queen will never know of his bravery in the face of certain death. The ant bards will sing no tales of The Bastard. Only you dear reader, will know the truth of what happened that fateful evening.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Out of the Silent Planet

I recently finished reading Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis. It was published in 1938 as the first part of Lewis' Space Trilogy. (We're talking pre-Narnia here people.) It is presented as a fictionalized account of real events. The whole "names have been changed to protect the innocent (and guilty)" line. I am sure at the time, the more open-minded of readers may have found this to be an entirely plausible, if somewhat fantastic, story. Given the technological advances in the last 75 years and mankind's more "hands-on" exploration of the celestial bodies within our solar system, the believability of the events in the book are greatly diminished. However, when it comes to space, I don't rule anything out. And I strongly believe that our knowledge of "outer space" and our relationship with it is exponentially larger than what we are "allowed" to know. Chew on that.
In the book, our protagonist whom Lewis has called Ransom, stumbles upon two less-than-noble scientists on a walk in the countryside. The scientists subsequently drug and kidnap Ransom and whisk him away on a space ship to the planet Malacandra (Mars) as an offering to some equally ignoble members of one of that planet's many sentient species. Ransom escapes his would be sellers before the transaction is completed and is taken in by a member of a different Malacandran species. Here he learns the common Malacandran language, the basic history of the different regions, and the nature and specializations of the planet's intelligent races.
As in any Lewis work I have read, religion or at least the idea of a "God" plays a key role in the storyline. Ransom eventually gains an audience with the planet's "deity" called Oyarsa. Not so much a person as an etheric entity, the Oyarsa is but that planet's aspect of a greater, universal presence, Maledil. Oyarsa goes on to explain that every planet has it's own Oyarsa. In addition, there exist the formless eldil. The eldil are able to communicate with physical beings in a more or less telepathic way and reside in the cold wastes of space, or "the heavens" but can "be" anywhere. The closest approximation to something an Earthling might understand would be an angel. During the course of Ransom's education we learn that Earth is called Thulcandra. (So THAT'S where the band got their name!) Thulcandra means "the Silent Planet". The story of Thulcandra parallels that of Lucifer. Thulcandra's Oyarsa became power hungry and struck out at the surrounding celestial bodies. With one hand he laid waste to the moon and with the other struck out at Malacandra, destroying its upper plateaus and relegating its life to deep, thin valleys. As punishment, Maledil imprisoned the Thulcandran Oyarsa in its own planet and cut it off from the collective universal consciousness. Hence, the Silent Planet.
The Malacandrans don't have a word for evil. They refer to Thulcandra's Oyarsa (and the aforementioned ignoble Malacandrans) as "bent". I think this is a brilliant way to describe human nature and more or less humanity in general. I believe that at our core, individuals and humanity as a whole are by nature "good". But we have become bent. More specifically our minds are bent. Since actions occur as the result of a thought, if our minds are bent, our actions will be bent as well. We see this in the amount of anger, selfishness, greed, hatred, etc. that dominates our society.
What if Earth really is The Silent Planet? What if we have been cast aside as the proverbial black sheep of the family by the innumerable societies of the universe? We have been conditioned - intentionally? - to believe that extra-terrestrial intelligences are inherently malicious. That if they come it will be to exploit and destroy our people and planet. But perhaps the opposite is the reality. Perhaps the qualities of peace and co-operation are predominant in the universe and we have been isolated to protect the rest of creation from our demonstrated potential for malevolence. Ours is an ugly world. War and death surround us. We demonstrate little to no reverence for the planet that sustains us. Day by day we inch closer to rendering our planet uninhabitable. Maledil forbid such a cruel, destructive and blind "civilization" be allowed to perpetuate itself beyond its own borders.
If this is the sort of statement Lewis was trying to make with Out of the Silent Planet I shudder to think what his perception of humanity would be today. In the last 75 years the destruction of our planet has accelerated, our hatred and destruction of our fellow man continues unabated. Technological advances intended to make our lives easier and thus happier and more fulfilling has only driven us further into ourselves. They've only continued to feed our desire for bigger, better, more. A desire that can never be fully satiated. Materialism will never be the means to ultimate happiness. Until we realize that (and realize the true nature of existence) we will always be a black mark on the face of creation.
But just as the potential for salvation lies within even the darkest of souls, there will always be hope for humanity. The past, present and future are lit by the shining jewels of potential for humanity to break free of the chains we've imprisoned ourselves in. Those people who serve as examples of all that is good and right and virtuous. The Mayan calendar ends this December. It is said that it marks "the end of the world as we know it". One can only hope that the change it marks is a change in the positive direction. That finally the resonant frequency of our planet will be elevated beyond the negativity that shackles both our individual and collective consciousnesses up to that of love, compassion and acceptance. (Yes, I've been reading Icke.) And that by freeing ourselves from our prison we are able to fully realize all there is to know about ourselves, our neighbours and the whole of existence.
If book one of the trilogy has been this inspirational and thought-provoking, I'm very intrigued to see how revelatory books two and three are!