Wednesday, October 31, 2018

On Personal Hypocrisy

"The price of admission to the climate-change battle is hypocrisy."

I interpret those words, as best as I remember them from a book on climate change I recently read, as the stark admission that we all fall short in the battle against climate change. They are offered, however, not as excuse, but rather as prologue to a personal admission I would like to express in my first blog post since my hiatus. More about that momentarily.

The reason for the hiatus was twofold: I was (and still am to a large extent) feeling burnt out, my hope for any constructive change in the world at this point pretty low. In light of that, I had to ask myself whether it was right to continue posting, a question which forced me to analyse why I have been writing this blog for so long. I concluded that the following are my reasons:

1. To serve as a personal catharsis. Throughout my life I have found that writing about something over which I have little or no control serves as a kind of safety valve, in that it lessens ever so slightly my sense of powerlessness in particular situations.

2. To keep my mind and my writing skills sharp (although some might questions the efficacy of the latter given my sometimes opaque, even convoluted, style).

3. To share with readers my own commentary on aggregated material. We live in a very busy world, and I like to think that some of the things I have found in my reading of newspapers, books, online publications, etc. might be of interest or value to those who might not have the time to read as much as I can, given my status as a retiree.

The second reason that covers part of the time the blog was on hiatus is that I was out of the country.

Out of respect to readers, I have always tried to be honest in what I write. I have made no secret of the fact that I still fly once or twice a year, despite the well-known greenhouse gas costs of such an activity. My personal admisssion today is that I did it again; we went to England, a very socially troubled country (although the people we encountered were very kind) which I may write about in a future post. The fact that I do still fly makes me uncomfortable, forcing me as it does to question how seriously I can really be taken when I post about the impending catastrophe we call climate change. Even though I try to drive as little as possible and take other measures to limit my carbon footprint, I know that those efforts pall in comparison to taking even one flight. Hence my hypocrisy.

This has been an obviously brief piece, but one I thought important to publish. I will likely still continue to post about issues involving our rapidly-deteriorating environment, but only readers themselves can decide whether or not, in light of my own hypocrisy, they are worthy of consideration.

Monday, October 15, 2018

A Brief Programming Note

I'll be taking a break from the blog for the next little while. See you soon.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

On Short Attention Spans And Political Expediency

The climate catastrophe bearing down on us serves to underscore the fallibility of our species and the shortcomings of our politics, as these Star letter-writers ably point out:
The news cycle is a funny thing. The UN has issued a “life-or-death” report about the clear and present danger of climate change. The Star has given it front-page coverage. But we all know it’ll be gone by next week.

I guess it doesn’t matter. Ordinary people don’t get it anyway, or get it for about five minutes, then move on. Political and corporate leaders don’t get it either. In fact, they don’t want to get it.

So we wait for Trump’s next rant, the next oil leak or terrorist attack, the next royal wedding or sports spectacular, and watch them all disappear just as quickly as they brighten our screens.

Climate change? People running from coastal cities? Droughts, floods, wicked storms and broken food chains? Who cares. It’s a fantasy, just a flicker on the news channel and it’ll all be gone tomorrow.

Stephen Purdey, Toronto

The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paints a grim picture of what is in store if we don’t start to significantly reduce carbon emissions within the next dozen or so years. The consequences of climate change have beaten us over the head in recent years — from extended heat waves and drought to more intense wildfires and flooding. Yet many of our political leaders are merely paying lip service to the crisis.

Doug Ford says he “believes” in climate change, but is opposed to carbon taxes. Jason Kenney is sitting on the fence, but he knows that he doesn’t like carbon pricing. Andrew Scheer says he will have a “very detailed and comprehensive plan” to get us to our Paris commitments — without a carbon tax.

We know what they don’t want, but what are they in favour of? For Scheer, in particular, with an election a year away, the luxury of cheap talk is over. He needs to tell us exactly what he proposes and let us judge if it is better than what is currently on the table.

Richard Schertzer, Milton

Climate change is affecting Canadians as much as a buzzing fly in the room. It is annoying and in the back of everyone’s mind and yet ignored in the belief that it will eventually dissipate once some new technology comes along.

Many people do not have this luxury, however. Natural disasters are sweeping mostly impoverished, developing nations, including the recent Haitian and Indonesian earthquakes. These disasters are headed our way and that fly in the room will soon become a hungry lion. Yet politicians seem to be more concerned about wearing a headscarf to work or having beer cost a buck than the fate of our survival on this planet.

If we want to have any chance of keeping the increase in temperatures to a maximum of 1.5 or even 2 degrees C, we need to put pressure on those in power to shift their focus. We must stop pushing this under the rug and take greater measures than those we’re taking now.

Emma McLaughlin, Montreal

Friday, October 12, 2018

Politics And Climate Change

Sad to say, climate change and politics in the worst possible sense are inextricably linked. Even as we face the defining crisis of human existence, the question remains one of optics. The Star's Susan Delacourt wonders whether ordinary Canadians can be sold on climate change.

On the one hand are people like Stephen Harper who, in his new book,
warns that standing up for the environment makes for bad politics, especially in a populist age when parties are looking for the votes of “ordinary” people.

“Political parties, including mine, have won elections just by opposing a carbon tax,” the former prime minister writes in the newly released “Right Here, Right Now.” “The reason is simple. It is ordinary voters who pay carbon taxes.”
On the opposite polarity is Green Party Leader Elizabeth May:
In a speech to her party’s convention in Vancouver last month, May said ordinary Canadian voters are more than ready to hear the truth about the climate crisis in the 2019 campaign.

“We really do need to level with Canadians,” May said. “If the one issue is survival, it’s kind of the issue.” She intends to build her campaign around the idea that Canadians are ready, even eager, to have politicians telling the truth to them, and climate change is a perfect entry into that discussion.
Given the latest doom-laden but all-too-real Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, May says the time is right:
“We’re no longer talking about future generations,” May said in an interview yesterday. “We’re talking about the life span of our own children, who are alive right now.”

May wonders why the IPCC report cannot become the Dunkirk of the current generation — a call for citizens and government to work together for a common aim. In the “darkest hour” of the Second World War, she said, people came together to fight a common enemy. May believes that citizens are ready to hear the same message when it comes to saving the planet within the next dozen years.
May's historical allusion is a good one, but it ignores something vital: with Dunkirk, a sense of national purpose was instilled by a strong leader, Winston Churchill, in response to an immediate threat, a threat that was all too real to the British people.

So far, we haven't sufficiently personalized the threat posed by climate change. Will it take a series of Canadian catastrophes similar to what is happening in the United States and other parts of the world before our leaders, and our people, find that sense of purpose? Were the Western forest fires this past summer, the 2016 Fort McMurray conflagration and last month's tornadic destruction in the Ottawa area not sufficient foretaste?

If we are waiting for more dramatic destruction on our home soil to move us, it will, in all likelihood, be far, far too late, and the earth will continue on its current course of ridding itself of a good portion of its greatest affliction - the human species.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

It's Almost Too Late

Without doubt, the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a sobering call for urgent action to prevent complete climate catastrophe. The 12-year window provided by the report should leave no one in doubt about the dire situation the world is facing. And yet, the decisive political leadership required to mitigate that disaster is lacking, as the following two letters from Star writers amply demonstrate:
How can any leader of any party in any country deny the inconvenient truth that the biggest threat to all people everywhere right now, including Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta, is climate change?

How can they say carbon pricing is taking money away from the people and taking away jobs? Some jobs close and others open. Carbon pricing made polluters pay for ways to fight pollution. If you can afford a vehicle and the costs of driving it, why on earth do you think you can’t afford a dime a litre to offset your carbon footprint?

Time is running out — the latest figures, based on 6,000 scientific studies — give us only 12 years to get rising temperatures locked into a 1.5-degree C increase. More than that, which is where we are headed, causes the unthinkable.

Our oceans are already turning to acid. With a slight increase in temperature, we start to lose insects. And without insects we have no food.

Anyone who has a child, a grandchild or is under the age of 45 should not squander the slim margin left for offsetting disaster. Each of us should be taking whatever measures we can right now to help save this threatened planet.

Do not trust any leader who is not working with the federal government as an ally on policies aimed at mitigating the damage we are causing. Wake up. Pay up. It is not about jobs. It’s about lives.

Demand more integrity. More facts. Perhaps if the Star started putting climate change information on the front page every day, readers would start to realize that all other news is inconsequential by comparison.

Janice Lindsay, Toronto

In light of the report issued Sunday by the UN panel on climate change, Ford and Kenney appear as buffoons on the deck of the Titanic entertaining a drunken mob of ignorant upper-class twits with jokes about conspiracy theories, while Trudeau and McKenna scurry around rearranging deck chairs.

A scared hysterical crowd of steerage passengers are trapped below chanting, “What do we want? Carbon fee and dividend. When do we want it? Yesterday!”

For the sake of my granddaughters and all that is bright and beautiful in the world, will you clowns move your bums and fix this mess!

John Stephenson, Toronto

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

No Words Seem Adequate

I haven't been posting much lately; words seem inadequate in light of world events, and their power appears to fork little lightning no matter how dire things are.

With the latest superstorm bearing down on Florida, the following seems a pertinent reminder of our peril:


Monday, October 8, 2018

A Public Service Announcement - Facebook Hoax Alert

If, like me, you are on Facebook, I would like to alert you to a hoax currently circulating, one that I received in my Messenger this morning. The best thing to do if you received the following is to ignore the message and delete it:
The latest Facebook hoax is causing concern and confusion among many users.

Users receive a message from a friend that says “Hi…I actually got another friend request from you yesterday…which I ignored so you may want to check your account. Hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears…then hit forward and all the people you want to forward too…I had to do the people individually. Good Luck!”

Confused? Well you wouldn’t be the only one and there is a simple way you can avoid it. Tech Expert Burton Kelso said this is all a hoax and you can stop forwarding this latest warning to your friends about being hacked.

Kelso said the best thing you can do is just ignore it and delete it.

“Occasionally Facebook accounts are cloned and the hackers will send your friends phishing emails to dupe them into clicking on a link that will infect them.”

Kelso said the best way to keep your Facebook account form getting cloned is to hide your friends list.

The best way to keep your Facebook account from getting cloned is to hide your friends list. As of now, ignore the ‘Got Another Friend Request from You’ message.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Rabid Right Revealed

This demonstrates a great deal about the extreme right, doesn't it?

Monday, October 1, 2018