Tuesday, December 29, 2020

A Warning From The WHO

 I doubt there is anyone amongst us who doesn't wish this pandemic were over. The cost in lives, health and jobs has been unprecedented in modern times. Yet to think that the vaccines, remarkable achievements that they are, will end all of our Covid-19 troubles, is akin to wishful thinking, as the following video attests.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Looking At Ourselves In The Mirror

If you have access to the New York Times, there is a piece well-worth reading by Michael Benson. Entitled Watching Earth Burn. it includes photos of our planet taken from three weather satellites in geostationary orbit high above the Equator. These photos attest to the ravages of climate-change induced wild fires plaguing the world, although Benson does not ignore human-caused destruction, as in the ravages of the Amazonian rainforest where, thanks to 

the rapacious policies of President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, predatory agricultural, logging and mining interests had set his country ablaze. By late September the already hellish 2019 escalation in deliberately set forest fires had been exceeded by 28 percent, with more than 44,000 outbreaks recorded in the Amazon and Pantanal this year.

The entire article makes for grim reading, and is a cogent reminder of just how late in the day it is for mitigating the worst of  the damage threatening the very existence of our species and countless others with whom we share the earth.

Yet the piece ends on a cautiously optimistic note:

If the war has started and we’re losing, what can we do about it? Or to put it another way, what would I like to see happen over the next year, even if I won’t yet be able to observe it directly from my Olympian perch among the satellites?

Actually, our response to the pandemic already suggests the way forward. Faced with an existential crisis of a scale not seen in living memory, we deployed the planet’s best minds, funded them well and turned them loose on the problem. They in turn were able to draw on a wealth of prior knowledge about how viruses infiltrate our bodies, and three decades of hard-won experience in learning about and finally creating RNA — purpose-built synthetic copies of a natural molecule integral to our genes — devised to prompt an immune response within our cells. This paid off spectacularly. And all this was accomplished in record time — months instead of the previous standard of a decade or more.

We need to follow this immediately with another sustained global effort. Imagine what human ingenuity could produce if unleashed in comparably coordinated, well-funded fashion on the climate crisis. The good news is that, as with the new RNA vaccines, we have significant prior research to draw on. It covers carbon-neutral power production, energy conservation strategies, carbon capture and sequestration, global reforestation and an intercontinental effort to build a high voltage, DC power network 40 percent more efficient than AC and thus able to compensate for the daily fluctuations in wind and solar power systems.

In short, we need an all-hands-on-deck fusion of the Manhattan Project and the Marshall Plan, only this time funded by all of the world’s major economies and led by the largest: the United States, the European Union and China.

Time is obviously short, but as I commented on Marie's blog entry about the existential threats we face, human beings seem much more able to respond to acute threats than long-term ones. If we cannoit change that propensity, there really is little basis for hope. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

A Masterful Takedown

 No one does it better than Chris Cuomo. 

Even if you only watch a couple of minutes of the above video, you will see that he has taken the true, full measure of Donald Trump.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Squeal Like A Pig

 One of our true national treasures, Linda McQuaig (why has she not received an Order of Canada?) recently wrote an article detailing the abysmal conditions under which pigs await slaughter. It is a piece that should make all of us cringe, whether or not we regularly eat pork:

Many people — meat-eaters included — object to the factory farm practice of confining pigs for virtually their entire lives to metal cages so small they can’t even turn around.

That’s why the Canadian pork industry, sensitive about its public image, decided to eliminate the practice — a move hailed by Canada’s Humane Society as “a watershed moment for farm animals in Canada.”

This led to a rare round of positive coverage for the beleaguered industry, with the media reporting that the move would please Canadian consumers and bring Canadian animal welfare practices in line with more advanced European standards.

All that happened back in 2014. Yet, six years later, millions of pigs in Canada continue to spend their lives locked in these narrow cages — because the ban doesn’t actually come into effect until 2024.Many people — meat-eaters included — object to the factory farm practice of confining pigs for virtually their entire lives to metal cages so small they can’t even turn around.

In fact, that leisurely 10-year phase-in period seems about to get longer. The pork industry has decided it needs more time and has indicated its desire to grant itself a further five-year extension.

How is this possible? In a word: self-regulation, a self-regulation that is aided and abetted by the Doug Ford government, which

just made it easier for the industry to shield its operations from public view, passing legislation last month aimed at cracking down on trespassing activists and journalists who often work undercover on industrial farms in order to take photos and videos.

Those videos have done a great deal to raise public awareness of the conditions under which our food makes its way to our table:

 One undercover video, aired last month on CTV’s national investigative program W5, included graphic footage of adult pigs being hit with heavy objects and baby pigs squealing and squirming in pain as workers cut off their tails and castrate them.

Lest we be inclined to think of animals as insensate beings, consider this:

As renowned anthropologist Jane Goodall notes: “Farm animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear and pain.”

The intensity of animal emotions has been captured on videos of rescued farm animals experiencing their first taste of freedom. They run, romp and play — even enormous adult pigs — and certainly appear to be experiencing something akin to joy.

 Of course, any dog owner can confirm that animals feel emotions. And any dog owner would gasp at the thought of their dog trapped in a confining cage, 24 hours a day, unable to even turn around.

But the factory farm industry is counting on us not making the connection. And the best way to ensure that, as Doug Ford knows, is to prevent us from seeing photos of locked-up pigs looking every bit as sad and scared as our own dogs would be in those cages.

Whether we are vegetarians, vegans or regular or occasional consumers of animal flesh, it is incumbent upon all of us not only to be aware of the deplorable conditions under which our food is processed but also to demand much better both from the industry and the Doug Ford government.  



Sunday, December 20, 2020

Capturing A Certain Ethos

Be sure to click on the image so as to enlarge it:

 Unfortunately, the mentality depicted above is not confined to the United States.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Some Frank Talk


I readily admit to being intolerant of childish, narcissistic adults. And never have those defects of character been more evident than during our Covid-19 world crisis. People whining that they won't wear masks or maintain social distancing, that such stipulations are an assault of their personal freedom bespeak minds untutored and character unspeakably selfish.

It was therefore with some satisfaction that I read Vinay Menon's latest column, one devoted to a rant actor Tom Cruise engaged in as he rebuked two of his crew for not following protocols during work on his latest film. Audio of the rant has been leaked, but there is nothing that Cruise said that should offend anyone with a sense of social responsibility:

“We are the gold standard,” he says at the start of the clip, reportedly addressing 50 staffers at the Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden. “They’re back there in Hollywood making movies right now because of US! Because they believe in US and what we’re DOING!”

"I’m on the phone with every f---ing studio at night,” Cruise continues, the weight on his shoulders now crushing any hope of a PG-13 scolding. “Insurance companies! Producers! And they’re looking at us and using us to make their MOVIES. We are creating thousands of jobs, you MOTHERF---ERS!”

He ends by issuing an ultimatum: termination if this behaviour happens again.

There is more to Cruise's rebuke than I have included here, but the full measure of it wins Menon's full approval:

One of the most depressing tentacles of this global pandemic — and it has been a Kraken of misery — is the absolute ignorance of too many among us. If I had my druthers, I’d load every antimasker and anti-vaxxer on a rocket ship and shoot them to Venus. What these people really are is anti-other. Their brains are poisoned by misinformation. Their hearts are infected with an incurable selfishness.

To refuse to do the bare minimum to keep everyone else safe does not make you a freedom fighter — it makes you a public menace. Trying to frame COVID-19 as about personal liberty is like arguing you should be allowed to drink and drive or set random fires on your block.

In the early stages of this pandemic, I had the impression that most of us were on the same page regarding our collective responsibility to contain this deadly virus. However, as time has gone on, the fault lines that divide us have become increasingly apparent.

And that spells danger and greater deprivation for all of us.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

When You Think About It

... this makes perfect sense for the times we find ourselves in:

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Such Compelling Rhetoric

...requires no commentary on my part:

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Beware Mr. Covid

It has been several months since my last post. Originally I had anticipated but a short break,, but events conspired against me and I wound up in the hospital for several weeks. Although my hospitalization had nothing to do with Covid-19, the latter has been much on my mind, particularly owing to the fact that so many people, judging by the surging numbers, lack the maturity and character to do what is necessary to keep this dread disease at bay. 

 I was therefore not surprised at Alberta's effort to bring home the gravity of the situation by producing an ad that reveals what the government thinks of its child-like citizens: