Environmental Clarity

 

A fellow climate campaigner circulated this link as worthy of an hour’s reading time:

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/environmentalists-what-are-we-fighting-for-an-environmentalist-argues-it-s-not-clear-1.4917208

The lede:

Environmental problems are well-known and have been for decades, but we still appear to be edging toward a global catastrophe. Why?

Environmentalist Graham Saul believes that part of the problem is environmentalism itself. He argues it has a message problem — mainly because it doesn’t have a single, coherent, unified message that people can grasp.”

Certainly, there is a multiplicity of views on what constitutes the length and breadth of the perceptions of how we got where we are, and likely an equal plethora of prescriptions on how to bail ourselves out of the corner into which we seem to have painted ourselves. Even within the confines of our little community, there are several groups working to address questions relating to the environment without necessarily arriving at a consensus on the whys and wherefores as well as a direction to solution.

Does this mean that we’re doomed to failure? Will our lack of a unified and clarified message doom our efforts to enlist a broader swath of society in efforts to stabilize what we have set a-kilter?

I would like to offer a couple of analogies that seem relevant, the first somewhat silly and of dubious origin, the second perhaps more pertinent and certainly more thoughtful.

My wife brought a very fancy pasta maker in 1983, and part of the promotional material for the machine touted the fact that, despite the difficulty of getting Italians to agree on anything, this machine was universally accepted the length and breadth of the country. Imagine that!

The second insight was from a book called A Fair Country, by John Ralston Saul, published in 2008, in which Saul posited that there are three pillars of culturak tradition in Canada, the French, the English, and First Nations, and that one of the tenets of First Nations culture that has tempered the effect of fervent opinion in Canada (as opposed to the fiery hai-triggeer revolutionary spirit of the United States) is the longer perspective of First Nations culture and the willingness of First Nations to tolerate a higher level of unresolved ambiguity.

Based on this outlook, I would argue that we ought not get overly exercised in the quest for perfection of clarity in our message. I see this in contemporary readings where some will advocate for the immediate dissolution of the capitalist system at the base of our society, while others, equally implicated in efforts to put our living space back together, will argue that it’s imperative that we enlist to the cause those constituencies traditionally hostile to considerations of the environment, advocates of free-market economics and some communities of faith. Where there is no consensus among the recognized environmental leaders on such questions, it seems unlikely that we will do any better locally or regionally, and that perhaps we ought to shift our focus to actions that will lead to better outcomes and accept that there are multiple ways to both look at the process and to work toward resolution.

If This Is Tuesday…

 

…it might be a good day for a couple of not-so-random thoughts.

Making Pulp?

Over at National Observer, there is an article about avoiding the use of trees in the manufacture of pulp and paper products by substituting the vast quantities of wheat straw for the usual complement of trees harvested in the forests of the Northwest. Eastern Washington State is the location of some of the most ridiculously fertile soil on the planet, to the point where I recall reading about farmers having to develop strains of wheat that were less prone to tall growth because the nutrient level in that part of the world meant that normal strains would grow too tall and collapse on themselves. However, fertility, we know, is to forever and must be maintained and reinforced wherever possible. Most of the current literature I’ve read would suggest that the more biomass you leave on the land, the better the soil health will be in the long run and the better will also be both crop yield and quality, other factors being equal. So the use of wheat straw for paper product may save trees, but it’s likely to the detriment of soil quality, and much of that quality, according to the Savoury Institute and other forward-looking groups, lies in the embedded carbon in the soil, to wit, soils have at least as much potential as carbon sinks as forests. On the face of it, this article seems like something positive in the effort to rein in climate disruption, but misses the real point in that we will likely have to forego the use of a lot of the paper products so ubiquitous in our everyday existence so as to sacrifice neither forest nor field to the gods of consumption.

Shades of Colonel Batguano

(…a nod to Dr. Strangelove, as pertinent as ever, just not here and now, but it’s my post!)

Meanwhile, a fellow transitioner posted this link on Facebook to an article in Hakai Magazine about the valuable role that bird guano plays in maintaining fertility in ecosystems.

Birds Do It…

 

“We wanted to inform the general public about the importance of seabirds and the value they provide for humans,” says Daniel Plazas Jimenez, a PhD candidate at the Federal University of Goiás in Brazil who studies food chains and coauthored the paper, published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution. But the value that seabirds provide to world ecosystems is much greater, Jimenez adds—a powerful argument for seabird preservation.”

So, again, while farmers can use guano to raise crops, and while the Chileans and Peruvians may have fought a war with the Spaniards over the stuff (it was also a source of nitrogen for the manufacture of explosives), nature itself likely provides greater benefit to humans and the rest of the biosphere than any dollar amount derived from the extraction and application of guano.

We are often asked by those proponents of the status quo to turn off our energy-intense furnaces, get all the plastic out of our abodes, forego any transport that uses any fossil fuels and go back to living life in the Stone Age if we wish to curtail the current régime of extraction and consumption without bothering to mention that their patrons have for decades actively blocked any sort of a transition to a paradigm that might allow for the survival of human civilization into the next century. Our task, and the task for all our friends in the fossil fuel/extraction industrial base, is to envision a future where there is at least a sufficiency of necessities for everyone, and, hopefully, a plenitude of whatever we need to survive, thrive and prosper without soiling our own nest and while protecting and nurturing the rest of the biosphere.

 

 

…and I miss the Mound of Sound.

Happy Birthday to A Very Special Young Lady

Grand daughter’s sixteenth birthday. Loved by all her family (with the sometime exception of her brother, but, hey, someone has to be the foil).

Visionary? Really?

 

Last fall i had occasion to be on the UBC campus for the first time in a decade and the visit was revelatory. The view I had of the campus had been almost entirely submerged in new construction, and a whole new city had sprung up on the Endowment Lands to the south of campus, including the rising spires of the temples to real estate speculation. My guide, who taught at BCIT and who lives in one of the older developments on the EL, pointed out that only full-time tenured faculty could actually afford the rents/mortgages in the neighbourhood. So I had to have a rueful laugh at a headline on the landing page of the Times-Colonist this morning mourning the passing of the real estate visionary who revolutionized UBC housing. I suspect that the visions were likely that of pecuniary symbolism pasted on his eyeballs.

What’s Old Is Still Old

…but it often keeps resurfacing.

 

Camus, himself

Long ago, in student days, I read a couple of plays by Albert Camus, Caligula and Le malentendu, each of which dealt with some fairly weighty questions that get left out of most of the day-to-day conversation. With thoughts of a couple of other Camus pieces (Noces and L’été) that had shown me a side of the author not generally acknowledged (reflections of sun-drenched vistas and the general beauty offered by nature, however indifferent or absurd that nature might be), I plunked down some serious coin for a Pleïade edition of the man’s complete works and invest some time in broadening that horizon while keeping some language skills activated.

Caligula

 

As is often the case with works read in the deep past, the reader’s perspective will have morphed through piled up time and experience, and such is the case with Caligula, a ruler who has forsaken the conventions for his own individual struggle with a lack of limits, something that rings true with a number of authoritarian administrations, yet only partially in the case of our own Mr. Trump (he is a product of a confused and twisted world, and therefore belongs to all of us). The big difference between Trump and his Roman analog is that Caligula is fully conscious of who he is, what he is doing, and the nature of his relationship to those he rules. As devastating as Caligula’s rule might have seemed at the time, the threats to civilization posed by Trump and his associates are, if you’ll pardon a smarmy Camusian observation, existential.

And I’m sure it’s an utter coincidence that I arrived at this particular spot in Camus’ oeuvre at this juncture in the Trump narrative (impeachment, assassination of the top Iranian military figure).

Help! I Can’t Keep Up!

Snowed Under Photo by Medena Rosa on Unsplash

I’m feeling snowed under. Aside from some recreational reading (C.J. Sansom at the moment), some long-time head-scratching (Les oeuvres complètes de Camus, Éditions de la Pléïade) and the usual daily read-around on the Net, there are particular bits of interest that keep popping up and fighting for time in the midst of family considerations, gardening (indoors, thus far, mostly) and playing a little music on the side.

An e-mail from the Post Carbon Institute sent me off to this (you’ll need to leave a name and valid e-mail address) on an emerging aspect of the transformation that will be necessary for humanity to progress and thrive. Bring it on!

A regular read-around site is the Blog Borg Collective who posted a piece  by Robin Matthews, a veteran of the Bas, Bas and Virk BC Rail slog. And now I see they’ve added a bit about Andrew Wilkinson and his wacky period of renting. OK, I can do that.

Then Facebook, I think via the South Africa Food Tank group, coughs up something like this, a likely way to kill off another hour or so, at least. Hmmm.

Let’s add this to the pile, via a friend and further to a discussion relating to Transitions Health Check.

I get notes from Corey Robin about interesting discussions around and about intellectuals in places somewhat more steeped in intellectual activity than my present abode. So this appeared this morning. I’m not sure I want to spend the morning with Friedrich Hayek, but the perspective is important.

There were a couple of articles on The Tyee this morning more than worthy of reading in depth (my call).

And then there are volumes of Youtube video discussions along these lines to add to the heap.

Have you ever felt like a gum-chewing teen standing on the threshold of an outlet mall?

Is a pattern emerging? The bad news is that there is so much commentary because there is such a litany of misdeeds and malfeasance in all levels of society and in almost all areas of endeavour. The good news is that there are so many people concerned enough for the welfare of other people and that of society in general to run down the stories and to put them in front of those who will listen.

Sadly, there just isn’t time to do it all. Please consider taking up the task and supporting those already hard at work correcting what ails us.

Now I had better get after all this good stuff.

 

 

 

 

Medena Rosa

Is This The Best We Can Do?

To no one’s great surprise, the NEB put its stamp of approval on the “revised” application for the construction of the TransMountain Pipeline, even the ‘new-and-improved’ model looks an awful lot like the original shabby sham of an oil-lobby grease job. This represents an utter failure of governance in Canada (not to mention the effect this will have on our atmosphere, oceans, storms, wildfires, sea-level rise and the rest of the disruption catalogue). None of these parties seems to get that, for our society to continue to exist, we have to leave this gunk safely buried in the ground, and, while the time to begin the process of weaning ourselves off our present addiction was several decades ago, we didn’t do that, so that makes now the next best option.

Justin Trudeau, campaigning in the last general election, deployed the full-spectrum Liberal strategy of saying most anything to get elected, particularly at the expense of Tom Mulcair, knowing that many were just so tired of the Conservative wet blanket of the previous decade that they would go to great lengths to unseat the Harper crowd. All those glowing campaign promises and the soaring rhetoric that filled the earliest of the sunny days disappeared into a morass of same-old, same-old once the rubber hit the road. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party settled on a brand new face for the same blood-sport capital sell-out that characterized the Harper years, but with dimples and a complete lack of either gravitas of intellect. The New Democrats turfed Mulcair and replaced him with Singh, a seemingly decent guy who seems to need to check the weathervane before making a policy pronouncement, and even then, doesn’t necessarily stick to it.

These three stooges have taken centre stage in Canadian governance against the backdrop of an economy that serves only a relative few, a frayed social fabric, simmering internal divisions, and an environment that threatens to become entirely inhospitable to life in general, and specifically a teetering technological human society. All three major national leaders continue to play in the sandbox of Canadian politics as though it’s 1950 and a new era of prosperity and progress awaits us, rather than recognizing the crises into which we’ve already entered and educating  us as citizens as to the necessary steps in mitigation, adaptation and revamping that will be necessary to ensure that the numerous offspring of the Trudeau and Scheer households have a shot at a decent life. Instead of mining more goop from the tar sands, why not put those yellow vests to work doing something constructive, building renewable energy infrastructure, reforestation and agricultural rejigging to ensure that we all get fed and that more people can work the land in a regenerative fashion?

This isn’t happening because none of our leaders has the courage to say what many of us know and then to take the steps necessary to throw off the ties that bind them to their handlers and the people whose interests the handlers represent: banking, pharma, Big Ag, the arms dealers, tech companies and, above all, fossil fuel concerns. Those whose good gigs are suffering because so much wealth has already left the country and even the slightest steps toward sanity feel like persecution. No one has been able to decouple a good living from the insanity of the oilfields, and it’s unlikely at this point that people are going to lend much credence to anything that comes from the mouths of our most august leaders.

Elizabeth May stands out as the only leader to do the right thing: she went and got herself arrested protesting TMX, and so need say little else. It would be too much to hope for a minority government next October with May and several colleagues holding the balance of power. Ephemeral though it might be, it would at least have a chance at airing some serious concerns in the kabuki theatre that is the Commons.

 

Mail It In

From linked site.

 

A friend sent a link to the news that BMW has developed the technology for a completely autonomous motorcycle. I used to indulge in cycling for both transportation and pleasure and mostly gave it up when I realized that climate stabilization and blowing fuel out the tailpipe for fun were not compatible.

So I wrote back:

This ranks right up with my other favourite automated activities, like eating, sex, and, why not? drinking wine. Think of all the snotty wine-tasting vocabulary you can forget, and God! the lack of hangovers after too much enthusiasm at the tasting bench…

Imagine sex without the need for dating, foreplay, birth control, STDs, messy relationships…

Food without having to buy, prepare and serve, no more chewing swallowing, gastric distress, voiding and defecating, no more spice-burn, salmonella and ptomaine poisoning, contented belching, low-flying ducks, fibre requirements, cholesterol, diets…

Feel free to weigh in on other activities!

(Intentionally?) Missing The Point

Methinks Dame Cathy and her Court have missed the lectures on climate disruption, but are still willing to attempt to score political points trying to wrap themselves in a cloak of the greenest of fig-leafery. In this race, the Crudeau crowd wants to win by taking six giant steps backward before the opening gun goes off. Sadly for them, and well and good for the rest of the planet, there are others who have been tortising along for a couple of decades and have splendid results to show for it. But, hey, we’ve got a crud oil pipeline and fossil fuel subsidies and Alberta has found the magic spell that’s keeping Canada working, or at least those in the advertising industry who are best at half-truths and outright fabrications. It’s a good thing that Scheer’s goose steppers are going to start talking about abortions again so that Justin can get re-elected on a raft of recycled and new promises that he can then break. So sad.

End note: It’s good that we now know (via the Lancet) that we can commit slow and blissful suicide by single malt.