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.

Influence Peddling

It would be a rare person who is entirely immune to the blandishments of Madison Ave. to unload his family fortune for some article or service that might increase community or financial status, or allow said person to blissfully ignore the storm of miscreants and their misdeeds that seems to surround us all. As if Madison Ave., and its lesser equivalents in the hinterland, was not enough, we now have internet influencers to fill in the gaps and create new cravings, with the same assurances as to quality and utility of goods and services provided. Perhaps somewhat more pernicious from operating mostly out of public view are the lobbyists who troll the halls of government and like bodies to ensure that corporations can flourish and, optimally, feed copiously at the public trough. Influencers, lobbyists and their benefactors also tend to form up in institutions called think tanks, where much brain power is focused on whatever the central theme of the think tank might be. One of my favourite tanks is the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives, who pool their ganglions in support of building a society that benefits the broadest possible spectrum of citizens and whose prescriptions seem to be best received by politicians identified with the left, though they themselves are not overtly political. They are distinguished from their opposite numbers by the question of whose interests they serve. There  are many of them, one of which, The Fraser Institute, falls on the opposite end of the social and political spectrum. In my adult life, I have seen more credits to the FI in the press than all other tanks combined, possibly because their greatest influence might be in our region and their greatest impact therefore at the level of provincial, regional and municipal politics. The influence exerted by these organizations becomes problematic when it moves from politics to policy and when the privileged few directing the Think Tanks get to translate their desires into legislation. The little screen capture at the top of this screed, and which is its inspiration, was from Libération, part of the daily read-around. You can find it here.

Montaigne has been chosen as a symbol of rational thought, an iconic figure of the Renaissance in France, to legitimize the view of the institute and to ensure the widest acceptance of the policy that stems from the institute’s influence. It would seem that there really isn’t anything all that original, apart from reference to contemporary challenges, but that the answer for those challenges is likely to result in More Of Same, emerging from pandemic restraints into as close a mirror of “before” as possible.

…un agenda à faire rougir de plaisir les entreprises : assouplissement du marché du travail, subventionnement de l’investissement, libéralisation des soldes, augmentation de la durée du temps de travail, réduction des dépenses publiques structurelles…

 

… an agenda to make businesses blush with pleasure: loosening of the labour market, subsidizing of investment, loosing restraints on remuneration, extending work hours, reduction of structural public spending…

Nothing to displease the FI crowd, nor the CD Howe bunch or any of their analogs. French President Macron has much in common with our PM in this, and so many other ways. Rien de nouveau sous le soleil.

Olympian

Head Under Heels

Newest Olympic Sport

 

 

 

Photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash

Mount Olympus was held to be the abode of the Greek gods, from which comes the idea that something olympian is of great stature, lofty, admirable and worthy of the aspirations of the best of humanity. So why is it that every time a new sport is added to the Olympics, I get the feeling that the Olympic Movement has devolved into a marketing board for cheap distractions, tawdry displays of gaud, and colossal misappropriations of public funds?

This is how I felt when baseball and tennis were included, with a grudging nod to the ubiquity of some pursuits. This is how I felt about beach volleyball with its yahoo culture and skimpy get-ups…why not do as the wrestlers apparently did back in the origins and go full monte?

I also hear disturbing rumblings of the coalescence of a group looking to bring the Olympics back to Vancouver. We have had no meaningful reckoning for the binge of a decade ago nor a cost-benefit analysis of the temporary glow of winning some medals and the costs (still sealed) in money and disruption caused by the supporting infrastructure so that the IOC could bring its Spendy Circus to town and say the usual trite things about what wonderful hosts and suckers we’ve been. Tamp it down! There are several layers of more pressing issues that should be on the agenda.

Oh, and break dancing? Yet another marvel of one-time innovation, athleticism, and culture. No worries there, just that the IOC needs to work on the idea of universality and appropriateness as represented by the rings.

 

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).

Look What Crawled Out Of The Woodwork!

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash, with thanks.

 

So, as Huffpost opines, Justin Trudeau and a new star candidate for the fall election: Terry Lake, former minister of Health in the BC government of Christy Clark.

Lots of folks used to insist that Clark’s idea of a Liberal was different from the Federal Party, but the lat three-and-a-bit years of Trudeau’s reign will have solidly put paid to that notion. In fact, there are pictures of CC and PMSH seated side-by-side where it seems it would be easy to substitute the the-PM for our current cardboard cutout. While Lake seemed to be less aggressive in his pursuit of the bent dealings that characterize most of what happened during the Campbell/Clark years, he was still a willing participant in the shenanigans and is unlikely to be terribly constructive in the context of a Federal government. This reminds me a little of the revolving door between Federal appointees and Industry, both here and south of the border. Anyone exercising a modicum of neural networks will know that it doesn’t much matter who the Libs and Cons throw up in front of us as a candidate because policy isn’t formulated in cabinet: it comes from the board rooms of Bay Street and Oil Alley in Calgary (also SNC, Irving, Davie, various Pharma and Ag giants…). So Sad.

Another dead giveaway that we’re seeing an opportunist supporting other opportunists? In the above link, it states that it was Trudeau’s Climate Plan that brought him to filing for candidacy, and we’ve had ample opportunity to discern that said Climate Plan is full of lovely rhetoric, and no action, or actions that no sane person would include in a plan to scale back the destruction of the planet’s life systems. Interesting how groups of the like-minded mendacious find each other and connect.

 

Is It Illegal? Just Hang On A Sec!

The Centre of The Liberal Universe

 

(http://deadder.net/   https://www.thechronicleherald.ca)

While it is deemed that economic impacts may not be considered in the implementation of a DPA, it seems we can always find a way around any roadblocks inhibiting special treatment of our special friends in business.

The above is from the paper of record (for a lot of folks) and hints neatly at how the PMO can do it’s due obeisance to SNC so as to preserve votes in Québec. The law doesn’t do what we want it to do? The law, slack as it is, might cut SNC off the public trough? Wait, we can change the law, and deem it retroactive to the time of Methuselah, just, y’know, to be sure.

(with the gracious permission of the author: (http://deadder.net/)

Who publishes at:

https://www.thechronicleherald.ca

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!