Showing posts from July, 2021

"The Year They Ran Out of Excuses"

Labour MP, Ed Miliband, writes that climate delay, not climate denial, has become our biggest enemy. Nothing, he warns, is more dangerous than the "illusion of action." Future generations will look back on the climate events of 2021 and say: “That was the year they ran out of excuses.” Heatwaves and flooding here in the UK, temperatures topping 50C in Pakistan, hundreds killed by a heatwave in British Columbia, deadly floods in Germany and China. All within a single month. Add to that the recent dire warning from the Met Office that the age of extreme weather has just begun. The wake-up call that this offers is not just the obvious one: that climate breakdown is already here. It also illustrates that we, in this generation, are in a unique position in the history of this crisis. Climate breakdown can no longer be plausibly denied as a threat etched only in the future. And all too soon, avoiding it may be a luxury lost to the past. The window to avoid catastrophe is closing w

Speaking With Morons

  Logic and evidence-bound critical thinkers find it hard, even pointless, to converse with conspiracy theorists even those within their own families.  Andrew Coyne writes there's nothing you can say to give them pause.  The infrastructure of mass delusion is now too well developed. Take, for example, the anti-vaccine movement. A few years ago, anti-vaxxers could be dismissed as a few isolated loons. Now they are an organized campaign, with Facebook pages and talking points. They seem especially numerous among the populist right. On social media, you can see them repeating the same phrases over and over, suggesting the COVID vaccines, and particularly the mRNA-based models developed by Pfizer and Moderna, present a new and special threat. “Hey, I’ve got nothing against vaccines,” they will say. “I’ve been vaccinated many times. But not with this kind of experimental drug/gene therapy.” (For the record, mRNA vaccines are neither experimental nor do they involve gene therapy .) The n

Overshoot Picking Up Steam

  Overshoot. Think of it as the canary in the mine safeguarding human civilization. Overshoot Day is the day each year by which mankind has exhausted an entire year's supply of natural resources.  From Overshoot Day until the end of the year we demolish the Earth's resource reserves. Some call it "eating our seed corn."  Last year, thanks to Covid restrictions, Overshoot Day fell on August 25. This year it moved up to July 29 even with the pandemic on the verge of a fourth wave. "With almost half a year remaining, we will already have used up our quota of the Earth's biological resources for 2021," said Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, where world leaders will gather later this year for the COP26 climate summit in November. "If we need reminding that we're in the grip of a climate and ecological emergency, Earth Overshoot Day is it." "Rather than recognize this as a reset moment, governments have been eager to get back to

Covid, the Dress Rehearsal for a Future of Chaos?

  We were shocked by the first wave.  No vaccines. We were left to a regimen of self-isolation, masks, social distancing, lockdowns and endless bouts of handwashing. The first wave bled into a second wave and then, as vaccines became widely available, a third wave. Most of us had the common sense to get vaccinated when that became possible. Most, not all.  A significant minority said no. They wouldn't have it. Like patients in an asylum there were seemingly endless reasons given. It was a plot. The vaccines carried a chip to spy on you, control your mind or something truly dire. No one knows what's in the vaccine. The risk is way too great.  This same minority flouted the law and pressured governments to lift the restrictions and re-open their economies, something that strikes a powerful chord in today's political caste. Now as we're halfway through the second year of this pandemic, social cohesion is fracturing . Around the globe this coronavirus is testing  Rock-throw

Conspiracy Theory or are the Oligarchs Making Their Move?

  Author/columnist George Monbiot is best known as The Guardian's enviroscribe.  In recent years his focus has expanded from greenhouse gases to social and political punditry, all from a progressive viewpoint. As a rule his thoughts are worth airing. The Pegasus spyware scandal is on Monbiot's mind in his latest column.  He writes that global autocrats are using Pegasus to cement their control, putting democracy to rout . Since the Berlin Wall came down, autocrats have refined a new strategy for perpetual governance : to maintain the process and appearance of democracy – including elections and parliaments – while ensuring it doesn’t work. Power is sucked out of democratic structures and relocated to a place where it can scarcely be challenged : an inner circle defended from opposition by a forcefield of money and patronage, a compliant judiciary and a grovelling media. Narendra Modi, Viktor Orbán, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Jarosław Kaczyński, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenk

Scavenger Hunt - Helium

  A lot of attention is being paid to the "end of growth" expected to grind the global economy to a near halt by the end of the 2020s.  See here , here and here .  It was with this in mind that I came across a pitch from Avanti Energy Inc. for what it called the " next commodity boom " - helium. It's all there.  The shortage of helium reserves. A wasting non-renewable asset. Avanti invites investors to join it as the company scours the U.S. and Canada to discover the best remaining helium structures to tap.  The idea is that they're not making any more of it. We're fast running out of the easy, cheap reserves.  Shortages = money, money, money. The hard sell: While NASA primarily uses helium, it’s also used in hospitals, big tech server farms, fiber optic cabling, semiconductors, nuclear reactors, cryogenics, and electric vehicles. However, helium is not a renewable or replaceable resource, therefore striking new finds is paramount to continued successes

WTF, How Did We Wind Up Here?

  Two centuries of progress.  Cheap, abundant fossil energy. The Industrial Revolution. The Great Acceleration. The verge of collapse. There's a new paper, published just last week, by Nick King and Alec Jones of the Global Sustainability Institute, Cambridge .  The abstract presents a handy summary of where we are today and how we got here: The globe-spanning, energy-intensive industrial civilisation that characterises the modern era represents an anomalous situation when it is considered against the majority of human history. Several large revolutions in terms of population (total size and rate of change), social organisation and patterns of energy and other resource use have occurred to bring about the modern world. The first major change that humans achieved after a long period (approximately 3 × 105 years) of living in small, dispersed bands of hunter-gatherers was the transition to an agriculture-based civilisation, which occurred independently in multiple locations. This was

Do Political Leaders Have a Right to Substitute Personal Belief for Scientific Knowledge?

  It's a little late to be raising the point but to what degree should the political caste cleave to scientific knowledge. What if, as in the States (and to a lesser degree here in Canada), they choose popular belief over science, especially where there are grave consequences at stake? It's a question that goes back as far as the era of witch burning. There was no scientific evidence to be had but plenty of belief in the existence and malevolence of witches. Belief can be a real bugger, eh? Washington Post columnist, Max Boot, writes that, across the United States, people are dying because of the triumph of belief over science on everything from climate change to viruses and vaccines.  If you want to know why the United States is in such big trouble, look at the findings of a new Gallup poll . The percentage of Republicans expressing a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in science has plummeted from 72 percent in 1975 to just 45 percent today. Think about what it mean

The Road to Glasgow

The Glasgow climate summit is just three months away and the climate science types are taking every opportunity to get their message out: This may be our last chance. They've got a quiver full of arrows. Much of that is due to what the world has endured this summer - record heatwaves that can take the lives of the old and young and devastate coastal fish stocks, wildfires that cloak a continent in clouds of smoke and now reach high above the Arctic Circle, flash floods that can drown subway commuters in China and tear the main streets out of picturesque towns in Germany and central Europe, severe drought that sears agricultural production - both crops and livestock. What more powerful backdrop  could they have to convey their message that this is it. Either change now or bring calamity down onto our societies. Research papers warn that humanity is nearing or has already exceeded climate tipping points . Record shattering heatwaves are our new normal. Nowhere is immune to flash flo

What Conservative Has the Highest Profile Today? It Sure Isn't O'Toole.

Judging by what I've been reading in Macleans and elsewhere, Stephen Harper dominates Canada's media. The leader of the opposition, Erin O'Toole, has become an afterthought. Macleans did O'Toole no favours by publishing Paul Wells' article claiming that if Harper took the Cons into the next election he'd whittle the Liberals' advantage to next to nothing.  Now when Harper appears on some American podcast criticizing the Trudeau government's response to the Covid pandemic as "overkill" it's in all the funny papers.  The media message to the Conservative faithful is 'You've got the wrong man. You can't win with losers like Scheer and O'Toole."  

About that Border Opening

  A lot of us don't agree with the federal government's decision to open the US/Canada border to fully vaccinated Americans  on August 9th. Maybe our concerns will prove unwarranted. Canada's border workers are tired of being without a contract for three years. They're threatening to strike. The Public Service Alliance of Canada and its Customs and Immigration Union announced Tuesday its members may strike as soon asAug. 6, three days before fully vaccinated U.S. citizens will be able to visit Canada without having to quarantine for two weeks. PSAC-CIU represents 5,500 border services officers, 2,000 headquarters staff and other workers at Canada Post facilities and in inland enforcement jobs. Strike action could cause significant delays in courier and travel services, Chris Aylward, national president of Public Service Alliance of Canada, told reporters Tuesday. "We've been in negotiations for over three years, but the employer has flat out refused to address

Beyond Growth, Get Used to the Idea.

  "Only a Fool Keeps Chasing an Impossibility" It has been slow in coming but it seems the world is finally coming to realize that our belief in growth is a dangerous illusion . Global growth keeps slowing down . Headline after headline tells us that GDP is losing momentum from China to the U.S. and Europe. The articles detail reasons for the slowdown, as if it's something odd that begs explanation. Amidst global slowdown and risks of depressed future growth potential from climate change , social unrest , and geopolitical instability , to name a few, responsible leaders face the possibility that growth will be limited in the future. And only a fool keeps chasing an impossibility. We should adopt an attitude of indifference to growth: agrowth . Under an agrowth strategy, a decline or increase in GDP/profits are both acceptable outcomes. Growth, and certainly progress, might still happen, but it’s no longer the goal. Studies suggests that this might work better than one wo

A Far Different Future Sooner Than You Might Imagine

  One thing that can be said for the unfolding climate emergency is that it has forced us to see ourselves not as Masters of the Universe but as a species very much subject to the powerful influences of nature, our environment, Spaceship Earth. It took years to connect the host of modern maladies and thus identify the common threads that run through them: severe storm events of increasing frequency, intensity and duration; megadroughts and megafloods; flash floods and flash drought; species migration; disease and pest migration; the migration of entire marine food chains; killer heat waves; soils degradation; deforestation and desertification; worsening food insecurity; rapidly expanding wildfires now spreading high inside the Arctic Circle; overpopulation; overconsumption; resource depletion, exhaustion and collapse; the freshwater crisis including surface water contamination and the rapid depletion of groundwater aquifers; ocean acidification and sea level rise; terrorism, rebellion

We Saw This Coming 50 Years Ago. We Didn't Listen Then. We Aren't Listening Now.

It was in 1972, 49 years ago, that the Swiss-based think tank, the Club of Rome, warned that the clock was running out on human civilization. Its first report in 1972, The Limits to Growth , was conducted by a scientific team at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT), and warned that limited availability of natural resources relative to rising costs would undermine continued economic growth by around the second decade of the 21st century . Although widely ridiculed, recent scientific reviews confirm that the original report's projections in its 'base scenario' remain robust. The projections of half a century ago still hold. Now, with the climate crisis increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, and many single events shown to have been made worse by global heating, the Club of Rome, publisher of original MIT paper , has returned to the study. “From a research perspective, I felt a data check of a decades-old model against empirical observations would be

21st Century Summer

  Two natural forces in conflict - nostalgia and creeping normalcy. The first attempts to keep alive fond memories from decades past. The other tries to focus on the present, often obscuring the past.  As the northern hemisphere returns to summer we see this conflict between old reality and new play out, perhaps as never before. An article in The Guardian, " Beware summer! " looks at the conflict from a British perspective. In the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere, where most of the human population lives, the months of June, July and August have until recently been seen a season of joy, relaxation and celebration. It is when people take their longest holiday of the year, when most weddings are arranged, when Olympics and World Cups are staged. Newspapers have long filled their midsummer front pages with seasonal images of children slurping ice-creams, holidaymakers at the beach and women in bikinis. There are fewer cases of depression linked to seasonally adjusted dis

Northern Ireland's Problem Lives in London. Ask Fintan.

  Irish Times columnist, Fintan O'Toole, has a word for the "made in Whitehall" mess that plagues Northern Ireland - "Brexternity." It's the wound that will not heal inflicted on the North by Boris Johnson's blind haste to declare Brexit victory. Ask a stupid question and you get a stupid answer. The Northern Ireland protocol is a stupid answer: it imposes a complex bureaucracy on the movement of ordinary goods across the Irish Sea. But it is the only possible response to a problem created by Boris Johnson. The reason it keeps coming around again and again, like a ghoul on a ghost train, is that it requires Johnson and his government to do something that goes against the grain of the whole Brexit project: to acknowledge that choices have costs. The question is: why did you divide one part of the UK from the rest, creating a chimerical country in which most of the body is outside the EU’s single market while one foot is still inside? Since it is unanswe

The Attack on Roe v. Wade Begins

  The Attorney-General of Mississippi is asking the US Supreme Court to reverse the court's decision in the Roe v. Wade abortion case. Calling the court’s precedent on abortion “egregiously wrong,” Attorney General Lynn Fitch (R) explicitly set the dispute over Mississippi’s restrictive law on a collision course with the landmark 1973 decision in Roe that first articulated the constitutional right to abortion. “This Court should overrule Roe and Casey,” Fitch wrote, referring also to the court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. “Roe and Casey are egregiously wrong. They have proven hopelessly unworkable. … And nothing but a full break from those cases can stem the harms they have caused.” Supreme Court precedent tracing back to Roe prohibits states from banning abortion before fetal viability, which occurs around 24 weeks. The Mississippi law to be reviewed during the court’s upcoming term, which begins in October, creates only narrow exceptions from its 15-week ban. “

Brace Yourself for What's Coming from Ottawa

  The electioneering Libs are shelling out $1.3 billion to extend the Sky Train from Surrey to Langley. Hard to argue with mass transit. That handout, however, is just shy of the $1.4 billion of new money for climate change mitigation and adaptation recently announced by Dame Cathy McKenna. And the climate money is to be doled out over 12 years. It's kind of pathetic. Is it possible that our government knows there'll never be enough money to arrest and adapt to climate change in Canada? Greenwashing will have to do. An op-ed in The Guardian  predicts the British government is on the verge of telling the public that, when it comes to climate change impacts - heatwaves, tornadoes, persistent and worsening flooding - they're just going to have to learn to live with it. There'll be no answers. For those who tell themselves "they'll think of something," well, "they" don't see it that way. Soon, a few of the more shameless newspaper commentators wi