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Showing posts from April, 2022

40% and Rising

A United Nations study finds that 40 per cent of the world's arable farmland is now degraded . This undermines food security for the planet's burgeoning population now closing in on eight billion. The main culprit is industrial agriculture. The world’s ability to feed a growing population is being put at risk by the rising damage, most of which is caused by food production. Women in the developing world are particularly badly affected as they often lack legal titles to land and can be thrown off it if conditions are tough. Degraded land – which has been depleted of natural resources, soil fertility, water, biodiversity, trees or native vegetation – is found all over our planet. Many people think of degraded land as arid desert, rainforests maimed by loggers or areas covered in urban sprawl, but it also includes apparently “green” areas that are intensely farmed or stripped of natural vegetation . Growing food on degraded land becomes progressively harder as soils rapidly reac

No Surprises There. Trudeau Government Won't Even Meet Its Own Tepid Climate Targets.

It's a failing grade for the Liberal government's meagre climate policies. There's another solemn promise you can kiss goodbye. The Trudeau government came to power just weeks before the Paris climate summit at which the world reached an agreement that global warming must not be allowed to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.  With a hearty "Canada's back" from the prime minister it looked like our nation would no longer be a climate pariah. Yeah, right. So how do we stack up?  Among the G7 countries, Canada comes dead last with the worst emissions record of the lot. And that's after Ottawa's sleight of hand accounting that rejects any responsibility for emissions from exports of high carbon, low value fossil fuels. We turn a deaf ear to repeated warnings that these really dirty, climate killing fossil fuels, coal and bitumen, must be left in the ground. Instead Mr. Trudeau responds by building a new, high capacity pipeline that the private sector won't tou

I'm not ignoring you

  I try to respond to comments left on my blog.  Now, when I try, I'm told that I must first sign in to my Google account. I go to Google and it recognizes me and my account but there's no sign-in. Until I get this sorted out please carry on the conversation without me. I will be reading your comments. Hope to be back soon. MoS

How Did We Slide So Far, So Fast?

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Around the world, liberal democracy is in an existential struggle with fast-spreading neo-authoritarian rule. Think Donald Trump and Rick DeSantis. Think Viktor Orban, Poland's Andrzej Duda, Marie le Pen. Think Narindra Modi and Recep Erdogan. Think of nations where freedom is in retreat, places like Thailand and Burma. Closer to home, think of Poilievre, Kenney, Moe and their profit, Stephen Harper. Paul Krugman tries to make sense of what's happening in his homeland. How did the self-styled "arsenal of democracy" become the arsehole of democracy? Krugman dissects the madness of Florida where math texts are banned for perceived traces of critical race theory or the state turns on one of its great revenue generators, Disney. What’s happening in Florida makes sense once you realize that what Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies are up to has nothing to do with policy or even politics in the conventional sense. What we’re seeing instead are symptoms of the transformation o

Macron - By a Nose

  The G&M has pronounced Emmanuel Macron re-elected president of France. French President Emmanuel Macron defeated his far-right rival Marine Le Pen on Sunday by a comfortable margin, early projections by pollsters showed, securing a second term and heading off what would have been a political earthquake. The first projections showed Macron securing around 57 to 58 per cent of the vote. Such estimates are normally accurate but may be fine-tuned as official results come in from around the country. Victory for the centrist, pro-European Union Macron would be hailed by allies as a reprieve for mainstream politics that have been rocked in recent years by Britain’s exit from the European Union, the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the rise of a new generation of nationalist leaders.

Here's an Idea Whose Time Has Come

  A bill has been introduced in the California legislature to mandate a 32 hour or 4 day work week for larger companies.  Fewer hours, same pay. The bill, AB 2932 , would change the definition of a workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours for companies with more than 500 employees. A full workday would remain at eight hours, and employers would be required to provide overtime pay for employees working longer than four full days. The bill was authored by Assembly Members Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) and Evan Low (D-San Jose). At the federal level, a bill by Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) is pushing for similar changes under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Reached by phone Friday, Garcia said the idea was prompted in part by the exodus of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of whom were seeking a better quality of life. More than 47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics . “We’ve had a five-day workweek since the I

Happy Earth Day?

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  Why does that sound like "happy colonoscopy"? The New Republic asks " Remember When Earth Day Used to Be Cool? " A person could be forgiven for being cynical about Earth Day in 2022. Even ExxonMobil celebrates the holiday. Last year, the company released an ad praising its employees around the world who “work tirelessly to reduce emissions and work toward a low-carbon future.” Some of the employees seem sincere, while others look a bit like they’re starring in a hostage video, eyes wide, a little too intense in their assertions of gratitude and fealty. Some are working on lowering emissions through natural gas production and carbon capture. One earnest soul identifies ways to make refineries more energy efficient. Another even asserts that she is doing this work for her children’s future, “which is energizing and motivating.” Earth Day has been like this for a while now: an apparent competition between polluters to see who can most shamelessly “greenwash” their b

The Lost Age of Literacy

  The following insults are from an era before the English language got boiled down to 4-letter words: 1. "He had delusions of adequacy ” Walter Kerr 2. "He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”- Winston Churchill 3. "I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure. - Clarence Darrow 4. "He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”-William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway) 5. "Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"- Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner) 6. "Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it.” - Moses Hadas 7. "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” - Mark Twain 8. "He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” - Oscar Wilde 9. "I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a frien

End of the Line?

  The habitable Earth is becoming increasingly smaller. In some places it's too dry. The phenomenon of decadal drought from mellennia past has returned.  The pattern of reliably predictable and gentle rains that marked the Holocene and, along with technology and abundant, cheap fossil fuels spurred a growth in human numbers from one to eight billion in just two centuries, is over. This is the Anthropocene. It is what humankind has wrought. It is nature's refutation of our avarice. In some places it has become too wet, bringing the shock of massively devastating floods to British Columbia, the US Eastern seaboard, the UK and Europe and elsewhere. Then there is the Ground Zero of our worsening climate catastrophe. Scientists have found that Mexico and Central America, the Persian Gulf, India, Pakistan and Southeast Asia are all careening toward "wet bulb 35." The wet-bulb temperature that marks the upper limit of what the human body can handle is 95 degrees Fahrenheit

Burning the Climate From Both Ends

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From coal to oil to gas, our profligate use of cheap, abundant fossil energy has been instrumental in triggering the existential peril, climate breakdown, that now besets the world. It has backfired in many ways - malignant population growth, unsustainable increases in consumption and, of course, greenhouse gas emissions fouling of our atmosphere and savaging our once mild climate. It is hard to overstate that damage our fossil fuel addiction has inflicted on life on Earth.  Yet here in Canada we have a government that slavishly pursues perpetual, exponential growth and the expansion of fossil fuel production and export even as the Liberals' rival Conservatives castigate the government for not doing more, faster to despoil Earth for future generations.  The Trudeau government promises to slash greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel extraction and transmission. Then again, empty promises are the Liberals' long suit. Our myopic dependence on the fossil energy industry is bolst

Hogs At the Trough or, Canada, Say What Now?

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The climate emergency invites no end of finger pointing and it mainly comes down to rich countries getting the blame because, well, climate change. Overall, rich countries have enjoyed a measure of prosperity that is tied to decades of heavy greenhouse gas emissions.  We used abundant, cheap fossil fuel energy to drive economic growth.  We got so good at it, we were able to consume Earth's natural resources at massively unsustainable levels. That's called "overshoot" and it's a time bomb. The Lancet  is an esteemed medical journal out of the UK. Over the years it has branched out into tangential issues. One of these is The Lancet, Planetary Health . The latest issue contains a paper, " National Reponsibility for Ecological Breakdown ," that looks at which nations have been gorging themselves on both biological and mineral (including fossil fuel) resources, driving the world into perilous overshoot. The conclusion:  high-income nations are the primary dri

About That New Fighter Jet, the F-35

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Canada is negotiating the purchase of 88 F-35 strike fighters. The F-35 comes in three flavours - A, B, and C.  The B model is a vertical lift variant preferred by the US Marine Corps and Britain's Royal Navy and RAF.  The C model is supposed to meet the requirements of the US Navy - catapult launch and arrested landing. Lockheed's bomb truck, depending on who is talking, is either the best thing ever or a colossal waste of money.  The Pentagon was all gung-ho on the aircraft but it's ardour has waned .  It seems the Americans want a stealth strike fighter but one that works as advertised.  Canada is after the A-model, the "no frills" F-35. The US war department has been handed more bad news about their underwhelming but costly fighter. The thing is supposed to be capable of supersonic speeds but that requires fuel-guzzling afterburner and, at least for the B and C variants, that's a non-starter.  These jets are restricted to just 50 seconds of afterburner per

A Charlatan and a Threat to Democracy

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  A US District Court judge has slammed former president Donald Trump as a "charlatan" and a menace to American democracy. A federal judge on Thursday called Donald Trump a threat to democracy, accusing the former president of instigating a mob of "weak-minded" followers to attack the US Capitol on January 6, Politico reported . "I think our democracy is in trouble," US District Judge Reggie Walton said, "because, unfortunately, we have charlatans like our former president who doesn't, in my view, really care about democracy but only about power." Walton, who was appointed to the DC Circuit by former President George W. Bush, lashed out at Trump after the jury trial of a January 6 insurrectionist.

Sure We've Got a Housing Crisis. Now Do Something About It.

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  There's an affordable housing problem in Canada. It's a problem that has confronted other countries also and they have shown us how to fix it. Hint: the answer isn't building more houses.  You have to start by attacking the rot. New data from Statistics Canada shows multiple-property owners held between 29 and 41 per cent of the housing stock in Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 2019 and 2020. The data from the Canadian Housing Statistics Program, which includes both residential and recreational holdings, reveals multiple-property ownership accounted for 41 per cent of Nova Scotia’s housing stock, 39 per cent of New Brunswick’s, 31 per cent of Ontario’s and 29 per cent of British Columbia’s. The problem? Allowing housing to become a commodity of trade and a convenient place for newcomers to bury money. What to do? I believe it was Sweden that first tackled the problem by declaring housing a human right, not a speculative commodity. Tax away the

DFO - Ottawa's West Coast Menace

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  They knew. They all knew . The Department of Fisheries and Oceans knew. The last Conservative government knew. The Trudeau government knew. And they made it their secret. Canada was warned in 2012 by its own scientists that a virus was infecting both farmed and wild salmon, but successive governments ignored the expert advice, saying for years that risks to salmon were low. Justin Trudeau’s government has said it will phase out open-pen industrial fish farms off the coast of British Columbia by 2025. But both his government and the previous Conservative government were in possession of a newly released report that linked large-scale farms and wild salmon to the highly contagious Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV). Perfidy Kristi Miller-Saunders, a federal biologist and an author on the study, called the delay in releasing the report a “travesty” and said its omission has contributed to longstanding doubt over whether farmed salmon were infecting wild salmon. PRV causes anemia and jaundice i

Nuclear Blackmail - Again

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Russia is threatening its neighbours with nukes again. Moscow has said it will be forced to strengthen its defences in the Baltic if Finland and Sweden join Nato, including by deploying nuclear weapons, as the war against Ukraine entered its seventh week and the country braced for a major attack in the east. However, the Lithuanian defence minister, Arvydas AnuĊĦauskas, claimed on Thursday that Russia already had nuclear weapons stored in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, which borders Lithuania and Poland. That claim has not been independently verified but the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) reported in 2018 that nuclear weapon storage bunkers in Kaliningrad had been upgraded. This time the nuclear threat was leveled, not by Putin, but his sidekick, Dmitry Medvedev. Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko, said Moscow would take the security and defence measures that it would deem necessary if Sweden and Finland join Nato, adding that the move would seriously wo

The Sleeping Giant Stirs

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   When the movement to arrest global warming took hold the rationale was that, if we didn't reduce man-made greenhouse gas emissions, we risked crossing a tipping point that would trigger a natural feedback loop that could eclipse the damage humans have caused. Runaway global warming , especially the release of massive amounts of methane once safely sequestered in permafrost, tundra and seabed clathrates. It was depicted as a sleeping giant that must never be roused. A new report from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , NOAA, warns that a natural feedback loop has been triggered and we may have unleashed an uncontrollable source of global heating. A methane feedback loop that is beyond humans' ability to control may have begun, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have said.   According to the NOAA, methane is 25 times more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere compared to carbon dioxide. While it remains in the

Now It's Chemical Warfare

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  The bastards. It's reported that Vlad Putin's Visigoths have used phosphorus weapons against the Ukrainians. White phosphorus is truly wicked stuff. If it lands on your skin it can burn straight through to the bone. The photograph shows a white phosphorus shell airburst over a residential area.  Monstrous. The photo, however, is not of Ukraine. It's a few years old. It's not a Russian attack on helpless civilians either. This is nightime in Gaza and the white phosphorus shell is Israeli.  Canada worked very hard to look the other way as Israel committed war crime after war crime after war crime attacking civilians, hospitals and schools, residential neighbourhoods and basic essential infrastructure including electricity, water and the big one, sewage systems. I'm not just talking about Harper either. Best not to dwell on it. The Liberals would call that anti-Semitic.

I Watched a Movie this Weekend. Wish I Hadn't.

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  I don't know a lot of climate scientists but there are a few with whom I maintain an occassional correspondence. There's a fellow from Japan who is analyzing how the loss of glaciers and ice sheets may trigger tectonic events as the weight of that ice is converted to water that runs off into the sea. Interesting stuff but I haven't packed my bags yet. Then there's a fellow at the University of Hawaii who runs his own climate lab that is unlocking the sometimes overlooked information by churning through mountains of research data. Here's an excerpt of an email I recently sent.    I live on Vancouver Island just off the west coast of the Canadian mainland. We see a wide range of climate impacts from premature melting of snowpacks, waters that are vital to salmon spawning in late spring and summer; to the migration of marine life out of the south including the arrival of hundreds of great whales, transient orca, large pods of dolphins, an abundance of seals and sea

Explain This, Vlad. Russia's Denials Don't Hold Up.

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German intelligence has intercepted Russian radio messages about first interrogating and then shooting Ukrainian civilians . The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence service, has acquired gruesome new insights into the atrocities committed by Russian military forces. DER SPIEGEL has learned that the BND has new satellite images and has intercepted incriminating radio traffic from Russian military personnel in the region north of Kyiv, where Bucha is located. Some of the intercepted radio traffic might be linked to dead bodies that have been photographed in Bucha. The intercepted comments now appear to refute Russia’s denials. DER SPIEGEL has learned that the BND briefed parliamentarians on Wednesday about its findings. Some of the intercepted traffic apparently matches the locations of bodies found along the main road through town. In one of them, a soldier apparently told another that they had just shot a person on a bicycle. That corresponds to the photo of t

Problem Solved? The Sea Lions Have a Solution.

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From disease-spreading fish farms to bitumen supertankers, Ottawa has done the west coast no favours.  There is some good news. These damned fish farms are under attack - by sea lions . Dozens of thieving sea lions in western Canada have spent the last few weeks gorging on fish after brazenly slipping into an industrial salmon farm – and ignoring all attempts to make them move on. Cermaq, the aquaculture giant with operations in Norway, Chile and Canada , says the wily predators were able to evade netting and electric fences in late March as part of a “breach event” at the Rant Point farm near Tofino in British Columbia. The downside is that some sea lions drown when tangled in the fish farm nets. In 2016, after sea lions breached another Cermaq fish farm, Canada’s department of fisheries and oceans authorized the company to shoot the animals. The DFO says there is a “strict requirement” that none of the sea lions be killed. If that sounds contradictory, that's pure DFO double-tal

Now More Than Ever? Covid Unmasked.

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The UK reports that, at the end of March, one in thirteen Brits had active Covid infections. One in 13 down with Covid. At the same time, a new strain of the Omicron variant is spreading. Yet governments insist on scrapping even the most basic precautions, particularly masking. George Monbiot writes that, from Covid to climate catastrophe, governments are now abandoning us to our fate. We have a new term for doing nothing: “learning to live with”. Learning to live with Covid means abandoning testing, isolation and wearing masks in public places. Living with it, dying from it, what’s the difference? The same applies to climate breakdown. It’s not just that countries like the UK have failed to play their part in preventing this catastrophe. They have also failed to prepare for it. While our primary effort should still be to decarbonise our economies, to prevent even worse impacts, we also need to brace ourselves for the heating that’s now unavoidable. But, as the government’s climate ch

California Dreaming or "Looking Down the Barrel of a Loaded Gun."

  California's ongoing drought portends another miserable wildfire season across the West.  UC Berkley prof, Andrew Schwartz, writes that California is going from bad to worse . Schwartz has just concluded the study of the state's snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. The 2022 results confirmed what those of us monitoring the state’s drought had feared: California’s snowpack is now at 39 percent of its average, or 23 percent lower than at the same point last year. This signals a deepening of the drought — already the worst in the western United States in 1,200 years — and another potentially catastrophic fire season for much of the West. ...Droughts may last for several years or even over a decade, with varying degrees of severity. During these types of extended droughts, soil can become so dry that it soaks up all new water, which reduces runoff to streams and reservoirs. Soil can also become so dry that the surface becomes hard and repels water, which can cause rainwater to pour o

Sound Familiar? The Dirty Marriage of Politics and Oil.

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  There's no way out of this unless we break the fossil fuelers grip on our politicians . The fossil fuel industry and its influence over policy was the major elephant in the room looming over the release of the third and final report , out this week, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading climate authority. The major source of contention: how do you talk about mitigating climate change without confronting the fossil fuel industry? “It’s like Star Wars without Darth Vader,” says environmental sociologist Robert Brulle, of Brown University. The report made one thing abundantly clear: the technologies and policies necessary to adequately address climate change exist, and the only real obstacles are politics and fossil fuel interests . . ..Unlike the research-heavy chapters, which are controlled entirely by the scientists who research and write them, the Summary for Policymakers must be approved by government representatives from 195 countries around t

Falling Behind Faster and Faster - IPCC

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  The latest chapter in the IPCC's third major report says that we have a very narrow chance of averting 1.5 degree warming. But, if we make the big sacrifices and are really diligent about it, we might get back within that threshold in 80 years. Make no mistake, 1.5C of warming will be no bed of roses. Nature will also have its say in that and this year's simultaneous heatwaves in the Arctic and Antarctic took even  the science types by surprise. Nature is not done with us yet.   A hotter planet begets an even hotter planet and that will be the legacy of our refusal to stop producing fossil fuels, especially coal and bitumen. More extreme heat, more flooding, more drought, more wildfires, more famine, more war, more sea level rise, more failed infrastructure. That's akin to a two pack a day smoker with lung cancer going to three packs a day. That would be stupid, wouldn't it? Grist adds this perspective: Although emissions are rising more slowly than they have in pre

The Flight from Reality - Nikiforuk

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  The Tyee's Andrew Nikiforuk writes that we're being left to our fates as province by province lifts Covid-19 restrictions. Like most modern politicians, [Boris] Johnson couldn’t be bothered with dealing with the complications of an evolving virus that comes in controllable waves. So he lifted all protections including masks and told his people to move on and live with a nasty novel virus — a policy that favours the rich, dooms the poor and makes a mockery of reality . Here’s what that kind of “freedom” from COVID actually looks like — because it is coming to a province near you. Canada, too, is in political retreat from reality , feeding and strengthening a sixth wave of COVID propelled by the highly infectious variant: BA.2. Since Johnson’s gleeful declaration of freedom last year more than 35,000 U.K. citizens have died. Last week alone more than 1,000 people there perished from a pandemic that most Conservative politicians officially pretend is over. One in 13 people are