As for the world of environment, I have been afflicted as of late, by the great number of atrocities occurring around the world, but especially those within our reach. On the top of my list is dear old Canada and its tar sands nightmare. There have been a number of times when I thought that my head would explode listening to Alberta Premier, Alison Redford, speak about how “Alberta has managed to balance economic growth with the environment” when speaking about the tar sands. Who the hell are her scientific advisors, Suncor Inc.? The ramblings were completely PR and 100% nonsensical. She even had the audacity to say that British Columbia Premier, Christy Clark, was out of line by saying that B.C.’s pristine coast line is very important to her citizens. According to this lunatic (Redford), “they are Canada’s coasts… export is important” implying that Alberta has just as much right to B.C.’s coast as B.C. itself and, indeed, by this logic, the rest of Canada. Seriously? Redford, you are a lunatic!
Second on my radar is the proposed transportation of Alberta’s raw bitumen through Ontario ANCIENT pipelines, called Line 9. The goal of the Line 9 proposed project is to get our toxic crap to the east coast and ship it overseas from there.
Let me put this into perspective. TransCanada’s XL pipeline number 1 was NEWLY constructed and sprung something like 9 leaks in the first year. For my readers, I will explain that raw bitumen is completely different from regular oil. First, there are components (fractions) that sink when in water and cannot be cleaned by surface skimmers or booms. Second, raw bitumen is significantly more corrosive than standard oil and would easily make waste to non-specialized pipelines (indeed, specialized pipelines seem susceptible to the corrosively if XL1 is any example). Third, to push raw bitumen through a pipeline, it needs to first be mixed with other toxic compounds to make it less viscous enough for it to actually flow and then they add a great deal of pressure to encourage it to move forward.
About a month ago I was having dinner with my illustrious thesis supervisor, Dr. Lynda McCarthy, when she grasped my wrist and looked at her entire graduate team to say, “I need each and every one of you to go out there and educate people. Talk to everyone and anyone. It is the only way to make progress, to bring this home.” I probably respect no one more than Lynda, not only because she’s probably the most intelligent person I’ve ever met, but also because of her passion and how inspiring even just an email is. You should hear her deliver a lecture. In my four years of working with her, I have seen her take on government officials, other scientists, business people and anti-environmental commentators in stride with professionalism, logic and integrity. This is something towards which I can only strive. She is also big on producing scientifically sound, defensible work and is constantly scanning the world for “bad science” and bringing the example to our attention.
This did reinforce my need to keep up my blog and other updates as EcoManDan. It also inspired me to ask myself what more could I do? In what else should I be involved? How can I reach people? But the goal sometimes feels very defeatist because it legitimately feels like there is a handful of us against 7 billion others. In a calculus limits problem, it is sort of like taking 100 away from infinity; it effectively still equals infinity.
Two weeks ago I was also fortunate to hear Dr. David Suzuki and former Chief Economists and Chief Strategist for CIBC bank, Jeff Rubin speak. The points that were made were essentially: (1) we are all animals, even if you don’t want to hear that we are, too bad, we are; (2) the words ecology and economy have the same root (ecos), meaning “house” but the disconnect seems deliberate and extreme but not incompatible; (3) the whole concept and function of economy is a human invention and there is nothing stopping us from redesigning it to actually work with people and the environment; and (4) we may very well have past the point of no return, but we still have our children and grandchildren to think about.
I was at a documentary screening last night as part of the NDP Toronto-Danforth Cinema Politica (http://www.cinemapolitica.org/danforth) where MP Craig Scott reminded me of the concept that humans are hardwire to respond poorly to slow-moving problems, like climate change, we have a tendency to put such “slow moving” topics to the back burner and focus on immediate issues like what’s for dinner, can I make rent, pay for school, etc. The cynic in me would also add to this list “what’s on tv tonight, what is Jersey Shore up to, what will the Kardasians, Lindsey Lohan, Britney Spears, Snooki, Paris Hilteon, Nicole Ritchie, Tom Cruise, Audrina Patridge, Lauren Conrad, <<insert last craze>>, do next? Who will win American Idol, X-Factor? The Super Bowl, World Cup, Roger’s Cup, or whatever other mass distraction. I think this is sick and unhealthy. It places values in valueless things.
I spend a great deal of time thinking about how much work environmental awareness is and about the constant uphill battle environmental scientists and, indeed, scientists in general, must face. We are in an era of human history where education is a disadvantage and where science is at odds with economics and this ever increasing religious presence. I am about 60% certain that we will have another dark age in the next 100 years. This is disheartening and frustrating but that is the magic of networking with like-minded people, we keep each other going.
But hope must prevail.
So, over the past month I have been exceptionally busy. I am still researching and writing my thesis, I am trying to get on the panel responsible for the development of Ontario School curriculum. I joined the freshly minted Toronto350.org (subsidiary of Bill McKibben’s www.350.org). I also now sit on the Toronto East End Sustainability Network. The happiest news is that I have been approached by EcoSuperior (www.ecosuperior.org) to be a volunteer scientific advisor, to which I enthusiastically agreed.
In the midst of this all, I have become an official registered company with the Ontario and Federal government. That’s right, EcoManDan is now a registered, trademarked name. For this, I am in the process of developing a business plan while coming to realize that committing to a weekly blog is actually quite a tall order. But I will truck on and keep everyone updated.
Also note that I am trying to post as many eco-events on my calendar as possible, please make an effort to attend as many as you can, as will I. Of particular note, a couple weeks ago was the Green Jobs Forum at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre, there were a number of interesting and inspirational talks and a number of duds. I give it 4 stars nonetheless as it was well organized but tuckered me out with its non-stop 50 minute lectures after which you must rush to the next. Next week also begins the 13th Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival at the Tiff Light Box (www.planetinfocus.org). I recommend a number of the documentaries.
Until I post next, Be Green!