God is grating cheese.

There is a very uneasy feeling throughout the world regarding the perception of Islam. Like a blanket of grey cloud on a cold, dark, December day, it feels ominous and depressing.  Common folks who quietly watched the news each night from the comfort of their couches and have kept their thoughts mostly to themselves and paid little attention to Islam, are now immersed in the wretched Islamic atrocities that have been increasing around the world in recent decades.   The Islamic extremists who were once considered the fringe of Islam are now seen to be potentially everywhere and are perpetrating insane brutality in Nigeria.

As the atrocities mount, one begins to question what the Quran is really teaching and how the Islamic clerics around the world are interpreting it, especially some Ayatollahs (the supreme clerics) and other Islamic leaders in Africa, the Middle East and European countries.  The Islamist men who fear and maim school girls and resent and prevent women from attaining an education think they must uphold some sick interpretation of Islam to suppress this apparent outrage (as taught by clerics). Their depravity allows them to kidnap girls to be sold into sex-slavery or to shoot them to discourage others and can force others into submission or kill them without conscience.

There are two very different and conflicting messages coming from Islam at home and abroad. We hear our local Islamic community condemning these groups stating it is not Islam and yet, on the other hand, it is the supposedly learned Islamic clerics who teach and encourage their followers to kill the infidels  in the name of Islam. How can school girls and their education possibly or democracy be such an affront to Islam?  This form of Islam is very twisted and sickening.  As Ricky Ricardo would say, “Islam, you have some ‘splainin’ to do.”

In our free and democratic society we must accept all religions and allow free association to practice and worship. However, no religion has the right to supersede our charter of rights and freedoms and infringe upon human rights. All religions must worship and behave within the law and respect others. Our democracy respects the rights of others to speak freely and associate with like-minded people, such as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose followers, the “pastafarians” wear the spaghetti colander on their heads as a religious symbol. (It is an actual registered religion in BC and some States – Spaghetti). Who are we to judge and tell them they are wrong?

Islamists, however do not accept this principle. Their mantra is, convert to Islam or die. It is when religion goes bad that things get ugly. Their ideology is as bizarre as the Pastafarians, but at the opposite end of the bizarre scale. The Islamist trample and kill and are simply evil, whereas the Pastafarians are a harmless satirical group poking fun at Christianity and enjoying the culinary pleasures of life. So when  the Islamist suicide bomber shouts “God is great..”, as they pull the cord, perhaps they exploded too soon and the sentence was cut short. What they meant to say was, “God is grating cheese” in reverence to the Flying Spaghetti Monster; after all isn’t that just another interpretation of the same God just as Islam, Judaism and Christianity profess to worship the same God?  Perhaps a nice plate of spaghetti and meatballs is awaiting the martyrs in heaven.  And speaking of satire, is Islam so weak and fragile that it cannot withstand a cartoon?

The extremists appear to be living in the dark ages spewing ignorant, abhorrent and misguided ideology, afraid of school girls and cartoons. They do however, make one wonder which form of Islam is really the mainstream. Is this the true undercurrent of Islam waiting to surface? Is the ideology used to butcher people in Nigeria the ultimate form of Islam for the Caliphate and the world? I don’t think so. I prefer to believe that of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, these fanatical few are really the twisted and bizarre minority, but deadly in their ideology.

Just as the Nazis swept Europe while the world dithered, the evil in Nigeria is advancing unchecked. We stood and spoke in solidarity with France but what of the thousands (and counting) who continue to be literally slaughtered in Nigeria in the name of Islam? We cannot repeat our failure as we did by turning our backs on the Rwanda Genocide. I am expecting that we will hear about some action, military or otherwise, that the UN will sanction – but if nothing is done, then we have some serious soul-searching to do.

This is not a war with Islam. It is a war with terrorists who misuse Islam. So get off the couch and let your thoughts be known to our Governments and express the democracy that can change the world; “The pen is mightier than the sword”.

(p.s. I began the first draft just before the atrocities in France. It seems more poignant than ever now)

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Beer = ½ oilsands. (But beer tastes better).

In our Province of British Columbia (BC), Canada, the resource industries are overwhelming the citizens with a series of mega-projects with huge environmental and economic considerations.

Whether you support the oil industry, the Kinder Morgan and Enbridge pipelines (from the oilsands to our coast for export – see previous blog, Pipelines), the LNG (liquefied natural gas) projects or the Site C dam (another hydro Dam on the Peace river – Northern BC) – or not, you must be concerned about the lack of clarity regarding the economics of these mega projects.

If we continue to fund these projects either by providing $ billions in subsidies to the oil, pipelines and LNG industries, as we currently do, or pay the direct capital cost of $8+ billion for Site C, then we MUST have a sound economic business case behind them and an accurate and transparent economic account available to the public for scrutiny.  We need these assessments to determine the costs and impacts so Canadians and BC residents in particular can determine what we are getting into.

Instead, Enbridge bombards us with insulting advertisements and our Provincial government is making grandiose political statements that provide no factual information or third-party, unbiased, assessments about the costs of these projects.  Premier Clark completely exaggerated the LNG potential during the election campaign last year by promising $trillions in royalties and taxes and paying off the Provincial debt – with absolutely no substance to the statements.  It is amazing that the BC electorate falls for such BS.  As I write this the LNG backers (Petronas) is indicating that the economics are dubious and are backing down.  Even if you support the oil, gas, pipelines and Site C are you  wondering about the economics and the danger posed by these costs?

It does not add up.  The following are a few, of many disturbing assessments, that are emerging from experts in this field.

Here are some quick assessments:

 

 

“5.5 Recommendation

In light of the findings of the SFU-TGG Report regarding the evaluation of the costs and benefits of TMX, we conclude that the pipeline project is not in the economic or public interest of the citizens of BC and, in particular, the citizens of Metro Vancouver. Moreover, TMX completely fails to satisfy BC’s fifth condition for the consideration of construction and operation of heavy-oil pipelines within its borders. This Report therefore strongly recommends that the citizens and decision-makers of BC and Metro Vancouver reject this pipeline, which is neither in the economic nor public interest of BC and Metro Vancouver”.

 

Now in order to maintain objectivity, there is a counter assessment that stated that the SFU’s report used faulty methodology to arrive at this conclusion. http://beaconnews.ca/blog/2014/11/trans-mountain-benefit-sfu/

But this is my point – how can the tax payers of this Province properly assess and understand the enormous economic risk to these projects when there are conflicting reports. It draws the economics into question and a deep concern is festering.

Nevertheless, it is apparent that Kinder Morgan has deliberately over estimated the economic benefits of the Trans Mountain pipeline project.  This is not surprising as they must inflate their self-importance to create a public myth to gain support.  The review process is suppressing the truth.  Ref: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/economists-question-projected-value-of-trans-mountains-pipeline/article21528943/

Furthermore, economists and other interveners have been challenging and questioning the economic assertions and the review process but  Kinder Morgan and the National Energy Board continue to stymie the process.

Ref: Kinder Morgan Hearings a Farce – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/kinder-morgan-pipeline-hearings-a-farce-former-bc-hydro-chief-says/article21433093/

The same is becoming apparent with the LNG (liquefied natural gas) proposals. From grand-standing election statements from our Premier Clark, that touted 5 LNG plants and all the cash you could imagine; attaining three plants is now far-fetched and it is most likely that only one plant might be built, if any at all.

Due to falling gas prices, increased production and competition and LNG plants in other countries now coming on stream, the LNG project is not the cash-cow we were promised.  And Site C is expected to supply electricity for the LNG plant(s), so why would we build it if the fate of LNG is in doubt? BC residents will be left holding the bag on an 8 billion dollar white elephant and boondoggle with Site C.

It is also increasingly worrisome that these projects simply don’t add up against the stated benefits to Canadians and BC residents.   The risk / benefit ratio is very good for these industries, especially for the pipelines, – they get the vast proportion of the benefit / we take the risk.

The point is we don’t know what the economic truth is and the mistrust is growing and for good reason – and that is just on the economics notwithstanding the environmental risks as well.

I think I will have a beer now and support our local economy and GDP.

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The Time of Our Lives

I open the door and the stair creaks on my first tentative step down. With a flick of the light I descend five more steps and pause on the small landing.  An uncertain feeling comes over me as I  continue my journey down into the abyss of time-forgotten treasures and junk. This is our basement.  How the hell did we accumulate so much crap? Shit, crap and corruption is how we describe it.  At the bottom step I pass through the door  that ushers visitors into the kingdom of spiders and stuff. Continue reading

Net Geners: Critical thinking? What’s that?

Can you express yourself or understand ideas in under 140 words or much less? Most who tweet or post would say yes.  Net Geners (the generation that has grown up immersed in the digital age) are consumed with texts, tweets and posts and respond with a 15 second attention span or less. The apparent need for instant gratification without any investment of thought leads to no thought at all. Just make a comment, leave and move on. The access to instant information and then automatically taking it at face value without further research and then promptly forgetting it has led to short attention and reading spans  that ultimately eliminates critical thinking and learning. (Shallow Thinkers). The following article, if you take the time to read it, is a good analysis of the pros and cons of the digital world and its effects on learning and how it can be better utilized to educate the next cohort of students, the “Net Geners”. A good read for teachers. (Net Geners).(University observation)

Nevertheless, it is apparent that the instant access to information  is a good and bad thing. The ease of access to information is empowering and can quickly boost learning.  The danger arises when one relies on the instant search result and takes the information at face value with  no further thought or research. Unfortunately this is the trend. Posts on Facebook often have widely circulating claims and “facts” that are instantly re-posted as true and somehow make their way into the cyber world of believable BS.

The worst of it is that the digital world is a distraction and leads to very little face to face communication.  You will often see friends sitting together but are lost on their devices in different worlds, removed from each other missing the moment. Gossip, innuendos, stupid tweets and trivia somehow have become important to this generation.  The next text message must not be missed. Distracted driving now causes more crashes than alcohol impaired driving. There is a constant need to be “in the know’ – but to know what? Is there a meaningful conversation in this or any conversation at all?

The internet, social media and instant information is a good thing if it is used properly. Facebook, Twitter and Blogs are good ways to discuss ideas, promote dialogue and link people if articles are factual and written with respect to promote discussion without vitriol comment or hatred.   Twitter is useless or empowering. The instant spread of information to thousands, perhaps millions of people regarding events or ideas is democracy in action. As with new technology, time will iron out the problems and we will move on to use it more effectively. Those who continue to be mired in the shallow aspects of the technology will be left behind by those who can use it as a tool to learn and communicate quickly and effectively.

I often wonder how this might have affected me when I was in high school or university. I spent hundreds of hours with the slow laborious task of researching and reading journals for my projects.  I often had to physically move through 3 floors of the university library thumbing through the catalogue system or I had to actually go to another university to find and read a promising journal. It forced me, however, to read, think, analyse and sort through scientific information, but in a slow and methodical fashion. What if I had the internet, Google Scholar and access to university libraries, experts and journals from around the world, almost instantly? If I was able to apply the same critical thinking process and patience to the e-world of the internet, the access to knowledge would have expanded my world in a way I could not have imagined.  The key is how one thinks and uses the information with patience to read and question. This combination of skills could enable the new net-savvy students to be the most educated and connected generation.

Unfortunately, I believe patience and critical thinking are missing with the Net Geners.  This is the challenge for our educators, otherwise we will see a shallow generation emerge that is more concerned with the next tweet, email or post rather than experiencing, thinking and communicating about the world around them in a meaningful way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of many adventures: an unfettered childhood

It is early evening and my good friend Jim and I have been exploring the woods and ravine for most of the day. Having packed a lunch (standard peanut butter/jam sandwiches with cheese whiz and crackers) we returned home only for a quick supper and then continued our foray back into the wilderness.

We carefully select our route down the steep slope gripping overhanging branches to keep our footing. The Devil’s Club offers a tempting stem to hold, but I learned that really hurts. My pack keeps snagging on the salmonberries and we occasionally fall on our butts and slide down the slope on the loose, damp soil.  Reaching the creek, we take off our runners and socks and wade across the stream and then proceed in similar fashion up the opposite bank returning to a spot we had selected earlier in the day. Draping a small tarp over the bent canopy of vine maples and with a mat on the ground beneath, we have an instant tent. Light is fading fast in the woods so we spread our sleeping bags and wait for the approaching darkness. No campfire as we got into trouble for doing that last time.

With darkness comes a very different and heightened awareness of sounds in the woods. I have my hatchet and trusty “original Bowie knife”,  bBowieut we are both kind of scared but don’t admit it. A local squirrel protests our presence and an owl calls from a nearby tree. There are no bears or cougars although we do get warnings from time to time. It is possible that a raccoon or a skunk may happen by. That would be a calamity in the middle of the night. We talk well into the night as the chill sets in around us and eventually we fall asleep.  We awake to the light of the early dawn filtering through the trees. A cool mist hangs in the damp, morning air.  Today we will build our fort on this spot, but first a quick return trip home for breakfast and check-in with our mothers.

That was a different era.  I was 12 years old.

The tables have turned:If you are not an environmentalist, then what are you?

As a child in the 60’s, I had a fascination and curiosity for nature. Growing up in Coquitlam, BC I had the freedom to experience, explore, camp and live in the woods and ravines near my home. When I look back, I really did have a Huckleberry Finn childhood (previous blog – unfettered childhood).  As a result, I gravitated to  the natural sciences, obtained a degree in Biology and made a professional career in the environmental field spanning 35 years. Along the way I obtained the label “environmentalist”. So what is an environmentalist?

In the 1970’s, an environmentalist (a new word then) was considered to be a long-haired, beaded, dope-smokin’, hippie. Tree Hugger, Greenie, Radical, Lefty, Pinko and other names were used by those who considered  anyone who spoke up about environmental issues to be a threat . (some of our politicians still do – more later).  The passionate activists get the media coverage and garner most of the attention because they use unorthodox methods to raise awareness. These folks conjure the image of an environmentalist. This is true due to the controversial history of the movement but only because the media perpetuates this image.

An environmentalist today, however,  is likely registered with one of the many professions now working together on these issues and challenges.  Universities around the world have developed specific environmental courses and degrees and are generating robust scientific research on the myriad of environmental issues and challenges we face. Over the years, I have worked with Professional Engineers, Foresters, Geo-scientists, Climatologists, Hydrologist, Planners, Biologists, Agrologists, Lawyers, Architects, Doctors, Economists, Health experts, Journalists and progressive-minded Developers,  on many local environmental issues. I have also met hundreds of people who are genuinely concerned about the future.

Scientists and concerned citizens realize that the earth is finite and that we depend upon our natural world to sustain our very existence.  Environmentalists are not “against everything”, but rather support responsible resource development that does not leave a legacy of pollution and destruction that also compromises the health and well-being of future generations. Sustainability recognizes the need for economic development, but not at all cost. What is missing is the true cost accounting of development because it ignores the environmental impacts that result.  Environmentalists, however, have a long-term view for the planet not a short-term, selfish attitude that promotes profit over environment and safety.

Environmentalists have been working and planning for a better future but are thwarted by ignorant politicians and government policies that do nothing to advance long-term strategies for reducing our ecological footprint.  And, I am sad to say, Canada is a laggard not a leader. Our current Conservative Government has an agenda against environmentalists or any environmental issue that impedes their development policies or exposes their lack of understanding of the issues. Our Conservative MPs still consider anyone who dares question the development of the oil sands or the pipelines to be an “environmental radical”. They have gagged federal scientists, gutted environmental legislation, refuse to act on their own Species at Risk Legislation, pour billions into the oil sands and are a world embarrassment on climate change policies. Our Provincial Liberal Government is not far behind either.

Some people are so ignorant they have resorted to childish, immature stunts to show, in a feeble-minded way, that they are not environmentalists and have gone to great lengths and expense to show it. In the following link you will see a situation that exemplifies the stupidity of an anti-environment mind-set that is also present in our governments and some corporate cultures as well, it is just not as blatant. Check this out…(rolling coal).

The tables have turned. Those that do not support environmental causes  are now seen as the ones who are out of touch, we just don’t have a word to describe them yet (although I can think of several). The environmentalists are the watchdogs and the numbers of concerned citizens are growing. Industry and governments don’t like it because they are finally being exposed and openly challenged to do better.

Environmentalists are  working to correct the destruction of the natural world, species loss and extinction, declining biodiversity, climate change, pollution, ocean acidification, world poverty, greed, and realize that economics and ecology are linked and should have equal weight in our decisions.

In my experience, most people are genuinely concerned and care about all of these things.

If you are not an environmentalist, then what are you?