Archive for the ‘econotheism’ Category

The Anthropocene   Leave a comment

“In our new and powerful role over the planet, we have now become capable of engineering our own demise.”

“I feel the urgency to make people aware of important things that are at stake. By describing the problem vividly, by being revelatory and not accusatory, we can help to cultivate a broader conversation about viable solutions, inspiring today’s generation to carry the momentum of this discussion forward, so that succeeding generations may continue experiencing the wonder and magic of planet Earth.”

Edward Burtynsky in Earth 2020: An Insider’s Guide to a Rapidly Changing Planet, p. 115

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Return to “Normal” (4)   Leave a comment

Dr. Kwame McKenzie dreads returning to “normal”. In his view, the old “normal” wasn’t working for the majority of people.

In this blog posting on the Wellesley Institute website, Dr. McKenzie writes about what the old “normal” looked like; and proposes a vision of how a new “normal” could benefit the majority of people by taking care of the common good.

A new normal

Kwame McKenzie – May 13, 2020

I am told that we are preparing to slowly get back to normal. That fills me with dread.

I remember normal.

Normal was when Ontario had its highest ever GDP per capita, but at least 350,000 people used food banks and social assistance rates were so low that those considered too sick to work were living in poverty.

Normal meant a business model where many jobs were precarious, had no pension or benefits and the provincial government thought that $15 an hour and paid sick days were an unreasonable burden for employers. It was where young adults earned less than they did 40 years ago and GTA immigrants had not had a pay increase for 35 years.

Normal was a real estate market so out of control that the average family could not afford to buy a Toronto condo. It was when the majority of long-term care homes were private, for-profit and the provincial government had scaled back inspections.

It was when Ontario was the second lowest spender on health in Canada and our health services were cut back so far that people were dying in hallways. Health service workers could not have a cost of living increase and public health was to be cut by 10% provincially and 20% in Toronto.

Normal was when we spent 30% less on mental health than recommended leaving services for people with serious mental illness underfunded. It was when the target of ending homelessness by 2025 had been shelved.

Normal was the problem.

It allowed government to put industry’s interests ahead of the people. It made it acceptable to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. It was bad for our health.

It increased the rates of chronic disease and slowed our gains in life expectancy. It led to 20 years difference in life span between rich and poor in some Cities. It led to indigenous and racial disparities in health, social care and policing. It left workers with fewer protections and produced epidemics of loneliness and mental health problems.

It left us more vulnerable to COVID-19.

It left families overcrowded and unable to physically distance. It left personal support workers underpaid, undervalued and resigning in droves and our long-term care homes understaffed and vulnerable. It allowed COVID-19 to prey on our elders.

It left us with so little hospital capacity that we had to develop new, poorer quality alternatives. It may decrease COVID-19 survival rates.

It left our public health system weaker, demoralized, and with the lowest rates of COVID-19 testing in Canada.

It led to people with serious mental illness swelling the numbers of homeless, or living in shared rooms separated only by a curtain, and it led to homeless shelters resembling refugee camps with just 2.5 feet between beds. It led to COVID-19 outbreaks.

I do not want to go back to that normal. It was wrong, and it will delay our recovery and have a huge economic impact. The truth is it was not normal at all and it reversed the gains we have made over the last 40 years.

We need a new normal.

A new normal where we put people first – not say we will and then do the opposite. A new normal which aims to increase affordability, equity and inclusion. A new normal where people thrive, rather than just survive.

This means we need: good jobs, employment rights and wages which ensure that people thrive; a revitalized benefits system based on a universal basic income which ensures that we never again allow people to live in government sponsored poverty; and, a housing strategy that makes homes affordable.

We need to: right-size our health and social services sector; look at how B.C. is improving standards for long-term care homes; and, reconsider the shelter system and find homes for the homeless.

We need to do this to honour the people who have died because of COVID-19, those who will die because they do not receive proper care, and the families who have not been able to properly grieve. We need to honour the essential workers who have put themselves and their families at risk, the employers who have lost their livelihood, the people who have lost their jobs and the students who have had their education disrupted.

If we just go back to normal we are disrespecting these sacrifices, we are ignoring what COVID-19 has taught us, and we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to the next pandemic.

A Return to “Normal”? (2)   Leave a comment

Rejecting the death instinct in a pandemic age:

by Matthew Behrens, April 21, 2020

Image: Amanda Slater/Flickr

Matthew Behrens has shared his thoughts on what we choose to happen as we “return to normal” after COVID-19. He begins by writing that:

“The ongoing pandemic epoch has exposed a clear duality marked both by increasingly obvious and blatant inequalities, hypocrisies and systemic failures as well as beautiful, loving and creative responses in the form of mutual aid communities and direct action to save lives.

What happens when — or if — this epoch comes to an end is anybody’s guess, but there are clearly two paths forward, with a thankfully growing consciousness developed long before COVID-19 that our present path is one leading directly to disaster. Indeed, the 24-hour news cycle dominated by masked faces, hospital images and infection charts has almost obliterated from memory everything from January’s apocalyptic Australian brush fire scenes that served as yet one more warning about planetary peril to the grotesque armed invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory by paramilitary RCMP units.”

 

Which path will we, individually and as a society, choose to follow? The whole of Matthew’s article can be found at:

https://rabble.ca/columnists/2020/04/rejecting-death-instinct-pandemic-age

 

 

 

A Return to “Normal”?   Leave a comment

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Photo: Allan Baker – Lake Ontario beach at Morningside Creek

Do we really want to return to “normal” as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides? Is a return to “normal” in the best interest of humanity, or Planet Earth?

Yes, there’s plenty about this time of COVID confinement that I do not enjoy, and in my heart I wish that “social distancing” were over with, for example. However, what was “normal” before this time? Was it all-good? What would we have changed about life to make it richer and more meaning-full for ourselves and people in our communities?

Thanks to Prof. Dennis Bartels, I have set up a small chart of SOME of the differences that we are currently (April 2020) experiencing:

Before COVID -19                                             During COVID-19

Concern for gov’t DEBT                              No limits on gov’t spending

Opposition to carbon tax                           Environmental issues fade

Housing the homeless is an                      People without homes are being housed in hotels,

Intractable problem, cannot                    new shelters set up.

be solved, just tolerated                           Concern that “they” may infect “the rest of us”

Underfunding of daycare                         Gov’t establishes FREE daycare

                                                                          for children of “Essential” folks

As André Picard, the health reporter for Toronto’s Globe & Mail says: The big unknown question is, are we going to learn lessons from this? Or are we just going to go back to what we did before? ….I think there’s some real opportunities here to do things differently. I hope the bright side of this is that we really do take advantage of this crisis to do bold things and not just go back to the safe, not very effective way of doing health and social services.”

 What we are seeing during this pandemic are acts of kindness, and love for other people who are all part of our human family.

I’ll conclude with a quote from Bill McKibben, who wrote this in the May, 2020 edition of Sojourners Magazine: The day will come when we can easily return to church, to the store, to the hairdresser – for that we will be able to thank the scientists, and the brave doctors and nurses, who did what they had to do during this emergency. But their courage will have been wasted if nothing deeper changes in how we treat one another and the planet.”

Let’s not “waste” this opportunity.

It is not too late!   Leave a comment

On October 6, 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) spelled out in plain, damning details what will happen if the Earth’s atmosphere warms by more than 1.5 degree Celsius.

The IPCC also provided a list of possibilities for policymakers, available at: http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf

The David Suzuki Foundation has a thoughtful commentary on this important document:

https://davidsuzuki.org/story/will-the-world-act-on-climate-change-before-its-too-late/

No, it is not too late for us to change our course. However, we must resist the powerful forces that believe in the status quo. To quote an American author, Chris Hedges:

Resistance is not only about battling the forces of darkness. It is about becoming a complete human being. It is about overcoming estrangement. it is about our neighbour.It is about honouring the sacred. It is about dignity. It is about sacrifice. It is about courage. It is about freedom. It is about the capacity to love. Resistance must become our vocation.”

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Sunrise at Cape Spear

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted October 24, 2018 by allanbaker in econotheism, Environment, Politics

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The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene   Leave a comment

There is a review by Crawford Kilian of a newly published book about The Anthropocene. The review was published on October 12 Oct 2018 in TheTyee.ca

The book is called: The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene by Simon Lewis and Mark A. Maslin, Pelican (2018)

Crawford Kilian begins his review with these words:

“Given the grim prospects offered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its recent Special Report, this book might offer a way out. But it won’t be an easy way, and it won’t be the status quo.”

Is “progress” a trap for humanity? The whole review is accessible at:

https://thetyee.ca/Culture/2018/10/12/Humanity-Progress-Trap/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=121018

Farm-BW-Illustration.jpgWas farming one of humanity’s biggest mistakes? This and other big questions explored in ‘The Human Planet.’ Photo illustration from Magasin Pittoresque, 1857 (Shutterstock).

We are the salmon   Leave a comment

Salmon and the circle of life

By Jim Taylor – September 26, 2018

The conference hall was packed full. Five hundred people leaned forward to watch as an elder from a First Nations community along the B.C. coast moved down the aisle towards the microphones on stage. His red-and-black blanket cloak swished as he walked; the mother-of-pearl buttons adorning it flashed back at the spotlights following him.

            This happened long before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for better relationships with Canada’s indigenous peoples. But the church, my church, was making its first tentative moves towards that goal.

            The old man – he may not actually have been old, but he was older than I was, and he had a deeply weathered face – climbed the stairs onto the stage. He took the microphone from its stand. He held it to his mouth.

            We waited, breathlessly, for his words of wisdom.

            “We are the salmon,” he said.

            Then he put the microphone back, and left the stage.

 DSC01012           Well, that may not have been exactly how it happened. But that’s how I remember it. Because anything else, after that opening statement, was padding.

            “We are the salmon” said it all.

            The annual salmon run up B.C. rivers defined the circle of his people’s lives. The food that fed them. The culture that sustained them. The myths and legends that shaped them.

            They and the salmon were one body, indivisible.

All are one

            We who live in an industrial cocoon are slowly learning that truth. Life has no individual components. You can’t treat the salmon, the forest, or bears and wolves, in isolation. They are one integrated whole.

            Botanists wondered why the spruce and firs along spawning rivers grew taller, stronger, than forests a mere hundred metres further back. They found it’s because of the salmon. Bears catch the salmon, drag their catch back into the woods, leave the remains under the trees.

            The rotting fish fertilize the trees. The forest, in turn, controls water flow into the stream. Provide shade to control the stream temperature. Shelter the bears who catch the salmon.

            It is a single interlocking circle of life, and death, and new life.

            This year is supposed to be a dominant sockeye run for the Adams River, possibly the finest display of spawning salmon in the entire province. At its peak, 10 million deep red salmon look like a solid mass filling the river’s pools.

            But only about two out of every 100 fertilized eggs will survive a winter in the river gravels, a year in fresh water, the long migration down to the ocean, two years roaming wild in the Pacific, and then 500 kilometres back up the rushing Fraser, Thompson, and Adams river to spawn and start the cycle again.

            The river flow, the forests along the river banks, the sediment runoff, even the smells in the water that the salmon follow to their home ground – all can be affected by as little as a slight change in temperature.

            Tinkering with one variable in the great equation of life affects the total outcome.

            Including the lives of the People of the Salmon.

            It took me more than 500 words to express that concept. It took the elder in his buttoned blanket only four.

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Copyright © 2018 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.

                  To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca

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Posted September 26, 2018 by allanbaker in Canadian society, econotheism, Environment

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Change for the common good   Leave a comment

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Take Responsibility!

March 24, 2018 was the annual “Earth Hour”, when people voluntarily reduce their consumption of electricity for one hour.

A report on the behaviour of people in Toronto, from the CBC, notes that;

Several Toronto landmarks went dark tonight for Earth Hour, but Toronto Hydro says overall enthusiasm for the event has waned so much in recent years that they won’t supply numbers for energy use declines for this year’s event.” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/earth-hour-toronto-2018-1.4592026 )

So, how are Canadians doing with consumption of another energy source – gasoline?

The David Suzuki Foundation reported this week that the increased sales of SUVs and light trucks has offset the increased fuel efficiency for autos, that has been mandated by governments in North America. For more information, read the David Suzuki Foundation report at: https://davidsuzuki.org/story/suvs-trucks-nullify-car-efficiency-gains/

These trends represent a challenge for change in behaviour. It is obvious that we are living in an economic / political system where human behaviour is resistant to change. Someone once said that the only ones who appreciate a change are babies with wet diapers.

Change is possible!

The CBC report referred to above also indicates that people in Toronto are saving on electricity use every day: Between 2006 and 2017, Toronto Hydro says 2,300 gigawatt hours of electricity have been saved in the city, which is enough energy to power 780 large condos.”

 

In addition, Canadian data shows that sales of electric-powered vehicles were up by 68 per cent in 2017. https://www.fleetcarma.com/electric-vehicle-sales-canada-2017/

Change for a better environment is happening every day!

 

Posted March 25, 2018 by allanbaker in econotheism, Environment

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Relationship(s)   Leave a comment

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Wendell Berry, poet, author, farmer, contemplates our human relationship(s) with the rest of creation in a thoughtful essay titled, “The Presence of Nature in the Natural World: A Long Conversation.” He writes that:

The great trouble of our age, involving the human economy from agriculture to warfare, is in our relationship to the natural world – to what we call “nature” or even, still, “Nature” or “Mother Nature.” The old usage persists even seriously, among at least some humans, no matter how “objectivity” weighs upon us.”

“We seem to have forgotten that there might be, or that there ever were, mutually sustaining relationships between resident humans and their home places in the world of Nature.”

page 77 in “A Small Porch”, Counterpoint publishers, 2016

Ontario’s chance to get more from green energy   Leave a comment

Ontario has decided to take a pause in its Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) efforts, citing an electricity supply surplus and a need to reduce costs for consumers.

Which all sounds pretty reasonable, but the devil is in the details.  First off, why do we have a surplus?Not because of solar and wind energy, which still makes up only a small fraction of our electricity supply, providing less than 7% of our power last year.

We have a surplus because Ontario operates three gigantic nuclear plants (including the world’s biggest – the Bruce Nuclear Station).  Demand for electricity has fallen over the past decade in Ontario due to changes in our economy (less heavy industry), conservation efforts, and new technologies (LED lighting), but we have not reduced our nuclear production accordingly.  The result is a large surplus of power.

Second, will stopping renewable power development lower costs for consumers?  Not likely. Ontario Power Generation recently asked the Ontario Energy Board for permission to raise the rate it is paid for nuclear power by 180% over the next decade.  Contrast that with the rapidly falling costs of wind and solar power.  For wind, we have already reached the point where it is more than competitive with nuclear power costs.  For solar, that crossing point is only a few years away.

Benefitting from the green energy revolution

Which means that we are at a crossroads.  Old energy technologies such as nuclear are being quickly overtaken by more flexible, easier to deploy and – increasingly – less expensive options such as solar and wind.  Ontario can try to ignore this worldwide trend or it can work through the transition and come out the other side with a more dynamic system that it is a better fit for our changing needs.

That’s the challenge that should be at the heart of the province’s current efforts to revise its Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP). And that revised plan also needs to strongly support the province’s climate change efforts.  Far from needing less electricity, we will actually need substantially more if we are gong to de-carbonize our energy use by moving away from sources like natural gas for things like home heating and accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles.  Counting on 50-year-old inflexible nuclear plants to fill this need is taking the wrong path – we will be throwing good money after bad.

The government made a commendable decision to kickstart a new high-tech green power industry in this province.  That effort has led to thousands of new jobs and has set the stage for the next generation of Ontarians to thrive in a world of electric cars, distributed energy and smart grids.

The community advantage

We know the people of Ontario still support green energy – recent polling showed that 81% think we should continue to develop renewable sources like solar and wind.  But the public is rightly concerned about how we are currently going about this task.  Too often, they feel left in the dark by processes like the LRP program or the LTEP planning cycle.

So this “pause” gives us a valuable opportunity to rethink how we are going about the business of building a modern, green energy system.  When renewable power systems are developed locally by co-ops, school boards, municipalities or community organizations, they keep dollars and jobs in our communities, provide revenue that can used for everything from fixing arenas to improving schools, and enable those communities to become more resilient and better able to ride out severe weather events.

Through its Feed-in Tariff program, Ontario has quietly developed a leading-edge community power sector.  This is the foundation we need to build on in creating a healthy, safe, reliable and cost effective electricity system that is supported by communities because it puts communities first.