Monday, December 28, 2009

Avatar & Natural News

Here's someone who really liked Avatar. This is a review by Mike Adams from Natural News.

James Cameron's Avatar delivers a powerful message of connectedness with Mother Nature

Saturday, December 26, 2009

$10 Billion?

Over at Alt Film Guide, there's an interesting look at what this year's $10 billion box office really means. Is it a record year for film views, or is it a figure that simply hides the decline of the film industry as a cultural force?
While notes that there was a rise in ticket sales this year over last--a five percent actual rise--but that there was also a rise in ticket prices that helps mask any fall-off in sales. Box Office Mojo breaks it down into numbers of tickets sold; 1,403 billion tickets in 2009. But, to keep that in perspective, 2002 saw sales of 1,575 billion tickets. But (and this is a big but) back in 1947 when the population of the US was only 144 million, an estimated 90 million people went to the movies every week. That would translate into ticket sales of 4,680 billion, or three times the ticket sales of 2009. And that in a world without blockbuster or tentpole movies costing close to a half-billion to make (Variety reported that Avatar cost ~460 billion).

From, the top 10 films of 1947:

  1. Welcome Stranger
  2. The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
  3. The Egg and I
  4. Unconquered
  5. Life With Father
  6. Forever Amber
  7. Road to Rio
  8. Green Dolphin Street
  9. Mother Wore Tights
  10. Cass Timberlane
I'm actually surprised at how few of these films I've seen.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What They Won't Tell You

It won't matter. Nothing I say will make the slightest bit of difference--but, hell, that's never stopped me before. Avatar is not a good movie. It's a crap re-make of a second-rate Dances With Wolves. It didn't matter that Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was a bloated, incoherent, ego-driven piece-of-crap film, and it won't matter with Avatar either. Millions of us will still spend our money on it. Hell, it might even make a buck or two, even with its absurd price tag (something around a quarter billion dollars!). A lot will be written about how good a movie it is, about how it "invents a new kind of film-making," but it will all be crap. Contrary to the hype, Cameron is not an innovative film-maker. He is a film-maker with a real talent for action sequences, and we'd all probably be better off if Hollywood took on the Hong Kong idea of letting one director make the film, with a second director given the action sequences. That way Cameron could play to his strengths, and the rest of us could watch decent films with wow passages. But instead we are suffering under the auteur theory of film-making, and we are often the poorer for it.
Cameron has a talent (or maybe only a knack) for taking existing film-making techniques and pushing it to its limit, while marrying it to a decent story with some kick-ass action sequences. Take a look at his (actually small and limited) canon of film. Terminator, where he takes blue-screen and stop motion and pushes it, smartly using the stop motion to animate a robot, so that any flaws in the technique will be hidden in the character. In Terminator 2: Judgement Day, he takes a new piece of software and uses it as a visual metaphor for the mutability of evil (as opposed to the mechanical implacability nature of it in the first film). But in all his earlier work (Titanic excepted), he is kept in check by producers, money, and limitations of the medium.
Almost none of this applies to Avatar. This is Cameron's return to feature films after the blockbuster success (even in the world of event films) of Titanic. But unlike Titanic, ninety minutes into Avatar, I was offering to leave. Don't get me wrong, the action sequences left me twitching like a brook trout on a fly, and that's what the action sequences were supposed to do. But in terms of story and character, I was bored. Seriously bored. And an hour later I was praying for a planet-killing strike from space that would take out both sides of this over-wrought and pointless tale. "Kill them all and release me from this hell," I whispered, but it was not to be.
3-D has been around since forever, and like having seen Ray Harryhausen's work before seeing Terminator, I've seen a fair bit of it. Up, last summer, was a lovely little film. And the classic Creature From the Black Lagoon is still, I think, a superlative film.

The Creature--still rockin' the house since 1954

Cameron, as is usual, ramps it up, pushing the new 3-D as far as its been pushed in modern film. But that doesn't, in and of itself, make the film any better. In fact, I found that the 3-D actually interfered with my ability to watch the film some of the time, getting in the way of what story there was. The CGI? Well, its the logical next step, the next phase as long as you have the $$$$$$$ to do it. Impressive, but doesn't replace the need for characterization. Or story. Or coherence or complexity. And while the luminous nature of the world on Pandora (the planet Avatar takes place upon) is interesting, it too becomes a distraction. And yes, I got the double meaning of Avatar; both the representation of a person in a virtual world and the embodiment or personification, as of a principle, attitude, or view of life. Or even the incarnation of a deity (after all, the central character was blessed by the tree/deity of the Pandorans not once, but a couple of times). Doesn't make the film the least bit better, though.
So go--you know you're going to--and spend your money and you can even talk about how good it was afterwards (but really, isn't it more like The Dark Crystal? High concept, beautifully realized world, but the script really sucked?). But seriously, you'd be better off with the old cellophane and cardboard glasses and a copy of Creature. 'Cause there's a lot more going on there than in Avatar.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Telus sacks system access fee

CBC News - Technology & Science - Telus sacks system access fee

CBC got it wrong. I have received my new Telus 2 year contract invoice and I'm being charged access fees.

I had a 3 year contract which expired, and Telus tried to tell me by texting me and charging me for the text. They reversed the charge. They didn't bother to tell me when I phoned about the charge that my contract was up. When I did find out and said my partner used Fido for a much better rate, Telus began phoning me. Phoning me at work and at home and inbetween to get my business. At the beginning of December 2009 I dropped into Tom Harris Cellular in Tillicum Mall to renew the contract or discuss options as Telus had offered me a $15.00 monthly rate.

I paid Tom Harris Cellular $39.20 for Service and Support and got a new phone.

My invoice from Telus arrived today and is $52.85. I used to pay $31.30 per month.

My invoice breakdown:

Super Talk 15 (Dec 10 to Jan 09) $15.00
Super Talk 15 (Dec 7 to Dec 09) $1.50
Talk $20 my old plan gives me a $2.00 credit

Equipment Exchange $25.00 (I'll get back to this charge)
Rate Plan Change $10.00
Rate Plan Change credit $10.00

Enhanced 911 Access Charge $0.05
Enhanced 911 Access Charge $0.50
Enchanced 911 Access Charge credit $0.05
System Access Fee $0.70
System Access Fee $6.95
Systems Access Fee credit $0.46
Total $7.69

I'm being charged an access fee that the CBC reported in October 2009 Telus was no longer charging. But wait.....they are charging it. Technically if I was month to month and now have a NEW contract should I be paying access charges??? Very confusing.

I phoned Telus Customer Service and got a $25.00 credit on my bill. I was then told my monthly bill next month would be $30.00. My old bill was $31.30

Wow Telus has saved me a whopping $1.30 per month. I've signed a 2 year contract which will cost me $400 to cancel.

I feel Telus reps who phoned me and made me an offer of a $15.00 plan to reduce my monthly bill were not upfront about all the extra charges. They made it sound as if they were offering me the plan my partner has with Fido, where he pays about $15.00 a month for his cell phone service, no access fee.

When my 2 year contract is up I will never ever use Telus again. Unfortunately our land phone and internet is with them. Maybe we should be changing those to Shaw.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Now, For Something a Little Different

So, Tiger Woods has "tarnished his brand," committed "transgressions," crashed his car, and has apparently been sleeping with some cocktail waitress and (it seems) a host of other women. There are questions about whether his sponsors will pull their money, whether he'll "be able to recover" from the scandal, and if he'll be okay once he gets back on the golf course. And, of course, the endless self-reflecting chattering-class noise over whether his privacy has been violated, or whether or not he gave up the right to privacy when he began dropping a ball into a cup with mechanical regularity.
Honestly, I don't care. About any of it, really. The man is a golf machine, and as meaningless as I find golf, I admire his skill in playing the game. But I would like to offer an alternative take on his alleged indiscretions; good!
Seriously, take a look at the guy. He's handsome, focused, and intensely athletic. I hope he sleeps with lots of women, and I hope that he knocks more than a few of them up. I sincerely hope that he leaves a bunch of babies behind (although I hope he acknowledges them and supports them both financially and otherwise). My fondest dream is that he have an affair with the Williams sisters and leaves both of them with a couple of kids each. It wouldn't be bad if he did the same with Nicole Kidman and Meg Ryan.
These are people of extraordinary beauty and no little bit of talent. They are, love them or hate them, at the top of our current food chain. They are, in social evolutionary terms, the fittest, and I really think that ensuring their genes are spread as widely as possible through the genetic pool is a good thing.
And this is not just my belief that more people having more and better sex is of benefit to society. It's that "The Marching Morons" isn't the only way this works; it can be the marching intelligentsia as well. There is a drive to spread one's genes, just as there's a drive to nurture and nest. And neither is better or worse, more or less "moral." Both drives are necessary to the continuation of the species. It's only when society gets in the way (as in Islamist countries, or Christian fundamentalist Amerika) that hysteria develops; its because genes don't give a damn about society or culture or morality. They only care about perpetuation (and even that is anthropomorphizing). The genetic stew of humanity occasionally throws up extraordinary combinations, and its only to our benefit when they are spread widely.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

The International Editorial

Copenhagen climate change conference: 'Fourteen days to seal history's judgment on this generation'

This editorial calling for action from world leaders on climate change is published today by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages
Copenhagen climate change summit - opening day liveblog

Editorial logo

Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year's inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world's response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June's UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: "We can go into extra time but we can't afford a replay."

At the deal's heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.

Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world's biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of "exported emissions" so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than "old Europe", must not suffer more than their richer partners.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature".

It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history's judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

This editorial will be published tomorrow by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages including Chinese, Arabic and Russian. The text was drafted by a Guardian team during more than a month of consultations with editors from more than 20 of the papers involved. Like the Guardian most of the newspapers have taken the unusual step of featuring the editorial on their front page.

This editorial is free to reproduce under Creative Commons

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'Fourteen days to seal history's judgment on this generation' by The Guardian is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
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(please note this Creative Commons license is valid until 18 December 2009)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Biggest Threat to the World: Canada

George Monbiot's latest column from the Guardian, which focuses on Canada and the tar sands, deserves to be reprinted in full. We must do better than this, and that starts with politicians with vision and purpose, unlike what we have now on either side of The House.

When you think of Canada, which qualities come to mind? The world's peacekeeper, the friendly nation, a liberal counterweight to the harsher pieties of its southern neighbour, decent, civilised, fair, well-governed? Think again. This country's government is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee's tea party. So amazingly destructive has Canada become, and so insistent have my Canadian friends been that I weigh into this fight, that I've broken my self-imposed ban on flying and come to Toronto.

So here I am, watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petro-state. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy towards dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush.

Until now I believed that the nation that has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States. I was wrong. The real villain is Canada. Unless we can stop it, the harm done by Canada in December 2009 will outweigh a century of good works.

In 2006 the new Canadian government announced it was abandoning its targets to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto protocol. No other country that had ratified the treaty has done this. Canada was meant to have cut emissions by 6% between 1990 and 2012. Instead they have already risen by 26%.

It is now clear that Canada will refuse to be sanctioned for abandoning its legal obligations. The Kyoto protocol can be enforced only through goodwill: countries must agree to accept punitive future obligations if they miss their current targets. But the future cut Canada has volunteered is smaller than that of any other rich nation. Never mind special measures; it won't accept even an equal share. The Canadian government is testing the international process to destruction and finding that it breaks all too easily. By demonstrating that climate sanctions aren't worth the paper they're written on, it threatens to render any treaty struck at Copenhagen void.

After giving the finger to Kyoto, Canada then set out to prevent the other nations striking a successor agreement. At the end of 2007, it singlehandedly blocked a Commonwealth resolution to support binding targets for industrialised nations. After the climate talks in Poland in December 2008, it won the Fossil of the Year award, presented by environmental groups to the country that had done most to disrupt the talks. The climate change performance index, which assesses the efforts of the world's 60 richest nations, was published in the same month. Saudi Arabia came 60th. Canada came 59th.

In June this year the media obtained Canadian briefing documents which showed the government was scheming to divide the Europeans. During the meeting in Bangkok in October, almost the entire developing world bloc walked out when the Canadian delegate was speaking, as they were so revolted by his bullying. Last week the Commonwealth heads of government battled for hours (and eventually won) against Canada's obstructions. A concerted campaign has now begun to expel Canada from the Commonwealth.

In Copenhagen next week, this country will do everything in its power to wreck the talks. The rest of the world must do everything in its power to stop it. But such is the fragile nature of climate agreements that one rich nation – especially a member of the G8, the Commonwealth and the Kyoto group of industrialised countries – could scupper the treaty. Canada now threatens the wellbeing of the world.

Why? There's a simple answer: Canada is developing the world's second largest reserve of oil. Did I say oil? It's actually a filthy mixture of bitumen, sand, heavy metals and toxic organic chemicals. The tar sands, most of which occur in Alberta, are being extracted by the biggest opencast mining operation on earth. An area the size of England, comprising pristine forests and marshes, will be be dug up – unless the Canadians can stop this madness. Already it looks like a scene from the end of the world: the strip-miners are creating a churned black hell on an unimaginable scale.

To extract oil from this mess, it needs to be heated and washed. Three barrels of water are used to process one barrel of oil. The contaminated water is held in vast tailings ponds, some so toxic that the tar companies employ people to scoop dead birds off the surface. Most are unlined. They leak organic poisons, arsenic and mercury into the rivers. The First Nations people living downstream have developed a range of exotic cancers and auto-immune diseases.

Refining tar sands requires two to three times as much energy as refining crude oil. The companies exploiting them burn enough natural gas to heat six million homes. Alberta's tar sands operation is the world's biggest single industrial source of carbon emissions. By 2020, if the current growth continues, it will produce more greenhouse gases than Ireland or Denmark. Already, thanks in part to the tar mining, Canadians have almost the highest per capita emissions on earth, and the stripping of Alberta has scarcely begun.

Canada hasn't acted alone. The biggest leaseholder in the tar sands is Shell, a company that has spent millions persuading the public that it respects the environment. The other great greenwasher, BP, initially decided to stay out of tar. Now it has invested in plants built to process it. The British bank RBS, 70% of which belongs to you and me (the government's share will soon rise to 84%), has lent or underwritten £8bn for mining the tar sands.

The purpose of Canada's assault on the international talks is to protect this industry. This is not a poor nation. It does not depend for its economic survival on exploiting this resource. But the tar barons of Alberta have been able to hold the whole country to ransom. They have captured Canada's politics and are turning this lovely country into a cruel and thuggish place.

Canada is a cultured, peaceful nation, which every so often allows a band of Neanderthals to trample over it. Timber firms were licensed to log the old-growth forest in Clayaquot Sound; fishing companies were permitted to destroy the Grand Banks: in both cases these get-rich-quick schemes impoverished Canada and its reputation. But this is much worse, as it affects the whole world. The government's scheming at the climate talks is doing for its national image what whaling has done for Japan.

I will not pretend that this country is the only obstacle to an agreement at Copenhagen. But it is the major one. It feels odd to be writing this. The immediate threat to the global effort to sustain a peaceful and stable world comes not from Saudi Arabia or Iran or China. It comes from Canada. How could that be true?

Monday, November 23, 2009

War Crimes

It seems almost minor compared to the news on global warming and climate change, but The Guardian reports:

Military commanders are expected to tell the inquiry into the Iraq war, which opens on Tuesday, that the invasion was ill-conceived and that preparations were sabotaged by Tony Blair's government's attempts to mislead the public.

They were so shocked by the lack of preparation for the aftermath of the invasion that they believe members of the British and US governments at the time could be prosecuted for war crimes by breaching the duty outlined in the Geneva convention to safeguard civilians in a conflict, the Guardian has been told.

The article is worth reading. I'd support prosecution, but hey, that's me.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Peak Oil

According to The Guardian:

The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.

The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation's latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies.

Listen to an audio clip with Terry Macalister here.

A report by the UK Energy Research Council (UKERC) said worldwide production of conventionally extracted oil could "peak" and go into terminal decline before 2020.

The world has used less than half of the planet's conventionally extracted oil, but the remaining resources will be more difficult and expensive to get out of the ground, slowing production and increasing prices of crude.

With exploitation of the world's reserves running at more than 80m barrels a day, even major new discoveries such as the oil fields recently found in the Gulf of Mexico by BP would only delay a peak by a few days or weeks, the report said as reported by The Guardian.

The risk to the UK from falling oil production in coming years is greater than the threat posed by terrorism, according to an industry taskforce report published today.

The report, from the Peak Oil group, warns that the problem of declining availability of oil will hit the UK earlier than generally expected - possibly within the next five years and as early as 2011. [Also reported in The Guardian]

We don't have any plans in place to deal with peak oil: in Canada, we import the oil we use, and export the oil we produce (leaving most of us feeling WTF?). We peak out, everything falls apart. Our government is in denial, our corporate heads seem to be suffering a complete meltdown,and the general public just doesn't want to know. Any wonder why I'm a bit despairing of our future?

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Canada and the World

Even 20 months ago, no one knew what 350 meant, nor why it mattered. That's less than 2 years back. Then 10,000 year old ice sheets disappeared in the Arctic, Stephen Harper got a north of 60 hard-on, the IPCC released a report based on data that was already out of date (some of it a decade out of date), and a book detailing how James Hansen's work was censored came out. We shook our collective head, and some of us began to realize that we had entered what James Kunstler has called The Long Emergency.
It didn't take long to realize that 350 was the upper limit of atmospheric CO2 that could be considered "safe" (meaning that we might be able to keep global warming to 2°C and we might be able to live with the consequences of that rise), and here we are today looking at 390 ppm of carbon dioxide, no significant efforts being made to reduce carbon emissions, and a future that's looking at a minimum of 4°C warming and 6 metres of sea level rise--meanwhile emissions continue to increase and atmospheric CO2 rises at about 2ppm/year.
Here in Canada, we've got a Conservative government that is lead by a Prime Minister who still yet to convince anyone that he actually believes global warming may be a problem. Stephen "American Corporate Lackey" Harper is busy fiddling while the globe--including the nation of which he is nominally a member--burns. All our divorced-from-reality leader can see is the NorthWest Passage opening up and all that lovely ocean open to commercial exploitation.
Last week, the British Meteorological Office released a map of what we can expect to happen when we hit 4°C. The equatorial countries will get hotter, true, but the further you get from the equator, the more extreme the changes. But even now, Environment Minister Jim Prentice wants special treatment for Canada, allowing us--well, really just Alberta and the oil sands--to continue increasing our GHG emissions, while insisting that developing nations like China and India agree to hard caps that we ourselves will not accept. And the Canadian Government still refuses to release specifics of its plan to reduce our GHG emissions by 20% from our 2006 levels--which is light-years from our commitment under Kyoto.
Today comes the release of a new report. Quite unlike anything released in Canada before, it was financed by the Toronto Dominion Bank, produced by the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation, with economic modeling by the well-respected economic consultants, M.K. Jaccard and Associates Inc. As John Ibbitson writes in the Globe and Mail; "A major bank has paid two environmental organizations to produce a groundbreaking report that, for the first time, calculates the costs of both the Harper government's modest plans to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and the much more ambitious targets set by the environmental community, nationally and regionally."
The report offers a regional breakdown of economic impacts based on both the Harper government's vague commitment to 20% by 2020 (from 2006 levels) and  the impact from the deeper and harder cuts that environmentalists are calling for and that would put Canada in line with our international obligations. And guess what? Neither scenario would kill us!
According to the report,"The Conservative government's goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 can be achieved, but only by limiting growth in Alberta and Saskatchewan." Alberta's growth would be 8.5% less in 2020 than it would be under a BAU (Business As Usual) approach, the report concludes. Under the  same scenario, Saskatchewan would lose 2.8% of its projected growth. Central Canada, on the other hand, might well see some additional growth added to its projection. To quote Shawn McCarthy's article in the G&M; "Despite the steep costs involved in meeting targets, the analysis concludes the Canadian economy would continue to grow, albeit at a slower pace, and that investment in renewable energy and efficiency measures would result in an overall increase in employment compared to a “business-as-usual” scenario.
And even with the significant reduction in Alberta's potential growth and employment prospects, the province would still lead the country economically over the next 10 years."
So our economy would continue to grow AND there would probably be an increase in employment as well. And the cost? A reduction in projected growth an Alberta and Saskatchewan, and a significant out-migration from both provinces back to central Canada.
To further quote Shawn McCarthy's article: "TD's chief economist, Don Drummond, said the bank has not endorsed any targets, though it has supported a policy of a national emissions cap. He said the bank's interest was to shed light on an area where there has been little informed debate: the likely cost of imposing regulations."
I'm actually not seeing any real downside here. The Globe and Mail editorial board does though. In today's editorial, we read: "[T]he study acknowledges that what is proposed is no less than an economic upheaval: “There is a migration of capital and labour out of carbon and trade exposed sectors (e.g., fossil fuels) to sectors that are less carbon and trade exposed (e.g., manufacturing, services and renewable electricity).”
Canada cannot take its national unity for granted and must not, in the service of international obligations, allow itself to be immolated by a government policy of such wrenching dislocation." And the editorial concludes: "[T]he target [of carbon dioxide emission reduction] may be unreachable without unacceptable damage to Canada's economy and national unity. In which case, it is time for new targets, and new policies."
I can't help but think that no-one raised much of a stink about the "wrenching dislocation" caused by the development of the oil sands on the communities of Atlantic Canada. And even Jeffrey Simpson concludes that the Harper government's targets are just so much smoke being blown up our collective asses.
And so we have serious economic modelling of the potential and problems with trying to meet our international obligations regarding global warming and CO2 emissions. And we can now point to the report and say, "Tough, yes. But it won't kill us, and will probably make us stronger." And what of the complaints sure to come from the political and ruling classes of Alberta and Saskatchewan? Well, both provinces have had a great decade, with both provinces posting significant surpluses in their budgets, and neither has done a damn thing to prepare for the inevitable crash (particularly Alberta under Ralph Klein). For Alberta, that's two oil-based booms they've pissed away under Conservative governments. So honestly, I have no great sympathy for the Alberta government. And regardless of any future whining, we can look at the economic model contained in the M.K. Jaccard and Associates Inc. report, and read again the conclusion that "even with the significant reduction in Alberta's potential growth and employment prospects, the province would still lead the country economically over the next 10 years." And the planet (well, the human part of it) would thank us for facing up to our responsibilities.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Copenhagen, Canada, and the End of the World

The Globe and Mail is reporting on an interview with Environment Minister Jim Prentice, saying that the chance of an agreement on climate change in Copenhagen is pretty much non-existent.
The world wants a climate change agreement in Copenhagen. The US is even onside, with President Obama actually understanding both the science and political realities of global warming. The EU wants an agreement, with Germany busy poaching Canadian alternative energy companies and the Brits launching the 10-10 campaign. China is even pursuing lower carbon emissions. So what's the problem?
The problem is the Canadian government. Canada has become the biggest roadblock to an international agreement to lower carbon emissions. According the the G&M article (23 October 2009, p A1 Ottawa dashes hope for treaty in Copenhagen) Canada is continuing to "insist that it should have a less aggressive target for emission reductions[...] because of its faster-growing population and energy-intensive industrial structure". The Harper government is also going to insist that any cap on industrial emissions will not be applied uniformly across the country, but will allow the Alberta oil sands to continue expanding. To quote the Environment Minister; "The Canadian approach has to reflect the diversity of the country and the sheer size of the country, and the very different economic characteristics and industrial structure across the country." The Harper government has also demanded that emerging economies (like China and India) agree to binding caps on carbon emissions, and has refused to release its own plan for carbon reduction until there is clarity on what the Americans are planning to do.
The New Democratic Party has a bill currently in committee that would commit Canada to an emission reduction of 25% from 1990 levels by 2020--a target that would meet our commitment under Kyoto and would be consistent with the EU's approach in the next round of negotiations. Ottawa has proposed a reduction of 20% from 2006 levels of emissions by 2020--our obligation under Kyoto was a cut of 6% from 1990 levels by 2012. The plan proposed by the Harper government would result in a 3% reduction from 1990 levels by 2020. Chief climate negotiator Michael Martin said to the committee considering the NDP bill that the Harper government's targets are "comparable" because they will be just as costly to achieve as the more aggressive NDP targets.
What becomes clear, as we follow the progress towards significant carbon emission reductions, is that the Harper government has no intention of ever reducing carbon emissions. Harper simply does not consider carbon emissions to be a problem (how can I say that? By simply looking at his record).
And our Prime Minister is dragging a lot of sceptics along with him. World-wide, temperatures maxed out in 1998, leading deniers to claim that temperatures have levelled off or are even declining. But new research to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, was carried out by Judith Lean, of the US Naval Research Laboratory, and David Rind, of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The research, "is the first to assess the combined impact on global temperature of four factors: human influences such as CO2 and aerosol emissions; heating from the sun; volcanic activity and the El Niño southern oscillation, the phenomenon by which the Pacific Ocean flips between warmer and cooler states every few years.

The analysis shows the relative stability in global temperatures in the last seven years is explained primarily by the decline in incoming sunlight associated with the downward phase of the 11-year solar cycle, together with a lack of strong El Niño events. These trends have masked the warming caused by CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

As solar activity picks up again in the coming years, the research suggests, temperatures will shoot up at 150% of the rate predicted by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Lean and Rind's research also sheds light on the extreme average temperature in 1998. The paper confirms that the temperature spike that year was caused primarily by a very strong El Niño episode. A future episode could be expected to create a spike of equivalent magnitude on top of an even higher baseline, thus shattering the 1998 record.

The study comes within days of announcements from climatologists that the world is entering a new El Niño warm spell. This suggests that temperature rises in the next year could be even more marked than Lean and Rind's paper suggests." (The Guardian Online).

The British Meteorological Office released a new map of the world (below) showing the current thinking on what the world will look like with a 4°C rise in the average global temperature. The 4°C rise mostly happens at the equator--the further you move away from the equator, the greater the changes. Here on Vancouver Island, we may only see an average 5°C rise, but up in Hudson's Bay, its looking more like 16°C. What this doesn't indicate is just how this will affect global weather patterns. If it was just going to get warmer, that wouldn't be the end of the world.But all that extra energy is going to change things in ways we can't imagine yet, much less model.

The Met Office says that climate researchers have discovered that:

  • levels of CO2 have risen 40% since the Industrial Revolution
  • Global sea levels have risen 10cm in the last 50 years [and that's a hell of a lot of water]
  • temperatures in the Arctic have risen at twice the global average [which suits our Prime Minister just fine]
  • snow cover in the northern hemisphere has dropped 5% in the last 2 decades
And researchers figure that extreme temperatures will affect eastern North America, with Toronto and Ottawa seeing the temperatures of their hottest days jumping by up to 10°C to 12°C. Anyone having suffered through a GTA summer will be white with fear about now....

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Third World -- and why we shouldn't say it.

Interesting post here on why "third world" is a politically loaded term. I mostly agree with the author, but dislike the suggested alternative "developing world"; which harbors connotations of an inherent backwardness of other cultures and the assumption that over time they will become little clones of Western cultures, which is in my view similarly reprehensible usage. A commentator on the post suggests the phrase "majority world" to describe nonWestern cultures, which both more accurate and more interesting....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ah, I Can Feel It Working

From over at IPS:
In recent weeks, Greenpeace has staged three daring protests inside tar sands mines, temporarily shutting down parts of the world's largest energy project. On Oct. 3 and 4, activists blocked construction of an upgrader needed to refine heavy tar sands oil, belonging to Shell in Ft. Saskatchewan, Alberta.
Civil disobedience from Greenpeace, leading to 37 arrests, has enraged Alberta's conservative government. "We're coddling people who are breaking the law," complained Premier Ed Stelmach during a media scrum in early October.
"Premier Stelmach's public suggestion that he will use the 'force of the law to deal with these people' confirms his lack of knowledge of the limits of his authority and the clear rule that our system of justice cannot be interfered with or manipulated for political reasons," responded Brian Beresh, the defence lawyer representing arrested activists, at a news conference in Edmonton.

This is one of the uses of civil disobedience--like one of the uses of terrorism--to provoke those in power into over-reacting and doing something stupid that makes the instigator's point for them. Like the US after 9-11 made Al Qaeda's point that they were an imperial power by invading Iraq, the Alberta government is going to make Greenpeace's point for them. They are actually threatening to use anti-terrorism legislation to shut down civil disobedience at the tar sands.
"Canada's tar sands will singlehandedly produce more greenhouse gas emissions than Denmark, Ireland, Austria or Portugal by 2020 if the development continues expanding at its current rate, according to a recent report written by award-winning business reporter Andrew Nikiforuk. The tar sands already spew more greenhouse gas emissions than Estonia or Lithuania", the article continues.
It's not like Greenpeace stands alone on this; the head of the IPCC has also said that the tar sands should be shut down.
Keep in mind that this Saturday--October 24th--is 350 day, the international day of climate action. The 350 refers to the accepted maximum concentration of CO2 in Earth's atmosphere--the number we've blown past already. Last I checked, we were at 385. Write an MP, get out and be counted, ride a bike, whatever. Check the website for ideas. In Victoria, there will be a day of activities at Centennial Square on Saturday.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yes Men

It looked – at first – eerily like a routine news event. A man in a nondescript dark suit standing at a podium in one of the smaller meeting rooms on the 13th floor of the National Press Club. But then suddenly it wasn't.

"There is only one way to do business and that is to pass a climate bill quickly so this December President Obama can go to Copenhagen and negotiate with a strong position," said the speaker – who said he represented the US Chamber of Commerce.

The statement represented a complete repudiation of the Chamber's earlier opposition to climate change legislation. The hard line had triggered walk-outs from Apple and a handful of other high-profile companies in the past few weeks.

From the Guardian Newspaper, who are reporting that the news conference was later boken up by an actual member of the US Chamber of Commerce screaming that it was all a hoax. This is typical of the Yes Men, who famously held a news conference claiming to be Dow Chemical and taking full responsibility for the Bhopal disaster, and promising to care for anyone injured in the incident. Dow lost $2bn off its share price and was later forced to announce that it was doing nothing of the kind. And, as with the Dow story, the Guardian reports: "And while a number of reporters still pressed Wohlschlegel for signs of a shift in the Chamber's position, he soon set them straight. The Chamber was as opposed to climate change legislation as ever."

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

There's A Buzzing Sound In My Ears

Earlier this year Dawa Steven Sherpa was resting at Everest base camp when he and his companions heard something buzzing. "What the heck is that?" asked the young Nepali climber. They searched and found a big black house fly, something unimaginable just a few years ago when no insect could have survived at 5,360 metres.

So begins this story in the Guardian. It's becoming depressingly familiar at this point; insects where they don't belong, glaciers retreating at an appalling pace, and (in this case) glofs, or glacial lake outburst floods.
So have a read, then pop over to the review of Superfreakonomics and have a read of this:

A large chunk of Superfreakonomics is given over to what Levitt and Dubner present as a simple, cheap alternative to all this depressing futility. They profile Nathan Myhrvold, the former chief technology officer of Microsoft, whose company, Intellectual Ventures, is exploring the possibility of pumping large quantities of sulphur dioxide into the Earth's stratosphere through an 18-mile-long hose, held up by helium balloons, at an initial cost of around $20m. The chemical would reflect some of the sun's rays back into space, cooling the planet, exactly as happened following the massive 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, in the Philippines. The primary objection to this plan, as with other "geoengineering" schemes, is that there's no predicting the unknown negative effects of meddling in such a complex natural system. And it's strange, given how much is made in both Freakonomics books of the law of unintended consequences, that they don't mention this in the context of Myhrvold's plan.

This is where we wait and wait and wait and then begin grasping at straws and stupid ideas, looking for the quick fix. The problem is not sunlight falling on the Earth, its the CO2 in the atmosphere. The sulphur dioxide "fix" does nothing but to help buy a little time. The ocean is still gong acidic (as one example), crashing what few food stocks are left. That will not be slowed by altering the amount of sunlight getting through the atmosphere. (Freakonomics; a bunch of untested and unproven correlations and ideas masquerading as breakthrough carved-in-stone facts. Mediocre speculative mutton dressed up as scientific lamb).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Power Shift

I cannot remember the last time I (or anyone I know) had this much fun at a climate change rally. (The video will start automatically). Without this sense of joy and energy, we're going to get nowhere, and that isn't something we can afford. Without those of us in middle age with our "respectability" and (more importantly) dollars and commitment, things will be difficult. But without this kind of joy and energy, things will be impossible.
Great social movements arise in a sense of fear and excitement; from the sense of taking control of power and realizing that it's in each of us. It's a scary and exciting place to be. There's a sense of comradeship, of shared joy, that suddenly we really are all in this together.And for some reason, grim death marches don't really attract the crowds, the popular support, that you'd expect.
We need more of this; more dancing, more laughing, more joy. Greenpeace continues to draw people because there's always the chance to get arrested--as the protesters in Fort McMurray showed in mid-September.

(image from the CBC website)

Protesters from Greenpeace occupied two dump
trucks and unfurled a banner on the ground at Shell's
Albian Sands oilsands site in northern Alberta Tuesday.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Propaganda; Shouldn't It Really Be The Word Of God?

Over at the Conservapedia, there's a proposal being floated to re-translate the Bible. The Conservative Bible Project suggest that:

Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations. There are three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning are, in increasing amount:

  • lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ
  • lack of precision in modern language
  • translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.

 The nutbars Conservatives over at Conservapedia are really worried about the liberal bias in the Bible.They state that:

    As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:[2]

    1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
    2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
    3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level[3]
    4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop;[4] defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".
    5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots";[5] using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census
    6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
    7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
    8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
    9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
    10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God."

I'm particularly fascinated by #6 & #7: "Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning" and "Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story." To state so baldly next to each other that you want to remove what you think is liberal cant and insert what can only be described as conservative cant, and that you don't see a problem with this, is, to me, mind-boggling. But apparently this is not so on the far right: the belief that others have done something--whether or not that belief is supported by evidence--is apparently justification for doing the exact same thing. Instantly any concept of "truth" disappears and is replaced by the concept of competing propagandas. Any appeal to evidence is immediately seen to be a call on biased propaganda. "Things fall" is liberal propaganda, and any appeal to the senses (look out the window! Gravity is in operation!) as dismissed as biased and propagandistic nonsense ("that's just what they want you to believe! Gravity doesn't even work on those who believe in it!). This kind of thinking is completely resistant to argument; it is thouroughly magical and any appeal to reason, evidence, or even sanity is, by definition, biased and propagandistic, and can be dismissed out of hand. Logic and reason have no place in a hermetically sealed belief system, and are seen as enemies of faith or belief.
This program, on the part of the Amerikan Right, to create a political community where spiritual, economic, and political concepts are adopted and are then unchangeable proceeds apace. Mutually antithetical concepts like "Keep your government hands off my Medicare" are normal inside this doublethink groupmind. Regretfully, this type of thinking and political community building has spread into Canada as well. Alberta and Saskatchewan are hotbeds of it.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

V-Con (No, Really!)

Sometimes it's really very easy to do without a car. Friday morning found us up early and on the municipal bus out to the ferry.
20 Minutes to down-town and another 40 or so out to the ferry with a 5 minute transfer layover, that's not bad. Sure, we ended up at the ferry an hour earlier than we needed to, but that was my fault rather than a flaw in the transit system.
Traveling as a walk-on is really a good way to use the ferry; it's so much more relaxed than worrying if your car is going to start, and making sure to park close enough and all the rest of what we think of as normal at the terminal and on the ferry.

Notice that there's two layers of traffic loading. That's a lot of cars, and this isn't one of the new "Super-C's."

Passengers, on the other hand, have a much quieter boarding experience.

Although there are a lot more passengers than 20 years ago. Paula and I have boarded, gone up a deck, found kiosks to sit at (so that I could plug in the Aspire 1ne), and dropped our packs, and there are still walk-ons loading.

Once at the other end of the ferry route, we waited maybe 10 minutes to board a municipal bus. Okay, 5 bucks, but that got us right into down-town Vancouver.

This was one of the articulated buses we're familiar with from our days in Edmonton, but haven't ridden out here. Victoria went with the even cooler, retro-styled double deckers rather than the articulated buses. A good choice, I think.

The double-decker buses (you can see one at the front of the queue here) are air-conditioned and quite comfortable. Besides, riding up top offers a hell of a good view, even if the ride itself can be a bit rocky on occasion.

The Skytrain, on the other hand, especially the new Canada Line, is a terrific ride. And the new cars are a delight. Notice the vertical bar on the right, with the four loops sticking out of it--making a terrific number of handholds when the car is full.
Our trip in from the ferry took about an hour all told. We boarded the bus about 10:00 am and were checking in to the hotel just after 12:00.

It is strange to be at a V-Con again after so many years away. It didn't take long before I was having fanzines thrust into my hands; an old BCSFAzine, and a copy of Why You Got This Zine #5. It took me about ten minutes to realize that we'd published the original WYGTZ and we'd done it back in 1983 (all nicely credited in the extended colophon). Kathleen is now pubbing her ish, and doing a lovely job of it--making sure that its only available in print and not online, which is unusual and quite nice.

And after decades:

Garth! It was great to see Garth again and catch up on at least an overview of the last few years.
There were other people, of course. People I live near:

like Karl, busy minding the Neo-Opsis table.

And Stephanie, gettinga few minutes away from the table.
But there's also Donna and Clint

who seem to becoming regular features in this life. Which is interesting and unexpected.

Marlene happened to be in Van and so she showed up--and got the chance to play dress up in the dealer's room. The period / pirate clothing was a real treat; the women looked lovely and the men looked dashing, and I even gave it a go. Ah, to be independently wealthy, and have a place to wear pirate clothes...!

SF Canada threw a author party / book-launch Friday night

Which was neat and well-attended. The idea was to create various circles of chairs and then scatter author names about, so that people could either sit beside authors they knew, or figure out who it was they were sitting beside.

There was also a book table--these are, after all, authors.
The event was well attended. Just a few of the familiar faces:

Brian Hades

Barry Alder

Selu--whom we had met on the Skytrain, having completely missed her on the ferry and bus....

Paula, having a good time chatting.

And Fran. Overall, quite a different Friday for me.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Yup, we all need that good old CO2. What did we really expect? That Oil company execs would think that a threat to the planet might override a threat to their corporate profits? Not gonna happen. And it isn't surprising that this comes out of Amerika. After all, the Guardian reported on 28 September 2009 :

US ignorance about the risks and reality of global warming could sink hopes of a new global deal to control greenhouse gas emissions at December's climate talks in Copenhagen, an advisor to the German government has said.

Professor John Schellnhuber, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said the US was "climate illiterate" and that the rest of the world may be forced to agree a new deal without it.

"Nobody should dream of the possibility that numbers and targets for countries will be sealed in Copenhagen," said Schellnhuber, one of the world's foremost climate scientists. "If the US doesn't move then nothing will happen."

He added: "The US in a sense is climate illiterate. It is a deeper problem in the US, if you look at global polls about what the public knows about climate change. Even in Brazil and China, you have more people who know the problem, who think that deep cuts in emissions are needed."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

< 9 Minutes

POV footage of triggering and being caught in an avalanche. In less than 9 minutes, this fellow sets up, starts his descent, is trapped in an avalanche, and is rescued by his friends. Wrenching, amazing footage.

Avalanche Skier POV Helmet Cam Burial & Rescue in Haines, Alaska from Chappy on Vimeo.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Met Office warns of catastrophic global warming in our lifetimes

From The Guardian:

Unchecked global warming could bring a severe temperature rise of 4C within many people's lifetimes, according to a new report for the British government that significantly raises the stakes over climate change.

The study, prepared for the Department of Energy and Climate Change by scientists at the Met Office, challenges the assumption that severe warming will be a threat only for future generations, and warns that a catastrophic 4C rise in temperature could happen by 2060 without strong action on emissions.

Officials from 190 countries gather today in Bangkok to continue negotiations on a new deal to tackle global warming, which they aim to secure at United Nations talks in December in Copenhagen.

"We've always talked about these very severe impacts only affecting future generations, but people alive today could live to see a 4C rise," said Richard Betts, the head of climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre, who will announce the findings today at a conference at Oxford University. "People will say it's an extreme scenario, and it is an extreme scenario, but it's also a plausible scenario."

According to scientists, a 4C rise over pre-industrial levels could threaten the water supply of half the world's population, wipe out up to half of animal and plant species, and swamp low coasts.

A 4C average would mask more severe local impacts: the Arctic and western and southern Africa could experience warming up to 10C, the Met Office report warns.

The study updates the findings of the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which said the world would probably warm by 4C by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. The IPCC also listed a more severe scenario, with emissions and temperatures rising further because of more intensive fossil fuel burning, but this was not considered realistic. "That scenario was downplayed because we were more conservative a few years ago. But the way we are going, the most severe scenario is looking more plausible," Betts said.

A report last week from the UN Environment Programme said emissions since 2000 have risen faster than even this IPCC worst-case scenario. "In the 1990s, these scenarios all assumed political will or other phenomena would have brought about the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by this point. In fact, CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel burning and industrial processes have been accelerating."

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Textbooks and Propaganda

Good article on rewriting of American history in Texas at Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing. Amazing to hear people talk so blatantly about removing any critical thinking from texts and schooling.

The net effect of the motion, would be to remove any trace of activism from American history -- because, presumably, you don't want kids to think that they could lobby government for change.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Human Smoke

Not the brilliant and horrifying book by Nicholson Baker, but the bodies stacked up in the streets of Iraq. According to a new study by ORB, a British research group, the violent death toll now stands at ~1.2 million dead. This is in line with the previous study by John Hopkins published in The Lancet. American soldiers are going through bullets so fast that the manufacturers can't keep up (seriously. you can check out the PDF report here).
The number of violently dead now puts Iraq in a class with Rwanda and is approaching the Cambodian killing fields.
But ask Americans how many dead there are and the numbers are so low as to defy belief. An AP poll showed the median estimate of Iraqi deaths was 9,890. The official number is ~54,000. Best epidemiological estimate is 1.2 million with ~56% of that due to American violence.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Monday, September 07, 2009

Sinead's Hand

Nothing really to add to this.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

10% Part 2

And while comptemplating the worrisome news in Bernie's article below, I found this story at The Adventure Corner by Olaf Malver reporting on his just completed kayaking trip to eastern Greenland. He describes passing 12 mile-long tabular icebergs the likes of which his 55 year-old Inuit guide has never seen before. These icebergs can only make their way south because so much of the Arctic Ocean has opened up during the summer. Olaf, who has camped along eastern Greenland for fifteen years, also noted that many of the fresh water pools at his favourite campsites have dried up, and he also comments on receding glaciers.
As the author of the Guardian article noted, "We all live on the Greenland ice sheet now. Its fate is our fate."


Apparently that's how much of the world's fresh water is tied up in the Greenland ice sheets. And current measurements are putting them in the ocean a lot faster than they used to be travelling. According to an article in the Guardian, "Helheim, an enormous tower of ice that calves into Sermilik Fjord, used to move at 7km (4.4 miles) a year. In 2005, in less than a year, it speeded up to nearly 12km a year." Kangerdlugssuaq, another glacier, is now moving at an inch (24 mm) every minute, making its motion visible to the naked eye.
The rate of calving off the Greenland glaciers has risen so dramatically that it seems that the calves are now big enough to generate seismic events transmitted through the earth, and these events actually help speed up the glaciers.
The world response to global warming has, so far, been (to quote the Guardian) "all mouth and no trousers." Which is why they've launched the 10:10 campaign--a campaign to have people pledge to reduce their carbon footprint by 10% in 2010.This would seem to be a no-brainer, as it is only a matter of picking the low hanging fruit in our lives. Some of us have already taken this step, and from here on out the choices become more difficult and require more governmental involvement, but still, we can and should be out in front of our elected officials on this one.
Not everyone is happy, of course. There is a certain amount of anger over the EU-mandated phase out of the incandescent light bulb. But most people are on-side, and really just need a gentle pointing in the right direction to get going. So lets get on board, even those of us well into the change. Let's drop our CO² emissions by another 10% in 2010.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Normally I wouldn't

But I just found this funny. I got linked to this story from Emails From Crazy People, the latest addition to the lolcats/loldogs/failblog group. Gary has a Landlord of the Flies--a thoroughly crazy man that he rented a room from for a month. The story is fairly short--so far--and is really worth reading. Go. Have fun.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This Smells

I'm glad to see that its recent near-demise has taught those oh-so wise powers-that-be at GM the error of their ways, that they must make products that people want, and that make sense in the new economic and environmental paradigm. Their first new offering since billions of taxpayers dollars bailed them out? The Cadillac men's fragrance line.
"Cadillac, the new fragrance for men is part of the recent Cadillac renaissance: Hot new products and redesigns that capture the mantra of life, liberty and the pursuit," said Alwyn Stephen, a director of Beauty Contact, the company that holds the fragrance licence. "Our fragrance is a relevant extension of the Cadillac lifestyle. The design pays tribute to the opulence and extravagance of past eras, as well as the luxury and ease of today."
According to the Toronto Star, the line includes a spray, aftershave lotion, deodorant stick, hair and body wash. Some products will come in translucent glass bottles with sleek metal caps. The retail price for a 100 millilitre bottle of the eau de toilette fragrance will be $73.
Ferrari tried this a few years ago -- they couldn't give their cologne away. Porsche and BMW tried and failed at this idea as well. No doubt the deodorant will be popular because this stinks. Did anyone run this by GM's new owners which are, um, me?

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