Closer to the Sacred Spaces

I was driven to write this post after seeing a commercial showing children and adults sitting on a dock  surrounded by spectacular lake views, all looking at their black mirror phones and tablets. I think that borders on obscenity. For certain sacrilege.

Last weekend, my family and I went camping at Point Farms Provincial Park in Goderich. The drive to Southern Ontario’s “West Coast” was absolutely idyllic as we crossed through the Bruce, But it was the shores of Lake Huron that were truly balm for the soul.  After weeks of political analysis for my news articles, I needed this break.

While my youngest son camped with his graduating class at the far end of the Park, and my wife slept in our Teardrop, the dog and I made the 200 step trek down the staircase from the top of the bluff to the beach. We walked for hours on the clean sand and wave washed rocks, and felt the wash of the Great Lakes winds take all our cares away.

Later joined by my wife from time to time, I made that trip up and down seven times over the next two days. We watched sunsets and sunrises, we watched the beach change from a calm waters family playground on Saturday to a wave-pounded, windswept coast line on Sunday morning.

The thought of sitting at a picnic table looking at a cell phone movie just doesn’t fit. We all need to unplug, to unplug our children if just for a while and listen once again, as Father Thomas Berry said, “to the grand liturgy of the universe.” We need to watch the sunrises and sunsets and feel the power of the wind and water.

Now, more than ever, we need to be closer to the sacred spaces.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

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Trump Pulls Out Early

As the American Geophysical Union (AGU) noted a few days ago, “The withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord – a political decision by the Trump administration – does not change the science of how our planet works.

We often speak of “rogue nations” in relation to nuclear proliferation and the danger that nuclear war poses for life on Earth. We now have the world’s second largest polluter going “climate rogue” with a promise to bring back their coal industry, pump more oil, and frack more natural gas. At a time when forward thinking nations are putting their best minds to work on research and development into cleaner alternatives, President Trump did the exact opposite.

It’s not like we didn’t have ample time to prepare. In June 1988 in the City of Toronto, The Conference on the Changing Atmosphere issued the following consensus conclusion: “Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war.

By a strange twist of fate, 1988 was also the year that Oprah Winfrey teased a response out of Donald Trump that he was thinking of a run for the Presidency in 2016. Polly Toynbee, writing for The Guardian in 1988 also got this quote from The Donald: “If I want to be President, then I’ll be President.” Be careful for what you wish.

Now we are in a situation where this President has left the consensus of the global commons and joined Syria and Nicaragua in the last days of the fossil fuel economy. True, Syria and Nicaragua had never signed on to the Paris Climate Accord, which makes the U.S.A. withdrawal all the more shameful. The short-range thinking of the far-right Republican base who cheer at Trump’s rallies may be pleased, but the remaining 194 countries are more than a little miffed.

This Trump withdrawal is significant to the rest of the world for three reasons. First, it clarifies the role of far-right conservative corporations and their “think-tanks” to influence politics and education. Secondly, it pushes China to the top of the world stage for environmental leadership and innovative economic growth in the field of alternative energy technologies. And lastly, it undermines the value of science-based policies to make even a token attempt to deal with accelerating climate change.

While many pundits say that it was the influence of advisor Steve Bannon that pushed Trump to make his exit from the Paris Accord, it was really the years of lobbying by the Competitive Enterprises Institute (CEI) that turned the tide. The CEI had been influencing “charter” religious-right American schools for decades with their false science curriculum. The most infamous of these was the pseudo-science text “Facts Not Fear: a parent’s guide to teaching children about the environment.”

This text was published in the U.S.A. by the “Alabama Family Alliance” through funding by the CEI. It was authored by Michael Sanera of the Claremont Institute (a conservative “education” cult devoted to “Recovering the American Idea.”) and Jane Shaw, an economist then with the Political Economy Research Centre (now the Property and Environment Research Centre – PERC – a republican free market economic advisory group).

Along with Channel One propaganda being broadcast on large flat screens every hour, children in American private “charter” religious schools were given “Facts Not Fear” as a science text. CEI tried to do this in Canada via our own infamous right-wing Fraser Institute. Cleverly adapted for Canadian readers by “science” writers Liv Fredricksen and Laura Jones, they attempted to distribute this text free of charge to all Canadian middle schools. The Canadian educational system, province by province, flatly rejected the offer and the experiment failed.

However, in the U.S.A. the experiment succeeded in feeding the young minds of what would become Trump’s “base”. Adults and corporations were lobbied by CEI’s Ronald Bailey via publications like “Eco-Scam” and “Global Warming and Other Myths.” The reins of the lobbying were passed on by Bailey to Myron Ebell, who stood proudly by Trump’s side as he announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.

The second impact is the immediate leap by China into the leadership void created by the U.S. The economics of rising health care costs from decades of burning soft, high sulphur coal are driving innovation in high tech renewable and clean energy research and development. Investing in Virginia coal mines is NOT on their economic growth agenda. Similarly, ten states led by California, and a growing number of major American cities have unified to honour the original American commitment to the goals of the Paris Accord. With the federal administration currently stuck with its head in a fossil fuel tarpit, intelligent forward planning states and cities had no choice but to go it alone. Sort of an Environmental Civil War.

Lastly, Trump’s withdrawal from the international climate agreement signals the loss of a United States global leadership role. As the second largest polluter in the world, any attempt to reduce emissions would be a sign of hope for the world, that there was a consensus to try to ease and mitigate the effects of accelerating climate change. The loss of participation by most of the American States will make this more difficult. While Syria and Nicaragua’s lack of participation has little impact, the loss of the U.S.A. is morally significant.

Keep in mind, that the Paris Climate Accord was a small step for Earth’s living creatures. The acceleration of climate change that began in the late 1700’s has already gone into overshoot. Now add methane, being emitted in increasing quantities from the Arctic’s thawing permafrost. Methane is a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Science refers to this phenomenon as a positive feedback loop. In this case, the atmospheric system becomes even more unstable.

Stupidity does not change the science of how the planet works. As Crosby, Stills and Nash reminded us back in the sixties, “Teach your children well.”

It’s time to stop being polite to stupid people.

***

Skid Crease is an accredited member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, an author, and a lifelong educator currently living in Caledon, Ontario.

 

 

 

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The Twitterverse

I recently signed on to Twitter. For years I avoided the temptation, but retirement and the Trump Comedy Show gave me time and motive to participate in the world of social media exchanges.

I began to appreciate the precision of a 140 character statement when trying to get just the right combination of intelligence and sarcasm into a Tweet. For example, whatever Trump was thinking when he told the Saudi royals “Drive them (the terrorists) out!” it wasn’t based on reality. My tweet was short and cryptic for some, so here is a brief history of why “driving them out” would banish 5 million extremist males from Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Qatar to metastasize throughout the world. While these extremists account for less than 1% of the the world’s Muslim population, they are the proverbial “one bad apple that spoils the whole bunch.”

The Royal House of Saud has declared that Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab’s teachings are the official, Saudi state-sponsored form of Sunni Islam. Wahhabism, an ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam, was recently identified by the European Parliament as the main source of global terrorism. This is the extreme interpretation of Islam that inspired the ideology of ISIL, preaches sharia law, and teaches that non-believers are heathens and enemies. So, the followers of purist Salafism, or Wahhabism, the state approved religion of Saudi Arabia, have just been told by the President of the United States of America that they are going to be “Driven Out!” of their homeland.

Yesterday I had a visit from Arab acquaintance from Egypt, a Coptic Christian now living in Canada shared his views with me when I mentioned Trump’s visit to Riyadh. He had no love for the House of Saud, nor for their fundamentalist Islam:

The West has it all wrong. You have to be able to read in Arabic, to read the Koran. Then you will see their true philosophy – if you convert, you are my brother, if not, you are a heathen, my enemy, and I will kill you.” He spoke passionately about the Coptic Christian churches burned and the murders of worshippers. “That is what they do. They kill.

Did The Donald forget that the Saudi terror mastermind, Osama Bin Laden, financed his team for 911 from Saudi Arabian coffers? That fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Wahhabist Saudi citizens? To where did the President want the Wahhabi population of Saudi Arabia driven? Libya? Europe? The United States?

While the total ignorance of this man is remarkable, even more remarkable is his inability to perceive the reality of his global audience. He thinks he is being seen as clothed in ermine robes with a shaft of holy sunlight illuminating his blonde wave. The rest of the world sees a naked fool. This Emperor wannabe has no clothes, his story has no plot, and his legacy will be announced not with a bang, but a whimper.

I avoided Twitter because of the early morning rantings of this delusional megalomaniac. Then I decided to Tweet back. Will it make a difference? No idea, but the number of “followers”, “re-tweeters” and “likers” is encouraging – only one “hater” so far … I’ll have to work on that … you can only tell if you’re really flushing the sewers when all the rats come out.

And we know there is a mischief of rats out there, as the results of last night’s Montana “special” election proved. Time to call in the Pied Tweeter and pay the Piper.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

 

 

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Henry and Harry Take a Hike

One day Harry felt like going for a hike. He missed his parent’s farm and woodlot trails, but he knew a friend who had a farm nearby. He called his friend.

“Johanna,” said Harry, “I need to go on a hike.”

“Well,” answered Johanna, “My young son Henry is just getting home from school. He would be a great guide for a hike.”

“Done,” said Harry. He jumped in his car and drove over to the farm. Henry had just arrived home. His dogs, big Burke and little Bruno met Harry in the driveway.

Big Burke normally ate visitors to the farm, but she liked Harry. She licked his ear and he rubbed her head and they were ready to go.

Henry knew all of the trails on his farm. With Burke leading the way, Henry and Harry made their way past the horses and the chickens and the goat and headed into the forest. There were trilliums and trout lilies blooming everywhere. Spring was finally really here!

“You have to watch out for the arrows,” said Henry, casually.

“What?” exclaimed Harry, getting ready to duck.

“Before we moved here, they used to do archery,” explained Henry. “Sometimes I find arrows in the forest. You have to look for the yellow ends.”

“Ahh,” replied Harry, relaxing. “So old arrows on the ground with yellow nocks. I get it,” said Harry. “You know, Henry, I have bow collection of my own.”

“Really?!” said Henry.

“Yes indeedy. All wood, old school – I used to pretend I was Robin Hood on my farm. I’ll bring them over next time.”

“When I find the arrows, I fix them up,” said Henry.

“Then we’ll have to call you Henry Fletcher,” laughed Harry. “A fletcher is a person who fixes arrows.”

They walked and talked for quite a while, and then Henry said, “There’s a big old house back here, near the toboggan hill. It’s abandoned.”

“Seriously,” asked Harry.

“Yes. I got in trouble there once. I went hiking over with another kid and we looked in and he threw rocks and we went inside and a can of paint sprayed all over me and when we got back home he blamed me but my dad called his dad and he apologized.”

“Well,” said Harry, “You don’t need friends like that.”

“He wasn’t a friend,” replied Henry, matter of factly, “just a boy visiting.”

Harry smiled. Innocence keeps it all so simple. Then he looked up and saw the house across the field. The toboggan hill loomed off to one side, but there was no mistaking the house, if you could call it that. It looked like a big white monster mansion, not what you’d expect to find in the back forty.

“There it is,” said Henry. “Nothing inside now, they took the insides away. Just some old junk now. And broken stuff.” Harry had his theories about who would build something like this way back here. Being an investigative reporter he was going to do a little “Clark Kent” on this one.

“Henry,” he mused, “How about if you and I take a little closer look next time we go on a hike? Like detectives. With your parent’s permission of course.”

“Sure!” exclaimed Henry.

Harry’s cell phone alarm vibrated. “Henry, we have to head back. Not only do I tell stories, and write the news, and have bows and arrows, but I am also the cook and I have a dinner to prepare.”

“Follow me,” said Henry, and they headed back through the beautiful woods to the farm with Burke leading the way.  Suddenly Henry stopped. “Hey, look at this!”

It was a pile of feathers on the ground. Some bird had been plucked for dinner. “I wonder if it’s coyotes.” said Henry, “They took the head off one of our chickens last night.” He picked up a feather. “I wonder how they put this on an arrow?”

Harry thought the chicken killer was more likely a weasel or a raccoon or even an owl, but he’d keep that for the next hike. “Well, then it’s a good thing we’re hiking with Burke,” he exclaimed, “Don’t want any old coyotes plucking off our heads! And keep that feather – next time I’ll bring over an arrow and you can fletch it.”  Henry smiled.

When they got back to the farm, Henry shook Harry’s hand, and took off to play. Henry’s Mom came over to say goodbye.

“Quite a boy,” said Harry, “Great guide on the trails. I’m going to write down his stories. I’m already looking forward to our next hike. Thank you for sharing.”

“Thank you for caring,” answered Johanna, “Henry will love the story.”

Harry patted Burke and Bruno goodbye and got in his car. “I wonder,” he thought as he drove home, “who owned that big abandoned mansion hidden in the back forty? Curious and curiouser ….” Harry knew exactly what he and Henry were going to do on their next hike.

***

Coming soon: Part 2 – Henry and Harry, fletchers and detectives

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The Perfect Storm

Once upon a time in the twentieth century, we had Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Stalin, and Tojo. It was not a great quintet for world peace.

Now, upon our time in the twenty-first century, we have al-Assad, Erdogan, Putin, Ayatollah Khomenei, and Jinping. This bad boy band of dictatorial supreme leaders could be the perfect storm for world chaos once again. Fuel for this fire comes with the rise of far right-wing extremism from France’s Marine Le Pen to the Netherlands Geert Wilders and all across Europe as the golden mean collapses. Fortunately, both Wilders and Le Pen lost the war.

Meanwhile, we have the two megalomaniac, narcissistic man-boys, Donald and Kim, taunting each other with nuclear annihilation. “Oh, yeah! My mother of all bombs is bigger than your mother of all bombs!” This mature level of diplomatic conversation, tweeted in the early morning hours across the Pacific, can only be fanning the winds of the perfect storm.

To add to this chaos theory of world political physics, stir in every extremist alt-right group in the U.S.A. broadcasting their terrorist propaganda from websites like 4chan, 8chan, Alternative Right, and Breitbart and you have the Sailer Strategy for dumbing down the American public and winning elections for the Freedom Caucus fanatics.

The solution?

First, in democracies, stop electing far right-wing governments and ignorant twits as leaders, and change the U.S. second amendment to read “the right to bare arms” ….

Secondly, turn off the black mirrors, remember the breaking news is usually not, stop reading reports from sloppy journalists, get a comfort pet, take long walks in wild places, and hang out with wise people.

Thirdly, learn how to grow food, care for animals, fish and hunt. As hockey legend Eddie Shack used to say, “You never know when they’re going to do it to you.”

Fourthly, love your family, love your partner, love yourself, love Earth and Fire and Wind and Water.

Fifthly, when the perfect storm is coming we had better know how to build the perfect shelter, and protect and feed the inhabitants.

And lastly, learned from the writings of my wellness mentor, legendary Samurai swordmaster, Miyamoto Musashi, (forgive my translation):

Practice your skills every day, a thousand days.

Perfect practice, until the execution of your skills is like breathing.

Then you will be at the centre. Peace, love, and crush your enemies quickly.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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