Earth Day, April 22, 2021

 This Monday I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Patricia Ogura for the Retired Teachers of Ontario organization. Her brief article is about the quest for environmental literacy and the contribution that the retired educational “elders” can make for our communities and our planet. We spoke about my years of advocacy, and reflected on the need to keep this Earth Day message positive. The truth is, we’re all going to die.

I reflected back to my first Earth Day walk with my students in 1970. How much has changed in fifty-one years? Turns out, not a lot. The most significant impact for environmental improvement has been the arrival of a deadly virus that dramatically slowed manufacturing and transportation pollution. The COVID-19 pandemic also reduced air travel and ocean travel – atmospheric air quality improvement and whale population resurgence followed in the wake of human inactivity.

Fifty-one years later we are still talking about boomerang lunches and taking our own reusable mugs and shopping bags as if we had just discovered these personal actions. A TV show this morning showed children happily making art from recycling box items. Makes us feel personally good for one day, and then it’s back to the shopping mall to buy more “stuff” that will end up in  the recycling box or garage can.

Dear readers, think of this like the solutions for stopping the pandemic. You stop the opportunities for person-to-person transmission: mask, distance, wash hands, and keep to small family/personal bubbles. Period. The vaccines will only work if all those basic steps are followed. Do we want to save humanity and leave a healthy biosphere on the planet? Then humans need to stop consuming the planet’s resources like we have an additional six planets waiting in reserve. There is no vaccine for human stupidity.

Before it was disbanded by Stephen Harper, Canada had a wonderful Science Council made up of real practicing, published and peer reviewed scientists. They advocated for turning Canada from a Consumer to a Conserver Society. That is anathema to the Conservative mindset. Just recently the Conservative Party of Canada voted at their policy Convention NOT to acknowledge the reality of Climate Change. That is how far we have come in fifty years. One step forward, two steps back.

Wonderful groups from Students on Ice to Ontario Nature try their best to educate a concerned and passionate youth about using their voices to inspire change in their communities. In 1990, we had teen Severn Suzuki shaming adults on the world stage at Rio. In 2005, the Students on Ice delegation was included in the Montreal Biodiversity Convention – that UN agreement was shredded a year later by Stephen Harper. In 2020 we had teen Greta Thunberg shaming adults during her global protest tour. Good work children! Pat on the head and back to big business.

My conversation with Patricia was honest. We do these personal role modelling efforts – walk, cycle, electric car, reusable materials, sustainable renewable energy sources, doing business with ethical companies, living elegantly with less, so that we can look our children and our neighbours’ children in the eye and say, “I tried my best.”

In the meantime, in business and politics, the Economy trumps Ecology every time … until there is an overshoot and biological collapse of some major Earth system. That’s when the punch that was predicted thirty-one years ago by the World Meteorological Organization hits us right in the face: “Humankind is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, all-pervasive experiment on the atmosphere of Earth, the consequences of which will be second only to global nuclear war.” Unanimous concluding statement from WMO, Toronto, 1988

Happy Earth Day 2021. I’m taking my dog for a walk and smiling, behing my mask, at my good neighbours.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

Shocking and Confusing

Yes,  “shocking and confusing” was how Ontario’s reopening plan was described by Ontario Hospital Association CEO Anthony Dale on February 12, 2021. He added that the move is a “huge gamble” given the scientific modelling presented the day before that predicted a “third wave” of infections driven by the new virus variants .

The plan was cleverly released by Premier Doug Ford and Doctor David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer, on the Friday before the long Family Day weekend. Both Ford and Williams were harshly criticized by Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysak in her AG’s report last year. That report stated that Dr. David Williams “did not fully exercise his powers under the Health Protections and Promotions Act, did not issue directives to local medical officers of health to ensure a consistent response, and did not issue directives on their behalf to Ontarians.”

In short, the doctor who was scheduled to retire from his post as Interim Medical Officer of Health last February simply “did not lead” the province’s response to COVID-19. Yet Premier Ford keeps him on the government’s so-called “Science Advisory Board” where today he is backing Ford’s “shocking and confusing” reopening plan. It begins to appear that Dr. Williams is a bit of a “Yes Man” for Ford’s Ontario is Open for Business mantra.

Follow the money, Ontarians. The “Science Advisory Board” is a front that looks like Pandemic Health Protection for the “good people of Ontario”  but acts like Ford’s own Chamber of Commerce. Shocking and confusing, and dangerous to our health.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

*image from princegeorgecitizen.com

Super-Spreader Events

 The unmasked crowds celebrating shoulder to shoulder in the streets of Tampa, Florida last night were proof positive that despite all the health guidelines in the world, sports fans are stupid. In the stadium protocols were followed, but on the streets the Tampa Bay fans cheered and hugged and sang, spreading aerosols and droplets in a person to person celebratory frenzy for Tom Brady and their winning Super Bowl LV champion Buccaneers.

The date was February 7. 2021, and COVID-19 infection rates were just beginning to drop in North America following the Christmas and New Year family gathering  infection surge. So count forward 10 days to two weeks and let’s see if the wave begins to crest again around the last week of February. With new variant strains of the coronavirus entering the playing field, and certain vaccines like Astra-Zeneca proving less effective against the mutants, it could be a whole new ball game.

The whole world of professional and amateur sport is culpable in spreading this virus, From the Super Bowl right down to college football. From hockey and soccer and baseball and basketball fans to the Australian Open tennis entitled to the Olympic hopefuls – all of these venues attracting massive gatherings of people are suspect super-spreader events. Greed is insatiable and money doesn’t sleep, so there is no incentive to postpone all of these events until after this global pandemic is under control.

Granted, most professional and amateur sports organizations have been very careful about following health protocols, but the Super Bowl and the Australian Open stand out as exceptions, and their ability to attract hordes of loyal fans is a marketing mogul’s dream come true. If you advertise it, they will come because, as the partying crowds in the streets of Tampa last night proved, people are stupid.

We are not ignorant of the impact of large crowded events. We have been told since the spring of 2020 to stay 2 metres apart, to wash our hands frequently, to wear masks. We chastized the fanatical crowds at Trump rallies, we held the Sturgess motorcycle mob to account, we held the American Thanksgiving family gatherings up for public shaming, and yet we continue to gather in spewing, alcohol fueled masses like sheep led to the slaughter to watch our gladiators. We are just stupid, and the herd is thinning itself.

In the United States and Canada alone, as of the morning after Super Bowl LV, over 484,000 people have died from COVID-19. To paraphrase detective Dirty Harry Callahan: “Are you feeling lucky today sports fans? Well, are you?”

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

*image from whas11.com

The Real Reason for Reopening Schools

“The economy, stupid.” James Carville, 1992

Why is there such a push to re-open schools in the middle of a pandemic just as variant strains of the virus increase the possibility of transmission? Well, as James accurately noted, “it’s the economy, stupid.”

The family circle of the days of Leave it to Beaver are long gone, being replaced by two working parents or single parents leaving no one to look after the children while the parental unit is at work keeping the economy functionning. This is a trend that began in the seventies when more women entered the workforce and accelerated with increasing divorce rates and single parent families. In fact, by 2020, over 1/4 of children were living in lone parent families.

 Doug Ford, alleged high school dropout turned drug dealer turned Lingerie League cheerleader, doesn’t give a hoot about the value of education. He needs those adult bodies back in the factories and stores and services stimulating Ontario’s economy. What’s the motto? “A place to grow .., your business!”  or was it “Ontario: Open for Business”  or was it “Make Ontario Great Again” ….

Heck, you can’t get all those parental units to Build Our Ontario Back Better (BOOBB) if they can’t work because they can’t leave the younger children at home alone, and you don’t have enough provincial daycare spaces due to your lack of policy, so … reopen the schools!

The saddest part of this push is that we are all realizing that parents who grew used to depending on our high quality and professional public school safety net to protect and teach their children are now stuck in a Stay at Home Lockdown with rusty to non-existent parenting skills. The incidence of infants and young children being injured at home has increased dramatically. The incidence of family violence has increased dramatically.

And what does Doug do? He makes home deliver of alcohol easier. Brilliant. In fact, he considers it an essential service. You know the old saying, “Once a drug dealer, always a drug dealer.” Allegedly.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playing Moral Poker with Politics

 Picture two political junkies sitting around a table playing high stakes moral poker with holier-than-thou passion. The Canadian looks across the table at her American challenger. The pot is filled with votes and the fate of democracy is on the line.

The Canadian speaks carefully, “I’ll see your Marjorie Taylor Greene and raise you a Lynn Beyak, eh?”

The American looks up over her cards and without hesitation replies, “Then I’ll raise you a Matt Gaetz!”

“I’ll see your Matt Gaetz and raise you a Derek Sloane … and a Pierre Poilievre!”

Silence. The American carefully studies her hand. “I’ll see you with a Josh Hawley!”

The two players glare at each other across the table. The theme music from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” begins…. The pot grows bigger and the stakes get higher and the game goes on as McConnell and McCarthy cards are played against Ford and Kenney.

The Canadian discards her O’Toole card and draws … a Trudeau – the American folds!

Later in the game, the table will be filled with players from Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, Russia, the -stans, the Middle East, Africa, South and East Asia, and Oceania. Everywhere. But always the availability of the same checks and balances.

Russia says, “I’ll raise you a Stalin,” and Cambodia replies with, “I’ll see you a Pol Pot.”

Iran says, “We’ll raise you an Allah,” and Israel replies with, “We’ll see you with a Yahweh.”

There are no winners at the political moral poker table, just a pot full of tax monies and bodies and egos and extremist evangelical myths that keep on growing.

Into the room walks a young child. Her eyes sweep through the souls of all the players and they grow quiet. She calmly claims the pot, and then knocks over the poker table. The politico immoralists at the table are banished to their bedrooms for a lifetime Stay At Home Lockdown. She donates all of the proceeds to Women’s Shelters, after first deducting enough to cover her university education. That’s another way to play the game.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

*image from pokernews.com