Himalayan Meltdown

The latest NASA Climate briefing contained the usual news about ocean warming, and sea level rise, and Arctic sea ice reduction, and polar vortex surges and more violent storms expected. But tucked away in all of this good news was an item that bothered me the most.

The Himalayan glaciers are disappearing at an increasing rate and expected to be gone by the end of the century. This is the tallest mountain range on the planet, the child of a great tectonic plate shift eons ago. The fresh water that flows off these glaciers doesn’t just inspire National Geographic calendars and yuppie expeditions.

To quote from the National Academy of Sciences Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Board: “The Hindu-Kush Himalayan region extends over 2,000 km across South Asia and includes all or parts of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. The region is the source of many of Asia’s major rivers, including the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra.”

Beyond concerns for planetary ecology, those waters and rivers replenish wells and irrigation systems for millions of people.

Teachers: here’s a good math lesson for your class. How many people live in those countries? Or a health question: What are the four basic needs of life? Or a geography/history question: What caused the collapse of the Fertile Crescent civilizations, the French Revolution, the Arab Spring uprisings, and the Syrian civil war?

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to calculate the social upheaval caused by millions of  hungry environmental refugees seeking water, food, shelter, and empathy on the remaining high dry lands of our Home Planet.

Add into this mix the news that 2018 was the fourth hottest year on record, and all five of the hottest years have occurred in the last five years. Stir in the United Nations Annual Food Security report that chronic hunger continues to be on the rise for millions of the world’s population. The conclusion is that if we exceed a 2ºC rise in global temperature, accelerating climate change will push us to a point of overshoot. In biological terms that means a whole lot of people are going to die from famine and the social chaos that follows.

The far religious right loves this scenario. Taking the world into Armageddon will only hasten the Second Coming and won’t The Rapture be delightful. However, speaking for all of the billions and billions of organisms on the Planet not enrolled in organized apocryphal religions, I’d rather not take the chance. We’ve been through serious mass extinctions before and the road to recovery is long and hard.

We have had all the information we needed to act wisely and well way from back in June of 1988 when the World Meteorological Organization announced: “Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment on the atmosphere of Earth whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war.” Yes, my friends, that was the conclusion of the Our Changing Atmosphere Conference in Toronto focused on global security thirty years ago.

Now, my friends, we have Doug Ford dumbing us down with his populist slogan about the “Job-Killing Carbon Tax.” As the humourous take on the lawn sign says, “Beware of Doug!” Putting a price on carbon is an absolute necessity. And strong environmental regulations. And a Polluter Pay Principle. Short term pain for seven generations gain.

I wrote several years ago that Earth is telling us, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” When the bill comes, it won’t matter what our religious belief systems are. The Planet is agnostic and operates on the very simple rules of geography and ecology.

And you don’t have to take my word for it. I am just a citizen scientist and journalist. But the good people at NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration), NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the WMO (the World Meteorological Organization) and the IPCC (the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) seem to know what they are talking about. Or you can trust Doug Ford and Jason Kenney and Andrew Scheer and Donald Trump.

I’ll pass the deck, it’s your deal.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

  • image from dhakatribune.com
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Bad Bill 66 – Beyond Schedule 10

There were cheers of victory in environmental enclaves across the province when the Ford government withdrew the odious Schedule 10 from its Open for Business Bill 66. Don’t celebrate too soon, fans of the Greenbelt. The government just threw us a crumb off their “cutting red tape” table.

Schedule 10 was the easy victory. Some would say a planned distraction. Get all of the environmentalists worked up about saving the Greenbelt, and maybe the rest of Ontario will ignore what we’re doing to Energy, Education, Employment, and the Economy in the rest of Bad Bill 66. Ah, those same little “cutting red tape” tricks that The Common Nonsense Revolution used in the days of Harris and Giorno.

Let’s take Schedule 3 as an example. Changes to the Education Act will be the next hot-button item. Parents of young children are already up in arms about rumours of increases to kindergarten class sizes and the possible elimination of junior and pre-kindergarten classes. Anyone who has ever taught early primary education will attest to the fact that this is a special calling in teaching. I have often lectured that early years teachers should be retired with Honours on triple pensions after ten years. The last thing needed is an increase in class size.

Or perhaps Schedule 4 featuring changes to the Energy Act with the old metering switch-a-roo, or Schedule 8 might be of interest for those about to enter Long Term Care arrangements, or maybe Schedule 9 if you’re in the construction trades.

No, “my friends”, to intone Doug Ford, there are many reasons to look beyond Schedule 10 and threats to the Greenbelt. Bill 66 is simply a Bad Bill and should have been rejected outright. A good friend and well respected local politician said to me recently, “But Bill 66 is just another planning tool; it gives us a seat at the table.”

I replied to this concept with a quote from an indigenous Elder, “We don’t want a seat at the table. We want our own table.” If your current MPP and municipal polliticians are saying Bill 66 gives municipalities another seat at the table, it’s time to declare that the meal on the table is tainted and the water is contaminated.

Thanks but no thanks.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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Bill 66 ahead, approach with Caution!

Caledon Open For Business Once upon a time, Ontario had a Greenbelt Act, and a Clean Water Act,  and a Planning Act, and a Lake Simcoe Protection Act.

Then the good citizens of Ontario, tired of the governments that had protected all this, voted in a new government. The Premier, who promised in his campaign to protect our Greenbelt, then declared: “Ontario is OPEN FOR BUSINESS!”

In a pointed Tweet recently, the comparison was made that, “Bill 66 is to wealthy developers in the Greenbelt like horse tranquilizer was for Bill Cosby.” In a gentler form, we are reminded of Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, where he wrote: “There is yet no ethic dealing with man’s relation to the land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it. Land, like the Odysseus’ slave girls, is still property. The land relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations.

Leopold wrote this in 1949 and The Sand County Almanac remains to this day a cornerstone of environmental studies and a poignant reminder of what it takes to truly become a conserver society. We have a white colonial masters’ attitude to the land, and the rape and pillage we have inflicted over five centuries in North America has not abated. We have yet to realize that we and the environment are one.

In an attempt at reconciliation, these days our municipal Councils give lip service thanks to the First Peoples whose lands we stole, breaking every treaty that we signed along the way west. Upon those lands this year in the Golden Horseshoe of Ontario, our elected officials will sit in Town Halls debating the pros and cons of Bill 66. The year is 2019. There should be NO DEBATE. You either fully protect the rights of the land and its beings with seven generation decisions, or you don’t.

In a recent interview Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence, stated, “The Ontario government is lying to its constituents about protecting the Greenbelt when Bill 66 clearly gives a secret process allowing municipalities to negotiate deals with developers without hope of appeal.”

You either fully protect the Greenbelt, the Oak Ridges Moraine, the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere, and all watersheds originating therein or you don’t.

Recognize our history. When the colonial victors opened Upper Canada to immigration after the War of 1812, it took less than forty years for European settlers to deforest 80% of southern and eastern Ontario. 10.000 years of Great-Lakes St. Lawrence forest enriched  topsoil were depleted and eroded. The Great Lakes, the world’s largest source of fresh water, the gift of our last Ice Age, were polluted in less than 200 years because of deforestation, agricultural run-off and industrial waste.

We should learn from our history and try not to make the same mistakes. But we don’t, and the cost is always paid by the survivors. Our sacred protected spaces are not open for business.

Ronald Wright concluded in his brilliant A Short History of Progress, “If civilization is to survive, it must live on the interest, not the capital, of nature….Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.

The Way I see it,

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

  • a full analysis of Bill 66 will follow. In the meantime, interested readers can go to the environmentaldefence.ca or ontarionature.org sites for a natural perspective on how to Stop Bill 66.

 

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Ontario News Now … IS NOT

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

***

In 2018, Doug Ford, candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party of Ontario, blocked the mainstream media from his campaign tour and instead co-opted Lyndsey Vanstone, reporter turned staffer,  to be his “media spokesperson” for “public events” that were privately recorded and staged. Enter Ontario News Now!

Lyndsey moved up quickly through the Doug Ford dynasty beginning in June of 2018. In less than six months she rose from being his Press Secretary, to his Executive Assistant, to the Deputy Director of Communications for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. Impressive! Granted that Lyndsey has a legitimate broadcasting certificate from Seneca College and has a personable and articulate onscreen presence, which makes “Ontario News Now” seem like a legitimate news outlet.

It is not.

It is a propaganda tool, pure and simple, for Doug Ford and the “Progressive” Conservative Party of Ontario. Much like Fox News and Breitbart works for Trump, so does the Toronto Sun and “Ontario News Now” unabashedly support the right, some would say far right, of the political spectrum. And while the Sun is classified as legitimate, lower grade reading level media, “Ontario News Now” is not legitimate news in any way.

“Ontario News Now” is the private tool of a political party with a populist political boss. It is to legitimate news broadcasting what the now defunct and disgraced “Caledon Perspectives” was to legitimate community newspapers – in that case, the marketing ploy of a development corporation that sought to intimidate and misinform the citizens of Caledon. That propaganda newspaper is gone, but the damage remains with the wool still pulled over the eyes of a segment of our tribalized community. The only difference between these two media manipulations was that one was paid for by a private corporation. the other is paid for by the taxpayers of the province.

“Ontario News Now” will probably be with us for the next four years. Let’s hope that the provinces’ citizens become more media literate and can learn to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Here’s a good sensory image to help us . Every time an “Ontario News Now” broadcast or Tweet comes across your phone, imagine that you have just stepped in an unwanted warm pile of poop that a neighbour’s pet left on your lawn. It’s what my olfactory nerves pick up every time I see Doug Ford on the screen intoning, “My friends…”

The way I smell it.

***

Skid Crease, journalist, Caledon

*image from reddit.com, original by cartoonist Graeme MacKay

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