Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Age of Oblivion: Another End of Decade Rant

Of course  calendars are a construct and don't mean anything, but the end of the year and, even more so, the end of the decade are useful times to take stock.

In pop culture, we have the Ecco Homo moment as a cultural foreboding - the chutzpah to insist on a fix that pretends to be completely oblivious to the destruction of former beauty. We've done that with our whole planet. But more than that is the fame it brought to the amateur restoration worker, driving up tourism dramatically. We are positioned to celebrate destruction of beauty more than creation. This could be bookended with the acknowledgment and then immediate justification of "billionaires in wine caves" having more power than the rest of the populous; that a politician will be attacked for refusing to be bribed is a sign of our times.

The New York Times got a random smattering of people to answer: What Will the World Look Like in 2030?, twelve years after we were told we have twelve years to fix everything. It's a terrifying read. I've smushed some pertinent bits together here:

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Game Changers: A Bit about Persuasion and Reason and Eating Your Vegetables

I've come to believe that determining the very best diet is as individual as figuring out the best course of action to treat anxiety or depression. We are each our own guinea pig. Individually, we each have to try a few things, gradually, while monitoring our energy levels, abilities, and general feelings of good health and wellbeing, to see what actually works for us. That takes time to get right. I was raised on meat and potatoes, but then I read Diet for a Small Planet when I was a teenager, and it convinced me to eat low on the food chain. Ever since, I lean towards fruits, vegetables, and grains with the occasional brick of cheese melted on top, and an even less frequent gorge on chicken wings. After having cancer and reading many studies on the correlation between animal consumption and cancers, I hesitate to eat animal products quite so much. To clarify, I still eat them because ... yum!, but I sit with some cognitive dissonance each time. I clear my conscience with my favourite salad: a bowl of raw vegetables smothered in cilantro and basil, no dressing. I don't get repeat invites to potlucks.

I just watched The Game Changers (their sources are here), and I'm going to try to sort out the fact from fiction in the film as well as in some of the many 'debunkings' I've found, which are sometimes equally suspect.

It's fascinating to me how often passion overrules reason in these discussions. What is it about food that makes people swing to the extremes? I've written before about even the brilliant Chris Hedges getting sucked into some weak evidence, and I've met many reasonable people who don't see any problems with some of dubious claims on only this issue. There's often an outrage just below the surface of these docs that suggest that, if you don't believe it, then either you're a horrible person or a complete idiot. I'm not convinced by the outrage. I'm not a nutritionist, and I'm definitely not a foody, but I do have a background in research methods and in logic and critical thinking. And some claims made in this field, on both sides of the aisle, are really problematic. Full disclosure, I have been vegetarian a couple times, for a few years each time, but I've never even tried to be vegan despite opening my classroom doors for a plant based club each week. Maybe this is the time to give it a shot.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Pre-COP25 Panel of Speakers: the Intersection of Climate and Race

A headache kept me home from work today, so I got some fresh air and checked out the climate strike. It was great timing for the strike, on Black Friday, with COP 25 starting in Chile - scratch that - Madrid three days from now.

It's a really hard sell to get a protest going on a cold day. There were about 200 people there, which was great, but it could be better, couldn't it. We can't have field trips to the protests, but could I book a field trip to see a movie and then accidentally get side tracked on the way?? Oh look, that protest is today too. Let's check it out for a minute! I have to say, it's really cool when you're at a march and suddenly a huge group of people join at once. It's like the cavalry coming in to save the day!

The protest started with an indigenous smudging ceremony, drumming and singing from Idle No More. Some dancing in unison, holding hands with the strangers next to us, can be so useful for developing community. It's necessary to be part of something bigger than ourselves if we're going to tackle something this huge. The speakers outside the mall had the power cut by Primus Property Management, even though, as far as I know, they had booked the area just like any other group. But a megaphone was passed to them, and they continued. Then we marched down the middle of the street instead of sticking to the sidewalks. That felt more like a real march. There was a panel of speakers waiting for us at a nearby church. The event ended with an Extinction Rebellion disruption at the mall. Kudos to the organizers for such an incredibly smooth event!! But about that panel...

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Greatest Propaganda Machine in History

Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G. and Borat, among others) won an award from the Anti-Defamation League. Here's his 25 minute acceptance speech. It's in writing, abridged a bit, below the video if you'd rather skim than watch. (Emphasis is mine.)

"Today, around the world, demagogues appeal to our worst instincts. Conspiracy theories, once confined to the fringe, are going mainstream. It's as if the age of reason, the era of evidential argument is ending and now knowledge is increasing delegitimized, and scientific consensus is dismissed. Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging . . .  What do these dangerous trends have in common? . . . All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history. . . .

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Gen Z for Zero, Net Zero

Mia Rabson reports,
"A baby born in Canada today will never know a time in which his or her health isn’t at risk from a warming planet . . . Without accelerated intervention, this new era will come to define the health of people at every stage of their lives. . . . in a country like Canada, air pollution, heat-related illnesses and exposure to toxic smoke from forest fires are bigger threats to a child’s long-term health. A warmer world means more widespread transmission of diseases, as well as the political strife that comes with mass migration as some parts of the world become uninhabitable. . . . pushing the world to do more to slow global warming is critical. . . . if we intervene now to keep warming down and find ways to adapt, the savings to the health system and economic productivity down the road will in many places more than pay for the costs of those interventions."
The Lancet article she sources doesn't pull any punches,
"A child born today will experience a world that is more than four degrees warmer than the pre-industrial average, . . . Downward trends in global yield potential for all major crops tracked since 1960 threaten food production and food security, with infants often the worst affected by the potentially permanent effects of undernutrition. . . . Trends in climate suitability for disease transmission are particularly concerning, with 9 of the 10 most suitable years for the transmission of dengue fever on record occurring since 2000. . . . . air pollution—principally driven by fossil fuels, and exacerbated by climate change—damages the heart, lungs, and every other vital organ. . . . Globally, 77% of countries experienced an increase in daily population exposure to wildfires from 2001 to 2015. . . . . A business as usual trajectory will result in a fundamentally altered world. . . . 
The Paris Agreement has set a target of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1·5°C.” In a world that matches this ambition, a child born today would see the phase-out of all coal in the UK and Canada by their sixth and 11th birthday; they would see France ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by their 21st birthday; and they would be 31 years old by the time the world reaches net-zero in 2050."
If we can make this happen, we all know that it will be good beyond merely allowing us to continue to survive on this planet:
"The changes seen in this alternate pathway could result in cleaner air, safer cities, and more nutritious food, coupled with renewed investment in health systems and vital infrastructure. . . . In several cases, the economic savings from a healthier and more productive workforce, with fewer health-care expenses, will cover the initial investment costs of these interventions."
We're implemented some changes, but greenhouse gasses continue to rise. This is the same story we've been hearing for years, and the main reason I question anyone's choice to bring more children into this mess, but at least it's being reported by mainstream media. Maybe that's something.

On Developing a Consistent Self

In a New York Times article, "What do teens learn online today?", Elizabeth Weil suggests that kids are on the right track when they stream every inch of their anguish and joys in countless video tutorials aimed at, perhaps a necessary clarification, other teens. Weil says,
"It’s nice if our fellow humans are predictable, and you have some idea of what you’ll be dealing with when a person shows up. There are whole branches of psychology dedicated to trying to help us keep ourselves together. . . . And yet, at the same time, we know it’s a ruse. We are, all of us, deeply, inalienably contradictory and chaotic. Arguably it is the dominant postapocalyptic vision of our digital times, the internet’s McLuhan moment, brought to us by teenagers who, as such, spend their days feeling like 10 different people at once and believe they can, and should, express them all. We all contain multitudes. The kids seem to know that’s all right."
I commented on the article with this memory,
Back in first year uni, in the 80s, my prof told us, "It doesn't matter what your philosophy of life is, so long as it's consistent and self-cohesive," and immediately, in my head, I countered with Whitman's 'multitudes' line. That's youth talking. It's the untamed stream of consciousness all things at all times why do we have to learn punctuation anyway line of reasoning. And it has it's place, for sure. The error is in thinking it makes us more authentic to show all sides of ourselves in real time. Unorganized thought merely flattens the ideas presented until nothing is more important than anything else, but then nothing is really communicated beyond all the feels, and "I am here!! Look at me!" We contain multitudes, but at some point we also develop a more integrated self, not just to be conveniently predictable for others, but to better understand how to live and how to connect and how to be. Prioritizing our ideas into an organized whole in a thoughtful attempt at elucidating who we are and what matters is not to be shrugged off because it's what the "olds" do. It's the later stage work of finding that authentic self.
(After haggling in my head over a few words, I hit 'submit' and then noticed that one glaringly inaccurate *it's*. Punctuation indeed! Whatevs.)

Weil seems to be newly introduced to this adolescent culture of everything at once, which might mean she has forgotten what it was like to be a teenager. It might seem different online, but that's just a matter of packaging. That flattening of ideas and values so everything is as important as everything else is a useful way to avoid decision and responsibility - those nasty things that come with age. (Well, one can only hope they come.) She calls it a "feature of the online world" while alluding to a 19th century poet. Curious.

I believe it's vital to remember who should be leading whom. What kids do often looks new and cool from a distance, and they can be jarringly sophisticated in the talent of expressing distain for anything that predates them, but there are consequences to the refusal to do the work of thinking and deciding. Developing a consistent self and philosophy of life within the complexity of being isn't a ruse set to tame us, but a method of focusing. If we forget that in a quest to avoid an "Ok boomer" dig, then we are negligent, and we deserve the culture we've helped to create.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Paul Gorski on Education and Inequity

For the first time in 28 years of teaching, I approve of the new guru being brought to the masses from on high. Immediately, from just the first few seconds of the  video we were compelled to watch for some force-fed professional development, I knew this guy was different. The sound was poor quality, and it was clearly homemade using a laptop camera and mic; there was nothing slick or polished about it in the least. That is high praise coming from me.

Paul Gorski is Associate Professor at New Century College. Beyond being an author of several books and magazine articles, he is the primary author of many articles published in journals (albeit low ranking or unranked - at least they're his own studies). And he, like me, rails against many of the ideas teachers have been told to embrace over the years, like the whole the Grit Movement. I think growth mindset fits the same "deficit" criticisms as is outlined further here, and in this tweet:

Elsewhere he adds in Emotional Intelligence and Cultural Competence. They all run into the same problem: Telling people they just need a different mindset or more grit to do better in school denies, in the most condescending way, the reality that people who are marginalized are often models of resilience and grit. They've overcome more obstacles before breakfast than the rest of us have to manage all day. He explains further in this paper,

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Kyle Powys Whyte on Wilderness

I saw Dr. Kyle Powys Whyte present at the University of Waterloo on Thursday night on climate change, traditional knowledge, and environmental justice. It was similar to what he said in this video, but longer and with a Q&A at the end. It was eye-opening in the worst way - in a necessary way. Now that I know, either I have to change or else accept my ongoing complicity. (Or find a new form of rationalization to knock it all out of the park, so to speak.)

I'll preface with an admission of my absolute love of wilderness areas just north of me. I have deeply loved every moment spent in Algonquin Park, Killarney, Temagami, and the islands of Georgian Bay. The landscapes are breathtaking and the early morning animal sightings are well worth the swarms of mosquitos and black flies. I can breathe there and think and feel in a way that is lost to me in my city focused on growing high rises.

Whyte had us consider this very philosophical question (paraphrased): To what extent can people have an experience of intrinsic value - a love of something as a good in itself, something that has no other purpose but to be enjoyed for itself - on land that has been genocidally constructed? Is it possible to have a sense of spiritual enjoyment as a byproduct of a place that has been gained through bloodshed and, well, basic terrorism? And, I would add, if it is possible, then what does that say about us?? Perhaps the more-to-the-point question, the essential question, is,

Is it possible for a good person to profoundly enjoy ill-gotten gains? 

My first thought is, from a slightly defensive stance, can a person be good but also forgetful? Or are we, the settlers, just living in that double-consciousness, that Freudian splitting, of rage for what our ancestors did to the original inhabitants of this land mixed with a convenient obliviousness as we hand over park fees and check the weather before getting on the water. Or are we living a full-on lie of mere clicktivism, rationalized with all the many reasons we couldn't possibly physically join the line at any of the fights for land rights going on in our country right now - fights that could potentially save the land and our climate from further environmental destruction? But that's not the answer either. We'd just be in the way there, too.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Cycling Rant

If cycling is part of your life, it looks like the NDP comes way ahead in terms of addressing cycling concerns. Extinction Rebellion is clear about the need for car-free streets as part of action to decrease the threats of climate change. And even my city claims to be moving away from our car-centric planning (paywalled in the local rag, but available in full on Reddit). But we still have problems.

About a month ago, a cyclist in my city was hit by a car, and then charged with cycling across a crosswalk, and I have so many questions! The big two:

(1) What's the difference between being in the crosswalk and being 6" to the left of the crosswalk?, and (2) What do we do with the many areas of town where a crosswalk is in the middle of a bike path with a slanted curb at each end, provoking unwitting riders to bike straight across them? That should be considered entrapment!! Should we instead veer into the road and then back up the path on the other side of the intersection? I've pondered that question before as I got off my bike to try to cross a busy street, with a walk signal, and left-turning cars repeatedly cutting me off, with a flippin' COP waiting at the red watching me gingerly step off the curb and jump back on over and over again. It might be good to remind the police that failure to yield right-of-way to a pedestrian is illegal. It has a set fine of three demerit points and $180.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Liberals the Best Bet for Climate Change

A climate scientists, Katharine Hayhoe, and economist, Andrew Leach, seem to suggest that the Liberals are our best bet for tackling climate change if you averages the grades they gave for ambition and feasibility. I know! I was surprised too. Here are their final grades:

Conservatives: grade D for ambition, F for feasibility (don't even)
NDP: grade A for ambition, D for feasibility (no details on how they'll cut carbon so quickly)
Greens: grade A+ for ambition, C- for feasibility (not a realistic path to achieve goals)
Liberals: grade B for ambition, A for feasibility (their path won't quite hit their goals though)

They write,
"It’s hard to convince people that you’re serious about cutting carbon when you’re funding new ways to transport it (even if those new ways will pay for our green innovation). But the tax and the pipeline discussions often mask the significant progress that’s been made in other areas. The Liberals are aiming to phase out coal power by 2030, more than 30 years earlier than would have otherwise been the case. They’ve also implemented a clean fuel standard that pushes our fuel producers and importers to reduce emissions all the way from the oil field to our gas tanks. During the campaign, the Liberals have committed to a deeper target—net-zero emissions nationally by 2050—and pledged a $2-billion tree planting program. No matter how you slice it, the Liberals have implemented this country’s first serious, national climate change plan, and they’re looking to build on it. . . . The Liberals have the experience to know how big a challenge it is. They’ve acted in line with their promises in the last election and brought in significant new policies. . . . For us, practical policy beats ambition without a viable plan."

Apparently that pipeline that Trudeau bought wasn't actually part of the Liberal's plan, but was a leftover deal from Harper, and any party that was elected would have been stuck with it. It appears I haven't been paying attention at all.

When questioned about the assessment, Hayhoe tweeted that she's the person who wrote this piece three years ago: "What surprises lurk within the climate system?" It's about how crucial it is that we act quickly. She knows the risks and the urgency.

This election will be anyone's guess.

Also check out this doc about the disenfranchising of youth, indigenous, and impoverished people in Canada in the last election.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

On Online Predators

From Keller & Dance's article, 'The Internet Is Overrun With Images of Child Sexual Abuse. What Went Wrong?"

Some of the less brutal bits:
"An investigation by The New York Times found an insatiable criminal underworld that had exploited the flawed and insufficient efforts to contain it. As with hate speech and terrorist propaganda, many tech companies failed to adequately police sexual abuse imagery on their platforms, or failed to cooperate sufficiently with the authorities when they found it. . . . National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, described a system at “a breaking point,” with reports of abusive images “exceeding the capabilities of independent clearinghouses and law enforcement to take action.” It suggested that future advancements in machine learning might be the only way to catch up with the criminals. . . . 
Adults, now years removed from their abuse, still living in fear of being recognized from photos and videos on the internet. And parents of the abused, struggling to cope with the guilt of not having prevented it and their powerlessness over stopping its online spread. . . . The groups use encrypted technologies and the dark web, the vast underbelly of the internet, to teach pedophiles how to carry out the crimes and how to record and share images of the abuse worldwide. . . . Testimony in his criminal case revealed that it would have taken the authorities “trillions of years” to crack the 41-character password he had used to encrypt the site. He eventually turned it over to investigators, and was sentenced to life in prison in 2016. . . . “capturing the abuse on video was part of the excitement,” according to court records. . . . 
The surge in criminal activity on the dark web accounted for only a fraction of the 18.4 million reports of abuse last year. That number originates almost entirely with tech companies based in the United States. . . . . Facebook and Google, stepped up surveillance of their platforms . . . “The companies knew the house was full of roaches, and they were scared to turn the lights on,” he said. “And then when they did turn the lights on, it was worse than they thought.” . . . In interviews, law enforcement officials pointed to Tumblr, a blogging and social networking site with 470 million users, as one of the most problematic companies. . . . The internet is well known as a haven for hate speech, terrorism-related content and criminal activity, all of which have raised alarms and spurred public debate and action. But the problem of child sexual abuse imagery faces a particular hurdle: It gets scant attention because few people want to confront the enormity and horror of the content, or they wrongly dismiss it as primarily teenagers sending inappropriate selfies."

Numbers doubled in a year. So where are all the pedophiles coming from?? I'm in the middle of a book discussing the concerns of John Adams and the founding fathers with women taking over the household - "despotism of the petticoat" - and it makes me think of this quote, "When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression." To what extent, I wonder, is this a reaction by men - and it's almost entirely men - losing absolute power in the home and unfettered access to women who were, until very recently, afraid of speaking out?? This seems to be where people turn who just want to dominate something. We have to find means of better helping men get through this change in social norms so they don't seek power in the most horrific avenues. And we need these agencies to get much more funding!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Like a Good Horror Film?

Most terrifying thing I've seen:

We're headed for 10 degrees in the next 20-30 years, and we will hit human extinction at 4 degrees?? Do I even bother to go to work today??

We've missed the window that could allow a gentle reversal. The only solution, he says, is to give the planet back to the planet. We need to re-wild nature and live a completely localized life - no international trade, no mass production. We have to stop doing stuff. Immediately. Maybe reconnect with your ancient beliefs that helped people cope with a lack of control over the massive tragedies befalling them, in their incomprehension. We won't be able to get our heads around what's about to happen. The wealthy still think they're above it all and not part of nature; they're not worried because they've been blinded by opulence.

"What comes after growth is maturity."

Maybe if this all sinks in, we'll all stay home to hug our children and other loved ones, maybe play in a park or go for a walk, and that will actually help us eke out a few more years.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Friday, August 30, 2019

Why We Won't Sufficate

...even if the entire rainforest burns down:

Hank Green explains it here in just four minutes:

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Mann's Madhouse Effect

Michael Mann recently tweeted this:

It's dumb luck that I chanced to do just that!  (Thoughts on Wallace-Wells here.)

This book a comprehensive exploration of the issues mixed with clear examples and Tom Toles's cartoons. It could easily be used as a climate change primer in a high school or middle school, and it comes with an index and lots of useful endnotes too!

Mann clarifies the problem of which, by now, we're all painful aware:
"This is the madhouse of the climate debate. We have followed Alice through the looking glass. White roses here are painted red, and words suddenly mean something different from what they used to mean. The very language of science itself, of 'skepticism' and 'evidence,' is used in a way opposite of how science really employs it.  Not everyone wants the facts to be known. We have run squarely into what Upton Sinclair famously warned us about: 'It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it'" (xi).

Monday, August 26, 2019

Nathaniel Rich's Losing Earth

This is a quick read outlining the history of the efforts to do something to slow down fossil fuel use. Everything we know now about climate change, pretty much, we knew with great certainty forty years ago, in 1979. "The climate scientist James Hansen has called a 2-degree warming 'a prescription for long-term disaster. Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. A 3-degree warming, on the other hand, is a prescription for short-term disaster" (4). 5 degrees will bring the fall of human civilization. "The Red Cross estimates that already more refugees flee environmental crises than violent conflict" (4). We had a great chance to fix it all between 1979 and 1989, but we didn't take it.


"The common explanation today concerns the depredations of the fossil fuel industry, which in recent decades has committed to playing the role of villain which comic-book bravado" (6). But the fossil fuel industry was actually on board for a time. There are a whole lot of names and dates to keep straight below (I bolded the important ones), and the book, curiously, has NO index or footnotes! Rich wrote it as a compelling story, but I digest it better chronologically:

On Maintaining Firm Categories: Do Labels Matter?

This link about people on the spectrum came to my FB feed as "Sponsored Content," so I'm wary at the get go, but they present this argument to be addressed: "Autism is a neurological difference in processing, and simply having a collection of traits or quirks without this difference in processing does not make someone autistic." They argue that "there does need to be some clarity, to get away from the ‘We’re all a little bit autistic aren’t we…’ phrase."

My position: But, why?

And, right before that came one of ContraPoint's latest video in which Natalie's characters argue about who counts as trans with a gender dysphoria anti-trender argument countered by a more fluid gender performativity stance.

I'm going to mesh the issues together here because of some similar arguments. I lean towards 'why does it matter?'. Whether someone's got dysphoria or is trending, it takes minimal energy to use whatever pronouns they asked to be used (while, of course, forgiving the forgetful who mean well). What's the harm in letting people try on the other gender or non-gender to see if it fits better? What's the benefit of doing brain scans on people to get some illusion of certainty about how people feel instead of just trusting how they say they feel? Similarly, who is harmed when people acknowledge their struggles with adhering to behavioural norms by latching on to a recognizable diagnosis? With ASD or ADHD or any other checkbox of symptoms that we've rolling into together under a label, why is it important to delineate who is in and who must stay out via an often expensive and sometimes questionable process? When one of my kids was diagnosed (incorrectly, I believe), the very reputable psychometrist badgered me to find that one thing they're obsessed with when one didn't immediately come to mind. Curious.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Plague of Climate Change

I just finished Camus's compelling read, The Plague. It's a parable provoked by the Nazi Occupation, but also about general occupation, oppression, and isolation. It's about resistance to incomprehensible evil and what it looks like to be a good person. But, it's striking how well what much of he says fits with climate change, so I'm going to summarize it here by exchanging the words "the plague" with "climate change," "scientist" for "doctor," and "temperature" for "death-rate." I'm also changing "man" to "person" just to equity it up a bit. Consider "pestilence" as "troubles," but I'll leave that as is. Let's see how this goes and if there are lessons to be learned!

The gist: The story follows a doctor, Bernard Rieux, who's an atheist and our narrator. His wife was sent away to recover from an illness before the plague hit. He misses her (a bit), but spends 20 hours a day helping the town. We meet all his varied associates and patients as a walled-off town copes with the sudden spreading of disease that seems as if it will never end. This is an extremely abridged version of a book 272 pages long (Stuart Gilbert translation). Some important characters, all remarkably benevolent seen from Camus's perspective, include a criminal who benefits from the chaos caused by the troubles, a priest trying to guide the masses, and a lover who's desperate to find a way to travel to see his girlfriend despite the new laws forbidding it. There's also a writer unable to find any words and a dear friend that are integral to the story but less vital to this bastardization of it:

Friday, August 23, 2019

Hannah Arendt's On Violence

Unfortunately, this is really timely.

Arendt wrote this short book in 1970, but there's nothing in it that needs to be updated today. Absolutely nothing significant has changed; it's just more. She was responding to the violence of WWII, Vietnam, the student riots in Paris, and, most specifically, the People's Park protests in Berkeley, where she was teaching at the time as students attempted "transforming an empty university-owned lot into a 'People's Park'." Sheldon Wolin and John Schaar wrote about how the event unleashed an unnecessarily strong police backlash:
"A rock was thrown from a roof-top and, without warning, police fired into a group on the roof of an adjacent building. Two persons were struck in the face by the police fire, another was blinded, probably permanently, and a fourth, twenty-five-year-old James Rector, later died. Before the day was over, at least thirty others were wounded by police gunfire, and many more by clubs. . . . Tear gas enfolded the main part of the campus and drifted into many of its buildings, as well as into the surrounding city. Nearby streets were littered with broken glass and rubble. At least six buckshot slugs entered the main library and three 38 calibre bullets lodged in the wall of a reference room in the same building. Before the day ended, more than ninety people had been injured by police guns and clubs."
That was on May 15, 1969, known as "Bloody Thursday." The Kent State shootings in Ohio were almost exactly one year later. Arendt tries to make sense of it all through a look at the changing view of violence in society.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

We Don't Need a Scientist; We Need a Priest

PhilosophyTube is one of my favourite channels for in-depth analysis of issues in a philosophical and comedic yet profoundly heartfelt manner. Today Ollie tackled "Climate Grief" by working through the stages of grief. It's curious how similar it is to my previous post: "Seven Shades of Green."

In brief:

1. Despair (Non-Green and Light Green) - We run an increased risk of anxiety and depression when we hear there's nothing being done about climate change. We can't get our heads around climate change because of the "Non-Identity Problem." In a nutshell, climate change is a bad thing for future people, many of whom don't exist yet. Timothy Morton says climate change is an example of a hyperobject: it's real, but we can't see the whole thing at one - like five blind men describing an elephant, or like grief. It's like asking where the university is while being shown around each building. It's hard to grasp something so all encompassing. We're in the mess we're in due to thinking of the environment as separate from ourselves. Instead we have to think of climate change as an object we're inside of.

2. Denial (Shiny Green) - This is the tech fix. We expected to have all our problems solved by technology by now, or at least be on our way to Mars. Moore's Law, the idea that tech doubles in capacity at half the price every two years, isn't a law at all. It's a myth that help tech companies profit. The reality is that there is no solution to climate change that doesn't also include solving labour rights issues. The solution must turn over the entire capitalist system because it's colonialism and profit motives that got us here in the first place.

3. Bargaining (Emerald Green) - Ollie does a great job of summarizing the Standing Rock event. In January 2018, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) route was going to be close to Bismarck, so it was rerouted to avoid it due to concerns with 200 leaks in the previous six years. Instead they decided to send it through unceded indigenous land. This led to a huge occupied protest. At Standing Rock, protesters tried a new way of sustainable living where everyone got free shelter and food with minimal impact to the land. It was an attempt to create a brand new world. Obama said we need to wait a bit to figure it all out, but the military, which was hired by the oil company, responded with violence - chemical weapons and dog attacks.

The military, gun control, overfishing, and climate change, is all one big problem. Indigenous authors have talked about this already. Nick Estes says that indigenous peoples are already living in a post-apocalyptic world. We have different attitudes to the land that has to be addressed: Abrahamic tribes mark sacred land that was involved in a specific event, like Mecca. But indigenous groups see land as sacred because "there's a piece of me in that land and a piece of that land in me." The land and people are enmeshed, and they're already living this philosophy. Extinction Rebellion has been cagey about linking climate change and police brutality, but the indigenous at Standing Rock are clear that the police enforced a set of values that aligned themselves with the oil company. They didn't wait for Obama to figure it all out.

4. Acceptance (Muted Deep Green, Deep Green, and Dark Green) - The idea of climate despair speaks to the notion that there's nothing we can do anymore. The apocalypse is coming. Jem Bendell's Deep Adaptation starts with the assumption that society is going to collapse. The controversy around this idea is whether or not it helps the cause to spread despair. Ollie appreciates that it allows us to experience grief over what's happening in the world - that leaders at Exxon, BP, and the North Dakota government should face justice, but won't.

We need to acknowledge the tragedy of the way things are right now, acknowledge that things suck. One advantage of facing grief is that once we recognize that everything is part and parcel of one big problem, then we have a lot more allies to work with. Another benefit is that confronting the possibility of the world ending, as we know it, offers us a chance to ask what were the good bits. We need to dwell in gratitude for what we've had as we take our leave from it.

But "apocalypse" doesn't mean end of the world. It means, literally, a revealing of knowledge. Can we learn from this before it's too late?

Friday, August 16, 2019

Seven Shades of Green

I'm trying to sort out all the solutions to the current and ongoing climate catastrophe. This is all getting very complicated, and I'm not sure I completely have my head around who's who and which organization is promoting what, so this is just a partially completed overview of current ideology around climate change. I've listed the shades from the least immediately painful solutions (possibly ineffective in the long run) to the most dramatic solutions (and possibly, but not necessarily, the most effective - certainly the most impactful, though).

(but not commie-red)

The Cons's Joe Oliver thinks climate change will be good for Canada, and Trudeau wants to expand oil extraction to fund clean energy projects.

Concerns: Ya.... nope. This is not remotely green.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The 1619 Project

From the opening:
"The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are."
I don't love the navigation layout wherein stories interrupt other stories so you have to remember to go back to read that:

And, when I click on "Read More," nothing happens! And then you have to find the beginning of it all again to read other essays, which takes ages to load on my old mac. Why not one title page with links appearing at the very beginning of it all and again at the end of each article? It's probably just me, so anyway...

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Giant Hamster Wheel of Political Rhetoric

I really believe that the arts are vital in times of strife, and that's particularly true with witty orators and writers. They are the court jesters who get away with more than the rest of us can, and they're necessary to any rebellion. So I appreciate how Anthony Jeselnik discusses politics at the end of this conversation with Colin Quinn (at 53:53 min.):

He talks about deciding not to use a prepared joke about a shooting in the wake of a recent shooting:
"I don't want anyone to think I'm on that side. . . . even though I like playing with that side. . . . People go, 'You joke about the things we're all thinking but can't say.' No, I'm not. . . . I do not pander to that crowd. . . . I'm not more careful, I'm just more conscious about what I represent. . . . I want people to be scared of me, but I also want to be able to do good and be the kind of villain that other villains don't want to fuck with."

I think that's the kind of attitude we need, not just in comedy, but in politics. I think of all the Dems running, really only Bernie has that no bullshit stance. He spoke to Joe Rogan recently about the soundbite non-debate method used in the primaries, gun control, medicare, climate change, etc.:

Friday, August 9, 2019

IPCC - On Land Use

The most recent IPCC special report is on "desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems". The video at Lorne's post does a nice summary, and Climate and Capitalism has a thorough run-down, but Mound's has more flavour to it. GlobalEcoGuy has some good graphs as well as commentary: "Imagine that: Electricity generation and land us and agriculture are basically equal in terms of their global impact on climate change, yet addressing emissions from electricity gets far more attention and funding."

But although it suggests we have to reduce meat consumption and production, in the Guardian, George Monbiot critiqued the report as irresponsibly understating "the true carbon cost of our meat and dairy habits." The problem is in how the report calculates the land use. They've added up the impact of tractors and fertilizer and so on, but a study in Nature, instead, compares the land used for cattle to land that could be forested to show a much more dire result: "One kilo of beef protein has a carbon opportunity cost of 1,250kg: that, incredibly, is roughly equal to driving a new car for a year, or to one passenger flying from London to New York and back."
"If our grazing land was allowed to revert to natural ecosystems, and the land currently used to grow feed for livestock was used for grains, beans, fruit, nuts and vegetables for humans, this switch would allow the UK to absorb an astonishing quantity of carbon. This would be equivalent, altogether, the paper estimates, to absorbing nine years of our total current emissions. And farming in this country could then feed everyone, without the need for imports."
That actually sounds hopeful, except I'm losing faith in anybody actually sacrificing anything in their lives, particularly steak.

BUT, in other land-related news, in Australia, the government bought up an entire suburb and returned the land to little penguins that lived there. This is the ultimate in rewilding. The population of penguins has almost tripled since. Imagine if we were required to keep a certain percentage of our land 'wild' and completely uncommodifiable!

Planet of the Humans Coming Film Release

ETA: Here's my actual film review after sitting through it all!

Jeff Gibbs, a close associate of Michael Moore, has directed a new doc about the problems with green solutions to climate change. The doc isn't out yet, but the promotional material suggests it will reveal how solar panels and electric cars are making the situation worse. So NOW what do we do??

There's still cutting back on (or eliminating) beef in our diets. George Monbiot says we need to eat what uses the least land resources possible, and beef uses the most. It doesn't appear that the new film debunks that one.

Based on articles about the film, they take down Bill McKibben for supporting biomass and other environmental groups for getting in bed with corporations. They use as a deterrent to renewables the fact that the Koch brothers are making money off them. But they would be idiots not to invest in all sides of energy, so that's not remotely a good argument. A tie to a corporation isn't necessarily a problem for the earth.

CounterPunch reports (it's really weirdly written) that they say,
"Forget all you have heard about how “Renewable Energy” is our salvation. It is all a myth that is very lucrative for some. Feel-good stuff like electric cars, etc."
They report that all renewable energy sources use fossil fuels in their production: "none of these could exist without fossil fuels". I don't think that's a surprise for anyone. The idea of using solar panels was never to eliminate all fossil fuel use, but to dramatically decrease its use. I'm not sure if they present information that suggests using solar panels is just as bad as burning coal for energy, but the sound bites are making that implication. I've been praising renewables all these years for having less impact from cradle to grave, not zero impact. I look forward to seeing the film (and scrutinizing their sources) to see if I need to change paths.

Non-Fiction Film offers a clearer look at what the film suggests,
The ultimate problem is that there are too many people consuming too much. . . . Gibbs sees climate change as symptomatic of a larger problem - overpopulation and consumption of Earth's resources. . . . putative solutions to our global environmental dilemma, such as switching to renewable sources of energy, building more wind farms and electric cars, offer false hope. . . . the development of "alternative energy" sources like wind, solar and biomass has not, in fact, led to a reduction in consumption of fossil fuels. "Building out an electric car and solar and wind infrastructure and the biomass, biofuel infrastructure, is going to run us off the cliff faster," Gibbs declares. "Because it's an additional round of mining and destruction that does not replace the one [fossil fuels] that's already destroying the planet!" . . . "Environmental groups have been collaborating on the lie of growth by helping us pretend that there will be 'green growth.' As if you can have wealth or stuff that doesn't destroy the planet. News flash: that's an impossibility of physics and biology," the director tells me. "There is nothing you will ever have in your life that's not an extraction from the planet earth. And so we've all lost touch with that."

To avoid the potential extinction of the human species, Gibbs believes nothing short of a radical reordering of perspective is needed. "There are too many people consuming too much for a finite planet to support. Infinite economic growth is suicide," he remarks. "We must take back the environmental movement from the corporate interests that have taken it over and we must convene and begin to plan how we're going to humanely, lovingly, sustainably re-vision how we live." . . . "Why don't we provide family planning to everyone in the world? That's not even on the environmental agenda," he states. "Why aren't we sharing our resources here with those people that don't have enough so they don't have to chop down a tree to live?... We need to change the laws in this country and the world so that corporations are not allowed to be addicted to infinite growth. We run the planet, there's no reason they should be allowed to do whatever they want." . . . if you were really worried about climate change you'd be demanding that we have an interstate bus system and an interstate rail system that would plummet our carbon footprint, not more individual electric cars."
I completely agree with population reduction and with the end of growth. We need to buy less and expect individual transportation to be a thing of the past, for sure. And I'm not sure if we will ever do that. GHGs rise every year despite all we try to do to slow it down.

There's a poignant bit at Doom for DummiesGail Zawacki writes,
"There is a man who lives on the other side of my village (it is said) who one day, setting out for errands, inadvertently ran over his child as he backed out of the driveway. Ever since I heard this tragic tale, I have thought I can imagine the moment that, thunderstruck with horror and frozen in disbelief, he gazed upon that little mangled body. I think I know the ferocious dread that overcame him when first he realized that the car of which he was so proudly enamored - that quintessential symbol of success, the pinnacle of modern technology and shiny avatar of individual freedom - was the very same mighty instrument of folly that had literally crushed the one thing most important to him - his progeny, his future. 
I suffer his tumultuous and inconsolable grief because that is how I greet every new day since abruptly I came to understand that the splendid, intricate, exquisitely entwined tapestry of life is unraveling."
This bit from Atwood's Oryx and Crake also fits nicely:
 “As a species we’re doomed by hope, then?” By hope? Well, yes. Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create ever more dangerous messes. Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism."

h/t Gail

ETA: Here's my actual film review after sitting through it all.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Being a Gadfly or Just a Bitch

Or perhaps we should be casual observers watching the end without comment. Hmmm....

A few years ago, a friend with a similar house as mine in a similar neighbourhood complimented my laundry line, but bemoaned the fact that it wouldn't be possible for her to have one. As I provided ample rebuttal to each point of opposition that started with "I'd would, but", she eventually stopped me with, "I'd would, but I just don't care enough about it. I wish I wanted to more, but reducing electrical demand is not a priority for me."

We need to get to a point where people make it a priority, where people are shocked into action.  Hailstorms in Mexico might be a start. But some of my travel-loving friends, and one of my own kids, still have no intention of slowing down despite further evidence that air travel is even worse for the environment than we thought. Denial in the form of "I'll just drive a little less to compensate for a couple air trips each year," isn't going away fast enough. Or, more recently and disturbingly, a friend's solution: "Travel more and have lots of kids and grandkids and enjoy life, and then we can all just take suicide pills when it gets too dark out there." Her only concern with her plan, if I'm remembering correctly, was if her kids died before administering doses to their children, leaving the little ones behind. Yikes.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Bigotry and Violence in K-W

I stayed in the small town I was born in, and it got big around me. Like parents of young kids, who fall into the trap of continuing to see them as they were so many years ago, I still think of K-W as a really safe, little city. But now we have bigger buildings, and faster transportation, and violence. Gun violence even!

The latest stats show that police reported hate crimes here have decreased a bit since last year, down to 6.7 per capita, on par with London, Toronto and Montréal, a bit more than Calgary, a bit less than Guelph, Thunder Bay, and Ottawa, but WAY less than Hamilton at 17.1. But it's possible that people are just on it more in Hamilton, reporting every little thing in order to keep the city safe. It's hard to say. Regardless, it feels worse now than it used to. It doesn't feel safe to be out on certain streets at certain times.

Yesterday there was a rally held to protest the "bullying" of an anti-LGBTQ protester who was charged with assault with a weapon after beating people with a helmet a month ago.

Cancer and Lymphedema: Two Year Update

In the span of one year, from August 2016 to July 2017, I was told I had three tumours in my left breast which led to three surgeries, which provoked lymphedema, and my dad died, and both my adult kids moved back home in the winter, one at the end of a five-year relationship, the other because of a profound mental breakdown that kept him in his room for months afterwards, possibly exacerbated by a family trip I insisted he attend and will forever regret. Both of them were far too forlorn to be able to help with snow shovelling or kitty litter or dishes. They were there for comforting, not to comfort.

I soldiered on through it all, tending to the housework and taking minimal time off work. After the first surgery, I was berated by an administrator, in front of my class, for the inadequate midterm report comments left by the LTO who replaced me, so I was back in the classroom after two days following the next surgery. Getting told was just one too many things to tolerate on top of everything else. Being considered incompetent after leaving copious notes and coming back early felt like an undeserved cruelty I couldn't adequately handle at the time.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Odell's How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

Or maybe we'd recognize Nietzsche's last man as ourselves:
"Once blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy; but God died, and therewith also those blasphemers. To blaspheme the earth is now the dreadfulest sin, and to rate the heart of the unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth! . . . The earth hath then become small, and on it there hoppeth the last man who maketh everything small. His species is ineradicable like that of the ground-flea; the last man liveth longest. 'We have discovered happiness'—say the last men, and blink thereby. . . . With the creators, the reapers, and the rejoicers will I associate: the rainbow will I show them, and all the stairs to the Superman. . . . What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal."
Nietzsche's last men are contemptible because they aren't really alive. They have their basic needs met, but there's no spark in them, no spirit. They're merely content to exist with conveniences they had no part in creating. They need to be awakened from this sleepwalking! 

That's a nutshell version of what I heard from Jenny Odell's lovely and compelling read, How to Do Nothing (but with a lot less Nietzsche in it).

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Eleanor Oliphant? Not So Fine

I rarely read fiction, so maybe just ignore this rant. I know little about this kind of thing, but it might get me writing again after a dry spell, and it's at least a distraction from the world at large. Tra la la.

I was recommended this book, and it's being optioned by Reese Witherspoon. I loved Wild, so I thought this might be worth the Kindle edition at least. I was horribly mistaken.

Many spoilers below in my top six reasons why I really hate this book: 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Real World Curriculum

Almost two years ago, in July of 2017, I crafted a "Real World" curriculum. It must have rained or been outrageously hot for a few days in a row for me to have put this all down. It was sparked by ongoing conversations with students of two types (the conversations, not the students).

Many grade 12s regularly complained that they didn't learn anything useful in all their years of schooling. They're about to move out of their homes, and they have no idea how to do anything required for basic survival. They're terrified and unprepared for the next stage in their lives. The other line of discussion is more varied, but it includes the many little things students haven't picked up over the years, like the existence of the residential school system in Canada or what makes a stupid argument verifiably unreasonable or not understanding the implications of their view that all taxes should be abolished or having no idea of the components of a basic sentence or how the legal system works in their own country. We don't let students graduate without basic literacy and numeracy skills, but I also wonder if we should delay graduation for basic knowledge and life skills.

So I started with a list of things they didn't know and skills they didn't have, and expanded it into a curriculum proposal.

Then I did nothing with it because the whole thing is ridiculous and nothing will every change. We're all about maths and sciences and technology. What else matters?

But things are changing - mainly for worse, but some for the better. A recent article about one school teaching life skills - "adulting classes" - has provoked some interesting staff discussions.

So here's my lengthy and unwieldy proposal from a couple year back. It involves one course each year replacing a few other courses, but it could easily replace that horrible mandatory online course idea!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

McKibben is Banking on Protests

Bill McKibben in The Guardian:

"Luckily, we have two relatively new inventions that could prove decisive to solving global warming before it destroys the planet. One is the solar panel, and the other is the nonviolent movement. . . . Before we can best employ these technologies, we need to address the two most insidious ideas deployed in defence of the status quo. The first is that there is no need for mass resistance because each of us should choose for ourselves the future we want. The second is that there is no possibility of resistance because the die is already cast. . . . The reason we don’t have a solution to climate change has less to do with the greed of the great, unengineered unwashed than with the greed of the almost unbelievably small percentage of people at the top of the energy heap. That is to say, the Koch brothers and the Exxon execs . . . Let’s operate on the assumption that human beings are not grossly defective. That we’re capable of acting together to do remarkable things." 

I have a commenter who thinks it unconscionable for me to provoke students to skip school to protest. Anon (of course) thinks protesting is a matter of privilege because only the wealthy can get tutors to catch up on the work they missed in that one afternoon each month. I responded that tutors aren't really necessary, and later was reminded of all the times parents take their kids out of school to go on vacation for a week or two, and all the time they miss for sports or to rehearse for the school play or to look at what happens at our local waste facilities or how a cow is milked. All those are important things, and none require paying for a tutor to catch up.

BUT none of those, seriously, are as important as slowing climate change and saving many species from mass extinction, including our own.

ETA: It's not like Trudeau is standing up to big oil, but here's this anyway:

Monday, April 22, 2019

Can We Change by 2030?

The timeline of 12 years has stuck to the point that we're continuing to say it after the first year has passed. We have until 2030, which is 11 years from now. This BBC doc says we can do it!

We've done amazing things, and we have to treat our current crisis as if it's an alien invasion. The entire world has to band together to overhaul any outdated (i.e. dinosaur-dependent) infrastructure, transportation systems, agriculture, and general production methods. We also have to just stop buying crap we don't absolutely need and stop going places for our entertainment like the entitled monkeys we are.

It's the top earners who have the biggest impact: David Wallace-Wells wrote, "If the world's richest 10 percent were limited to that [European] footprint, global emissions would fall by a third." The top 10% globally includes anyone making over $70,000 in Canadian dollars. According to this site: "A $70,000 income in Canada has enough buying power to put you in the 90th percentile globally for per-person income. Within Canada, your income falls around the 50th percentile." That means almost 20 million Canadians need to go on a GHG diet.

Absolutely we have to change policies and politicians. But, at this point, it's a both/and proposition. I don't know about you, but I have significantly more immediate and certain control over my own behaviours than over the type of government that gets into power. I can also protest the shit out of them, though!

For Earth Day, write a letter to your MP, MPP, Mayor, and city councillor begging them to make this their top priority. Here's a poem for inspiration:
To have an impact on GHGs,
ditch dryers, A/C, and food to freeze.
We have to reduce cars, planes, and meat,
then put on a sweater and turn down the heat.
Basically, anything that burps, heats, or cools
uses a ton of fossil fuels.
Reducing consumption of our unnecessities
can also remedy future generations' obscenities.
But electricity from the tides, wind, and sun
allows us to keep having lots of fun!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Life After Warming

David Wallace-Wells's book The Uninhabitable Earth starts out with a repetition of facts that won't be news to anyone paying attention, but he has a lovely way with words.

Four of the last five extinctions were from greenhouse gases, and now we're adding carbon to the atmosphere 100 times faster than at any other time, and "guilt saturates the planet's air as much as carbon, though we choose to believe we do not breathe it" (5). In the last 40 years, more than half the worlds' vertebrate animals have died and the flying insect population declined by three-quarters (26). His focus is largely on humanity, but we'll be taking most other life forms with us when we go. Our continued actions are at the level of a genocide, and the "Kyoto Protocol achieved, practically, nothing; the the twenty years since, despite all of our clime advocacy and legislation and progress on green energy, we have produced more emissions than in the twenty years before" (9). Even if we stop short of the two degree mark, we'll still have a sea-level rise "to draw a new American coastline as far west as I-95" (13). "Our current emissions trajectory takes us over 4 degrees by 2100" (27). At 5 degrees, "Parts of the globe would be literally unsurvivable for humans"(39). And "heat death is among the cruelest punishments to a human body, just as painful and disorienting as hypothermia" (48).

Friday, April 19, 2019

Like Rats Jumping a Sinking Ship

My class had a great conversation the other day about discrimination and W.E.B. DuBois's "double consciousness." I discussed the theory and solicited for comments, but there were none, as I expected. This kind of thing needs to sit a little and gel before we can really address it. So I rambled on a bit about the history of the term and its origins in Freud's writing before I asked again for comments or connections. Then the hands started and a conversation developed. We can only talk about our own experiences with racism and sexism in a room where trust has been established. That is exponentially true when we start talking about our own racist or sexist thoughts and feelings and that time we threw our own group under the bus by letting someone's joke go by without mention or by joining in to feel like part of a group that openly disparages people that look like us, but have decided that, somehow, we're different.

There is no way that conversations like this will happen online. We need face-to-face interactions so we can read the room. We need to see that nodding head across the rows in order to be brave enough to tell our stories. And teachers need to catch any subtle eye-rolling or smirking with, "Let's look at the other side of the argument too," to get it out in the open to be addressed and gently (but firmly) dismantled. And there might not be a course like this at all if the new class size formula wipes out this elective.

If we want to create a society that is divisive and full of hatred and blame for one other, Ford's new education policies are right on the money. And it's starting already:
"The discussion between private and public schools appears to be growing, with several independent schools in the region seeing an increased demand. Teachers and students alike are more seriously considering going the private education route, a debate that seems to be intensifying following recent changes to public education. . . . the founder of St. Jude’s and Scholar’s Hall, Fred Gore, says registration is up 30 per cent."
We can see what happens when people with means move their kids out of public schools by looking next door. It's a mess. Some schools have the newest developments, while others scrounge for basic supplies. The wealthy compete against one another for places at the very best private schools, while public school kids have to take four busses to get clear across town to the last remaining building that offers knowledge for free.

If we want the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer, we elected the right man for the job. Brilliant! Once Scheer gets in this fall, we may as well just go ahead and eliminate that longest running border. Manifest destiny for the win!


Sunday, April 14, 2019

Varoufakis's Economic History for Dummies

First published six years ago, Varoufakis's book, Talking to My Daughter about the Economy, addressed to his then 12-year-old daughter, is a quick read in economic theory that would benefit from some dates and locations in its lessons to cement examples in history. He was still discussing the text in a podcast last June, so he must still stand by his claims. And it rests on one very important point: "You cannot afford to roll your eyes and switch off the moment words like 'economy' or 'market' are mentioned" (10). We've lost the luxury of ignorance now. We need to all understand how the system works.

Yanis Varoufakis was the finance minister in Greece for six months in 2015, and we know what happened there. Some say he couldn't possibly have fixed the problem, particularly as an outsider of sorts. When asked if he was sorry he hadn't resolved things sooner, he responded,
"Your question, sir, is the equivalent of putting to the British people in 1940 that Winston Churchill's speech, with which he raised the sentiment of the British people against the invaders, was responsible for the suffering of the Londoners after the Blitz or during the Blitz. The shortages, the rations, and so on and so forth. There's no doubt that freedom and rationality sometimes needs to be defended by means of a great deal of suffering. But to turn to the victims and blame them for what the villains have done is the height of audacity."
Regardless Varoufakis's role, one critic of his action as Greece's finance minister, the Minister for Finance in Ireland, who expected to hate the book, was surprised to find it "a stimulating and elegant perspective on market economies . . . accessible but not simplistic. . . . I found the section on public debt somewhat poetic. Even if this dimension is not evident to other readers, the lucidity of the explanation will be." But he found the solutions to it all "baffling in its brevity."

So, let's have a look.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Climate Change is About Capitalism

Phil McDuff in The Guardian:

"Today’s children, as they become more politically aware, will be much more radical than their parents, simply because there will be no other choice for them. . . . Right now we can, with a massive investment of effort by 2030, just about keep the warming level below 1.5C. This is “bad, but manageable” territory. . . . We need to fundamentally re-evaluate our relationship to ownership, work and capital. The impact of a dramatic reconfiguration of the industrial economy require similarly large changes to the welfare state. Basic incomes, large-scale public works programmes, everything has to be on the table to ensure that the oncoming system shocks do not leave vast swathes of the global population starving and destitute. Perhaps even more fundamentally, we cannot continue to treat the welfare system as a tool for disciplining the supposedly idle underclasses. Our system must be reformed with a more humane view of worklessness, poverty and migration than we have now."

Another Piece of the Puzzle that is our Premier

Nora Loreto on Twitter yesterday:

We already know that part of the increase in anxiety and depression is due to straight up loneliness. Kids are already too isolated from one another in real life. This will only add to that isolation as they struggle, on their own, through a course they've been forced to take. 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

More Ford Cuts: Ban Cell Phones, but Mandate Online Courses

From iPolitics:
"On top of the change to class sizes, the government is also mandating that all high school students take four of their 30 credits online. This requirement will take effect in the 2020-21 school year. These e-learning classes will average 35 students per class, according to the government." 
This is huge!! I don't understand why this wasn't part of the original statement in the CBC's articles yesterday or in OSSTF's statement! Online courses have notoriously high failure rates (50% according to one study, but 90% including all the people who drop the course) except for the ones that grossly lower curricular standards by, for instance, having students read just a few pages of a book instead of an entire book in a university-level senior course!!

A New York Times article, from just over a year ago, outlined how online courses harm students:
"In high schools and colleges, there is mounting evidence that the growth of online education is hurting a critical group: the less proficient students who are precisely those most in need of skilled classroom teachers. . . . After all, taking a class without a teacher requires high levels of self-motivation, self-regulation and organization. Yet in high schools across the country, students who are struggling in traditional classrooms are increasingly steered into online courses. . . . In reality, students who complete these courses tend to do quite poorly on subsequent tests of academic knowledge. This suggests that these online recovery courses often give students an easy passing grade without teaching them very much. Consider a study conducted in the Chicago high schools. Students who had failed algebra were randomly assigned either to online or to face-to-face recovery courses. The results were clear: Students in the online algebra courses learned much less than those who worked with a teacher in a classroom. . . . Even though the courses are seemingly identical, the students who enroll online do substantially worse. The effects are lasting, with online students more likely to drop out of college altogether."

Friday, March 15, 2019

Ford's Cuts to Education

As reported in a CBC article, Ford's cuts to education, so far, aren't nearly as bad as anticipated. Could it mean he actually listened to citizens? Or maybe they've been hinting at cuts so horrible that now we're all just relieved and drained of the fight to stop the cuts he did make.

Average class sizes will be bigger in high schools (from 22 to 28). If you just picture a classroom of typical students, you might thing that 28 isn't a big deal, but it doesn't work like that. Right now we typically have 28-32 in an academic class, which is averaged in with classes that might have as few as 3 students in them who are extremely high needs to get that 22 figure. So changing the average to 28 doesn't mean classes will each have 28 kids. It means some will have 3 and others will have 38. OR, worse, some will have 6 and others will have 35. He promises no job cuts as he implements this over a few years, so that means fewer new hires.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Arctic Destruction

I just want to put this document here so I can find it again: Global Linkages: A graphic look at the changing Arctic. It was compiled by the UN Environment and GRID-Arendal. It looks at populations in the Arctic, and how it's being impacted by climate change (permafrost thaw, ocean acidification...), pollution (contaminants, plastic, mercury...), and changes to biodiversity (migratory species, invasive species...). 

Seligman's Hope Circuit

Martin Seligman is famous for a learned helplessness study I wrote about a few years back:
In a famous experiment, dogs were put in a compartment and trained to jump a barrier when given an electric shock. After one or two tries, the dogs jumped the barrier immediately after being put in the compartment even when no shock was given. BUT some dogs were restrained the first time and not able to jump the barrier. They had to tolerate the shock without being able to escape. When they were unharnessed, they still didn't jump the barrier, but just stayed there, tolerating the pain.