Our curmudgeonly friend’s sardonic cousin writes:
What have you got against insightful and inspired young folks?
A few days ago I heard a CBC interview with a Mom who was just so darn proud of her two-year-old son because he decided not to accept presents on his second birthday. Instead, he invited guests to bring a financial donation to some worthy cause. The young boy raised a few hundred dollars for the cause. I was so overwhelmed by this child’s selflessness, I forgot what the cause was.
Stop engaging in childism! Give kids a chance!
“Fart Day” has a nice ring to it. “Hey, what are ya doin’ on Fart Day?” “Are banks closed on Fart Day?”
Our curmudgeonly friend is fine with the Grits’ plan to create a mid- winter statutory holiday, but not with letting schoolchildren name it.
What a load of precious crap. Why children? They’re cute, but they don’t know anything. A substantial number would solemnly recommend Fart Day or Dinosaur Day.
Why not Treaty Day? First Nations in NS already celebrate it. Why shouldn’t “we.” They’re “our” treaties, too. After enduring centuries of de facto apartheid, First Nations deserve to be welcomed as an important community in NS.
The worst of it is: think of all the treacly interviews we’ll have to suffer through as patronizing newsreaders humour eight-year-olds about their clever holiday name suggestions.
The three Parks Canada bureaucrats who tag-teamed an illustrated talk at tonight’s ninth annual Sable Island Update faced a skeptical, though not overtly hostile, audience.
The first time Canadians heard about plans to turn Sable Island into a National Park, Jim Prentice, environment minister at the time, launched into an addle-pated discourse on how great a park would be for private businesses that could could ferry boatloads of tourists out to Sable and put them up for the night in hotels.
You want to hope this was a spontaneous outburst by a know-nothing minister, but with Harper’s crew, who can be sure? Parks Canada bureaucrats have struggled ever since to convince Sable’s large, passionate constituency that they are not the advance guard for a mob of gun-toting Reform Party vandals bent on paving Sable and putting up Ferris wheels.
In the process, they appear to have persuaded the naturalist and longtime Sable champion Zoe Lucas. (Disclosure: Zoe and I have been friends for years.)
In her talk last night, Zoe, who is principal organizer of the meeting, gave her usual fascinating and witty précis of events on Sable over the last 18 months—a spell-binding catalog of weather highlights, scientific discoveries, critter strandings, beach debris, and whatnot. She followed this with a useful history of tourism to the island, gently driving home the point that people have always visited Sable (albeit in small numbers) and properly managed, such visits cause little damage while helping build the passionate constituency for conservation that is Sable’s best protection from Cretins like Prentice.
Zoe and I have not spoken about this, but it appeared to me that she and the Parks Canada officials charged with setting up the new park have established a productive and mutually respectful relationship. This has not always been the case. Zoe is a woman of strong views and a willingness to express them. She has not always enjoyed a blissful rapport with Sable’s federal overseers.
In their presentation, the Parks Canada officials made the obligatory gestures you would expect toward Zoe’s revered role as unofficial steward of the island, including the invaluable scientific work she has carried out over nearly four decades. Beyond that, they peppered their inventory of preparations for park status with signals they have been listening, and thinking about imaginative ways to fulfill Parks Canada’s mandate to provide visitor opportunities without wrecking the place.
Two small examples: They hope to get Google to carry out Street View mapping of the island, so Sable buffs can treat themselves to virtual tours from the comfort of their living rooms. When challenged about regulations that ban petroleum drilling on the island, but permit seismic testing, they agreed with a marine geologist in the audience that sufficient seismic testing has already been carried out, and it’s unlikely future tests would be permitted.
I don’t want to go overboard here. The trio of officials did sometimes lapse into practiced talking points whose purpose was to mollify, rather than inform. They professed not to remember what the park’s annual budget was, but when pressed (by me) they agreed to give Zoe this information for publication on her Green Horse Society website (specifically, the park’s 2013-2014 annual budget, and the annual operating budget they expect once startup costs are behind them).
I’m no @Tim_Bousquet, but I did my best to live-tweet the event. With occasional help from seat-mate Alan Ruffman, I think I did capture the gist of most, if not all, the questions. You can find these tweets by searching for my Twitter handle (@kempthead) or the hashtag #Sable. Those outside the Twitter realm can view the live-tweets in bullet form after the jump. If you are unfamiliar with Twitter, reading from the bottom up will give you my account in chronological order. Errors and omissions are mine.
If you are near Halifax Tuesday night, you can get the latest information about Sable Island’s transformation into a National Park at what promises to be a fascinating meeting.
The 9th annual Sable Island Update, latest in a series of meetings oganized by naturalist and longtime Sable resident Zoe Lucas, will see illustrated talks about scientific and organizational developments on the island. This year’s session will also feature an an extended opportunity to question Parks Canada officials about their new role as federal stewards of the island.
Lucas began the updates a decade ago, when Environment Canada announced plans to abandon the island as a cost-cutting measure, putting its fragile environment, and the valuable but little known scientific work that takes place there, at risk. The annual updates usually take place in the spring, but since April 1 marked the island’s handoff to Parks Canada, Lucas and Mark Butler, Policy Director for the Ecology Action Centre, decided to delay this year’s session in hopes of getting “solid and detailed info from Parks Canada—nuts & bolts, management policy, programs, staffing, etc.”
The Parks takeover got off to a bad start before it began when Environment Minister Jim Prentice speculated about opening the island to private boat tours and hotel accommodations, sparking an angry public backlash from supporters of Sable, including Contrarian. Lucas supports the Parks Canada takeover, and believes a zero-tourism policy is unrealistic. Her talk will include a review of the history of tourism on the island.
No one has done more than Lucas to preserve Sable’s ecological integrity, and no one is better qualified to make recommendations about it’s future. Still, I continue to worry that any significant increase in tourist visitors to the Island will de detrimental to the qualities that make it unique. Tourism floodgates are easy to open, and will be all but impossible to close, so this policy demands extreme caution.
Lucas has four decades’ experience monitoring and studying Sable Island horses, birds, invertebrates, grasses, lichens, mosses, fungi, and fresh water ponds. She conducts regular surveys of beach litter and cetacean strandings. Her talk will include a brief update on recent goings-on on the island.
Saint Mary’s biology professor Tim Frasier, a specialist in marine mammals, has a research interest in the use of genetics to better understand, and assist the conservation of, small wild animal populations. His talk will focus on the application of this work to Sable Island horses.
The 9th Annual Sable Island Update takes place 7 p.m., Tuesday, at the McNally Building, Saint Mary’s University, 923 Robie St., Halifax. There is much more information at Lucas’s Green Horse Society website.
Sponsors of the meeting include the Friends of the Green Horse Society, the Ecology Action Centre, Saint Mary’s University, the World Wildlife Fund, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and the Nova Scotian Institute of Science. The photo above was copied from the poster for the event, and I presume it was taken by Zoe Lucas.
On Monday, Contrarian voiced skepticism about a Digby couple’s claim that wind turbines had decimated their their emu flock.
Andy MacCallum, vice president of developments for Natural Forces Technologies Inc., a company that helps develop small wind projects in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and British Columbia, responds:
I worked on a wind farm in Western Australia a few years ago called Emu Downs Wind Farm. An emu farmer was the major landowner for the project. The emus loved the turbines, and would gather at the turbine bases as they provided shelter from the wind.
This is, of course, merely an anecdote, just as the failure of the Ocean Breeze Emu Farm is merely an anecdote. By themselves, neither proves anything. But the Emu Downs story presents stronger evidence against the turbines-harm-emus hypothesis, than the Ocean Breeze story presents in its favor.
- If turbines kill emus, then gathering around the Emu Downs turbines should have hurt the Aussie birds, but apparently it did not. The site remains a tourist attraction.
- A thousand factors could have caused the Ocean Breeze emus’ failure to thrive. Owners Debi and David Van Tassell simply picked the explanation they preferred, with no supporting evidence.
Without considering possible alternatives, the CBC swallowed the Van Tassell’s sad story, whole. Not to be outdone, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald committed the same journalistic malpractice a day later.
The impulse to accept at face value any argument against any development, no matter how far fetched or specious, simply because those advancing it are deemed, “sincere,” is a recipe for basing decisions on ignorance, prejudice, and magical beliefs.
Where are the editors?
[Photo: Workers construct the base of a wind turbine going up at Hillside Boularderie, about 30 km from Contrarian's Kempt Head base station. Courtesy of Natural Forces.]
If you’re under 30, probably not.
H/T: Flowing Data
I see by the CBC that Nova Scotia Power wind turbines have laid waste to a Digby Neck emu farm, decimating a family’s livelihood in the process.
Twenty of Debi and Davey VanTassel’s 27 emus succumbed to the lethal noise produced by NS Power’s murderous machines in the three years since they began slicing the salt air over Digby.
Or maybe it was 30 of their 38 birds—the CBC story gives both sets of figures. In any case, the emus were as hapless as they were flightless, no match for the death-dealing, green-power monsters.
How do we know this?
Because Debi Van Tassel, voice choked with emotion, told the CBC so.
Why, when the birds that provided their livelihood began dropping like cluster flies on a warm window sill, the Van Tassels didn’t even call a veterinarian to examine the corpses. Why bother? They already knew the cause of death.
So certain were Debi and Davey of the emu-killing power of renewable energy, they had protested construction of the wind farm before it even started up.
A vet might not have been much help anyway, given the inconvenient lack of a single peer-reviewed study showing turbine-induced health effects on animals.
Public health researchers in Australia tabulated every known public complaint of human health problems related to wind farms, and found no correlation with the size of a wind farm or complainants’ proximity to them. Well over half of the country’s 41 wind farms generated no complaints; those that did were mostly in areas where protesters promoted health fears before construction began.
The Van Tassel’s putative plight reads like a classic fable. On the one hand, a grieving farm couple, raising charismatic birds from a distant hemisphere, seeking only to wrest a humble livelihood from the windswept Fundy shore. On the other, a corporation so reviled the press exempts it from ordinary standards of fairness and balance, replacing conventional news coverage with one-sided, crowd-pleasing screeds.
“With a vital portion of their income gone,” came the CBC’s maudlin conclusion, “the Van Tassels said they don’t know what’s next for them.”
Absence of evidence and rampant implausibility could not be allowed to interfere with such a stirring yarn. Score one for bunkum over news.
[Disclosure: I count many good friends among NS Power management and staff, and from time to time, I have done work for the company, mainly writing and editing.]
The Senate expense scandal, and the government’s malodorous handling of it, has given new life to shopworn nostrums for reforming or eliminating Canada’s maligned upper chamber. All have flaws ranging from severe to fatal.
Eliminating the Senate would eliminate sober second thought, that useful brake on the unfettered power of a majority government in the “dictatorship between elections” that is Canadian democracy.
Electing the Senate would imbue the upper chamber with legitimacy, empowering it to act much as the U.S. Senate acts, with all the attendant complications for passing legislation.
Creating an Equal Senate, with the same number of members from every province, cannot achieve the level of provincial agreement required to amend the Constitution.
Into this hopeless policy morass comes my friend Bill Turpin, bearing a novel proposal that seems (a) capable of implementation, and (b) respectful of the valuable sober-second-thought function. Here’s Bill:
Among other things, the Senate is supposed to be a brake when the Commons is acting precipitously. The more it is politicized, the less effective and legitimate it becomes.
The GG appoints senators on the recommendation of the prime minister. The office of prime minister exists solely by convention. Therefore, the current Senate appointments are made by convention.
Convention can be changed. All it would need is a well-intentioned PM.
A new convention could be for the PM to appoint senators from a list submitted by the Companions of the Order of Canada. This would be less arbitrary than the status quo, and it would eliminate partisanship from the Senate. Alternatively, the CC [as the Companions are designated] could make their recommendations directly to the GG.
Electing Senators is a bad idea. Currently, the Senate can delay House bills, but not kill them. An elected Senate could make a strong argument for that power, creating the potential for the gridlock we see in the US.
The CC could also appoint the GG directly, for that matter.
OK, let’s hear it. What’s wrong with this scheme?
(By way of background, Companions hold the highest rank in the Order of Canada. Membership is limited to 165 plus a small number of honorary members. Companions are appointed by the GG on recommendation of an Advisory Council consisting of the Chief Justice of Canada, the Clerk of the Queen’s Privy Council, the Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, the President of the Royal Society of Canada, the Chair of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, and five members of the Order of Canada who sit on the council for a three-year period. This is about as insulated from day-to-day politics as such a body can be.)
No sooner did I write that two veterans would get the last word on the Remembrance Day poppies discussion, than a Facebook message arrived from my friend Walter Van Veen, whose teenage father spent the war hiding in a secret compartment in an Amsterdam flat.
A Jewish family shared the compartment. Facing starvation, they gave themselves up a few weeks before the end of the war—and were killed. Walter’s father held out and survived.
You know my take on this [the media firestorm over white poppies being handed out at the National War Memorial]. This is one fairly cynical narrow view based on how some people and agencies manipulate Remembrance Day.
War stinks and we all know it, so Remembrance Day is not to glorify war, but to remember those who stood and counted themselves in when they had to be.
There is no doubt that I would not be alive today except for Canadian soldiers. My mother continues to say, at 88, that the day the Canadian soldiers entered Amsterdam in 1945 was the best day in her life.
Why anyone would sail across the ocean, land on the beaches of Normandy in a hail of bullets, walk halfway across Europe in the heat and the cold to save a nation of people that they didn’t even know is beyond the imagination of most Dutch people.
So let’s remember the sacrifices of those young Canadians and thank them. We don’t have to like war to do that.”
Who can argue with that?
A Connecticut reader who describes himself as a paratroop veteran from the Korean War era who was lucky to be assigned to Germany, “rather than that slaughter house of Korea,” writes:
I find this convention that has developed of saying, “thank you for your service” off-putting. It immediately shuts the door. Nothing more to say except, “Thank you.” Puts us in a box. You will never hear veterans speak to each other this way.
Besides, the dirty little secret is most of us had the time of our lives. It was great fun.
Another reader sends along this message from his brother, a Vietnam vet. It originally appeared on the very active Facebook page of the Savannah, Georgia, chapter of Veterans for Peace, a veterans organization that promotes public awareness of the costs of war, and seeks to restrain governments from waging it.
There is no glory in war, no honor in victory. Every soldier is not a hero. Being a veteran I hope that one day youth will lay down their weapons, all youth across the face of the earth and refuse to fight the wars of old men. The rich make the wars the poor fight so the rich can become more rich. If war was not profitable there would be no war.
If you really want to honor a veteran, truly honor those who have served, do not thank us for our service, remove the ribbons from your cars, and promise all those who suffered and died and those who continue to suffer that no more veterans will be made. You see, I am a Viet Nam veteran from 1969-1971. In many ways I am still there. We carry it forever. It may dim but it is always there.
So, as a veteran, I beg you do not send your sons, your daughters, you spouses, your brothers or sisters off to die in someone else’s war. I close my eyes and look upon those horrors that we committed and those done to us by our own government. Hug your children, your loved ones and hold them near. Don’t let them die alone in some faraway country.
When you hear the drums of war and see the flags unfurl and the politicians making their speeches, grab you loved ones and say no more. Then you may say you have truly honored a veteran.