Covid-19 Nonsense, Five Days Old

Mask-Ready
A first in over 20 years: shaven and mask-ready!

March 16, 2020

Dearest Niece,
Thank you for thinking of us!
Sorry you couldn’t get through last night. We are thus far without symptoms… but not without crazy shopping stories… which I am saving for my memoirs… or a big party during a lull between pandemics…
Our phone message bank was full. A first for us. Our devices are powered up. My memory, as usual , is sporadic and, at 10% charged, suspect. Auntie  mentioned the PHONE MESSAGES FULL crisis last night and I will immediately see to that. It slipped my “mind.”

Continue reading “Covid-19 Nonsense, Five Days Old”

How Successive Hypocritical Canadian Governments Disempower First Nations

Using Buckshot Legislation To Decimate First Nations Rights

Pamela Palmater knows how badly First Nations have been treated historically and how small amendments squirrelled away in many huge omnibus bills by PM Stephen Harper have been cynically used by PM Justin Trudeau to divide and conquer – particularly in the current Wet’suwet’en pipeline issue.

Fridays For Future – Toronto

 

For humans to have a future on Earth we must urgently make some complicated  choices to stop our fouling of the delicate biosphere, which we carelessly “nest” in and share with other living things from the tiniest to the huge.

Speakers we listened to yesterday were mostly young people. They came from across Canada and the Lakota were with us from the U.S.A. Many speakers were indigenous. A lot of chi miigwetches (“big thank yous” in Ojibwa) were heard.

Some speakers at Friday’s “Strike” were a little naïve in statements that listed a whole bunch of things that apparently can and must all be done. Many hard trade offs will have to be made. There will be winners and losers. But we adults had given up trying to stop abusing the planet and have been asleep for decades while the rug was gradually pulled out from under the democratic system. It has happened on our distracted, gadget-smothered watch. We’ve spent way too much time managing our complicated, mostly electronic, “toys.”

While we’ve fiddled like a famous Roman Emperor, our planet has caught fire.

And household recycling, for instance, has become a farcical, shallow, population-fooling exercise. Our cities are afraid to admit how much has been spent on those opaque plastic bins and huge, blind, job-cutting trucks that carry so many “recyclables” that are, by design or circumstance, non-recyclable eventually to dumps. Instead of dealing with the problem, we have used fossil fuels to transport our garbage across oceans to poor countries destitute and/or corrupt enough to accept it.

Single-use plastics, happily not used by those at the Climate Strike for drinks, must be eliminated, not taxed. Our tap water is drinkable, yet Nestlés is raping underground and pristine lake water in both wealthy and poor, thirsty settlements worldwide to put environmentally under-priced water, plain or profitably flavoured and coloured by that corporation, into single-use bottles! Council of Canadians is trying very hard to fight this here. This is a great, doable start.

Anyone who has been in a hospital has seen the mountains of efficient, but polluting, throw-away plastic packages that keep throw-away, plastic-plus-metal medical syringes and other tools sterile. Eliminating these will not help to make or keep free health care for all easy to maintain. Finding our way through complex environmental and economic issues will not be as easy as expressing our goals in attractive slogans. But somehow we must change fast.

One thing Greta Thunberg is right about is that we need awareness, political protest and real sacrifice for these hoped-for changes to become reality. The handful of families that control the world by dominating our Cabinets, Prime Ministers and Presidents can no longer be resisted simply by voting. Humans are becoming glamorous turkeys – just one more exploitable farmyard resource.

So we quickly need to learn to use our backbones and our legs.

Rain-assisted Birding Bonanza

 

 

This spring we have had some lousy weather, not much fun for us until the spring migration of birds through “Our Woods.”

The bad weather (wind and rain and cold) has turned into a blessing, since the warblers, kinglets and other migrating species that fly north through our back yard and the park with a stream behind us have been forced to sleep over a few days more than usual. A frequent walk north by the two small lakes is great, but we can see them from our dining room bay and master bedroom windows because they like to visit our back yard.

This year we have been paying extra attention and had several first sightings, including the northern goshawk, canvasback duck and pied-billed grebe (see previous post.)

Anita saw a black-throated green warbler last week – a first for this year.

May 10 was a birding bonanza! A spectacular first-ever sighting of a male Scarlet Tanager, and in OUR back yard! Our Spotter saw at the bay window the Tanager, a catbird, Nashville warblers, a female yellow warbler, a palm warbler, a black throated blue warbler, female, then male rose-breasted grosbeaks, white throated and white crowned sparrows, a song sparrow, and a brown thrasher.

On May 13, with the aid of my Spotter’s keen eye and my SONY 200 mm zoom lens we were able to clearly identify a Philadelphia vireo, vireo species being very difficult to distinguish from each other. See last photo above.

The grosbeaks stayed from the 10th to the 14th, departing this morning before 7 A.M. on a rare fair weather day. The white-throated sparrows stayed over a week and the white-crowned since Friday. They haven’t left yet!

Today an American Redstart was finally seen after being heard for a few days.

We are still hoping for an indigo bunting, having seen one in 1996 on the back lawn and in 2011 at the sunflower seed feeder.

The hummingbird feeder went up today. My target was May 3…

My SONY alpha A-6000 mirrorless SLR has come in handy for getting enough detail on birds that don’t wait around for me to take notes. I’ve used it mainly set up for quick action: continuous shooting medium or high (important for quick-moving subjects like warblers and swallows feeding over water). I was able to confirm the rough-winged swallow from its shape and colour with the very blurry photo above. I have been playing with DMF auto focus with manual assist to fine tune or rapidly and crudely adjust focus. Perfection is impossible in some situations.

Sicily and Malta.3 – With The Tour Bus

October 13 – We Visit Siracusa with the Tour

The Greek theatre, Ear of Dionysius and the Apollo Temple area are shown here. The tour also explored the Piazza Duomo, with which we were very familiar. Our local expert was excellent in describing these sights.

 

 

 

Then we had a lunch break and left for Ragusa, about 2 hours away including a rest stop.

Siracusa to Ragusa Ibla
90.3 km on the Bus with Tour Director, Barbara, and our skillful, creative, safe driver, Roberto.

Ragusa-Ibla – The Old Town

Our local expert for Ragusa was again excellent in describing these sights. We visited the Old Town on Friday afternoon and slept in Ragusa.

Degrowth: Further Notes from 2014

These are valuable notes that I did not include in my post, La Mouvement Décroissance in October 2014. I had planned to revise and post them later. Here they are, much later.

Many of the ideas I’ll present below are obvious and have been known for decades. If we are to truly share the resources of our finite planet fairly with fellow humans and other living things we must make serious changes now. As Naomi Klein points out in her latest book, This Changes Everything, if we want to avoid the most horrific of futures we need to change what we’re doing fast. The time to dither and debate has disappeared. Klein argues here that the present grow-or-die model of capitalism is simply incompatible with human survival. See my Sept. 15 post on this topic here.

What is relatively new to me is the latest activity of the small, experimental, Degrowth Movement communities that are happily choosing to live very frugally as we must live some day all too soon. They go without many of the luxuries that we take for granted, recognizing that, if everyone on the planet were to consume resources at the rate of the average Canadian, we would need several more Earths immediately. This was pointed out 15 years ago in David Suzuki’s 1999 book, From Naked Ape To Superspecies on page 42. And Richard Branson ain’t gonna get us that far alive, hoes and pitchforks in hand, anytime soon.

Suzuki and his family have been walking the talk for a long time. He lists,  in a gentle, inspirational style at the end of The Sacred Balance, many things that we could do to reduce our human footprint on the Earth.

A simple list of ten ways we can make significant changes is also given here.

 

Footnotes:

Vandana Shiva, The “Seed Lady,” has been protecting India’s indigenous seeds from being patented of for over three decades.  She is a dedicated activist and is involved in the leadership of many organizations around the world dedicated to  biodiversity. Her work opposes the patenting of seeds and the practice of monoculture agriculture in general, preferring the planting of many things (food, herbs, medicinal plants) in natural soil the way Indian farmers have done it for centuries. Read her impressive life story here. Or observe her brilliance in this YouTube video – Part 1 of The Future of Food. Her movement, Navdanya, which she founded in 1991, is many faceted but is best known for the banks of seeds it has saved from extinction. Navdanya means “Nine Crops” – these are the essential sources of India’s food and she is fighting to save them.

Ideas From David Suzuki’s The Sacred Balance: Continue reading “Degrowth: Further Notes from 2014”

Learning to “Struggle It Out” in Jackson

Poor, black US citizens are among the world’s many suffering canaries in the coal mine of unfettered-Capitalism, that unsustainable pursuit, having finally disempowered all of us except for the “point0-0-whatever%” that threatens to take the 99.99whatever% down the road to starvation, widespread war and extinction.

Chris Hedges interviews a rare sort of leader, Kali Akuno, a co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson, a recent movement of poor, black citizens in Mississippi’s capital, Jackson.

Amy Goodman’s interview on Democracy Now with Akuno on the topic: Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination, in December last year, is excellent as well, especially for its inclusion of an appraisal of ultra-right Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and President Donald Trump. Akuno here points out a new white supremacy initiative building in America.

Under attack by a new city gentrification initiative that will eventually drive them off the land on which they currently eke out their humble, desperate existence,  Cooperation Jackson is  a movement started by Chokwe Lumumba, Mayor of Jackson until his death on Feb. 25, 2014. Akuno was his Director of Special Projects and External Funding.

This movement is a fascinating phenomenon that uses many of the potentially planet-saving Décroissance concepts being tried in different places I described in my October 2014 post, La Movement Décroissance. The French word Décroissance, uniquely combines the concept of degrowth with that of stopping believing in the way the current money-based system works. In Cerbère in Southern France and the Barcelona area, small communities have been established that:

  • Eat locally – and mostly plants
  • Squat
  • Disobey strategically some of the System’s “precepts”
  • Borrow, barter and time-trade, reducing dependence on money

The key objectives of Akuno’s movement outlined in his interview with Chris Hedges are excitingly similar: Continue reading “Learning to “Struggle It Out” in Jackson”

A Special Book

 

I have just finished The Stones Speak by the prolific, much-loved, 20th Century writer, Thórbergur Thórdarson, born in 1888, who grew up on a remote family farm named Hali in southeastern Iceland, very near to Hvannadalshnúkur, the highest peak in Iceland at 2119 metres.

I bought the book at the Þórbergssetur museum, where our tour group stopped on July 18th, two days into our 10 day bus tour. The centre was built in 2006 in Hali, (near Reynivellir in Southeast Iceland) and is dedicated to this unique man. He was largely self-educated, being too poor to attend high school or university.

The Stones Speak, translated in 2012 by Professor Julian Melton d’Arcy of the U. of Iceland, is Thórdarson’s only complete book that has been translated into English. Written when he was in his 60’s, this is an inspired, witty and sometimes caustic collection of his earliest memories – those of a precocious, hypersensitive visionary who lived very close to nature.

The book is, in my opinion, a must-read for folks who plan to visit Iceland and really want to work at understanding its recent (20th C.) history and its people. The introduction and notes by d’Arcy deserve to be read both before and after reading the book. They even contain the simplest, best guide to Icelandic pronunciation that I have found.

I went to Iceland because it was my wife’s choice and must confess that, uncharacteristically, my only research before the trip was to google the heck out of each place we were visiting on our Ring Road tour and look for things worth escaping from the pre-arranged options to see. And because we were arriving in Reykjavík (KEF) at 6 AM on the red-eye from Toronto on July 16th I was looking keenly for the most interesting places we might explore that day on our own. Our Grand Hotel was only a half-hour walk or a # 15 city bus from the centre of town. These were, for this dyed-in-the-wool self-directed traveler, the vital facts, since we were not due to meet our tour director at the hotel until 5:30 P.M.

Combined with the superb tour itself, reading The Stones Speak has given me wonderful, intensely personal insight/hindsight into the unique Icelandic people. It was, for me, not an easy read. It does not grab you like The DaVinci Code. I put it down and picked it up several times, as I have done with Proust, until realizing that, by making margin notes and studying maps and breaking down words in what is for the superbly gifted Daniel Tammet this oh-so-special language, I fell in love with Iceland and humanity in general, starting with the folks in 1890’s Suðursveit. 

If you have already visited Iceland, take the time to study The Stones Speak. You will, through it, reconnect with human nature and, perhaps, yourself.

P.S. If you have not gone yet, check out Guide To Iceland, a great website community to which my post travel research luckily led me. They justifiably claim to be an “unrivalled source of information.”

 

French, and Global, Fascism

Fascism - Webster's 1960 Unabridged
The word fascism as Webster’s defined it in 1960

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I love going back to my 1960 giant, two-volume edition of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. I picked it up at an auction in 1972. We were mainly there to get inexpensive furnishings for our apartment in Toronto, having just moved here from Cheshire, U.K. Check out the hand-drawn illustration that shows fascism’s Latin root to mean bundle!

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Then:

Italy seemed to coin the term, fascism; it first appeared with the arrival of Mussolini’s fascisti on the world scene in 1919. A crazy fact: for Mussolini, fascism was a good word. Nazi Germany and Franco’s Falangists were later included in this list of despicable regimes. In 2017 we carelessly throw the word around at anyone we do not like.

Fascism’s Common features in 1960:

  1. One party dictatorship
  2. Forcible suppression of the opposition (unions, other groups)
  3. Private, centralized control of the means of production
  4. Nationalism
  5. Liberal use of wars
  6. Racism

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France Today:

By presenting the above list of six characteristics, Webster’s definition made “fascism” a very specific term.

I think that France’s Front National (FN), led by Marine Le Pen qualifies for only two of the above six: nationalism and, particularly hateful for someone like me, married to a black woman, racism.

The FN does not propose forcible suppression of, for example, trade unions. In fact, it seems to be in favour of the little citizen with, until recently, a fervent, detestable preference for little white citizens.

Not many governments on this planet today, including France, could claim national control/ownership of their own means of production.

And the FN seems to be inclined not to favour the liberal use of wars. Continue reading “French, and Global, Fascism”