Category Archives: Opinions

Never Give Up

Never Give UpNever Give Up has a strong ring. It’s full of courage, determination, perseverance…

Never Give Up need not be callous, hard-hearted, without compassionate, rigid, or inflexible.  It gives us guidance on our journey, can offer advice when we’re flagging, help us remember the bigger picture, remind ourselves that we’re in this for the long haul and, most importantly perhaps, that we’re in this together, through thick and thin.

In the aftermath of the most recent school massacre in Parkland, Florida, I read about the dedicated activist for whom the school was named – Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

I became further inspired by the students from Parkland, now standing up, showing up, speaking out, loudly and clearly, and who are now, as I write this, in Tallahassee speaking to legislators about stopping gun violence.

Here just two clips:

Douglas, who challenged the political and business establishment of her day, would be proud of the students’ courageous efforts to galvanize a movement for gun control, which now includes a nationwide walkout by students and teachers scheduled for April 20.”

and

“Be a nuisance where it counts,” Douglas once said. “Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics—but never give up.”

Never Give UpI quote another of my heros, Howard Zinn. His final point in his essay On Getting Along is  “Don’t look for a moment of total triumph. See it as an ongoing struggle, with victories and defeats, but in the long run the consciousness of people growing. So you need patience, persistence, and need to understand that even when you don’t “win” there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that you have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile.”  

Never Give Up, and enjoy the ride!

 

February Gloom

by Stan Hirst

Even though February was the shortest month of the year, sometimes it seemed like the longest -J.D. Robb

From my perspective on a dark and gloomy Vancouver North Shore being assailed by interminable chilly rain February absolutely seems like the longest month. And the whole world seems dark and gloomy. Environment Canada says we have just had the fifth wettest January on record. The trend is set.

Its actually a most appropriate backdrop from which to consider the world situation right now.  Its depressing and made more so by the unfettered barrage of negative news delivered non-stop from a multitude of TV talking heads and contained within rain-sodden pages of the daily papers.

News commentators view the US presidential decision to transfer the American embassy to Jerusalem as a strategic and political move. However, to many Christian evangelicals (who make up 26% of the U.S population) Jerusalem is of special significance. It is tied into the concept of the rapture — a time when, according to evangelical tradition, believing Christians will be suddenly and unexpectedly “raptured” up to heaven before the events that presage the end of the world. In most accounts of the rapture, believers go straight to heaven while nonbelievers are left behind to undergo a period of political chaos and personal torment.

Are we living in some kind of “end time” now?  Theatrics aside, we are definitely living in a highly altered world of rapidly and visibly changing climate, massive disruption of terrestrial and oceanic ecosystems, and burgeoning  and shifting human populations. Its not just that so many of the basic physical, ecological, social and political parameters have changed and now approach breaking points.  The thought that we are at some kind of breaking point has now become a point of focus.

Its hugely ironic that we now sit in this situation while at the same time being in possession of more scientific knowledge and technology than at any point in the whole history of our Earth.  There is more computing power in the laptop in front of me than there was in the whole IBM mainframe computer I timidly used just a half-century ago.  We know what is on the other side of the moon, we have closeup imagery of the surface of Mars, we can dissect and manipulate strands of DNA to produce new forms of life.  But we can’t stop ourselves from destroying the very foundations of the global ecological system that gave us life in the first place.  The ridiculousness is all too much for an eldering brain to embrace.

In his book Cosmos and Psyche, Richard Tarnas addresses this very question.  He believes that we are fundamentally unable to comprehend the greater perspective.  As a global society we suffer from a profound metaphysical disorientation and groundlessness.  Something essential is  missing, and it is tempting for many to think it might be on the spiritual level.

Pope Francis, 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, took a brave chance at responding to this type of global challenge back in 2015 and produced his 2nd encyclical Laudato Si. This emphasized connectedness and the need for global action, both socially and politically. The document has been read by millions worldwide but seems to have become more of a polemic than a mode of genuine transition to something better.

Ken Wilber, the creator of Integral Theory (or The Theory of Everything), provides another type of framework for (the attempt at) the understanding of what is going on with our planet and ourselves.  Often difficult to understand, at least to this Elder brain, the theory postulates four levels of universal consciousness, coded ‘red’, ‘amber’, ‘orange’ and ‘green’.

The world was once at the red level (egocentric, self-referential, instinctual), followed by amber (ethnocentric, authoritarian, pre-modern) and lately at the orange level (world-centric, rational, individualistic, modern). Apparently back in the sixties we started to move onto the green level (world centered, pluralistic, post-modern)

Wilber postulates that, somewhere along the way, Green  began to wander off course, increasingly caught in some internal contradictions that were inherent in its worldview from the start (e.g. maybe there are no such things as the widely supposed universal truth and universal values in the first place).

This brings me to the point I feared when I started penning this piece in the first place. I really don’t know how to end on a positive note.

Certainly, the world will continue to unravel the complexities of our existence, from the very, very large (think deep space and black holes) to the very small (snippets of DNA being coerced to do magical things). New ideas will come and go, hopefully some will leave a residue behind. The kids will grow up and hopefully be much better at this existence business than we Elders.

But I fear the wars, greed, interminable bickering, and upsurges of horrible diseases and ecological afflictions will also go on.  Why will the search for the magic bullet not continue to be an utterly futile quest?

It has stopped raining. I’m going out to clean the gutters.

 

Of Priuses and pick-up trucks

By Bob Worcester

The world seems caught in a conflict between “globalists”, the urban elites who welcome and support the world-wide integration of communications, commerce and transportation, and “localists” who view with suspicion the move from traditions, home and family to the “new world order” and its chaotic clash of cultures.

One is tempted to call this a conflict between the hillbillies and the city slickers, but perhaps a ‘red’ and ‘blue’ viewpoint is a less loaded classification. Jim Hoggan’s timely book I’m Right and You’re an Idiot identifies the toxic quality of these conflicts and recommends that understanding is a prerequisite for constructive conversations.

I would like to suggest that between the red and the blue view of the world is a green perspective that, like old 3-D glasses, provides more depth and clarity than that found in most current discussion of this new world we are moving into.

Polarization is not new to politics since often one is either “with us” or “against us” on any number of issues such as Peace Site C, the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, or trophy hunting. Of course there are always grey areas but that spectrum still often ranges from black to white. ‘Green’ adds colour to the discourse.

Between the global and the local perspective is an ‘ecological’ view which implies that everything has its role and place. This may sound like a wishy-washy perspective but it is not. Globalists see local perspectives as too limited and narrow yet the global is made up of a mosaic of local conditions, each of which emerged from the particular circumstances of that region. Locals discount the cosmopolitans as out of touch with the day-to-day realities of lived experience.

It is not surprising that groups polarize around their particular issues – jobs, growth or limits. What is unfortunate is that environmentalists often contribute to that polarization unnecessarily. As Hoggan suggests, “you’re wrong” quickly degenerates into “you’re evil!” The ‘green’ viewpoint steps back to find the bigger picture that puts both red and blue in perspective.

That, of course, is more easily said than done. Construction of the Peace Site C dam may very well bring jobs and prosperity to many people in the region while displacing others. It may allow Albertans to close down their fossil fueled electrical utilities but still encourage fracking. First Nations do not always agree among themselves on what is in their best interests and may resent that “city slickers” get to call the shots. It is easy to see how anger and resentment emerge regardless of the outcome. The green perspective may not avoid conflict but it can, at least, appreciate that their positions affect people and there may be three or more sides to an issue.

There are legitimate concerns to be addressed and not papered over as “deplorable.” The green perspective will recognize that being in the majority on an issue is not a reassurance that it is wise. Popular causes are notoriously fickle and “all movements go too far” according to Bertrand Russell. The green perspective is not just the middle ground between two extremes, it can be a radical position beyond either extreme – something outside the lines of the conventional. The green perspective dives deeper into the imagination to find things unseen – “your young people shall see visions, and your old people shall dream dreams.” Here is where a ‘green’ vision can go further. If egotists can become tribalists and globalists can become ecologically-minded, then what can ‘green’ become?

Nature provides a deep, rich model of how the world works, but perhaps that view too is limited. Spiritual traditions claim that now we “see through the glass darkly” and that more depth may be revealed. If the old movie goggles with red and blue lenses converted hazy images on the screen into three dimensions then maybe ‘green’ with ultraviolet lenses can give us even more dimensions. Our ‘cosmological’ understanding keeps astonishing us with quantum possibilities of multi-verses and dark matter. Ecological understanding may yet give way to something cosmological that we have yet to imagine.

For now, it would seem that the “wisdom of the elders” is to see the world with new eyes, perhaps even the eyes of a child. Biologists tell us that evolution is random, chaotic and no particular outcome is more natural than another, yet we feel that some outcomes are better, truer, more beautiful than others. Let us trust that feeling and look into the greening future with hope, imagination and grit.

 

 

Grizzly facts

Grizzly, grizzlies. bears, hunting, conservation

by Stan Hirst

“Wildlife management is a mish-mash of science, public relations and politics, not necessarily in that order”.

I came across that humble homily in a bundle of 50-year old lecture notes from my graduate student days. Why would I keep lecture notes for that long? I have no idea, probably an elder(ly) thing.

B.C. has several wild species which exemplify this categorization of resource governance: sockeye salmon, caribou and orcas come to mind. But the species that perhaps best exemplifies the sentiment for B.C. is probably the grizzly bear. Grizzlies have been in the news lately, not because they have munched anybody significant, but because of their conservation status.

GRIZZLY HUNTING BANNED IN B.C.

Effective November 30, 2017 B.C.’s new NDP government legislated a total ban on trophy hunting of grizzly bears throughout the province. The announcement of the ban from the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development included the telling statement that “grizzly trophy hunting is not a socially acceptable practice [in B.C.] in 2017”.

Under the November proclamation, hunting of grizzles for food was still permissible under licence in the province outside of the Great Bear Rainforest. To forestall any devious behaviour, so-called “meat hunters” would not have been permitted to legally possess the paws, head and/or hide of a killed grizzly.

However, in the days following the proclamation the Ministry received more than 4000 emails from the public, of which 80% expressed strong opposition to the continued food hunt. Government reaction to the public repose was surprisingly rapid, and within a month the government announced a total ban on hunting of grizzly bears for trophies and food, effective immediately across B.C.

First Nations were the only exception to the ban and the new legislation recognized their aboriginal right to hunt grizzlies for food, social and ceremonial purposes. However, most First Nations have continued to express little interest in killing grizzlies for any purpose. The Coastal First Nations had originally led the move to stop hunting of grizzlies in the Great Bear Rainforest of B.C.

B.C. BACKGROUND

Grizzly bears in B.C. are classified as Vulnerable by the Conservation Data Centre and are listed as a Species of Special Concern by the Federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). They once ranged over most of B.C. and large parts of Alberta. They have been extirpated from several regions in British Columbia where they historically ranged, including the southern-central interior from the US border to north of Quesnel, the Peace Lowlands around Ft. St. John and Dawson Creek, and the lower Fraser Valley and the Sunshine Coast. Present-day habitat quality and population density vary widely across the province.

Ministry statistics reveal that, until the recent legislation changed the situation, about 170 grizzlies were killed annually in B.C. by resident hunters, and a further 80 by foreign hunters. The government issued about 1,700 grizzly bear permits in 2017, mostly to B.C. hunters.

Commercial grizzly hunts had generated about half a million dollars annually for B.C. provincial coffers from hunting licences, and further undisclosed sums in fees to commercial guides who typically make tens of thousands of dollars per grizzly hunt. In announcing the ban on trophy hunting the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development stated that recent research had indicated values higher than this for the economic value of grizzly viewing in many parts of the province.

Restrictions on grizzly hunting in B.C. are not new. A total ban was legislated by the NDP back in 2001. This was rescinded by the incoming Liberal government in the same year.

There are now an estimated 15,000 grizzly bears in B.C. About 16% of the total provincial population is classified as threatened. Provincial statistics show that 10-15 grizzlies are killed illegally each year, and a further 20-30 by animal control officers dealing with human/bear conflicts.

B.C. BACKLASH

The advent of the new legislation exposed a long-standing schism in society about our social behaviour towards wild species. Conservation and green groups have generally applauded the decision banning trophy hunting and food hunting of grizzlies. Guiding and hunting groups, on the other hand, predictably criticized the ban on trophy hunting as being costly in terms of jobs and commercial benefits since the hunting ban will remove millions of future dollars from the industry in terms of fees, lodging, bush-plane and other travel and equipment.

Provincial political opposition framed the NDP government decision as an abandonment of scientific-based decision making in favour of “an appeasement of U.S.-based environmental groups”.

THE FLIPSIDE SITUATION

It is informative to compare the B.C. grizzly situation with that in the Yellowstone area in the western U.S. There the new federal administration in Washington moved to delist the Grizzly bear as an endangered species and awarded management responsibility to the states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. This means in effect that grizzlies can now be legally hunted in these western states (outside of national park boundaries).

A key factor in the decision was the fact that when grizzlies were declared endangered in the US way back in 1975 there were an estimated 136 bears in and around the Yellowstone ecosystem (which includes the national park plus surrounding federal, state and private lands). Today, following a quarter-century of strict protection, there an estimated 700 grizzlies in the Yellowstone area, both inside and outside the national park.

YELLOWSTONE FALL-OUT

The partisan reaction to the legalization of grizzly hunting in the Yellowstone area has been comparable to that in B.C. for the banning of legal hunting. Guiding industries and interests have predictably endorsed the change, while the broad conservation community has condemned it. Some 125 western U.S. tribes have signed a treaty opposing trophy hunting grizzly bears, which Native Americans consider a sacred animal.

Conservation groups insist that Yellowstone bears face threats to their continued existence from many sources, not just hunting. They have cited climate change and other factors. They observe that the US Endangered Species Act, under which grizzlies remain listed as an endangered species, sets strict rules to protect species from being killed or their habitat from being harmed. State management agencies, now in control of public hunting and harvesting, classify hunting and/or trapping as valid and legal measures to keep wildlife population in check.

TO KILL OR NOT TO KILL?

Emotion is usually at the forefront of public debate on the hunting and killing of grizzly bears in North America. When the debates and deliberations move to agency board rooms and academic seminar rooms the exchanges become way more measured, extensive and rational, and reveal the biological, social and political complexities of managing an iconic and far-ranging species such as the grizzly.

Is hunting harmful to grizzly bear populations? (“Stupid question” I hear the animal rights folks muttering, but I point out the use of the word ‘populations’, which is what government and various agencies are mandated to address). The answer is complex and to be sought in huge piles of field notes, research studies, theses, journals and coffee-table volumes.

Hunting and killing are certainly the prime factors which reduced North American grizzlies from their historic abundance to their present-day status. When Europeans first set foot on the continent there were roughly 100,000 grizzly bears ranging from the Mississippi to the California coast, and throughout Canada and Alaska to Mexico. By the seventies they had been drastically reduced in numbers and were categorized as vulnerable in Canada and endangered in the US.

But the direct killing of grizzlies is not the only factor leading to a decline in numbers. Habitat loss has probably eliminated far more bears from the scene over the decades, and continues to do so, either directly or by fragmenting vulnerable bear populations. In addition, hunting has negative effects which extend beyond the direct killing of the animals. Studies have revealed negative indirect effects on hunted bear population through destabilization of social structure and increased mortality in cubs and juveniles.

 

 

What’s your story?

by Jill Schroder

What if Einstein was wrong? “The world is made up of stories, not atoms.” Poet Muriel Rukeyser once said just this!

So, what’s your story?  Here are a few points to ponder, enjoy, laugh about, and share as we consider stories, their importance, the role they play in our lives, and bring awareness to our personal answer to the question.

In the beginning was Story. The caveman rushed back to his tribe and excitedly acted out his encounter with some Paleolithic beast. This was his story, and forever after he would be remembered by this story. Every story has a sacred dimension, not because of gods, but because a man’s or woman’s sense of self and their world is created through them. These stories orient the life of a people through time and establish the reality of their world. Thus are meaning and purpose given to people’s lives. “Without story we do not exist. “ This is how Catherine Ann Jones introduce her Writing Course The Way of Story.

We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart” writes Pema Chodron

What’s your story about troubles in the world? What about relationships – the difficult ones?   John Hume wrote “Difference is the essence of Humanity.  Difference is an accident of birth and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict.  The answer to difference is to respect it.  Therein likes a most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity.”

Eleanor Roosevelt adds “We have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together or we are going to learn to live together, and if we are to live together we have to talk.”

The more we take the welfare of others to heart and work for their benefit, the more benefit we derive for ourselves.  This is a fact that we can see.” Does this story of H.H. XIV Dalai Lama resonate with you?

What about love in our stories?  “No form of love is wrong, so long as it is love, and you yourself honour what you are doing. Love has an extraordinary variety of forms! And that is all that there is in life, it seems to me”  (D.H. Lawrence).

Moving to another dimension, I invite you to consider not only “What’s Your Story”, but also “What world do you want to see?”  Enjoy these images and let them take you on a journey of appreciation and wonder at the miraculous world we are lucky to inhabit.

Of course, there is a realm, a dimension of reality, where all words, let alone stories, drop away and become a limitation on and of the Oneness.  Still, there is much value in considering, enjoying, assessing, and choosing the stories that frame and reframe our lives here on the incredible planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In closing, relish these exhortations from (might you have guessed?) – Mother Teresa!

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.

Life is beauty, admire it.

Life is a dream, realize it.

Life is a challenge, meet it.

Life is a duty, complete it.

Life is a game, play it.

Life is a promise, fulfill it.

Life is sorrow, overcome it.

Life is a song, sing it.

Life is a struggle, accept it.

Life is a tragedy, confront it.

Life is an adventure, dare it.

Life is luck, make it.

Life is too precious, do not destroy it.

Life is life, fight for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not as bad as it looks (but is it much worse than it seems?)

[global change, climate change, understanding, pessimism, optimism, attitude]

by Peggy Olive

In the wee hours of the morning, I listened to a replay of one of CBC’s  thought-provoking programs called Ideas. A career diplomat, Paul Heinbecker, was invited to discuss The Challenge of Peace. Among other positions, Heinbecker served as Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations, Ambassador to Germany, and Minister of Political Affairs at the Canadian Embassy in Washington. He also headed the Canadian delegation to the climate change negotiations in Kyoto.

According to Heinbecker, the real challenge is our inadequate understanding of the world we live in. “Thanks to social media, we are bathed in doom and gloom…an endless repetition of the same terrible stories. It is not surprising that people think that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, and quickly.”

He goes on to say, “In fact, the reverse is actually true. We are living in a golden age.” Canadians, and the world more generally, have never been richer, healthier, as well-educated, as well-connected, or as safe as we are now.

On hearing this good news, I felt considerable relief, but also some nagging scepticism. Could this be true? Are we really in a golden age (aside from those of us who are golden-agers)? I went to an informative source to answer this question: Our World in Data. This site is hosted by Max Roser, an Oxford economist who says, “Once you turn to statistics, it gets much harder to have a pessimistic story.”

I extracted some numbers from the hundreds of graphs on his site to emphasize the changes that have occurred over my lifetime. Heinbecker is right; living conditions across the globe have greatly improved since I was born. Had I presented the statistics for Canada, a smaller but similar trend would be seen.

So why my scepticism? I noticed that most of the graphs on Our World in Data showed an upward trend as if  this wonderful state of affairs could continue forever. We would live longer, under better conditions, become more educated, and have more abundant food, and all this would be possible as our population climbed above 11 billion.

Continued growth on a planet with finite resources isn’t possible. We will run out of raw materials eventually. Our soils and fresh water reserves are already being depleted and we continue to overload Earth’s atmosphere with greenhouse gasses that will change our climate for centuries.

Many see this happening in some distant future, and Roser’s graphs confirm that our living conditions have never been better. Even our fears of war and disaster, often exacerbated by the climate crisis, are overblown when compared to the risks of heart disease, cancer, and road traffic accidents. It would appear that we’re worrying needlessly, at least about some things. Paul Kennedy, the host of Ideas, commented briefly on the role media has played in promoting doom and gloom messages, but as Max Roser says, no one listens to the news to hear that nothing bad has happened today.

I don’t  believe that we are ambulance chasers hungry for disturbing news, or alternatively, that the world situation is anywhere near as rosy as these data might lead us to believe. Oddly, Max Roser’s own research is concerned with rising income inequality which is not good news, and does Heinbecker realize that all Golden Ages come to an end? The original Golden Age of Greece lasted only 200 years.

This left me wondering if the positive global trends in our living conditions are part of the reason we are failing to act quickly on climate change. Living in a sustainable way on this planet will be difficult if we see ourselves as better off today than a few decades ago and we expect this situation to continue. Yet there are obvious signs that the gravy train, driven largely by fossil fuels and greed, is at an end. When we recognize that there is only so much track left ahead of us, it is vital that we slow down before it runs out.

Yes, we are very fortunate to have experienced a Golden Age, but we must also recognize that this age is now in decline and it is past time to apply the brakes.

 

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