I’m back in the saddle, after a relaxing and rejuvenating vacation, which included almost no access to the internet for two whole weeks. Four of us piled into a clean diesel VW Golf wagon and made the pilgrimage from our home in northwestern Ontario to the coast of Florida – 37 hours of driving – and then hopped on a short flight to the Bahamas where we spent a week in a two bedroom condo next to a gorgeous beach. So, not a zero-carbon holiday but as close as this Canadian looking for some southern sun could manage! Thanks to all of you who dropped into 350orbust while I was away, and especially those who took the time to comment despite the delay in my response.
After my self-imposed news blackout, it appears the world is still careening towards multi-faceted collapse, and the Canadian federal government under Stephen Harper continues on its dangerously regressive and parochial path. The banking crisis in Cyprus foreshadows the economic upheavals in store for the rest of us. On the bright side, spring is quickly approaching and the gardeners among us are gearing up for that busy and hopeful time of year. One of the first items on my agenda upon arriving home on Tuesday was to attend the meeting of our local foods initiative to discuss the establishment of two new community gardens in our municipality (this dynamic group was part of establishing the first, and very successful, one in our area last spring). So life is good, too.
Here are some of the headlines that grabbed my attention when I logged back on this week:
- IMF, citing $1.9 Trillion in government subsidies, calls for an end to energy ‘mispricing’: Government subsidies of gasoline, electricity and other energy sources amount to about $1.9 trillion a year and should be ended or offset with taxes used to battle climate change and pay for social programs, the International Monetary Fund said Wednesday in a major foray into the global warming debate.From top energy users such as the United States and China to the poorest of the poor, the fund said countries should be more aggressive in developing energy tax and pricing policies that reflect the true cost of fossil fuel use, including such “externalities” as pollution and the steps needed to mitigate the effects of a warming climate.
- Natural Disasters Cost Insurers $77 Billion in 2012: A report by global re-insurers claims that 2012 was one of the most expensive years for insurers on record. Natural disasters specifically “large scale weather events” were to blame for the historically high numbers.
- Canada Only UN Member to Pull Out of Droughts & Deserts Convention: The federal cabinet last week ordered the unannounced withdrawal on the recommendation of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, ahead of a major scientific meeting on the convention next month in Germany.The abrupt move caught the UN secretariat that administers the convention off guard, which was informed through a telephone call from The Canadian Press.
And here’s a link to a radio interview earlier this week with world-renowned Canadian freshwater scientist Dr. David Schindler, founding director of the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), a world-class freshwater research facility that is being closed by the Harper government. It is 10 minutes well spent: CBC Radio: As It Happens. Schindler doesn’t mince his words with regards to the Harper government’s irresponsible approach to resource exploitation and the environment; “Schindler’s pissed”, as someone pithily tweeted. My favourite quote from the interview is: “…Some of the best previous Ministers of Fisheries we had were conservatives, people like John Fraser and Tom Siddon. But we don’t have people of that character running this government. And frankly I don’t call these people [in the Harper government] conservatives. They’re ideologues who can’t understand that the route of conservatives is to conserve…”
Canada apparently can’t afford the two million dollars a year required to maintain the ELA, but we can afford to fork over $20 Million for two visiting Chinese pandas. And Mr. Harper can choose a photo-op with these same pandas, rather than meeting a group of First Nations youth who walked nearly a thousand miles through a harsh northern Quebec winter to reach Ottawa and send a message to the Canadian government, and other First Nations, that the time for unity and reconciliation is now.
I’ll wrap up with a video from comedian (and fellow Canadian) Jim Carrey that has got the NRA nutters and its Fox News friends (and fellow nutters) hot under the collar. Way to go, Mr. Carrey! Here’s a clip from the very funny – and bitingly satirical – video (to watch the whole thing go to FunnyOrDie.com):