Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Marc Lee takes a high-level look at the absurdity of our destructive economic choices:
Exhibit one: the North Pole at the moment is a one-foot-deep aquamarine lake. After reaching record low ice cover and thickness at the end of summer 2012, an ice-free arctic in the summer is coming sooner rather than later. All of that blue water absorbing solar radiation instead of ice reflecting it back to space will compound global warming. And as it melts it releases the greenhouse gas, methane, which will further increase warming in one of those bad feedback loops scientists have been warming about for decades. A new study puts the cost of this methane leakage at $60 trillion, a number hard to fathom but close to the world’s GDP in a single year.

Exhibit two: extreme weather is doing some major damage. It’s going to take a while for final numbers to come in, but damages from the Calgary and region floods are estimated in the $3-5 billion range. In Toronto, total damages of $1 billion or more seem plausible. It is important to note that some damages are covered by private insurance, but there are the uninsured too, and even for those with insurance, there are deductibles, caps and fine print. Private insurance notably does not cover replacement of public infrastructure, either. Insurance coverage can be less than 20% of total damages from a natural disaster. In central Europe, flooding caused about $16 billion in total damages back in May, amid a very wet spring. Flooding is a big theme this year, but extreme heat is also a problem: the “heat dome” recently burning up eastern North America, and drought conditions across the plains. All of a sudden, air conditioning is a human right.

Exhibit three: extreme energy development is making a mess. The train derailment, explosion and spill at Lac Megantic is obviously top of mind. Pipeline spills have also been much in the news (even as pipeline companies aspire for new capacity via Keystone XL, Northern Gateway (through northern BC) and Trans Mountain (to Vancouver)). But breaking news includes spills as a result of new extreme tar sands processing, with “unstoppable” leaks from in situ extraction that injects steam below the surface to heat and pump out the bitumen.
(O)ne has to think that all of this damage, from climate change and business-as-usual for the fossil fuel industry, portends political change. Perhaps not this year, but our collective denial of the costs of our fossil fuel addiction has to come crashing down at some point. Or not. Such is our choice right now: is humanity a plankton bloom, here for a good time not a long time, or can we stitch it together to become something more long-lasting on this planet. Life on planet earth will go on, but what will become of the great human drama that has unfolded over the past hundred thousand years? It’s our collective choice to make, so time to roll up our sleeves and build a social movement that will push our political class to action.
- And it's well worth adding Halliburton's coverup of its role to the list of appalling actions which should cause a major rethink of our assumptions about how much we can trust our corporate overlords - rather than giving rise to a paltry fine.

- But as Democracy Watch notes, Canada's premiers apparently can't hold a meeting without turning it into a corporate-branded event.

- Rick Goldman challenges Andrew Coyne's attempt to redefine poverty out of existence. Laurel Rothman and Bill Moore-Kilgannon make the case for a national strategy to combat poverty (while recognizing that nothing of the sort is coming from the Harper Cons),

- Instead, the Cons have of course focused on boutique tax baubles which serve little purpose but to drain the federal treasury to ensure nothing useful is done with public money. And Carol Goar points out that even the C.D. Howe Institute recognizes the futility of that choice.

- Finally, Alison links together the Cons' inner circle to highlight the implausibility that payoffs to Mike Duffy wouldn't have been familiar to Stephen Harper and his office. And Lana Payne discusses the need to rebuild social trust in the wake of Harper's "binders full of enemies" attitude toward the majority of Canada:
The list of "enemy stakeholders" (which encompasses pretty much anyone who disagrees with or has disagreed with the Harper government) did serve to highlight once again this government's colossal insecurity and bullying personality.

But for most political watchers the fact that the Prime Minister's Office would keep a running list of enemies merely confirmed what they already knew.

This is a government that has taken divisive politics to new and dizzying heights. This is a government that lacks the will and, perhaps, the ability to seek compromise and consensus.
Instead, it prefers to create enemies and then abuse its power in an effort to punish those so-called enemies.

And the list is long. Long enough to fill binders.

Feminists. Environmentalists. Doctors who care about refugees. Academics and scientists for giving a darn about things like evidence and data and real research. Unions. Civil society organizations. Self-identified progressives. The Parliamentary budget officer, or specifically, Kevin Page. The premiers. Senators who don't toe the line and rubber stamp bad laws. Federal civil servants who blow the whistle when their government lies about government policy, as was the case with an EI fraud investigator recently. Bureaucrats with an informed opinion trying to offer good policy advice, rather than us-vs-them warnings.
As we know, every government runs it course. They get old and tired. The Harper government is looking like that now, despite the attempt to put a new face on cabinet.

Capitalizing on the unpopularity of the federal Conservatives without acting to rebuild both social and political trust with Canadians might result in short-term political success for those who displace them, but what will it really mean for the country?

As Himelfarb points out, social trust is quite different from political trust. Both are needed, but it is the loss of the first that is the bigger concern.

1 comment:

  1. " humanity a plankton bloom, here for a good time not a long time, or can we stitch it together to become something more long-lasting on this planet. Life on planet earth will go on, but what will become of the great human drama that has unfolded over the past hundred thousand years?"

    There is a persuasive theory, Greg, that contends that intelligent life is inevitably self-extinguishing. Among other things the theory is said to explain why we aren't visited by advanced intelligent life from distant galaxies.