Monthly Archives: August 2013

Wandering through the icebergs

Former fishemen now harvest iceberg bits near Cape St. Francis, Newfoundland, for a company that makes vodka and beer out of the iceberg water. Photo by Greg Locke © 2013

Former fishermen now harvest iceberg bits near Cape St. Francis, Newfoundland, for a company that makes vodka and beer out of the iceberg water. Photo by Greg Locke © 2013

I just posted my photo essay Welcome to Iceberg Alley  in the GEO section.  A collection of photos and a look at how the people of Newfoundland live, study,  work, and make the most of these floating ice giants that come from the melting glaciers of Greenland and the Canadian arctic every spring. Behind it all is the underlying knowledge that it’s all because of a changing climate.

The Photo-Essay can be accessed with a $1 day pass for the entire site, or by subscription.

 

Posted in Gyroscope Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Talk, not guns, between Egypt and Ethiopia – for now

There is an unintended consequence of the army’s coup in Egypt, writes international affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe in today’s column. It has averted the threatened war between Egypt and  Ethiopia, over control of the waters of the Nile River on which Egypt has depended since civilization began.

The column, in Commentary, can be accessed with a $1 day pass for the entire site, or by subscription.

Posted in Current Affairs

Seamus Heaney’s living past

SeamusHeany-500px

In 1995 the Irish poet Seamus Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.”

In his death today he becomes a part of our “living past.” And his passing is a reminder of the luminous souls whose work will reverberate long after today’s transient thugs and loud charlatans have passed through the news cycle. More in my  Free Range column.

The column, in Commentary, can be accessed with a $1 day pass for the entire site, or by subscription.

Posted in Gyroscope

Fracking: at what cost, for what benefits?

The technology of “fracking” has transformed North America’s fuel forecast and global energy politics in one brief generation. But the story of fracking  is really a story about risk – and how we, as individuals and communities, face and trade off unavoidable contingencies, writes contributor Chris Wood in “Risky Business: The Facts Behind Fracking.” “Rarely is the answer kindergarten-simple,” he adds.

Wood’s elegant piece, reprinted from The Walrus magazine and updated here, appears today in F&O’s new Magazine section. It can be accessed with a $1 day pass for the entire site, or by subscription.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope

Manthorpe explains Syria’s Gordian knot

An American-led attack on military assets of the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad in retaliation for a nerve gas attack on civilians last week now appears inevitable, writes Jonathan Manthorpe in today’s column. Only the timing is in doubt.
 
The column, in Commentary, is available with a $1 day pass for the entire site, or by subscription.

 

Posted in Current Affairs

On the road with the Newfoundland diaspora

Photojournalist Greg Locke on the road in the Peace Country of northern Alberta. Photo by Tamas Virag © 2007

In a journalist’s career there are many stories to tell. Sometimes you are a local journalist telling a local story to a local audience. Other times you are a foreigner in a foreign land trying to tell a foreign story to the folks back home. In either case it’s usually someone else’s story you are telling, not your own.

I’ve never been much interested in “local” stories or covering my own home town. It’s just too close to home, especially in a small city like St. John’s, Newfoundland, where you are pretty well guaranteed to know or have some connection to your subjects and sources. Sometimes I think small-town journalists have it the hardest, as their ‘objective’ reporting all too often comes back at them as personal attacks in the local hockey rink or morning coffee stops.

But there often comes a time in a journalists’ career where they realise that they have a good story in their lives, family or personal community  that has a universal theme, one that a broader audience might find interesting. For me it is the story of the Newfoundland history of migrant workers, hundreds of thousand of Newfoundlanders that migrated and traveled the world from their island in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean for work, trade and, like migrant workers from around the world, a better life and to support their families back home.

This has been happening for a hundred years in Newfoundland and my family has been as much a part of it as just about every family in Newfoundland today. In 2006 I begin documenting the stories of the people and families that have spread across the world, either as a full-fledged migration or as global commuters travelling to the global economy. My story Mexicans with Sweaters is a segment of that story, which looks at the generations of Newfoundlanders who have moved or commute to northern Alberta to work, not only in the massive tar sands industrial complex, but at jobs from waitress to doctor in towns like Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie.

They are all stories from the road with the Newfoundland diaspora.

— Greg Locke, St. John’s, Newfoundland

(Locke’s Magazine feature is available with a $1 day pass for the entire site, or by subscription.)

 

 

Posted in Canadian Journalist, Gyroscope Tagged |

Overdrawn: Earth Overshoot Day

Imagine that your income isn’t quite covering your expenses. Every month you run out of cash just before you get paid. But now, imagine that you find you’re running out of money sooner with each passing month, trying to cover the gap by running up your credit card. At first it’s just a few days, then a week, then more.

Pretty soon, you would know you had a problem.

That’s almost exactly the situation we’re in as a species, and yet we’re only very dimly aware of our problem. And not just any problem, but one which, left unattended, will with arithmetic certainty doom our techno-culture of miracles and wonders to a painful and crude adjustment to the sharply shrunken limits of the human habitat.

That is the only conclusion we can draw from the information that Earth Overshoot Day has already arrived. That is the day, to keep my metaphor of a household budget going a little longer, when the ‘income’ of natural resources provided by the planet’s sustaining climate, ocean and ecosystems in any median 12-month period, is exausted. 

When that day was originally observed in the 1980s, it came in late December. Then it arrived before Thanksgiving—first America’s and then Canada’s. Now it comes before Labour Day. 

But here is where the metaphor breaks down. Nature doesn’t do credit. We can’t put extra fresh air, clean water, productive fisheries or fertile soil in a stable climate, on our Platinum Card.

Instead, we are running down what amounts to the principle in a trust account: the accumulated sunshine of fossil fuels; the productive abundance of mature, complex marine and terrestrial ecosystems; aquifers tens of thousands of years in the making; a climate stability arguably millions of years in the creation. And like any savings account, when our principle is gone… it simply runs out.

And here the financial metaphor collapses entirely. Money is an abstraction: bankers invent more of it every day. Habitat is real: sticky, muddy, wet or sandy dry, but inescapably physical. It is the biological setting in which our primate species is adapted to live. When it runs out we, like any other species whose habitat vanishes, will disappear (or at least dwindle) with it.

That’s why, of the many challenges we face today, only one is truly mission-critical: restoring the natural security represented by flourishing ecosystems capable of providing us with a surplus, not a deficit, of life-sustaining habitat services. 

I’ll be writing more on this in Facts and Opinions in the weeks ahead.
Chris Wood

References and further reading:
Global Footprint Network site
FactsandOpinions story on William Rees, inventor of the Ecological Footprint 

Posted in Current Affairs

Obstacles temper hopes for new global role for Iran

By allowing the election to Iran’s presidency of moderate Hassan Rouhani, the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has tacitly admitted his own past blunders and shown a desire for better relations with Washington and Europe. 

But although the prospects of dialogue with Tehran look better than they have for many years, there are still formidable obstacles around Iran’s nuclear ambitions and resolution of its role in the basic schisms in the Middle East, writes international affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe in his new column today. It is available with a $1 day pass for the entire site, or by subscription.

 

Posted in Current Affairs

Egypt is in for a prolonged struggle

 Egypt’s torment in the undertow of the Arab Spring is a textbook example of failure, writes international affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe in his new column. 

Manthorpe’s piece is available with a $1 day pass for the entire site, or by subscription.

 

Posted in Current Affairs

Not finished with Earth

Well, damn. Seems we’ll be stuck on this spinning rock in space a while longer: humanity’s best shot at escape died a heavenly death this week. NASA announced it can’t fix the broken Kepler Spacecraft, tasked with solving an earth-shaking question, “Are Earths in the habitable zone of stars like our sun common or rare?” 

Escape has been our thing for a while now. The Kepler mission (“A Search for Habitable Planets”) was just the latest. There was Icarus, of course. There are multiple religious or superstitious versions of an afterlife. There was the euphoria over the Age of Flight, illustrated in this comment by Jacques Alexandre César Charles, one of two balloonists on the first manned flight over Paris in 1783: “Nothing will ever quite equal that moment of total hilarity that filled my whole body at the moment of take-off. I felt we were flying away from the Earth and all its troubles for ever. It was not mere delight. It was a sort of physical ecstasy. My companion Monsieur Robert murmured to me – I’m finished with the Earth.”*

Earth will be finished with us even if we aren’t finished with her, Stephen Hawking warned three years ago. Other modern doomsayers, such as scientist James Lovelock of Gaia fame, have said humankind has already passed the point of no return, that in the 21st Century we are already too near to, and moving too fast toward, the precipice of existence to turn back. Hawking is a tad more optimistic: our future is in space he says, but we really should not have “all our eggs” in the one basket of earth. 

There is still a chance the Kepler mission will come through: data collected on the mission and yet to be analyzed may hold the answer, said Kepler’s science principal investigator in the press release.

In the meantime, perhaps we should clean up our joint? Give ourselves a chance of clinging to our rock for a while longer? And if you’re one of the religious extremists convinced an End Times is imminent, or a sci-fi fan who believes aliens will come to the rescue, good luck to you – but do mind your own business as the rest of us start keeping our house.
References and further reading:
* Page 161, Age of wonder by Richard Holmes.
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