Tag Archives: Tzeporah Berman

Climate change: the Pointy End of Hope

Tzeporah Berman

Tzeporah Berman

The effects of human-caused climate change are already evident on all continents and waters, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its latest report March 31. The report is, undeniably, grim: agriculture, human health, water and land-based ecosystems, water supplies, and some livelihoods are already affected. There is much we don’t know, it said. Surprises are in store, it warned. Some analysts forecast wars, famine and massive destruction.

But the report also held out hope: there are opportunities to take action — challenging opportunities.  Canadian environmental activist Tzeporah Berman is an expert on facing such challenges, with experience gleaned from years on the front lines as co-director of Greenpeace International’s Global Climate and Energy Program, Executive Director and Co-founder of PowerUp Canada and Co-founder and Campaign Director of ForestEthics. An excerpt of her essay, The Pointy End:

The most heartbreaking question I get, and I get it all the time––at the end of my speeches, or from people calling in when I’m being interviewed on the radio––is “Do we have a chance?”

Sometimes people ask in other ways.

“Can we really do something about global warming?”

“Do you really think it’s possible to move away from fossil fuels?”

And, “Is it too late?”

I always give the answer many people don’t believe, but I still do. Yes, I think we do have a chance. We can win this fight. But there’s a catch: only if we live every moment intentionally. Only if we organize.

 The Pointy End, an essay by Tzeporah Berman, is republished in F&O’s Expert Witness section with permission, from her book, This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge.

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The Pointy End


Tzeporah Berman speaks at protest of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal in Alberta and British Columbia. Photo Deborah Jones © 2013

The effects of human-caused climate change are already evident on all continents and waters, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its latest report, released March 31. The report is, undeniably, grim: agriculture, human health, water and land-based ecosystems, water supplies, and some livelihoods are already affected. There is much we don’t know, it said. Surprises are in store, it warned. Some analysts forecast wars, famine and massive destruction.

But the report also held out hope: there are opportunities, it said, to take action — albeit challenging ones. The following essay is by Canadian environmental activist Tzeporah Berman, an expert on finding hope after years on the front lines as co-director of Greenpeace International’s Global Climate and Energy Program, Executive Director and Co-founder of PowerUp Canada and Co-founder and Campaign Director of ForestEthics.

Excerpt from This Crazy Time
Published on F&O April 8, 2014

“To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing” — Raymond Williams

The most heartbreaking question I get, and I get it all the time––at the end of my speeches, or from people calling in when I’m being interviewed on the radio––is “Do we have a chance?”

Sometimes people ask in other ways.

“Can we really do something about global warming?”

“Do you really think it’s possible to move away from fossil fuels?”

And, “Is it too late?”

I always give the answer many people don’t believe, but I still do. Yes, I think we do have a chance. We can win this fight. But there’s a catch: only if we live every moment intentionally. Only if we organize.

We have to engage our friends and family, our synagogues, churches and schools. We have to acknowledge that we have the capacity and the right to demand that our politicians act, and we have to find a way to get to work. That’s going to require widespread action and citizens’ engagement. Together we can have a bigger impact than apart. But together for what? What are we actually doing? What are we calling for at any particular moment?

Years ago in a strategy meeting, Chris (Chris Hatch, my husband and fellow campaigner) referred to our campaign’s end goal and the need to focus and direct our efforts as “the pointy end.” The term has always resonated with me because social organizing and campaigns should act like a funnel, and they need to funnel into something at every particular moment; if they don’t, you’ve got a whole lot of good intentions and not much of anything else. Finding a clear focus for your work, a clear goal to set your sights on, that’s “the pointy end” of the work. Without it we are all bark and no bite. I expect I may be jumping into hot water again, but I would offer that the incredible organizing and protests around the World Trade Organization in 1999 (the infamous Battle in Seattle) or the G20 protests in 2010 in Toronto are a good example of initiatives with no pointy end. Thousands of concerned people were in the streets, but I have heard from more than one confused politician and political pundit trying to understand what the protesters wanted.


Often when we talk about global warming and climate change, people’s default reaction is guilt. And that makes sense because ultimately it is our lifestyle and our dependence on fossil fuels that has created the problem. So people automatically think, Oh my God, I’ve got to change my light bulbs, I’ve got to walk to work, I’ve got to save for a hybrid. It’s my fault, it’s all my fault.

What we see in social movement theory and psychological studies is that if a problem is so big that it cannot be easily understood, or the risks are overwhelming, people will make some changes to their lifestyle but try to forget about the actual problem. You’re walking to work once a week, you’re using your canvas bags for groceries, but the problem is getting worse. So eventually you get off your soapbox and go back to a “normal” life.

There are a million things you can do and, yes, you should do all you can to change your lifestyle. Yes, if you can afford it, you should drive a Prius––though it would be a lot better if you could cycle, take public transit or at least drive the car you already have until it’s no longer fuel-efficient because building that shiny new Prius produces a whole lot of carbon. Yes, we should change our light bulbs. Yes, we should walk to work. All those energy-saving lifestyle tips are true.

But here’s the thing: the majority of North America’s as well as the globe’s emissions come from heavy industry. So while we can and should change a lot of key aspects of our lifestyles, changing our individual actions alone is not enough to correct the course we’re on.

“I have come to realize that we do not have environmental problems, we have human problems. Human problems that create environmental disasters.”

One of the major fallacies of our age is that we are besieged with “environmental problems” that are overwhelming and unstoppable. The nature of the term denies human agency and distances us from individual and collective responsibility. It separates environmental issues from social issues in our minds, language and policy formation. I have come to realize that we do not have environmental problems, we have human problems. Human problems that create environmental disasters.

I have listened to foresters and corporate officials refer to “slope failures” and discuss technologies and restoration to overcome massive soil erosion. I have heard various Canadian environment ministers refer to “grave environmental problems” as if the environment itself were to blame. But the soil is not eroding on its own; it is washing down the slopes and into the salmon streams because humans have removed the trees and vegetation on the mountainsides. That is not a slope failure, it is a human failure. Yes, solving global warming is going to require some changes, but those changes are possible. If the problem resulted from some bad human decisions, it stands to reason that some good ones can solve it. We need to remember that a problem without a solution is a tragedy. A problem with a solution that is not being implemented is not a tragedy, it’s a scandal.

Once we realize the magnitude of the problems, we must cope with the stages of despair and denial––an emotional and intellectual trajectory. Stage one after my climate reckoning was that if it’s one or the other, I’m going to choose a normal life because it’s too soul wrecking to worry about what I’m doing or should be doing all the time. Then I went through my potato chips and Battlestar Galactica phase, when I tuned out the world, popped in DVDs and played Lego with my kids.

After that I tried to figure out my place in the problem, what I could do, how I could reach people, how I could find a community to have these discussions with. I found friends who were going through the same thing I was––and they were all relieved that they weren’t crazy either, but freaked out that they weren’t doing enough. Together we found some things to do that felt meaningful and, even better, we were all regularly inspired by stories of other organizations and groups around the world who were moving the dial too. Change is happening. In our homes, our schools, our workplaces and our legislatures.

In writing about this journey, I find myself flashing back to a speech I gave at a rally on the steps of the provincial British Columbia Legislature. I was asked to “inspire the crowd,” and right before I spoke I realized I had nothing left to say. I had spent the summer being horrified and depressed by the extent of clear-cutting logging I had witnessed and our seeming inability to even slow it down.

Closing my eyes to over a thousand people on the legislature lawn, I grabbed the microphone and gave it everything I had––lamenting the loss of these majestic thousand-year-old trees and decrying the tragedy of our ancient forests being destroyed to make phone books and toilet paper. I spoke from the heart and talked about how, at twenty-five years old, I was afraid to have children because I didn’t want to bring them into a world where this kind of devastation was not only possible but predictable and acceptable. I talked about all the amazing people I had met that summer and how together I hoped we could make a difference. I opened my eyes and looked out at a sea of people whose fear, anger and caring were palpable. I ended my speech by saying, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds it.”

The roar of the crowd was deafening, and when I stepped off the stage I was shaking. Standing by the steps was an elderly couple, clearly moved. They stepped forward and told me they had known my mom and dad well and that my parents would have been very proud. That day I realized that beyond the pain, fear and anger was a place that sparkled with purpose, pride and honour. 

Over the next decade I would remember that moment over and over again. I would remember how I could channel despair and anger into action and how good it feels to know you’re part of a powerful community and contributing to something that will have an impact beyond your own lifetime.

In Bali and Copenhagen, Canada, the United States and Amsterdam, I have been reminded that despair is a powerful place from which to step forward. There are times when it feels too big, too overwhelming, and I feel too small and insignificant. But every day I look at my children and know that I need to find ways to contribute to raising awareness and finding solutions. I need to continue to find my voice and allow myself to feel the pain of despair to motivate a new strong commitment and voices for change.

Choosing to combat climate change is like deciding to exercise––we need to figure out how it becomes part of our daily practice. If I commit to exercise every day, whether practicing yoga or taking a walk, it becomes part of my life; if I don’t, finding the time for it becomes impossible. If we are serious about making real change in the world, we have to treat our time like that; we have to be intentional about how we intervene. For a while I was telling myself I just had to write one letter a day––and on the days I didn’t have time I would go to an environmental group’s website and click where they wanted me to click. It was an incredibly satisfying feeling, and it was important to contribute. If we all started to make that commitment, to carve out a couple of hours a week to meet with a group of concerned people or an organization, or, better yet, created a daily habit of volunteering or engaging in the issues that became second nature like checking our Facebook page or a necessity like packing our kids’ lunchboxes, imagine what a different world we’d have.

More important, you need to join an environmental group––especially a local one where you can take part in actions meaningful to your community––and engage with your elected decision makers. Send your support cheque to that group. Write those letters, make those phone calls. It takes only thirty seconds to click “send” every time one of the environmental groups working on vital issues initiates an e-campaign.

There’s always a decision to be made about your own activities, about what you buy or don’t buy, about whether you fly for pleasure or for work or stop flying altogether. Ultimately environmentalism is about trying to figure out how we can each have the least possible impact. It’s critical that we all do everything we can to eat locally and organically, to consume less, to use less energy.

I know we can’t all work on these issues all day, every day. We have busy lives, bills to pay and our own individual fires to put out. But each of us can dedicate some of our ingenuity, some of our resources, some of our time. And we have to. Because today we’re all responsible not only for what we do but for what we don’t do.

“I feel like I’m going crazy. I had to stop reading about it.”

Half the people I talk to after my climate speeches say, “I feel like I’m going crazy. I had to stop reading about it.”

I’ve met people who’ve stopped working on environmental issues because of climate change. I asked one friend why he’d walked away from a local climate campaign he had been working on and he said, “Because my soul hurts too much.” There are going to be climate-reckoning self-help groups in a couple of years. I’ve already heard of a counsellor in Canada who works with couples in crisis because one of them is more worried about the climate than the other.

When I had my climate reckoning, I delved into the writings of experts like Monbiot, and I was the friend you didn’t want at your dinner party. I remember New Year’s Eve 2008 when someone asked me about the work I was doing. I started discussing the dramatic impacts of climate change that we are already seeing in vulnerable countries, my fear about the unsustainable path we’re on. Before I knew it, the party had gone silent, and the two people beside me had tears running down their faces and I thought, Oh crap, I’m the bummer girl. I’m the channel you change because you’re too tired, so you flip to a rerun of Friends.

It’s true: you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Our world has changed permanently, and for many of us the way that we look at the world has changed forever. However, when I think of giving up, I remind myself that we have done this before. The Montreal Protocol worked. Today the holes in the ozone layer are smaller, and in some places they’ve even healed. I remind myself how much has changed for the positive in just the past couple of years and that we have the technology for economically viable solutions at hand.

“The global project to fight climate change is doable … It’s not such a big ask as people are making out.”

New Scientist ran the numbers on what it’s going to cost consumers to have a clean energy transition and projected that radical cuts to the UK’s emissions would cause barely noticeable increases in the price of food, drink and most other goods by 2050. Electricity and gasoline costs would rise significantly, but with the right policies in place, the modellers believe this increase need not lead to big changes in lifestyle. “These results show that the global project to fight climate change is doable,” said Alex Bowen, a climate policy expert at the London School of Economics. “It’s not such a big ask as people are making out.”

Though the results spoke directly to UK consumers, previous research came to similar conclusions for Americans. One study found that if Americans were to cut their emissions by 50 percent by 2050, prices of most consumer goods would increase by less than 5 percent as a result. These findings were consistent with analyses by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change in Washington, DC. “Even cutting emissions by eighty percent over four decades has a very small effect on consumers in most areas,” says Manik Roy of the Pew Center.

How do we convince our governments that they have the social licence––that we will support them if they make these changes? We need to start with a vision.

A well-known pollster told me that travel agents don’t talk about the cost or the flight to Hawaii; they talk about the beach. And one of the most inspiring speakers I know, Van Jones, is fond of saying, “There is a reason Martin Luther King never said, ‘I have a kvetch, or I have a problem.’ Because the problem rarely inspires action and commitment––it’s the dream.”

And that’s why we need to talk about the dream.

Shock and horror rarely seed engagement. They seed helplessness in our souls. We need to stop talking about global warming and deforestation without talking about responsibility, engagement and identifying what we can do to create the world we want.

One of the most important pieces of theory behind my work has been Bill Moyer’s “Movement Map,” in which he outlines the stages of social movements. Moyer says that in order to move issues, goals need to be framed in terms of widely held values. When you speak to values, you go from having an issue that someone cares about to having a movement that a lot of people care about. It struck me when I started working on climate issues that the climate movement has been exclusive, complex and based on science and policy that speaks to policy wonks, not civilians. I’ve spent my adult life working on environmental issues, and it took me six months of intensive research to even begin to figure out what I was for. That’s why I made it my goal to talk about these issues in a way that everybody can understand, and from that understanding, act.

Regardless of where you live, your government’s inaction in the face of workable alternatives is a scandal, and we have to show that most governments are out of touch with widely held values of clean air, clean water and livable cities––that they are out of touch with our values.

We have solutions at hand. In 2009, for the first time in human history, the combined new investment in renewables, wind, solar and water power was greater than the combined investment in dirty fuels––oil and gas and nuclear combined.

I dream of a world where we all have access to clean water, clean air and healthy food

I dream of a world where we all have access to clean water, clean air and healthy food––a world where the rich countries that have been spewing pollution into the atmosphere for decades take responsibility and help the emerging economies leapfrog over the dirty-fossil-fuel era and develop renewable energy systems. I don’t dream of us all going “back to the land” and living in cabins without running water and electricity. And I know we can’t all live in places like Cortes Island. I dream of a high-tech world with sleek urban design, smart electricity grids, rooftop and community gardens, bike lanes and high-speed trains. I dream of a world where governments regulate and control pollution, never use taxpayers’ money to subsidize dirty fossil fuels, and come together internationally to sign an emergency agreement for a fair, ambitious and binding treaty to protect what’s left of our intact forests and stop climate change.

We need to create a collective vision that gives us all hope and inspires us to action. We need a process that creates a conversation. These are issues that need to be brought out of the domain of the experts, that cannot be addressed behind closed doors by stakeholder representatives. These are issues that will not be dealt with by one party, one government, one environmental group or any one person. We can no longer afford partisan squabbles that result in no climate legislation being passed. We cannot afford to wait and hope that any one government will do the right thing, because no one will have the courage to make the changes necessary without knowing we are all on the same page.

The changes required will not always be easy, or necessarily popular at the polls. People do not appreciate paying more for energy, do not like having their views altered or challenged, or seeing natural areas opened to clean energy production. It is our job to communicate the imperative. That’s why we need far-reaching goals that everyone can understand and embrace. We need to stimulate tax breaks for renewables, we need access to low-cost capital renewables and low-carbon industry, and we need hard limits on pollution––and that means putting a price on carbon that polluters will actually notice. We need stronger regulations on buildings and vehicles. We have the technology to produce cars that don’t pollute, so why aren’t we producing them? Why don’t we just outlaw the cars that do pollute?

Japan has an inspiring law that I think all countries should look at adopting, which translates as “the top runner law.” The Japanese government looks at everything from dishwashers to ovens to tractors, and every three years it outlaws the bottom energy performers in each area. The result is truly dynamic competition and an industry and marketplace racing to be more efficient. That’s why some of the most efficient appliances are from Japan.

Yes, we need entrepreneurship. Yes, we need financing. Yes, we need individual actions. But it’s that law that’s changing appliances around the world. Laws make a difference. We all need to become politically active and show our governments that the future of the planet means enough to us that it’s the issue that must matter at the polls. I met with a Canadian government official recently who told me that while it’s true Canadians care, they don’t care enough for climate policies to matter as an election issue. So the Harper government figures they are doing enough. That has to change, and not just in Canada.

American voters are frequently moved to the polls en masse by a single “wedge” issue, an issue some voters feel strongly enough about not only to get them to vote but to determine their vote. Once the environment becomes that crucial an issue, we’ll see politicians of all stripes racing to turn green.

Vote for climate leadership. We’re not going to see change until politicians believe they have the money and votes to make changes

If there really is only one thing that you’re going to do after reading this, vote for climate leadership. Because ultimately we’re not going to see change until politicians believe they have the money and votes to make the difficult changes that need to be made. It just makes sense to vote for the person who’s going to save your ass.

And it’s all within our grasp.

The United Kingdom has committed to ensuring that all new homes must produce zero carbon by 2016. China has stronger vehicle-efficiency regulations than Canada. The United States is putting one million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015. The Pew Center on Global Climate Change has laid out three scenarios for the United States to achieve up to a 65 percent reduction in transportation-related GHG emissions by 2050; however, the US government would have to stand up to the automobile lobby on fuel standards––another reason laws and lawmakers matter. Israel (population 7 million) has committed to an all-electric-car infrastructure. By the end of 2011 they plan to have electric cars in mass production and half a million charging stations.

Over one hundred countries, cities and other jurisdictions have joined the United Nations Climate Neutral Network and are implementing zero-carbon plans. Countries as varied as Norway, New Zealand and Costa Rica have committed to becoming carbon neutral. Sweden has promised to build an “oil-free society” and has already reduced oil for residential and commercial heating by 70 percent over the past thirty years.

It’s clear that those of us who want to move away from a petrol state will have to prove to decision makers that we can create an economy that can and will fuel our needs with low-carbon energy, using sources that create jobs. We have to prove to our governments that this objective represents more than a niche market, and if we’re going to do that, we have to figure out how to do it right, and stand up quickly.

Some of the people with whom I work most closely, with whom I’ve had the biggest breakthroughs, have been people who work with logging companies, who want to do the right thing. Right now, some of the people whom I think are most concerned about global warming in Canada work with energy companies. So yes, we need to call out bad decisions and name names in order to draw attention to a particular problem or intransigent decision maker, but through it all leave room for industry leaders to get creative and give bureaucrats the benefit of the doubt. We can’t be so quick to stick a label on someone and limit his actions and our relationships.

That said, collaboration and relationship building work once everyone agrees there is a problem to solve. They work once it is clear that business as usual is not an option. Great shifts in history have always required citizen engagement and mobilization. That doesn’t mean everyone needs to get out in the streets with a placard––though I hope some of you will––but it does mean you need to find a place that feels right for you and engage. It means there isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy or tactic, and in most cases the strongest campaigns are, like nature, diverse. It takes a lot of strands to make a strong web.

A few years ago I was at Bioneers and met Diane Wilson, the woman who scaled the Dow Chemical building with a banner in her backpack and used a Kryptonite bicycle lock to chain her throat around poles so she couldn’t be dragged off by security guards or police. On a whim she changed the face of negotiations with a behemoth chemical company. Diane reminded me of two things: how important it is to be bold, and how important civil disobedience and protest have been to every successful campaign I know of. She reminded me how easily we can become lost in engagement and negotiations and how the controversy, the willingness to put our freedom, and in some cases our lives, on the line can move the debate forward and increase our power by leaps and bounds.

Yes, we have to negotiate in the boardrooms and be prepared to use our power as consumers through boycotts, but we still need people who are willing to risk their freedom and their lives on the blockades. I know if we look back in ten years and admit that we didn’t have the courage to stand with a placard in front of city hall, Parliament or the White House at a time when so many people and in fact our planet was threatened, we’ll regret it.

It’s not enough to sit back and let someone else decide the fate of our children’s future.

It’s not enough to sit back and let someone else decide the fate of our children’s future. You wouldn’t let someone else decide where your kids go to school, and you shouldn’t let someone else decide what kind of air they’re going to breathe. The world is changing. And it will change by default or design to a post-carbon economy. If we allow it to change by default, there will be far more casualties.

When I started this work, I thought I had all the answers. Now I know that no one does. The best we can do is really listen––to others and to ourselves. Then we need to make choices and act, guided by what we have learned, our capacity and resources, and our principles. There is no road map for social change and no single way to engage in these issues. In the end it is about creativity, commitment, courage and a little bit of luck or magic.

Global warming is real, its agents invisible, its schedule unaligned with daily human time frames. In a sense, we are all still sleepwalking through denial, unable to grapple with the enormity of the problem and the scale of changes needed. I am sympathetic to the difficulties of building a new generation of environmentalism, of coming to terms with the compromises we need to make and the speed that it needs to happen. But the laws of physics have no such sympathy. Either we make the change or we are on the sidelines while half the world’s species and far too many of our fellow humans are sentenced to oblivion.

After attending the UN negotiations in Bali, I spent a week with my ninety-two-year-old grandmother, not long before she died. One day we were sitting in the hospital and I told her about my despair. She said, “I don’t want to hear any more about how hard it is, how big it is, and that you don’t know if it can work. When your mother was growing up, when I was having my seven children, we didn’t have a phone, we had a party line. We didn’t have a car. No one had their own car. We had just gotten electricity. We didn’t have computers. We didn’t have cellphones. No one had even thought of them yet––let alone this raspberry you’re always holding,” she said, looking at my ever-present BlackBerry.

“I never would have thought that in my lifetime I would be sitting here talking to my granddaughter about what the world was like, and it would be an entirely different world. The way we communicate is different. The way we move about the world is different. By the time I was an adult and having children, I had never met anyone who had been on a plane. You need to hold on to the fact that the world can entirely change in your lifetime.”

So when I do this work every day, I’m holding on to the notion that one day I’m going to be sitting with my grandchildren telling them about this crazy time not too long ago when we were destroying some of the last of the world’s old-growth forests to make catalogues and toilet paper, this crazy time in our history when we clawed at the earth to get at the last of the oil, a simply crazy time in our history when we used to fill our cars with gas. And they will barely believe me, because the world will be such a different place.

Copyright Tzeporah Berman 2013

Republished on F&O with permission from This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge, by Tzeporah Berman, published by Knopf Canada.

Tzeporah Berman

Tzeporah Berman

Tzeporah Berman has been designing and winning environmental campaigns in Canada and internationally for 20 years.  She currently works as a strategic advisor for dozens of environmental organizations, First Nations and philanthropic advisors on clean energy, oilsands and pipelines.  She is the former co-director of Greenpeace International’s Global Climate and Energy Program,  Executive Director and Co-founder of PowerUp Canada and Co-founder and Campaign Director of ForestEthics. 

Tzeporah was appointed by the Premier of British Columbia to the Green Energy Task Force in 2009 to design recommendations for the development of renewable energy in the region. Tzeporah was one of the experts in Leonardo Di Caprio’s environmental documentary 11th Hour, was one of six Canadian nominees for the Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award, has been profiled as one of 50 Visionaries Changing the World in Utne Reader and as “Canada’s Queen of Green” in the cover story for Readers Digest.  She was honored by inclusion into the British Columbia Royal Museum permanent exhibit of one of 150 people who have changed the face of British Columbia.  Corporate Knights named Tzeporah one of the Top Women in Sustainability (Canada) in 2013. Also in 2013 she was nominated for Climate Woman of the Year by Responding to Climate Change.

Tzeporah is known for her work as the coordinator of one of the largest civil disobedience in Canada’s history, the logging blockades in Clayoquot Sound during which she was arrested and charged with 857 counts of criminal aiding and abetting.  Tzeporah was one of the creators and lead negotiators of the Great Bear Rainforest campaign as well as the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. Her work has contributed to the protection of over 40 million hectares of old growth forests.  More recently Tzeporah helped to design Greenpeace International’s Arctic campaign, the Volkswagen campaign in Europe and the Clean Our Cloud campaign that led to Apple and Facebook becoming international leaders in using renewable energy for their data centers. Tzeporah was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of British Columbia and has been named a fellow of the Broadbent Institute. Her first book, This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge was published by Knopf Canada.

Further reading and viewing:
Tzeporah Berman’s web site: http://www.tzeporahberman.com/index.html
FactsandOpinions brief on the latest IPCC report.
The March 31, 2014 IPCC press release is here: http://ipcc.ch/pdf/ar5/pr_wg2/140330_pr_wgII_spm_en.pdf
A draft copy of the report summary is here: http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/IPCC_WG2AR5_SPM_Approved.pdf
Tzeporah Berman page on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzeporah_Berman



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Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency is a stunning blow to hopes for avoiding the worst impacts of global warming. But a broad-based, grassroots movement committed to cutting emissions and promoting clean energy must continue and intensify – the stakes are simply too high to give up.

WASHINGTON DIARY, by Cheryl Hawkes  Column

IMG_2449Estimates put the Washington, DC, Women’s March at between 500,000 and a million people, while sister protests in more than 650 U.S. centres and another 261 internationally drew an additional 3-5 million people. Journalist Cheryl Hawkes marched in their midst. This is her story about it, and thoughts about what comes next.

Protecting Digital Privacy in Public Shaming Era, by Julia Angwin, ProPublica   Column

Every January, I do a digital tune-up, cleaning up my privacy settings, updating my software and generally trying to upgrade my security. This year, the task feels particularly urgent as we face a world with unprecedented threats to our digital safety.

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) takes the oath of office from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (R) with his wife Melania, and children Barron, Donald, Ivanka and Tiffany at his side during inauguration ceremonies at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos BarriaTrump Hits Populist Note in Inaugural Address, by Richard Tofel, ProPublica

Donald Trump’s speech largely lacked lofty language, but contained a full-throated populist vision, delivered with confidence, and signaled this from the start in one of its most memorable lines: “Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.” This might be heard to echo Ronald Reagan’s 1981 statement that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” but that would actually miss Trump’s point: The speech did not oppose government — it opposed the governors.

Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Fund choice between LGBT rights and saving lives, by Jeremy Hainsworth

Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Fund choice between LGBT rights and saving lives, by Jeremy Hainsworth The annual hullabaloo about the allegedly homophobic and discriminatory activities of the Salvation Army has begun. I'm torn: the Salvation Army has discriminatory policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people issues. It also runs detoxes and rehab facilities for those seeking recovery from addiction. Bottom line: someone who is dead can’t help fight inequality.The annual hullabaloo about the allegedly homophobic and discriminatory activities of the Salvation Army has begun. I’m torn: the Salvation Army has discriminatory policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people issues. It also runs detoxes and rehab facilities for those seeking recovery from addiction. Bottom line: someone who is dead can’t help fight inequality.

Wake-up: How the 2016 Election Changed One American Voter, by Emily Lacika

My U.S. post-election emotions have run the gamut: sadness, anger, anxiety, vindictiveness, shame. American politics is big on rhetoric about democracy, but it often falls short, especially this year when the candidate who won fewer votes has captured the White House. Sixty two million other Americans voted the same way I did, and lost –and now we are working together.

How should you grieve? by Andrea Volpe, Loose Leaf essay

The pain and sorrow of bereavement is supposed to get easier to bear as time passes. But what if it doesn’t? Psychiatrists call it ‘complicated grief’ – and it can be treated.

Poppy: medicine, or opiate? by Alex Kennedy  Loose Leaf 

A former soldier questions the symbolism of the poppy.

His Bob-ness joins Yeats, Beckett, and Eliot, by Rod Mickleburgh

In the winter of 1990, I waited with a handful of reporters and photographers in a grand salon of the Palais-Royal in Paris for Bob Dylan. More than 25 years ahead of the Nobel Prize people, the French had decided that Dylan’s lyrical prowess was worthy of the country’s highest cultural honour, Commandeur dans l’ Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. T.S. Eliot was one of the first to receive the award in 1960. Borges followed in 1962. And now, following in the footsteps of Sean Connery (1987), it was Bob’s turn.

photo_10261“Only White People,” the Little Girl Told my Son, by Topher Sanders

I saw the messy birth of my son’s otherness … They were playing on one of those spinning things — you know, the one where kids learn about centrifugal force and as a bonus get crazy dizzy. They were having a blast. “Only white people,” said a little girl.

On Capitalism and “Bullshit Jobs” by David Graeber

In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that technology would have advanced sufficiently by century’s end that countries like Great Britain or the United States would achieve a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. Why did Keynes’ promised utopia never materialise?

Is the Environment Stuck in US Journalism’s Basement? by Peter Dykstra

Environmental journalism has reached a certain maturity: Decades of quality, often courageous and ground-breaking reporting on life-or-death issues, an imperfect-but-enviable record of accuracy, and at least a dozen Pulitzer Prizes to show for it in the U.S. But some see another view.

An Ancient Fossil’s Lessons About Cancer,  by Richard Gunderman

The finding of cancer in the bone of a 1.7-million-year-old human relative isn’t just a biological oddity – it is a reminder of what it means to be both alive and human. Life is fraught with hazards. Thriving biologically (and biographically) does not mean eliminating all risks but managing the ones we can, both to reduce harm and promote a full life.

Photos Shape Attitudes to Refugees: View from Australia, by Jane Lydon

Photography has mapped a distinctively Australian version of this global story. Once migrants were represented as complex, vulnerable, diverse people. Today the Australian government seeks to suppress photographs of asylum seekers, seemingly from fear that such images will prompt empathy with them and undermine border security policy.

Trump as dealmaker-in-chief? by Brian Brennan

Donald Trump would envisage himself as America’s dealmaker-in-chief. What would that look like? Not a pretty picture, as I see it.

hc_Al_Hussein_smllVerbatim: Hate, mainstreamed — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. By Ra’ad Al Hussein

Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers. Clampdowns on public freedoms, and crackdowns on civil society activists and human rights defenders, are hacking away at the forces which uphold the healthy functioning of societies. Judicial institutions which act as checks on executive power are being dismantled. Towering inequalities are hollowing out the sense that there are common goods. These trends bleed nations of their innate resilience.

Canada’s ambassador to Ireland: Once a Cop, Always a Cop. By Brian Brennan

It’s hard to tell from the raw television footage if the shaven-headed protester posed any real danger to the Irish and British dignitaries gathered at a Dublin military cemetery this week to honour British soldiers killed during the 1916 Irish rebellion against British rule. But clearly the Canadian ambassador, Kevin Vickers, felt there was a threat. He made a beeline for the shouting protester, grabbed him by the sleeves of his leather jacket, marched him away from the podium and turned him over to police.

Remembering the Pillar. By Brian Brennan

A century ago, on April 29, 1916, the Irish Republic ended its brief existence with an unconditional surrender. Though successfully thwarted, it set off a series of events that led to the outbreak of an Irish war of independence between 1919 and 1921. Brian Brennan writes about his experience of Ireland’s independence movement halfway between then, and now.

After Paris climate pact, let’s get personal. By Gwynne Taraska and Shiva Polefka  Essay

Reengineering global economic dependence on carbon pollution requires conscious commitment and action from individuals as well as governments and corporations.

Thousands turned out in Vancouver, Washington to hear Bernie Sanders. © Rod Mickleburgh 2016

“Feeling the Bern”  By Rod Mickleburgh

The 74-year old, white-haired politician advanced to the podium, and the roof nearly came off the Hudson’s Bay High School gymnasium. No wonder. For nearly four hours, thousands of us had been standing in line, braving a cold, miserable rain, without even knowing whether we would be among the 5,000 or so lucky enough to make it inside. As the cheers continued to cascade down from the packed, rickety benches of the high school gym, Bernie Sanders leaned forward and shouted in his hoarse, Brooklynese. “All I can say is: WHOA!”

Dal Richards Facebook profile

DAL RICHARDS: The bandleader who almost lived forever. By Rod Mickleburgh

How often do you get to shake hands and say ‘hello’ and ‘thanks’ to a living legend? Vancouver’s King of Swing had a gig every New Year’s Eve for 79 years, which, as the whimsical Richards never tired of pointing out, must be some kind of world record.

Star Wars inspired me to become an astrophysicist, by Martin Hendry

For nearly 40 years, the phrase “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” has resonated in popular culture – forever linked to the iconic opening credits of Star Wars. When I watched the movie for the first time in 1978, at the tender age of ten, I was instantly entranced by its visions of alien worlds, lightsaber battles and the mysterious Force that “binds the galaxy together”.

Alaa Murabit: Libyan Women, identity, country and faith, by Christopher Majka

Alaa Murabita, a Canadian born-woman of Libyan heritage, and a physician and activist, founded the Voice of Libyan Women following the overthrow of the Gaddafi dictatorship.

The Painting That Saved My Family From the Holocaust by Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica

Seventy-seven years ago, my grandmother left her fourth-floor apartment in Munich carrying a painting by Otto Stein, a modestly popular German artist. Earlier that month, the Nazis had launched a nationwide pogrom against Germany’s Jewish minority, a rampage in which gangs of men burned stores, schools and synagogues. In the aftermath of what became known as Kristallnacht, the Gestapo rounded up hundreds of Jewish men and sent them to the Dachau concentration camp. Among them was my grandfather, Jakob Engelberg.

Courtesy of the author: Naomi Shihab Nye explores her world through poetry and prose. She will read and discuss her work at a free event of the New Mexico Humanities Councils Annual Convocation, Friday, Nov. 14 at the KiMo Theatre, 421 Central NW, from 7 to 9 p.m. dolmstead@abqjournal.com Wed Oct 29 16:51:47 -0600 2014 1414623104 FILENAME: 181150.JPG

Gate A-4, by Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been detained four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well — one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

Remembrance and Refugees, by Rod Mickleburgh

Two days before the numbing atrocities of Paris, I went to the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the Japanese-Canadian War Memorial in Stanley Park. After the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, bowing our heads in remembrance on that sun-bathed morning feels light years away. Yet, looking back, as hearts harden towards welcoming desperate Syrian refugees, the event seems to take on a deeper meaning.


“Throw the bastards out,” by William Thorsell

Not in recent times have Canadian voters had an opportunity to “throw the bastards out” in the classic phrase. Elected officials generally leave office before such public urges get to them. Knowing when to leave is among the more elegant qualities of any CEO, but then Mr. Harper has never laid claim to elegance.

Niqab: Radical feminism or female subjugation? By Christopher Majka

Unexpectedly (or perhaps not) the wearing of the niqab has emerged as an issue in the Canadian federal election. Yes, that’s right — the Canadian federal election, not that of Pakistan or Yemen. And in the year 2015, not 1015. How is it that we are even having a discussion about how a very small minority of Muslim women in Canada dress in the context of determining the political future of Canada?

Steve pic

When Democracy Becomes Controversial. By Stephen Collis

Poet and professor Stephen Collis,  and biology professor Lynne Quarmby, were awarded the Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver on Oct. 13. Here is Stephen Collis’s acceptance speech: “Here’s perhaps a bit of controversy: we’re not living in a democracy. Not, at least, if we take seriously the idea that a democracy is a system of rights and freedoms enshrining the self-determination of a community’s constituents. As many thinkers are now pointing out, western democracies in fact function much more like oligarchies …”

The Canada We Hope For. By Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi

Crafting an ideal Canada—the Canada to which we aspire—lies in engaging muscularly with the past and the future. It means a thousand simple acts of service and a million tiny acts of heroism. It means acting at the community level: on our streets, in our neighbourhoods, and in our schools. It means refusing to accept the politics of fear. And then it means exporting the very best of Canada, that ideal and real Canada, to the rest of the world.

Photo by Kent Kallberg, Creative Commons via Suzuki Foundation http://davidsuzuki.org.

Voting and Canadian values. By David Suzuki

When my grandparents arrived from Japan in the early 1900s, Canada was far less tolerant than it is today. Women and minorities couldn’t vote, nor could Indigenous people who had lived here from time immemorial. In 1942, the government took away my Canadian-born family’s property and rights and sent us to an internment camp in the B.C. Interior simply because of our ancestry. Canada has come a long way in my lifetime.

Pope Francis and Dorothy Day Economics. By Chuck Collins

Perhaps the most subversive part of Pope Francis’ speech to the United States Congress was in celebrating a little-known figure and thus reviving interest in what Dorothy Day stood for. And if we truly heed the teachings of Dorothy Day, we would radically transform our society and economy.

Alan and x Kurdi. Photo from Facebook page In Memory of Kurdi Family

Alan and Ghalib Kurdi.

 “Politicizing” Alan Kurdi’s death. By Alexander Kennedy  (Warning: photo and language may be disturbing)

The future and the past clash with me, and I’m left with a feeling of shame. The past. That a child drowned on a beach near a Turkish resort. The present. That the death of Alan Kurdi, 3, along with his brother Ghalib and mother Rehanna, is the last  straw for me. The future. That Canada’s immigration minister,  Chris Alexander  was allegedly asked to bring these children to safety in Canada.

Facts, or fictions? How PR flacks exploit Wikipedia. By Taha Yasseri

If you heard that a group of people were creating, editing, and maintaining Wikipedia articles related to brands, firms and individuals, you could point out, correctly, that this is the entire point of Wikipedia. It is, after all, the “encyclopedia that anyone can edit”. But a group has been creating and editing articles for money. Wikipedia administrators banned more than 300 suspect accounts involved, but those behind the ring are still unknown.

Science and “the environment” should not be separated. By Manu Saunders

 Does the natural world have any relevance to modern science? Of course it does; but sometimes it seems like that’s not the case. This is a myth perpetuated directly and indirectly through media, policy decisions, academic disciplines, even some science engagement initiatives: that the natural world is somehow separate from science.

Living With an Ankle Bracelet in America. By M.M.

I cannot sleep. There is a device on my leg. It requires that I wake up an hour early so I can plug it into a charger and stand next to the outlet, like a cell phone charging up for the day. Not the day, actually, but 12 hours. After that, the device runs out of juice. Wherever I am, I have to find an outlet to plug myself into. If I don’t, I’m likely to be thrown back onto Rikers Island. At the age of 22, I landed in prison. Though I had grown up around violence, it was my first time in trouble. I’d taken the law into my own hands during an altercation, because where I come from, we don’t dial 911 for help — we see how badly police officers treat people like us.

Riccardo Cuppini

Riccardo Cuppini

A Judge Asks: How Do We Hold a Child’s Mind Accountable? By Morris B. Hoffmann

Debates about juvenile justice also sometimes mix up responsibility with punishment. We hold our own children responsible for their actions from about the time they learn to talk. English common law drew the line of criminal responsibility at age seven. Indeed, holding children responsible for their actions is one of the important ways we teach them to become responsible adults. In this sense, it is more important to hold children responsible than adults.

Wanted: A new story of humanity’s place in the world. By Philip Loring

It goes without saying that humans are good at causing problems. Climate change, overfishing and widespread environmental contamination from chemical toxicants are all creations of our own making. But are we destined to create such problems? Many people believe so, and argue that our capacity for self-interest, avarice and ecological shortsightedness make us inherently unsustainable as a species. Not only is this way of thinking built on long-disproven myths about human nature and human origins, it also constrains how we think about solutions and alienates us from the rest of the natural world. We need to abandon this belief and not allow ourselves to be defined only by our most recent history. The truth of the matter is that we belong here, and belonging is a much more powerful narrative for sustainability than isolation.

The Crush Also Rises: On learning only Spain’s vineyard-plant exceed China’s. By Michael Sasges

Chiang was glad to see us, and shook hands and gave us good rooms looking out on the square, and then we washed and cleaned up and went downstairs to the dining room for lunch … His text a Hemingway appreciation, “wine is the most civilized thing in the world,” Mike Sasges savours this week’s viticulture news: Last year, and for the first time, only Spain had more hectares of vineyard under cultivation than China. The Spanish number was more than one million hectares; the Chinese, 799,000. The French number was 792,000 hectares, making 2014 the first year the Chinese planted more vineyards than the French.

The Great Riddle: fostering creativity and tenacity. By Sheldon Fernandez

Not everyone is an entrepreneur, though many readers may be so without realizing it. The word itself means different things to different people, but I prefer the sentiments of the playwright who said: “some people see things and ask why, but I dream of things that never were and ask why not?” Stripped of the decoration and fluff, what I’ve discovered is that the entrepreneur’s soul is move by two complementary forces: refusal and audacity. Refusal to be limited by the world as presented to them, which then blossoms into the audacity to transcend it.

Lone-Wolf Terror Trap: Why the Cure Will Be Worse Than the Disease. By Matthew Harwood, ACLU

The shadow of a new threat seems to be darkening the national security landscape: the lone-wolf terrorist. Like all violent crime, individual terrorism represents a genuine risk, just an exceedingly rare and minimal one. It’s not the sort of thing that the government should be able to build whole new, intrusive surveillance programs on or use as an excuse for sending in agents to infiltrate communities. Programs to combat lone-wolf terrorism have a way of wildly exaggerating its prevalence and dangers – and in the end are only likely to exacerbate the problem. For Americans to concede more of their civil liberties in return for “security” against lone wolves wouldn’t be a trade; it would be fraud.

CCM Tackaberry skates worn by Jean Béliveau when he scored his 500th goal, on February 11, 1971. These are at the lac aux Castors Pavilion, Mount Royal, Quebec, Canada. Photo by Simon Pierre Barrette via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Jean Béliveau’s bronzed skates. Simon Pierre, CC

Thank you, Jean Béliveau. By E. Kaye Fulton

When I arrived at the Montreal Gazette as a feature writer in 1980, the legendary Red Fisher offered a blanket invitation to write anything I wanted, anytime, for the sports department. Without hesitation, I said: “I want to write about the Forum.” In my family, the Forum was the Temple of Apollo and the guardian at its gate was the man who wore these skates, this glorious gentleman, this unassuming and superb sportsman.

Body counts disguise true horror of what wars do to bodies. By Tom Gregory

Every year on Remembrance Day, we pause to look back on old wars and recount the tallies of the dead, including 16 million killed in the first world war and 60 million in the second world war. And every day, news reports use body counts to highlight the human costs of war: from Syria, where the United Nations has estimated more than 191,000 people have been killed up to April this year, to Ukraine, where the latest estimates are of at least 3,724 people killed (including 298 on Flight MH17). But simply counting the bodies of those killed in war may not actually help us understand the death and destruction caused by war. Instead, my worry is that they end up erasing the violence inflicted on each of the bodies of those affected by war, and numbing our emotional responses to the deaths of others.

Postcard from Poland as the Iron Curtain lifted. By Rod Mickleburgh

Rod Mickleburgh, 1989

Rod Mickleburgh, 1989

Being in Warsaw while East Germany teetered had its fascination. It was the dawn of the free market in Poland. An entrepreneur had set up the country’s first fledgling stock market on the second floor of the city’s ramshackle, old Fisherman’s Hall. A cab driver told me that now, for the first time, he could buy bananas. The independent, pro-Solidarity newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, had just been launched. But I most remember my first night in Warsaw, when I walked into the darkened main square of its beautifully-restored Old Town. A couple of guys, clearly from the country, were selling cheese by candlelight from the back of an old van. There was such simplicity to the scene as money and cheese changed hands, only the low hum of their voices breaking the silence of the vast, empty square. I thought to myself: “Thus, capitalism begins in Poland.”

Ebola: the Black Death Revisited. By Ewa Bacon

It is not Ebola that is stalking the land, but anxiety and fear. We fear an extinction event. We search the environment and note the loss of plants and animals. We worry as we examine “Martha,” the last ever passenger pigeon. We examine the geological record and note that not even the mighty dinosaur survived the cataclysm of Cretaceous period. Could that happen to us as well? We search history and note some sobering examples of global catastrophes. Few are as renowned as the “Black Death.” Early in the 1300’s Europeans received news of unprecedented diseases raging in the wealthy, remote and mysterious realm of China.

Michael Brown, Ferguson and the nature of unrest. By Garrett Albert Duncan (Public access)

Many Americans share president Barack Obama’s sentiment regarding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. This is clearly indicated in the deeply felt hurt experienced by so many and the massive swell of moral support people of all backgrounds offered to the young man’s parents in recent days. But to suggest that all, or even most, Americans feel the same would be severely misleading.

Israel at the Boundary. By Chris Wood (Public access)

A friend — I hope I may still call him one — recently chastised me for selectiveness in my criticism on social networks of Israel’s Gaza campaign, and my comparative silence about the horrors occurring in Syria and Iraq. The unspoken implication that there was something particular about Israel that inclined me to single it out, embedded another: that the something particular was Israel’s Jewishness. The suggestions are sufficiently morally impugning, and implicate enough of my personal friendships, that they deserve a thoughtful response.

Canada’s Justice Minister is Yesterday’s Man. By Charles Mandel (Public access)

Peter MacKay is yesterday’s man.  According to Canada’s Justice Minister, women are dedicated moms and caregivers around the clock who are busy changing diapers, packing lunches and dropping the kids off at daycare. In contrast, men are dedicated fathers who are shaping the minds of the next generation. This old-fashioned, blatantly sexist attitude recently surfaced in a pair of emails MacKay sent to his staff on the occasions of Mother’s and Father’s Days.

The Ugly Oil Sands Debate. By Tzeporah Berman (Public access)

I have family who work in Canada’s oil sands. They know that I have been a vocal critic of current oil sands operations and plans for expansion, yet they didn’t hesitate to welcome me into their homes and to invite me to a family gathering in Canmore, Alberta. We had a wonderful time. We shared some memories, laughed a lot and even tackled some hard stuff. The conversations were rich and surprisingly easy. Perhaps in part because although we have different opinions there already was a basis of trust and shared experiences.

Hurricane Carter, Champion of the World. By Cheryl Hawkes (Public access)

Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, who spent 19 years in a United States prison for a triple murder he did not commit, died of prostate cancer on Easter Sunday at his home in Toronto. He was 76. Toronto journalist Cheryl Hawkes remembers the man who, for a few years, was her neighbour: “a man who had given a lot of thought to how we treat one another in this world and to the deadly power of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

512px-Archbishop-Tutu-mediumAn Argument for Carbon Divestment. By Desmond Tutu (Public access)

Scientists and public representatives gathered in Berlin are weighing up radical options for curbing carbon emissions contained in the third report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The bottom line, a draft of the report warns, is that we have 15 years to take the necessary steps to affordably reduce emissions to attain the targeted 2°C over pre-industrial times. The horse may not have already bolted, but it’s well on its way through the stable door. Who can stop it? Well, we can, you and I. And it is not just that we can stop it, we have a responsibility to do so.

Fred Phelps: Death of a Dinosaur. By Cheryl Hawkes (Public access)

Fred Phelps, the Christian crusader who led his flock of evangelical nut bars from Topeka, Kansas, on anti-gay crusades, died last month. It is mortifying for many Christians that Phelps defined himself as one, as he stalked the funerals of gays and straights, raging against his own United States government and a democracy that tolerated homosexuality. Phelps and his family at Westboro Baptist Church took full advantage of their constitutional rights while blasting the civil rights of others. His death has given the people he hurt and offended a moral choice.

The Pluck of the Irish: How a proud native cuts through the kitsch. By Brian Brennan (Subscription)

Here’s what I will not do this St. Patrick’s Day: I will not call it St. Paddy’s Day or the 17th of Ireland. I will not wear a green tie or sweater. I will not drink green beer. I will not wear a button that says, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish.” I will raise another glass to the poet Seamus Heaney, listen to Dublin pianist John O’Conor play the music of Irish composer John Field, and re-read James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I will remember that many of us who become emigrants leave Ireland because we beg to differ, because we fear what Edna O’Brien calls the “psychological choke.”

Winter Swan. By E. Kaye Fulton (Public access)

Swan 3

© E. Kaye Fulton

This has been a hard, hard winter for wildlife  – the worst, locals say, in 70 years. For a month or more, the mute swans of Wellington, Ontario, have been buffeted by howling winds and driving snow. Unable to forage the frozen shorelines and bottom of Lake Ontario for food, they fend off starvation by curling themselves into snowy white mounds, immobile and defenceless on the impenetrable surface. Two nights ago, in search of easy prey, coyotes crept across the ice to claim two sleeping swans huddled at the end of the line formed by their 26-member flock.

Golden Age of American Journalism? By Paul Steiger, ProPublica (Public access)

… I too am thrilled with what the new digital tools can do, in capturing data, drawing knowledge it, and in displaying and distributing that knowledge.  I’m also delighted that the barriers to entry have shrunk so dramatically. Instead of spending millions on a printing press, you need only spend a few thousand on a laptop and a website and, boom, you’re a publisher. But creating millions of lone-wolf, single-person bloggers doesn’t get us to a golden age. It can give us cat photos that make us giggle, news scoops involving an original fact or two, a trenchant analysis of finance or politics or sculpture, video of Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift nuzzling their latest boyfriends, or possibly some movie and book reviews worth trusting. All nice to have but not game-changing. If you’re going to reliably produce journalism that improves the world, maybe you don’t need a village, but you need some collaborators. You need lots of reporters. You need editors, data journalists, a lawyer … (and) you need to find a way to get paid.

Pete Seeger: Farewell to a Giant
. By Silver Donald Cameron
(Public access)

silver_donald_cameronAuthor and filmmaker Silver Donald Cameron remembers American icon Pete Seeger, who died January 27, 2014:
In June, 1969, I was rattling away at my old Remington manual typewriter when my five-year-old daughter Leslie wandered into my workroom.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m writing a letter to Pete Seeger,” I said. I was hoping that Seeger would consider a benefit concert for The Mysterious East, a dissident magazine in Canada’s Maritimes that I helped to edit. At five, Leslie already knew and loved Seeger’s music, especially his children’s album Strangers and Cousins.
“Pete Seeger? Really?”
“You tell Pete Seeger,” she said gravely, “that I’m having my birthday — and he can come!”

My Last Day in Kenya. By Sheldon Fernandez  (Public access)

Kenya child 2

© Sheldon Fernandez 2008

In the summer of 2008 Sheldon Fernandez spent several weeks working in Kangemi, a large slum on the outskirts of Nairobi.  Under the auspices of the African Jesuits Aids Network (AJAN), he assisted with infrastructure projects and HIV/AIDS education, but also had the opportunity to work with the school children of Kenya. The following essay recounts the very last day of his trip, when Fernandez discovered some hard truths about one of his students.

Behind Houghton Walls: on Nelson Mandela’s last days. By Iain T. Benson (Public access)

Madiba has been a long time a-dying.
I’ve driven, we all have,
past his Houghton home;
cream security walls
even him …

Convocation Address. By Patrick Lane(Public access)

Armstrong, BC - Purple Springs Nursery field location shoot with large lift.

© Craig Pulsifer 2013

It is sixty-five years ago, you’re ten years old and sitting on an old, half-blind, grey horse. All you have is a saddle blanket and a rope for reins as you watch a pack of dogs rage at the foot of a Ponderosa pine. High up on a branch a cougar lies supine, one paw lazily swatting at the air. He knows the dogs will tire. They will slink away and then the cougar will climb down and go on with its life in the Blue Bush country south of Kamloops.* It is a hot summer day. There is the smell of pine needles and Oregon grape and dust. It seems to you that the sun carves the dust from the face of the broken rocks, carves and lifts it into the air where it mixes with the sun. Just beyond you are three men on horses.

Two decades of disaster: Newfoundland’s fishery. Words and photos by Greg Locke (Subscription)

Spanish and Canadian offshore fishing trawlers at the Canadian 200mile limit on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. © Greg Locke 2000

© Greg Locke 2000

It’s a cold foggy day in the fishing village of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland. Just 20 kilometers south from downtown St. John’s, it feels much further. There is not much activity or many people out and around the few remaining wharfs and twine lofts that once were buzzing hives of fishing activity ringing the harbour. Today, there are just a few frozen tourists looking to make photos of a Newfoundland that doesn’t exist anymore …  The grim faces and tears of the people of Petty Harbour, and other fishing communities around the eastern Canadian province, told the story of a great calamity.

Bangladesh and The Bay. By Rod Mickleburgh(Subscription)

The fair city of Vancouver on Canada’s West Coast is more than 11,000 kilometres from poor, benighted Bangladesh. But this week, the teeming flood plain came to the doorstep of the large Hudson’s Bay Company department store in the heart of downtown Vancouver, through the glass doors and up the escalator to the second floor. There, close to a hundred union protesters gathered in front of the store’s swank, high-priced merchandise, serenading shoppers, mannequins and suddenly-invisible Bay managers with chants of “Shame” and “Sign the Accord.” Their ire was directed at far-away Bangladesh, and Western retail chains like The Bay that peddle clothing items produced  by impoverished, poorly-paid Bangladeshi textile workers toiling in grim, frequently dangerous factories.

JFK: The Murdered King. By Brian Brennan (Subscription)

I was 20 years old at the time so I remember, of course, where I was the day Kennedy was shot. I had been out visiting with friends that afternoon and when I got home my mother was in tears. “The president’s been killed,” she said. “Dev’s been killed?” I said, thinking she was referring to Ireland’s Brooklyn-born president, Éamon de Valera. “No, President Kennedy,” said my mother. “Somebody shot him.” For my mother, as for many in Ireland, it was as if a member of the family had been taken from us.

A lesson passed on. By Jim McNiven (Subscription)

My wife and I spent a couple of months in the American Southwest last winter. We stayed out on the edge of the desert near Tucson, Arizona. It is dry, hot and utterly unlike where I live, in Halifax on Canada’s Atlantic coast. Our two married daughters, twins, came down together to visit, bringing one’s 9-year-old son. The three women were keen to explore shops and galleries and a mother-daughters expedition was formed. I was designated as official entertainer of the grandson.

A bale of  a good time. By Charles Mandel (Subscription)

Hay bales in the Peace Country

© Greg Locke 2009

Thursday night in Auburndale, Nova Scotia, and what’s the big entertainment? A drive-in movie, perhaps? Maybe dinner out? How about staring at a big field of hay? That doesn’t sound terribly promising, but over four balmy nights in July, Steph and I sit on our front porch, watching grass get cut in the field directly across from our house. We aren’t the only ones entranced. Everyone and his dog (literally, for half the vehicles zipping past have a mutt sharing the front seat) slows down and gawks at the haying that proceeds apace up the hill on the Oickle farm.

The Prince and the Prostitute: By Brian Brennan (Subscription)

When the heir to the British throne paid his first official visit to Canada in 1919, it was expected he would follow the usual royal routine of shaking hands, making speeches and inspecting troops. What wasn’t anticipated was that Edward, Prince of Wales, would buy a ranch while he was abroad. And what certainly wasn’t predicted was that the ranch would become a convenient hiding place for the prince four years later, when one of his former mistresses went on trial for murder in London.

Accordion Man: Born to Squeeze? Not me. By Brian Brennan (Subscription)

Brian Brennan, age 16, playing accordion at a talent contest in Dublin, 1960. (I didn't win, by the way!) You’ve heard the jokes. They’re not funny. What’s the difference between an accordionist and a terrorist? A terrorist has sympathizers. Not funny, I tell you. Syndicated cartoonist Gary Larson (The Far Side) used to lead the insult brigade. He put his favorite on a greeting card sold all over the world. The caption read, “Welcome to Heaven, here’s your harp. Welcome to Hell, here is your accordion.” Not funny? All right, maybe a little bit funny.  Accordionists get no respect. I know. I used to be an accordionist. OK, still am. No respect I get.




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