April 23, 2009
April 22, 2009
I would like to focus specifically on the implications of the privatization of a resource that is often a determining factor between life and death of all living things: water. The way in which the world’s water has been managed over the past half century is alarming. And now, more than ever, are we seeing an unprecedented pull towards water privatization; despite shameless fear-mongering and substantiated scientific studies which both warn of impending extensive droughts and climate change. Water scarcity and climate change are tied very closely together; after all, as much of the industry that contributes to climate change is dependent on exorbitant quantities of water to drive industry (eg. oil sands and high-tech industries). In addition, within the these industries, water subsidies allow for companies to thrive from inexpensive process water, where in comparison the public will have to pay significantly higher rates just for their basic water needs. The emerging economies of India and China are also creating an enormous burden on their countries’ water demand as industrial growth rapidly expands. However environmental regulations in these countries may be more difficult to monitor as each country strives to generate as much wealth as it can, despite the effects on water availability to consumers, contamination of water resources, or how this rapid industrial growth is contributing to climate change. Globalization and economic agreements put in place by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have allowed the water privatization industry to largely go unchecked in developing countries. The system is arranged such that a country’s profit is maximized despite any detrimental impact to the environment.
Between globalization, the rising industrial powers of China and India, population growth and domestic and industrial pollution, water utilities will be challenged to maintain tolerable quality, especially methods of cutting costs are utilized in this time of recession. Privatization (and private-public partnerships (P3)), are often seen as cost effective ways of doing so, such that a municipality simply places the cost of water directly on the consumer. It is widely understood that even P3 water companies are corporations that can be bought, traded, and sold. Therefore, when water resources become extremely strained, the largest multinational water corporations will have the power to purchase struggling utilities and revamp them in order to provide better service. The fear is that with this improvement to water service, consumer costs will escalate to a point beyond affordability. And then, any maintenance of the system that ensures that the water quality remains adequate is also perceived to be less transparent if run by a privately owned company rather than if owned by the municipality.
It is difficult to manage what cannot be measured. Aside from the United Nations and various levels of governments, there exists a number of NGOs dedicated to keeping people and companies accountable for their water-using habits. The Pacific Institute is showing that Americans are consuming less water per capita then they had in the 1970s, with consumption rates down as much as 25%. There is a new awareness about the energy and “virtual water” in the bottled water industry and how some nutrients, such as fluoride, may even be lost by opting for bottled water. Excessive water waste in instances such as elaborate Las Vegas fountains will be ridiculed as awareness is heightened, and water saving techniques from installing low-flush toilets to having shorter showers will be rewarded. People will be willing to change for the benefit of the environment. People will only make this a reality though, if a single person makes it their reality first.
The largest challenge will be finding a legal, measurable, enforceable way to ensure that water intensive companies are realizing what long-term effect they are having on out planet. Whether we consider Coca Cola wanting to increase Dasani sales , the high-tech industries in Silicon Valley requiring more cheap purified water for the next generation of iPod, Alberta’s own Syncrude, who uses anywhere between 3 to 5 barrels of water to produce 1 barrel of oil, or lastly, EPCOR water wanting to expand its water treatment business into more water-stressed areas... all of this water use must be justified. If individuals can find a way to understand the current water crisis and modify their behaviour, then nothing less should be expected from any corporation. True, an exploding population will require water for a multitude of services and products; but with this larger population, more people are available to ensure that a certain degree of temperance in the way water is being used.
- whether you will be openly welcomed into the pearly gates of heaven, or
- whether you will be sent directly to the fire depths of hell to burn for all of eternity.
Okay, maybe it's not quite like that. (maybe it is!) But this I know for sure. There is a growing number of people that actually DO give a damn' about the world! And they aren't necessarily all senior citizens or students either. Lifelong commitment of people wanting to leave behind a better world is becoming more and more popular. I am currently reading a book called "How to Change the World - Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas". It is a hopeful and inspiring book that provides specific cases of the projects that people are having success with in a world that sometimes seems very impossible.
In my life, I have seen some people take on some pretty amazing things. Thanks to Engineers Without Borders, I have seen thousands of school-aged kids get informed about water scarcity and the difficulties of governments in securing access to this precious resource. Letters to MPs and MLAs alike are being sent for issues ranging from untying Canada's Foreign Aid Dollars to quashing Stelmach's unconstitutional Bill 19 to asking the City for better access to public transit. I have seen benefit shows and bottle drives, bike rides for cancer and church groups doing development work abroad. A blog called http://attemptsatabetterworld.blogspot.com/ is probably one of my new favorite things to follow, where a man is trying to just make life better one step at a time. But with incredible inspirational people like Senator Romeo Dallaire, Doctor David Suzuki, AIDS advocate Stephen Lewis, and even grade school teacher, Mike Engel, it is not difficult to see how generations are now in fact changing the world.
I know just as much as anyone how easy it is to get very depressed, apathetic, and busy & carried away with your own life in such a fast-pace world. Especially if you are having a hard time making the rent or you recently find out that you are pregnant. Especially if you are worried about job security in the worst recession in 80 years. We have all watched the rich get richer and the poor faint away to nothing. We watch the pirates of the world continue to pillage and plunder the remaining few unhabituated areas or exploit the perpetually developing areas, slashing down trees, cutting into the earth all in order for their insatiable gluttony and greed. We watch as civil war rages on in Sudan and are sickened by the ideas of Child Soldiers or Slumdogs or for-profit companies going into countries for drug testing. We watch our own native people get displaced to the city streets as their water and land is polluted and destroyed. But we carry on. At the very least, we get informed. The hardest decision I think is deciding when you are informed enough to start contributing, or maybe when you can afford to start contributing because you aren't all busy with just surviving. From what I've seen though, a person doesn't need very much to survive.
So with sooo many inspirational and motivated people around me, I vow from this Earth Day 2009 forward, to start surviving more realistically and start contributing more appropriately. This is going to begin with writing a letter to my MLA Carl Benito and his boss Eddie, and the opposition parties too, about reversing their plans on cutting funding to the Wild Rose Foundation - a voluntary organization that offers support to a huge array of Alberta non-profits like the Sexual Abuse Center of Edmonton. After that, I am going to write out a plan of action that will help me to active goals within a certain time frame. Wish me luck.
April 20, 2009
Now that the unnecessary swearing is out of the way, here goes...
The problems surrounding Oilers hockey, though, aren't embedded in the coaching or the management or even the young unmotivated, leaderless players. I think it's actually entrenched into the Edmonton culture. The city actually shapes itself on having NHL hockey as its #1 focal point, with everything else less important. Way up here on latitude 53, we convince ourselves that we have a culture & class that is simply incommensurable in relation to our Calgarian neighbors. After all, the socioeconomic base in Edmonton is made up of hard-working roughnecks - as opposed to those lazy good for nothing rednecks that live 300km south of us. We don't even attempt comparing ourselves to other major North American or World cities because we are just already so far removed any of them! We are about as significant of a city to some random Russian city, as that same random Russian city is to us!
April 9, 2009
It is my unpopular opinion that when it comes to the human body, we foolish ignorant commoners are on a need-to-know basis. As we can learn from Charlie Harper, it is a good idea to not skip out on our Grade 8 Health class. But besides that? Who cares. Sure, some of us will become LPNs, RNs, medics, doctors, and dentists. But this will forever be the minority of the population. Most of us will work in sales and just won't need to know about the goings-ons of the many bodily functions. We don't really need to know what part goes where, or how long or short some things are, or what kinds of things are generated or processed in different compartments of the body. I can say this now because I have been mostly healthy for all of my life, and therefore cannot easily empathize with the many people that have gone through some form of ailment or another. Even so. If I had been diagnosed with morbid obesity, for example, I could benefit from simply taking my doctor's advice to start leading a healthier lifestyle, without having to go to BodyWorlds to see what slices of human fat looks like around the muscle and nervous systems.
Today's kids grow fast enough as it is. They want to be all grown up and be independent, free from parental oppression. They want to be exposed to as much and as often as possible so that they can get a feel for what may or may not be good for them. This includes exposure to and comprehension of the human body. But there is a fundamental lack of understanding for these children who don't see this artwork as a previous functioning contributing human member of society. There is that definite disconnect. But it is the adults (teachers - since it will be mostly schools who will be taking hoards of immature groups of teenagers, and younger, to experience the BodyWorlds, without direct parental guidance) that will teach that free will has allowed these individuals to give up their bodies to art/science (I don't know which it is) just as they may do so for medical research. These two things are not the same. Sure, the soul may leave the body upon death (did I mention no BodyWorld statues were formally politicians?) But that doesn't mean that the body shouldn't be prepared in a more ashes-to-ashes, dust-to-dust sort of way. Different cultures deal with their dead in tons of different ways - none of which include preserving the corpse for public display. So what makes Von Hagen so special?
On my 3.5 hour tour of BodyWorlds (trust me, that's thorough), I had watched scores of children randomly bump around from display case to statue to other display case, tugging on mommy's arm, saying "What's that brown spot" and "Where is that guy's nose". The majority of people were well-behaved, but after a while you begin to understand thatthis should be an at least 14A rated exhibit. I wouldn't say that there are proportionately more immature mannerless children out there who don't know how to behave in public, but rather, there is just more numbers of them as populations grow. Some degree of maturity and knowledge about life, death, and respect is required to not ruin the display for everyone else. Never was this so more obvious then when I had reached the "baby" display.
This especially delegated room was fully equipped with warning signs saying "contents within this display may be sensitive to some to view". In it, the development of a fertilized egg into a fetus into a near-term baby were displayed in glassware, ranging in sizes of a pickle jar to something that would hold a ~10 lb baby. It contained over 30 deceased and preserved human beings from a few weeks, up to thirty some weeks old, complete with a mother who had died with child prior to birth.
I didn't last in that room for very long. It was somewhat emotional.
But it was art! It was science?! I forget...But as glad I am for being able to see it, I still do not think it is necessary to be seen. Not unless you are a training medical staff, or you can prove a certain level of maturity that shows that you will in fact benefit from seeing something as ludicrous as a muscle-less gymnast hoisting himself up on the ropes.I also want to leave with you with the thought of where we might go from here, with respect to de-humanizing ourselves --- de-sensitizing us from the unnatural things in the world --- rap song after webpage after lizard-man at a time. A lot of progress made in the medical field will ask for us to hold onto our stomachs as we enter an age of stem cell harvesting and transplants. The ethical dilemmas and criticisms are numerous, but certainly we will benefit from that kind of technology! How could we not?! I remember back in 2001, we talked about the ethical debates of stem cell research, as I was such a good product of Edmonton Catholic Schools. All I really remember though, was thinking how cloning would be okay if they used it on Scarlett Johanneson. Or wait! That was David Letterman's joke just last week. But seriously. I wish I did know what was next! We all seem so ready to cave in and try anything, without sufficient benefit/cost analysis. I think maybe we should spend a little bit more time at least thinking about how we are going to re-sensitize our kids as our society seems so hell-bent on desensitizing them in so many ways, without even realizing it!
Time for dinner. Cow tongue tonight.
April 8, 2009
(Or perceived as, anyways)
April 6, 2009
One day a couple of months ago, I was heading to a thermodynamics class while listening to one of 8300 songs on my iPod. Upon entering the classroom @ 8am that morning a Bad Religion song came on called "Entropy". Weird. How so? The second I sat down in the classroom, the weird Dutch prof turns on his mic and says that today we will be starting our lectures on ... entropy - the natural tendency of things to drive towards disorder or chaos.
If you only knew the half of it.
But let's move on. Back in October, I was beginning my pursuit of trying to get a date with a very nice girl. She was around from time to time but hard to meet up with seeing how we are all so busy all the time. But we would meet when we could and when we did it was fun. One of our first "dates" was actually just one of those extremely random occurrences where I was heading from the bus to my car on my way back home. I thought to myself, only for a split second "gee, wouldn't it be nice if I could see her here now waiting for the bus so I could just drive her home, (so to speak). So I was sitting on a bus for my short ride to my car then decided to jump on the other bus instead that was going to leave 2 whole minutes earlier. I get on. And there she was. I drove her home. Weird.
Oiler game. March 2009. My friend got handed a pair of tickets and asked me to come with. We get there, the puck drops, I get a text message. Apparently a friend of mine was at the same game. I didn't even know who it was cuz I didn't end up getting the person's number back when my phone finally broke a month prior. But after a few texts back and forth, she decides that she would come and say hi to me --- until she realized that I was there with my friend. Her ex. And that's not even where it stops. She was there with her new boyfriend. A mutual friend of all of us. Weird. So yeah. I didn't end up seeing her that night.
Months ago. Or years? I dunno. But a friend of mine from high school had a little sister. Uhh ohhh. Yeah, maybe I should just stop here. Fuck it. Let's be candid. Well, we got to be pretty decent "online pals" thanks to the atrocity called facebook. We would bullshit about trivial nonsense and worse. In one of those undirected and random conversations, I even got this girl's phone number. Weird. We met up once. Weirder? You betcha. But nevertheless I thought "hell, I can wait a while longer for her to maybe try being mmmm... less weird? - I've waited this longafterall". Now for the weird part: I don't play around a lot with music on facebook cuz I've got 14000 songs on my iTunes. But the very same day that I happen to be listening to Death Cab for Cutie on facebook music, I find out that this very same girl will be going to see that same band play live in Halifax (fucking terrific city) cuz of a trip her friend won. We don't talk much on facebook these days...maybe because she's dating some guy...
In February 2008 I got shit-faced. It was my 24th birthday after all. It was also just around a year since I had a pretty bad break-up. So my friends were heading to the bar. The same bar where me & my ex hung out sometimes. A bar I liked. Guess who we saw on our way to the bar? Yep. Her. Yikes. I think it probably did help matters that I was already half-shitfaced thanks to drinks @ RATT. Oh wellll. I survived it.
Let's go on. Or back. Say, 1995.
1995: I learn about social justice from a top-notch teacher who adopts a child named Tab from Chad on behalf of the classroom. Enter: Tom L, parents: engineers. Maggie, conceited, popular girl.
1997: I pick up the french horn. I am captain of my hockey team and take pride in showing off mad skillz in games against millwoods.
1999: Meet marni. Probably one of the most significant women in my life even to this day.
2002: 6th year of french horn, last year of hockey. myspace reconnects myself and tom L. He's in socal now, where pennywise etc. comes from.
2003: GMCC- I see a friend from 1995. Our lockers are next to eachother. Same birthdays.
I end up sitting beside maggie from grade school in Soc 100. We are the 2 most interested people in a class of 50 soc students. My passion for development issues swells a little more.
I discover the amazingness of Fractal Pattern: A social-justice oriented instrumental band from edmonton featuring a french horn.
2004: Meet an engineer who lived in mdot & played the french horn. I join Engineers Without Borders - the best run social justice student group on campus.
2005: Propagandhi releases best record to date: social-justice music at its best. I apply to go overseas with EWB, but get beat out by a one & only liberal arts major, Maggie, from grade school.
2006: Fractal Pattern goes on hiatus.
2009: Fractal Pattern plays McDougall united, not 2 days after releasing a statement saying how they will no longer be featuring a horn. This happens on the same day that my engineer friend buys a horn wanting to see if she can still play, without knowing this about the band. She liked fractal pattern but not until after the hiatus. FP drummer wears Propagandhi shirt, as usual.
Also this year: When not listening to propagandhi (etc.) I am expanding my horizons by going to real canadian folk shows - talented musicians with songs that don't require you to be swinging fists when listening to it. On one such occasion, I messaged my friend to meet me in SUB for coffee where she can get her luke doucet tickets from me. She doesn't get the message, but shows up on time at the exact same place in SUB that I suggest we meet. She agrees to come to the show, which is a good thing, since I had already bought 2 tickets. She gets the message about meeting for coffee a day later. That same night, the most popular girl from highschool sees me at RATT (yes, i drink a lot), but we don't talk. But after going to the Luke Doucet concert, i follow my "date" to starlight room where the same popular/pretty girl from my highschool is there too. She admits to seeing me @ RATT just the other day, but not saying hello (for whatever reason). She knows my "date" from a really weird connection between their families. A pal of mine admits to infrequently spotting this girl's facebook page, saying: "God, Ryan knows a lot of pretty cute girls". But really, who cares when there's only ever really been one that you've been interested in. It must be said: The Luke Doucet concert was way better than the after-party. Wool on Wolves is a good local band though.
Lastly, and most recently: Social and environmental justice becomes a stronger focus in my life than ever before. All of the past significant coincidences with respect to people, relationships, events, music, movies... everything...It all seems to be amalgamating into one huge juggernaut of who I have become thus far, and more importantly, what I know I have yet to become. I wonder what tomorrow will bring...