Monday, April 30, 2012

Swedish in Milwaukee: My Life as a Writer: What matters

Swedish in Milwaukee: My Life as a Writer: What matters: That's one of the phrases I put in my blog description: the writing for me is about what matters. So much of what we read, view, entertain o...

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Cost of Externalities

          Economists use the term "externalities" or "externalized costs" to refer to sweeping problems (and the costs associated with them) under the rug. Example: a company pollutes a stream and kills the fish. The problem is the pollution and the loss of renewable resources (fish biomass, esthetic value of the stream..). The problem and its costs are "externalized" if the pollutor is NOT forced to install pollution abatement equipment. In effect, the costs have been conveniently "externalized" from the pollutor onto the backs of the poor devils living downstream: "swept under the rug". That's what the cold, abstract terms "externality" or "externalized costs" really mean.

            Although we await an official verdict from a provincial inquest or court of law, it now appears that we have several potential victims of climate change in British Columbia. 

             The chain of causality here is a bit long, so hold on to yer hats.. "Official" climate change science claims that greenhouse gas emissions are causing the temperature of the earth to rise. This rise will effect local / regional ecosystems in various ways. British Columbia's conifer forests are prone to attack by a beetle which carries a fungus which kills trees. The beetle spreads the fungus as it borrows in the trees to feed. Large stands of conifers have been dying off from beetle / fungus infestations for years. The infected stands of trees change color from green to red making infected sites easy to spot from the air.

                The beetle, fungus and lodgepole pine "co-evolved" together in the climate of British Columbia. However, the die back of lodgepole pine stands today is unusual in both its extent and intensity. Climate change is fingered as the culprit in scientific studies because warmer winters reduce the winter killoff of beetle larvae.

                 The following document provides probable ecosystemic impacts of pine stand dieoff. Includes close up photos of damage. You might want to click on the zoom (plus sign icon) to see them better.

                  Spectacular! Don't forget these trees are supposed to be GREEN. Click on image for full screen image to get the full impact..

                   Now, what to do with all those dead trees? Lodgepole pine are logged anyway so why not cut the trees quickly, before they have time to rot, and use them? The "problem" with this solution - not ascertained yet, we are awaiting an inquest.. - appears to be that the pine killed by beetle / fungus become dessicated rapidly. This, in turn, creates inordinate amounts of EXPLOSIVE sawdust when the logs are cut in modern sawmills. This is the tentative explanation being given for two recent "unprecedented" sawmill explosions in BC which occurred within a three month interval (see lead article above, 1st link). These two explosions killed 2 victims each, for a grand total of 4 potential Global Warming victims: Global Warming produces beetle / fungus infestations which produce a glut of dead trees to process which produces explosive sawdust which produces sawmill explosions which cause human deaths and maimings, destruction of sawmills and equipment and related social / human costs (family and community disruption, health costs, psychotherapy, job loss, stress..) These are some of the hidden costs - the "externalities" or "externalized costs" - of fossil fuel use. How much would our gasoline and other carbon fuels cost if all their associated costs were fully "internalized" onto the backs of the consumer. And - just HOW do you put a cost on A human life, anyway? (No one has figured that one out yet, not to my satisfaction at least..) The cost of Progress, eh..

                      And the link with governmental transparency? The Harper government has proven it's hostility toward science that supports the Anthropogenic (human caused) Global Warming Hypothesis advanced by the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) and its reports. See for example:

Internal blog link (related articles): 

                      In a democracy, the people are supposed to be the rulers. Rulers need correct and timely information, presented in context, in order for them - or, at least, their representatives - to make informed decisions. They must see clearly the situation they are dealing with: clear seeing implies the "transparency" of the medium one is looking through. Suppressing relevant information flows obscures the decision making process, rendering it "non-transparent".

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Decline and fall of Canadian Science: the muzzle

              Canada, land of the free, right? Well, maybe.. maybe..

              Take a look at this latest piece of "Orwellian" NewsCrafting on the part of the Harper government. This is so wacky, I could not possibly make it up. I simply don't have enough imagination.

                "Hundreds of researchers from around the globe arrived in Montreal this week to attend the International Polar Year Conference, but those scientists working for Environment Canada were also accompanied by so-called "media relations contacts" tasked with monitoring and recording interactions with the press"  

            Climatologist Andrew Weaver compared this to Stalinist era science policy in the Soviet Union: scientists who were allowed to attend international conferences were accompanied by a "minder" to monitor their statements. Get off track and your career is kaputsky.. And now, wonder of wonders, we seem to have a acquired a modified version here in good ol' freedom lovin' N. America. This is like duh, too weird to be true. But weirdly, it is..

                  Aside: The Harper government has taught us one thing: expect the unexpected / attendre l'inattendu.

                  It gets so bizarre - there's no other word for it! - that even published results - sic! - are being censored:

                  "The groups noted that last fall Environment Canada had prevented David Tarasick from speaking about his ozone layer research, which had been published in the journal Nature, and that earlier the Privy Council Office had stopped Kristina Miller, a researcher at Fisheries and Oceans, from granting interviews about her work on sockeye salmon decline in B.C., findings previously published in the journal Science" 

                 From a purely logical point of view, why censor published work (unless, of course, you figure the public is too stupid to read technical works)?

Internal blog link (previous related article):

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Harper's anti-keynesean cuts CREATE JOBS

"Mr. Corbett, whose union represents more than 57,000 professionals and scientists in the public service, is warning Ottawa against cutting staff in the safety and security fields, such as food inspectors, scientists and financial auditors."

From the Globe and Mail: 

            Mr. Corbett being a union rep - and thus a Lefty - does not really get the Big Pic. He, undoubtedly believes that in times of recession governments should increase spending on infrastructure and services in an attempt to create jobs, stimulate the economy and build infrastructure for future development. He does not see that Steven Harper's anti-Keynesean federal government budget cuts should actually CREATE JOBS in the long run. Here's why.

            How can cutting the number of, say, federal slaughter house inspectors increase jobs, you say? Let's walk through the economic logic step by step..

            What will the effects of such cuts be, in statistical, epidemiological, terms?

            Well, for starters, more food borne diseases like listeriosis and salmonella. Which will, of course, through the famous "Multiplier Effect", spread economic activity throughout the economy. Think of the employment created for 9-11 call centers, ambulance drivers, hospital emergency room doctors, nurses, gastroenteric specialists, lab technicians, funeral home employees, morgue attendants, grave diggers and embalmers. What do you say to THAT, Mr. Corbett? Are Harper's cuts really job killers or job creators? Time for a moment of reflection here, Mr. Corbett. Learn to step back and see the Big Pic. Learn what the REALLY important priorities are in a Free Market Economy..

RIP: 29 March, 2012

Rest in peace: 29 march 2012

- Katimavik, Canada's "domestic Peace Corps". Katimavik, after a feisty start, a turbulent adolescence and a promising early entry into maturity, fell victim to the Harper government's 2012 annual budget's cuts.

1977 — Genesis and ideals
Katimavik (which means “meeting place” in the Inuktitut language) is founded. The initial driving impulse was to educate youth and spur lifelong civic engagement through community service. In its first year, Katimavik mobilized 1,000 volunteers, who worked on projects in more than 80 communities.
1977-1986 — Maturity and growth
In its first glory years, many Canadians discovered other regions of Canada for the first time. They learned languages and acquired skills, while growing in body and mind.
In 1985 — Katimavik honoured
As its alumni ranks swelled to 15,000, Katimavik’s influence also grew. During International Youth Year, the United Nations honoured Katimavik with an award for its environmental involvement.
By 1986 — Over 17 000 volunteers
Katimavik contributed to the education of over 17 000 young Canadians by engaging them in volunteer service, community involvement, cultural discovery, the practicing of Canada’s official languages and environmental protection.
1986-1994 — The difficult years
Katimavik’s federal funding was interrupted. The program survived, much diminished, as an outdoor recreational and training centre in the Montréal suburb of Île-Perrot.
1994 — Rebirth
Katimavik’s budget was reinstated, and in 1994, 66 participants from Ontario, Québec and New Brunswick took on projects in six communities. Annual participation has since grown to over 1,000 yearly in some 90 communities.
1999 — International recognition
Katimavik took part in the IANYS conference in El Paso. A five year strategic plan was being deployed and to help guide Katimavik into the new millennium and the first Meet Your MP events were held on Parliament Hill.
2000-2001 — Two new leadership programs established: Leader 16-19 and Leader Plus 22-26.
2004 — Katimavik participated in the International Association of National Youth Service (IANYS) international conference in Accra, Ghana. Katimavik signed a partnership with Vancouver Island University that provided university credits for our volunteers.
2005 — University credits
Capilano College in North Vancouver, British Columbia, recognized the Katimavik program by awarding credits to students who successfully complete the program.
2006 — ROI proven
Katimavik was able to report that each dollar spent by the Katimavik program generates a return of $2.20 in each of the communities that work with our volunteers.
2007-2008 — Program modernized
Several modifications were made to the learning program. The objective is to allow Katimavik to more efficiently and scientifically measure the progression of each youth’s personal development progress.
2008-2009 — Competency model adopted
Katimavik restructured the learning program for volunteers. Instead of focusing solely on improving skill-sets, the new model favours the development of our volunteers’ personal, social and professional competencies.
2009-2010 — 6 month programs introduced
Starting in September 2009, Katimavik offered the following programs: “Eco-citizenship and Active Living”, “Second Language and Cultural Identity” and “Cultural Discovery and Civic-Engagement”.
2009-2010 Post-secondary credit
Cégep Marie-Victorin (QC, 2009) and George Brown College (ON, 2010) recognized the Katimavik program by awarding credits to students that complete the program.
2010-2011 — A renewed focus on community impact
The communities that host Katimavik groups are selected based on criteria that reflect the areas of impact targeted by Katimavik: social services, poverty reduction, formal & non-formal education (focus on literacy), arts, culture & heritage, sports and leisure, environment & sustainable development - media & communications and social justice .

              En passant, the actual rationale - aside from ideology - for Katimavik's demise is not evident since "each dollar spent by the Katimavik program generates a return of $2.20 in each of the communities that work with our volunteers". Thus the $15 million program produced $33 million through economic stimulation in the communities served. Cutting it "saved" the Harper government a NEGATIVE sum of $15 minus $33 million for a net LOSS of $18 million. Quite impressive for a penny pinching government.

               One suspects ideology played a role in the Harper government's decision. Katimavik supported initiatives in "environment and sustainable development.. and social justice".

- Rights and Democracy (né Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development). Founded in 1988 by the Conservative Mulroney government, Rights and Democracy was an internationally recognized and appreciated independent agency of the Canadian federal government that monitored human rights and promoted democracy abroad. As an "independent agency", Rights and Democracy reported directly to Parliament and not to the Government of the day. In recent years, the Harper government succeeded in planting its moles within the organization either to mold it to the Conservatives' foreign policy agenda or to sow discord in its midst thereby providing Harper an excuse for delivering the final coup de grâce. The Harper government, for example, disapproved of the Centre's moderate, middle-of-the-road stance with respect to Israel, preferring instead to take sides and issue the current Likud government a carte blanche on its Palestinian policy. Members of Rights and Democracy have been inaccurately accused of "frequenting" members of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas. Such behavior at first appears rather naughty and partisan until one stops to note that the "frequenting" occurred at public meetings involving hundreds of participants of all political stripes. Such accusations are a bit like saying that Rick Santorin is gay because members of a gay organization attended some of his speeches! Maybe they just came just to hear what he was saying about them..

                  Ed Broadbent, former NDP leader, recently spoke on CBC Radio about the killing of Rights and Democracy. Listen to the 6 minute audioclip.