Monthly Archives: June 2006

Two Climate Crisis Quotes

Normally I wouldn’t devote a post to reproducing what others have said, but 1) I’ve already made a real post today, and 2) these are both too good to ignore.

The first extract is the final paragraphs of Jeffrey Simpson’s column in yesterday’s Globe and Mail. The second is a letter to the editor, also published in yesterday’s Globe, from Green Party leadership contestant Elizabeth May.


The government’s entire political/re-election strategy is based on adopting tangible, easily understood policies that touch the daily lives of citizens. Whether those policies make good sense is almost beside the point, politically speaking, provided they are popular.Climate change doesn’t meet that tangible test, except in the Arctic or perhaps regions infested by the mountain pine beetle (whose spread is aided by the lack of cold winters). Air pollution such as smog is much more tangible, which is why the Conservatives were much more specific about that challenge, promising to “develop a Clean Air Act.”

If the Conservatives ever got serious about climate change — and that’s a very big if — they would start using the price mechanism to encourage behavioural change.

As in, adopting much tougher, California-style vehicle-emissions standards and allowing the auto companies to price their fleet mix differently. As in, mandating emissions for companies such as oil and natural gas extraction, but offering companies taxation incentives for disposing of the carbon dioxide. As in, a beefed-up, domestic carbon-emissions trading plan.

As in, a whole range of initiatives that a government even half-serious about climate change would adopt, remembering that the root of the word Conservative is “conserve.”

The Stanley Cup contest provided an iconic backdrop for a climate-change debate. As a Canadian, I rooted for the Oilers, but my money was on the Hurricanes.We know from Katrina that hurricanes hit oil production hard, whereas producing and burning more oil only makes hurricanes stronger.

Stolen Bike, Angry Boy

Claire’s and my bikes were stolen yesterday. They were locked together to the same ring-post with a cable lock, and a U-lock doubled up on Claire’s bike. We left them outside of the Toronto Reference Library for approximately three hours. The cable lock must have been cut, but the U-lock remained, attached to the ring-post and Claire’s bike’s abandoned quick-release wheel. (Learning #1: U-locks work better than cable locks, but shouldn’t be attached to things with the words “quick-release” in their name.)

I felt worse about Claire’s bike than mine. Aside from some money I’d just put into a tune-up and some new tires, my bike had more sentimental value than monetary (I’ve had it since I was 14 or younger). Claire’s was fancier and newer. I felt all the things people feel when they’ve been robbed, and had a hard time getting to sleep last night.

One particularly frustrating point is that the theft took place in daylight, in a high-traffic area, and would have been transparent to anyone in the area (picture 2 bikes being removed at once, bolt cutters, a wheel being left behind, someone either carrying a one-wheeled bike away or loading it into a vehicle).

But hey, let’s get past my emotions. Claire and I will get nice new bikes from craigslist (or, come to think of it, maybe somewhere else that’s less likely to sell us someone else’s stolen bikes). Instead, let’s look at some good ideas to cut-down on bike theft (aside from advanced locking techniques mentioned earlier).

One of the best ideas I’ve heard is to require bicycle shops that buy used bikes to record the identity of the seller, in the same way pawn shops do. This is relatively simple to implement, and would be both a deterrent to thieves and a tool for police.

And speaking of police, I know they’ve got a whole lot to do and that they’ll never be able to enforce all laws perfectly. But given the number of public complaints they receive about how they treat bike theft, I’d like to see it bumped up on their priorities list. Here’s one place they could free-up some resources. (As I write this I’m waiting for them to call back. They told me to keep the line free. That was over 2 hours ago.)

As for my pain and loss, maybe I’ll just resort to poetry.

What are you proud of?

Last week, my girlfriend Claire and a few other people were out buying supplies for the Green Party‘s entry in this year’s Pride Parade. They were in a fabric store buying strips of green fabric (I don’t want to give away our costume plans, but they involve strips of green fabric) when the salesperson asked them what the fabric was for.

“The Pride Parade,” said Claire.

The man responded, “Pride Parade? What are you proud of?”

He wasn’t trying to be nasty; he actually hadn’t heard of the parade, or maybe hadn’t noticed that it’s no longer called the “Gay Pride” parade. It’s a good question though. And since Pride Week is no time for modesty, here are some things I’m proud of:

Of course, there are other things too, but I figured I’d just list some of the seasonally-related ones for now. I don’t want to be obnoxious or anything.

Happy Pride Week!

ps. What are you proud of?

Energy = Massive Crisis2

Nothing hurts quite like being called a “bad blogger” by a friend. (Actually, now that I say that, I’m reminded of a number of things suggested by childhood games of “would you rather…” that would hurt more, but they’re not worth listing now.) The point is, it’s enough to jolt you back into typing action.

I could list all the reasons why I’ve been too busy to blog, but I’ll spare you. After all, we’re all too busy these days, aren’t we? I don’t want to start a you-know-whating contest.

What I do want to do is comment on Ontario’s ever degenerating (some pun intended) energy policy (or lack thereof). The “four sisters” of the Lakeview coal generating plant were brought down by a controlled implosion this past Monday, and yesterday the Ontario government announced that they’ll be turning to nuclear for the majority of our energy needs (as well as our energy wants).

Let me say that when I first joined the Green Party I wanted to give nuclear a chance. I thought that not supporting nuclear meant being unrealistic.

Now that I’ve seen the (compact, florescent) light, it’s actually hard to know where to begin dismantling the well-founded well-funded nuclear myth. There’s already been a lot of talk of the dangers of nuclear waste, and of the plants themselves, so let’s focus on some things that you may not know, and that demonstrate why nuclear is actually an exceptionally unrealistic choice.

First, according to National Geographic Magazine, with current technology there’s only 50 years of nuclear fuel left. Now, chances aren’t bad that technology will improve and that we’ll find some more fuel, so 50 years will likely become 100, or maybe more. However, I still think we should be aware of the fact that nuclear is in no way renewable or long-term before we put too much time and money into it.

Speaking of money, it’s even more important to recognize that nuclear power isn’t economically responsible. Nuclear is extremely expensive to build, maintain, and insure. The last nuclear power plant built in Ontario went 300% over budget. If consumers were asked to pay the real cost of nuclear power in their electricity bill (instead of through their taxes) they’d refuse, and the market would favour renewable sources over night (in tandem with efficiency and conservation), because in reality they’re less expensive.

Finally, even if you still thought nuclear was a good idea, you’d have to admit that energy policy is extremely important and deserves to be debated publicly. In fact, a year ago even energy minister Dwight Duncan promised “an open and public debate” before his government would decide to go nuclear. I guess he’s changed his mind. As Murry Campbell points out in today’s Globe and Mail, this isn’t just bad energy policy, it’s bad democracy.

The energy policy decisions we have to make are complex and critical. What we need is a mix of conservation, efficiency, renewables, and demand shifting. What we absolutely can’t do is just build a large, new, centralized generator every few years in perpetuity. The longer we take to realize that, the greater the crisis becomes.