Sunday, December 27, 2009

I Like Foreign Films

I stopped off at the video rental place on my way home from work the other day. It’d been a long, cold, physically challenging day, and I wanted nothing more than to plunk myself in front of the tube to watch a movie.

I was browsing through the Foreign Films section, I came across The Trailor Park Boys, Jesus of Montreal… and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Sitting alongside films from all around the world were Canadian films made in Canada with Canadian directors and Canadian actors.

The young girl who worked there was just walking past. Picking up a copy of Atanariuat, I asked her, “why is this in the Foreign Films section?” Poor thing looked at the title and then up at me with a face that seemed to say “you idiot” and chided coldly, “we put all the movies made in other countries here.” Then she shook her head and stomped away.

I realised that I could have made my point a whole lot better with the video store girl had I held up The Trailor Park Boys, but that’s fodder for another column.

It took Canada a long time to gain sovereignty over this amazing land and to be viewed as a nation in our own right, not one beholding to some parent across the sea. This country’s very magic is that we are made of races of people who have each brought something special to create a unique nation in our own right.

Yet today, Canadian icons are no longer Canadian. Air Canada, CN Rail, Molsons, Labatts, The Hudson Bay Company, Dofasco, Alcan, Stelco, Canadian Pacific Hotels and Eatons… and a list much longer than I care to continue with. Many of these have been sold to American interests and run in a very un-Canadian way, where employees and communities come somewhere after the bottom line.

Canada’s own sovereignty is now compromised by this International/Americanisation of our resources and labour force. Our governments can no longer protect citizens from the whims of corporate board members who may never have set foot in a Canadian community, and who have no love for our history or uniqueness. Some governments even aid and abet the process of selling off our Canadian-ness for the sake of profit (I won’t name any, Mr. Harper and Mr. Stelmach, because I’m Canadian and don’t want to offend anyone).

We have given up our right to set our own course in this world. We’ve again become subservient to larger forces. It didn’t have to be this way. Smaller countries like New Zealand, Denmark, Norway and Finland have stayed in control of their own policies regardless of living near much larger and powerful nations and proven they can maintain their special place in the world community.

There may still be hope that we can get return to being truly and independently Canadian some day. Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania fought out from under the yoke of one of the most repressive regimes in human history to reclaim their status as independent states and are now rebuilding their own uniqueness. There is enough spirit left in ordinary Canadians to rouse into action. Canada is worth protecting from this slide into sameness being slowly and quietly being foisted on us.

One sign I’ll be looking for is a much larger Foreign Film section at Blockbuster… one expanded to fit the thousands of movies from Hollywood that really belong there. Of course, then I’d have to admit The Trailor Park Boys are ours.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It Isn't True if they Say it Isn't

As many as 40% of Canadians believe global warming is a hoax. That’s probably higher in Alberta. Talk shows hammer our airwaves day after day with ranting hosts... bringing up the recent "Climate-gate" scandal as evidence that more than 100 years of climate data is somehow fraudulent.

The lack of scientific transparency certainly raises ethical issues within the scientific community. However, the assertion that it proves a hoax is manipulative and ridiculous.

The simple fact is that science has measured surface and ocean temperatures... ocean currents... desertification... clouds... atmospheric pollution... the deterioration of the world's glaciers... the shrinking northern ice cap... the destablisation of the southern ice cap... the shrinking of the Greenland ice mass and countless other climate changes for more than a century. There is no other explanation for these massive shifts. They correlate directly with rising CO2 levels since the beginning of the fossil fuel age from 250 parts per billion (ppb) to 380 in the last 150 years. Yet climate-change deniers want us to believe these changes—and the rapid increase in average yearly temperatures (this decade is the hottest in recorded history, despite deniers’ fraudulent claims)—is all a matter of sunspots.

Every high student knows CO2 traps heat. It’s a simple laboratory experiment. In the last four decades alone, mankind has pumped hundreds of trillions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Earth is a closed system. That CO2 has nowhere to go and once in the atmosphere it traps heat for a very long time. For climate deniers to claim differently, they would have to come up with some radical theory to explain the changes. They have never done that because there is no other theory.

Their goal is simple; they want to sow doubt in those who do not have time to understand the science, or who are simply hoping against all rational hope that this disaster is not really looming at all, and that we can continue to pollute the planet with no negative consequences.

Much of climate change denial rhetoric comes from something called the Heartland Institute (not coincidentally funded by Exxon) and climate scientist Dr Patrick Michaels (lavishly paid by the coal lobby). Their job is not to disprove human-induced climate change; it is simply to plant doubt in voters and decision makers and delay forced changes through the democratic process.

These people are not stupid or greedy… or are they? Would they jeopardize our own planet? Is greed that strong? Would some people profit at the expense of others? We all know the answer to that.

The greenhouse effect is undisputed science… even by deniers. We continue to pump trillions tons of greenhouse gases into the air every year. CO2 levels in the atmosphere have increased by more than 50%.

Those are the facts. Logic dictates that there is a correlation between climate change and greenhouse gas. It may be easier to believe global warming is a sham. I wish it were.

You may never read this column again. Fine. Just don’t ignore the disappearing lakes and forests of this province, or the rapidly shrinking glaciers that fill our rivers every summer. And when you notice, ask yourself, “shouldn’t someone come up with a theory to explain all this?”

We already have. It was just easier to pretend it wasn’t happening.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

No Danger to the Public

Yesterday, while I was resting in the bunkhouse in Biggar, Saskatchewan, a couple of hundred kilometers to the east, a CN crew had a little spot of trouble when their train hit a broken rail.

CN spokesmen say that although several cars of propane caught fire and were burning along with some cars filled with plastic, there is absolutely no danger to the public. Perhaps, what they mean is there is absolutely no danger to the public... as long as the public stays away from the accident... and by public, I don't suppose they mean the environment.

The derailment apparently occurred only three cars behind the engines. Luckily, the broken rail didn't do it's damage while the locomotives roared over it, otherwise there might have been engines on fire and a couple of roasted railroaders... but even then, the public probably wouldn't have been in any more danger.

My own train last night ran out of fuel 40 miles from the city and we had to wait two hours in the snow for a fuel truck to come and rescue us. A quintessentially Canadian day on the railroad.