Showing posts with label Opinion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Opinion. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Part of the Solution? Or part of the Problem? The Government of Manitoba fails in its sacred duty to protect our precious waterways

 by John Fefchak - PinP guest-writer.

Lake Winnipeg, clogged with toxic algae. Nutrients from human and animal waste (including large commercial hog operations) pollute the tenth largest freshwater lake in the world.

More than twenty years ago, I, along with many others, became aware of how Lake Winnipeg and other Manitoba waters were becoming polluted. Our government was ignoring the dire situation; and pressing on with the expansion of Intensive livestock (hog) Operations (ILO's).  Our concerns over the massive amounts of manure being created, were ignored. Despite evidence being presented in the media, including a major TV documentary, "Choking Lake Winnipeg," we were called fear-mongers. 

Still, we didn't give up.

Eventually, there was a glimmer of hope. In 2007, Manitoba's Clean Environment Commission released a ground-breaking report, recognizing a problem with the environmental sustainability of hog production.  

The Lake Winnipeg Act was established and stringent regulations were enacted. Progress to help save Lake Winnipeg seemed achievable. The potential was inspiring.

However, over time, governments change. And the positive steps taken then became a "hindrance." So they were trashed. "The Red Tape Reduction and Government Efficiency Act" was introduced - a process to allow the wheels to be "greased," so that many more factory hog barns could be built. (And they are.)

A decades-old map showing hog-barn locations in Manitoba. How many are enough?

So often we hear the outcry for economic development and associated employment, but there are no concerns expressed for environment and our water sources.  

Overwhelming scientific evidence proves our present economic system is rapidly destroying our planet's ability to sustain life. 

Yet, too many of our politicians turn away from science to favour of the same systems of development that have brought us to the brink of this cataclysmic situation. If we forge ahead in total selective ignorance, then we're guilty in the destruction of Earth's life-sustaining gifts. 

For without water,....there is no economy.....without water...there is nothing!

So, as I re-watch the ten-year-old documentary, I have concluded that the waters of Lake Winnipeg are more polluted than before, and one of the main reasons, is government who, instead of being part of the solution, has sadly become a huge part of the problem. 


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Government of Manitoba robs its rural citizens of their local autonomy to serve its political friends and big business. (Opinion)

        by Larry Powell 
The Premier of Manitoba, Brian Pallister. A Gov't. photo.

The lengths to which the Pallister government is going to enable the unfettered exploitation of Manitoba's resources and massive expansion of its hog industry, should now be clear for all to see. For the past few years, it’s been rolling out, at significant taxpayer expense, the truly draconian measures it’s now taking, to make this happen. 

While the writing has been on the wall, only now are the worst fears being realized. They expose this government’ naked contempt for the democratic rights of rural Manitobans who have the audacity to point out that these goals are misguided - that the emperor has no clothes.

Late last year, the Municipality of Rosser, near Winnipeg, rejected a bid for a gravel mine (euphemistically called a limestone aggregate quarry). The politically well-connected owner of the construction company proposing the mine (who made a substantial contribution to the Conservative Party of Manitoba last year), appealed. Then, along comes a newly-minted creation of the Pallister Conservatives, a "blue-ribbon panel," as it were, called the Municipal Board, and overturns the council’s decision. Anointed with quasi-judicial power and peopled with several of the "party faithful," it can, in the words of one savvy observer, "relieve local councils of their administrative burdens." And, it did. It overturned council's rejection and, surprise, surprise, ruled for the proponent!

So the mine, er, quarry, will now go ahead. There is no appeal. 

So I guess the good people of the little, nearby community of Lillyfield, will just have to grin and bear it.
A gravel mine near the southwestern Manitoba community of Shoal Lake. 
A PinP photo.

Believe me, I know a thing or two about gravel-mines. A big one near my home, in the picturesque Birdtail Valley (above), supplied raw product for a major roadbuilding project to the south of here last year. 
Twenty-two wheelers take a break in Shoal Lake. A PinP photo.

Convoys of big dump-trucks rumbled past my front window in a seniors' complex for months (above), from morning ’til night, carrying their loads - hundreds of round trips a day to the site. 

Never mind that diesel fumes are a major air pollutant which cause lung cancer; Or that the United Nations has long warned the construction industry to curb its greenhouse gas emissions "yesterday" if we are to make any dent in the climate crisis. 

Would the cancellation of that single project have turned this global calamity around? Of course not. 

But will a broader, worse-case climate scenario be in the cards if every community on Earth barges ahead as this government obviously wants us to? Absolutely!

The absence of "eco-wisdom" these events reveal on the part of our lawmakers, is breathtaking.

And Bill 19, the same legislation which tramples local autonomy (or, in the fertile mind of government, reduces red tape), has resulted in another outrage in another part of the province. 
The HyLife killing plant in Neepawa, the largest pork processor in Canada. 
A corporate monolith based in Thailand with tentacles reaching into many
corners of the world's food business, now owns controlling interest.
A PinP photo.

The local, duly-elected Council in the RM of Grassland, near Brandon, has also voted decisively to reject another proposed project - this time a massive complex of hog barns proposed by HyLife Foods (above) near the Village of Elgin. 

And surely, only the naive now believe the Municipal Board will rule any way other than it did in Rosser.

The Grassland Council simply doesn’t believe the tax revenue from the project will cover the cost of servicing it. And residents fear the increased traffic will bring dust and noise, disrupting their quiet, rural lifestyles. 

They also worry about their water supply. That’s because the new complex will suck more than 100 thousand litres of water each and every day from the local aquifer. Twenty-four thousand pigs will be crowded into several large buildings. 

That’s about thirty times the human population of my own little town of Shoal Lake. And each pig produces several times the waste of one person. Yet even here we struggle to keep nutrients from our sewage lagoon - which often exceed recommended levels - from entering the lake. 
These likely help feed the growth of toxic algae which have been clogging up the lake water for years, tangling outboard motors and surely contributing to major fish-kills like the one we had here last year (above). 

It's been common knowledge for some time that, wherever humans or pigs are gathered together, deteriorating water quality soon follows. So, if our small town can feel such an impact, imagine the potential for harm there!

And, as a new report from the World Wildlife Fund reveals: "The overall (pollution) threat in the Assiniboine-Red watershed and each of its four sub-watersheds (where the new barns will be built) is (already) “very high.” It blames much of this on "agricultural runoff!"

Dissenting voices are systematically ignored.

In the spring of 2018 - the citizens' group, Hogwatch Manitoba - 
emblazened this headline across its website.


Here is Hogwatch's prophetic, cautionary tale, word for word, as it appeared, two-&-a-half years ago.

"Bill 19 will silence the public. It will allow municipal leaders to get rid of conditional use hearings and Provincial Technical Reviews for factory hog barns. If local politicians take this route, the Province will have the only and final say on where hog factories can be built. The Government of Manitoba is and has been both a promoter and regulator of the hog industry.  Bill 19 is the latest move to promote and de-regulate hog industry expansion. Why is Provincial control a problem? If conditional use disappears, local councils and rural people will not have any say in how factory hog operations perform. Municipalities will have no means of monitoring, enforcing conditions, and protecting local people and the environment from hog operations." 

John Fefchak of Virden is another example of a voice that needs to be listened to, but is not. John is a veteran of the Canadian military and long-time critic of his province's factory-farming style of pork production. He sees the government’s almost messianic drive to be both a regulator of, and cheerleader for the industry, as an attack on the democratic freedoms he did his part to win in the deadly conflicts of the past. Yet, his frequent comments to the news media, including the farm press, are often censored. 

And my local Shoal Lake newspaper, the Crossroads, is refusing to print this story which I put in the form of a letter-to-the-editor. The publisher, Ryan Nesbitt, claims it is "not local enough." He has also refused other letters I have submitted, about climate change, for the same reason.

It's encouraging that the Opposition is now taking up this issue. But I do hope it won't roll out as just another bit of political theatre. We need a profound public discourse on the very ways we develop our resources, produce our food, and exercise and protect our precious democratic rights, too. Is it all working? Or does it need to change? We all need to think about these things when the next election comes around.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Beyond Covid 19. Are we risking yet another pandemic if we continue to embrace "assembly-line" livestock production into the future?

by Larry Powell

No one would argue that Covid 19 demands our undivided attention. Surely, defeating this "beast" has to be "Priority One." But, once it ends, and it will, here’s another key question that needs answering. Are we flirting with more such tragedies down the road if we do not soon end our love affair with an industrial, factory-style model of meat production? 
Six years ago, Dr. Margaret Chan (above), then the Director-General of the World Health Organization, delivered this positively prophetic message to an Asian investment conference. 

“The industrialization of food production is an especially worrisome trend. Confined animal feeding operations are not farms any more. They are protein factories with multiple hazards for health and the environment."
                                      Photo credit - Mercy for Animals, Manitoba

"These hazards come from the crowding of large numbers of animals in very small spaces, the stressful conditions that promote disease, the large quantities of dangerous waste, the need for frequent human contact with the animals.” 

The "farms" Dr. Chan was describing have been operating in North America  and Europe for decades and, more recently, in Asia, too. In much of the world, they're called "CAFOs," or Confined Animal Feeding Operations. In Canada, they're known as "ILOs," or Intensive Livestock Operations. 

China now produces more pork in this way than the rest of the world, combined!

Most scientists view wet food markets - where both wild and tame animals are sold, alive or dead - as hotspots for the emergence of new viruses that could spark the next influenza pandemic. (It is widely believed that the current Covid-19 pandemic originated at such a market in Wuhan, China.) Health authorities also say, as many as three out of every four new diseases emerging in the world today, result from close contact between humans and animals, either wild or domesticated.

The pandemic we are now struggling with, surely focuses (or should focus) renewed attention on this traditional livestock model, now being rapidly expanded right here in my home province, Manitoba. 

First, Covid 19 is a coronavirus, a family of infectious diseases. So, too is PEDv (or Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus). PEDv claimed the lives of countless, defenseless piglets in the big hog barns of Manitoba in recent years. (I say countless because the industry won’t say how many and the Government - which sees its role as an enabler of the industry's business success - not as a regulator - claims it doesn’t know.) 

The epidemic cost provincial taxpayers at least $800 thousand dollars to combat. But this figure did not come freely. I had to launch an "access to information" request in order to pry it from the secretive fist of this Conservative government.

It’s believed Covid 19 originated with bats in China. So, it is thought, did PEDv. The difference is that Covid 19 “spilled over” into the human population, while PEDv has not. 

At least, not yet!

According to the Centers for Disease Control (US), “Sometimes coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and make people sick and become a new human coronavirus. Recent examples of this are Covid 19, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).”

No one knows for sure whether PEDv will “morph” into something that will attack people. And that is precisely why we need credible, comprehensive and, above-all, independent research to at least identify and quantify the risk, once and for all. 

And I don’t mean the kind that’s now taking place at the University of Manitoba, which appears to be anything but. There, researchers, with hefty financial input from the pork industry in no less than seven provinces, are studying “pig foot printing.” 

So, just what does that mean? Far from looking into the industry’s profound and often negative impacts on the environment, or on human and animal health and welfare, the project shamelessly flaunts itself as a way to “advance the profitability of the Canadian swine sector” and “promote competitiveness.”

Does this sound like an initiative that will get to the bottom of any future health risks which it may pose to you and me?

Attempts by the citizen’s group, HogWatch Manitoba (HWM), to get more details about the research (i.e. whether it will find out how much industry pollution is leaking into waterways, for example), have fallen on deaf ears. So too, has the group's offer to provide input into the research. 

That a place of higher learning like the UofM should sign off on such a questionable project is surely nothing less than a grotesque conflict-of-interest.

For Manitoba, sadly, this looks like just another bit of "the old normal."


"In Hogs We Trust." Part 111

Friday, July 3, 2020

Does your place of residence make you immune from climate calamity? I think not! (Opinion)

by Larry Powell

UPDATE...The Rivers dam mentioned in this story has now been declared by government engineers to be safe.

I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard one of my fellow "prairie dogs" remark, how "lucky" or how "blessed" we are to be spared the kind of brutal weather that may be pummelling another part of the country or the world at the time.

Occasionally, I'll try to remind them, we've already experienced disastrous conditions in our own "neck of the woods" (the eastern prairies) in recent years. They seem either unaware of what I say, or believe they're nothing worse than we've ever had. 

So are they or aren't they? 

The examples I list below (starting last fall up to the present) are extreme weather events which have broken records or are unprecedented in the human record.  They'e not born of this writer's imagination, but from Environment Canada, the body of record on such matters. (Emphases mine.)

Disastrous conditions in recent years have left about a million tonnes of prairie crops
like this one in Manitoba in the fields, unharvested over winter. A PinP photo.

"Last Thanksgiving Day weekend (2019), Manitobans were still drying out from record September rains, nearly three times the norm. Farmers were especially concerned but, after a relatively dry first week of October, they once again started up their combines and resumed round-the-clock harvesting. They were keeping an eye on a pending well-announced weather system. The storm sat over the region for days. Heavy, sticky snows draped Manitoba from Brandon to Winnipeg from October 10 to 12 and through the Thanksgiving weekend. 

"Historic snowfall totals included 34 cm at Winnipeg over two days, making it the biggest October snowstorm in the city since records began in 1872. States of emergency were declared across the province and in eleven communities, including Winnipeg. More than 6,000 people had to evacuate from a dozen or more First Nations communities. Lengthy and widespread power outages created hardship. Powerful winds exceeding 80 km/h drove the wet snow, creating blinding blizzards and two-metre drifts. In some cases, transmission towers toppled, downing total electrical grids. 

"According to Manitoba Hydro, at the peak of the storm, a quarter of a million people were without power, making it the largest outage in the utility’s history. Ten days later, about 5,000 were still without power. By the end of November, there were still some citizens who could not yet return to their homes." 

(Hydro has estimated damage at some $100 million.)

"The storm’s early arrival in October meant tree branches, still loaded with leaves, were bending. Many of Winnipeg’s trees saw damage and loss under the weight of the snow. Over 30,000 trees on public land were affected, with estimates of thousands more on private land. The Manitoba escarpment in Morden, Winkler, and Carberry also saw between 50 and 75 cm of snow."

Fast forward to this week. 

The spillway at the Rivers dam in SW MB. A Govt. of MB photo.

Severe thunderstorms, torrential rain, winds of over 100kmh and at least one tornado, tore through wide areas of the province, including the City of Brandon. Torrents of water cascaded over the dam on the Little Saskatchewan River near the southwestern Town of Rivers. 

Fearing structural failure, the provincial government called for the evacuation of livestock and several residents below it. "The Manitoba government does not have confidence in the Rivers Dam," it declared in its official news release.

Here are more direct quotes from the government news release, issued just two days ago.

"The recommended evacuation comes as a weather system has brought significant precipitation in the past 72 hours in southwest and western Manitoba. Some areas have received record-high precipitation of more than 200 millimetres during this period. It has caused water levels to rise in rivers and creeks in these areas."

I can only long for the day when I hear my friends and neighbours - while talking about the weather - begin saying things like this:

"You know, it looks like those climate scientists were right! If we don't do something about the greenhouse gas emissions we are producing in our everyday lives - and find different ways of doing things - things will only get worse. Matter of fact - it looks like they already are!"

I'm still waiting.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Of pandemics and politicians. (Opinion)

by Larry Powell
Politicians need to be judged, not by their words, but their actions. Ontario Premier, Doug Ford has been generally well-received for his press conferences during the pandemic. Sounding good. Saying the right things. But it was under his watch, after all, that inspections of Ontario's personal care homes were slashed to save money. And we all know how tragic and deadly the situation has become within such homes in Ontario and elsewhere. Sadly, Ford's actions are consistent with a neo-liberal agenda that has dominated the world, notably since the Reagan/Thatcher era. Cut, slash. Get governments "out of the way," Contract out. Lay off. Throw your jurisdictions "open for business" while shrinking public services like education and health. Let the market rule! (Music to the ears of the likes of Mike Harris, former Tory premier of ON. He seems to have done alright assuming the helm of one of the for-profit, private home-care companies in that province.)

Then, there's Alberta. Premier Kenney appears, in some ways, to grasp the gravity of the crisis and what's needed to counter it. Yet his government has shamelessly and heartlessly directed (no doubt at the behest of its rich, powerful and American-owned owner, Cargill) the re-opening of a big meat plant which has seen the single largest outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in North America! This is shameful and outrageous. It flies in the face of warnings from the Union there, that a re-opening would only lead to a resurgence of the pandemic, putting its members under even greater risk. Many of those members are vulnerable foreign workers, forced by economic necessity to live in crowded housing and work in dangerous, cramped condition in the plant.
It was also under Kenney's watch that an "inspection" of the plant was carried out via Skype! This, too is in keeping with neo-liberal philosophy. Its leaders view most any regulation as nothing more than "red tape" to be done away with, no matter the consequences.
 (Just look at Manitoba, where a Tory regime - with positively Trumpian zeal - has done away with "pesky" rules which once kept at least a partial reign on a now-runaway, high-maintenance, costly-to-the-public-purse, cruel and polluting, "factory-style" pork industry.)
As long as we keep electing leaders who care more about political expediency and cronyism than science, nothing will change.

Friday, December 20, 2019

2019 – A Devastating Year in Review


By any measure this has been a devastating year: fires across the Amazon, the Arctic and beyond; floods and drought in Africa; rising temperatures, carbon emissions and sea levels; accelerating loss of species, and mass forced migrations of people. Story here.
Fires in the Brazilian Amazon - 2018. Photo by Ibama from Brasil.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

How Has This Pesticide Not Been Banned? Opinion.

The New York Times
Government scientists say chlorpyrifos is unsafe. And yet it’s still in use. Details here.
A "crop-duster" sprays a pesticide believed to be chlorpyrifos
on a canola crop in Manitoba. Circa 2006. A PinP photo.
A related story that may interest you:

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Blogger supports the embattled climate campaigner, Greta Thunberg. (Opinion)

Dear Editor,

So I guess the bully-boys of the world's petro-states sure have Greta Thunberg on the run now. Apparently their "eyebrows were raised" because the 16 year-old schoolgirl suggested global leaders be put "up against the wall" for their lack of action on our climate crisis. I guess they were terrified Greta was going to unleash her standing armies against the likes of Saudi Arabia's murderous Crown Prince and Brazil's homophobic, rainforest-destroying (and Trump wanna be) President. Apparently Saudi Arabia, busily killing children in Yemen as we speak (quite possibly with the help of Canadian-made weapons), and Brazil, whose leader fires scientists for telling him the truth - that his policies are committing Brazilian rainforests to death by wildfire - were major hurdles in the way of any meaningful progress at the recently-failed environmental summit. (Canada's own role, I might add, was weak, unconvincing and disgusting.) So, should leaders like this be "put up agains the wall," as Greta suggested? She has apologized, saying she was not advocating violence. And I believe her. But consider this.Surely the increasingly deadly storms that our children will now face, due to this latest proof that our leaders have no backbone, will prove way more violent than anything Greta is accused of suggesting.

Larry Powell,
Shoal Lk. MB

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Rural Manitobans need to stop electing Tories if we hope to make progress on climate mitigation. (Opinion)

by Larry Powell

I believe we rural Manitobans need to do a deep “re-think” of how we traditionally vote if we want to do anything meaningful about our looming climate catastrophe.

In my own riding of Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa, for example, we're about to elect Dan Mazier (l.), to a four-year term as our Conservative Member of Parliament. While he wouldn't accept the label of "climate-denier" (he does use solar panels to help power his farm and has been endorsed by an environmental group), he’s still echoing on social media, his own party’s shrill opposition to the carbon tax. (In my books, this makes him a candidate for that label.) 

Despite the fact the tax applies to fossil fuels only, is refundable and exempts many farm fuels like the ones Mazier burns on his own farm, he amazingly concludes, it will “increase the cost of almost everything!” 

In my mind, one cannot be a true supporter of climate action while opposing a price on carbon. 

Here's why.

A carbon tax in BC in the early 2000s, worked.  It actually reduced emissions without damaging the economy in the least. It has also been endorsed by leading climatologists, a Nobel prize-winning economists and the respected think-tank, the Pembina Institute, to name a few. 

Here's the proof.
Vast acreages like this remain in Manitoba fields due to storm
conditions some have described as "historic." A PinP photo.
The irony of Mazier’s position is striking. He's a conventional farmer who uses lots of fuel in his big machines and synthetic fertilizers on his crops. And he's almost certainly facing economic losses himself from a wacky growing season which bears all the hallmarks of manmade climate change. Drought, torrential rains, hail and snow have left vast amounts of crop in the fields (see above) and many livestock producers on the verge of ruin. And the irony only deepens when you consider the deeply-flawed way Trudeau imposed the tax on Manitoba. It exempts producers like Mazier from paying it at all on much of the fuel he burns on his farm.

For years, Conservative has been the party of choice for most rural Manitobans. The outgoing MP for this area, Conservative Robert Sopuck, criticized organic production and strongly opposed action on climate change. He was a strong supporter of the status quo in regard to conventional farming and livestock production.

I'm not convinced that I fully believe Conservatives who say they accept that manmade climate change is happening. They take that position because the science is now so compelling, it would make them look ridiculous in the public eye to say otherwise. So their condemnation of a carbon tax is their "fallback position," where they can deny the science in private but publicly still appear to be disagreeing only on solutions.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Jury rules Roundup gave a California couple cancer - orders the manufacturer, Bayer, to pay $2B.

by Larry Powell (Opinion)
A pesticide collection depot in Manitoba.
A PinP photo.
It’s a record settlement in a Roundup case, so far.

In Canada, there are no signs of similar court actions, even though  Roundup is generously applied here, too. 

Sadly, our Canadian regulators seem far from vigilant in protecting the public against harmful chemicals. For example, less than a year ago, the PMRA re-registered a fungicide so its main uses can continue. That same product has just been banned in the EU as a possible carcinogen!

And the same corporation, Bayer, is busily registering (or trying to register) its latest insecticide for use, worldwide, including Canada. Never mind that scientists are questioning Bayer’s claim that it is not harmful to pollinators. 

The PMRA has been stone-silent on my own requests to justify this apparent inaction in either of these cases. I call it governance by neglect. 

It is to be hoped that punishing fines like this will eventually call this monstrous Corporation to heel and make it more accountable to the public good.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Humanity Sleepwalks as Earth Burns.

by Larry Powell

This is the Ashcroft Reserve fire in BC in 2017. That was the worst year ever for wildfires in that province - until this year!  Photo by Shawn Cahill.

As I write this, human bodies incinerated beyond recognition, are being pulled from the ruins of wildfires in California. More than a thousand people are either missing or confirmed dead, with property damage set to top several billions of dollars. Smoke from the fires has now enveloped San Francisco.

President Trump blames "poor forest management,"and, after first threatening to withhold it, finally grants emergency aid. His critics take him to task for his lack of empathy for the victims. After visiting the fire zones, he continues, disgracefully, to deny the role manmade climate change is surely playing here.

But what's worse, his absence of a heart (which has been evident for some time), or his actual policies which have shown him to be complicit in these horrible disasters? Those critics seem determined not to mention that, since "day-one," Trump and his administration have been busy reversing steps taken under President Obama to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, whether they come from power plants, the planes we fly, or the cars, trucks, quads, speedboats, lawnmowers or snowmobiles we drive. 

All of these emissions (but especially those from coal), are trapping the sun's rays, dangerously over-heating our planet, creating conditions favourable to all kinds of extreme events, droughts and wildfires among them. All the while, Trump has slashed regulations aimed at curbing the massive toxic pollution which coal creates, claiming he wants to get people back working again in this dirty and dangerous industry.

He has gutted his own Environmental Protection Agency by putting skunks like Scott Pruitt in charge. Trump, Pruitt and others have monumentally betrayed their civic duty, by crippling the very branch of government which is supposed to protect human, animal and plant life. Instead, they are greasing the wheels for more harmful oil and gas development in places like the once-pristine Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge.

Recently, Trump also rolled back federal rules aimed at reducing the escape of methane into the atmosphere. It's a  greenhouse gas which is way more potent than the most common one, carbon dioxide. Methane, a prime component of natural gas, has been leaking into the air in alarming amounts from unknown numbers of "fracking sites,"where natural gas is often produced around the world.

And last, but not least, Trump has thumbed his nose at the rest of the world by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord. Scores of countries have signed on, promising to keep "global heating" in some kind of check, so that planet Earth can continue to be a place where life forms like ours, can continue to exist and flourish.

So, exactly why are Trump's critics, who often appear more like impotent bunglers than responsible lawmakers, not holding his feet to the fire over things like this, far more than they are?

Sadly, I fear that they do not want to offend an uninformed, poorly-educated or, dare I say it, stupid public, who form much of Trump's base. As a result, this Polluter-in-Chief is given a pass for his misguided, reckless and even criminal behaviour. Polls show the majority of Americans still believe that the science around climate change is somehow not "settled"yet.  It is! Reams of scientific wisdom, accumulated for at least a generation, prove this!

Trump (who thinks climate change is a hoax), along with "pseudo-scientists," hired by the oil industry, now seem to have actually captured the hearts and minds of a largely "unconscious" public. This is a nation where enlightened, proven truth is somehow largely missing from the homes, churches. schools and boardrooms of an otherwise advanced civilization.

Numbness to scientific fact is no stranger to Canada, either.

As I watch TV here at home in Manitoba, I see (as does everyone else) endless streams of ads from the car companies. Perhaps as many as ten each hour,  carpet-bomb the viewer, day and night. Slick, beautiful cars and trucks, each better than the other, are available with rebates and low interest on each purchase. Children appear in some, lured with the promise of onboard "wi-fi," so they can watch their favourite movie while on yet another carefree trip with their families. 

Yet there's never a whisper of advice warning either those children or anyone else, that these very cars and trucks, most powered by fossil fuels, are major contributors to air pollution. Transportation is a major source of global warming emissions. Pollutants from vehicle exhaust have long been linked to adverse impacts on nearly every organ in the body. (Source, US Union of Concerned Scientists.)

Neither does it seem to matter that Canada was a proud signatory to the Paris Accord a scant few years ago, pledging to keep emissions low enough so the planet does not incinerate. But in our so-called western democracy, vehicle-makers are allowed to engage in such disgraceful behaviour with impunity. 

To give the Devil his due, at least in the 'States, the world's biggest oil company, Exxon, is being indicted for covering up decades-old evidence of the harm its product does to our planet. No such thing here. So the ads continue, unabated and unchallenged. 

What role are people of faith playing here?

Anecdotes told by survivors of the California wildfires on TV news offer disturbing insights into what a lot of people actually think and believe. One couple told a remarkable tale of escaping the flames by sliding down a huge cliff to safety. The woman gave thanks to God for saving their lives.

A man, who was almost blind, thanked the Lord for guiding him as he managed, by following a police car, to drive through the flames to safety. This is a common refrain among people who never bother to explain where God was when, in this case, as they were being "saved," hundreds of others were burning to death!

In Canada, a pastor who writes a regular column in a rural newspaper, without mentioning climate change, confidently informed his readers a couple of years ago, that "God loves storm victims." He was referring to a series of super-hurricanes which whipped the southern U.S., sending countless God-fearing Texans into the streets, with floodwaters up to their armpits. When I challenged him as to how such terrible events could possibly be an act of God's love, he assured me, well, God didn't really make the storms happen. He just let them happen! 

Now I understand completely.

After all, why should the faithful believe in science, when scripture, especially to Evangelicals on the religious right, promises them the rapture, the Second Coming and everlasting life? Or what purpose does it serve to cut back on fuel consumption when it is God who will have the last word anyway, including the option of either raining fire and brimstone down on his wicked flock (inflicting "Armageddon" or "end days"on all of them), or, indeed, saving us all by just refraining from doing so? 

In such scenarios, I would argue that religion does nothing but stand in the way of practical, useful solutions - and helps ensure runaway climate change will culminate in a worst-case scenario - where places on Earth become "hothouses" - in which even the healthiest among us, will perish. In other words, it will prove to be, as Karl Marx famously stated, "the opiate of the masses." 

This unwillingness or inability of people to grasp the reality of our climate crisis is, sadly, evident, not only south of the border but, in Canada, as well. 

Evidence of this is everywhere. Vehicles, both big and small, regardless of the weather, are left mindlessly parked and running while their owners run errands. Excuses are either weak or non-sensical. A semi-driver told me he would have turned his rig off had he been away from it longer. As it was, he left it idling while he did some banking across the street. And he looked at me as if I was crazy when I told him "Mother Earth will thank you if you turn it off, next time!"

Some years ago, I asked a Greyhound bus driver if he ever thought of climate change when he left his vehicle running during prolonged stopovers (as he was doing in this case). He looked at me blankly and replied, "Oh, do you mean that guy in England?" 

Each time I sit outside on my patio, I try to spot vehicles driving by with more than one occupant in each. Most everyone should know by now that, the more people each vehicle carries, the more fuel-efficient travel then becomes. Hence the wisdom behind the push for more public (bus, light rail and rapid) transit. Yet, to my dismay, the vast majority of vehicles I see, carry only one occupant - the driver.

This astonishingly low level of what I would call "eco-wisdom" is there to see pretty much everywhere I look.

It has been argued that we can't possibly tell the unvarnished truth to our children. It would simply upset them too much. Yet we seem alright (and rightly so), with teaching them as much as we can about the horrors of past wars as a cautionary tale, to ensure they "never happen again." 


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