At the time of writing this post (Sunday, April 21 at 11:30AM) a bombing in Sri Lanka had killed over 200 people and wounded more than 450.
My project, Denk Ich an Sonneberg, introduced me to various theories related to memory, among them were Ethical Remembrance and Post-Memory. Roger Frie’s book, Not in My Family: German memory and responsibility after the holocaust and Marianne Hirsch’s book Family Frames: photography narrative and postmemory explore these topics respectively.
As I continue to explore the broader subject of remembrance, I came across Roger Simon’s book The Touch of the Past: remembrance, learning and ethics. Simon asks “…how and why a social, and often conflictual, practice of remembrance might be central to establishing the conditions necessary for democratic life[?]”(p3). A connection between democracy and remembrance? What is it?
The departure point for Simon’s line of reasoning is that remembrance enables us to bring past learnings into the present. In a process that is continuous and on-going, learnings accumulated over the eons form our culture, a framework of practices, common understandings, our norms, our sense of right and wrong, our perceptions of truth and facts. The framework that we use to negotiate our daily lives within our community that enables the formation of strong social groups. Referring to Zygmunt Bauman, Simon notes social solidarity is a necessary condition to build the “trust, self-confidence, and courage without which the exercise of freedom and willingness to experiment are unthinkable.” (p.5)
Simon then positions these two characteristics as necessary conditions for “…a democratic public life [that] requires explicit activity that subjects existing practices to continual critique and the conflictual work of repair, renewal, and invention of desirable social institutions.” That is, our practices, and institutions need to be continually and continuously tested and this can be accomplished only when we share those norms that promote a stable enough society to weather the challenges of critique. The crucible of this testing is a “public sphere within which the substance of the social is debated and negotiated.”
The “public sphere” is not a single location, such as parliament. It includes other sites of discussion, including our various levels of government, lobbyists, newspapers, individuals, each stating their own perspective in their own voice resulting in the assembly of a wide range of opinions and information “… the substance of ‘the public sphere’ is not to be limited to a discussion of institutions, sites, and spaces, but must include an inquiry into what situated practices will support listening, learning, conversation, and debate capable of reassessing the political, cultural and moral dimensions of the organization of social life.” (p.7)
Yet, having a public sphere is insufficient; there needs to be the impetus to act. Derrida’s concept of the “arrivant”, that moment in history when the time is right, the conditions have been met to have a serious debate, that “… existing institutions and forms of authority are put into question through critical judgement and a commitment to linking social responsibility and social transformation.”(p.8) Here I am reminded of Thomas Kuhn’s premise, stated in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, that theories are continuously tested through experimentation that either support, or not, the outcomes predicted by a theory. At some point a critical mass of failures is reached and the theory needs to be re-evaluated, or in the case of public institutions, policies and processes that need to be revisited.
This is where I stopped and reflected on the disruptive forces emerging in many places around the world, such as those responding to impacts of globalization. Thinking of Trump specifically, Simon’s argument brings purpose to his actions, and a framework to distinguish those that are constructive from those that are not, and why. While Trump is testing and pushing our institutions to address current issues in different, non-traditional ways, he is failing to do so through an inclusive “public sphere” either by exercising powers directly where he can, or by sewing division developing mistrust that poisons the environment for debate and negotiations as necessary conditions for democracy.
In the black and white world of extreme right and left postions, the former would give him a pass for the good he is doing, the latter a fail for the bad. There is no middle ground, no room for discussion, no room for compromise. The time has come, the impetus to act is here, but the “public sphere” is stifled.
The question for the longer term is how will these practices be remembered and thus used by future generations.
My subscription to Amazon Prime gives me access to Prime Videos. Since the last time I looked, they seem to have grown their library. Yesterday I watched Fahrenheit 11/9, Michael Moore’s look at why Trump was elected.
His answer: political leadership has privileged the needs of business over the needs of the people. Trump said he would change that, and he was believed.
To develop that message, Moore explores in more detail than might be necessary the water issue in Flint Michigan and the Teachers’ strike in West Virginia. His documentary is forceful, to the point of appearing one-sided. Yet, for anyone who has travelled through those states, and have witnessed the decline into poverty, they recognise that there is a problem. Regardless of the root cause, the failure of political leadership to respond is their sin. In response, people have taken action and voted them out. Unfortunately, what was elected was a vile, and crude man, at least as corrupt as his predecessors.
The message of hope that Moore offers, at the end, is that the election of this turd has motivated a new generation of people to participate in the system. The recent US election results suggest this process might be underway.
But it is the message of hope — that trope that is embedded in the propaganda called the American Dream that motivates the American lower and middle classes to tow the line — that subverts the message of this work. It’s like the image of Obama drinking Flint Michigan water.
In today’s political environment we are blessed with leaders who are able to resolve some of the most complicated problems with simple ways out. The expansion of the Trans-Mountain pipeline is a case in point: kill the expansion, save the whales.
The first question is are the whales facing a problem? Fisheries and Oceans Canada reports the “Southern Resident Killer Whale population [that is the population affected by the expansion] has fluctuated between 70 and 99 individuals since 1976, and consisted of 76 members in 2017. Because of their declining population size and small number they are currently facing imminent threats to their survival and recovery.”  NOAA Fisheries has estimated the historical number of whales in this population at about 140 , so the current state represents nearly a 50% decline, which seems significant.
The second question is what is the cause of their decline?
The greatest threats to Resident Killer Whales are reduction in prey availability, contaminants, and acoustic and physical disturbance; ship strikes have also been recently identified as a threat. Exposure to toxic spills, interactions with fisheries and aquaculture, and climate change are other human-related threats that may negatively impact the Southern Resident Killer Whale population.
Natural factors may also impact the survival of these whales. These include: diseases, narrow prey selection, complex social structure, late sexual maturity and low birth rate, inbreeding, and mass stranding or natural entrapment.
“Prey availability” refers specifically to salmon, which makes up about 97% of the whales’ diet, that has suffered significant declines as well . Washington State has taken action to increase the stocks by removing dams along rivers feeding into the whales’ habitat and expanding fish hatcheries . Contaminants, such as raw sewage from Victoria, have impact, as well as the noise of existing ship traffic. Having vessels slow to 11 knots has reduced noise significantly, by 6 to 11 decibels .
Two points might be drawn. First, the decline in the whale population pre-exists expansion. Second, steps underway offer hope to address some of these problems, at least in part.
Is this increase in traffic material with respect to the survival of the whales? This is unclear, however, implementing the expansion could make the things worse. As noted by the Globe and Mail “The Trans Mountain project and expanded capacity would mean a seven-fold increase in the number of oil tankers coming and going.”  While this appears dramatic, the increase in absolute numbers is from 4 to 28 vessels per month, within an overall traffic pattern of 250 vessels per month.
Assuming the goal is to protect the whales, two questions remain:
Can solutions currently being put in place resolve the challenges facing the Killer Whale population?
Is traffic reduction necessary, and if so which should be cut?
Given that the decline in the whale population is independent of expansion, steps currently in place, and/or those considered, need to continue.
The answer to the second question is in part contingent on the success of the first. But let us assume that at minimum traffic volumes need to be stabilized at current levels. Allowing tanker traffic implies offsetting this increase in traffic with reductions elsewhere. For example, statistics from the Port of Vancouver report cruise ships account for 240 vessels per year in 2017 , which is a reasonably close offset to the 336 vessels per year that would be added by the Trans-Mountain Expansion.
Oil exports offer material economic benefits, so it might make more sense to measure the risk-reward of tanker traffic against other traffic, cutting that of lesser quality until balance is achieved.
I subscribe to five news outlets: The Globe & Mail, The Toronto Star, iPolitics, The New York Times, and The CBC. Reflecting on these outlets, I observe broadly they offer two types of content: news and opinion. The former is usually observational, and factual. The latter ranges from analytical pieces that develop the facts of a matter in a logical and rational way towards a conclusion. The other end of the range are pieces that are purely subjective and offer little other that the author’s biased opinion, with neither explanation nor rationale. Articles at this end of the spectrum often bother me, may be even anger me.
Recently I’ve noticed a number of articles related to anger. Charles Duhigg wrote an excellent article in The Atlantic. CBC’s, The House has commented as well. I too observed the emergence of anger in the last  Canadian Election. The elevation of anger is something that has troubled me for a while; it clouds the mind and hides the facts. More worrisome, it is expected to get worse.
Many of these columns seek to understand the source of the anger. Some suggest it is related to the growing gap in incomes or the lack of responsiveness by politicians to key issues. In a recent posting I wondered if anger was spawned from a feeling of disenfranchisement. Many issues we face today are sourced elsewhere, beyond the boundaries of our current national-political systems, beyond our scope of [political] control; decisions that impact us are made by leaders in other political jurisdictions, beyond the scope of our vote. The inability to participate in the decision-making process is frustrating; it makes me angry as I have no control. A route to resolving these issues seems to involve international co-operation, but this form of co-operation is under attack.
In his 1977 survey James Averill, a psychology professor at University of Massachusetts, came to realise that there is value in anger: anger attracts attention, motivating people to act. Good anger encourages us to identify our grievances and act.
Dacher Keltner, the director of the Berkeley Social Interaction Lab observed: “When we become angry, we feel like we’re taking control, like we’re getting power over something.” If left unresolved, anger can deepen into moral indignation, leading ultimately to situate those who are the source of our anger as enemies.
I have heard several politicians lament the abuse they receive on social media, but is the simply a reflection of their actions. It is clear many political parties provoke division among the electorate, stoke anger, by articulating extreme positions, sending out provocative newsletters, fanning conspiracies. Such actions form a dedicated base of voters by appealing to emotions to develop a sense of moral outrage; outrage can create cohesion. In doing so they provide this base the opportunity to address an injustice, and feel like part of a meaningful fight. Permission to fight. Permission to tweet obscenities to the “enemy”.
At some point, the anger needs to stop so people can talk and develop a compromise solution. Our democratic system, that structures opposing arguments, guides anger to a place where it can be resolved. In sowing the seeds of anger and rage in the general public, politicians turn emotion against us and subvert the system of discourse. Steve Jarding, a Democratic campaign consultant who teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School, observed: “The essence of campaigns today is anger and fear. That’s how you win.”
The politics of anger is monetized by both political parties and news services. For the political party, anger drives contributions. For the news media, anger increases viewership and subscriptions. Anger is nourished by the indignant pundits and anchors like: Jim Acosta, Chris Cuomo, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow, who provocatively express uncompromising positions. It suggests a questionable relationship between these media outlets and the politicians.
It appears to me that the stoking of anger has gone beyond national politics. Evidence is mounting that the Russians have successfully leveraged fear and anger to swing opinion in various countries towards the election of the incompetents.
Author Charles Duhigg submits “When we scrutinize the sources of our anger, we should see clearly that our rage is often being stoked not for our benefit, but for someone else’s.”
At its core, democracy is a means of resolving disagreements and, it is hoped, coming to a decision. It intends to guide us from a place of division to one of alignment. Reality may be less utopian, but ideally there is acceptance of the outcome, if not only because there is trust in the process. There are other means to coming to a decision, but democracy boasts it is broadly based: it considers the will of the people; it strives to marshal and then rationalise diverse opinions.
The emergence of the nation state helped to define the domain of a political system, the scope of a democracy, a unit bound together by trade, institutions, regulations, taxes, etc. The national borders established the physical space, and the people included. Borders segregated internal from external; those regions controlled and managed locally from those controlled and managed by someone else beyond the boundaries. It followed that any nation state would resist meddling in its internal affaires by another nation state. The recognition of such practices found its way into the United Nations Charter as the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of another state.
Since the end of World War 2, the United States has been the protagonist in the creation of a more globally integrated world order. But now it seems to be abandoning its role, backing off the stage, leaving its allies and partners in this enterprise in the lurch; holding the bag, as it were. Does the United States have the right to do so?
Trump views these decisions as being in the national interest; they are national decisions, internal to the United States, not subject to the approval of others in the international community. However, many disagree. It raises the question what constitutes an internal decision? Has globalization made us so highly connected that few decisions are truly local in nature; do most leak impact beyond national borders? Has our journey carried us to some liminal place, beyond the nation-state, but not yet at a global state? By failing to recognise or consider the impacts of decisions that ripple beyond national borders people in the international community are being excluded from participation. It is in this way that the process is undemocratic. The dictum of the American Revolution, no taxation without representation, might be re-envisaged as a call to recognise the trans-national impact of local decisions and the path forward.
The civil war in Syria, which by definition is internal, has led to the migration of millions of people putting severe stress on many of its neighbours and beyond. The impact is by no means contained within the national boundaries of Syria. The choice of president made by the American people has had impact on the world order. The choices being made by that American President have destabilized national relationships, alliances, trade, and most recently the stock market. These are all local decisions with global impact. They affect not only other nations, but individuals in those other nations.
The framework to support the current global vision integrates trade, institutions, regulations, companies and people. It has resulted in the emergence of economic units, transnational trading blocks — the EU, NAFTA, Trans Pacific, CETA — that co-existent with the political units defined by national boundaries. The question is can they co-exist and if so, how? How do we deal with the tensions between the objectives of the trading block and the nation? How do we rationalise national and global interests? Those actions that a nation might take, that were in past considered internal, that are no longer, that impact the trading block. Can national decisions be questioned by the trading block? Is it acceptable that any one nation within a trading block can make unquestioned decisions that affect the other members; that impact the peoples beyond physical national boundaries?
The challenge with moving our focus from a national to a global context is complicated by our tendency to develop a national identity; localised systems of shared practices, beliefs, that strongly influence each citizen’s identity. This cultural connection is not easily broken. It takes time. It takes time to overcome the perception of loss of a [national] culture, loss of identity. It takes time to develop and adopt the emergent culture. The change progresses along a path where with each step we must evaluate whether balance among the competing objectives is being maintained.
The resistance we see in many places around the world suggests we might be moving too fast, but it shouldn’t be interpreted to infer we are on the wrong path. In its current form, this process of globalization has been going on for over 70 years. One might look back further to colonialization, and preceding that the periods of exploration, all motivated by trade. Trade, as a practice, is something that has been going on since the dawn of time, by all peoples. So if this is a process that has been going on for millennia, why is there resistance now? It might simply be we have reached a point where we need to reflect and adjust to come back into balance. In the past rebalancing was accomplished by war. The purpose of the current form of globalization was to put in place the framework to allow for negotiated solutions.
Trump is more a signal of imbalance than a cause. The character of this marker might be reflective of the level of frustration felt by those resisting. They have not been heard. The democratic process has failed them.
I recently photographed the Gingerbread Build at Toronto City Hall. The purpose of the event was to both raise funds for a charity and to organize a family function congruent with the season.
Among my instructions was to only photograph children with a green wristband; do not photograph those wearing a red band.
While most children wore green bands, there were some who didn’t. It caused me to reflect on why a parent might not want their child photographed; why would the sponsoring charity even offer this option?
I concluded that child pornography was the likely answer. Offering the choice to be photographed respects that there is a diversity of opinion on the problem, with some believing that it has reached a scale to be of concern. For those who think it has crossed some critical threshold, preventing an image from being taken might be considered a form of child protection, or at least their image.
American Philosopher James Fieser points out, these factors (magnitude of a problem, protecting children) are among those often considered as part of an evaluation to censor or not. Now, by linking the choice of allowing a child’s picture to be taken at this event with censorship, it is not my intent to colour the decisions made by their parents. It is simply an observation of the parallels between two different things that triggered a thought process, that will become apparent shortly.
The availability of a choice recognises that there is a diversity of opinion on the matter and the organization decided to let the parents select, based on their own sensibilities. While the decision to be photographed, or not, might be viewed as a relatively small decision, my contention is that the factors used in making the decision are relevant to other decisions our community must make, such as those around abortion or legalization of cannabis. Both stir strong opinions in favour or against. Which side one stands depends, at least in part, on one’s beliefs; people with different belief systems — cultural norms — may draw different conclusions.
In a country as culturally diverse as Canada, we can extrapolate that opinions on many matters will be similarly diverse. And thus we face a source of tension within the community. While compromise might be sought, there are some topics for which there is no middle ground. It seems to me that it comes down to the tolerance the adherents of one side, or the other, are willing to extend.
As the diversity of opinions extends to accept more alternative outcomes, do we reach a point where everything is acceptable, because there is alway a group who tolerates the option or do we accept nothing because there is alway a group who finds the outcome obscene? Is this dichotomy intractable. How does this conundrum manifest? Frustration? Indignation? Intolerance? The tyranny of the righteous? Walls?
On November 8, 1938, my mother and grandmother were visiting relatives in Kaiserslautern. The following day they received a telegram from my grandfather: “return to London immediately”.
“How could Columbus have discovered America when Native Americans were already here” (Bold, 140)? The answer is easy; history was written by Columbus. The Native Americans’ history is not included in the official record. Remembering is one way to make sure that history is written correctly and stays on track.
Mourning, as a special form of remembering, notes Clarence Joldersma: “… forces us to interpret the present as implicated in the suffering of others in the past while simultaneously presenting our responsibility to address this. Through mourning’s disruption of the present by the past, the past gains an ethical hold over the present” (Joldersma, 140). In other words, remembering the significant events of the past, and especially those where our ancestors suffered, should teach us and cause us not to repeat such actions. The question above, asks us to revisit the discovery question; may be restate it to recognise the archeological evidence.
On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeirer asked us to remember and not forget:
These words, of course, refer to the mounting intolerance expressed through racism, white supremacy, etc., not in just his country, but in many parts of the world. But not stopping there, Steinmeirer speaks to the political leaders that accept such positions to achieve their own ends and position themselves to be the sole source of truth. When assessing such leaders, it is insufficient to measure only the good things done, without looking at the other side of the balance.
My mother and grandmother were able to leave England in the Spring of 1940, during the Battle of the Atlantic. My mother recalled ships around them being torpedoed as they cross the North Atlantic. So certain was their fear that England would fall, they were willing to take the risk of crossing. My relatives in Germany, for the most part, faired poorly during the War, losing everything: their homes, siblings, children, parents; their dignity; their culture. Many were killed or disappeared. The aunt my mother was visiting in 1938, lost both her sons. They were never heard from.
This is what I remember. This puts into perspective the implications of replaying those past mistakes; where the language of hatred can lead.
Joldersma, Clarence W. 2014. Benjamin's angel of history and the work of mourning in ethical remembrance: Understanding the effect of W.G. sebald's novels in the classroom. Studies in Philosophy and Education 33 (2): 135.
Bold, Christine. "Ethical Remembrance and Democratic Transformation”. A Review of Simon, Roger I. 2005. The Touch of the Past: Remembrance, Learning, and Ethics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
A Conference Board of Canada report notes that Canada is one of the world's largest per capita GHG emitters, ranking 15th out of 17 OECD countries (1 being the best). The output averaged for an individual Canadian is just over 20 tonnes, in contrast to the first-ranked Swiss at around 6 tonnes per person. However, in the overall scheme of things, the Government of Canada reports that this country contributes just 1.6% of world-wide greenhouse gas emissions.
So, the argument goes, even if we do clean up all the emission, it won’t impact climate change, so why bother. It just makes us uncompetitive.
Another argument submits that Canada is in fact carbon neutral. This is based on Canada’s forests consuming as much carbon as we produce. However, climate change is impacting our forest’s health and thus its ability to consume carbon. Furthermore, there appears to be an increase in fires, which both produces carbon, and reduces the size of the store. As well, warming is thawing the permafrost, which has two effects: locked up methane is being released, and; melting water raises the water table, flooding out local forests.
May be it’s just being a good neighbour and sharing the pain.
The New York Times Opinion piece recalls for us the stories of Robin Hood's resistance to King John, or Princes Leia's resistance to the Empire. Pitting good against evil; an unequivocal story of right and wrong. But this narrative is not about a fictionalized King John or Emperor, it's about the real Donald Trump.
The man who has his finger on the button.
The romantic portrayal of the author's role, coupled with anonymity, is cause for reservation. Romanticising the role as the resistance suggests a naiveté on the part of the writer(s); anonymity forces us to accept the judgment of the publisher, preventing us from making our own. More troubling however is the constitutional implications and whether this is a "soft" coup d'etat. By positioning themselves as arbiters of right or wrong, those participating in the resistance have situated themselves within the system of checks and balances. These responsibilities are typically reserved for elected officials.
There is now speculation as to who were the authors of this opinion piece. Republican Senator from Tennessee, Bob Corker asked "who wouldn't have written it?" Corker's assessment exposes that this state of dysfunction is widely known within Congress. But more than dysfunction, the opinion piece states there is active resistance to executing certain orders of the President. This makes it appear the constitution is being violated by people who swore to uphold it. It is not an unelected administrator's responsibility to implement checks-and-balances; Congress should investigate to confirm or reject these assertions.
If it is true that the Commander-in-Chief is as incompetent as purported in this opinion piece, then this is no longer a U.S. issue. This is a global issue. This man can do significant damage. I would like my government to express their concerns in the strongest possible terms.
After Trump's inauguration as president, I attended a protest rally in front of the American Embassy, in Toronto. Referring to the people demonstrating, one protester was beating a drum chanting This is What Democracy Looks Like. I thought how cool is that! It prompted an adrenaline burst: out on the street, with le peuple, executing our democratic rights, expressing our opinion against power. It was invigorating.
It was only after hearing the same cry at the Washington demonstrations that I came to realise that this phrase was a common slogan. I felt somehow deceived.
Voting is another form of expression. Presumably the outcome is also an aspect of what democracy looks like.
Here Peck offers a description of the miserable existence of the working classes of late 19 century America. Out of these miserable conditions spawned the trade unions that, it is argued, have resulted in better wages and quality of life; may be a more equal distribution of wealth. A complete enumeration of all the social and economic ills Peck cites is less important than the point that disparity existed at the time, and may be more relevant, many continue to this day.
Apparently, this tiff — manifest through various trade tariffs — with our American cousins is simply a family squabble. So what about family squabbles? Are they really something to ignore or should we be concerned? In Canada 38% of marriages end in divorce (numbers appear similar in the US). That seems pretty high. Where these unresolved family squabbles?
Stats Canada reports that 35% of solved murders are by family members and the FBI reports 24.8 percent for the US. Sounds like Canadians have lesser tolerance than our US family. The same FBI report notes that 42.9 percent of victims were murdered during arguments. Sounds like these might have been family squabbles.
I'm not sure that we should be so dismissive of family squabbles.
I was thinking about the logic of the argument Ivanka Trump offered in her speech at the RNC for her father to be President of the United States:
I interpreted the argument to be if you can build a tower, a skyline, you are qualified to lead the United States.
That proposition leads me to conclude that, since I have built a log cabin, I am able to run a country too. Maybe not a G20 nation, but possibly a banana republic or some small island nation.
We were at a funeral yesterday. After the service there was a lunch; a celebration. The death of someone "young" -- whatever that boundary is ... under 50? -- is a tragedy; of someone old -- over 80? -- is a celebration.
As we sat at the table enjoying our lunch and conversation I found myself thinking of weddings; there seemed to be something similar.
It struck me that a transition was underway. For a large part of my life, weddings dominated: a period of weddings of friends, followed by a period of weddings of children. Now we seem to be entering a period offunerals of friend's parents and of friends.
In an article in the Atlantic Magazine, The Great Republican Revolt, David Frum chronicles the death of the GOP. It's not there yet, but it certainly seems to be the prognosis. Supporting the hypothesis is that the political elite of the Party are said to be in a state of panic at the potential of a Trump victory.
Many questions follow that one: why the ascension of Trump? Why the rejection of the mainstream Republican candidates? What is it about Trump that overcomes the divisiveness, incoherence, and vulgarity of the candidate and his policies? Why would people support a candidate they know is unelectable as president (as polls suggest)? The larger question for those who live in other jurisdictions is can it happen here?
To answer the last question, Frum notes this is not singly a US phenomenon, but is surfacing elsewhere, including: Italy's Five Star Movement; the U.K.'s Independence Party; France's National Front; Slovakia's Direction-Social Democracy. In Canada one might highlight the Ford Brothers of Toronto as an example at the municipal level and the emergence of O'Leary at the federal level.
Frum observes several concerns that trouble many Americans, including: the defence of "acquired rights" -- health care, pensions, and other programs that benefit older people; bankers and technocrats who endlessly demand austerity; migrants who make new claims and challenge accustomed ways; a globalized market that depress wages and benefits; the distribution of [middle class] wealth to the undeserving as well as the concentration of wealth to a few.
Yet, while GOP candidates articulated policies during the primaries addressing the concerns of Republican voters, "those Republicans did not count for much once the primaries ended, and normal politics resumed between the multicultural Democrats and a plutocratic GOP."
The result is the loss of trust. Trust is the primary currency of the politician. Without it, no matter what the Party Elite say, talk will be rejected as lies. The recent denouncement of Trump by Romney is a case in point. Logical and dispassionate in tone and presentation, it is sullied by being recognised as the words and motives of the lying elite. The policy makers of the GOP are torn between party voters and contributors. They appear to have sided with the contributors, ignoring the voters. It's not what's good for Americans, it's about what's good for the GOP. And now they are paying the price; not even the Party's full moral and financial backing of Bush could get him through this revolt.
We have seen this phenomenon in Canada, though fortunately less dramatically and contained to the municipal level, with the election of Rob Ford as Mayor of Toronto. The point is Canada is not immune. A 2012 Ipsos Poll, Life Savers, Medical Professionals Top the List of Most Trusted Professionals, ranked Firefighters as the most trusted professionals at 88% in Canada (of people trusted firefighters). Federal politicians came in at 10% (just 1% ahead of bloggers). Telemarketers trailed the list at 3%.
10% is uncomfortably low and in my view leaves us open for a revolt similar to what the GOP is experiencing. For me, trust is developed on two accounts:  the Politicians' fulfillment of promises  their on-going behaviour and response to events. It is this later criterion that in my view presents the most risk to trust as events are often unplanned and out of the control of the government. Erratic, unthoughtful responses to events will certainly erode trust. But poor decision making isn't the only behavioural trait that impacts my perceptions of trust. Politicians don't do their profession a service when they stray off the course of sincere criticism of policy into the weeds of purely political assaults with a goal to disparage the opponent on any grounds to gain "points" from other's failures. A failure declared through any means other than well-found criticism of policy defames the profession as a whole. It increases the cynicism of the public. It lowers the trust.
Those that live by the word, die by the word.
I recently read What is Art For by Ellen Dissanayake. The book was originally published in 1987. It was interesting to me because it asked the question from a Darwinian perspective; how did art contribute to our evolutionary success. In her review, the author also considers the question in terms of literate and preliterate societies. It is the exploration into the impact of literacy on the human mind -- albeit a short sojourn into the subject -- that was both unexpected and insightful.
The author positions art as a behaviour, not just an artifact. As a behaviour it is a process resulting in some artifact (e.g., a painting) or activity (e.g., dance). The response by an individual to art -- the artifact -- can come in two forms:  an ecstatic response to the sensual properties of the work;  an aesthetic response to the patterns or "code" embedded in the work, the latter being a more intellectual response. The distinction between what one might consider an artistic artifact from something more mundane (e.g., a sculpture vs. a hammer) is what the author calls specialness. To make something special is to distinguish it from the every day, the routine.
By defining a behaviour and a sensory response to the behaviour the author positioned art to play a role in evolution as art can be a behaviour that when done properly enables a positive feedback to encourage continuance of the behaviour. The essential feedback loop of evolution.
The benefit of Art is said to be that it exercises our perception of reality preparing us for unfamiliar situations; it is said to be crucial for cerebral evolution, which has enabled humans to expand their consciousness and develop special skills, sharpen essential facilities and give them a firmer grasp on reality; art is said to assist our capacity to tolerate ambiguity; art is said to provide hope by making a mundane and indifferent world more tolerable. No doubt each of these would contribute in some way to the survival of the species. While the author points out that other species have survived without art, I'm sure a counter argument could be -- given the context of the mass extinction we presently are experiencing -- we have yet to reach the end of the story to make this conclusion.
The author continues her work by distinguishing art in the pre-literate (or primitive) world from that in the literate (modern) world. Without the written word, primitive societies depended on ceremonial rituals as a means to memorise and communicate. Art as dance, song, and physical artifact, played a role in recording, elaborating and communicating the message. The experience bound groups together with a culture, a common belief system, a shared view of reality, that strengthened them, that further tighten the bonds among them. It was the group over the individual.
The literate mind interprets reality differently than the pre-literate one. Starting simply, the idea of a word, then a sentence or proposition is the outcome of a written language. The ability to write things down allows people to ask themselves certain types of questions because facts can be isolated, recorded, looked up later, distributed easily and widely, compared, analysed, built upon to develop new insights, etc. Literacy extends beyond the word to mathematics, music and data. Books replace ritual; belief is replaced by knowledge; emotion is replaced by reason. Concepts may be regarded as distinct abstract entities capable of manipulation: ethical; moral; political statements may be deconstructed and analysed.
Trends in modern [literate] times include:  a migration from the reliance on social authority or group consensus to individualism and privatization;  change from a pre-logical mentality to a highly abstractive and self-conscious one. With emphasis on the self, at the expense of the larger family or groups, modern Western life distinguishes between having to do and wanting to do things, with a goal of trying to fashion our lives towards the latter. We have the freedom to choose our own lifestyle, something that was unthinkable until quite recent times. Yet along with this freedom to design one’s life comes isolation. The strive for inner personal well-being is at the cost of communal service. As a consequence no relationship is considered permanent; the isolated self does not look for a grand scheme by which to live, but rather for an individual route to spiritual and sensual happiness. Finally, the view of reality shifts from a common, shared world view to one held by each individual. This recognition implies that there will be a time when large numbers of people will accept that worldviews are individual and relative, that each person has a right to his own worldview, and that there are no objective standards to prove one to be better or truer than the other.
Such dramatic changes affect the role and purpose of art. Art in modern times is not a direct psychophysical reactions to rhyme, tension and release or association with powerful cultural or biological symbols, but a detached, cognitively mediated appreciation of its internal relationship. Or so says the author.
So what does this mean for art, and more specifically photography?
- Does it mean that the notion of specialness becomes more weighted from the quality of physical attributes towards the intellectual ones?
- With increased intellectualization of art, does the code become so specialised and abstract that only the few can fully appreciate the works?
- What are the different manifestation of this code and is a photograph able to capture it?
- In the past, art was designed to reflect tightly-held common world views through various stylised representations, symbols or themes. As a common world view dissipates how does art respond? How can it be understood?
In this last part I summarise the key points and observations.
In Part 3 of this article, I provided our family's carbon generation profile as a case study and examined some of the steps we could take to meet the 2020, 2030, and 2050 targets. The points and observations below incorporate data from that case study and thus are specific to us and may be extrapolated more broadly to people living in Ontario, Canada. People in Alberta may have a tougher road to travel; people in Quebec may find it easier.
- For people living in Ontario, meeting 2020 targets may be possible through individual action, including energy conservation and modest lifestyle changes.
- To meet 2030 targets will require individuals to move away from fossil fuels to electric power, especially for heating and transportation. These are the major sources of carbon generation for our family.
- Meeting 2050 targets will require greening the electric power generation infrastructure, which means replacing fossil-fuel-based generation facilities with greener options.
- It is the 2050 targets that explain why there is the view that we (the world) need to be off fossil fuels by 2050
- Solar is one option for generating green electricity.
- Solar power doesn't need to replace all forms of power generation, just the carbon emitting ones, which in Ontario seems feasible.
- The value of a residential solar power generation solution is:  it avoids consuming open areas (country side) with "solar farms" by leveraging unused (rooftop) space  it distributes power generation and thus is less susceptible to local weather patterns  an opportunity to reduce transmission distance  generates power during peak utilization periods
Defining targets enables us to first grasp the challenge ahead -- and may be get over the shock and denial -- and then work out what can be done. With a plan comes confidence, obviating fear and concern.
If it is true that globally we need to move off fossil fuels, then according to my case study, the next steps seem to be quite doable:
- We need to convert our appliances to electricity by 2030. That is 15 years and quite likely we can expect to have to replace our gas-burning appliances in that time frame anyways, so going electric will fit into our home maintenance schedule.
- If technology advances as expected, electric vehicles will be the norm in 2025, enabling a switch away from gas-burning cars.
- Meanwhile, utilities can start the process of replacing fossil-fuel-based generation with greener solutions. For this they could have until 2050 to complete, providing enough time to rollout or expand programs such as residential solar power generation.
There are other steps that have been reported in the media that governments have talked about, including:
- Taxing Carbon: this needs to generate a revenue stream to fund upgrading the power generation infrastructure and encourage the use of low / no-carbon solutions as well as being a tool to keep total (national / provincial) carbon generation within targets.
- Support third-world countries to implement greener power generation: In the overall scheme of things Canada's contribution to the Carbon Generation problem is relatively small. Helping emerging economies to offset the incremental cost of deploying green generation facilities over coal-fire solutions can make sense from a global perspective. Allowing some sections in the world to generate tonnes of carbon is like having a pissing section in a swimming pool.
- Stop subsidizing fossil fuels: Such subsidies contradict taxing carbon and pervert a free market system; they are anti-capitalistic.
As a final note, the decisions that need to be made for how we address this problem affects those under 45 years old and who are yet to be born. They are the ones who will need to live with the consequences of failure and the burden of debt, should there be any. As such, while those over 45 should be encouraged to support measures to reduce carbon, they should not be allowed to stifle any efforts.
In Part 3 of this article, I present our household and individual carbon generation data as a case study.
In Part 2 of this article I introduced a role for residential solar power generation facilities in helping us meet our Green House Gas commitments. While individual contributions may appear inconsequential, they add up. The goal doesn't need to be to generate enough green power to replace all generation methods, just the carbon emitting ones, which in Ontario seems possible.
The commitments our Governments are making are expressed as tonnes of carbon. Science has estimated how much carbon can be pumped into the atmosphere to stay below the 2C temperature increase and with that goals can be set for global carbon generation level reductions . Countries are in the process of working out their contributions to these reductions.
To make carbon reduction more tangible to each of us, carbon generation footprint calculators have been developed  to help each of us understand individuals contributions with respect to the targets. In my mind such calculators raise many questions of efficacy however, I do accept that having individual goals does make these notions more tangible, it can provide a sense of involvement, and it does help one better grasp the nature of the challenge we face.
I'll restate my caveat from the previous part, that I am not an expert in this area, so conclusions should be treated accordingly.
To recap, Ontario has stated the following targets for Green House Gas reductions :
- 2014: 6% less than 1990 levels or 171mt or about 12.51 tonnes / person
- 2020: 15% less than 1990 levels or 154mt or about 10.97 tonnes / person
- 2030: 37% less than 1990 levels or 114mt or about 6.87 tonnes / person
- 2050: 80% less than 1990 levels or 36mt or about 1.79 tonnes / person
In 2013, the average generation per individual Ontarian was 12.60 tonnes of carbon.
Calculators will often categorize carbon generation behaviour activities under one of two classifications:  primary activities, where the amount of carbon generated is directly under ones control and  secondary activities where one has limited control over the amount of carbon generated. The first group includes: home lighting, appliances, entertainment; home heating; home cooling; other home power consumers; car; motorcycle. The second group includes: food preference; choice of imported vs. local food; fashion; packaging; furniture and appliances; recycling; car manufacture; services.
The control we have with the first group is relatively direct. For example, we can reduce energy consumption by turning off lights, lowering inside temperature in winter, etc. The second group is different because while we can control whether we buy something or not, we have no control over how those things are manufactured and thus the carbon efficiency of the production process. For example, we can buy high efficiency furnaces but we have no control over how many tonnes of carbon are emitted in the manufacturing process. Note: look at the Carbon Footprint Calculator referenced above to see more details on what is included in the primary and secondary groups.
Broadly what this implies is that there are things individuals can do to reduce energy consumption (and thus carbon generation) but there are things that others must do.
In our case, individually we generate about 8.84 tonnes each. That's good news because we're basically done until 2020. We've got to this level by upgrading to high-efficiency appliances, light bulbs, furnace and air conditioning. As we are retired, we don't drive as much as we used to and we need only one car. We recycle a lot. Our current carbon generation profile is:
- Household: 3.81 tonnes each
- Electricity: 0.88 tonnes
- Natural Gas: 4.55 tonnes
- Car: 2.19 tonnes
- Secondary items: 5.31 tonnes each
- Solar Generation: -0.28 tonnes each
Splitting the total household between the two of us, adding the secondary carbon and subtracting the solar power comes to 8.84 tonnes.
To meet the 2030 targets we need to reduce carbon generation by 2 tonnes each. There are life style changes we could make that would move us in that direction, but I'm not ready to become a vegan. Another, more straightforward option is to switch completely to electricity: electric heat and electric car. Our carbon generation profile would look something like:
- Household: 1.56 tonnes each
- Electricity: 2.94
- Car: 0.15
- Secondary Items: 4.40 tonnes each
- Solar Generation: -0.28 tonnes each
This would take us down to 5.67 tonnes each or just over 1 tonne under the 2030 targets.
To meet the 2050 target of 1.78 tonnes per person is just not possible on our own. It is the secondary items that are particularly challenging. Electric power generation has to improve from 80 grams / kWh to, say, 3 grams. I pick 3 grams because that is where Quebec is now. If that can be accomplished then our household carbon generation drops from 1.56 to 0.06 tonnes per individual.
I can only assume that there would be a corresponding reduction in the carbon emissions of secondary items, but here I am not able to determine what that would be.
Just as a final note, in 2050, I'm scheduled to be 96 years old so I just may not be here any more, so discussion on those targets is a theoretical exercise and included just for completeness.
In this second part I look a little more into broader questions around the benefit of residential solar power generation for the environment and addressing climate change targets.
I am not an expert on this subject so any conclusion should be suspect. As best I can I've tried to collect information from reliable sources, such as Statistics Canada, and the Ontario Government. I've also used our own experience as a source of data, which I will present as a case study in Part 3 of this article.
Is residential solar power generation the most effective way for an individual to reduce Carbon?
May be not, but... Implementing a solar power generation system comes with a price tag (currently about $3.60 / watt) and in our case delivers an annual reduction in carbon output of about 0.56 tonnes per household (note: this is the saving for someone in Ontario. In Alberta the saving would be about 5.7 tonnes; in Quebec it would be 0.021 tonnes. The differences are the result of different electric power providers having different mixes of generation methods from hydro to coal fire).
On the other hand, savings through lifestyle changes can be realised, often at little or no cost (although there may be a discomfort cost). For example:
- Reducing red meat consumption and eating mostly fish will save 0.67 tonnes per person per year. Switch to mainly white meats delivers a savings of 0.35 tonnes
- Buying some organic food, food in season and mostly locally grown will save about 0.65 tonnes / person / year
- Going from no recycling to recycling everything will save a whopping 3.12 tonnes / year
- Going from 2 to 1 car will save 1 tonne per year.
And now for the but. The steps above -- the life style changes -- are really about avoidance, yet the electricity that continues to be consumed produces a lot of carbon in its generation. No matter how much we avoid, we will continue to consume the "dirty" electricity and thus will continue to generate carbon. To meet the climate change targets we will need to use electricity that is greener, and it is here that solar can play a role.
The green energy generation options include: nuclear; wind; solar; hydro; and geothermal. In Ontario, the mix of generation methods includes these plus Gas and Biofuel. Gas contributes in the range of 800 - 2,500 mega watts (or 6% - 17%) [1, 2] power to the grid. To put that number into context, in Ontario's current mix, at peak, wind can generate over 2,000 mega watts (on a monthly basis wind generates in the range of 1/3 to 1 time the power produced by gas). The point here is that it is realistic to think in terms of replacing gas with wind. There is the solar option as well, which currently ramping up.
What does installing a residential solar power generation system mean for meeting carbon reduction targets set by governments?
It could mean a lot, especially in the "last mile." Green Energy (that is low carbon emitting energy) will be essential for meeting international targets; the rationale follows. To start, Ontario has stated the following targets for Green House Gas reductions :
- 2014: 6% less than 1990 levels or 171mt or about 12.51 tonnes / person
- 2020: 15% less than 1990 levels or 154mt or about 10.97 tonnes / person
- 2030: 37% less than 1990 levels or 114mt or about 6.87 tonnes / person
- 2050: 80% less than 1990 levels or 36mt or about 1.79 tonnes / person
In Ontario the current average carbon emission is 12.60 tonnes per person which is pretty close to the 2014 objective. This average per individual needs to be reduced nearly 2 tonnes by 2020. As noted above, 2 tonnes can be reduced through life style changes and more efficient use of energy, such as energy saving light bulbs, high efficiency appliances, etc.
However, meeting the 2030 targets of 37% lower than 1990 emissions will require some major change, and specifically it means the individual will need to significantly reduce consumption of fossil fuels, such as by:
- Converting all fossil fuel household appliances (e.g., heating) to electricity
- Driving an electric car
To meet the 2050 targets requires changes beyond what an individual can do on their own; it requires "greening" of electric power generation infrastructure. As an example, even at 80 grams of carbon per kWh, the current generation system in Ontario emits too much carbon to meet 2050 targets. Therefore, Ontario Power generation needs to become greener, say to the same level as Quebec (at 3 grams / kWh).
This move will significantly reduce individual carbon emissions for primary activities, such as heating, lighting, personal transportation and secondary activities -- where one has only indirect influence on carbon generation -- such as food choices, fashion, services, etc
It is in the greening of the electrical generation infrastructure that residential solar generation can play a role. It is an obvious source of green power that can replace the fossil-fuel-based generation facilities. But is it feasible? There are over 2.7 million  single family homes in Ontario. 12,500 homes could generate 2,500 mWh to compensate for the power currently generated by natural gas (my calculation here is based on November production of 0.2 mWh per house and peak demand for gas of 2,385 mWh).