Tuesday, 1 January 2019


For years I have been receiving, via e-mails, dire warnings of the imminent collapse of the US Dollar and thus the world economy. These are quite believable when I see so many examples of man’s inhumanity to man, inequalities, reluctance of people in power to sacrifice to save our environment from the calamities of climate change, and to allow greed to kill the empathy so necessary to alleviate the sufferings of the less fortunate of our only world.
As I am now on my 100th tour around the Sun, still seeking a meaning to Life, perhaps I should review my experiences with the Great Depression with a blog that may morph into one exploring viewpoints developed over my lifetime.
From 1928 to 1932 I happened to be living on a middle-class street that had pushed one block north of the Dufferin Street area of St. Clair Avenue. the northern end of Toronto, a city that had a population of about 600,000, yet vehicular traffic was light enough to permit us to play softball on our street, retreating when the odd car appeared.  Most traffic was by horse-drawn delivery carts that I often trailed to collect manure for our backyard gardens with their fruits, vegetables, and flowers.  Scenic hikes into rural areas were numerous for my brother, sister, me, and our friends.
For my family, schools and church were just a block south.  Streets of family-owned stores were within easy walking distance.  Excellent newspapers, with world coverage, were sold  on street corners from unmanned stands that had tin cups for the two cents each newspaper cost. Even during the Depression I know of no thefts from these open cups. 
We, mainly school boys who had taken great pride in Canada’s amazing contributions to victory in WWI, especially the air war where Canada had 4 of the world’s top 10 air aces, knew of the lingering depression in Germany and Austria which we blamed on the greed of US Republicans.  Only 4 nations, Britain, the USA, Canada, and Argentina, emerged from WWI as creditor nations.  Britain had prospered by forgiving debts owed her in 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars, then selling goods to a recovering Europe, so sought similar forgiveness in 1919.  Canada agreed, but US Republicans defeated Woodrow Wilson’s constant attempts to have the US join the League of Nations and bring Germany back into the family of nations.  Insisting on repayment of all debts, yet refusing to settle for offered coal as it would hurt the coal industry in Pennsylvania and Colorado, the US caused Britain and France to strip German factories of machines to send to the USA as payment, thus causing enormous inflation and deep depression - and paving the way for Hitler.
When the Austrian-German Depression reached us in 1929, I was 10, my brother 8, and my sister 6.  At first we welcomed the falling prices.  My Dad, a pioneer with the Bell Telephone Company, had kept his job but at a reduced salary so our Christmas still saw numerous presents.  After opening, and playing with, mine, I went for a walk, meeting  a friend whose Dad had lost his job.  To my question asking what he got for Christmas I got my first painful shock of the Depression when he replied; “Nothing.  Santa forgot me this year.”
“Oh, no, he did not!” I replied.  “He must have got confused because there is a present with your name on it that he left in my house.  Wait here and I will get it for you.” 
Quickly running home, I grabbed one of my best gifts, re-wrapped it, put his name on it, and ran back to him with it.  His joy at not being forgotten was a never-to-be-forgotten gift to me.
Soon, hardships and sufferings were much more than I, my family, my church, my city could cure.  By 1933 30% of the labour force was unemployed, a rate that would remain over 12% until 1939 and WWII.  Our prairie provinces were hardest hit as wheat demand lessened and drought arrived to turn farmlands into dust bowls.  Many were the care parcels I helped organizations fill to mail to drought areas in both Canada and the USA.
As I walked along the street to school I passed an increasing number of families whose savings were depleted and could no longer afford reduced rents, so they were evicted with their furniture sitting on the lawn with no place to go.  Our government provided some financial help but mainly Welfare was the domain of neighbours, friends, grandparents, and churches, not governments.
My mother seemed to be forever cooking meals for destitute families.  The only time I was to see my father cry was when he had to layoff several of his valued employees.  He drove all over Toronto, searching for other jobs for them.  Then, in 1932,  his own department was downsized and he was transferred 70 miles east to manage the Port Hope branch. 
In Toronto a favourite pastime was the Saturday 10-cent show at theatres that featured a full-length film, a travelogue, and a serial in which the hero and heroine were always left in a life-threatening situation only to escape at the start of next week’s episode.   To save money my brother, sister, and I  took turns attending with the responsibility of returning home to tell the other two complete details.  It was good training in accurate recall.
Prior to leaving Toronto, I had applied for a free art course being offered on weekends to promising students who applied with copies of their work to be assessed.  Also applying was the daughter of a family we knew and liked.  She was rejected, I was accepted, much to the surprise of all because she was a much more talented artist than I would ever be.  Realizing that a future for me in art was highly questionable and that women suffered unfair prejudice in the job training world, my mother sought out the art school executives to give my slot to her.
In Port Hope, we first rented, for $20 a month, a 3-storey brick house, but soon updated it, for $40 a month, to a modern bungalow with a full covered front veranda.  Here we had almost daily callers for food handouts and for handyman jobs at 20 cents an hour.  These men were mainly hopefuls riding, for free, empty box cars from the prairies.   In the treed area by one of our two railway stations they built a “Tramp Jungle” that my brother and I often visited.  One Christmas day one of these tramps knocked on our door.  I still have strong memories of my parents inviting him in to share a sumptuous meal complete with a cigar.  He was a very pleasant, intelligent, man whose business had gone bust so he was seeking better fortune in Ontario.  After a most pleasant stay we were pained in having to let him return to his cold jungle temporary home.
My Mother often walked several long blocks to shop along the store-lined main street.  After school I would get to fetch items that were too many for her to carry.  I preferred to patronize family stores and there was one a the far ends of 3 streets leading off in different directions.  We had to shop at a counter where we asked the owner for each item. He or she would bring the item from a shelf to the counter, record it on a sales pad, then repeat the process for each additional item - a slow process but full of good conversations.  
In Port Hope I completed 7 years of schooling, staying on for commercial courses after Grade 13 as jobs were scarce even in this farming and light-industry town of 5,000 people.
I took an early interest in world affairs, finding pen pals in Britain, France, Germany, Malaya, Gold Coast (Ghana), South Africa, Australia, and British Guyana.  This was also the start of a fabulous stamp collection that I now should sell.  It was alarmingly foreboding to see my German pen-pal, Hugo, change from a normal, likeable school boy into one filling with hatreds.  As I told him about my joys as a troop leader in the Boy Scouts, he told me of his training in the Hitler Jugend.  I tried to find him after the war but we had bombed his street to rubble and there was no trace of him.  My French, Malayan, and South African pen pals did survive.
    I grew up among veterans of the South African Boer War and WWI, many, including 2 uncles,  suffering from physical and mental war wounds.  Some of my school friends spent hours each day caring for their war-wounded fathers, prompting my father to write many letters to government officials for financial help for them to survive the depression.  It also led to anti-war essays I wrote for school.   My physics teacher was a major in the Militia so I joined his local artillery regiment for training in fear of the dictators emerging in Europe, having read Mein Kampf and Hugo's new views.   With the depression coupled with the need to rearm that increased Dad’s taxes, Canada could not afford to give us a real gun, using 25-pound shells, which were reserved for summer camps, so we practiced on mock-ups.
In 1938 I joined the Royal Bank of Canada at a salary of $400 a year which was increased to $500 when they transferred me 70 miles east to Napanee as I would have to pay $7 a week for room and board.  Bank salaries were increased $100 per year and you had to be earning $1400 to get bank permission to marry.
I was also transferred to the Napanee Militia artillery regiment where, in our spare time, we posted guard around the local armouries with WWI rifles and bayonets but no ammunition, a fact we kept concealed.  
Depression economics persisted until we were well into the massive buildup for WWII.  Three of Canada’s major banks had branches in town so competition was friendly but keen.  We had to be well dressed at all times and eager to participate in charitable functions in spite of our low incomes.  Often we helped, for free, business customers with accounting problems.  Each bank had a staff of 8 males and one female secretary.   When we asked a girl out we walked to her home, to the entertainment, and back to her home.  Occasionally an older member of the staff who owned a car would collect 5 cents from each of 5 of us to buy a 25-cent gallon of gas (no sales tax then) to drive us to scenic places or distant dance halls.  On weekends these car owners, for a small fee, would pack their cars with bankers whose homes were between Napanee and Toronto.
Yet, I remember these Depression years as happy years.  Healthy youths with good homes do not need much money to be happy.  
         And, it was an era of no gun violence.  Weekly I would stroll to the post office with a pocket bulging with thousands of dollars in torn, worn, and soiled dollars of various denominations, parcelled to be mailed to headquarters for replacement.   This was just a safe routine job given to unarmed bank juniors.

                                                                  Ye Olde Scribe


Sunday, 16 December 2018


I know my contributions are puny, lack clout, and, being now in my 100th year, I perhaps have less need than many others to worry about how the state of our planet a few decades from now will impact me personally, but it is morally imperative that I join all of you out there as we all must mobilize immediately to accept, fight, and win the war to save our world and its civilizations.  Experts warn us we have a mere 12 years to win the fight.
We guilty humans owe it to all living beings as well as those yet to be.   But, first, the controversy:
Many chemical compounds behave as greenhouse gases.  Short wave sunlight heats the surface, longer-wave (infrared) heat is re-radiated and absorbed by greenhouse gases allowing less heat to escape back to space.  Many greenhouse gases occur naturally in the atmosphere, such as water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, while others are synthetic. Those that are man-made include the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), as well as sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). Concentrations of both natural and man-made gases have been rising since the industrial revolution. As the global population  and our reliance on fossil fuels (such as coal, oil and natural gas) has dramatically multiplied, so emissions of these gases have risen. While gases such as carbon dioxide occur naturally in the atmosphere, through our interference with the carbon cycle (by burning forest lands, or mining and burning fossil fuels), we artificially move carbon from solid storage to its gaseous state, thereby increasing atmospheric concentrations.
We were first warned of the dangers of human greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in 1824 by the French scientist, Joseph Fourier, followed in 1860 by the Irish physicist, John Tyndall.  Today, Wikipedia recognizes 185 world organizations combating climate change.  Currently, youth movements are growing worldwide  and include student groups in some 850 universities.  Concerned youth groups in over a dozen countries are suing their federal governments for insufficient action on climate.  Numerous magazines, including the UK’s “New Scientist” that explains, in the current and next 3 weekly issues, what you and I must do, urge doable actions.  Deniers are led by Saudi Arabia, the US government and the fossil fuel industry.  George C. Marshall and Ronald Reagan downplayed the problem and resisted research funding.  Today Trump has hurt the environment, supported the fossil fuel industry, reduced emission controls, and put current profits above a safe future.
A 2008 study by the University of Central Florida analysed the sources of environmentally-skeptical literature published in the USA. This demonstrated that 92% of the literature was partly or wholly affiliated with conservative think tanks.  Later research from 2015 identified 4,556 individuals with overlapping network ties to 164 organizations which are responsible for the most efforts to downplay the threat of climate change.
Deniers are also downplaying the Fourth National Climate Assessment of Nov 2018 which claims that the consequences of climate change will leave no part of the U.S. untouched and that the warming will increase wildfires, crumble infrastructure, worsen air quality, destroy crops, and lead to more frequent disease outbreaks. It also finds that global warming could shrink the U.S. economy by as much as 10% by the end of the century. In places like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, saltwater will taint drinking water. The fire season may spread to the southeast.   In Alaska, communities will be forced to relocate.  The report puts a shocking price tag by 2100 on climate change: $141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise and $32 billion from infrastructure damage. President Donald Trump has slashed environmental regulations at home and undermined global climate change treaties abroad. Just two days before the new report was released, he tweeted “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast shatters all records. Whatever happened to Global Warming?”
Since the 2010 Supreme Court “Citizens United” ruling, money has poured in to deniers who remind us that, in the last 650,000 years, there have been 7 cycles of ice ages, the last retreat beginning 11,700 years ago.  Quite true, but these were gradual.  The current surge is rapid.  Causes, other than orbital, must be to blame.
Livestock and Clean Meat:  A year ago I greatly reduced my meat intake because the cattle industry contributes 18% of human-generated greenhouse gases, promotes extensive deforestation to create more grazing land that now is 26% of the world’s ice-free surface and 79% of agricultural land, and the raising for slaughter 39 million cattle annually in the USA, livestock emits 16.5 tons of gases per human per year compared to a world average of 5.  It takes 38 pounds of feed and 1800 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef.  Investors like Richard Branson and Bill Gates are backing clean meat that is now emerging from the labs in North America, Israel, China, the Netherlands, and the UK where in 2013 a clean-meat hamburger was publicly cooked and eaten.  Clean meat starts with animal cells that are taught in the lab to create meat.  It is a lengthy and expensive process that will likely take another ten years to achieve and to better livestock prices, to engineer flavours, to convince meat eaters to switch, and to redirect the immense livestock industry.   
Permafrost: Global warming in the Arctic is double the rate of the rest of the world thus aggravating an old building problem of soil and gravel expanding and shrinking due to seasonal freezing and thawing.  Retention of insulating snow cover is desired which requires buildings built on stilts to avoid heated floors melting it.     Much of the solid land I trod 60 years ago has melted and slid into the Arctic ocean.
In Iqualuit, population 7,500 and now capital of Nunavut, thus attracting many new buildings, the government is working with the Canadian Space Agency to locate and map areas of bedrock close to the surface to locate new buildings and roads and to minimize the patchwork.
Russia, with a much greater Arctic population and 63% of its total land subject to permafrost, has extensive problems and expenses. Rail lines have been abandoned due to broken and warped rails and with sections hanging in air as the ground under them has melted way.   In Norilsk, an attractive modern city of 175,000, 60% of the buildings are damaged and 10% abandoned.     
Melting permafrost releases carbon, methane, and the biggest pool of mercury on the planet.
Thermosyphons, narrow tubes that pull heat passively from the ground, are gaining greater use as they are easy to install and less expensive than other remedies.
Health Concerns:  Researchers believe that global warming is already responsible for some 150,000 deaths each year, and fear that the number may well double by 2030 even if we start getting serious about emissions reductions today.   Health and climate scientists from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the University of Wisconsin at Madison published these findings in 2017 in the science journal “Nature”. Besides killing people, global warming also contributes to some five million human illnesses every year,  Some of the ways global warming negatively affects human health—especially in developing nations—include: speeding the spread of infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue fever; creating conditions that lead to potentially fatal malnutrition and diarrhea; and increasing the frequency and severity of heat waves, floods, and other weather-related disasters.
Backing up WHO’s findings is a study by Stanford civil and environmental engineer, Mark Jacobson, showing a direct link between rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and increased human mortality. He found that the added air pollution caused by each degree Celsius increase in temperature caused by CO2 leads to about 1,000 additional deaths in the U.S. and many more cases of respiratory illness and asthma. Jacobson estimates as many as 20,000 air-pollution-related deaths may occur worldwide each year with each 1̊ C increase.
Skeptics, like atmospheric physicist Fred Singer, claim that cold weather snaps cause more human deaths than warm temperatures and heat waves. “The elderly die in inadequately heated homes. People get skull fractures from falls on the ice. Men die of heart attacks while shoveling snow, people get colds, flu, pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, infectious diseases proliferate, hospital admissions rise.” Singer, founder of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, concludes that since global warming would raise maximum summer temperatures modestly while raising winter minimum temperatures significantly, it “should help reduce human death rates.”
A team of Harvard researchers found otherwise. Their July 2007 study, published in the peer-reviewed “Occupational and Environment Medicine”, found that global warming is likely to cause more deaths in summer because of higher temperatures, but not fewer deaths in milder winters. In analysing weather data related to the deaths of 6.5 million people in 50 American cities between 1989 and 2000, the researchers found that during two-day cold snaps there was a 1.59 percent increase in deaths because of the extreme temperatures. But in similar periods of extremely hot weather, mortality rates increased 5.74%.  Rising temperatures also permit mosquitoes and ticks, carrying such threats as dengue and zika, to enlarge their range.
Terrain Changes:  In Canada, farming has expanded northward with a 2-week extension of the growing season.  Forests in Alberta are being cut down to create more farmland that has doubled in price and can now grow soybeans and corn as well as wheat.  Bangladesh, the Maldives, and the Andaman Islands have lost land affecting millions.  Rising warmer seas have also submerged five islands in the South Pacific and six others have lost substantial land.  Other losers include: St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean that has shrunk 90 sq km since 1961, a quarter of its land mass.   Ecuador has lost 28,500 sq km, Vietnam 4.7% of its total area, Bulgaria 1.9%, Seychelles 1.1%. Cuba ,9%, Sweden .75%, Iraq .7%, Azerbaijan .7%, El Salvador .6%, and Japan .6%
Municipalities lack the funds to study, and prepare for, the predicted increase in extreme heat days from 4 to 30, or extreme precipitation days doubled to 9.  In Canada, Kingston, Ontario, is rated the best prepared.
  COP24 (Conference of the Parties), the 24th annual Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, hosted for 2 weeks in December 2018 by Poland in Katowice, the heart of coal country, was attended by over 30,000 delegates from 196 countries and the Vatican.  Poland had hosted the 2008 conference in Poznan and the 2013 one in Warsaw.  The first conference was held in Berlin in 1995.  This year, in Katowice, numerous peaceful marches by groups of activists were excessively monitored by large contingents of heavily armed police plus groups of others who refused to reveal their identity to reporters.  
For the Katowice report, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia, and Kuwait blocked language “welcoming”  the landmark IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change formed in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization) climate report of October 2018, which warned of the catastrophic effects of a global temperature increase of 1.5̊ Celsius (2.7̊ F) beyond which global crises could unfold at a rapid pace. They insisted “welcome,” be exchanged to “noted”.
However. The assembled nations approved a set of guidelines aimed at helping migrants driven from their homes by climate change.  Despite Trump’s pledge to withdraw, the U.S. remains in the Paris agreement (for now) and has sent a delegation of 44 people to Poland, largely from the State Department but also from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Energy Department, and even the White House. Many of these career government officials remain deeply engaged, but for what purpose?
It could have been very humorous to watch, as I did, if it was not so serious and shameful.  After giving a talk on the necessity to retain a thriving fossil fuel industry to a skeptical audience, the special assistant to the U.S. president for international energy and environment, Wells Griffith, was spotted standing alone by Amy Goodman who had a team from the PBS news show “Democracy Now!” there for the entire conference.  She introduced herself, microphone in hand, seeking an interview.  He excused himself and walked away, breaking into a sprint up and down stairs for a quarter of a mile, closely pursued by persistent Amy, followed by her camera crew, until he found refuge in the room reserved for the U.S. delegation, closing the door to Amy. 
For those bound to an industrial economy it is painful to change.  Their disappointing inputs to COP24 were the same as COP23 in Bonn, Germany.  At the Paris accord Obama promised $3 billion towards a $100 billion loan to the Green Climate Fund  but only $1 billion was paid before Trump denied further loans.  Countries have become “developed” on the backs of centuries of greenhouse gas emissions that are now making large parts of the world uninhabitable.  They owe suffering poor and low-emission countries financial help free of onerous paybacks.  COP24 did impose transparency on Paris accord promises but postponed needed actions until COP25.  A most memorable image is that of 15-year-old Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, who had organised school strikes in Sweden and held daily press conferences at COP24 to drive home her message: “Platitudes and warm words just aren't enough anymore. "We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis."
  Sunrise Movement:  Meanwhile in the USA, during COP24, over 1,000 climate activists flooded Capitol Hill, demanding congress members and incoming House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, back a Green New Deal Committee proposed by Congressmember-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Over 140  were arrested as members of the youth climate group, Sunrise Movement, who occupied and lobbied at congressional offices. Twenty-six congressmembers have backed the formation of the Green New Deal Select Committee thus far, including Jim McGovern, the incoming chair of the House Rules Committee, who voiced his support after an exchange with activists. Pelosi’s office has said it will meet with representatives from Sunrise Movement.
Extinction Rebellion:  The depth of world activism is broadcast by the rapid growth of the Extinction Rebellion.  Started in the U.K. only 6 months ago, it has spread to 35 countries in 5 continents and has 190 affiliates with 100,000 members.  Delegates were sent to COP24 and plans are being made for a week-long international rebellion in April.  The movement started with a declaration of rebellion in front of the parliament buildings then members blocked 5 bridges in central London. For 6 hours members shut down The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy by using super glue to attach themselves to the doors.  
Life on this planet may be brief, flawed, and cruel, but it is also beautiful, enjoyable, and challenging.  It is worth preserving - and improving.  It needs our help.  Free rides are not for us.  Bloggers, too, are joining the challenge!
Ye Olde Scribe

Wednesday, 21 November 2018


Subject to temperature, water can be solid, liquid, or gas. Essential to our existence and growth, we have spent long, arduous, and costly efforts in finding, using, changing, controlling, transporting, and wasting it.  
Human agriculture is dated back 23,000 years to the Sea of Galilee but it was the need to organize different human skills, starting 8,000 years ago,  to irrigate along the Euphrates, Hwang Ho, Nile, and Tigris rivers that gave birth to civilizations.  Waterways gave us highways to meet, befriend. and trade with other groups.  They also gave us battlegrounds and areas to pollute.
Precipitation, rain, snow, and hail, depending on air currents and the distribution of land masses, gave us varied vegetation such as the once lush, but fragile, Sahara that covers ⅓ of Africa. Over a period of 300 years around 5,500 years ago it turned to desert with a debate as to what percentage of the blame should go to the earth’s orbital changes, to the  introduction of herds of domestic grazing animals, and to deforestation.
Earth’s tilt, now 23.5̊, varies from 22 to 25̊ over a 41,000 year cycle. Seasonal precession has a 26,000-year cycle.  The human-caused melting of the Greenland ice cap can change tilt 26 cms/year.
We have made impressive gains in bringing water, fit for drinking, cooking, and washing, to 89% of the world but today there are more people with cell phones than toilets.  Priorities?  Open defecation is still practiced by 892 million people.  Water has many categories to understand:
Aquifers: Many a gift of the melting of the Pleistocene ice age that began about 2.6 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago,  21 of the 37 largest current aquifers are drying due to increasing human populations draining more water.  The majority of depleted aquifers are past the point of current natural replenishment.  The three most stressed are in the Middle East, the border region between India and Pakistan, and the Murzuk-Djado Basin of North Africa.
Availability: About 800 million people lack access to water suitable for drinking, cooking, and hygiene.
Conflicts: 1. The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), founded by 9 out of 10 riparian countries in 1999, has achieved some successes  Yet, since 2007, diverging interests between upstream and downstream countries have brought negotiations to a standstill, pitting Egypt and Sudan) against upstream riparians, especially Ethiopia. In 2015, trilateral negotiations over a major dam under construction in Ethiopia may be a restart. 
2. Yemen’s water availability is declining dramatically. Corruption, nepotism, and war have inflicted immense nation-destroying sufferings that demand immediate cessation.
3. The Euphrates-Tigris Basin is shared among Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran in parts of the Tigris basin. Since the 1960s, unilateral irrigation plans changing the flows of the rivers, plus political tensions have strained relations.  Formal agreements are still pending. 
4. Afghanistan’s efforts to harness the waters of the Helmand and Hari rivers have alarmed Iran as a threat to its water security in its eastern and northeastern provinces.  
5. In the Mekong basin, especially in China and Laos, enormous expansion of dam-building for hydro power  increases tensions as countries downstream fear the negative impacts, from greater flooding to seasonal lack of water. The Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) effectiveness has so far been limited due to its lack of enforcement powers and China’s reluctance to join as a full member.
6. The long-standing conflict over water from the Cauvery River between the Indian states Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has recently resurfaced because of drier climate conditions. The implications are not only legal battles, but also violent protests following decisions to alter water distribution between the two states.
7. Somalia droughts cause herders to sell more of their livestock, resulting in plummeting prices and deteriorating rural incomes. Widespread poverty and lack of economic alternatives provide incentives for illicit activities and for joining armed groups such as Al Shabaab, which offer cash and other benefits to their fighters. Especially the record drought of 2011 is believed to have swelled the ranks of the militant Islamist group.
8. The Turkish-Armenian case is a prominent example of how two co-riparians can put their tensions aside, work together in their mutual interest, and share trans boundary waters equitably.
9.  Egypt’s water use exceeds its renewable resources, mainly Nile fresh water inflows. Water stress has increased with rapid population growth, rising temperatures, and heavier water consumption. This strains the economy, increases internal strife, and harms relations with other states along the Nile. 
10. Cochabamba, Bolivia:   In 2000, privatization of the drinking water prompted violent protests, escalating into the ‘Water War of Cochabamba’ which killed at least nine people. Eventually, the city’s water was re-nationalized and access to water received new legal backing. However, dwindling water supplies induced by global climate change, over-consumption, and technological deficiencies continue to heavily strain the city of Cochabamba. 
11. Syria: Water stress is a contributing factor to the brutal slaughter.
Cost Sharing:   Heavy water-using plants are attracted by low rates.  For instance, in 2015, 3 Quebec aluminum plants paid $2,500 for 1 billion litres, while homes in Toronto & Ottawa paid millions.  Quebec companies paid $3.2m for >1 trillion litres of fresh water, 85% lower than Ontario.  European rates are 30 to 140 times higher.
Deaths and Disease: Almost a thousand children die daily from preventable water and sanitation-related diarrheal diseases. Stunted growth affects 22% of children under 5, particularly in Bangladesh, Guatemala, Niger, and Yemen, reported by the World Bank in 2017.  It was 40% in 2000.
Organizations Water Oriented: Laura Newcomer, in the 22 March 2013 issue of the health website “Greatest” describes 27 organizations, mostly non-profit, bringing clean water to deprived areas.  
Piped Water: Some countries, struggling with population growth, fail to maintain infrastructure. Nigeria provided piped water to fewer than 10 % of city dwellers in 2015, down from 29 % 25 years earlier. In Haiti, only 7 % of households have piped water, compared to 15 % previously. In some countries, tap water is even more unsafe than pond water.  About 80 % of Bangladesh's piped supplies are contaminated by E.coli bacteria, 
Water Footprint:  Coined by Anjen Ysbert Hoekestra and co-workers in the Netherlands’ Water Footprint Network, is the amount of water used to grow or make something, be it an automobile, a book, a cell phone, a tree, or a glass of wine.  It takes 53 gallons of water to make one serving of latte coffee. And an average of 4,500 gallons to power one 60-watt bulb for a year for 12 hours a day. 
     Taking a random look at wine and South Africa, we see a water-stressed county with 7 million people lacking adequate clean water and needing 126 billion more litres a year which is 1/3 the usage of the profitable wine industry centred on Cape Town.  Most of the water used to make a typical glass of wine is lost to evaporation, with a small amount stored in the grapes, and the rest unsuitable for reuse. While the evaporated water will eventually become rain, it is unlikely to fall over the same vineyards, so it is effectively lost to the region, often to the salt ocean.  A typical 25-ounce (750 ml) bottle of wine has a water footprint of nearly 200 gallons (750 litres). The region’s 2016 wine exports involved the net consumption of 113.2 billion gallons (428.5 billion litres) of water lost to the  region.
South Africa’s wine country has been enduring a severe drought yet it exported 428.5 million litres of wine in 2016 to Europe and North America.,  Hoekestra’s team worked out that it takes between 26 to 53 gallons (100 to 200 litres) of water to grow the grapes and process them into one five-ounce (125 ml) glass of wine.   On top of that, the Western Cape exported about 231,000 tonnes of citrus fruits, mostly oranges, in 2017. The water footprint of one orange averages 80 litres so those exports used up 115 billion litres of the province’s water.
South Africa also exports oil products, minerals, and metals, all of which require enormous amounts of water. For example, it exported 211 tonnes of platinum in 2012. That’s like an export of 45 billion gallons (170 billion litres) of water—the estimated amount of water needed to mine and process the metal.
South Africa is now building desalination plants . These are expensive and energy intensive. It would be more cost effective to shift to less-water intensive crops and to reuse treated wastewater. Currently, Cape Town reuses just five percent of its treated wastewater, compared to Israel’s 85 percent. Israel has also eliminated water-thirsty crops like cotton and made major improvements in water efficiency to free up more water for population growth, creating other problems.
To produce one bottle of soda it takes 175 litres, broken down into: growing natural sweetener 30, growing coffee beans for caffeine 53, processing flavoring 80, plastic bottle 5.3, water added .5, manufacturing and packaging 7.
Other large countries with growing populations, such as China and India, also export staggering volumes of virtual water, often while facing considerable water scarcity problems at home. This simply cannot continue.
Polluted Water: Of the waste water from human activity dumped into waterways, 80% has no pollution removal. 
Too Much Water:   Following California’s worst drought and wildfire season in history, heavy rainfall in the 2017-18 winter produced mud slides that killed more than 20 people and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes, only to be dwarfed by the fire disasters of 2018.  Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas and Louisiana in August 2017, causing $125 billion in damage, dumped more water out of the sky than any storm in U.S. history. Some 890,000 families sought federal disaster aid, most often from flooding in the Houston area. At the start of March, five states were under a state of emergency (Louisiana, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, and Michigan) due to heavy rainfalls and flooding.
Rapid population growth, building on floodplains or low-lying coastal regions, and climate change are the biggest reasons why flooding is affecting more people and causing ever greater damage.
Climate change due to burning fossil fuels has added 46 % more heat-trapping carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. But even if fossil-fuel use ended today, that additional heat in the atmosphere will put 10 times more Americans at risk of being flooded out by rivers over the next 20 years.
“More than half of the United States must at least double their protection level within the next two decades  to avoid a dramatic increase in river flood risks,” says lead-author Sven Willner from Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).   Rainfall changes will increase river flood risks across the globe,  In South America, the number of people affected by river flooding will likely increase from 6 to 12 million. In Africa, the number will rise from 25 to 34 million, and in Asia from 70 to 156 million.
But these findings are based on the current level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Humanity added 45 billion tons in 2017, and will likely add that much or more in 2018. Without limiting human-caused warming to well below 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees Celsius), the river flood risk in many regions will be beyond what we can adapt to,  Climate change is also causing sea levels to rise, resulting in substantial coastal flooding during high tides and storms. More than 13 million Americans living on the coasts will be forced to move by 2100 because of rising ocean levels, according to a 2017 study by Mathew Hauer, a demographer at the University of Georgia. About 2.5 million will flee the region that includes Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. Greater New Orleans loses up to 500,000 people; the New York City area loses 50,000, the study estimated. These coastal migrants will likely go to cities on high ground with mild climates, such as Atlanta, Austin, Madison, and Memphis. “If people are forced to move because their houses become inundated, the migration could affect many landlocked communities as well,” 
World Water Day:   In 1993 the United Nations designated March 22 as the annual World Water Day to bring awareness of the importance of fresh water and to promote its sustainability and equitable distribution and management. 
Awareness: In spite of enormous sums spent, and wasted, on electioneering in the USA, only half of eligible voters actually vote with the highest ever being 50.4% back in 1914, compared to up to 95% in other democracies.  This lack of participation, only 48% in November 2018, warns that the US democracy is in dire danger.  US elections are too awkward, far too costly, and manipulative, permitting them to be bought by minority vested interests. Endless, repetitive, and costly TV sound bites are more annoying than informative.  Electioneering needs to be limited to tax-supported debates with all issues, especially environmental, included.  Elections need to be on a holiday with easily-accessible voting booths. Truthout, a non-profit progressive news outlet founded in 2000 in California reports, 21 Sep 2018, that  that the Corporate media gives almost no air time to climate disruption and that, according to Greenpeace, the Koch brothers have given since 1997 at least $100,343,292 to groups denying climate change. 
Costs:   As the need for clean water and sanitation is greater in rural areas, the World Bank claims that we need to quadruple spending to $150 billion annually.  To do this we need close co-operation between governments and the private sector, including the Gates Foundation with its great work on sanitation.
This demands a return to globalization by the United States that leads the world in so many beneficial and harmful avenues.  The beneficial ones get much deserved praise.  The harmful ones scream for more immediate attention.  They include debt, incarcerations, guns, greed, equality, climate-change deniers, and endless wars.
Saving Water:   Grow and produce things in the right place. Water-intensive crops like cattle, almonds, rice, cotton, wheat, corn, soybeans, alfafa, and cotton should be concentrated in water-rich regions.  This demands  a mutually-agreed system of trade, policed by a dynamic and fair World Trade Organization.
In a global economy, drought can be a big issue even in water-rich countries, because of a growing dependence on imports. Around 38 percent of the European Union’s water consumption is reliant on water availability in other countries, to grow and manufacture the products that it imports. 
The World Bank concludes its report by asserting the high cost of clean water risks jeopardizing the ability of countries to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of providing access to safe and affordable sanitation for all by 2030,    It is a problem that demands current and continuing attention.
Ye Olde Scribe    georgesweanor@comcast.net

Friday, 12 October 2018


     The timing of two of the October Nobel Prize awards was perfect and galvanizing. Coincident or intentional?
     The enormous clout of the United States should not, can not, and is not ignored by the rest of the world, so an internal vote concerning a supreme court nomination alerts a worried world:
     Immediately after Brett Kavanaugh’s 51-49 confirmation vote to the 9th seat on the Supreme Court, a vote called in a Toronto Globe and Mail article “a head-long plunge into an ugly past”, Norwegian Nobel prizes were awarded to Dennis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, two activists for women’s rights.
     Kavanaugh’s selection by Donald Trump, backed up in the Senate by all but one Republican and opposed by all but one Democrat has outraged millions because of his partisan views, his lack of appropriate judicial decorum, and a flawed selection process. The deep and dangerous divisions in the country are again exposed.
     Those opposing his selection include the MeToo movement, 2,400 law professors, the National Council of Churches, American Civil Liberties Union, American Federation of Teachers, National Association of Women, NAACP, Jobs With Justice Organization, 73 LGBT, GreenPeace, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Abortion Rights groups, and much of the media, domestic and foreign such as the Manchester Guardian.
     This was all submerged when sex abuse, including attempted rape, was introduced by three women, led by Christine Blasey Ford whose testimony during the hearings I found powerful, delivered calmly, and convincingly compared to Brett’s emotional denials. Yes, it was back during boys-will-be-boys school years when Brett attended a parochial, sex-segregated school that allowed frequent parties with heavy drinking and female guests.
     Classmate tales imply these were character-forming orgies. Brett, like Trump, inherited privileges.
Dr. Dennis Mukwege was born in 1955 in Bukavu, capital of South Kivu on the shore of Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He became a surgeon, gynecologist, and women’s rights activist. In 1999 he founded Panzi Hospital where he has treated, physically and mentally, over 40,000 women who have been raped, often gang raped, by members of a dozen armed militia groups seeking a share of DRC’s mineral wealth including gold and coltan, essential for mobile phones and computers. The UN has had 18,000 troops there to help a government not strong enough to control its vast lands or its own army also guilty of rape.
    In 2009 Mukwege was interviewed by Amy Goodman on her PBS daily show “Democracy Now!” and this was rebroadcast last week. He spoke not only of destroyed genitals, the years needed for recovery, the social stigma for being raped, but also of the enormous potential of women to overcome all this to be contributing members of society. Amy had accepted his 2009 invitation to visit Panzi Hospital where she was appalled at the hundreds of women undergoing genital repairs and hundreds of others in recovery under the loving, radiant care of this unique man, so full of dignity and grace.        Amy admits it was a great privilege to travel extensively with him to warn the world how women were being used as weapons of war.
     In 2004 opponents murdered his driver but he managed to escape.
    The Toronto Globe and Mail of October 8, 2018 reported the Toronto visit of Prince Murhula and his wife, Sandra. He is Leader of Journalists for Human Rights in eastern DRC and is promoting Mukwege’s work plus two new films exposing violence against women. One success was in shutting down a militia guilty of raping girls as young as two years of age.
Nadia Murad is a 25-year-old Yazidi Kurdish human rights activist from Kocho, Sinjar, Iraq, whose life was changed 04 April 2014 when Daesh arrived, committing genocide, killing thousands of men and taking thousands of women and children. Six of Nadia’s brothers and her mother were killed while she and her sisters became prisoners She was held captive as a sex slave for 15 months before escaping. She now lives in Germany, telling the world her story:
     "I was an ISIS sex slave. I tell my story because it is the best weapon I have. Deciding to be honest was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, and also the most important. The slave market opened at night.
     When the first buyer entered the room, all the girls started screaming, doubling over and vomiting on the floor, but none of it stopped the militants. They paced around the room, staring at us, while we screamed and begged.  They gravitated toward the most beautiful girls first, asking, “How old are you?” and examining their hair and mouths. “They are virgins, right?” they asked a guard, who nodded and said, “Of course!” like a shopkeeper taking pride in his product. The militants touched us anywhere they wanted, running their hands over our breasts and our legs.
     It was chaos while the militants paced the room, scanning girls and asking questions in Arabic or the Turkmen language. Calm down!” they kept shouting at us. “Be quiet!” But their orders only made us scream louder. If it was inevitable that a militant would take me, I howled and screamed, slapping away hands that reached out to grope me. Other girls were doing the same, curling their bodies into balls on the floor or throwing themselves across their sisters and friends to try to protect them.
     While I lay there, another militant stopped in front of us. He was a high-ranking militant named Salwan who had come with another girl, another young Yazidi from Hardan, whom he planned to drop off while he shopped for her replacement. “Stand up,” he said. When I didn’t, he kicked me. “You! The girl with the pink jacket!  I said, stand up!” His eyes were sunk deep into the flesh of his wide face, which seemed to be nearly entirely covered in hair. He didn’t look like a man – he looked like a monster.
     I never thought I would have something in common with women in Rwanda. I didn’t know Rwanda existed – and now I am linked to them in the worst possible way, as a victim of a war crime that is so hard to talk about that no one in the world was prosecuted for committing it until just 16 years before ISIS came to Sinjar.
     A militant was registering the transactions in a book, our names and the names of the militants who took us.  I thought about being taken by Salwan, how strong he looked and how easily he could crush me with his bare hands. No matter what he did, and no matter how much I resisted, I would never be able to fight him off.  He smelled of rotten eggs and cologne.
     At the feet and ankles of the militants and girls who walked by me. I saw a pair of men’s sandals and ankles that were skinny, almost womanly, and before I could think about what I was doing, I flung myself toward those feet. I started begging. “Please, take me with you,” I said. “Do whatever you want, I just can’t go with this giant.” I don’t know why the thin guy agreed, but taking one look at me, he turned to Salwan and said, “She’s mine.” The skinny man was a judge in Mosul, and no one disobeyed him. I followed him to the desk. “What’s your name?” he asked me. He spoke in a soft but unkind voice. “Nadia,” I said, and he turned to the registrar.
     The man seemed to recognize the militant right away and began recording our information. “Nadia, Hajji Salman” – and when he spoke the name of my captor, I thought I heard his voice waver a bit, as if he were scared, and I wondered if I had made a huge mistake.”
     Nadia Murad eventually escaped her Isis captors. She was smuggled out of Iraq and in early 2015 went as a refugee to Germany. Later that year she began to campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking.
     “In November 2015, I left Germany for Switzerland to speak to a UN forum on minority issues. I wanted to talk about everything – the children who died of dehydration fleeing ISIS, the families still stranded on the mountain, the thousands of women and children who remained in captivity, and what my brothers saw at the site of the massacre. I was only one of hundreds of thousands of Yazidi victims. My community was scattered, living as refugees inside and outside of Iraq, and Kocho was still occupied by ISIS. There was so much the world needed to hear about what was happening to Yazidis. I wanted to tell them that so much more needed to be done.  We need to establish a safe zone for religious minorities in Iraq; to prosecute ISIS – from the leaders to the citizens who supported their atrocities – for genocide and crimes against humanity; and to liberate all of Sinjar.
     I would have to tell the audience about Hajji Salman and the times he raped me and all the abuse I witnessed.  I shook as I read my speech. As calmly as I could, I talked about how Kocho had been taken over and girls like me had been taken as sabaya. I told them about how I had been raped and beaten repeatedly and how I eventually escaped. I told them about my brothers who had been killed. It never gets easier to tell your story.  Each time you speak it, you relive it. When I tell someone about the checkpoint where the men raped me, or the feeling of Hajji Salman’s whip across the blanket as I lay under it, or the darkening Mosul sky while I searched the neighbourhood for some sign of help, I am transported back to those moments and all their terror.  Other Yazidis are pulled back into these memories, too.
     There is still so much that needs to be done. World leaders, and particularly Muslim religious leaders, need to stand up and protect the oppressed.
     More than anything else, I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.”
   Fortunately, Kavenaugh’s transgressions are minor in comparison, but the Nobel committee has made a point:    In spite of amazing and needed progress, our society still has work to do to correct our flaws.
                                                                                                                                        Ye Olde Scribe

Friday, 28 September 2018


When one group of humans takes over territory belonging to a different group, centuries often pass before, here and there, a widespread sense of guilt evolves along with a desire for reconciliation.
Our world could benefit from examining the fault-filled, yet also enlightened, Canadian experience.  In 23 August 2017 I did publish a blog entitled “My Inuit Friends”.  The Métis are one more example and their story is well worth knowing, Their name is French for “mixed” - a name that could be applied to all of Canada with its 2 European founding nations, France and the United Kingdom, its 634 First Nations,  speaking over 50 distinct languages and numbering 1.3 million people, its 60,000 Inuit, its 400,000 Métis, and its 470,000 refugees from numerous countries all part of a Canada of a current population of 37 million diverse people.  How do you govern amicably such a diverse democratic nation?  Yet, it actually rates #2, after Switzerland and before Germany, in the ratings of world nations.  Would not this imply that aboriginals and half breeds should be more grateful?
The Federal Government has too long left many Native affairs to the provinces, thus allowing more time and funds for capitalism’s constant demand for growth at the expense of the environment which is of greater concern for Natives.  How do politicians please both and remain elected?
In 2013, Canada’s Supreme Court reminded Canada that it had not lived up to The Manitoba Act of 1870 that allowed the Métis to retain  1.4 million acres, including Winnipeg, then in 2016 it ruled that the Métis are not “Status Indians” under the Constitution, so are free like the Inuit to go their own way. 
In September 2018, David Chartrand, president of MMF for  20 years, met with Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, in Ottawa and signed a deal that allowed Carolyn Burnett, Federal Minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations, to fly to Winnipeg to announce Reconciliation that included:  $154 million to help MMF reorganize, $500 million over 10 years for housing, $1.7 billion over 10 years on education and child care for Indigenous people, and the Métis right to write and enforce their own laws.
The Métis originated in Eastern Canada in the 1600s, being the children of European fishermen and their Native wives, but it was the Red River region, now Manitoba, of Rupert’s Land, where the Métis Nation was first established after the fur trade moved west in the 1700s and 1800s, and many French-Canadian fur traders found Native wives, mainly Cree, Ojibwa and Saulteaux.  Their children formed a new Nation in yet-to-be Canada - the 'Western Métis'. 
Prince Rupert's Land was a 3.9 million square kilometre land mass covering northern Quebec and Ontario, and parts of Nunavut then expanding to over 7 million sqkm reaching to the Pacific Ocean that was given to the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670 by Charles II and sold to the new Canada in 1868 for $1.5 million.  In 1867 The US had purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million and was willing to pay more for Rupert’s Land but the UK ordered it sold to Canada where Canada’s first prime minister, John A. MacDonald, considered it a natural extension of Canada. In 1811 the HBC gave the Red River area to Earl Selkirk for a Scottish settlement.  The Catholic Métis, the Presbyterian Scots, and Anglican English settlers did not want to be part of either Canada or the USA.  They had developed good relations among themselves and prospered during the economic Panic of 1857 that was so devastating elsewhere. 
The Métis had a distinct way of life that incorporated aspects of both French-Canadian and Native cultures.  Most of the male fur traders were French and Catholic. So the Métis were exposed to both the Catholic and Native belief systems.  Native women not only provided companionship for the fur traders, they also aided in their survival. They were able to translate the languages, sew new clothing, cook food, and help resolve any cultural issues that arose.  The First Peoples had survived in the harsh west for thousands of years, so the fur traders benefited greatly from their knowledge of the land.
There were many independent fur traders but the business was dominated by  the British Hudson’s Bay Company that at first discouraged its employees from marrying Native women before realizing it could do little to stop the practice whereas the French-Canadian North-West Company encouraged it.  Both companies benefited greatly from their talented Métis employees.  The HBC, that was founded in London in 1670, is now a retail business with headquarters in Brampton, Ontario, and stores throughout Canada, the USA, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany.  The NWC was founded in 1789 in Montreal with the merger of smaller companies.  It grew to compete successfully with the HBC and numerous skirmishes occurred for the lucrative fur trade.  In 1821 the British government forced the two companies to merge to cease the feuding.
The first generation Métis children started blending parts of both languages into the new Michif 
language  that originated with Métis people in Ontario and Manitoba in the 1700s. The language spread west with the fur trade, becoming an official bartering language. There were several regional dialects. Most were a combination of French and Cree, but, depending on the area, Michif also included some  Sioux or Ojibwa.  The language is dying with only 400 today who still speak it.
The Métis flag is the oldest flag that originated in Canada, first flown in 1814.  Actually the Métis  had two flags. Both had the same design, an infinity sign, but were different colours: either red or blue.  Red was the colour of the Hudson’s Bay Company, while blue was the colour of the North-West Company.  The infinity sign had two meanings:  It represented the joining of two distinct cultures.  It also represented the immortality of the Métis Nation.
Friction?  Few countries have escaped internal conflicts.  The 1861-1865 US civil war cost 620,000 lives whereas Canada’s 1885 North-West Rebellion (also called the North-West Resistance, Saskatchewan Rebellion, Northwest Uprising, or Second Riel Rebellion) took all of 91 lives.
It was a brief and unsuccessful uprising by the Métis people under Louis Riel and an associated uprising by First Nations Cree and Assiniboine of the District of Saskatchewan against the government of Canada. Many Métis felt Canada was not protecting their rights, their land, and their survival as a distinct people. Riel had been invited to lead the movement of protest. He turned it into a military action with a heavily religious tone. This alienated Catholic clergy, whites, most Natives and some Métis. But he had the allegiance of a couple hundred armed Métis, a smaller number of other Aboriginal people and at least one white man at Batoche in May 1885, confronting 900 Canadian army soldiers plus some armed local residents.   Despite some notable early victories at Duck Lake, Fish Creek and Cut Knife, the rebellion ended when the Métis were defeated at the Siege of Batoche.  The remaining Aboriginal allies scattered.  Riel was captured and put on trial.  He was convicted of treason and despite many pleas across Canada for amnesty, he was hanged in Regina. Riel became a heroic martyr to Francophone Canada, and ethnic tensions escalated into a major national division. Thanks to the key role that the Canadian Pacific Railway played in transporting troops, Conservative political support for it increased and Parliament authorized funds to complete the country's first transcontinental railway. Although only a few hundred people were directly affected in Saskatchewan, the long-term result was that the Prairie Provinces would be controlled by English speakers, not French. A much more important long-term impact was the bitter alienation French speakers across Canada showed, and anger against the repression of their countrymen.
English-speaking Canadians now consider Riel a national hero even, among other plaudits, printing in 1970 a postage stamp in his honour.
The cruel and shameful lack of concern for other species by far too many of our species has massively reduced the numbers of bison and fur-bearing animals, forcing the Métis to adapt, and they are  adapting well.  Scores of Metis now lead in many fields including artists, book authors, film making, legal, medical, political, professional sports.
Just room for one example: Maria Campbell, author, broadcaster, and filmmaker, fluent in Cree, Michif, Saultreaux, and English has had four of her works published in 8 countries and translated into Chinese, French, German, and Italian.
May the Métis continue to prosper in the diversity that is Canada.  There are smaller groups of Métis in the USA but there they had to decide between tribal or European identity and are not as free as in Canada to be Métis.
Ye Olde Scribe