No tankers wanted here, suh!

At the behest of the very effective Dogwood Institute, here’s my letter to the new Liberal party environment critic,Gerard Kennedy. Oil tankers in the Great Bear Rainforest region, and the attendant Enbridge pipeline, are such monumentally bad ideas that they take my breath away. If we put all that money and effort into sustainable energy strategies and technologies … we’d be there in 20 years. We’d never have another serious energy crisis, or climate crisis, or oil war. Europe is well on its way. I want us to be too.

Dear Mr. Kennedy (Kennedy.G@parl.gc.ca),

As you know, there’s a controversy going on in B.C. over the connected issues of oil tankers and the proposed Enbridge pipeline from the tar sands.

I am a resident of Tofino, in Clayoquot Sound. But i also consider myself a citizen of an ever-shrinking world, and i am doing what i can to make the world a better place for both our children and the larger ecosystems we all depend implicitly upon for our very lives. I am deeply concerned over how corporate needs — for raw materials, for weakened legislation, for unlimited profit — are trumping human needs in every sphere. Our present government understands nothing, it seems, but economic growth, and is content to lay waste to the earth in its bid for a “healthy” economy, no matter how unlivable that world is for people.

Your Liberal party is Canada’s best hope for widening this ruinously narrow vision of our future, and as Liberal Party of Canada Environment Critic you are well placed to have a positive influence over what transpires in coming years. We both know that allowing oil tankers to traverse Hecate Strait, Dixon Entrance, and Queen Charlotte Sound will over time guarantee that oil spills will happen.

Of even greater concern to me is that continuing to build oil infrastructure, especially around dirty tar sands oil, only makes our climate crisis worse, and at the same time distracts us from building a sustainable energy infrastructure. This path is pouring money down a rathole, and makes the consequences for our climate future even more dire than they will apparently be already. It is a grossly irresponsible choice for a government to make.

I urge you and the Liberal party to do what is right: please commit, loudly and publicly, to a legislated ban on oil tankers through Canada’s Pacific north coast. And time is of the essence — please do it before the end of the year.

Thank you for a principled, meaningful stand on environmental issues!

~greg blanchette, Tofino

List life

I can’t resist picking up little bits of paper with writing on them. Being a compulsive list-jotter myself, I just have to know what people consider significant enough to commit to paper. Usually it’s disappointing, but occasionally i happen upon a gem.

As a teen, i spent a year living with my grandmother in Winnipeg. I sometimes used to write messages on bits of paper and drop them strategically on downtown sidewalks, sometimes with a phone number, to see if anybody would call back. They never did. I would have.

This intriguing list at right i just picked up on the sidewalk by the Co-op parking lot. I like the “big undies — LOL,” and have to wonder why the “beach scene” photo got cut in half.

I was on the way to the office, incidentally, to check my email to see what time tonight’s party started. Turns out the party isn’t for two weeks — something i’d have known if i’d listed it in my daybook.

I’ve had lists on the brain for the last week or so, one in particular: Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s famous “five stages of grief,” from her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. Thing is, at any given time i can never remember more than three items on the damn list. So for posterity’s sake, here it is, courtesy of the Wikipedia page:

  1. Denial – “I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening, not to me.”
  2. Anger – “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; “Who is to blame?”
  3. Bargaining – “Just let me live to see my children graduate.”; “I’ll do anything for a few more years.”; “I will give my life savings if…”
  4. Depression – “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die… What’s the point?”; “I miss my loved one, why go on?”
  5. Acceptance – “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.

Seems to me that list applies to much more in life than just terminal illness. A few things come to mind.

  1. Most life changes, big or small
  2. Many relationships
  3. Finding accommodation in Tofino

Road’s End–Tales of Tofino

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while: my review of my friend Shirley’s new book. This is the dry, newspaper review; the Tofino Time one is more fun, but it ain’t on-line yet.

Road’s End, Tales of Tofino
— a review

by greg blanchette, Tofino

It has been her labour of both love and obsession for years, and now it’s finally out. Locals will recognize Tofino man-about-town Turtle smiling from the cover, as well as appearing in a couple of the stories within.

Many other locals, past and present, may see themselves in the pages of Road’s End—Tales of Tofino, a new book by Tofino’s own Shirley Langer.

It’s a fun read. Shirley’s got a knack for digging up good stories and telling them. It’s like a lazy walk around town, bumping into people on the sidewalk or eavesdropping on them in a coffee shop.

There are twenty tales in all, on a wide variety of subjects. Some are profiles, some are little adventures. There’s one about a dog and one about a chicken; also beachcombing, latkes, driveways and tsunamis. One is almost an investigative report on the problem of plastic trash in the ocean. Others smack of a sociology text on the town, in which the writer makes note of details that everyone knows but nobody notices. Continue reading “Road’s End–Tales of Tofino”

Caring for Your Introvert

Here’s a short but punchy feel-good essay for us introverts everywhere. We’re not socially dysfunctional; we’re just different.

From The Atlantic Monthly‘s Jonathan Rausch in 2003 (full article here):

Caring for Your Introvert

Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

If so, do you tell this person he is “too serious,” or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out?

If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren’t caring for him properly. Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. It has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people (I am not making this up). If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.

I know. My name is Jonathan, and I am an introvert.

Speeching to grads (2)

A more conventional pep talk to UBC arts grads this year, published in The Tyee. Save the world, kids — God knows it needs it, after your parents got through with it.

Dear Grads, Help Save Us!

Armed with an Arts degree, you can be a hero.

By Michael Byers
Published: May 27, 2009

[Editor’s note: Political science professor Byers delivered this speech to graduating students at UBC’s “Great Arts Send-Off”.]

In medieval England, before the development of written land registries, local children were conscripted as witnesses to real estate transactions. At the exact moment that a piece of turf was symbolically handed from seller to buyer, the kids were whacked on the side of the head. By making the transfer of land memorable, the assault provided security of title for as long as the children lived.

Twenty-one years ago this month, I wrote my last exam as an undergraduate Arts student. I remember the occasion vividly because, with just 30 minutes left to go, the university was struck by a power outage.

There we were, rows upon rows of anxious students, sitting at temporary desks in a windowless gymnasium in pitch darkness. A quick-witted invigilator opened two outside doors, allowing a dull light into the hall — along with a blast of cold air.

Four years of English literature classes had equipped me to recognize the symbolism. The lights had gone off — not on — at the conclusion of my Arts degree. As for the blast of cold air: what better metaphor for the harsh realities of life outside the university?

The true value of an Arts degree

In retrospect, I learned many useful things during my studies. I learned about passion and politics from William Shakespeare, evil from Joseph Conrad, cynicism from Niccolò Machiavelli and hope from Immanuel Kant. I learned that differences of culture, religion, ethnicity and sexuality make the human species more interesting. I learned that history matters; that asking questions is a mark of intellect, not ignorance; and that words, wielded well, have the power to change the world.

I even learned about the existence of the female orgasm — though only because my French professor talked about it in her class.

Continue reading “Speeching to grads (2)”