Monday, May 28, 2007


Wiki’s 2 cents on Arachnophobia…

Arachnophobia is a specific phobia, an abnormal fear of spiders and sometimes other arachnids, such as scorpions and harvestmen. With an estimated half of all women, and one quarter of all men in the United States experiencing it in some degree, it is among the most common of phobias.

Well, bloody hell, it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

Living in the subtropics, we get our fair share of spiders, and snakes, and other crippy-crawly-thingys, too. I’m OK with most critters, but spiders? Forget it.

Just Saturday the wifey and I were out in the garden “weeding” (yes folkies, no chemicals here) when I stumbled across a few of the more common variety of spiders that the island sadly hosts. My girl-like shrieks always provide moments of amusement for Alice, and my exaggerations of how large the menacing beasts were, too, adds more fodder for her giggly-fits. Still, given the time I spend manicuring plants that grow as high and as fast as Jack’s magic bean stalk, I’ve grown accustomed, more or less, to the typical garden variety of spider (no, not those daddy-long legs ya get back home. We’re talking ugly Mofos). We’ve even found a few IN THE HOUSE. And there was a closet I refused to enter for weeks until I was presented with the remains (proof of its demise) of one of the larger garden varieties that preferred my tool box to its arrangement of rocks out by the pool.

However, I have the mother of all spider stories now.

With the rainy season upon us, I was out staining the deck so that it would survive another season of tropical storms, cyclones and maybe the odd hurricane (note: we’ve only had one hurricane for the record for the South Atlantic, but climatologists do warn that this may well change over the coming years. Regretfully, I digress). So, as I was bent over staining away, feeling like “Super Mr. Domestic Man” (cue orchestra score) when all of a sudden a visitor decided to brush up on my leg. With 3 cats and 5 dogs, I’m quite accustomed to feeling hairy things around my thighs or calves. However, I was not prepared for this.

It was a Tarantula.

Let me repeat that for all of those who suffer from Arachnophobia:

In my garden and at my home. Crikies! I knew we were in the sub-tropics, I’ve known for years about poisonous snakes, killer wasps and other nasty things to note… but … but….but….

Yuppers: Big, black, hairy and crawling right up my leg on a breezy cool autumn day in the sub-topics. Did I mention that this happened IN MY BACKYARD?

Following my faux coronary, and immediately after the grand-daddy of all high pitched sissy-wails, when I finally regained my composure and noticed the monster-like arachnid scurrying up the pathway towards the house where an open door apparently beaconed this harbinger of death, I leaped into action to snarl the wretched creature or at least thwart his attempts at entering our homestead (if he succeeded in entering and hiding, I’d be writing this from a hotel).

Using the swimming pool´s “thingy-ma-jiggy” I managed to startle it (not like it startled me, of course) but it did change directions and no longer posed a threat in terms of breaching the homes perimeters. Now, the only thing needed to be done was to get proof that this beast -- that this monster -- actually existed; that this life and death moment would not be chalked up and dismissed by the Mrs. as another “Todd Fabrication” or “Todd Exaggeration”. I needed a camera.

As to what happened later? I killed the bastard. I later looked it up on the net and found out that yes, there is a Black Brazilian Tarantula in this area of Brazil and in Uruguay, and as far as tarantulas go, it is apparently one of the more docile of the lot: hence, it’s enthusiasm in trying to befriend me. Poisonous yes, but there has never ever been a case involving death because of a tarantula bite. I guess I do feel a tad guilty killing such a large thing. I’m a “live and let live” type of bloke, BUT, well, damn: have a look! What would YOU do if you found this bastard crawling up your leg? Arachnophobes unite!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Weapons of Mass Defamation

I know I said I was going to stand down from the climate change pulpit for a tad, however after reading Lorrie Goldstein’s blatantly fraudulent, and slanderous, rant on May 10th ( Power plan dooms world's poor ), I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity to take to task one of the most inept journalists Toronto has on hand.

Climate deniers have lost the scientific debate. Anthropogenic climate as a theory is as real as evolution. Get use to it, and let’s move on. Sure, there will always be a small percentage of doubt (usually spawned for political or religious ends), but that’s science for you. Many who had denied climate change as a science have since, after weighing all the information, acquiesced and moved on. Other, more stubborn, deniers (those with an axe to grind or an oil paycheck to cash) simply changed their tactics and began fear mongering about the costs of climate mitigation. “Tackling climate change would cost the planet its economy!” would be the new war-cry from industry shrills and conservative think-tanks the world over (and the journalists that regurgitate such nonsense verbatim).

That too was recently blown out of the water. The third report from the IPCC stated that climate mitigation will cost 0.12% of the world’s gross domestic product. 0.12% of the world’s GDP works out to roughly 10$ per person (of the 6.2 billion living on earth) annually. This, of course, is a far cry from what those were saying when threatening a global recession and the end of the world.

Now that the hard-core deniers have run out of arguments; and the fear mongering about costs has been debunked, the only thing they have left in their debate arsenal is ad hominen attacks and of course conspiracies theories. The last ditch efforts of those on the loosing end of a fight.

Goldstein (one of the denier diehards) is now resorting to calling environmentalists “anti-human” by paraphrasing one of the biggest Wise-Use “guns for hire” the world has regrettably known: Patrick Moore. Moore is one of the founders of Greenpeace, turned “eco-Judas” and he’s handsomely paid to appear whenever there is a debate about ecology and industry needs someone with some “eco-cred” to cast doubt. No anti-eco editorial is printed without at least a small homage paid to Patrick Moore.

Just to give you an idea of this man’s audacity, Moore spent an astounding 2ish weeks in the Amazon in 2000 and concluded that the forest faced no real threats, which strangely went against everything scientists (that have been studying and living in the forest for decades) warn. Regardless, because of his “Greenpeace founder” title, whatever this loon says is usually gobbled up and cited as the gospel by hacks hell-bent on keeping the planet grimy.

Predictably, Lorrie also quotes sources from the film “the Great Global Warming Swindle”. This British film is currently being slammed by the scientific community, and even some of the interviewees that participated are now considering legal actions against the films producers for having their views horribly misrepresented. However, Goldstein finds no fault at all in using this as a “good source” to paint an image of the modern environmentalist as someone who while misguided in striving for a cleaner planet, is also unwittingly and in some cases willingly killing off millions in the developed world? Pullleeeessseeee

Citing more crackpots than you’d find on Queen St WestToronto during a full moon on a Saturday night, Goldstein’s editorial cleverly hints of a New World Ecological Order. His conspiracies and slander are designed to demonize a movement and anyone that participates. It’s no longer a healthy debate about the science or the cost; it has come down to school yard mud-slinging. However it is far more dangerous than that. His rants about environmentalists forgetting the poor in poor nations is just plain defamation and can paradoxically drain funding from groups directly involved in helping those Lorrie claims environmentalists ignore. I happen to be an environmentalist, and I happen to have spent the last 7 years of my life working in a developed country, along with the very communities that Goldstein argues we forget. When I see Mr. Goldstein here, in a developing nation, then I’ll buy his crocodile tears for the poor. Until then he’s just another bitter angry hack poisoning the minds of Sun readers believing that “business as usual” is beneficial to the world’s poor. Like the last 50 years isn’t blatant and obvious proof to the contrary.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

We´re not in Kansas anymore Toto!

There’s little point in writing about climate change, given it is all the rage and debate the world over -- yippy. I’ll only, briefly, mention that my latest documentary “Mudanças do clima, Mudanças de vidas” is heading to the “Festival do Gramado”, which is Brazil’s largest International Film Festival. There is still no word if the video will be accepted for competition; however the visibility of this event and having a film about climate change participate will further highlight this crucial issue.

So, I decided that this week, instead of complaining about the Toronto Sun’s coverage of climate change, I would describe a few of the absurdities that pass for day-to-day normalities in the land of Samba (lord help me).

I’m often asked in e-mails what it is like living in Brazil, and of course for the most part, the sun, beautiful ecology, culture and cheap beer have me respond “quite pleasant thank you”. However, there is a darker more surreal side to Brazil. A side that has me shake my head in utter and total bewilderment at times. So, I’ve decided to start jotting down some of the more prominent weekly absurdities for your reading pleasure. Make note of these for the next time you find yourself complaining about Toronto.

Civil war

“Bala perdida”, translated into English means “stray bullet”. It’s becoming a routine in Rio de Janeiro, a city amidst an undeclared civil war. As of today, 29 have been hit with “balas perdidas” in 6 days and a number of those hit were hit fatally (one I can recall was a 4 year old child). I must admit, I’m quite astonished with Brazil and the population’s habituation to violence. There are outbursts from people concerned when certain high-profile crimes get reported, but usually the day to day “4 dead” here “5 executed there” barely makes the news, and if it does few pay much attention to it.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a great deal of FEIGNED concern from the public over security, but it goes little beyond that. In a nation where over 45,000 are murdered each year (11% of all global homicides), and in the postcard city of Rio de Janeiro, where over 1300 murders have been registered since the beginning of this year, you would expect more than 300 people to show up to an anti-violence protest? Think again.

The penalty for corruption? Dinner with the Governor.

The governor of Santa Catarina offers dinner to businessman Fernando Marcondes de Mattos, owner of the Florianopolis resort Costão do Santinho only hours after he is released from prison charged with corruption. Fernando was one of two dozen extremely rich and powerful developers thrown in jail for an environmental license buying scheme – the Federal police claimed during their operation named “Green Coin” or “Moeda Verde”. The resort owner (by the way, there has been a long and persistent rumour as how Fernando received permission to build his resort in an ecologically sensitive part of the island) and 21 others including municipal councils, the secretary for the environment, the secretary for urban development, a judge (of course) and the president of Santur (Santa Catarina´s tourism agency) have all been accused by Federal police of corruption and purchasing illegal licenses from city officials to develop in ecologically protected areas. In the land of impunity most were be released from prison hours after the arrests, and some would even receive invitations to dine with the State Governor. An invitation like this from the state should send a clear message that corruption will not be tolerated! Doh!

More death and corruption: who´d have thunk it?

Reporters without Boarders always highlight Brazil as an area of concern for reporters, and rightly so. Just 3 nights ago, 37 year old Luiz Carlos Barbon Filho was gunned down outside of a bar in the interior of Sao Paulo. He was the journalist that 4 years ago exposed a scheme were private parties were held involving under-aged children, some as young as 11, that were drugged and forced into orgies and other sex acts with, get this, CITY COUNCILLORS and BUSINESS EXECTUIVES. Barbons broke the story of these despicable and disturbing parties that landed all involved in jail. Barbon was later nominated for the Esso prize in Journalism. But wait, there is more. ALL who were arrested, with the exception of a “mere” waiter, have been released (impunity?) and even one of the councilors convicted and sentence for pedophilia was RE ELECTED while serving his time! Only in Brazil you say?

You can’t make this stuff up folks, sometimes I feel I’m trapped in OZ only without Red shoes to tap together.