Friday, May 16, 2008

Sad news for Brazil, the Amazon and the world

Marina Silva's life and her fight to preserve the largest and most biologically diverse tropical rainforest on earth is not only inspirational but it would make for a great Hollywood film. Regrettfully, now that she has stepped down as Brazil's Environment Minister, the future of the Amazon and the final scene in this film could turn tragic.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The sleeping giant awakes?

Here's a great piece echoing my concerns here about Brazil finally awakening as a true global player. Thankfully, some still know this nation has a lot to overcome and warns Brazil to avoid getting too cocky too fast, especially given the nation's newest boost could go bust with a simple change in commodities markets.

To the north, Environment Minister Marina Silva has resigned. She was an honest defender of the Amazon and insiders say the battle was too much for her and that she was against all odd. There is a perfect storm brewing over the Amazon these days. New laws which will place the forest at greater peril, a new law to limit the movement of the forest's greatest defenders and now the only real political support the forest had, is stepping down.

We live in interesting times here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Watch the rhetoric and lies

A horrible and yet all to common story out of the Amazon last week. After being convicted and sentenced to 30 years for ordering the assassination of Nun, Missionary and environmentalist Dororthy Stang, the farmer Vitalmiro Moura was acquitted on appeal. What most point to as further proof to the long and blatant tradition of impunity enjoyed by the wealthy in Brazil, this article by the Associated press speaks to another issue that has also long plagued the Amazon region but is usually ignored by the international community. Regretfully it is something that is happening in other parts of the world, too.

Environmentalists in the Amazon region have long been accused of working for foreign governments to usurp control of the Amazon from Brazil. We’re demonized here as a tactic to deflect attention from the activies of thieves and their illegal and destruction opeartions. And what better way to obfuscate the situation in the hearts of most citizens here than to create a foreign threat? In Brazil, many have been forced to believe that environmentalists wish to steal the Amazon for richer countries to plunder. That’s right. I work with non governmental organizations that were created by the U.N or the United States, or Europe (depending on the version of the myth), with the specific task of claiming ownership over 6 million square kilometers of tropical forest, so that Bush can watch their financial portfolios grow. Sound absurd? Of course it is.

It is just as absurd as what many in North America believe in regards to the issue of global warming. At first it was argued that Environmentalists are little communist foot-soldiers looking to steal the developed world’s wealth and redistribute it to poorer nations - the tool to do so would be the Kyoto Protocol. More recently, the conspiracy focuses on an elaborate get rich scheme concocted by the one man who couldn´t manage to get elected President against a doornob in 2000. You see some similarities with these and the conspiracies in Brazil? Most will. Your more entrenched and scholastically challenged right wing rogues will be left scratching their heads.

I raise this not only because I attended Dorothy’s memorial in 2006, and I have worked in this region (under some of the most stressful conditions) for over 10 years, and that I’m sincerely
worried about those who I know that continue with great efforts in the Amazon; I bring this up because this idea of lying to demonize environmentalists to either protect the status quo or two win cheap political shots is not only incredibly stupid, but it can prove deadly. The debate in north America is getting uglier and more caustic. I’ve seen Juliano Fatino call peaceful environmentalists “terrorists”; the blogosphere is filled with conservative generated hate and conspiracies aimed at painting the environmental movement as “anti-human”, “unpatriotic” and DANGEROUS. However, the danger is not in what environmentalists do, but what can come when some pro-gun nutjob believes environmentalists are a threat to his nation and personal liberties.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Big economic gains, but little changes where it counts

It’s welcome news here, and of course because it’s a positive story about Brazil (for a change) the national media is all over it like a Rio pro over an American monger. “the sleeping giant is awakening” screams the headlines here in Brazil and it must be true, because a foreigner from England has said so.

I’m happy that the nation is doing better economically, and really this is what is at the heart of the article. All international economic indexes point out that the fourth largest country in the world, blessed with the best natural resources on the planet, has finally managed and learn how to make some cash off of its mineral, biological and agricultural inheritance. There’s no innovation here, or very little of it, the money is coming in through resource extraction and farming. This is not necessarily a problem, unless you’re an Indian in the Amazon. However, the world has long surpassed the agrarian age, and although we need food to eat and farmers to plant and cultivate, Brazil needs to diversify its economic portfolio and look more to R&D and technology. The country has been close to reaching it’s potential for greatness on myriad occasions, but it’s a country with a penchant for putting all its eggs in one basket. Any minor trip that affects that one sector or commodity produces disasters results as the centuries here have highlighted. The famous phrase: “Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be” was born from such historical close calls and fumbles.

But again, even with an expanded portfolio all we’re really celebrating here is that there is a few in the country getting extremely rich while for the rest of us, relatively little has changed. I guess the fact that nothing has really gotten worse for people financially, especially after decades of hyperinflation should be seen as an achievement. There is talk of a burgeoning middle class but it is still horribly eclipsed by the endemic poverty that plagues this nation. The president triumphantly bellows that millions are being lifted from poverty, and to ignore a marginal improvement here would be suspect. That said, with 50% of the nation, approximately 80 million people, living on slightly 2 dollars a day, I’d not want to stick my neck out and say “we’re winning the war on poverty”. When you figure you have this level of poverty in a nation that has more personal helicopters than any other and then you get to see the problem a bit more clearly. Brazil is only second to South Africa in term of income inequality.

Education is still in dire straights and academically Brazil, year after year, places in the lowest levels of international results when tested on the basics: literacy, math and science. Simple conversations with your more impoverished will provide you with anecdotal proof. For President Lula this is OK. He too is a simple man who uses simple logic and simple language; it’s his bailiwick as it is with most populists in this part of the world. “Stupid is those who didn’t think I can run a country” is a recent line of his which aptly reinforces my point.

Violence in the nation is on the rise (with the exception of Sao Paulo, where it is in fact getting marginally better) although the media is more infatuate with banality like throughout the rest of the world. In a country where over 40,000 are killed each year and in cities such as Rio where the young are 8 times more likely to be killed than in the Gaza strip in Palestine, this should be the Media’s war cry. There are respected news weeklies that do their best (readership is low, not surprisingly), but they are shunned by the President, politicians and by the masses because they “only focus on the negative”. Lula has long proven to be thin-skinned in terms of bad media coverage about Brazil or about him. He once personally tried to expel a New York Times reporter from Brazil because the journalist had the audacity to repeat what the national media was saying: Lula likes to drink. Not quite the "Watergateesque" revelation you'd think would shake and move the highest office in the land to act, but that's Brazil for you.

This may not last long. The government wishes to place greater restrictions on the media here as well as control the movement of foreigners in 61% of the Nation: the Amazon. International television, too, is in the government’s radar to reign in. As more and more celebrate the supposed new birth of a rich and prosperous land few are questioning the erosion of their personal rights and the rights of others. In fact in a recent poll about the restriction of foreigners in the Amazon, 97 percent of those responded actually agreed with the blatantly xenophobic and discriminatory move.

Arguably, with a better economy the rest of the problems I raised should solve themselves. So say “invisible hand” theorists. But this is Brazil. As long as corruption is allowed to continue without leaders (let me emphasis that LEADERS) being punished, and the rich continue to do what they like with impunity, we’ll just see more Brazilian flags on Yachts in Europe and not much of a difference made here back home.

I don’t want this to come across as a blatantly bitter attack on the country in which I currently reside (although I am thinking about making a move). I do cheer for the nation and I do have hopes and aspirations like others that Brazil can overcome some of its greatest hurtles and emerge more equitable, less violent, less corrupt and just a little bit smarter but..but…but…

I am happy to see some good news in the papers about Brazil for a change, I just wish I could see it here where it counts.

I'll write again on some of the things I cherish in the nation, soonest. Many in North America, regardless of some of the problems that Brazil faces, could learn a lot from this culture.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

It's not nipplegate, but....

These are the moments I find interesting in Brazil. While North America watched in disgust as Governor Eliot Spitzer’s political career spiraled into disgrace and oblivion, and the MSM was tailing the young -- and apparently costly -- professional sextrade worker Ashley Dupre that dallied with Eli, few paid but scant attention to the women who orchestrated much of Dupre’s work and literally signed Spitzer’s fate.

A Brazilian prostitute turned Madam named Andréia Schwartz was in the thick of the scandal and apparently following her cooperation with authorities was promptly escorted out of the US to her native Brazil. Although either ignored or shunned by the North American press, upon her return here, she was received with a hero’s welcome. OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but for the Brazilian media she was more apropos to the story than the stunning Girls Gone Wild Dupre, and when Andréia’s plane touched down in Sambalandia she was swarmed by a gaggle of paparazzi that would have made Paris Hilton blush with envy.

As with what usually happens when any young attractive women in Brazil makes news for whatever reason, they later appear in Playboy or some other gentleman’s weekly for the nation to ogle over. Our Miss Schwartz has certainly been making the rounds. Here she is yet again, and interestingly enough she is now being introduced as "the Brazilian MODEL". Talk about vocational euphemisms.

Friday, May 02, 2008

A hero is made

Domingo Silva may lose his job, and back home its quite possible that nationalist libertarians will slaughter him in editorials for bringing dishonor to his nation, but he's one more hero in my book. Few on this planet are willing to stick their neck out so far for something like this. Hats off to you sir, I'd break bread with you any time.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Farra do Boi - First the bull, then who ever crosses them!

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated...”

-- Mahatma Gandhi

Given Gandhi’s quip, this weekend’s “farra do boi” (or party of the oxen) will prove yet again that in terms of morality, many in Brazil still lag centuries behind much of the world.

Farra do boi is one of those archaic, justified under the banner of culture and tradition, events of barbarity and savagery that would make the seal hunters of Canada look like PETA volunteers.

Here’s what some in Brazil consider a good time. For weeks, local fisherman and community members from various small villages throughout Santa Catarina lock up an ox, starve it for days, usually with food just in view in an attempt to drive the animal insane and then unleash an unimaginable night of horror unto the poor creature. On the night of the “party” (usually during the Easter weekend – my how Jesus must be impressed) villagers shove broken glass up the creatures’ anuses, cut their tails off, light them on fire and break their legs; this is just a few of the shuddering things inflicted on the bull throughout the course of an evening. In the end, the ox usually ends up being driven into the sea and left for dead; the drunken revelers then go home and bask in their night of brutality.

“Farristas” as they are called, or “knuckle draggers” as I refer to them argue this is “all in good fun”, and of course use the mother of all scapegoats citing that, “it’s all about preserving Azorean culture” like culture is some sort of static concept that trumps all.

Santa Catarina was mostly populated with people from the islands of Azores where this ritual or torture supposedly originates. There is some controversy as to whether or not today’s farra do boi even remotely resembles anything from the islands, however conveying that to the toothless troglodytes that participate in it here is an exercise in futility, and could have you end up dead.

To the Federal Government’s credit, Farra do boi was made illegal in 1998 under Law 9605, however the State government thumbs its nose at the federal authorities and still refuses to officially acknowledge this “tradition” as being a “crime”. Governors have openly defended the blood-sport and this gives community members the impetus to “fight for their culture”. Some communities, Governador Celso Ramos for example, have renamed the event “Brincadeira do boi” or “playing with the bull” in the hopes that sweetening the name will somehow magically distill the cruelty and idignation.

Some progress is being made, and with more and more “outsiders” (and by this I mean people from other regions in Brazil) moving to Santa Catarina, there is less and less tolerance for out and out barbarity.

Many of those participating in Farra do boi – as it has been commented -- are actually using the bull and this tradition as an excuse to exercise cruelty over fellow human beings. It’s often been said that animal cruelty is a pathway to violence against people.

When and if Police are called to stop an episode of farra do boi (as required by law) the community and those participating turn on them. Every year the papers are filled with violent clashes between those participating and those appalled; few if any are ever prosecuted and so each year the army of blood thirsty thugs grows.

I had the not so great pleasure of finding myself trying to protect a women who had placed herself between the bull and the community last year. Although my concern was not over the bull but over the women’s safety which was obviously in jeopardy, I was still mobbed, brutalized and beaten for "interfering". Hit from behind, like most cowards tend to do. Actually, when it was clear that I was a “foreigner” the beating intensified (I’ve not talked about Brazil’s blatant xenophobia, but will in another blog).

A knife was wielded, and I am certain that if the police had not arrived in time, I’d be just another body in Brazil’s 50,000 plus annual murder stat. I wasn’t asked to file a report or make a complaint. The cop only ordered me into a car and out of the region for my own safety. Imagine this happening on a main tourism street in Canada? Yes, we’re not in Kansas anymore Toto!

Farra do boi will continue. Many in Brazil (I mean LOTS) have a tendency to cling blindly to meaningless rituals and participate in pointless violence. Let’s see if I’ll survive another Easter here.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Al Gore is a poopy pants, so global warming is a hoax?

Lorrie Goldstein from the Toronto Sun is off on yet another rant. Although appalled at the appearant “hysterics” employed by those who accept what a preponderance of the world’s leading scientists have to say about global warming, Mr.Goldstein seems quite comfortable applying those very same child-like “hysterics” he professes to abhor so much. Me thinks one of the Sun’s most prominent tabloid news peddlers should look up “hypocrite” the next time he decides to pop a synapse and go off on yet another anti-environmentalist bender.

“If your neighbour is a charter member of the Al Gore Nation, today would probably be a bad time to ask him how he's been enjoying shovelling all that "global warming" out of his driveway this winter.

Charter member of the Al Gore Nation? That was certainly clever. Can we lose the Al Gore thing now? It’s getting rather stale.

Trust me, climate hysterics (anyone who accuses others of being "climate deniers") do not like being mocked [my italics].

SHOCKER! Stop the presses!

Who actually likes being MOCKED? And how does mocking people concerned with the future well-being of this planet add to any meaningful dialogue on climate change and what should be done?

That’s what Mr. Goldstein fails to recognise and that is why certain indivuals are getting a tad frustrated about having to deal with such adolescent behaviour. It is an issue that could affect the lives of billions of the planet, and mocking (which is what a majority of climate change “denialists” do) adds absolutely nothing to the discussion. It only highlights the level of maturity we need to put up with daily.

Lorrie may enjoy the antics of the class-clown at the back of the room, but the rest of us would like to get on with this very important lesson plan. Voicing a concern is one thing and skepticism is one of the hallmarks of science. However, placing your hand to your mouth, blowing and making a "farty sound" then giggling or constantly attacking Al Gore, is something quite different and is rightfully not tolerated by those who don´t suffer fools lightly.

He does save some face here:

Finally, there are many things we can all do to help the environment and lower our reliance on fossil fuels, good ideas regardless of your views on global warming.

Don't buy a bigger house than you need. Don't drive a more powerful car (or buy more cars) than you need. Cut down on flying. Vacation closer to home. Take public transit more often. When possible, buy domestic instead of foreign produce and manufactured goods. Eat less meat, more fruits and vegetables. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Now if he can just get to this point without some cheap pot shot at Al Gore, or Mocking those he doesn´t like, he would actually be contributing something meaningful.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A climate change conference few talk about, and rightly so..

The Heartland Institute’s 2008 International Conference on Climate Change that ended this week in New York has been called everything from “denial-a-palooza” (desmoglbog) to “the Skeptic’s Conference” (various media). The conference was organized to bring together some of the world’s leading climate change cynics (retired scientists and reported industry shills) to show the world that the debate over anthropogenic climate change is far from over. Although failing miserably to achieve this, the conference did unwittingly prove that those from the denial industry are not only a fringe group of tin foil hat wearing nutters, politically and ideologically motivated, but that their nonsensical ramblings and accusations of conspiracies and character assassination attempts are in fact heavily funded by wealthy right-wing organizations.

I’ve mentioned before that the issue of climate change only really stuck in the craw of many when Al Gore’s traveling side show on global warming hit the big screen in a documentary called “An Inconvenient Truth”. Those to the right of the political spectrum had puppies that an environmental issue had risen to such prominence; and come hell or high water they were going to retake their libertarian “let’s pollute like we want” moral low ground. So the gloves came off, and they´ve done everything possible to re-label the phenomenon. What was once “Anthropogenic Global Warming” would now be considered “Al Gore’s Global Warming” (that would be the easiest way of amassing an army of right wing ignoramuses over night) and appearantly the conference went on a lengths to reinforce this cheap tawdry tactic.

Here’s a great article by the Wall Street Journal about what I’ve been on about for some time…

Gored: Why Skeptics Need AlPosted by Keith Johnson

I’ve long given up reading anything that starts with or inlcudes “Al Gore’s" global warming. You just KNOW these folks can’t separate their hatred of liberals/democrats from objective reason, and will simply wallow in their political enmity, unconcerned with science and equally unconcerned with the environmental consequences of ignoring science, solely to score points for the conservative mindset. Bloggers eat it up... here´s an example

I am still trying to get over Al Gore “scoring” a Nobel award over a dumb
home-made flick. This goes to show how much “spin” there is in all of these “end
of the world” studies…Comment by Alternate Reality - March 3, 2008 at 1:36

However the use of character assassination/hate by association tactics as well as the blatant dismissal and demonization of science have proven pretty useless for coercing much of the “main stream media” and the public into “seeing the truth about the global warming hoax”. This was one of the reasons climate "cynics" attempted to create the illusion of a scientific conference; to sway media to their camp. When it was not attended by the mainstream media, or at least not covered to their liking, it was decided that the “mainstream media” is part of the great conspiracy, too.

When cynics feel ignored, or isolated in view by the MSM, they argue it’s further proof to liberal media collusion or themainstream media getting in wrong. It's the typical Bill O’Rielly rant. (Although, I´ve never EVER understood how fox news can be one of the highest rated cable networks, yet they don´t consider themselves mainstream news? And remember, those thinking that 9/11 was an inside job ALSO think the mainstream news was part of a cover up).

Having been a reporter (long, long ago and in a galaxy far far away) and currently a fim maker I am well aware of the pressures for balance in reporting (and the denialists USE this journalistic tenet constantly to manipulate people and journalists), however when you have over 30,000 scientifically peer reviewed papers, backed up by literally thousands of the world’s “current leading” scientists on climate change on one hand, and on the other hand you have maybe one or two scientific papers (although heavily debunked) a handful of retired cynical scientists paid for by a who´s who of right wing think tanks then there comes a point when journalism is not just about presenting a nice little “he said she said” package, but is actually about getting to the heart on an issue and simply reporting the truth.

Monday, March 03, 2008

It’s moments like this I’m truly proud to be Canadian. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a chest pounding rabid nationalist that throws his fists up the moment a comment or criticism is raised about the motherland, nor do I wander the globe complaining about my home. I’m simply proud that I was born and raised in a Nation that, although some may argue and bicker with the details here, takes issues pertaining to political corruption seriously.

I’m rather enjoying all the noise made over Tom Zytaruk’s book and allegations that the late MP Chuck Cadman was somehow bribed, or an attempt was made to bribe him. I spent a couple of hours lurking in the background of a few political forums, taking in the humorous but sad assortment of “political cheer leading” that usually goes on by folks who treat politics like a high school football game. You know the type; they route for their “team” regardless of what happens in the field and spend a disproportionate amount of time trash-talking their opponents as opposed to engaging in issues. Still, the Cadman affair seems to be a hot topic across the board.

As I read the details of this supposed scandal, and watched it blaze across the Canadian media I was given a sense of pride because of just how trivial and banal the allegation was. Don´t get me wrong, it needs to be ferreted out, no matter how small (corruption can not be tolerated nor a flase allegation of corruption) that´s why I´m proud. Because in Canada this type of corruption, or accusation, is not very common and when it is raised it is treated seriously.

Here in Brazil, you literally (and I’m not exaggerating here) cannot open up a daily newspaper or weekly magazine without reading about a new scandal. Corruption in Brazil is as engrained in politics as tattoo ink is in one’s skin. There is no escaping it, whether at the Federal, State or Municipal levels, whether corporate or public. It’s a nation awash in corruption and dirty dealings and worse of all, it’s basically accepted.

The current scandal in Canada is based on a bribe allegedly made to an MP in return for a vote. Here in Brazil, suitcases containing 20,000 dollars were routinely given to party members in return for their support on certain issues. It was called the Mensalão, or ‘Big monthly” in English. This, being one of the largest scandals to affect the nation in recent times did end with the impeachment of the president’s right hand man, José Dirceu (although the President knew nothing.. ahem).

Politicians have cleverly over the years designed laws to protect themselves from punishment for any crimes they may commit. With a secret vote (of course), Dirceu was surprisingly impeached meaning he can’t “officially” play politics for 8 years. No jail time, no fines, no community services; just a “go away for a while” sneer. But this being Brazil, of course he’s still well entrenched behind the scenes.

Corruption is allowed to flourish in Brazil because of impunity mixed with a generally short national affair's attention span and rampant apathy. In other words: there´s too much to keep track of, no one will be charged, why bother?"

One of Brazil’s most famous political thieves is a man named Paulo Maluf, who has apparently been charged over 40 times with scandals involving billions of dollars (that´s billllllliooooonnnsss), but he always manages to make his way back into politics. He’s been Sao Paulo’s mayor (Sao Paulo being one of the world´s largest cities), the State of SP's Governor and was rumored to have run on a platform that boasted “I may be a thief, but I get the job done”. He’s now a federal deputy, of course.

I could fill this blog with a million stories that would make your average Canadian’s head spin, but that is not my objective. I opened up the internet today and saw a series of articles on a tiny scandal in Canada, that will be analyzed and debated more than the IPCC´s 4th assessment, and we probably won’t hear about another political scandal in the Great White North for some time to come. It’s moments like these that I pine to live again in Canada when you know those working on your behalf are still "politicians" with all that word connotes, but honest ones at least. Maybe one day, we´ll move back.

Oh, but those winters!

It’s ANOTHER conspiracy!

The Bilderbergs are the puppet masters, damn it. No, it’s the Illuminati! No it’s “Dr. Eeeeeeeeevil”! No, it’s Al Goracle and environmental movement that want American, no Amazon, no Canadian riches! Ahhhhh.

I’m certainly amazed at how folks keep all their global warming conspiracies straight with black helicopters chasing them everywhere. However, although there are, to quote Dr. Evil “a bajillion” nutter theories and crackpot rumors, as diverse as they are perverse, circulating the net at any given minute, one of the hallmarks almost all of them share is that they prey on the fears of nationalists.

In Brazil, 75% of Brazilians think there is some sinister plot afoot by the world to “Internationalize the Amazon”. Brazil has suffered from this national psychosis for eons, but of course the new version of the theory has ecologists and environmentalists working as the ‘shock troops” for European and US interests. It’s the job of environmentalists to protect the forest, so that international interests can exploit them at a later time. Climate change and international concerns over the planet’s future health, is seen by many recently, as just a smoke screen with the aim of limiting Brazil’s growth as a nation and, of course, steal the Amazon.

In the US, global warming is not only being argued a hoax but a cleverly concocted plot with the collusion of thousands of scientists and socialists (pulled-off by one man who could not even get elected in 2000) to wrestle away American freedoms and liberties, and profit immensely by doing so.

This vid/conspiracy theory called Global Warming or Global Governance would be a belly buster if it were not believed by so many people! In a nutshell is posits that global warming is a conspiracy to usurp American sovereignty, or as Congressman Don Young from Alaska in the video warns:

“The environment is being used to make a one world government. This is a wake up call. We’re waging war against those that want to destroy the great United States.

Environmentalists I reckon are “those” from the Congressman’s rant and are now the new planetary bogeymen. You know what inevitably happens when you have a villain and the threat over national security and sovereignty?

It probably won’t be too far off in the future that the US will start having some form of witch-hunt like in the good ole days of Joey McCarthy. They’ve already had congressional committee meetings in Brazil regarding nongovernmental movements in the Amazon, and I doubt we’ve seen the last of them.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Conspiracy and concern?

Is it time to break out the tin foil hats? Or should we be at least a tad concerned about the lack of public consultation?

For those on the ‘far side of crazy” this is just one more instrument being added (like the widely believed Nafta Super Highway) in the orchestration of the “New World Order” conducted by, well, the Bilderberg Group, or the Clube do 1001, the Illuminati, the Free Masons, the House of Windsor or, well, fill in your favorite global villain and secret society >-------HERE--------<.

Still, nutters aside, there is something a wee unnerving with Generals and Canadian Commanders signing a military Pac (called the Civil Assistance Plan) between two Nations without a least a discussion from politicians on either side of the boarder. Here’s the story and website that got me interested, but I found it here on a Canadian Government site, too.

Prior to the signing of NAFTA in 1994, if you´ll remember, some politicians and most unions went ballistic over the movement of commodities across boarders without restrictions, but now there appears to be ZERO interest in tanks, soldiers and the most sophisticated weaponry known to man doing the same? [shudder]

The lack of debate (did anyone here about this?) may all be part of the continued lionization of our Military as of late, following the US lead. It’s a brash but effective way of manipulating the sentiments of the public. Wars maybe illegal, occupations maybe immoral, signing a military Pac with another nation without discussion from Parliament maybe undemocratic, and what was once a hunt for a terrorist has turned into a nation building failure without end, but you better not question any of it because then you wouldn’t be "supporting our troops” and hence, “you’re not a patriot”. End of debate.

With such a stong emotional phenomenon like this why even try to debate?

Well, although I don´t fall easily as prey to conspiracy theories and I don´t think that is all part of some sinister global plot as some inevitably will, I did feel it was worth mentioning that Canada has a rather increasinlgy unhealthy love for its military fed by a rather annouyingly secretive Tory Government. There´s nothing wrong with respecting those whose job it is to "project the nation", just like I repsect the police, firemen, Doctors, scientists and environmentalists that work to protect the planet, but to give them unfettered and unrestricted licence to do as they please, in secrecy, and based on blind nationalistic emotion is just plain wrong and potentially very dangerous. If you look to the history of much of the world, especially in Latin America, Nation’s where armies were given carte blanche and allowed to accrue power and pen bilateral and multilateral deals sans public consultation usual don’t stop there. And yes, as history has also proven time and time again in these instances, like what the Civil Assistance Plan purports, it’s always done with your best interest at heart.

Muuuhoooohaaaaahaaaaaa. Happy Thursday.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Government sends in the army

It can get pretty nasty there, now the governmentis sending in the trooops. From the BBC:

"Some 160 Brazilian troops have been sent to the Amazon to join hundreds of police officers involved in efforts to tackle illegal deforestation.

The move follows clashes last week when local people and sawmill workers forced environmental officials out of the town of Tailandia in the state of Para."

More here from the BBC

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A rant

One of the greatest concerns from the far right over environmentalism is the belief that environmentalists appear to care MORE about the planet than people. Hence, their claims that environmentalism is just a neo-Malthusian dogma repackaged.

True, there is a great deal of concern over the carry capacity of this planet and the obvious statistical fact that while we’ve added 3 billion people to the planet over the last 50 years, we’ve also drained, chopped, poisoned and decimated an incalculable amount of “non renewable” resources. That’s NON RENEWABLE just for emphasis. Still, I don’t know how by pointing out the obvious suddenly we’re all misanthropes?

All indications are that we will continue down this path until and as Malthusian theory did actually posit, (as did Paul Eurlich and the Club of Rome) that, not so far off in the future, there will come a time when scarcities and pollution will leave a great deal of misery and suffering the world over. It will catch up to us. We’re already fighting illegal wars over dwindling oil deposits so the suffering, arguably, has begun. Still, Iraq pales in comparison with what some ecologists, economists and scientists predict. Remember the British economist Sir Nicholas Stern’s dire prognosis for the global economy if climate change is not addressed immediately?

So, from an environmental point of view it make good sense that we, with civility and rationality (while maintaining some scepticism but eliminating cynicism), roll up our sleeves and address some of the greatest challenges facing the planet today such as deforestation, climate change, the plunder of the seas, pollution and species extinction, and make logical and intelligent decisions through diplomatic and democratic processes to ease humanity’s ride, with a minimal amount of suffering as possible (that means economically too), through the 21st century. This is the environmentalism that I know and cling too.

Those to the far right wish to adopt the wait and see approach, or as they call it the: “fudge off you freaking pinko-commies” approach. Actually, I feel comfortable arguing that they’ve moved passed the head in the sand methodology and are now actively and aggressively engaged in trying to silence and belittle anyone who actually cares about the future condition this planet will inevitably arrive. And by doing so they are placing humanity in much greater peril.

And they complain that Environmentalists hate people?

Monday, February 18, 2008

OK, if you don´t believe me than maybe you´ll believe the Ranting Gryphon then?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Environment Canada has "muzzled" its scientists, ordering them to refer all media queries to Ottawa where communications officers will help them respond with "approved lines."Well, where have we seen this before? I’ll remind you.

That’s right folks, if it looks familiar that’s because it was done a few years back, and south of the border. It is a tactic borrowed straight from the US Republican’s playbook “Why I hate scientists and how they interfere with my friend’s profits”. There actually WAS a book published on the subject called the Republican’s War on science, not that many have read it I imagine given the dearth of Britney Spear's anecdotes. Groan.

Here’s a 60 minutes piece talking about the Bush government’s successes at muzzling scientists. I urge everyone to watch this:

This is exactly what the conservative party is now doing in Canada, and everyone will be less informed as a result.

Ironically, the piece on 60 minutes ends with a mention that one of Bush’s science advisors Phil Cooney (who was the Chief of staff of the Council on environmental Quality and responsible for editing and burying scientific findings as well as ignoring scientist’s fears) is now working for (DRUM ROLE PLEASE) Exxon Mobile. Today, Exxon Mobile has posted the largest annual profit by any U.S. company EVER: that’s 41 BILLION dollars folks. Nice work for simply trashing the planet’s climate and lying to the public. Oh, what a wonderful world we have.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Amazon destruction on the rise!

We predicted this last Oct in a video I produced for Greenpeace on the effects of forest fires in the Amazon and climate change. After two years of the government boasting a drop in the level of Amazon destruction, last oct. we met with and interviewed a powerful farmer in the region that literally BRAGGED that the destruction was on the rise yet again, and the government wouldn´t be able to do anything to stop it. Yesterday, the government admitted that this was indeed true. For any that has been following my career and life over the last 10 years, you'll know that I’ve spent a lot of time in the Amazon region working with environmental groups and almost exclusively with Greenpeace. You cannot knock the work these dedicated eco warriors have done in the region, but given the Amazon is the size of Western Europe, 80% of the destruction is illegal and that those doing the destroying would just as easily shoot you as talk to you, there is still a very real worry as to the future of this forest!

By the way, in this article by Tom Philip from the UK´s Guardian, I was one of the activists he traveled with last year, shortly after being expelled from one of the towns that the Brazilian governments points to as being part of the porblem in the Amazon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Ranting Gryphon - America

This is sure to go down as a classic!

Science and climate change under attack from the usual suspects and more

If humanity is not ‘natural’ then who are we and why are here? One obvious answer is we were put here by a greater being, a God. But the entire essence of Darwin’s theory is that there is no God as Darwin was a professed atheist. This debate is actually part of the entire question of environmentalism[...]

-- Tim Ball

Here’s an interesting diatribe penned by climate change denilaists Tim Ball and Tom Harris, both self professed anthropogenic global warming (AGW) “skeptics” (cough cough), and both allegedly on various oil company pay roles. Other than the blatant attack on environmentalists and environmentalism (although no where in the article does he define what he means by environmentalism), this article sheds a new light in regards to what is really at stake for some of your more fervent cynics, and why they have amassed such an unrelenting army of ignoramuses.

As many know, recent debates over climate change have taken on a fairly caustic and often war like atmosphere. Cynics (not scientists) have crept out of the woodworks. Just a decade ago none of these “truth warriors” could pronounce climate change and now are all self-proclaimed global warming experts. They are relentless, mean spirited (dedicated to epithets and quirky insulting one-liners like “alarmists”, “eco communists”, green garbage etc.) and often quite violent in their proclamations. On the CKA (Canadakicksass forum ) one poster even asks for environmentalists to commit suicide en mass to show our commitment to nature. Yes folks, this is the level of discussion at times.

So we know that dealing with this ilk of sophistication and having any type of meaningful dialogue on the subject is a Sisyphean task. I’ve often mentioned that the issue was politicized given Al Gore’s film (hate by association), and of course funding from various corporate entities that have oil profits at stake, but Tim and Tom’s articles gives us one more ingredient in the ideation of the denialists. Now, I understand why it is the perfect storm of controversy on the blogosphere: Politics, Corporate greed, and now RELIGION! And it was this paragraph in their article that set me off.

The current western view of the World essentially evolved from the Darwinian view. Even though it is still just a theory and not a law 148 years after it was first proposed, Darwinian evolution is the only view allowed in schools. Why?

There are two extremely important facts to bring up with this one paragraph. For starters, and you hear this questioned time and time again by laymen is that for some reason after years and years of research evolution still doesn’t stack up scientifically and why isn’t it a scientific law if it does? This exposes a gross over simplifications of the scientific process and, dare I say, highlights a blatant ignorance on the part of those who seem to think that in science there is a formal ascendancy from scientific theory to scientific law. There’s not. And anyone claiming to be a climatologist (or any scientist for that matter) as Tim Ball does should actually know this.

Secondly, to answer Ball’s question at the end; Darwinian evolution is only allowed in SCIENCE and BIOLOGY classes because it is the only scientific theory that adequately explains the development of species over hundreds of millions of years. Until another theory is developed, Darwin’s evolution is it. But for the religious, it is not so cut and dried. They wish to see CREATIONISM taught as a science. nd this is behind Ball´s line. It is a long standing debate that goes back well before the Scopes trials and I´ve always been at a loss to understand why certain groups feel so threatened with ONE theory (evolution) taught in ONE class, when they have entire schools (think the Catholic school board) dedicated to teachings of "the creator did it all".

Attempts were recently made by Christian groups to have ‘Intelligent Design” forced into science classrooms and biology text books, but those attempts inevitable, and thankfully, failed. Take a look here and watch Ken Miller, a biology professor and CATHOLIC, rip ID proponents a new one. (This video is not recommended for the chronically fidgety or other sound byte warriors. It´s close to two hours of one man speaking. No special effects and no sound tracks. )

So what does this all mean? Well, Tim Ball and Tom Harris -- two ardent climate change denialists -- are on a mission to demonize not only the science of climate change and its proponents, but now, as we see here, they are in fact actually setting out to demonize the very field of science itself and using the "Good Book" as their trump card.

The last century or so has given us the age of scientific enlightenment, and yet there are crusaders, in science sheep’s clothing no less, attempting to undermine hundreds of years of scientific inquiry and send us back to the dark ages.

It is common knowledge that the right wing Conservatives have a vested interest in sewing doubt, or dismissing climate change outright (although you won´t find ONE repubilcan candidate to say this openly) . They are the energy stock holders, they are the oil barons and they feel they stand to loose the most if the world takes tackling global warming seriously (poppycocks). Partisan political hacks too see this as an “Al Gore issue” (and hence a THEM issue) and now they are being joined by religious fundamentalists in the cause, not necessarily out of unsubstantiated fears of profit losses or a dedication to a political party, but out of the fear that religion is starting to lose its centuries old-toe hold on society as more and more question the “devine” and place more faith in the scientifically explainable.

We live in scary times.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oscar announcements today, and while every entertainment sage as well as other media panjandrums across the globe rush to the microphones to give their picayune evaluation on best actors, actresses, films and scripts, I thought I’d highlight the lesser discussed category of best Documentary in long form (given you won’t find much on this with mainstream media).
Last year, if you will remember (or maybe not), the film highlighting Al Gore’s traveling slide show on climate change (An Inconvienient Truth) won best doco. This year, I was kind of hoping the Canadian documentary Sharkwater would get the nomination nod, believing that Green Films were still kind of chic in this day and age of Gaia´s awakening. As well, and more importantly for film makers, Sharkwater has taken the documentary circuit by storm winning literally dozens of prestigious awards.

Well, twas not the case, however an interesting trend this year did develop and that is that all but one of the nominations is a damnation of the current US administration in one form or another (Yes, I meant the rhyme). Although environmentalism would find no place in the doco category this year, it is evident that the Academy is still cheering on advocates who see the need to sound the alarms. And that is what this category SHOULD be about; not some simple forum to celebrate frivolous entertainment, but an award’s category recognizing meaningful critiques of the world made by some of the planet’s most ardent social defenders.

Now, if we can only get more people to watch these brutally honest and at times rather terrifying exposés on America in the 21 century at war with others and at war with itself, then maybe, just maybe, more will wake up from this apathetic and fainéant slumber that that nation has been in for over 7 years.

Expect the right wing blogs to scream murder over the coming days.

Here´s the list of nominations and links to the trailers! Rent, learn and support!

1. Operation home coming - See the Trailer
2. Sicko - See the Trailer
3. War/ Dance - See the Trailer
4. Taxi to the Dark Side - See the Trailer
5. No end in site - See the Trailer

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Censorship in the US.

If you ever had that nagging feeling that the US was marching backwards in time seeking the glory days of the dark ages, this should clear up any doubts you may have. My only worry is that there is a well armed army of neysayers, partisan devotees, and ideological fundamentalists in Canada too, so keep on your toes. There is nothing wrong with debate, but when ideologies dictate curriculum, then it’s back to the dark ages we go.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Heros on the high seas

There is a great high seas drama being played out in the southern oceans with the Sea Shepard Conservation Society and Greenpeace. Keep you eyes on this one folks. I’m just beaming with pride and honor knowing folks on both ships, although I don’t know the two whom are being held! Keep it up!

Linky poo

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Whales and Heros!

Hey folks, just an FYI, but an important one.

I know it’s the new year and everyone is still burning off the calories gained over the holidays, but I just wanted to say there are folks that gave up their holidays, gave up their time with families, and have given up a great deal of comfort to protest again Japan’s blatant savagery and murderous rampages against whales in Antarctica. The Greenpeace crew from the Esperanza has now found the Japanese killer fleet, and the Sea Shepard crew is probably not far behind. I know folks on both vessels and although there are differences between the two groups, and their tactics, I hope the common goal of stopping this absurd hunt is found. There is a BBC reporter on board Greenpeace’s ship, and his blog has been quite an interesting read. I urge all here to read it, and MORE importantly, I urge all to get involved by writing letters, making donations, or more. There is myriad ways you can help these fantastic protesters whom are probably dealing with insufferable conditions on the high seas to protect one of the Earth’s most magnificent mammals.

Remember, there is no debate over this issue. The Japanese are killing whales for their local market under the guise of “research”. Isn’t it time this ilk of 19th century savagery is put to rest?

Photo Credit: ©Greenpeace/ADavies

Affordable cars and killer taxes

Well, India has the world a buzz after showcasing their new 2500 dollar car to accommodate the burgeoning lower-middle class in India. As an environmentalist, I’m of course a wee suspect and a tad worried over the prospect of an additional 300,000 drivers and carbon emitting machines, regardless of how good the mileage is. Still, I’d prefer one million of these than 10,000 HUMMERS. I digress.

However, I don’t want to comment on that. I found an interesting article in the Brazilian press about the car and what is being heralded as the most inexpensive car in the world. To my amsuement, if this CHEAP car was imported to Brazil (as calculated by local economists well versed in the retarded and suffocating taxes Brazil levies on imports), it would no longer be the cheapest car on Earth but a moderately price vehilce in Brazil. They’ve figured out that with all the taxes and placed on the car (Brazil has some of the strickest protectionist policies in place), what was worth 2500 dollars in India would cost 7500 dollars here. That´s without the resellers markup. Like I’ve said before: THEIVES, EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM! (the politicians, mind you). I´ve mentioned this on a number of occasions; when it comes to foreign products or foreigners in general, we’re fxxxed.

However, what caught my attention too was the throw away line offered by one of the economists stating that the emission's standards probably wouldn’t pass in Brazil. At this point, I passed an entire cup of coffee through my nose in a laughing fit that damn near shattered my ribs. This economist owes me a new keybopard. I’ve no doubt that ON PAPER Brazil requires emission standards probably equal to that of Canada or any other European Nation, however there is an imporant phrase in Brazil: “Pra Inglese ver”. Meaning, “for the English to see”. What that actually means is that we can put anything we’d like on paper or in a law, however, don’t worry about it and carry on as usual (nudge nudge wink wink, ya know whatamean). Brazil’s cities are plagued with some of the most polluting vehicles and buses I’ve ever seen, not to mention the particulates released from burning the Amazon that settle in small towns are 4 times greater than the exceptable health limit.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Anthropocene Era - It has a ring to it, eh!

I think it's the dream of many to have something significant named after them. What better way of leaving your mark on the world? Well now, let’s all reach around and give ourselves a collective pat on the back.

Given our penchant for ravaging nature, our love affair with greed and a well-formed disinformation campaign hell-bent on hindering environmental progress, Nobel laureate Paul J. Crutzen has come up with a new name for our current Epoch and he has named it after us. We’re well into what scientists now call the "Anthropocene" Era. Applause, applause; sadly, it couldn’t be more deserving.

" Earth is rapidly moving into a less biologically diverse, less
forested, much warmer and probably wetter and stormier state."

I´m back Baby!

Is Todd back to blogging? Well, maybe. I’ve got a spare few days now that the holidays have drawn to an end and visitors have all headed back to their respective cities/towns and couches. I was chastised about not blogging and equally scolded for not taking into account what a blog is suppose to be when I was blogging: short, succinct and more importantly FREQUENT. My attempts at scholastic tomes, written with intervals of months between them, apparently put most off. Such is life. So with a new year, and a renewed interested in communicating mindless ideas, rants, raves while butchering the English language beyond recognition (because ostensibly you CAN in a blog) I’m back baby! Or at least until I’m bored withitall and my ferret-like attention span is captured by some other meaningless and irrelevant pastime.

So on that note, let me wish everyone a belated happy holidays (I have nothing against Christmas, but I’d like to be more inclusive in my greetings) and a prosperous 2008. See you all soon!