Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Gusher that Keeps on Gushing

This is not looking good at all.

There is strong speculation that the BP Spill in the Gulf of Mexico may not be capped at all.

I actually wrote that a couple of days ago, as part of a post on a slightly different topic, after reading a comment on a thread on The Oil Drum, a message board inhabited by oil industry types and at least some well-informed observers.

Now, I see that the same anonymous comment from the same thread has been picked up and quoted by numerous blogs, published in Mother Jones and linked by Huffington Post.

Unfortunately, none of the above have done their homework to further verify the person's hypotheses, other than to say such stuff as it "passes a sniff test", which I could do myself without turning to a national publication, thank you very much.

Anyway, I suppose it may do some good to get this out there and see if it holds up under more scrutiny than some writer's nasal organs can provide.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Canadian Genocide Appears Unavoidable

In a week or two, bloodthirsty motorists, murderous cyclists and rampaging shopkeepers will inexplicably launch into the annual genocide of the shadfly.

What is worse? The non-chalant shopkeeper sweeping the corpses into piles? The kill-happy automobilist, skidding through a stop sign on a cream coating of shadfly body parts? Or the particularly maniacal torture procedure conceived by the mad cyclist, who delights in inhaling these poor creatures alive?

Are we going to tolerate this behaviour from our fellow human beings?

Common names for shadflies apparently include "dayfly", "mayfly", "Green Bay flies", "lake fly", "fishfly", "midgee", "June bug" and "jinx fly", although mayfly is the only one I've heard. And what I call a June bug is some kind of a giant beetle.

Seriously, cycling at any time of day during shadfly season is not recommended. In the evening, it can be a very bad mistake, especially if you like to see and breathe while cycling!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Is it Time to Dam Off "The Bay"?

Yeah I do mean Hudson Bay. And, yes, I am aware that it may sound far-fetched, well, off-the-wall, ok, crazy.

What type of seizure has caused these sudden wild mental contortions?

Apparently there seems to be a large Gulf between "reality" and what my mind tells me should be reality.

The reality I have normally perceived is one where reasonable safeguards have been in place to save our environment from apocalyptic nightmare scenarios.

Now, we need only look to the Gulf of Mexico to see that these nightmare scenarios are very possible and we are very capable of allowing them to occur, despite any regulations or safeguards.

As it stands, there is a reasonable chance that the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may not be possible to cap or otherwise alleviate in a satisfactory way. If their efforts to control the situation are not successful, BP will be left running an increasingly humongous collection and clean-up operation, which they may not ever get on top of either. If they do somehow get the gusher capped off, the clean-up even as it stands today is already the largest in history.

And the question everyone has been been asking: what happens under either scenario when the hurricanes and tropical storms start roiling up the Gulf?

It is pretty scary stuff. I dunno how many gazillion barrels are gushing into the ocean per day now. Neither I nor anyone else knows how big the gusher will continue to be in two months time, six months, a year or five years.

The next question is: How much of this will the oceans take?

That brings up a barrage of other questions: how fast does this pollution travel? what if the Gulf of Mexico goes dead? What concentrations of oil in the oceans worldwide could result from a disaster of this kind if it were to continue for months or years? Etc. Etc.

Somewhere about this point, one begins to think that cutting Hudson Bay off from the rest of the world's oceans could be a pretty smart move.

With increasing populations, extreme economic pressures and skyrocketing energy demand in the third world, all coming to bear, it becomes easy to imagine that even more serious disasters lay ahead.

And god forbid, what about  nuclear contamination? I think it is time to start looking at more safety precautions. And, the way the world's oceans and seas are interconnected, the largest body of ocean that could be practically sealed off would be Hudson Bay. Of course the Mediterranean and Black Sea, and quite possibly the Baltic Sea, could also be sealed in theory, and more easily in the sense that the outlets are much smaller. But, these seas accommodate very heavy ship traffic so sealing them off effectively would be problematic in that sense.

In this case the environmental impact study would no doubt be a monstrosity. Perhaps it would be shown that sealing Hudson Bay would be so detrimental to migration patterns and existing native species, or even to water quality, that the potential benefits would not justify the plan at all. Or, perhaps on the contrary, the benefit of having a reservoir of  uncontaminated water in the event of a worldwide oceanic disaster would outweigh any possible negatives.

To be honest, I think they really might want to look at sealing those other seas too. 

(The map above is from the NSIDC and shows Hudson Bay on June 13, getting close to 50% ice-free, whereas the normal for this date, as shown by the orange line, is that only the southern part of James Bay is usually clear.)  

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Jeanne-Claude, June 13, 1935 - Nov. 18, 2009

New painting by Tatiana Iliina - commem-orating a "monu-mental" birthday...

...a special painting for a special woman...

...Originally I had in mind to call this painting "aerial tricks" - just the imagery brings to mind some airplanes skywriting or some kind of fabrics that the Cirque du Soleil might send billowing above a rapt audience...
...but recently I have been reflecting on the career of the brilliant team of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, which unfortunately came to an end (in some sense) with Jeanne-Claude's passing last November. As I was originally trained as a monumental artist, I have great appreciation for other artists who have worked in this field.
... ...and suddenly I realized that I was just preparing to release this painting today, Jeanne-Claude's (and Christo's) birthday...

(LA Time photo 1972 - Christo and Jeanne-Claude at Valley Curtain) at a certain moment it just all came together- my admiration for Jeanne-Claude and her work, the
imagery of this particular painting, the ideas of fabric and flowing and billowing and the monumental gesture, combined with the special significance of today's date...

(Wikipedia - The Gates, Central Park, NYC, 2005) I decided to paint the painting on the back also, to give the "wrapped" effect... ...and it all converged into this dedication and small moment of celebration..."

Please be sure to visit the Christo & Jeanne Claude website. There is an exceptional video in memorial to Jeanne-Claude. The first hour is made of up of eulogies and chamber music which is presented in a suitably sombre manner but the final 30 minutes of the film is just wonderful, with behind-the-scenes glimpses of the entire career of Christo & Jeanne-Claude.
-Tatiana Iliina & offroad artist

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Yann Martel and Ed Burtynsky on Art and Climate Change

In a podcast by put together by Corporate Knights magazine, writer Yann Martel and photographer Edward Burtynsky talk about climate change and how they address it with their art. Nice.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Right Wing Network Would be a Playground for Quebec-Bashers

Word coming out this week about Pierre-Karl Peladeau's plans of setting up a "Fox News" type network for Canada. This is worrisome. There are many people out there who are just waiting to hear that it is good to hate someone.

Peladeau of course knows what side his bread is buttered on. After all, there is no doubt that such a station will pander to big-spending corporate interests... with the side benefit of converting more poorly educated working class people into raving Reform Cons who will line up like lemmings to vote against their own best interest.

I think there are two possible means of neutralizing it, if it were to become a serious proposal or reality.

1. to mount a massive letter-writing, Facebook, whatever campaign to the CRTC, just pointing out the obvious:

* Fox News isn't News it is propaganda - it is an institution set up specifically with the goal of brainwashing Americans in mind. We don't need that in Canada.

* Despite the myth that our media is biased against the right, a guy whose core political/social views are probably only shared by less than 10% of the population has succeeded in taking power - that is plenty of evidence right there that the media is balanced and responsible.

2. Establishment of an equally well-funded counterpoint network ~ not a "Mr. Nice Guy" intellectual counterpoint such as "The Daily Show", PBS or "Air America" ~ but a rip-roarin', braindead, incendiary, propaganda purveyor of venom that will appeal to the same demographic as Fox News (white, less-educated, church-goin' males) Something more along the lines of Bill Maher, but again, he is far too intellectual, too logical.

HOWEVER, and it's a big however, I have serious doubts that this will all come to pass in Canada.

Why? Because any such network in Canada, in the course of its daily existence, will, by definition, become a gathering place for anti-French rhetoric and provocation.

Likewise, a far-right network in Quebec will be the mirror image - a place to spew rabid anti-English hatred.

Hopefully, this pointless, useless and destructive exercise will be avoided.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

13 New Biosphere Reserves Added Bring Total to 564 in 109 Countries

The network of Unesco World Biosphere Reserves, with 13 new additions just announced, makes up a vast reservoir of the planet's biodiversity.

The world biosphere system has been in existence for decades, however it is not well known to the general public. In Canada, and, I presume, in most other countries, these reserves are far less well known than the national parks, for example.

It was only when I learned a couple of years ago that Mont Ste-Hilaire, near Montreal, was one of the 15 World Biosphere Reserves in Canada, that I set out to discover more about this system. Suffice to say that I have spent a few hours over several different occasions, looking at the Unesco website linked above and, in short, I still have not gained a concise understanding of how this system works.

I guess the overriding factor in play is that, since the system is worldwide, it is impossible to either impose or agree on worldwide standards, other than certain generalities. Obviously the countries of the world are so diverse in financial means, in values, priorities, cultural outlook, infrastructure, etc., that there would be little hope of creating an easily defined biosphere reserve system.

What I have understood so far is that the system is designed to encourage awareness and preservation of the great biodiversity on the planet. What we see in practice is that, for example, the 15 biosphere reserves designated so far in Canada encompass only a mere sliver of the biodiversity in Canada. So, although 564 reserves worldwide might seem like a lot, and indeed, many of them are impressive, even mind-blowing in their rich natural endowments, we can only assume that the network to-date only scratches the surface of what needs to be put in place.  At least, the existence of the network of World Biosphere Reserves gives us some assurance that our indispensable biodiversity is at least on the radar.

What I find the best way to browse the world biosphere is this link, one of a few different ways to approach it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dear Mrs. Fraser:

Jan. 23, 2011 
Potemkin Florist Co.
24 Reform Road
Bucolic ON

Dear Mrs Fraser:

Thank-you for your recent letter. I am aware we have been a bit long in responding but hope you appreciate that we had approximately $17 million in flower sales during the week you mention so these things do take time to track down.

After checking our records once again, I have confirmed that yes we did indeed deliver 972 floral centrepieces with rampant Muskoka "fish" figurines, valued at $219 ea. on June 24 of last year. However our records do show that delivery was made to the Algonquin Ballroom in the Beaverlodge Hotel - not the Beaver Room at the Algonquin Lodge, as your most recent letter seemed to indicate.

I would be happy to provide any such documentation as you may require to substantiate any actual billings or deliveries as required.

Unfortunately, as we were only sub-contracted to provide these items, we have no idea who actually placed the order. I would refer you to our contact, Mr. Peter Smiley, of Fake Event Management, however you seem to feel this contact is no longer valid.

We would be unable to say if there was a dinner or meeting held in the room to which the flowers were delivered, however I could refer you to our meeting coordinator, a Mr, Jahim Raffer.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.

Sincerely yours,

Mary A,
Acting manager,
Potemkin Florists

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Land Grab World Cup - 2010 - "Location Location Location"

Everyone is getting pretty excited about the World Cup eh? Despite some of the less than flattering press, the World Cup of Soccer, promises to be a bit of a coming of age party for South Africa. The nation of Nelson hosting the world. Cool.

What many people are not so aware of, is what is really going on in Africa these days. Other than an impression that consists of anarchy and pirates in Somalia, AIDS throughout, and maybe a bit of diamond trading, we just don't hear all that much about Africa.

Africa nowadays is all about three words: location location location. Or, expressed in one word, L - A - N - D.

The rush is on. The latest scam to make the news, Friday's story from the Financial Times about an alleged Merseyside-based swindle in which perps schemed to pay $2.5 M to Liberian officials in connection with land rights that they hoped would earn them over $2 B when the jungle was rented out for its carbon credit value. Apparently, included in the sweetheart deal - a clause that would have obliged Liberia to cover any shortfalls in the eventual revenue - LOL.

In short, the African real estate market is on fire as this burnt jungle scene in Sierre Leone attests:
Although the Liberia scheme involved a supposed jungle-saving premise, the vast majority of the land grabs are designated for industrial farms, whether for food, oil or other cash crops.

Like the infamous and eventually scrapped South Korean Daewoo plan to "buy Madagascar"... (actually a 99-year lease was attempted on a quarter of Madagascar's arable land).

There have been reports for a while of rich Middle Eastern oil kingdoms diversifying into land which would provide a source of food into the future. However according to a story in UPI, the land grab has intensified of late:

* China has leased almost 7 million acres in the Democratic Republic of Congo to grow palm oil
* one investment fund has reportedly leased as much as 2.5 million acres from a "warlord" in Sudan
* an estimated 125 million acres (double the size of Great Britain) has been acquired or is in negotiation throughout Africa
* Ethiopia alone has approved 815 foreign-financed agricultural projects since '07

Obviously, as this land is turned over into industrial farming, the resulting ecological and social consequences will be devastating.

As this phenomenon appears to be occurring throughout Africa, in so many different countries of unsure stability and governance, whose people speak in hundreds of languages, it is unclear even to what extent all of the deals could ever even be verified or quantified.

The only solution I could suggest, at least in terms of quantifying and tracking the problem, would be to establish a Land Grad Registry. You never know, someone might latch onto the idea and run with it...

Hope so...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Drill Baby Drill - An "Oil" Painting (done in acrylics!)

My collaborator Tatiana Iliina just put up a new abstract eco art painting from her "Industrial Waste" series.

This one is called "Drill Baby Drill".

It is 24" x 48" and painted in acrylics. So it is one of the first "oil paintings" ever not to be painted in "oils" LOL!

You can view it in more detail on Tatiana's site on eBay.

This whole BP disaster is the most depressing news there has been in quite a while. I even stopped blogging pretty much completely for about 2-3 weeks after this happened. Such a tragic disaster... after the oil companies have been raking in such huge profits. After all the suffering that the Gulf of Mexico states have gone through already in the last few years.

Alberta cuts royalties to oil companies

All while the Alberta government caves in to give the oil companies even more rollbacks on royalty rates. A gift of $1.5 billion more in uncollected royalties.    This gratuity seems to be a result of pressure applied by the fringe right Wildrose party.

Anyway,  I guess I just began to feel that the blogging has maybe less impact than a mosquito on the whole energy / environment situation. Now, BP is buying up  internet search terms to divert more people to its website and thereby get more control over the message.

BP sort of deluges you with information on its site. But you won't find out things you really want to know, like how is the clean-up really progressing in different places and exactly what systems, such as Kevin Costner's oil water separator they are or are not using? How is testing is going with these units? And what consideration is being given to such technologies as Canada's Genoil?

All you really find on BP's site are generalities and banalities, such as "oil and water really don't mix together well" - so they are using a variety of "skimmers."

Maybe there is a more effective strategy or way to make a difference than blogging. Anyway, haven't found it yet - so we keep on.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bilderberg 2010: Guardian Blogger Says Protesters Are Our Best Friends

"Eye in the Sky"

Now, as we're into scripting the final budget-blowing details for the big G8 and G20 meetings being held June 25-27 in Huntsville and Toronto, and Steve-dude has jetted off to Europe, purportedly to argue the good Canadian-made case for not taxing banks, that other annual meeting now taking place in Europe has come to our attention.

This time,. thanks to the intrepid blogging efforts of The Guardian's Charlie Skelton, we're getting a ringside seat somewhere around the host hotel perimeter at the Hotel Dolce in Sitges, Spain.

You can read all about the security lockdown for the 130 delegates... or about why Skelton believes that Bilderberg protesters might be considered your very best friends

Interesting to consider how Canada's security arrangements for the G8/G20 compare with those of Spain for Bilderberg.

While reading you can listen to "Eye in the Sky" by Alan Parsons Project.

I am the eye in the sky
Looking at you
I can read your mind
I am the maker of rules
Dealing with fools
I can cheat you blind 

Hilarious Stuff Over on "Friends of Gin & Tonic"... CCS: Cash Confiscation & Sequestration

I just started messing around with Twitter and, don't ask me how, I somehow got to be one of 7 followers of "Schweinsgruber".  Schweinsgruber links to Friends of Gin and Tonic, which is a... well, describe it as you want - apparently it is pertinent that there is a link there to "Friends of Science", a climate change denial site.

FoGT is good for a laugh any time, but yesterday's post, "Alberta’s $2B CCS plan: Cash Confiscation & Sequestration" is a classic. 

..."sticking plant food where the sun don't shine..." LOL