George Orwell’s Essay: Politics and the English Language

George Orwell smoking at a typewriter

George Orwell

Politics and the English Language

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes. Continue Reading →

Understanding the True Meaning of Mother Earth

Editor’s note: Once again, David Suzuki has published a blog post that, without a doubt, hits a very strong nail in the hip of most of our culture today. It is incredibly important to not justify our actions saying it is at least better then yesterday, but still much worse then it once was. This article comes at a time when it seems there’s an influx of scientists and commentators calling for a much larger movement then just monitoring our rate of pollution – we’re calling for a complete reversal to a world where we respect mother earth so much that every single action we take, from buying groceries to choosing to walk, is taken with sweet mother earth’s best interest in mind, with the intention of nurturing her, rather then reaping what she provides.

This original article can be found on the David Suzuki Foundations’s blog.

By David Suzuki

The coming year looks bright with the promise of change after a difficult decade for environmentalists and our issues. But even with a new government that quickly moved to gender equity in cabinet, expanded the Ministry of the Environment to include climate change, and offered a bravura performance at the climate talks in Paris, can Canada’s environmentalists close up shop and stop worrying?

Of course not. The nature of politics includes constant trade-offs, compromises and disagreements. Even with a government sympathetic to environmental issues, we won’t act deeply and quickly enough or prevent new problems because we haven’t addressed the root of our environmental devastation. The ultimate cause isn’t economic, technological, scientific or even social. It’s psychological. We see and interact with the world through perceptual lenses, shaped from the moment of conception. Our notions of gender, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status and the environment we grow up in all limit and create our priorities.

If we were to examine the anatomy of human brains, the circuitry and chemistry of neurons or the structure of our sense organs, nothing would permit us to distinguish gender, ethnicity or religion because we all belong to a single species. But if you were to ask a man and a woman about love, sex or family, answers could be quite disparate. A Jew and Muslim living in Israel might respond differently to questions about Gaza, the West Bank or Jerusalem. A Catholic and Protestant living in Northern Ireland might hold radically different outlooks about their country’s history.

London - 052012 (254 of 302)

source: Ned Tobin //

We learn how to see the world. That, in turn, determines our priorities and actions. The world has been overwhelmed by the belief that our species stands at the pinnacle of evolution, endowed with impressive intelligence and able to exploit our surroundings as we see fit. We feel fundamentally disconnected from nature and therefore not responsible for the ecological consequences of our actions. Even at the 2015 Paris climate conference, the sense of urgency about climate change was dampened by the perceived equal need to protect jobs and to consider the economic costs of aiding vulnerable nations and even ways to continue exploiting fossil fuels, the very agents of the crisis.

We can’t just look at the world as a source of resources to exploit with little or no regard for the consequences. When many indigenous people refer to the planet as “Mother Earth”, they are not speaking romantically, poetically or metaphorically. They mean it literally. We are of the Earth, every cell in our bodies formed by molecules derived from plants and animals, inflated by water, energized by sunlight captured through photosynthesis and ignited by atmospheric oxygen.

Years ago, I visited a village perched on the side of an Andean mountain in Peru. People there are taught from childhood that the mountain is an apu, a god, and that as long as that apu casts its shadow on the village, it will determine the destiny of its inhabitants. Compare the way those people will treat that mountain with the way someone in Trail, B.C., will after being told for years the surrounding mountains are rich in gold and silver.

Is a forest a sacred grove or merely lumber and pulp? Are rivers the veins of the land or sources of power and irrigation? Is soil a community of organisms or simply dirt? Is another species our biological relative or a resource? Is our house a home or just real estate?

Once we learn that our very being, essence, health and happiness depend on Mother Earth, we have no choice but to radically shift the way we treat her. When we spew our toxic wastes and pesticides into the air, water and soil, we poison our mother and ourselves. When we frack our wells, we contaminate the air and water on which we depend. When we clear-cut forests, dump mine tailings into rivers and lakes and convert wilderness into farms or suburbs, we undermine the ability of the biosphere to provide the necessities of life.

Is this how we treat our source of survival? Until all of society understands this and then acts on that understanding, we will not be able to act fully to protect a future for ourselves.

Healing humanity’s grief in the face of climate change

This article first appeared on David Suzuki Foundation’s website, calling to action Canadians to Speak up about climate change.

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Public Engagement Specialist Aryne Sheppard

The tragedy we’re witnessing in so many places around the world is heartbreaking. Responses on the ground and in the media to events in Paris, Beirut, Syria and elsewhere have ranged from inspiring to chilling. Too often, people express fear and distress as anger, suspicion and scapegoating.

For many reasons and in many ways, people and nature are in distress. Quaker activist and author Parker Palmer implores us to ask, “What shall we do with our suffering?” The way we deal with our pain has critical implications. Whether we project it outward as war or murder or absorb it as despair and self-destruction, “Violence is what we get when we do not know what else to do with our suffering.”

The interplay of environmental degradation and geopolitics has had alarming repercussions. Over the past decade alone, millions of people have been displaced by war, famine and drought. The world is shifting rapidly as a result of climate change and there’s little doubt we’ll see increasing humanitarian crises. We must face this new reality as a global community.

Climate change is one of the most destabilizing forces in human history. We must deal with carbon emissions but we must also deal with human suffering. In Canada, Inuit are feeling the impacts disproportionately. Ice appears much later in the season and melts earlier. Changing wildlife migration patterns disrupt community livelihoods, land-based activities and cultural practices.

Cape Breton University Canada research chair Ashlee Cunsolo Willox is working with Inuit to understand their communities’ climate-related mental and emotional health impacts, documenting anxiety, despair, hopelessness and depression, increased family stress, drug and alcohol use and suicide attempts. People are grieving for a way of life that is changing with the landscape.

Together with the Nunatsiavut communities of Labrador, Cunsolo Willox produced a documentary film, Attutauniujuk Nunami/Lament for the Land. Residents describe how ice, when it forms, is often not thick enough to hunt, gather wood or travel by snowmobile.

The land is part of who they are, a source of solace, peace, identity, and well-being. Hunting and fishing and spending time on the land help Inuit feel grounded and happy. When residents can’t get out of town, they feel “stuck”, “lost” and “less like people”.

Although global warming discourse typically ignores our intense feelings and grief in the face of environmental change, Cunsolo Willox argues it can expand our capacity to act. “Re-casting climate change as the work of mourning means that we can share our losses, and encounter them as opportunities for productive and important work,” she says. “It also provides the opportunity to stand up and publicly object to injustice.” Shared experiences of grief can build solidarity, support healing and inspire collective action.

With the Paris UN climate talks underway, we have an opportunity to expand the conversation to include environmental grief and loss. Today’s social and environmental leaders need to understand the psychological implications of a world in distress. Geographer and research scientist Susanne Moser predicts future leaders will need more than professional expertise and political savvy. They must be “steward, shepherd, arbiter, crisis manager, grief counselor, future builder.”

Instead of knee-jerk reactions that so often accompany fear and emotional pain, what if we summoned the courage to experience our sadness, disorientation and grief in all its fullness? More importantly, what if we did this together? The feelings surrounding change and loss highlight our shared vulnerability and expose our connections to one another. We can consciously foster a heightened sense of human and ecological fellowship.

The late environmental scientist Donella Meadows believed the process of experiencing feelings is far from trivial. “Feelings, like knowledge, don’t directly change anything. But if we don’t rush past the feelings or stuff them down, if we take time to admit even the most uncomfortable ones, to accept them, share them, and couple them with knowledge of what is wrong and how it might be fixed, then feelings and knowledge together are motors for change.”

The suffering we’re witnessing because of loss of land, culture, ways of life and identity may portend what is to come for all of us. Now is the time to come together and decide how we will respond. Let’s make sure it’s the best humanity has to offer.

Stop Wasting our Food!

David Suzuki once again making a very important and seemingly obvious notes about how we humans focus so much on oil and other fossil fuels as the primary source of waste, when we’re also wasting our FOOD!

This post originally appeared on David Suzuki’s blog.

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Research Scientist Scott Wallace

Lick the plate: The ecological and economic costs of food waste

Thanksgiving is a time to gather with friends and family to appreciate the bounty of the fall harvest. Eating is both a highly social and personal part of our lives, and food preferences can even make for lively dinner table conversations.

In North America we tend to focus on how food is grown and harvested. Consumers face a myriad of labels when they shop for Thanksgiving feasts — organic, free range, cage-free, Marine Stewardship Council, fair trade, non-GMO, vegetarian-fed and locally grown among them. From a sustainability point of view, though, the most important question is missing from these labels: Will this food be eaten or will it end up contributing to the world’s growing food-waste problem?

We’re hearing a lot about food waste lately. Every year a staggering one-third — 1.3 billion tonnes — of the world’s food is wasted after it has been harvested: 45 per cent of fruit and vegetables, 35 per cent of fish and seafood, 30 per cent of cereals, 20 per cent of dairy products and 20 per cent of meat. Food waste ends up in landfills, increasing methane emissions and contributing significantly to climate change. A recent study found Americans waste close to $200 billion on uneaten food while Canadians throw away $31 billion.

These figures only account for 29 per cent of the full cost of waste. They don’t include factors such as labour, fuel to transport goods to global markets, inefficiency losses from feed choices used to produce meat and fish, or food left unharvested. As methodologies are improved and accounting becomes more inclusive, we’re likely to find even higher waste figures. Dozens of studies across many countries with different methodologies not only confirm the increase in food waste but suggest food waste is even higher and on the rise. In Canada, food waste cost estimates increased from $27 billion to $31 billion between 2010 and 2014.

In a world where one in nine people doesn’t get enough to eat — many of them children — this is unconscionable. According to the World Food Programme, poor nutrition kills 3.1 million children under the age of five every year. It’s the cause of almost half of child deaths in that age range. When it comes to feeding the world, distribution and waste appear to be greater problems than population. And yet we continue to destroy more forests, drain more wetlands and deplete the oceans of fish to meet the needs of a growing world population.

Not only that, the monumental economic losses from food waste represent money that could be used to fund much-needed social and environmental programs. Money lost in North America would cover most of Canada’s federal budget. Food waste in Metro Vancouver homes adds about $700 a year to a household’s grocery bill.

Every morsel of food wasted represents unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions, conversion of natural ecosystems to agricultural lands and disruptions to marine food webs. Based on 2007 data, the UN estimates that the equivalent of 3.3 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions globally can be attributed to food waste. Canada’s total emissions, in comparison, are about 0.7 gigatonnes. If food waste were a nation, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter.

We need to tackle food waste at all levels, from international campaigns to individual consumption habits. In September, the UN agreed to an ambitious global goal of reducing food waste by 50 per cent by 2030 as both an environmental and humanitarian imperative. Earlier this year, Metro Vancouver joined the international effort Love Food Hate Waste to meet municipal waste goals and encourage individual behavioural change. A similar U.K. campaign led to a 21 per cent cut in food waste over five years. Grocery stores in France and other countries are offering discounts for misshapen produce under an “ugly fruits and vegetables” campaign. Businesses are using audits to map out where food waste is affecting bottom lines.

Food waste is a crime against the planet and the life it supports. Reducing it not only addresses food insecurity, it benefits everyone. This Thanksgiving dinner, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, locavore or pescetarian, plan for a zero-food-waste meal. Show thanks for ecosystems, growers and harvesters by buying only what you will eat and eating all that you buy.

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Research Scientist Scott Wallace

Find original article here.

A Zero-Emission Future Means Urgent Transit Improvements Now

note: this article first appeared on David Suzuki Foundation’s blog. I have shared this very valuable message because of it’s urgent importance to our modern society, no matter where we live in the world.


By Steve Kux, Climate & Clean Energy Communications & Research Specialist

The Metro Vancouver transit plebiscite results are in. Although people in Metro Vancouver voted against a small tax increase for transit and transportation improvements, we can all take away some positive lessons from the campaign.

This result doesn’t mean that people rejected transit and transportation improvements. Advocates for a No vote shifted voters’ attention to issues with TransLink, Metro Vancouver’s regional transit authority, and off of the transportation projects proposed by the region’s mayors, making it impossible to say why people voted no.

We know there’s support for better transit and transportation options in Metro Vancouver. That’s why 145 groups joined the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition, the biggest and broadest coalition of its kind in B.C.’s history. That support doesn’t end with a No vote.

We should remember that 38 per cent of people voted yes for better transportation and transit. That’s significant. They voted for better transit to benefit the environment, economy and public health. They recognized that supporting transit and transportation improvements is the single most effective regional response to climate change. Campaigners for the No side themselves voiced support for transportation improvements, even if they didn’t agree about how to achieve them.

While we at the David Suzuki Foundation accept that voters have spoken, we’re concerned about the effect this result will have on the region’s livability. Years of delays are likely before any new transit comes online — with the unfortunate, predictable increase in road congestion and pollution as Metro Vancouver’s population grows. It’s incumbent on all levels of government to find funding for transit and transportation improvements to keep the region livable. The provincial government and the Mayors’ Council must show leadership to find a way forward to fund the projects that Metro Vancouver desperately needs.

The David Suzuki Foundation would like to thank the organizations, supporters and volunteers who worked for a Yes vote, along with everyone in Metro Vancouver who voted on this important issue. It was a long campaign and we knew it wouldn’t be easy to translate this complicated issue into a simple Yes or No decision.
One thing is certain and that is our commitment to transit solutions as one of the best ways to address climate change. We will continue to support research and advocate for transit improvements for Canada’s large urban areas. Traffic gridlock does not have to become the new norm and emissions from transportation do not have to continue to rise.

We look forward to the innovative solutions that will lead the way to a more sustainable future.

Original article found here.

Reassessing TSA Airport Security

~ an essay by Bruce Schneier

note: this essay was originally posted on CNN, and Bruce Schneier’s own blog. It is highly suggested you subscribe to Bruce’s blog if you’re at all interested in digital security.

TSA Screens Passengers At Denver International Airport

DENVER – NOVEMBER 22: Air travelers move through a main security checkpoint at the Denver International Airport on November 22, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The TSA is bracing for heavy traffic the day before Thanksgiving, as two separate internet campaigns are promoting a “National Opt-Out Day” protest during which travelers are urged to “opt out” of the new body scanners because of concerns over privacy and possible exposure to radiation. Those passengers who refuse the scans must instead undergo an enhanced pat down by TSA agents, which could further slow down security lines on the busiest air travel day of the year. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) (Photo source: Huffington Post)

News that the Transportation Security Administration missed a whopping 95% of guns and bombs in recent airport security “red team” tests was justifiably shocking. It’s clear that we’re not getting value for the $7 billion we’re paying the TSA annually.

But there’s another conclusion, inescapable and disturbing to many, but good news all around: we don’t need $7 billion worth of airport security. These results demonstrate that there isn’t much risk of airplane terrorism, and we should ratchet security down to pre-9/11 levels.

We don’t need perfect airport security. We just need security that’s good enough to dissuade someone from building a plot around evading it. If you’re caught with a gun or a bomb, the TSA will detain you and call the FBI. Under those circumstances, even a medium chance of getting caught is enough to dissuade a sane terrorist. A 95% failure rate is too high, but a 20% one isn’t.

For those of us who have been watching the TSA, the 95% number wasn’t that much of a surprise. The TSA has been failing these sorts of tests since its inception: failures in 2003, a 91% failure rate at Newark Liberty International in 2006, a 75% failure rate at Los Angeles International in 2007, more failures in 2008. And those are just the public test results; I’m sure there are many more similarly damning reports the TSA has kept secret out of embarrassment.

Previous TSA excuses were that the results were isolated to a single airport, or not realistic simulations of terrorist behavior. That almost certainly wasn’t true then, but the TSA can’t even argue that now. The current test was conducted at many airports, and the testers didn’t use super-stealthy ninja-like weapon-hiding skills.

This is consistent with what we know anecdotally: the TSA misses a lot of weapons. Pretty much everyone I know has inadvertently carried a knife through airport security, and some people have told me about guns they mistakenly carried on airplanes. The TSA publishes statistics about how many guns it detects; last year, it was 2,212. This doesn’t mean the TSA missed 44,000 guns last year; a weapon that is mistakenly left in a carry-on bag is going to be easier to detect than a weapon deliberately hidden in the same bag. But we now know that it’s not hard to deliberately sneak a weapon through.

So why is the failure rate so high? The report doesn’t say, and I hope the TSA is going to conduct a thorough investigation as to the causes. My guess is that it’s a combination of things. Security screening is an incredibly boring job, and almost all alerts are false alarms. It’s very hard for people to remain vigilant in this sort of situation, and sloppiness is inevitable.

There are also technology failures. We know that current screening technologies are terrible at detecting the plastic explosive PETN — that’s what the underwear bomber had — and that a disassembled weapon has an excellent chance of getting through airport security. We know that some items allowed through airport security make excellent weapons.

The TSA is failing to defend us against the threat of terrorism. The only reason they’ve been able to get away with the scam for so long is that there isn’t much of a threat of terrorism to defend against.

Even with all these actual and potential failures, there have been no successful terrorist attacks against airplanes since 9/11. If there were lots of terrorists just waiting for us to let our guard down to destroy American planes, we would have seen attacks — attempted or successful — after all these years of screening failures. No one has hijacked a plane with a knife or a gun since 9/11. Not a single plane has blown up due to terrorism.

Terrorists are much rarer than we think, and launching a terrorist plot is much more difficult than we think. I understand this conclusion is counterintuitive, and contrary to the fearmongering we hear every day from our political leaders. But it’s what the data shows.

This isn’t to say that we can do away with airport security altogether. We need some security to dissuade the stupid or impulsive, but any more is a waste of money. The very rare smart terrorists are going to be able to bypass whatever we implement or choose an easier target. The more common stupid terrorists are going to be stopped by whatever measures we implement.

Smart terrorists are very rare, and we’re going to have to deal with them in two ways. One, we need vigilant passengers — that’s what protected us from both the shoe and the underwear bombers. And two, we’re going to need good intelligence and investigation — that’s how we caught the liquid bombers in their London apartments.

The real problem with airport security is that it’s only effective if the terrorists target airplanes. I generally am opposed to security measures that require us to correctly guess the terrorists’ tactics and targets. If we detect solids, the terrorists will use liquids. If we defend airports, they bomb movie theaters. It’s a lousy game to play, because we can’t win.

We should demand better results out of the TSA, but we should also recognize that the actual risk doesn’t justify their $7 billion budget. I’d rather see that money spent on intelligence and investigation — security that doesn’t require us to guess the next terrorist tactic and target, and works regardless of what the terrorists are planning next.

This essay previously appeared on

East Van Snobriety

I live in East Vancouver, a district of Vancouver that encompasses a plethora of little villages with residential & business zoning closely tied together, intermingling on street parking, laneways filled with recycling boxes, garbage cans, graffiti, chicken coops and overhead electric wires, community gardens, greasy spoon all day breakfast diners, dive bars, overwhelming homeless problems, hipster joints, and all the cool kids.

It’s a beautiful place to live, for the most part a very friendly and pleasant community to hang out in with most people saying hello while out for a walk on a lovely Vancouver day.

But – yes, there’s a but – there’s a problem.

Vancouver-20120111-67-of-129 Continue Reading →

The Art Affair II | The Vancouver Club

The Art Affair - The Vancouver Club

On July 11, 2014 – 15 artists will get together for the second installment of The Art Affair. This affair will be held at the Vancouver Club (915 West Hastings St), a very fine establishment in the heart of Vancouver, occupying the Grand Ballroom on the second floor from 5 – 10 pm.

The evening promises great fun for all who attend, as there will be cocktails, live music, canapes and lots and lots of fine art ranging in price from $25 – $4000.

The artists showing their work at this event will be:

The Art Affair II - The Vancouver Club - July 11 2014


La Belle Pêche Nue | Burlesque at its Finest

La Belle Pêche Nue - The Rio Theater - Lola Frost, Melody Mangler, Roxi D'Lite - Event PosterThis coming weekend, on June 21st 2014, The Rio Theater will be hosting La Belle Pêche Nue, an amalgamation of high-art theatrics, sensuality and grace. Or for short, striptease.

The lineup:

Lola Frost, Melody Mangler, Roxi D’Lite (Miss Exotic World 2010), Villainy Loveless, August Wiled, Jungle Cat, with Mistress of Ceremonies – Cass King. Let’s not forget about stage Muscle & Style provided by Brent Ray Fraser and Socratease

Lola Frost is known for her Rock and Roll, but also for her fierce glances that both warm and freeze a victim happily at the same time. Melody Mangler can caress you with her magic like none other. Roxi D’Lite is known as the Drinkin’, Smokin’, Strippin’ Machine, the bad girl of burlesque, voted in the “Top 5 Burlesque Performers” in the world, three years in a row for 21st Century Burlesque. Villainy Loveless has a tendency to stick daggers into your heart and enjoy it. August Wiled will make your jaw drop with her back bends, her long legs, and her startling intimacy.

This is a nude review. On June 21st, Canada’s most renowned burlesque performers will doff their pasties and g-strings and appear in all their glory, fully nude, in the most stunning striptease show Vancouver has seen since the Neo Burlesque Revival!

With only a few days until the show, tickets are selling quick. I’d highly suggest making an appearance for this spectacular.

La Belle Pêche Nue
The Rio Theater
Doors at 8pm, Show at 9pm
Tickets $25 General /$50 VIP
Tickets available online

La Belle Pêche Nue - The Rio Theater - Lola Frost, Melody Mangler, Roxi D'Lite - Event Poster


David Suzuki | Citizen scientists can fill info gaps about Fukushima effects

A very interesting article written by David Suzuki recently delving into the aftermath of Fukushima in the wake of the nuclear emergency caused by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.


By David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington, Senior Editor

An Internet search turns up an astounding number of pages about radiation from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown that followed an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. But it’s difficult to find credible information.

One reason is that government monitoring of radiation and its effects on fish stocks appears to be limited. According to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, “No U.S. government or international agency is monitoring the spread of low levels of radiation from Fukushima along the West Coast of North America and around the Hawaiian Islands.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s most recent food testing, which includes seafood, appears to be from June 2012. Its website states, “FDA has no evidence that radionuclides from the Fukushima incident are present in the U.S. food supply at levels that would pose a public health concern. This is true for both FDA-regulated food products imported from Japan and U.S. domestic food products, including seafood caught off the coast of the United States.”

The non-profit Canadian Highly Migratory Species Foundation has been monitoring Pacific troll-caught albacore tuna off the B.C. coast. Its 2013 sampling found “no residues detected at the lowest detection limits achievable.” The B.C. Centre for Disease Control website assures us we have little cause for concern about radiation from Japan in our food and environment. Websites for Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency yield scant information.

But the disaster isn’t over. Despite the Japanese government’s claim that everything is under control, concerns have been raised about the delicate process of removing more than 1,500 nuclear fuel rod sets, each containing 60 to 80 fuel rods with a total of about 400 tonnes of uranium, from Reactor 4 to a safer location, which is expected to take a year. Some, including me, have speculated another major earthquake could spark a new disaster. And Reactors 1, 2 and 3 still have tonnes of molten radioactive fuel that must be cooled with a constant flow of water.

Photo source: Ned Tobin |

Photo source: Ned Tobin |

Continue Reading →