Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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Fracking, a bridge to nowhere

Fracking:  aka hydraulic fracturing of the earth’s crust to extract gas and oil.  Aka “unconventional gas drilling,” the industry’s preferred PR term.  Unconventional — sounds intriguing, even a little adventurous, no?

Fracking, cartoonImage: John Cole

But:

“Not infrequently I wake up in middle of the night in despair.  What do I despair about?  That we’re going to drill, baby, drill, and we’re going to poke a million more holes in the surface of the earth over the next 10 years, and we’re going to produce as much fossil fuel as we possibly can, and we’re going to accelerate climate change, and my kids will not, cannot be prepared for what that means.”

– Professor Anthony Ingraffea, Cornell University.  Follow his life, research, and transition from industry consultant to outspoken critic, here in Bold Scientists.  Scroll down to chapter 10, The unsolved problem.

Under siege by mounting evidence of the immense harm they do, the industry and its government enablers now sell fracking as a “benign bridge fuel” to future renewables.

That isn’t PR, its BS.  Check this out: ‘Benign’ Fossil Fuels? No Such Thing.

And this:  Drilling-Induced ‘Frackquakes’ Threaten Millions Across Central US.

In the US, the scourge of fracking has already invaded far and wide, so people have to fight an uphill battle against huge forces to stop it.

In Ontario, Canada, this is not the case.  Not yet.  People here still have a chance to block the nightmare before it takes hold.  To that end:

Ban fracking in Ontario, a petition now circulating on Change.org.  True, legions of petitions come and go on the internet, and many of them have limited impact.  On the other hand, silence implies consent.  So what are you going to do?  The petition is here.

A few resources:

 

 


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“The Robin Hood of science”

In the ever-deepening shadow of the national surveillance state, a bright gem of a story.

Alexandra Elbakyan’s ingenious online resource Sci-Hub has broken the corporate stranglehold on worldwide access to science research.

Sci-Hub

Science writer Simon Oxenham reveals why and how this brilliant young neurotechnology researcher in Kazakhstan did it. Details here, on Big Think.

It’s an inspiring account of knowledge gathered, privatized – imprisoned, really, to exploit for profit – and now, thanks to Alexandra Elbakyan, set free.

A fragment: “Only days after the [New York District] court injunction blocked Sci-Hub’s old domain, Sci-Hub was back online at a new domain accessible worldwide. Since then, the website has been upgraded from a barebones site that existed entirely in Russian to a polished English version proudly boasting a library of 48 million [research] papers, complete with a manifesto in opposition to copyright law. The bird is out of its cage.”

In part 2, here, Simon Oxenham pays tribute to pioneering internet creator and activist Aaron Swartz, who was ultimately hounded to death in 2013 by the US government.

Fortunately, at least for now, Alexandra Elbakyan and Sci-Hub remain beyond its imperial reach.

To encounter other scientists who defy the status quo, check out Bold Scientists: dispatches from the battle for honest science. Read excerpts here.


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Gardening on the edge: an illustrated talk

Join me for an illustrated talk on gardening, getting blood on my hands, and our tangled relationship with nature.

2. Green frog

Tuesday, October 27, 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Toronto Reference Library

789 Yonge Street, one block north of Bloor

Beeton Auditorium, main floor.

More detail here.

Address & transit info here.  Scroll down for a Map link.


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Not in my backyard

DSCF4867Marla, in our extended backyard.

On a cool, bright autumn walk with Marla, I got to thinking about NIMBY.  Not In My Backyard.  It implies a perceived threat to the space that represents ‘my backyard.’  But what defines a backyard?  Fences?  Where I live we have none, except for ancient, collapsing cedar rails that now seem archeological.

We range freely through miles of forest, open meadow and wetland, far beyond the legal extent of the title deed that defines the 60 rural acres my partner and I ‘own.’ The land beyond is semi-wild, with no roads, no power lines, the occasional ATV incursion, and an abundance of animal tracks. I assume that someone ‘owns’ this other land; that’s how things have worked since the Europeans arrived. But for now, this is our extended backyard.

So then, what constitutes a backyard? If you’re an imperial power it means anything you want, up to and including the whole earth and as far out into space as you can grab. But what does it mean for the rest of us?

On my travels in writing Bold Scientists I visited with conservation biologist Curt Meine in the midwestern state of Wisconsin. Near Madison, the capital, we explored a devastated landscape, the former site of a vast military munitions complex, which citizens are working hard to restore to a healthy Sauk Prairie landscape. They hope to take care of it, as part of their extended backyard. But where are the boundaries?

As Curt sees it, “In nature the boundaries of larger reality are never set. In my little local place I can walk around, grow a garden, watch the birds, keep an eye on the sand cranes and the wild turkeys. I can only see about a mile, but I know the river out there is connected all the way to the Mississippi River, 80 miles that way (he points southwest, more or less), that feeds eventually into the Atlantic Ocean, which is part of the global ocean system. It’s the same with landscapes, they can be as small as a few square feet where you’re standing, and as large as the planet. Among all the levels are feedback loops, so they all affect each other.

“This means you can’t have a healthy farm or forest, park or city, in a landscape that’s unsustainable, or on a planet where the climate is going haywire, temperatures are rising, oceans are acidifying, and the poles are melting, largely due to our actions. So there’s always this tension between wanting to save the world at large and wanting to focus all your energies close to home. At least if you can work well on your part, and others are working well on their part, eventually you can build a community of engaged people to collaborate on the larger pieces of the whole.”

Imagine if in our backyard, our extended backyard, there were no tar sands. No oil and gas pipelines. No nuclear plants. No tops blown off mountains for coal.  No fracking… Imagine.

Meantime, biologist Curt Meine carries on the long community struggle to restore one small sliver of this precious earth, ultimately the only backyard we’ve got. The story is here, in Bold Scientists.

Join me for a talk on gardening and the extended backyard, October 27, 2015, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, at the Toronto Reference Library.

Event details hereAddress & transit info here.  Scroll down for a Map link.

 

 

 


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The leap manifesto

In this dark age of dead ends, here is a bold, urgent initiative.

Leap manifesto

The leap manifesto offers real grounds for real hope.  Not the fast-food Hope marketed by cynical politicians, but the real thing, deeply transformative, built by all of us with open eyes, compassion, imagination, and yes, hard work.

Please leap in.  And pass it on.

 


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Good news: Scotland to ban growing of GM crops

Scottish Minister for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead: “Banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status.”

Member of the Scottish Parliament Alison Johnstone: “GM is not the answer to food security, and would represent further capture of our food by big business.”

Scotland, landscape 2

Details of the ban are here.

Similarly, in 2014 Russia banned the import and cultivation of GM crops.  Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev: “If Americans like to eat GMO products, let them. We don’t need to do that. We have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food.”

South of the border, the Conservative government of Britain has thrown open the door to GM crops.

In April, the European Commission reversed an earlier ban and approved the import of 10 new GM crops for human and animal consumption, including corn, soybeans, cotton and canola oil.

Meanwhile in the USA, the House of Representatives has just passed the perversely named “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” which prohibits state and local authorities from requiring safe and accurate GMO labeling. By now it’s clear that when consumers know about GMOs, they tend to be skeptical. But when they don’t know… It’s unlikely the Act will encounter any resistance in the Senate or the White House, both deeply beholden to the agri-chemical leviathans.

There is just one fly in the banning-GMOs ointment, but it’s a big one: Under massive international trade agreements like the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), negotiated in secret by corporate lobbies, corporations can sue any government bold enough to enact sensible, democratic measures meant to protect the public and the earth if there’s a chance they might limit actual or even potential corporate profits. A ban on GM crops is as likely a target as any.

Still, in taking responsible action, governments of countries like Scotland and Russia set an inspiring example of what is possible.

For a sane conversation on genetic manipulation and food security, visit Canadian scientist/farmer Ann Clark in Bold Scientists, here.  Scroll down to chapter 2, Digging for thistles.

 


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First, do no harm

“I have seen what happens when standards of decency, human rights and ethics are thrown out in a wave of totalitarian or government zeal.” Steven Reisner, member of the Council, American Psychological Association, and co-founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology.

Torture, Guantanamo

A shining moment: On Friday, August 7 in Toronto, Canada, the American Psychological Association voted to bar its 80,000 members from any further collaboration in ‘national security interrogations,’ ie torture by the American government and its agencies.

This historic shift was hard won, after a decade of grassroots organizing to counter APA executive deceit and collusion with the CIA.

Details here, in three short videos from Democracy Now!

A report on collusion between the CIA and the former executive of the APA, is here.

For a provocative critique of psychological/psychiatric abuse of power, see Bold ScientistsAn excerpt is here.  Scroll down to chapter 7, ODD.