Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


Leave a comment

The right to know

A new blog from Scientists for the Right to Know confronts an insidious threat to Canadian democracy.Scientists for the Right to Know, protest

The current regime in Ottawa acts on the premise that the less we citizens know, the easier we are to   manage. They don’t need objective evidence to make policy with impact on every aspect of life, only guile and brute force.

The resulting assault on the public right to know, here and internationally, takes many devious forms, detailed here.

Scientists for the Right to Know arises in direct response to this ominous assault.  “Please join us,” they invite, “in the fight to maintain Canada as a country in which policies are based on scientific knowledge, not uninformed ideology.”

The new SRK blog is here.  Full disclosure: Recently they published a piece by me, Questions need to be asked.  In any case, judging by the several posts they’ve put up so far, this looks to be a valuable voice – collection of voices – in defence of knowledge and democracy.

Others: Evidence for Democracy, and Write2Know.


Leave a comment

Bees and honest scientists: under attack

Honey bee, WesternHoney bee, Western.  Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

Bees keep us alive.  They and other insects pollinate two-thirds of all food crops.  No pollination, no food crops.

Bees and other pollinators are in great peril, their populations in sharp decline worldwide. A growing body of evidence identifies neonicotinoids, chemical pesticides that impair the neurological systems of insects, as a key factor in the decline.

Some of these chemicals are already banned or restricted in several European countries.  Yet neonicotinoids remain the most widely used pesticides on earth, generating enormous profits.

Scientists gather and interpret data to make the necessary links between neonicotinoids and bee collapse.  But in Canada and the USA scientists whose findings conflict with the corporate agenda are under escalating attack.  Currently in the US:

“Your words are changed, your papers are censored or edited, or you are not allowed to submit them at all.” – a senior scientist at the US Department of Agriculture Research Service.

“Censorship and harassment poison good science and good policy.” – Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Details here.

Follow the Honey, a report from Friends of the Earth, exposes how agrochemical corporations obscure links between their chemicals and pollinator decline, and block government regulation.  Read it here.

For more on the battle for honest science, have a look inside Bold Scientists.


Leave a comment

Bold Scientists in Kingston, Ontario: November 6

cropped-bold-scientists-front-cover8.jpgAuthor Michael Riordon in dialogue: Whole food for free range minds.

Thursday November 6, 1 – 2:30 pm. Room D214, Mackintosh Corry Hall, Queen’s University.
Map: http://www.queensu.ca/campusmap/main?mapquery=mackintosh.

Everyone is welcome.  Bring your own mind.

Co-sponsors: Studies in National and International Development (SNID), and the School of Environmental Studies.


Leave a comment

“An attempt to guarantee public ignorance”

“A recent New York Times editorial, referencing the rapid development of the Alberta oil sands, went so far as to describe new communications restrictions on government scientists as ‘an attempt to guarantee public ignorance.’” – from an open letter to the current Canadian government, signed by more than 800 scientists from 32 countries.

ed-nease12

Image: Steve Nease, The Toronto Star

The international roster of scientists called on the Harper government to end “burdensome restrictions on scientific communication and collaboration faced by Canadian government scientists.” More detail on the story here.

The call was made in an open letter drafted by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Union of Concerned Scientists.  UCS represents U.S. scientists, and fosters “rigorous science to build a healthier planet and a safer world.”

The need for this unusual intervention is strongly reinforced in a new report from the Canadian organization Evidence for Democracy.  It  assesses the communication and media policies of 16 Canadian federal government departments.

For more on the fight for open science and democracy, see chapters 9 and 12 in Bold Scientists. Read an excerpt here.

 


Leave a comment

“They cannot stop me from talking.”

Scientists Biased, Talk Too Much: Confidential government memo.

Details here, in Blacklock’s Reporter: minding Ottawa’s business, August 11, 2014.

Tar sands 2Tar sands, Alberta, Canada.  Photo: The Nation.

The primary target of the confidential memo, John Smol, is a professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, a widely acclaimed paleolimnologist (fathoming the life stories of lakes), and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change.

Why does the Harper government want to silence John Smol and his co-researchers?  Because they know too much.  The current regime in Ottawa is an aggressive booster of the enormously destructive tar sands colossus, and is determined to keep Canadians strictly on message: tar sands = good for Canada, with minimal harm.  Period.  Trouble is, their message keeps getting shredded by the findings of honest science.

Why won’t John Smol shut up?  He knows too much:

“The huge problem is that many environmental problems are long scale.  They can take years, decades to show up – or longer, sometimes I work in centuries, even millennia.  But politicians think in terms of four years, at best.  Look at the tar sands – go ahead, pump it out as fast as you can, we’ll be out of here in four years, what do we care?  Industry is even worse, they think in quarters, 90-day intervals.  Costs for the future are horrendous, but they’re not in this fiscal cycle.  When things go extinct, they’re extinct forever.  You destroy a river system, it’s gone. Destroy a fish population, it’s gone.  How do you gauge what that’s worth?”

Delve into John Smol’s research, paleolimnology, and why he speaks out, in Bold Scientists: dispatches from the battle for honest science.  Available September 4, 2014, in print and e-book from Between the Lines.