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    The man who loved ants 

    A tribute to a great naturalist: E.O. Wilson

    “The most successful scientist thinks like a poet—wide-ranging, sometimes fantastical—and works like a bookkeeper.”

    E.O. Wilson

    “Unless we move quickly to protect global biodiversity, we will soon lose most of the species composing life on Earth.”

    E.O. Wilson

    When the preeminent American scientist Edward Osborne Wilson died in December last year at the age of 92, the world lost not only one of the greatest naturalists of the last 70 years, but a man who was so much more than a scientist. Wilson was a myrmecologist, one who studies ants, and he was even nicknamed Ant Man. Famously, he discovered how many insects communicate through the production of chemicals called pheromones. 

    I have read many of Wilson’s books. His breadth of knowledge was astounding, and that is why I was drawn to his remarkable pursuits. Books with names such as The Meaning of Human Existence, On Human Nature, The Diversity of Life and The Social Conquest of Earth tell us that Wilson was a man who pondered huge ideas. Was he the foremost expert on ants? Yes, but as the most prominent evolutionary biologist of the last century—he has often been called “the heir to Darwin”—he explored a vast array of potentially controversial subjects throughout his life and loved the challenges associated with these monumental projects.

    One of Wilson’s controversial theories was sociobiology, which he explained as “the systematic study of the biological basis of all forms of social behavior in all organisms.” Many prominent scientists thought it was outrageous to say that altruism, for example, could have evolved through natural selection. Evolution through natural selection was thought to foster only physical and possibly behavioural traits, but Wilson thought this theory did not delve far enough into the multi-dimensional raison d’être that a portrait of the complete human needs to explore—and not just humans, he was quick to say.

    It is unusual for any scientist to have such a profound influence on the course of so many areas of knowledge, and Wilson relished bringing the humanities and science together to solve our greatest problems. He has been one of the most vocal proponents of bringing together the unity of knowledge. It was his view that the cultural significance of the humanities was critical for there to be an expansive understanding of who we are, and that when scientists team up with the humanities to solve our most far-reaching concerns and aspirations, humanity will come together. “It is within the power of the humanities and the serious creative arts within them to express our existence in ways that begin to realize the dreams of the Enlightenment,” he wrote. He liked to imagine that extraterrestrial beings, upon coming to Earth, would not be interested in our technology or science but rather would be fascinated by the art, music, literature and other fields in the humanities that make us unique. 

    Like Darwin, whom he called the greatest scientist in history, Wilson was not only a driven discoverer of previously unnamed species. He also wished passionately to try to answer the big questions that related to human existence. “Where did we come from, what are we, and where are we going?” was a prevailing mantra of his. His life’s work was, James D. Watson (co-author of the academic paper proposing the double-helix structure of the DNA molecule) stated, “a monumental exploration of the biological origins of the human condition.” As a result, Wilson frequently met opposition from other scientists. He had this to say, in his Letters to a Young Scientist, about perseverance: “You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honorably. Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure. Persist! The world needs all you can give.” And persist he did!

    Throughout his long career Wilson reached out to young people and tried to inculcate a close connection with Nature. His famous bioblitzes would involve many students, who would go out with him for an afternoon or for 24 hours to a city park or a wilderness and catch insects and other creatures to identify. His enthusiasm was contagious and his nonstop efforts were sometimes described as childlike. “For the naturalist, every entrance into a wild environment rekindles an excitement that is childlike in spontaneity, often tinged with apprehension,” he wrote in his 2002 book, The Future of Life. Such experiences, he insisted, remind us of “the way life ought to be lived, all the time.” 

    Children accompanied Wilson in his exploration of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique (and you can see a wonderful video of their bioblitz at, but his visit there was also a cautionary tale for us. Here was an incredibly biological diverse place that had been partially destroyed by war and greed. “Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal,” he had emphasized. The purpose of the visit was to find out if Gorongosa could be restored to its previous natural glory ( The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory has become a huge success in bringing together a diverse group of local and international enthusiasts to rejuvenate Gorongosa. (In recent years national parks have come under scrutiny because of their blatant disregard for local participation and, even worse, the forced removal of local human populations from newly formed parks.) “Humankind will ultimately awaken to its responsibility to the Earth,” Wilson maintained. In fact, he has emphasized throughout his writings that it will be a common ethics that will be the ultimate driver to protect the planet; we will not succeed otherwise. 

    Wilson called himself an agnostic and declared: “The true cause of hatred and violence is faith versus faith, an outward expression of the ancient instinct of tribalism.” And although he welcomed the role of religions in helping to save the planet, he insisted that “the best way to live in this real world is to free ourselves of demons and tribal gods.” 

    I believe that Wilson’s finest contribution to biology and our world was his steadfast resolve to push forward conservation biology. He was justifiably called “the father of biodiversity.” His very readable short books Biophilia and The Creation lovingly describe our planet’s living world—and indeed the word “biophilia” means “love of biological life”—but he admonished us, saying that a legacy of inaction to protect the diversity of life on Earth will catastrophically push us into the Eremocene, the Age of Loneliness, following the disappearance of millions of species.

    Wilson believed in the power of education, and his proposal for an Encyclopedia of Life led to the creation of an expanding global online database ( to include information on the 1.9 million species we know of. (There may be as many as 10 million species on Earth.) He was deeply alarmed at the acceleration of species extinctions around the world. In 2016 his book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life was published, and he worked tirelessly to promote the Half-Earth Project (, a call to protect half the land and sea on Earth in order to manage sufficient habitat to reverse the species extinction crisis and ensure the long-term health of our planet.

    In 2016 ornithologists discovered a previously unknown ant-eating bird in Peru. Everyone agreed that it should be named after Wilson for his unparalleled work in conservation. The Latin name for this bird is Myrmoderus eowilsoni

    Edward O. Wilson will be mourned by millions and his books will continue to inspire us to be closer to this Earth and our responsibility to protect it.

    New UN climate report issues a drastic warning: act now, or we are done for

    For years developing countries have asked for industrial countries to put aside US$100 billion a year to help poorer countries that never caused the climate crisis and enable them to adapt to the worst of climate breakdown. The money still hasn’t arrived in any consistent amounts and now that goal is probably being further put off by the prospect of war with Russia. In fact, Germany just announced that €100 billion will be spent on defence. As social and ecological nightmares bear down on the world as a result of Putin’s madness, the greatest planetary crisis, climate and biodiversity breakdown, is accelerating. The west has steadfastly refused to act swiftly on weaning itself away from methane gas and oil for its energy requirements—until now, when the safety of renewable energy (not nuclear) has become more appealing in the face of a decision to stop Russian imports of gas. How perverse and ghoulish is it that it takes a war for Europe to take insulating homes seriously! Meanwhile Ukrainian scientist Svitlana Krakovska, a member of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has said that the sale of gas and oil to Europe by Russia has funded the war.  “This war…makes this window of opportunity [to stop climate breakdown] even more narrow, because now we have to solve this problem first.”

    It takes years to put together and have the world’s governments accept the scientific findings of the IPCC, which published its first report in 1990. It is eight years since its last exhaustive report came out. On February 27 this year the Working Group II contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report was published. Please see the 37-page Summary for Policymakers ( to learn more. The full report runs to thousands of pages. It assesses the impacts of climate change by looking at ecosystems, biodiversity and human communities at global and regional levels. It also reviews vulnerabilities and the capacities and limits of the natural world and human societies to adapt to climate change. Many scientists are now telling us ominously that these current reports will be the last ones that can guide us away from a doomsday future. Unless the world acts now, a 2030 report will be too late to ferry the world into a safer and more stable climate.

    The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, has already called the climate crisis a ‘code red’ emergency, and now with the publication of the second part of the IPCC’s latest report he is more specific. He tells us that this report painfully details what a code red world looks and feels like. Calling the abdication of leadership by world powers ‘criminal’, with the largest polluters “guilty of arson on our only home”, he goes on to say that the newest report is “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership… With fact upon fact, this report reveals how people and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change.”

    A synthesis report will be published in September this year, pulling together all the scientific work that not only targets climate, but also focuses in on biodiversity loss, ecological justice and the indisputable need to act now. Inaction will create irreversible negative changes for planetary-safe boundaries to be upheld.

    The concept of risk is a key factor in the report. The many graphics illustrate the complexity of mapping the world’s vulnerabilities. Changes in ecosystem structure, detailed as terrestrial, freshwater and oceans, that focus on all parts of the world’s regions from deserts to arctic and from Asia to North America are highlighted. “Anthropogenic climate change has exposed ocean and coastal ecosystems to conditions that are unprecedented over millennia.” It doesn’t stop there. Impacts on water scarcity, food production, health and wellbeing, cities and even infrastructure are carefully analyzed. What the 330 scientists who have contributed to this latest report are saying with the highest degree of confidence is that the decisions made so far do not bode well for humanity’s prospects.

    The report’s 21st-century analysis is broken into a 2022–2040 scenario, a 2040-plus description, and a later 2060-plus conclusion. Fundamentally the rise of fossil fuel emissions over the century will create irreversible and catastrophic changes. To emphasize this the report says, “Global warming, reaching 1.5 °C in the near-term would cause unavoidable increases in multiple climate hazards and present multiple risks to ecosystems and humans.” (We are at 1.2 °C now.) Because biodiversity loss accelerates quickly as 1.5°C is passed, more than 3 billion people will be directly impacted. The UN Sustainable Development Goals are in jeopardy: “Climate change including increases in frequency and intensity of extremes [has] reduced food and water security.” 

    Only in the near term can we hope to ward off the worse breakdown scenarios. “Climate change impacts and risks are becoming increasingly complex and more difficult to manage,” the report warns. “Multiple climate hazards will occur simultaneously, and multiple climatic and non-climatic risks will interact, resulting in compounding overall risk and risks cascading across sectors and regions.” Even efforts to adapt will come to naught unless immediate strong mitigation actions are realized in the next decade. 

    The IPCC report details the need not only for short-term adaptation strategies, but also for ‘transformational’ ones.Transformational adaptation and relevant transitions look to long-term community and government involvement. “Without transformation, global inequities will likely increase between regions and conflicts between jurisdictions may emerge and escalate,” the report states. Short-term adaptation gains that do not reach out to diverse goals for resilience development will fail. “With increasing global warming, losses and damages will increase and additional human and natural systems will reach adaptation limits.” Please note that ‘losses and damage’ does not only apply to physical losses and damages, but also impacts mental health issues.

    In other words, robust actions need to be implemented now; climate-resilient development “has a strong potential to generate substantial co-benefits for health and wellbeing.”

    This brings us to the dangers of maladaptation, whereby apparent solutions actually make things worse by not leaving space for natural processes. “Maladaptation especially affects marginalised and vulnerable groups adversely (e.g. Indigenous Peoples, ethnic minorities, low-income households, informal settlements), reinforcing and entrenching existing inequities. Adaptation planning and implementation that do not consider adverse outcomes for different groups can lead to maladaptation, increasing exposure to risks, marginalising people from certain socio-economic or livelihood groups, and exacerbating inequity. Inclusive planning initiatives informed by cultural values, Indigenous knowledge, local knowledge, and scientific knowledge can help prevent maladaptation,” the report states.

    Until recently, scientists have been poor communicators. It wasn’t long ago that they were told not to make or endorse potentially political statements. (Remember how Stephen Harper and more recently Donald Trump tried to muzzle scientists?) This has now changed. Recognizing that facts alone don’t inspire most people to take action, the IPCC asked the charity Climate Outreach to put together a manual for scientists to communicate effectively with the public. This is essential if communities are to be more engaged in being part of the solution to stop the slide towards climate breakdown. Climate Outreach speaks of a ‘social mandate’ as a result of the high priority most people now place on climate actions. In order to drive low-carbon behaviours, society must reflect the push for creating transformative policies that in turn allow corporations to place greater emphasis on vastly mitigating their high-carbon behaviour, thus making it a lot easier for national, regional and local policies to implement low-carbon-based legislation as a result of low-carbon social norms. Tragically we see so often that a weak social mandate fuels high-carbon behaviours, and corporations and governments are not incentivized to act. Climate Outreach is determined to turn this around. All the rest of us need to be there too. Please see

    Homer-Dixons book, Commanding Hope, brings us to a better future.

    We…must come to terms with nature, and I think were challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves. – Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring

    In the past the December holiday season and the coming New Year imbued many of us with a vision of a prosperous and loving future. For most of us the pandemic has been an unmitigated disaster: people we love have died, how we work, learn and communicate has been severely hampered, daily comfortable schedules have been uprooted, financial woes have been exacerbated, our mental health has suffered through unprecedented isolation, and our sense of overall security in a world we thought we could have some control over has been smashed. Those who could choose to take cruises and planes at a moments notice have found themselves sitting at home. Even moneys perceived ability to fix any problem will not loosen the grip of this virus. A cure-all vaccine is trumpeted, but it seems that many people will refuse it, questioning its efficacy and the motives of governments and the pharmaceutical companies that produced it; some even speak of dark and tyrannical objectives. Fear and trepidation permeate our daily lives.

    At last humans are realising that we are part of Nature, which we have abused for so long. But is this reluctant and grudging acknowledgement coming too late for us? Our ever-increasing encroachment into natural habitats and refusal to respect the notion of limits to growth for humanity, characterized by global unethical capitalism run amuck, is now in the process of ruthlessly pursuing climate breakdown. Covid-19, it appears, represents one more landmark on the road to devastation that we collectively continue to encourage.

    Thomas Homer-Dixons recently published book, Commanding Hope: The Power We Have to Renew a World in Peril, comes at a time when many people believe humanity is soon to be forced to its knees. But Homer-Dixon states: Real social and political change only happens in times of crisis, because crisis is needed to discredit existing systems of worldviews, institutions, and technologies, and the structures of power that sustain them.

    Commanding Hope is dedicated to Homer-Dixons two young children, Ben and Kate, who are continually alluded to throughout the book, whether that be in a drawing of theirs or in dialogue between them and their father and mother. To put it succinctly, Homer-Dixon wrote this book as if his childrens lives depended upon it. It took him eight years, and nothing will stop him from finding a non-magical elixir of knowledge and informed action to save his children and ours.

    He begins with an account of the heroic efforts of Stephanie May, a young Connecticut woman, making phone calls in 1957 asking people to protest against atmospheric nuclear testing. In 1961 she goes on hunger strike while walking up and down in front of the Soviet Unions Manhattan UN mission, asking them to save the worlds children by eliminating the tests. To her amazement the press takes notice and ultimately her efforts bear fruit. Against the odds, the powerful determination that she displays is in its essence what Homer-Dixon calls commanding hope. And this is the same engaging hope that teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg displayed in 2018 when she sat outside the Swedish parliament with a handwritten sign.

    Homer-Dixon contrasts this positive renewal of the world with the Mad Max apocalyptic films, where the world is drawn down to the lowest ecological and civil possibilities. But juxtaposed with that nightmare he discusses J.R.R. Tolkiens Lord of the Rings and the unlikely push by the communities of Middle-Earth to forge again lost alliances that will bring about a cessation of grotesque hostilities and a renewal and affirmation of an alternative worldview that cherishes life and happiness. The long quest to find a way to finally dispose of the Ring and bring about an era of peace and harmony finds its greatest strength in an unassailable sense of hope; it is a hope to create a better world around which Homer-Dixon weaves his book. We recall all the tribulations and faltering ambitions to create a just society in The Lord of the Rings, and Homer-Dixon reminds us that our present-day world far exceeds the dangers expressed in Tolkiens book. Humanitys struggle to stop climate chaos, an ecological catastrophe, nuclear destruction and the rise of authoritarianism constitutes an almost impossible task compared to the ascent of Mount Doom, a goal for the Fellowship of Middle-Earth that will become achievable, if immensely difficult. Homer-Dixon calls it a superordinate goalone thats clear and specific, that everyone shares, that overrides all others, and that cant be achieved without cooperation, and he repeatedly cautions us that we might not be so fortunate but we have too much at stake not to vigorously pursue safety for our children.

    True, our challenges far outweigh Frodos, but Homer-Dixon affirms that we can push back the darkest elements of humanity and flourish. But how do we get there? By intensely reviewing and modifying our personal and public worldviews as well as understanding that our institutions and technologies are tightly interdependent: they influence each other, depend on each other, and usually hang together in a cohesive way. Stereotypically a western worldview might include a commitment to personal freedom and free enterprise, while its institutions support free economic markets and a communitys rules, and its technologies let us feel were independent by, for example, driving cars. Homer-Dixon strongly recommends that we immediately set about transforming our mindsets and ultimately the mindscape of humanity to establish meaningful change that will let coming generations of sentient life succeed, but to do this we must enable our capacity to establish a bedrock of values that must never be forsaken when we investigate what is feasible in this unabashedly unsentimental quest to save the planet.Commanding hope comprises three strands. Honest hope means rigorously applying scientific methods and moral truths, and not thinking ourselves into a spiral of fantasy about what is possible. Astute hope recognizes the need to understand diverse peoples worldviews and aspirations. Powerful hope motivates us to work together, as agents with a compelling common purpose, to solve our problems.

    Furthermore, we must diligently and deeply understand what is enough and combine it with what is feasible in our quest for a renewal of a world in peril. Feasible is no longer what the corporation, business-as-usual elite will chance, but rather it is tempered with imagination that fuses it to an enough that has solid principles of justice that include all of us; choosing what part of civilization is to be saved over another in a crisis is not an acceptable response, even in desperate times, Homer-Dixon warns us. We do not, however, give up on what has inherent value but is not immediately important, because we then lose the core of an authentic future. At the same time, honest hope prevents a turn towards unsubstantiated, unscientific decision making. Commanding hope creates the pathways we vitally need for this new world of equality and respect for Nature; it is gritty and resolved in its determination.

    Sometimes an individual can instantly flip their worldview. At the age of 20, while hitchhiking abroad, I stopped to buy a drink of milk from a vendor. He poured the milk from an already opened carton. When I said I wanted it from a sealed carton, he furiously refused, saying how selfish and entitled North Americans were. I felt ashamed and realized he spoke the truth. That two-minute conversation changed my worldview with regard to wealth, food scarcity and inequality.Unfortunately, groups and nations modify their worldviews far more slowly than an individual can, and that change comes for the most part incrementally. Our worldviews connect us with our communities, stabilize our sense of who we are as individuals and groups through time, anchor our visions of a desirable and hopeful future…so were terrified when theyre threatened, explains Homer-Dixon. In response to potentially overwhelming crises, it is humanitys primary responsibility to push those static and seemingly intransigent destructive worldviews to the side and strive for migration to an entire world participating in renewing the future. Through learning about universal human temperaments, asking what Homer-Dixon calls binding questions, conducting thought experiments whereby we put ourselves in an opponents worldview, new cognitive-affective tools, and supporting our world values, humanity can forge positive worldviews that embrace a world-inclusive identity that makes perfect sense, as our greatest concerns are global in nature. Cultural identities are not sacrificed by doing so. Social order, fairness, opportunity and identity remain at the core of our worldviews and commitments.

    Climate breakdown will challenge all of us and our worldviews, but how we respond to the possible chaos will determine our success in preventing the worse outcomes. Worldviews that help us surmount fear by inspiring rather than extinguishing the hope that motivates our agency have a great chance of flourishing.

    Alternative worldviews and not rehashed older ones help us forge a better tomorrow. Worldviews that recognize human temperaments such as empathy, prudence and exuberance as well as commitments to opportunity, safety and justice and a shared global identity preserve not just a space for some form of democracy, but for all life too! Homer-Dixon speaks of an immortality project…that gives people and groups around the world broad possibilities to imagine, tell, and weave together their own hero storiesand to live them togetheras we move towards a shared vision of the future.Commanding hope becomes the emotional and rational energy and agency humanity must maintain to steadfastly leap through the inevitable dangers ahead of us. Homer-Dixon believes this jump is feasible and, he maintains, enough if we succeed in the transformation of our institutions, particularly our carbon-based energy system and our model of economic growth. This must be our aim in moving towards a sustainable and equitable future.

    Please listen to the CBC Ideas interview with Thomas Homer-Dixon.

    UN climate summit failure worries young people

    The placard of a protester attending the Madrid climate conference currently taking place says, “The climate is changing. Why aren’t we?” So far the UN summit has been bogged down in technicalities, as each of the wealthy countries tries to manoeuvre into a position that reflects its own aspirational ‘commitments’ sung so eloquently at the 2015 Paris summit. You may recall Justin Trudeau’s enthusiasm prior to that conference when he declared, “Canada is back!” This was meant in part to be a pledge to work diligently with the rest of the world to vigorously lower greenhouse-gas pollution after Stephen Harper’s anti-science agenda. Canada has failed miserably to reach its climate goals, both for individuals and as a government. Will the government exacerbate this situation by approving the proposed open-pit tar sands development that would cover an area as large as the city of Vancouver? 

    December 13 is the final day of the Madrid summit, and ministers from the world’s governments arrived in Madrid only a few days previously to negotiate where this 25th UN meeting will lead us. These global conversations have been going on for a long time, yet we are still no closer to stopping a rise in global temperature of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius—or more probably a catastrophic increase of 3 degrees. The aspirational concoctions laid out in the Paris summit have led us nowhere. The pledge of US$100 billion yearly for a decade in 2009 to help the poorer nations to adapt and manage in the face of climate change still hasn’t materialized, apart from a mere trickle of valid commitments. Meanwhile, to the utter shame of the Spanish government, the Madrid conference is being sponsored by the very corporations that have contributed most to our ecological crisis: the oil and electric companies and the banks that finance them. Foxes welcomed into the hen house? As sponsors, they go on to influence the negotiations taking place. The ultimate greenwash?

    Although half a million people came out in Madrid to protest about the slowness of negotiations, individual countries are loath to pledge to push forward an authentic agenda that will tackle the emergency and stabilize the Earth’s climate. At the same time, scientific reports and disasters are documenting daily the unfolding catastrophe. Major Australian fires, ecological tipping points and expanding oxygen-depleted dead zones in the oceans head the list this week.

    Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! has been following the situation in Madrid and speaking with young climate activists attending an alternative conference called the Social Summit for Climate. She pointed out that the International Monetary Fund estimates that globally governments subsidize the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $5.2 trillion annually. During her conversation with activists from Chile (where the conference was to be held until that government cancelled) and Uganda, it became apparent from their testimonies that unprecedented droughts and floods are causing huge suffering. Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg addressed the people in Madrid’s streets, saying, “The change we need is not going to come from the people in power as it is now. The change is going to come from the masses, from the people demanding action. And that is us. We are the ones who are going to bring change. The current world leaders are betraying us, and we will not let that happen any more.” She went on to express her frustration by commenting on the unparalleled rise in carbon emissions since 2015. The school strikes have done nothing, she lamented, to bring down emissions, and she vowed to do more. Young people want real solutions, and tragically governments have capitulated to corporate interests.

    The celebrated British Nature writer Robert Macfarlane wrote in his recent book Underland (which can be borrowed from the Lennoxville Library), “We find speaking of the Anthropocene…difficult. It is, perhaps, best imagined as an epoch of loss—of species, places and people—for which we are seeking a language of grief and, even harder to find, a language of hope.”

    In these articles I have mentioned non-violent civil disobedience and groups like Extinction Rebellion as the avenues for hope that more and more young people are looking to in their frantic search for biodiversity/climate stability and resilience. The connection between young people and those who in previous times were valued as elders because of their wisdom and leadership has been shattered. Young people realize they must now fend for themselves, and Greta Thunberg is expressing their anger. Whether that trust can be restored is now in question. Can we change course?

    Climate strike students praised by EU President

    “I am glad to see that young people are taking to the streets in Europe to raise visibility of the issue of climate change. Their movement has spread to many cities and can bring about change. Our goal is to allocate a quarter of our budget to climate change mitigation.”

    Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission

    What do the following organizations have in common? 

    Earth Strike, Fridays For Future, Global Climate Strike,, Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, The Climate Mobilization…

    They are all asking us to join or support the global school and general climate strikes on Friday, September 20 and Friday, September 27. (On September 27, 1962 Rachel Carson’s powerfully illuminating book Silent Spring, detailing the destruction of the natural world by human activity, was published.) 

    Global Climate Strike says: “This September, millions of us will walk out of our workplaces and homes to join young climate strikers on the streets and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels. Our house is on fire — let’s act like it. We demand climate justice for everyone.”

    In the European Union, the equivalent of US$250 billion will be spent on climate change mitigation each year for seven years, starting in 2021, but Greta Thunberg, the youth activist and school climate striker, who was speaking to the President of the European Commission last February, said that there is more to do and that we cannot wait. Act now, she demands. We must drastically cut Europe’s emissions. Otherwise we will not be able to keep the warming of the globe under 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030, she explained. She went on to say, “There is simply not enough time to wait for us to grow up and become the ones in charge.” Meanwhile, more than 12,000 students marched in Brussels.

    The science certainly agrees with Thunberg, but why then has Canada been such a climate action lagger? Why have adults in Canada been so reluctant to embrace the climate science? Many activists will say that we’re so enmeshed in the consumer-capitalist system that we do not know how to extricate ourselves from a ruinous pathway. The thought of a degrowth, ecologically based way of life is anathema to the vast majority of Canadians. Canada’s fossil fuel consumption continues to grow more rapidly than our politicians would have us believe, while the EU and Russia have significantly lowered their use. In 2016, individual Canadians used more than five times the global average of energy, 29% higher than the average American.

    These energy facts are contained in Canada’s Energy Outlook, a recent report by J. David Hughes, one of Canada’s foremost energy experts:

    For an excellent, accessible critique of Hughes’ report, see award-winning journalist Andrew Nikiforuk’s article ‘Nine Uncomfortable Canadian Energy Facts’:

    While adults flounder and procrastinate, young people are demanding that governments tell the truth about the climate emergency. Around the world, students of all ages are responding in their millions to confront the apathy and half-measures implemented by governments. 

    In the Sherbrooke area, plans are under way in the universities to strike for the climate.

    And it is not only students who will be taking part. Adults will be supporting the young people and organizing their own work strikes, many with the recognition of their employers that we must all take a stand against climate and ecological chaos. According to the international environmental organization, “parents, academics, bakers, trade unions, doctors, farmers, caretakers, celebrities, and teachers” in over 6,000 cities in 169 countries have pledged to organise climate strikes this month.

    Celebrating World Biodiversity Day with Action

    The United Nations International Day for Biological Diversity (May 22) focuses on biodiversity as the key provider for our food and health. Also called World Biodiversity Day, it emphasizes the critical link between a healthy ecology of diverse communities of beings and the viability of long-term human welfare.
    It has long been known that the climate emergency has become a key catalyst in negatively transforming our planet’s ability to provide food and sustenance for humans and all other animals. Whereas past mass extinctions of species occurred over millions of years, the current mass extinction of flora and fauna started with the Industrial Revolution and most disturbingly has accelerated to new destructive heights in the last 25 years. Not only have rising carbon dioxide levels and ocean temperatures caused vast changes to marine life (notably through the destruction of many coral reefs), but also the stability of our atmospheric climate has been weakened to such an extent that the vast majority of recorded heatwaves have occurred in the last 25 years, resulting in ravaged places with seemingly unending wildfires and, paradoxically, flooding. California is a case in point. All of these crises have been spawned by western countries’ apparent total disregard for other people as well as for their planetary cousins.
    In his recently published book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? climate activist Bill McKibben outlines the greed, the misinformation and ultimately the culpability of corporations such as Exxon that knew back in the 1970s that fossil fuels contributed to climate instability. He also details the deceit of coal baron billionaires who foster a new age of ecological disasters. Multinationals with untold millions at their disposal have lobbied governments to push for an agenda of the super-rich that celebrates hyper-individualism at the expense of social justice and a chance of prosperity for many of the world’s poorest people. Governments, including ours, have succumbed to these groups and individuals to such an extent that an insidious plutocracy has put democracy in dire peril and threatens to strip the Earth of its insects and amphibians as well as most other wildlife. People who dare to confront the anti-Earth lobbyists are suffering dire consequences.
    May 20 is World Bee Day, acknowledging the crucial part pollinators play in providing food for all beings. Yet the Canadian government, unlike France and other European countries, refuses to ban neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been shown to be toxic to bees and other insects.
    Recently, Louis Robert, a Québec government scientist, gave the CBC documentation showing that the pesticide industry controlled some of the decision-making abilities of the Québec Ministry of Agriculture. As a result, he lost his job. Please see
    The climate emergency and the acceleration of the biodiversity crisis have caused a monumental shrinking of habitat. The abandonment of lands due to sea level rise and extended heatwaves has pushed flora and fauna populations to the brink of extinction, and humans are not exempt from this carnage. Consider the 93 deaths in Québec last summer from the extreme heat. Most of those people were elderly and/or living in poverty.
    Climate change and biodiversity loss have already shrunk our cultural, economic and physical connections to this planet. Increasingly, humans and other sentient beings are becoming climate migrants driven from forest or farming communities by drought, floods or the destruction of their native soils. Contaminated river and coastal villages and polluted cities are making life unbearable.
    McKibben’s Falter speaks of non-violent resistance and engagement in the face of entrenched power. But let’s first call this tragedy by appropriate names. The 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg put it this way: “It’s 2019. Can we all now call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?”
    It is time to firmly resist fossil fuel lobbyists. At the same time governments must stop giving obscene subsidies to those same Earth destroyers and support solar power.
    In marking World Biodiversity Day we need to affirm the right to move away from ecocide and once more embrace this planet’s fantastic diversity. Only then can we chart a course towards a new, just balance that respects and nurtures all life on Earth.
    To celebrate all wildlife, please watch this amazing video featuring the monarch butterfly:

    Eating Well: the Resurgence of Organic Farming in Georgian Bay

    “With the average age of farmers steadily increasing and the massive environmental impact agriculture can have on the life-support systems of the earth, it became apparent to me that we need more ecological food producers than ever before.” – Mike Reid of Kolapore Gardens

    There is a real revitalization of our rural area happening. I had the chance to visit two farms to take a look at how their newly established ventures were progressing, and I was impressed to see and feel their dedication and passion for what they wish to achieve on their land. Amy and Patrick’s farm is high on a hill overlooking Heathcote and the Beaver Valley while Mike’s farm is nestled away next to Kolapore Wilderness area. What links Patrick and Amy Kitchen’s Sideroad Natural Farm with Mike Reid’s Kolapore Gardens is their mutual emphasis on growing food organically and respecting the fragility of our biosphere.

    After having lived in the Beaver Valley for 34 years I have begun to notice a recurring story in our area: young people are rapidly moving in from other places in the country. Patrick and Amy had gone to school out at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia but found it difficult to buy land out west. The fact that family was in Ontario made the choice uncomplicated: good land that was far less expensive than could be found in B.C..  Mike also came to Kolapore from Godrich, and he also has family close by.

    Visits to the farms revealed real care, determination and love for the land. It hasn’t been easy setting up shop either. Both farms needed infrastructure and the ubiquitous poly-tunnel was built on both farms. Why are these plastic greenhouses showing up everywhere?  It has a lot to do with climate change. In the past 10 years I’ve watched knowledgeable older farmers build these greenhouse-tunnels to be able to insure that the now increasingly common severity of weather doesn’t destroy their crops. They simply can’t take on the plethora of risks to their livelihood due to climate destabilization without making necessary changes to how they grow their food.  Water has to be plentiful so Sideroad Natural Farm took up the task of putting in two ponds for irrigation of the crops. Climate change can pose a real challenge when water scarcity can be definitely an issue.

    Both farms try to sell their vegetables at our farmers’ markets that range from potatoes, spinach to the more exotic kohlrabi. Sideroad Natural Farm also prides itself on the flowers it grows, as Amy is also a fine flower arranger, and flower decorations for weddings is an expanding part of their business. Patrick showed me a dozen hearty healthy pigs while Mike Reid’s Kolapore Gardens sells free-range eggs. At the moment the pigs are fed with non-GMO foods and the Kolapore chickens have organic grains. Both farms let their animals forage. These farms are as far as you can get from the industrial-type farm that Canada has been so criticized for recently by World Animal Protection. If you like vegetables you’ll be able to buy arugula, leeks, broccoli, squash, tomatoes, kale and more.

    For some time now community-supported-agriculture (CSA) has been extremely important for organic farmers. What does CSA mean? By committing to buying a basket of food for a set number of weeks it allows the farmer to have an ‘insurance policy’ as they can depend on a basic weekly salary by knowing how many baskets of food will be bought. The contents of the basket will change week to week. It is much more than that: communities become more self-reliant when local purchasing of food becomes a reality. For new farmers this is also a way to be a part of the community. Amy feels a connection already to our area. By and large these farms prosper when communities buy and in many instances volunteer to help grow the food. People who volunteer can be local or from other countries who wish to get a flavour of rural farming life. Amy agrees: “Support for local, organic food continues to grow. It’s an exciting time to be farming and we can’t wait to get out in the field this spring.”

    Please visit the websites and to learn more about our wonderful farmers and their organic food. Support them by being a part of the CSA initiative or visit the farmers at a few of the farmers’ markets located in Collingwood, Clarksburg, Toronto and Meaford.

    Summer Readings for 2011 Take Us to New Heights for Inspiration and Action


    “There is no such thing as a green pepper… All peppers start out some shade of green (either dark, light or yellowish) and gradually turn red, yellow, orange or even purple as they mature and sweeten. A green pepper, like a green tomato, is simply unripe.” Patrick Lima and John Scanlan’s “The Organic Home Gardener”


    “Nature loves man, beetles, and birds with the same love.” John Muir


    “We have done deeds of charity, made peace of enmity, fair love of hate, between these swelling wrong-incensed peers.” Shakespeare’s Richard the Third


    Patrick Lima and John Scanlan’s just released second printing of “The Organic Home Garden” is joyously required reading for anyone who loves to garden. These Bruce Peninsula heroes of soil, seeds and thirty plus years of creative sweat have toiled to create the perfect book for both beginners and callused-handed inveterate gardeners. “The Organic Home Garden” is far more than a ’how to’ book. Yes, we learn about the proper care of raising many vegetables but also find inspiration in the photos and finely crafted words of these two men. The authors’ passion can not but strike a chord of reverence for the Earth. Patrick Lima’s quiet prose conjures up all that is beautiful in the garden. “…it is a pleasure to potter in the tomato bed, pushing in stakes, plucking suckers, tying the hairy stems with strips of old bed sheets, watching the fruit swell from week to week, then blush pink and finally redden.” And the many subject headings draw in the reader: “Of Suckers and Stakes”, Bugs, Cracks and Cat-facing”, “In the Trenches”, “Of Mulch, Maggots and Mold” and “Midsummer Miscellany” are just a few intriguing titles that make us want to read more. From the care of herbs to the potato and great cooking recipes, there is cause to celebrate the new edition of this Canadian classic. Without a doubt, a summer visit to ‘Larkwhistle’ will inspire you to be a better gardener and cherish these organic gardeners’ wisdom. Don’t wait till you are reading their book in bed on a cold winter’s night dreaming of new sowings of shallots and spinach; visit ‘Larkwhistle now and buy it there. Call 519 795-7763 for directions and hours to visit.

    When is the last time you read Shakespeare’s “Richard the Third”? Although Stratford is a two hour journey, every year I find myself dusting off a play of Shakespeare’s and recall the prose and poetry of Elizabethan England’s fantastic vistas of the sublime and the treacherous: “Richard the Third” offers us both. Although we may wish to see Richard’s demise, what brought him to such murderous actions reverberates in today’s political theatres. Civil wars, greed, loyalty and love for ones kin can’t help making this play a ‘hit’ with audiences since 1593. I have never seen a play at Stratford with a stronger cast. It’s not only Seana McKenna, who brilliantly shines as the female- playing Richard but every actor is powerfully played. The stage craft is superb. Miles Potter’s direction of the play is creative and sensitive.

    Donald Worster’s “A Passion for Nature: the Life of John Muir” should be on every nature lovers book shelf. Many of us know that the Sierra Club’s first president was John Muir and indeed a resident of Meaford for a year and a half, but few of us know how John’s religious upbringing was transformed into a powerful voice for Nature. Throughout this 466 page biography John Muir, the man, is portrayed first and foremost as a quiet advocate of people’s right to experience nature but never to overrule or abuse her. Muir’s adventures in the Sierra Mountains or in Alaska can be found here and in his short essays and articles. .Although he was a very reluctant spokesperson for conservation, his powerful and unadorned authentic passion for wilderness won over all segments of society, leading to the establishment of the world’s first national parks. Just as importantly, we learn about those people who shared his conservation goals, including the wonderful women in his life. Worster sums up John’s contributions this way: “The ultimate destination of the conservation …movement that Muir helped found is to transform the United States and other nations into “green” societies where pollution and waste of natural resources will have diminished significantly, where nature will become more than a ruthlessly exploited or even prudently managed “economic resource”. Nature will be granted a higher emotional, spiritual, and aesthetic value- a value in itself. No one in the nineteenth century America was more important than Muir in persuading people to move toward such a vision.”


    We need to embrace values that restore ourselves and the Earth

    My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
    Nothing besides remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreak, Boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.
    Percy Shelley

    That’s the meaning of life: finding a place for your stuff.”
    George Carlin Talks about Stuff

    Our extra ‘stuff’ is put away in storage facilities that cover an area as large as New York and San Francisco. Green consumption was meant to make us feel better about ourselves while we continue to buy more stuff, but none of this has made us any happier. It’s critical to reassess our values. In 1972 Bhutan’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck decided that Gross Domestic Product indicators had no bearing in defining his country’s ‘wealth, but Gross National Happiness measurements did. The bottom line is that the GDP only looks at ‘success’ through the veil of capitalistic growth. Exponential growth and its foot soldier, consumption, has been anathema to a healthy and biologically diverse planet. As we approach 7 billion people, less than a billion people have participated in the west’s economic dream, and 70 percent of all consumption is created by those same billion people. Over-consumption in North America raises the GDP, but as monetary rewards surge they blithely disregard the implications economic gains have for water quality, First Nation peoples’ lack of clean water, increased greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion in ethanol production, mining for gold in Canada and why we are opening up the Northwest Passage to explore for new oil and gas while encouraging dangerous global shipping to proceed through arctic waters. The accelerating rape of our planet and higher GDP numbers go hand in hand with the inevitable collapse of ecological resiliency. Perhaps this is why there have been many credible attempts to have other indicators of ‘wealth’ such as the Genuine Progress Indicator and the Happy Planet Index, an index of well-being and ecological impact. ”The HPI is based on general utilitarian principles — that most people want to live long and fulfilling lives, and the country which is doing the best is the one that allows its citizens to do so, whilst avoiding infringing on the opportunity of future people and people in other countries to do the same.”  The HPI has shown that out of 143 countries Canada is rated 89th on the list for 2009 and ecologically balanced Costa Rica is at the top.
    Fifty-three of the hundred largest economies in the world are corporations. Many of these corporations embody what the UN’s 1996 Human Development Report terms as jobless, ruthless, voiceless, rootless and futureless growth. An example of such types of growth in Canada can be found in the push to expand globalization and profits by selling Alberta’s dirty tar sands to Asian markets via unwanted pipelines and new coastal infrastructure. This adds up to a more divided society as well as an increasingly impoverished Earth including B.C.’s marine species.
    James G. Speth, Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale and author of, “The Bridge at the End of the World”, promotes the well-being of people and Nature through “Being, not having; giving not getting; need, not wants; better, not richer; community, not individual; other not self; connected, not separate; ecology, not economy; part of nature, not apart of nature; dependent, not transcendent; tomorrow, not today.” Speth’s book  begins with 16 graphs ranging from population growth, great floods, damming of rivers and water use, to name a few, and in each case by the time we proceed to year 2000 from 1900 measurements, consumption has spiraled to unsustainable levels.