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Dysfunction - June 26

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Canada's Tar Sand Eldorado...Or Is It?

Annie Lussenburg (Annie the Nanny), Peak Oil Parenting
To those of you that consistently read my posts, it won’t come as a surprise that I live in boomtown. Yes, Calgary is the economic hub of one of the last remaining massive energy plays in the world, the Oil Sands. The economic woes that are causing tsunamis everywhere else are barely making a ripple here. The Hummers are humming, sporting personal license plates like ‘Got Gas’ and the jet boats and personal watercraft are happily speeding up and down the lakes belching out smoke and pushing those of us with sensitive hearing to an auditory hell.

So you’d think with everyone drinking out of the tar sand cup of wealth that we’d be one happy population, wouldn’t you? Well, I hate to burst the bubble but we aren’t. The truth is that as quickly as some get their sticky paws on the wads of oil dollars, others are falling further and further behind. Our homeless population doubles every two years as rental units are turned in to condos and families with kids wait for buses to take them to one or other church for the night. How can this be? Does this not fly in the face of capitalism and the idea that the wealth will trickle down to the masses…eventually?

And that’s not the only sign that the El Dorado of the Canadian West is in its full glory. Foreigners of every description are pouring in to labour at the Tim Hortons doughnut shops and on construction sites and give their lives in oil accidents up north. Yes, you’ll be happy to hear that unbridled capitalism is alive and well in Alberta.

Admittedly at first sight this doesn’t have much to do with parenting, nor perhaps peak oil but if we look below the surface (no pun intended) you’ll find that it actually does. First let’s look at why oil companies are in the Oil Sands to start with. If there were abundant and easily accessible supplies of cheap and easy to produce oil, why would so many companies be making multi million dollar stakes in the dirty, expensive, labour intensive and environmentally disastrous oil sands? The easy answer is they wouldn’t and so we can safely assume that the cheap and easy to produce oil is effectively on it’s way out and the dirty, expensive to produce oil, is on it’s way in…or should I say, one of the few options left open to us.

Secondly, peak oil is rapidly affecting the economies of other countries so much so, that the economic refugees heading our way are arriving in every increasing numbers. I only have to go to my local store to hear any number of regional British accents not only as fellow shoppers but also working the till. These economic refugees from England are able to bring their families with them but I can’t say the same for the scores of Mexicans and Filipinos that come in on temporary work visas that allow them to stay for a year or two, sample the good life and then force them to return home.

What could be more cruel than removing a father from his entire family for a couple of years or more at a time and then shunting him back with no hope of allowing his family to drink from the Canadian well of economic bounty, that he has helped facilitate?
(23 June 2008)



'I'm waiting for riots in the streets'
Britain is at war over rubbish

Jon Henley, Guardian
Britain is at war over rubbish. Exasperated householders are attacking refuse collectors and stealing their neighbours' bins. What's going on? Why can't we change our dirty habits? And since when was waste such an emotive issue anyway?
---
It's starting to get nasty out there. In Preston, the Lancashire Evening Post reports, refuse collectors have recently come under a barrage of abuse from householders furious at "changes to the way their rubbish is collected". In some cases, it appears, residents have hurled burst and stinking bin bags, forcing bin men to flee.

In Lynn, west Norfolk, according to the Lynn News, long-suffering refuse operatives have been "verbally and physically abused at least three times in the past month". Residents angry that overfull wheelie bins are not being emptied have been warned in no uncertain terms to cease attacking bin men or face prosecution.

... The object of all this ire, rather oddly, is household waste: how we collect it, how we dispose of it, how much of it we reuse. The trouble is, we're rubbish at rubbish. Or at least, we were. In 2000, we were bottom of the European league table: only Portugal and Greece dumped more stuff in holes in the ground (the technical term is landfill) than we did. We were recycling barely 5% of what we threw out; the likes of Holland, Germany and Switzerland were at 60%.

Over the past few years, however, stimulated by the prospect of swingeing £180m-a-year EU fines and dire warnings that if we carry on as we are, all of our island's landfill sites will be completely full within the next eight or nine years, we have started to get a bit better. Unfortunately, it's proving to be a painful process.
(23 June 2008)
Surprising to me. Where is British self-discipline and social cohesion? Is that all in the past? -BA



Conservative Government Destroys Atlanta Like Gen. Sherman Never Could

Rick Perlstein, AlterNet
The colossal mismanagement of water in Georgia has produced an urban crisis with no clear solution other than a return to smart government.

Most our media have been far too busy following the news of what kind of fist bumps terrorists favor, and Luke Russert's exceptional poise under pressure, to notice -- well, much of anything. Least of all, the Biblically proportioned drought in one of our nation's fastest growing regions, which is only getting worse, and more civilizationally consequential, by the day.

Atlanta magazine could no longer ignore it. The cover of their "The Water Issue," which I picked up on a recent swing thorugh Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, is graced by a water glass that's one-quarter full -- scratch that, three-quarters empty. The entire magazine is a fascinating document, a potsherd for future archeologists seeking answers to the kind of neuroses that allowed a civilization let itself be run according to an ideology -- conservatism -- so singularly unfit to govern a complex, modern society. Amidst all the schmancy department store and Cartier watch ads,... the landscaping ad featuring the gushing backyard waterfall alongside the furnished stone gazebo was an especially decadent touch, directly across fro a full page ad for "Brookhaven Retreat, treating both addiction and mental health challenges" -- these 176 pages document a narcissistic metropolis on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but not quite able to admit it.

... Like I said, the magazine tells this story well, as far as it goe; but again, what Atlanta magazine can't bring itself to probe is the reason for the season -- the ideology that made it all possible, even inevitable. [Why no planning? Why no commitment of resources? Why did politics in Georgia at the most crucial possible juncture come down to the images on a flag?

Rick Perlstein is the author of "Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fall of the American Consensus" (Scribner, 2008)
(23 June 2008)



`Demographic winter' is just overheated rhetoric

Antonia Zerbisias, The Star (Canada)
Global warming means nothing to those who are concerned about "demographic winter."

To them, the apocalypse will be the result of the dropping birth rate, especially that in the, ahem, "civilized" world.

Among those leading the pro- natalist charge is pundit Mark Steyn, whose America Alone: the End of the World as We Know It was excerpted in Maclean's and met with charges of hate speech. It concerns itself with how we white women aren't popping out babies fast enough to keep up with the brown women.

... Never mind that the human population expands by 78 million a year, with one in three doomed to live in slums without clean water, plumbing or electricity.

... But these problems are nothing in comparison with the coming decline in babies which will mean there will be nobody to "man the factories" - as if all the factories haven't moved to China, the oil to run them isn't running out and the dwindling population will be around to buy the manufactured goods.
(18 June 2008)

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