Catastrophic wilderness destruction, massive bird population decline, and record low Arctic ice coverage – Everything is not alright
The dramatic evidence of human-initiated destruction continues to pile in at the severe detriment of the planet that we depend on for survival.
Earlier this month, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced its findings. In the past 20 years, 1.27 million square miles of wilderness have been destroyed – that is an area larger than Ontario and Quebec combined. James Watson, the Society’s Director of Science and Research Initiatives describes the elimination of wilderness as a sort of extinction event “you are losing a system that has evolved for millions of years.”
In another report, the US National Snow and Ice Data Center has reached a preliminary conclusion that this year’s Arctic sea ice coverage is at its second lowest level in recorded history. This continues a significant decline in sea ice that has been ongoing since 1979. Online comic xkcd does an excellent job of putting global warming in historical context with A Timeline of Earth’s Average Temperature (linked to below).
Finally, international non-profit Partners in Flight has released findings that North America has lost more than one-billion birds in the past 40 years – that’s a decline of almost ten-percent. Some birds have been impacted more severely than others, with dozens of species having their populations reduced by more than 50%. The massive decline has been driven by the reduction in wilderness (see above), growth in industrial agriculture, and climate change (see above). The analogy of the canary in the coal-mine is unfortunately apt in this case.
With all of this evidence and still government and communities around the world continue on, preaching gradual shifts in partnership with destructive industries. The building of more pipelines only leads to more pollution and delays investment in sensible alternatives. Urgent action is needed to push back against the destructive, capitalist agenda which has brought us to this point.
Usually, the focus of this publication is to highlight the good work of progressive labour unions around the world in their attempt to push an alternative energy agenda including investment renewables, Just Transition for workers in affected industries, and partnerships between affected communities and workers alike. Unfortunately, this week saw a low point of this work when the AFL-CIO put out a nonsensical press release supporting the Dakota Pipeline project, falsely pitting jobs against the environment, and undervaluing voices of affected aboriginal communities. It is a shameful stain on the good work of other trade unions like National Nurses United and the transport unions who have lead the workers' movement in the US against these destructive projects.
The debate is ongoing in labour unions and it is up to those with clear vision to outline the necessary direction for our unions to take: one that puts local and global solidarity ahead of interests for short-term profit.
[[http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/liberals-back-away-from-setting-tougher-carbon-targets-1.3075857][Liberals back away from setting tougher carbon targets]]
Alberta announces $15 minimum wage
It may not arrive for a couple of years, but Alberta has stepped up to the plate when other provinces have balked, and has announced that the minimum wage in the province will increase gradually until reaching $15/hour in 2018. The first increase on October 1, will bring Alberta’s minimum wage to $12.20/hour, the highest provincial minimum wage.
Minimum wages across the country are scandalously low, and while big businesses would rather keep all the profits for themselves, other provinces should follow Alberta’s lead and ensure their citizens and residents are being paid fairly.
Trudeau Liberals continue to ignore Human Rights Tribunal and fail First Nations
In January, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal concluded that First Nations children have been, and continue to be discriminated against due to inadequate funding for child and welfare services.
Appallingly, despite this ruling, the Tribunal has now been forced to issue a second compliance order in a further attempt to remind the Trudeau government of their responsibility and need for immediate action to cease this discrimination against Indigenous children. It is shocking that, after so much rhetoric, the Liberals continue to drag their feet on critical Indigenous issues, just like the Conservative government that came before them.
[[http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/politics/human-rights-tribunal-failing-to-comply-1.3764233][Federal government failing to comply with ruling on First Nations child welfare: tribunal]]
Chief of Statistics Canada resigns in protest
In 2010, former head of StatsCan Munir Sheikh quit in protest over the then Conservative government’s decision to scrap the long-form census. Now, Sheikh’s replacement, Wayne Smith is also resigning in protest.
While the Liberals reintroduced the long-form census (which received a record-high response rate), Smith is taking issue with the Liberal government’s insistence on managing Statistic Canada’s information technology infrastructure. The previous Conservative government created a department called “Shared Services Canada” with the goal of centralizing all information technology services across all government departments. The initiative has struggled to meet the needs of many existing departments, and there have been concerns about the security of data within the new integrated system.
Smith argues that including StatsCan in this project compromises the department’s independence and its ability to fulfill its mandate. Perhaps the biggest issue is that of data security. The agency collects huge amounts of confidential data from Canadians and has to be incredibly careful about how the data is stored. Relinquishing authority to Shared Services Canada means StatsCan is losing control over how this data is processed, stored, and analyzed.
In addition to the security of confidential data, there are also concerns about outsourcing of jobs that has taken place with the introduction of Shared Services, as well as the government’s ability to directly or indirectly interfere with the work of StatsCan through the new department. The work of Statistics Canada is critically important, and following years of Conservative interference, it’s crucial that the agency be given the full authority to control its own data and infrastructure.
[[http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/statscan-wayne-smith-resigns-1.3765765][Chief statistician resigns over government’s failure to ‘protect the independence’ of StatsCan]]
Someone is learning how to take down the internet
Tech security expert Bruce Schneier offers a fascinating theory on a series of distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) that seem aimed at determining the most effective and efficient means for disabling the internet.
Although the internet was designed as a distributed network that would be resistant to traditional warfare, it still has its choke-points. And with many critical devices now connected to and dependent on internet-access, the consequences are hard to predict.
New EU rules would provide free wi-fi across Europe
This past week, the European Commission promised to provide €120 million ($176 million) to municipalities of all sizes so that they can build free wifi networks in their communities. The goal is to have these wifi networks up and running within the next four years.
Part of a comprehensive communications package, the EU has also set a goal to ensure all European households have access to 100Mbps internet service by 2025. Unfortunately, the copyright portion of the package isn’t quite so forward looking.
As mentioned previously in What’s Left, access to high-speed internet access should be a right for everyone in Canada.
[[https://cpress.org/leftnews/access-to-high-speed-internet-services-should-be-a-right-for-everyone-in-canada-citizens-press][Access to high speed Internet services should be a right for everyone in Canada]]
“ARTS & CULTURE”
Book Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
It came as a surprise, in August, when Colson Whitehead’s latest book was chosen as Oprah’s book club selection. The book was immediately released one month ahead of time, and became the topic of discussion in the literary world. The Underground Railroad tells the story of Cora, a young woman born into slavery in Georgia, who escapes by travelling on an underground train.
In a cotton plantation in Georgia, Cora is the daughter of a slave who ran away, leaving her behind when she was very young. Cora has learned to fight, and hold her ground, against slave owners or other slaves when necessary. When a new slave arrives from Virginia, Cora will be faced with an opportunity to run. Caesar, the closest to a friend she really has, tells her about an underground railroad for which there will be a station available in a few days time. He plants the idea that, with proper planning, they can make it. She understands the perils and knows that the chance of getting out, to safety and to freedom is much smaller than the risk getting caught or even death. A clash at a plantation festivity will precipitate her decision to take the chance.
This is not a light read: slavery is hard, violent, oppressive, and fear is felt at every stage of Cora’s long perilous journey. The storyline is at times hard to follow, since the author moves back and forth in time to retell stories, memories, and dreams. However, the novel brings to life stories of slavery and escape, stories that have too seldom been told in the past, and that are necessary to understand the history of slavery and work in the Americas.