Top 6 Apocalypse Back-up Plans

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As even politicians and oil company executives have noticed by now, we have something of an environmental crisis on our hands. Now I’m not suggesting that we stop give up reducing, reusing and recycling – not by a long shot. But still, given the direness of our collective predicament, common sense dictates that just in case pollution and climate change do spin out of control, everybody should have a plan B to get through the next few decades and beyond.  Below, in no particular order, my current favourites:

  1. Space Habitats

PRO : Going to space has long been my principal backup.  I’ve always assumed that if things down here got really out of hand, the government or the billionaire cartel would bring out the secret rocket ships and launch the best and the brightest  – me, Bill Nye, Halle Berry etc – up to an orbiting Utopia with sliding doors and individual rooms as nice as those in an airport Hilton, only with cleaner sheets and a bigger TV. From our vantage point miles above the earth, Halle and I would live a gravity and care-free life, blissfully unconcerned about the mayhem below.

A related possibility is Mars, depending how much fuel is in the government spaceships. There I’d do Elon Musk’s laundry or run a tour company that would take people off-roading in the Martian hills in methane powered dune buggies.

CONS: Firstly, I’m not 100% sure that anyone has a secret rocket escape program, or if they do that that I’m on their list.  Secondly, I read an article recently saying that right now we can’t send humans to Mars or to live permanently in space, because cosmic rays would kill them or at least turn them into hideous mutants. Hell, I can be a hideous mutant right here.

2.Domed Cities

PRO: The domed city is a paradisiacal wonderland where everyone will metallic jumpsuits and drives around in supercharged golf carts. Outside the walls is a perilous wilderness full of saber-toothed tiglons, collapsed skyscrapers and wise old men talking about the olden times when everybody lived outside.  Nobody wants to go there though because it’s so nice inside the dome.

CONS: There are no domed cities and it doesn’t seem like something you could just slap together. I assume that someone will be working on them soon, but in the meantime, best to have another safety.

3. Desert Island

PRO: Who doesn’t want to live on a remote tropical island, relaxing in a hammock while monkey butlers bring banana cream pies and pineapple daiquiris? Just call me Gilligan.  

CON: Tropical islands are more, rather than less affected by dramatic climate-change related weather events, plus tend to have no supplies of fresh water (hence the word “desert”.) Also the really nice ones aren’t deserted at all but chock-a-block with people, gift shops, and tourist casinos. And let’s not even talk about volcanoes.

4. Down Under 

PRO: Until recently I assumed that  a place as far away from everywhere else as Australia would be insulated from the worst effects of eco-catastrophe, and I could move down there and enjoy a  simple happy existence of Vegemite, Foster’s and wallaby racing.

CON: My early understanding was spectacularly incorrect, as Australia is simultaneously on fire and under water, which explains why they keep coming up with things like Earth Hour.

5.A Car

PRO: In this scenario, I’d roam a post-apocalyptic wasteland in an old Jeep, fighting thugs dressed like 90’s club kids for the last remaining supplies of gasoline and canned meat.

CON: The same as the pro. This option totally sucks.

6. Planet of the Apes:

PRO: A long shot, I know, but I really believe that apes could do a very good job of stewarding the planet if they’d just stop throwing their feces around.  Right now the city bylaw officer is being stubborn about refusing to let me keep an orangutan in the house, but I’m this close to teaching the cat rudimentary English.

CON: I don’t see myself getting a whole army of ape administrators trained up before things go to hell.

Those are the best idea I’ve been able to come up with so far, although I’m totally open to any thoughts that others may have, especially if they’re funded.  In the meantime, I plan to keep recycling.



The Ten People You Meet on LinkedIn

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Which one are you?

The salesperson: Hello, I’m contacting you because as a leader in the field of leading leadership, I think you’d be very interested in the digital transformational AI blockchain solutions offered by our team. When would be a good time for a meeting with us and your VPs Chuck and Melissa?

The former co-worker: I can’t believe it’s already been 12 years since Friday drinks with Jilly and Mo and the Sales Team. We should go for a coffee some time! Narrator: It would never happen.

The person who knows a lot of the same people you do: Maybe we’ve met, maybe we haven’t. If you’re good enough for Chuck and Melissa you’re good enough for me.

 The recruiter: Their algorithms found you through the buzzwords in your profile, and they’re super stoked about what a great fit you are for the role. You’ll send an updated CV so they can arrange an interview with the hiring manager, and you will never hear from them again.

The curious colleague: Has basically the same job as you and knows that some day the company will realize they only need one person to do it. Checking out your CV to see who’s better.

The brand-builder: Posts one to two inoffensive stories a week about new technologies or McKinsey’s latest epiphany, just in case their boss or a potential employer looks at their profile. If you like their posts, they’ll like yours.

The informational interviewer: Would like to get your insights on the industry you work in and the fascinating career you’ve had within it. You’ll have coffee with them even though you assume they’ve mistaken you for someone else.

The active member: People who turn up in your feed because their posts get a million likes. Usually stories about people who were authentic and got promoted instead of fired, or 5 Things You Can Learn From a Golden Retriever. Also influencer or thought leader.

The phisher: A stock photo of a middle-aged Asian man named Guy Buckingham wants to add you. He is President and CEO of Gan-wai Steel Corp, a company with no on-line presence.

The person who doesn’t use LinkedIn: Haven’t updated their profile since Friendster. Possibly dead.

Cuthwulf’s Dragon

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It was a warm spring day when the dragon took Cuthwulf’s father. The family had been roused from a breakfast of boiled oats and peas pottage by a clatter of metal and the drum of hooves outside. A loud voice was shouting. “Dragon ships on the river! The fyrd is raised! All able men to their lord!”
Inside the hut, Cuthwulf’s mother looked at his father. “Do not go again, Averill. What do kings ever do but take our crops and our men?”
His father shook his head. “You know it is the law, Cwen. We would forfeit what little we have.” He nodded at Cuthwulf. “Fetch my shield, son. I will be leaving for a time.”
Cuthwulf ran to the wooden shield leaning against the wall, lifted it carefully and brought it to his father.  “\Where are you going, father? Will there be a battle?”
His father grimaced, pulling a heavy leather jerkin over his tunic. “Our masters go to war, boy, and we go with them. Still, better to fight the Danes far away than in our village. It will not be long, I think.”
Cuthwulf pushed out his chest. “I want to go with you. I’m not a baby – I am six.”
Averill chuckled. “No doubt Alfred would take you, were you an inch taller. But you’ll stay here and look after your mother. She will need you for the planting, if I’m not back soon enough.”
Cwen reached into her hair and pulled out the comb made of sheep’s bone that had been given to her by her mother. Uncommonly among the villagers, Averill had learned to read and write from an uncle who was a monk, and he had carved his wife’s name into the comb handle.  “Take this token, my love” Cwen said. “It will bring you home safely.”
Averill tucked the comb into his belt. “I will return, though every Dane in the land stand between us.” He walked to the door and took the long spear that was always propped at the entrance to the hut.
Cuthwulf followed out the door behind him, to see a man on horseback in mail and a helmet shouting at a group of some fifteen men from the village. Most were carrying spears and wooden shields, while Edburga, the largest landholder, boasted a helmet and sword.
In a few minutes the men filed out of the village, the young men laughing and singing, the older ones resigned, with sombre expressions and backward glances.

Ten days later, Cuthwulf and the other boys were playing when they heard a woman’s voice shouting. “They are returned! The men are returned!” 
Cuthwulf’s heart leapt with joy, and the boys sprinted to the edge of the village to see a group of men trudging down the path.  But as they drew closer, Cuthwulf saw that his father was not among them.
That night, he heard his mother talking to the other women around the fire as they prepared the evening meal. 
“He is gone, Cwen. There is no use pretending otherwise. It was a great battle and many died.” said Sibbe, an older woman who looked after the young children when the villagers were all in the fields.
“A great victory, Sibbe. The Danes fled the field. And no one saw Averill fall. He could be injured, or captive.”
“If he was injured, he is dead by now. And the heathens do not take prisoners unless they can be ransomed for silver.”

Soon after, Cuthwulf was sitting alone on a stone at the edge of the village, watching and waiting, as he had done every day since the other men had returned.  In the distance he saw the figures of a man and an animal approaching. 
As they neared he recognized an old man of some forty years, who traveled from village to village with his donkey, trading tin plates, cups and other wares for spun wool and cloth. He was known to be a seer, and when in the mood, for a piece of bread and some cheese, he would tell you of your past and your future. He stopped as he reached Cuthwulf.
“Why are you here alone, boy? Should you be helping with the chores?”
“I am waiting for my father. He went to fight the Danes, and has not yet returned.”
“Ah” said the old man. “He was at Ethandun then. Many men did not return that day.”
“I know, grandfather. But he promised.”
The tinker looked at Cuthwulf with solemn eyes and nodded. “Can you come closer, boy? You need not be afraid.”
Cuthwulf thrust out his chest and stepped closer. “I fear nothing.”
The old man smiled and took Cuthwulf’s hand “I see.” He closed his eyes and was silent for a moment.
“You are right, lad. Your father lives. He was taken by a dragon who holds him captive.”
Cuthwulf pulled his hand back. “Where is he? I will find him.”
 “Dragons favour mountains and caves to hide. This one lives near the hills, by Cyrneceaster.”
Cuthwulf frowned. “I have not heard of it.”
The tinker shook his head “It is many miles in the direction of the rising sun. It would be too dangerous for one so young to travel there. Leave it, he may yet escape and come home.”
Cuthwulf looked at him without expression. “A boy may slay a dragon.”
The old man shook his head. “So say the stories told in the great hall, but in truth… come lad, let us go into the village. Your mother will wonder where you are.”

That night, while his mother slept, Cuthwulf rose quietly from his straw mat on the floor.  He took a flint and iron strike-a-light, his sling, and the small dagger his father had gifted him, and placed them in a small bag belted at his waist. He looked down at his sleeping mother and whispered “I will bring him back to us, mama.” The moon was full enough to see clearly as he headed off through the fields.
Cuthwulf walked east for days, keeping to the woods and fields, and away from villages and the camps of strangers.  He drank from ponds and streams, and ate the roots and plants he had learned about from his mother, or small animals he killed with his sling.
On the sixth day the landscape changed from flat woods and fields to rolling countryside. In the distance, he saw tall hills which he thought must be the mountains of Cyrneceaster. And vast as the landscape seemed to the young boy, he reasoned that a dragon must be easily found, giant creature that it was and always roaring, growling and belching smoke. That night he made a bed of leaves underneath an oak tree and slept, hopeful that the next day he would find the lair of the beast which had stolen his father.

He was awakened early in the morning to the rough touch of a foot pushing him. A tall, fair-haired man stood above him, speaking words that Cuthwulf could not understand. Seeing his incomprehension, the man nodded and spoke in Cuthwulf’s language.
“A Saxon? What is your name, boy?”
This must be a Dane, thought Cuthwulf, and his heart began to pound. He had heard that the pagans roasted Saxon children to eat at their victory feasts.  He rose to his feet and tried to look brave and fierce.
“I am called Cuthwulf, lord” He reached into his bag and snatched out his dagger, holding it in front of him as his father had taught him.
The Viking laughed. “A wolf indeed. I am no lord, boy, just a warrior finding my way home.  And you may put down your sword. Not all Danes are beasts.”
Cuthwulf eyed the man towering over him, and the battle-axe hanging from his belt, and lowered the knife.
“Why are you sleeping in the woods alone, lad?”
“I…I…seek my father. He was taken by a dragon, and is held in the hills near Cyrneceaster”
“A dragon? I have not seen such here, but there are many hills so who is to say? Come, lad, join us in our camp. We will be at Cyrneceaster tomorrow, and perhaps we will see this dragon along the way.”
Cuthwulf nodded. “I will join you, lord…er …”
“You may call me Birgir.”
“Birgir, then. But fair warning that we are still foes.”
“Indeed, young wolf, I will sleep with one eye open.”
They walked for a short distance through the woods to a clearing, where a fire had been laid in the centre of some rude tents. A half-dozen men sat by the fire talking or cleaning weapons. They looked up at Birgir and Cuthwulf. One, a large dark-bearded man with a fresh scar on his cheek, called something in Norse.  Some words were close to Cuthwulf’s own tongue, and he heard one that he recognized as “slave”.
Birgir shook his head no, and replied quickly, saying something about “Saxon”.
The bearded man scowled, and stalked over to them. “Are you a spy, boy?” he growled in heavily accented Saxon.
Cuthwulf wanted to cry but held his ground. “I am neither slave nor spy, Norseman. I am a warrior!’
The man crouched down and looked Cuthwulf directly in the face. “Are you, boy? Because we kill enemy warriors.”
Birgir stepped between them. He spoke in Norse, but Cuthwulf could understand enough to know that he was asking the big man – whose name, it seemed, was Einar – to leave him alone. Einar scowled and spit on the ground, but went back to his seat by the fire.
Birgir gave Cuthwulf some dried meat and weak ale, and the group broke camp to begin the trek to Cyrneceaster.

They walked through the woods for half a day before coming to a road which would take them into town. Cuthwulf walked swiftly, and his captors generally ignored him. As he listened to the men speak among themselves, he realized the language was close enough to his own that he could understand much of it.  It seemed these men had fought at the great battle, and were retreating ahead of the victorious Alfred.
Cuthwulf kept a careful watch for any dragons in the sky or roaming the nearby hills but saw nothing. At midday, they stopped to rest, and Einar approached him.
“You say your father was stolen by a wyvern?”
“He was. And I will find him, and bring him home.”
“No, boy, there are no dragons in these hills. I think your father was in the shield wall at Ethandun, and was slain. I myself took the heads of three Saxons before the cowardly Swedes broke and we were forced back. But we killed thousands, boy, thousands. ”
He strode away, chuckling.

Cyrneceaster was a bigger town than Cuthwulf had ever seen, crowded with people and movement.  Both Norse and Saxon could be heard in the crowded marketplace through which Birgir led him to a small building. They entered a room stuffed full of all types of goods, from weapons to cooking pots.  A stout, compact, man greeted them in Norse from behind a counter.
“Gentlemen! Have you something to trade with me today?”
“What is this place?” Cuthwulf said to Birgir.
The small man looked down and spoke in perfect Saxon. “Lad, this is where the spoils of war are brought and tallied. I buy and sell and keep the accounts for King Guthrum, so that he may have his share.”
Birgir reached into the leather bag at his side and retrieved a large dagger, the hilt inlaid with intricate designs.
“How much for this?”
The man looked at it closely. “Very nice. One piece of silver.”
Birgir shook his head. “Two pieces.”
As they spoke, Cuthwulf spied something on a low shelf, and almost cried out. It was a comb, with “Cwen” carved into it, the same one his mother had given his father when he left for war.
“Where did you get this comb?”
The bookkeeper turned.
“It just came today. It belonged to a man who was taken at Ethandun.”
For a moment Cuthwulf could not breathe. “The man is… dead, then?”
“No, lad. He could read and write the Saxon language so they brought him here as someone who might be useful to Guthrum.  He is being held in the gray house across the road with some other slaves.”
Birgir grunted. “Do you like the comb, lad?”
Cuthwulf nodded.
Birgir looked back at the little man. “One piece of silver, then, and the comb for the boy?”
The shopkeeper nodded. “Fair enough”.  Cuthwulf grabbed the comb from the shelf, and thrust it into his pouch.
The sun was falling as the two left the building and walked to a nearby inn. Birgir spoke with the landlord, then brought Cuthwulf out to the stables. He pointed at a pile of straw. “Time to rest, young wolf. Stay here, the streets are not safe for you.”
Cuthwulf lay down and closed his eyes. As soon as he heard the footsteps receding in the distance, he leapt up from the straw and ran out of the stable, racing through the narrow streets to the building where the new slaves were being held.
Out front, a bored-looking man with an axe stood guard. Cuthwulf, remembering a story he had once heard around the fire, approached the guard and spoke in Saxon. “Please, lord, my sister asked me to speak with you. She saw you earlier, and wanted me to ask you to visit with her. She is in the inn with the three lanterns, over in the next street.”
The guard understood enough. He grinned, and replied in Norse. “A Saxon wench, eh?” He cast a look at the locked door next to him, and shrugged before sauntering off down the street.
When the man was out of sight, Cuthwulf took out his dagger, pried open the lock, and entered the house. Five men sat against the wall with their eyes closed and hands and feet bound with ropes.
Averill opened his eyes. He was thinner, and his arms and legs were covered in bruises, but he was otherwise unharmed.
“Praise God, Cuthwulf…how did you find me…you should not be here, the Danes will kill you!”
“I will cut you loose.”
Cuthwulf used the dagger to loose his father. The pair freed the other prisoners and slipped out of the building as darkness fell.
The Danes were busy licking their wounds, and no one pursued them. In seven days they were home, and Cuthwulf’s mother hugged him so tight for so long that he thought he would die, and then shouted at him for so long he wished he had. And for years afterward, the villagers told the tale around the fire of the boy who had saved his father from the dragon.

Why kids should be on public transit

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North Americans generally tolerate rather than embrace public transportation.  It’s often crowded, slow, and inconvenient,  an option of last resort for those who through disadvantage of age, infirmity, or credit rating don’t drive their own vehicle.

The pain-in-the-ass factor is is multiplied with kids; go to any subway station in Toronto to witness stroller-pushing parents fruitlessly searching for a elevator, or swaying on the bus, whimpering toddler in their arms, while commuters feign sleep or stare dead-eyed at electronic devices. It’s even less appealing in the suburbs, where transit ridership is normally an indicator of financial hardship or Kanye-level eccentricity.

As result,  except for the occasional Santa Claus parade or similar child-friendly mob scene where parking is impossible, those who can afford it mostly stick to the family SUV.

And yet public transit is exactly where kids should be.

Michael Chabon wrote that his was “the last generation of children to be left alone – mostly – by adults.” Mine too, I think. We’d get up on a summer morning, hop on our bikes and spend the day in parks, playgrounds and streets, playing with kids we knew, and kids we didn’t know, no grown-ups in sight. Games were spontaneous and chaotic and sometimes dangerous, but that’s how we learned to live in a society.

Public transit is like that.  It can be dirty, noisy, and uncomfortably populous, but it’s also the way to somewhere new.  When my friends and I starting taking the bus downtown, it was a rite of passage, that ability to travel miles from home without parents,  and to feel the liberation and the danger of being on our own among strangers. But we trusted ourselves, and we trusted each other.

Finding your way out of the bubble of friends and family, exposed to a more diverse world, is important when you’re young. And public transport does that.  The world and the people in it aren’t what you’re used to, but that’s fine. And better than fine – educational.

My son is almost six, and though I’m not quite ready to send him on the subway unaccompanied, he loves travelling on it with me. He’s so proud when he marches down the aisle, steadying himself against the rocking of the car as well as any grown-up, and calling out the names of the stops ahead of time.  It’s a confidence he won’t develop strapped into a car seat.

Not living life on autocomplete

By | Food for thought, technology | No Comments
When does technology top assisting our actions and start directing them? And what can we do about it?
A while back, Gmail started suggesting responses for me. They’re generally pretty solid – when asked if I can make a meeting, it offers up “Sounds good, I’ll be there!” and “Sorry, can’t make it” as options;  a document for review triggers  “Got it, thanks!” and “These are great!” (Gmail-bot is unwaveringly enthusiastic and considers exclamation marks the default punctuation for ending sentences).
All this is super-convenient, especially if I’m punching out a reply on a mobile device with my stubby sausage-fingers while walking down the street carrying a hot beverage. But it’s also insidious.
Communication is about more than just responding with the fewest possible clicks. It’s about tone, feeling, and personality. It’s about connecting.
When we let an algorithm answer for us, we save time. But what do we lose? What would that response look like if it were human? Are there questions that could be asked, or social niceties beyond “thanks!”?
And remember, regardless of how the product people at Google pitched it, features like this aren’t added out of altruism. If Gmail saves me keystrokes, I’ll use it more, meaning Google can scrape the details of my virtual life more effectively, the better to follow me around the internet with advertising for variable rate mortgages and dad jeans and other non-needs that occupy my online time-wasting.
Still, all in all, pretty harmless. and if I eschew  a personalized “Hey, Marlene, thanks for the feedback,  do you still have that cottage because I’m free all summer” reply in favour of an automated “Great! Thanks! This is the best thing ever!” it’s not the apocalypse.
So to cycle back to the original question, should we worry about this?
Damn right we should, because it will own us if we let it.
Want to buy a thing? The machine will help.  It will use all that it knows about you – which is a lot, because even if you don’t Facebook, Google, or Amazon much, your friends, family and demographic cohort do – to guide you through the online maze and make sure you land on products and services that you are predisposed to buy.  The machine will serve you the ad, tell you where to buy, and if you need the thing RIGHT NOW and can’t wait for next day delivery, it will point the way to the store.   When you leave the house, the machine will turn off your lights, play soft jazz music for the cat, then queue up some TV for you to watch when you get home. Hell, it knows you so well that you’d be crazy NOT to do what it suggests.
Meanwhile, it’s recording all your responses and storing them in a massive server farm, the better to flesh out its predictive model.
The machine knows the things you want it to know (when’s my next meeting?) and the things you wish it didn’t know (once your spouse walked in unexpectedly while you were creeping your ex’ Facebook page and your heart rate spiked like a triathlete in the final stretch) and the things that you don’t even know yourself (last month you spent more money on wine than you did on books and clothing combined).
And it knows how to make us do what it wants, because like any good boss, it aligns its needs (to sell stuff) with our own (to fill the aching void in our lives with consumables.).
While it’s unclear just how much free will we have anyway (some science suggests that our brain makes decisions for us before our conscious mind is aware of it), it seems preferable to have decisions taken by our own neural synapses rather than the great porn and bling vending machine that is the wired world.
But let’s face it, we’re not going to sacrifice this kind of convenience, anymore than we stopped using the bags from the grocery store just because we saw a picture of a dying sea turtle belching plastic.
So what can we do?
There’s been a lot of excitement about mindfulness in the corporate world over the last few years, with everyone from professional nerds to jocks jumping on the neuroplasticity brain train all the way to meditation station.  And while it’s sometimes oversold as a grand panacea that will keep your employees healthy, cheerful, and efficient for the cost of an hour’s training and a few yoga mats (it won’t), there are tangible benefits that are helpful in making peace with our digital overlords.
Mindfulness isn’t just crossed legs and chanting, although you can do that. Just as important is learning to live in the present moment, to be always aware of what you’re doing, and not dwelling on mistakes of the past or fears of the future. To be thoughtful. To be awake.
And that’s the key to managing all your polite but pushy devices and the algorithms behind them. Ask simple questions: is this really how I would answer an email? Is bingewatching seventeen hours of Peaky Blinders really the best way to spend my Saturday? Do I really need a samurai sword and a year’s worth of freeze-dried lasagna?
All these and many others are reasonable questions that if asked and answered honestly, can help us reap the benefits of technology without becoming simple commodities to be exploited.
The machine is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. We forget that at our peril.

Climate Change is Here and We Need to Do a Whole Lot More

By | Climate change, Environment, Politics | No Comments


Last year, three record-breaking hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, Maria) plowed through the Atlantic, turning Houston into a poison lake, wiping out entire Caribbean islands, and sending thousands of Floridians on a reverse Snowbird flight north in emergency evacuations.  South Asia was battered by a devastating monsoon which killed at least 1200 and forced millions from their homes. Massive wildfires, attributable in part to record high temperatures, burned through unprecedented acreage from BC to Texas, sending smoke wafting across the entire North American continent.
By now it’s obvious to anyone with the wit of a golden retriever that anthropogenic climate change is here, and it’s pissed.
Everyone, that is, who isn’t running the US government or an oil company.
The GOP and the Trump administration in the US set the gold standard for climate ignorance, of course. President Trump famously tweeted in 2012 that climate change was a Chinese hoax, and doesn’t seem to have changed his views since.
The Republican base, against all science and simple observation, follow their leaders and Fox news, with only 15% believing that climate change contributed to the increased ferocity of recent storms.
We’ve been ignoring warnings about the catastrophic effects of our greenhouse gas emissions on the planet’s climate since1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen testified before the US House of Representatives of the strong correlation between rising temperatures and human emissions.
Since then the evidence has gotten stronger, with only the timing and scale of our self-immolation in dispute.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say there is a greater than 95 per cent certainty that the eccentric behaviour of our climate is tied largely to human activity.
97 per cent of climate scientists agree that it’s real and caused by greenhouse gases, not sunspots or cosmic rays or Satan or whatever the right-wing crazynet is pitching these days.
The World Bank, which has cheerfully funded a host of environmentally disastrous mega-projects over the decades, has identified a warming planet as one of the greatest threats facing humanity today, and called for immediate action.
Even the Pentagon, which spends hundreds of billions annually figuring out more efficient ways to kill people, thinks that climate change is probably a bad idea.
While such reports are often swaddled in the soothing language of bureaucracy, the between-the-lines message is clear: we have very little time to act before we are unavoidably and irreversibly pooched.
Consider that global average temperature has risen less a degree and a half Celsius since the start of the Industrial Revolution, and  we’re already seeing the predicted heatwaves, superstorms, dustbowls and deluges all around the world.
Scientists say that an increase of less than two degrees Celsius is necessary if we’re to avoid a civilization-threatening disaster (although some believe even that modest increase is too high). In spite of this, our international climate change conferences and even the heralded Paris treaty, have devolved into expensive vacations for bureaucrats, where non-binding commitments are made and ignored and action deferred.
As it stands, our business-as usual-approach will see temperatures rise at least 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Start building your Thunderdome now.
And floods and fires are just the tip of the melting, flaming, iceberg. Recent research suggests that reduced oxygen levels from overheated phytoplankton could wipe out humanity within a century or so,  and an unrelated study from MIT finds that we’ve set ourselves up for a mass extinction in the same time frame.
To avoid disaster,  we’ll have to dramatically  reduce our carbon-spewing habits. A study published in the journal Science found that most known fossil fuel reserves would have to remain unburned if we’re to stave off catastrophe, and that new sources like the Arctic cannot even be contemplated.
All of this is bad news for those of us who plan to continue living on earth, but since we’re aware of the problem, and technologies exist that could pull us back from the brink, we’ll just fix it right?
You’d think.
But at odds with what Bill McKibben called “global warming’s terrifying new math”, and the host of justifiably panicked Cassandras shrieking from the wings,  is the unbridled enthusiasm of governments around the world, including Canada’s own grinning hypocrite Justin Trudeau, for more and more extreme efforts to find and burn carbon, from fracking to deep sea drilling to the Alberta tar sands.
In support of this multi-billion dollar suicide machine, governments, fossil fuel companies and their PR minions engage in upbeat, green-tinged marketing campaigns to assure the public that these efforts are “ethical” and that the continued use of fossil fuels is benign and necessary for “energy security.”
Since there are few things in the human experience less ethical  or secure than the reduction of civilization to bands of scavengers roaming the fetid swamps north of the Arctic Circle,  it’s bewildering that so many of our captains of industry and political leaders apparently want to take us in that direction. Because whatever their flaws, these people did not get where they are by being stupid.
How then, have so many jumped on board on the most massively self-destructive enterprise in human history?
The least charitable explanation would be that our leaders are simply sociopaths, who understand the risks but reason that the short-term personal benefits are enormous, and that they and their progeny will insulated from it by wealth, geography, or luck.
This idea is delusional. Even if you’re going full prepper and dropping a couple million on a converted missile silo, our collective future of  massive storms, collapsing infrastructure, food and water shortages, and migration of environmental refugees is not going to be good to you, a realization that will probably hit home as you’re wheezing your way up a hundred flights of darkened stairs to your penthouse before the neighbourhood kids catch you and turn your perfumed 1 per cent ass into Soylent Green.
It’s also possible that the Republicans and their fellow travellers genuinely believe, in spite of the in-your-face evidence, that anthropogenic climate change isn’t really happening,or at least that the risks have been wildly exaggerated by the Big Green Conspiracy.
There are a plethora of online echo chambers, comforting virtual Disneylands for the ignorant and the delusional, where non-scientists can spout non-science “proving” such things.  Such an explanation would also account for the Canada’s last Conservative government’s zeal for closing labs and destroying research libraries (policies now being emulated by the Trumpists) –  it’s much easier to believe something when you’re not being constantly confronted with irrefutable evidence to the contrary.
And self-interest can be very convincing. The fossil fuel industry has trillions locked up in infrastructure and reserves, which must make it easier to convince yourself that the planet isn’t actually warming, or that if it is the outcome will be less Dune meets Waterworld and more sunbathing in Nunavut.
But now is the time to face facts.
Whatever your reason for ignoring the reality of climate change, whether you’re a bonus-bound executive running a colossal fossil fuel company, or a politician whose next term in office depends on contributions from said company, or a comment troll who thinks climate change is too annoyingly liberal to be true – it’s time to end the fight and join the rest of the human race.
Because no amount of  money or self-righteous blather or value to shareholders is going to shelter you or anyone else from what’s coming if we don’t act now.
So rich folks, while you’re sacrificing interns to Cthulu at Bohemian Grove or pantsing your fellow plutocrats at Davos, remember that you and your kids and grandkids have to live here too. Noone is going to Rapture you. Elon Musk is not taking you to Mars. And we’ve run out of time.

Welcome to Guesswork

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The overall purpose of this site – blog sounds too 1990’s – is described under Bio, so I won’t repeat it.   I’ll post content on topics that appeal to me, which in no particular order are sustainability, science, technology, philosophy, family and absurdity. I may occasionally write and post fiction, which I started doing recently and enjoy, though I claim no great skill.