Tag Archives: Social values

The same old energy mix — The Japan Times editorial

The same old energy mix — The Japan Times editorial.

I follow the folks that write Japan Safety: Nuclear Energy Updates and they just posted an article from the Japan Times where they look at the current government’s plans for energy sustainability over the next few decades. The picture is disturbing in light of the disaster at Fukushima in 2011.

Nuclear energy is carbon neutral, but it brings so many other long-term risks into the picture that it should not be considered as a sustainable energy source.  At Fukushima, they are having to store huge amounts of contaminated water on a site that was completely inundated with ocean water in 2011.

Read the article here.

Please pass a strengthened Reform Act (and similar changes in every province)

Here is a message I received from Elizabeth May, OC, MP and leader of the Green Party of Canada. It lays out clearly a major problem with Canada’s democratic institutions.


From: Elizabeth.May@parl.gc.ca [mailto:Elizabeth.May@parl.gc.ca]
Sent: Tuesday, December 09, 2014 8:14 AM
To: [protected]
Subject: RE: Please pass a strengthened Reform Act (and similar changes in every province)
Thank you for writing about Conservative Member of Parliament Michael Chong’s Private Member’s Bill C-586, dubbed the Reform Act. I fully support his bill. In fact, the proposal to remove the requirement for the party leader to sign nomination papers, as originally written, was the key issue addressed in my Private Members Bill C-503, the Democratic Local Nomination Act, tabled in May:

http://elizabethmaymp.ca/legislation/c-503

With all the talk these days about the Senate and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), it is easy to forget that we actually live in a democracy. In Westminster Parliamentary Democracy, it is Parliament—as representatives of the citizens of the country—that is sovereign. Not the Prime Minister, not the PMO, not the Party, not anyone else.

It has been a consistent trend in recent Canadian governments, across party lines, to shift the balance of power away from Parliament to the PMO. What this has left us with is an elected dictatorship, a Parliament not accountable to the people, and a feeling of radical impotence by Canadian citizens who no longer see Parliament as an effective defender of their rights and needs.

In this political climate, Michael Chong’s Reform Act comes as a breath of fresh air. This bill seeks to restore power to the grassroots, to the Canadian people, in granting local people the right to choose who will represent them in Parliament. While we also desperately need electoral reform, to remove First Past the Post, this bill addresses a crucial parliamentary reform — ending the tyranny of leaders.

Democratic reform is a non-partisan issue. None of these changes affect any party more than the other. It is true that these changes will change the way the party functions but this will be a positive change if it means returning power to the hands of the people. And, as Mr. Chong has been reminding us, this bill is not about adding anything new to our democratic system, but about returning to old practices that were not formally enshrined in law.

It will take support from across all parties to pass this bill. While it has passed Second Reading, Members of Parliament need to know that people will be watching to see how they cast their final vote. Please keep up the pressure on the NDP and the Liberals so that they will support this bill. With all opposition parties on board, we will have the maximum pressure on Conservative back-bench MPs to vote for the bill.

A list of Members of Parliament can be found here:

http://www.parl.gc.ca/MembersOfParliament/MainMPsCompleteList.aspx?TimePeriod=Current&Language=E

As I said on CBC “Power and Politics” recently, “Canadian democracy is on life support and Michael Chong’s bill is CPR!”

Thank you again for writing.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.

Member of Parliament for Saanich–Gulf Islands

Leader of the Green Party of Canada

JD Power – Builder Satisfaction Survey – Methodology concerns

Here is an e-mail I sent to the “ask-us” link from the JD Power web site about their survey methodology for “New-Home Builder’s Customer Satisfaction Survey”. I haven’t heard anything back from JDPA, but I will update this post if I do.

Be careful how you interpret the results of this survey as it is currently conducted.


From:   [Hidden] 
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2014 9:09 AM
To:  [Hidden]@jdpa.com’;  [Hidden]@jdpa.com
Subject: Builder Satisfaction Survey

Hi:

I took part in one of your builder surveys (the Canadian New-Home Builders Customer Satisfaction Survey) a number of years back; in fact, results of an earlier version of the survey formed a large part of the reason I bought my house in the first place. The idea of the survey is a very good one, but the survey methodology is fatally flawed.  You send out the survey within the first year of occupancy, when the builder is still on the hook to fix deficiencies.  A longitudinal survey would be far more useful.  Similar metrics, but taken at the 6 month mark, the 2 year mark, the 5 year mark and the 7 year mark (just as the Tarion warrantee expires).  This would help you see what owners think about their builder once the hidden problems start to rise to the surface. 

I gave my builder,  [Hidden] , a glowing reference when I responded to your survey, but if I were asked again, my response would be far different and I would be able to provide real examples of poor service and cut-corners.

Without this type of long term look at satisfaction with home builders, the survey is misleading at best. 

Sincerely,

 [Hidden] 
 [Hidden address] 
 [Hidden] ONT

Bell is at it again…

If there is one thing Bell is good at, it is creating an unfair playing field, always tilted in its own corporate favour.  Whether it is about unilaterally changing user agreements after you sign up for them or collecting your usage information without your consent, Bell behaves as if it was immune from the social norms that govern transactions between people.

In this case, Bell seems to be tilting the playing field so that it’s content is available to its customers far more cheaply than that of its competitors, violating the net-neutrality provisions of the internet.

The CBC.CA article on the issue is really interesting and well worth the read.  The CRTC has to do something about this!!!

Foldscope paper microscope can diagnose malaria, costs 50 cents – Technology & Science – CBC News

I am always amazed at how imaginative people can be.  The TED.com blog is full of stories and videos of interesting people with amazing things to say; and so are universities.  You will find a number of entries on my blog site that are based on something amazing that has been developed for the third world by the folks at MIT.  This entry is about an idea originating at Stanford University.  I came across it in an article by CBC.CA (Foldscope paper microscope can diagnose malaria, costs 50 cents – Technology & Science – CBC News)  that explains how Professor Manu Prakash came to create a microscope made almost entirely out of cardboard that can be used to diagnose a multitude of diseases like sleeping sickness, malaria and schistosomiasis in the developing world where access to laboratory equipment is extremely limited.

Imagine if everyone that contracts one of these debilitating illnesses could be quickly diagnosed and treated!  This is the type of story that I love to see because it opens up the mind to all sorts of opportunities.

The original CBC story describes the microscope better than I can, so I won’t go into the details here, but I do also want to post the direct link to Dr. Prakash’s TED talk so that you can see him and his invention. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Making investment practices more sustainable – Another great TED talk

I have thought a lot about the vocabulary we use when we speak about issues.  Much of the language we use comes to us courtesy of Economists.  We speak of consumers or clients rather than citizens.  We speak of economic debt and deficit to the exclusion of the discussion of social, cultural, environmental or infrastructure debt and deficits.  We speak of healthy economies rather than healthy people, or healthy environments.  And we rarely ever focus on important issues like fun or happiness.

This vocabulary poses a number of real problems for us. One very real problem is that if we use economic terms to describe our problems, the solutions we find will be limited to those that offer economic value.  This is the old problem where having only a hammer in your tool belt tends to make every problem look like a nail.  In the long-term, if we are to really deal with important issues in a constructive way, we have to change the way we speak to reflect our real values.  This type of culture change takes time, and, if science is to be believed, we don’t have a lot of time before the chaos starts.

In the meantime, we can at least frame our economic arguments in terms that demonstrate that sustainability is at the heart of long-term economic success, and that is done brilliantly in a TED talk (embedded below) by Chris McKnett from 2013.

TED talk on affects of wealth on personality

TED talk on effects of wealth on personality

This excellent TED talk describes how wealth can change the way we look at the world.  The first few minutes are devoted to the type of tests that the researchers used to tease out the differences in perception between rich and poor but the real meat was in the last half of the talk where the real world implications of the differences are explored.

It reinforces the need for positive reinforcement of good behaviors (behaviors that decrease inequality) and ends on a note of optimism.  The only problem is, will the people who need to listen to the talk take the time to do so.

 

Are you annoyed enough at Bell Canada to want to switch?

Contracts

If you are annoyed enough by the planned #BellDataGrab to want to switch, you may find it harder than you imagine.  If, for example, you have a contract with Bell for one or more of their services, it may not be easy to get out of the contract.  Don’t lose hope.

CRTC required the telecommunications industry to create an ombudsman for this type of dispute.  This ombudsman is called the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services.

You should be aware that this is an industry funded office, but their mandate is reasonable.  Their mandate is:

"To provide outstanding dispute resolution service to Canadian consumers
and telecom providers, and always to adhere to our core values and 
performance standards."

They cannot help you get out of your contract as long as the service provider provides the services according to the agreement you signed.  The question is, is this new #BellDataGrab a significant change to the agreement you signed.  This is the question that they can help you resolve.  If so, they may be able to help you get out of your current contract.

You can lodge a complaint by visiting their website and completing the complaint form on-line.

Don’t forget that you can also lodge a complaint with the Office of the Canadian Privacy Commissioner.

How to submit a privacy complaint with the Privacy Commissioner

English: Bell Canada logo (1977-1994)
If you feel that your privacy has been, or is being, violated by someone or some organization, you can file a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner for Canada.  If your complaint is with a federal government department or agency, you can file the complaint under the Privacy Act.  If it with the private sector, you have to file the complaint under PIPEDA (the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act).

If, for example, you are concerned that Bell Canada (and now Virgin Mobile) are going to be collecting massive amounts of information about your surfing habits, your television habits, your calling habits or your texting habits, you may wish to make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Continue reading How to submit a privacy complaint with the Privacy Commissioner

Bell being investigated by Privacy Commissioner

Did you know that Bell Canada (and their daughter company Virgin Mobile Canada) plans to collect massive amounts of information about you and about your surfing habits?  Well they are, and it isn’t clear that they should be able to.  Here is an interesting article by CBC in Montreal that you should definitely read and think about.  Your privacy is yours to protect…you can be pretty certain that Bell won’t protect it as well as you would.

Here is a link to the article.

Get involved, inform yourself, speak out!

Some links to interesting environmental sites

One of my colleagues at work sent me this list of ten interesting environmentally-related web-pages. He recommended them to me and suggested I take a look at them. You may wish to take a look at them too. Thanks Phil!

http://www.marine-conservation.org/

 

Marine Conservation Institute is a leader in the global movement to protect and recover the integrity of vast ocean areas.

We use the latest science to identify important marine ecosystems around the world, and then advocate for their protection, for us and future generations.

http://worldwildlife.org/

centre
centre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For 50 years, WWF has been protecting the future of nature.

The world’s leading conservation organization, WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF’s unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature Continue reading Some links to interesting environmental sites

Conservation International – A blog to make a difference

One of my colleagues showed me this site today and it looks really good.  This is a link to their blog page.  This group has some pretty high priced help on their roster.  From Harrison Ford to Hillary Clinton, they seem to have the bases covered.

One of the environmental movement needs more of is “good news stories” and this blog is replete with them.  One that immediately attracted my attention is on a new initiative to stop poaching of African elephants.  The article includes a video on the subject with the aforementioned celebrities.  Worth a read.  Don’t forget to bookmark the page.

Do Canadian companies represent you well abroad?

rabble.ca has published this very short, interesting article by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union president, Dave Coles.  In the article he tells of how Canadian companies extractive practices in Columbia trample on the rights of indigenous peoples and give Canada a bad name abroad.  It is entitled “Not in our name…A Canadian energy giant in Colombia” and it is definitely worth the read.

Read it here

 

Stuff

Sometimes environmentalism is just about knowing when you already have enough. This is an excellent, concise poem by Storm that captures the idea of needing “stuff” perfectly.

poem storm

we are living in a daze

caught in our own material haze,

 

we always want,

but do not need,

 

heart and soul,

filled with greed,

-Storm

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Being green can sometimes be as simple as following the frog

The Rainforest Alliance Certified seal
The Rainforest Alliance Certified seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It may be an advertising pitch, but there is some truth to it.  The Rainforest Alliance has put together a cute pitch that TED.COM has nominated as one of the 10 best ads of the year.  The ad shows you what you don’t want to do to be green, and then goes on to show you one thing that you can do to make a difference.  The advertisement is to “Follow the frog” which refers to purchasing goods that bear the Rainforest Alliance’s frog logo which indicates that the product was made in a way that meets the certification standards set out by the group.

Rainforest Alliance is a non-profit with the mission to “… works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior.”

Now, you may note that this approach runs counter to the approach promoted by the “Story of change” people but I think the green movement is probably large enough to embrace more than one strategy for saving this beautiful world.

Why not visit their site or just watch the ad here:

Aggressive Driving – Some observations from the peanut gallery

Close Call... Don't Drive Angry / Baynard County
Close Call… Don’t Drive Angry / Baynard County (Photo credit: Phil’s 1stPix)

I often hear pundits decrying the aggressiveness of drivers.  It is hard to disagree with the premise that aggressive driving is bad, but the picture isn’t as simple as the pundits would have you believe.

For one thing, not all aggressive driving is “actively aggressive”.  The pundits rarely discuss the passively aggressive drivers, like the folks that drive in passing lanes.  They also often fail to look for root causes for the driving aggression.

I have been thinking about this issue for a long time and think I have a few suggestions on how to reduce aggressive driving.  My suggestions are in the form of tips and I have organized these suggestions around four possibly overlapping groups of people … 1) the aggressive drivers themselves, 2) traffic planners, 3) other drivers and 4) law makers.  There probably isn’t much new here, and I hope it doesn’t appear to be condescending, but aggressive driving is an issue that has been bugging me for years so I wanted to add my two cents to the conversation. Continue reading Aggressive Driving – Some observations from the peanut gallery

The Story of Change : a new video from the makers of the “Story of Stuff”

This video is all about empowerment. It is all about acting on our commitments…to the environment, to social justice, to each other. It is about supporting our government’s initiatives for becoming a “World Class Regulator“.

As with other “stuff” video, this one makes its point in the same clear logical fashion, taking us from being environmentally conscious but isolated islands to empowered actors in a movement to make a better world for us all. It does it using the same cheeky style, replete with stick figure art and snappy dialog.

This “Free Range Studios” production joins the rest of the Story of Stuff projects as another great teaching aid. It reminds us to get together, to get involved and to become activists in our own lives.

Reducing herbicide use – Amazon hires goats for Japanese office landscaping – Your Community

Local goat takes a bite out of weed control problem for Amazon

Here is an unusual article from CBC about how Amazon.com is making use of Japanese goats to get rid of problem weeds on the company’s Japanese office grounds.  Companies don’t always get it right, but when they do, they should get kudos from the rest of us.

Amazon hires goats for Japanese office landscaping – Your Community.

Good on you Amazon.

Oh, and by the way, goats and sheep aren’t allergic to poison ivy, so they are a great way to get rid of that particularly pesky weed.  See this interesting page describing how goats can be very eco-friendly.  I am not certain how eco-friendly goats are in times of drought though…I had heard that the very things that make goats eco-friendly from a herbicide perspective can make them less sustainable in times of drought because they tend to denude the landscape, even eating the roots of the plants.

The real price of market values: Michael Sandel at TEDGlobal 2013

My Comments:

This is another great TED talk about a subject of real importance…how market forces change our society and the cost of those changes. The comment about hollowing-out of discourse is most apt. Everything these days seems to be about the sound-bite, about quick fixes for complex social problems. We seem incapable of communicating a long-term vision. Great talk. Thanks TED!

 

TED Blog

Political philosopher Michael Sandel — the second “Michael from Harvard” this session — returns to TED in the last session of TEDGlobal, “All Together Now,” to address the marketization of our culture.

These days there’s very little money can’t buy. If you ever wind up in jail in San Diego, CA, and you find your cell uncomfortable, don’t fret; simply pay $82 and you’ll be upgraded. Or if you find yourself in Washington, DC, en route to a Congressional hearing, but you hear that the line is around the block, don’t give up; you can pay someone through a line-standing company to wait in line for you. You just have to show up at the last minute and take your seat.

[ted_talkteaser id=878]

In the past three decades, says Sandel, we’ve undergone a quiet revolution, drifting without realizing from a market economy to a market society, where almost everything is…

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Uncovering corruption: Charmian Gooch at TEDGlobal 2013

My Comments:

Once again, TED has published a very timely piece on an issue that is becoming huge in the west these days…corruption and its societal costs.  Corruption has always been around, but until recently in the west, it was associated with shame and scandal.  Now it seems to be so commonplace that we barely even acknowledge it.  But the costs of corruption to society are very important and this TEDGlobal talk puts the matter into perspective.  definitely worth a read.  Thanks TED.

 

TED Blog

When we talk about corruption, certain types of individuals come to mind, says Charmian Gooch, co-founder of watchdog NGO Global Witness. She gives some familiar examples of the type. There’s the (former) Soviet megalomaniac — such as Saparmurat Niyazov, the all-powerful leader of Turkmenistan, whose indulgences included erecting a 40-foot-high gold-plated statue of himself that rotated to follow the sun. There’s the African minister, dictator or official, such as Teodorin Obiang, son of the president of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, where many live in dire poverty despite per capita income comparable to Portugal. Obiang junior owns an 18 million Euro art collection, million-dollar sports cars, a Gulfstream jet, and a $30 million Malibu mansion. Until recently, he was officially earning less than $7,000 a month. Then there’s the former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete — a convicted money launderer.

It’s easy to think of corruption as something that happens “over there,”…

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