Thursday, December 19, 2019

So what did you do before social media?

It seems that I spend a lot of time sitting, reading and typing.  Most of it is reading, scanning material delivered automatically to me by Twitter, Facebook and email.  I suppose I could also include things like Instagram, and LinkedIn, and TikTok.

What did we do before social media?  Did we have a life?  Because certainly spending one’s time face to face with a screen hardly counts as a life, does it?  And we spend many, many hours in this activity.  Watch people on the bus and in restaurants, and there they are, concentrating on a little screen in their hands.  We’ve seen, and I’m sure you have, otherwise engaged couples just staring at their hands rather than themselves.

Is this communication?  Is this social?

Course, if I succeed with this essay, you may well “consume” it in the same way.  Who am I fooling: we have become dependent on our silicon screens.  We can’t now do without them.  Just try it for a day and see if you can.  There is withdrawal that you cannot overcome.  I know that if I do not get my email first thing in the morning, to see who of my correspondents is active at 1 in their morning, I feel the day has not begun properly.  And again at mid-morning, lunch time, on the bus, and last thing at night as well!

This all takes precious time.  How do the tweeters of our age find the time?  Does Trump do anything else in his day but compose his tirades?

So, what did we do before?  It’s hard to think back over 20 or 30 years.  I was already then, in 1989, using email.  It solved so many temporal problems.  I could prepare material at my schedule and communicate without interrupting your schedule.  You could reply similarly.

But it lost the face-to-face real time component of effective communication.  Typing and interpretation issues meant that misunderstandings occurred, as they have always done with written communication.  It meant that communication became a solitary, rather selfish way of communicating.

Back in the day, without email, I was constantly on the phone.  One depended on the little pink or yellow slips of paper letting us know that someone or other had called, trying to reach one.  Course this was also the day when we had secretarial support.  Rather than spending hours on the phone trying to reach someone, at least now the time can be spent otherwise.  You know, scanning your Facebook feeds, etc.  So maybe that’s progress.

I suspect that social media have taken over our time.  Whereas we may have spent time on the phone, or even in person, actually talking, and maybe doing more reading of books and newspapers, and exercising – wow, being active not permanently on our backsides, we now rely on our social media feeds for the substance of life.  Just more noise, not of our choosing.  We need stronger discipline to ensure we still have time for our quality lives.

Friday, November 22, 2019

The Future of Green

The Future of Green

I have been a member of the green party for over 20 years.  I joined because of the party platforms, only the green party platform offered a sustainable plan for the future.

The party is again at a crossroads.  We have had a strong period of growth under a dynamic leader.  We will now be choosing a new leader for the next few years.  We will be choosing the future of the party.

The canard that “it is the economy, stupid,” is self-evident.  No-one who runs for public office has succeeded, nor will they, ignoring the economy, our economy, the way we live and want to continue living.

But ignoring the environment is a recipe for suicide.  The economy cannot operate, does not operate outside the environment.  Rather it is the other way around, the economy operates, can only operate, within the environment.  Without a healthy environment, and the services it provides, our economy cannot exist, we cannot exist.

Yet this is what all the other parties offer: the economy takes precedence over the environment.

Collectively, we have seen this time and time again over recent history.  We added lead tetraethyl to petroleum to reduce a “knocking” problem with internal combustion engines.  The poison spread everywhere, and is found in Arctic and Antarctic snows.  We used methyl and ethyl halides as refrigerants and found that they destroyed our protective ozone shield.  We applied chemicals to our fields and swamps to reduce the inconvenience caused to us by insects, and nearly obliterated peregrine falcons.  We have spread neonics in a further attempt to manage insects that reduce the productivity of our field crops, and in the process may have eliminated not only those insects and our essential bees, but the birds that depend on them.

We have spread unnatural fertilizers on our fields to encourage the productivity of our crops, without realizing the loss of natural fertilizers it has caused and without realizing the effect of runoff on our rivers, lakes and oceans.  We continue to burn fossil fuels with little apparent regard for the growing warmth of the planet.  We have installed sanitary sewage systems that have resulted in the discharge of hormones used in the treatment of our diseases that are causing havoc to the reproductive success of the fish in our rivers.  We have released tons and tons of other “new” chemicals because we knew no better.

We have introduced chemicals into the environment without regard to their spread.  We are seeing loss of male sperm; we are seeing people with extreme environmental sensitivities and do not know what is causing their symptoms.  We have no idea what the long-term effect of the countless particles of rubber worn from our tires will be, nor of other maybe better known micro-plastics.  We are planning further introduction of wireless networks without understanding the nature of their impact on the natural world.

I expect we will continue to see this unless we discover and promote ways to sustain ourselves without destroying the environment, without adversely affecting it as well as our own health.

The way we live is central to our survival on this planet.  We all want to continue to enjoy a satisfying and stimulating life.  We want to be able to travel great distances.  We want to be able to go shopping at the drop of a pin.  We want to be able to go to the theatre or a movie or a hockey game.  We want to be able to take our children to exercise classes or horse back riding.  We want to run and manage the companies that enable our lifestyles.

But we cannot do these things sustainably if we continue to poison our environment by everything that we do.

This is a key message of the green party, one that we need to turn into a recipe and program for our survival.

But this message has not become mainstream.  We do not have a platform, nor a presentation that resonates with Canadians, other than the hard core 6% environmental fringe.  We have not had the breakthrough into contention as a provincial or national government.  The green message is still in left field.  We did well in 2019, but as a percentage of the popular vote we did better in 2008.  

In choosing a new leader, we need to be fully aware of the consequences of choosing a successor to Elizabeth.  We need someone with her political and media savvy.  We need someone who is fluently bilingual to ensure continuing to hold on to this country.  We need someone who has an environmental track record equal to that of Elizabeth.

We also need someone who is cooperative and able to hold a disparate and at times dysfunctional green party together.  I also suspect we need a leader who is independently wealthy since you cannot forego a career to sustain the life-changing peregrinations of the leader of a national political party, particularly one with limited resources.

We need a leader who can make our platform palatable with Canadians.  Without it the Green Party of Canada will continue to be an also-ran.  And our existence on this planet will be seriously in question.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Signs in a secular state

As an atheist I am deeply offended by the idea of respect for people who believe in nonsense.  The whole argument for and against religious symbols in public, hinges on the idea of respect for people’s views, whether sensible, imaginary, or just plain nonsense.

I was raised a Christian.  The values of Christianity, as basically with any religion, are founded on respect for all individuals.  However, this does not mean that the basic ideas of a religion need to be respected. We can respect people for their humanity, and their decency, but we do not have to respect them for their ideas.

I was also raised to believe in Father Christmas.  As a child I would greatly anticipate what was going to happen on Christmas morning.  Less the idea of the birth of a mythically born child, as with the arrival of gifts. There is after all, an enormous amount of real evidence of the existence of Santa Claus.  He is present in every shopping centre, and NORAD follows his progress across the northern skies.  But in comparison, there is no such evidence for the existence of a God or any God.  Plenty of evidence of faith in a God, but none whatsoever for the God him, her or itself.

I agree with Saint Paul:  Now that I am a man, I shall give up my childish things.  Father Christmas I now know is a myth promoted by loving parents to give delights to their children.  God too is a myth, invented to easily satisfy inquisitive young minds, that should be given up by an adult.

Sadly, nearly all religions are intolerant.  They begin by claiming tolerance, but if you are not with us, then you must be against us, by definition a statement of intolerance. If you don’t believe in my god, then you must be wrong, and in many religions, treated as a complete pariah, subject to the extreme sanctions that man has devised.

I will be tolerant of many things, but intolerance I will not tolerate.  In a secular state, it is essential that we expressly show tolerance for different ideas, but we cannot show toleration for intolerance.  Thus since all religions show intolerance, their symbols, reflecting their ideas, cannot be tolerated, in situations where the state itself is acting for the good of all. Otherwise in private at least you are free to show your insanity.

As an atheist I need neither a God or a church.  After all, as an atheist, I do not need to have my faith confirmed by a weekly service.  My beliefs do not need to be constantly refreshed.  I do not think the world is based on nonsense.