Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Digging a Hole (to China)

When I was a kid, somebody told me that if I dug a hole in the ground deep enough, eventually I would dig all the way to China on the other side of the Earth! I thought about it, but it seemed like it would be an awful lot of work. So instead, I tried to dig a hole big enough for my sister to fall into.

These days it seems like China is doing some digging... digging themselves into an embarrassing hole.

Today Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially met the Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of Tibet. Good for him, and I hope they had a nice chat. The Dalai Lama is a Nobel Peace laureate, was recently awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, is an honorary Citizen of Canada, and has met with countless world religious leaders and heads of state. He has tirelessly campaigned for peace and maintained a pacifist position in the face of brutal political, cultural and religions repression of Tibet by the Chinese government.

China has protested rather loudly. But the world has changed... even in the last decade. It's somehow gotten smaller as people have connected through ever-improving information technology. Information on global issues is now so much more readily accessible. Yet somehow China seems to think we still live in a world where people can be duped by rhetoric. Their officials continue to tout the Party line, protesting and threatening and carrying on like a bunch of autocrats trotting out an old straw horse. It would be funny if it weren't so sad. In the Information Age you can't get away with this and not look pretty silly.

Canada's behaviour disgusting, says Beijing

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Jianchao said the Prime Minister's reception of the Dalai Lama was "gross interference in China's internal affairs", calling the meeting "disgusting conduct" that has "seriously hurt" relations between Canada and China.

I feel embarrassed for Mr Liu. I'm glad I don't have his job... obligated to embarrass myself and country.

Chinese 'childish' for opposing visit

I think the headline from the Toronto Sun accurately sums up the general opinion of the informed Canadian public and most of the rest of the world. Here, for example, are a few comments from the CTV.ca article today:
"Hmmm. let me see, Canada imports 5 times more than they export to China and 95% of it is cheap crap. China needs the natural resources that it imports from Canada to continue making their cheap crap. I don't think China has a really good bargaining position here. Who are they to tell us who we can or can't talk to?" - M.

"We are a free country and we won't let Communists tell us what to do. This is what a democratic country looks like, China. Watch and learn." - N.T.

"China wants all countries to be silent and to silence those who speak on behalf of freedom. They are still a communist country and anybody who does business with China are finding out the practice of free speech is against the law." - S.

"Canada should warn China that dumping toxic fish in Canadian supermarkets [See latest W-Five episode] "could harm relations" as well." - N.

My sister did not fall into the hole that I dug. I wouldn't really have wanted her to fall in a hole, anyway. All in all, the digging was pretty much a waste of time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Followup

Hi. After the last post I got a couple of emails. One was asking about plastic bottles, particularly the Nalgene plastic bottles, and if they're safe for drinking water. So I decided to look into that a bit.

Apparently the colorful, hard plastic Lexan bottles by Nalgene (and other manufacturers) are polycarbonate based and they do leach harmful chemicals into the water, especially if exposed to heat and/or sunlight. These bottles can be identified by a recycling symbol with the number 7.

The disposable plastic water bottles are made from polyethylene teraphthalate (PET) and identified by the recycling symbol 1. They're often marked "do not refill" because they are known to release toxins into the water in increasing levels as they get older. The molecular formula for this compound is (-CO-C6H5-CO-O-CH2-CH2-O-)n, where C6H5 is a benzene ring. Benzene is known to be a carcinogenic substance.

Here are a couple of links for more information:
http://www.wellnesstips.ca/waterbottles.htm
http://www.earthodyssey.com/symbols.html
http://www.ehponline.org/members/1995/Suppl-7/feldman-full.html

Then I got an email from a friend who said they were skeptical of the idea that the changes in climate over the last couple of decades are attributable to human activity. At first I was a little bit shocked, but then I realized that this is still a widely-held opinion amongst the general public. Although my friend admitted to not having done any research into it, there were a few reasons why he rejected the idea human impact on the climate. The reasons were mainly about some local 'environmental' bylaws that kept him from doing what he wanted with his waterfront property.

A couple of points were interesting to me.
  • That people who research environmental issues are usually concerned about them because of what they've learned, and people who don't research it usually aren't concerned.
  • That our perceptions of injustices or inconveniences done in the name of environmentalism have often affected our ability to think without bias on the subject.
  • That a lot of my own info comes from going out and digging it up on the web, in books, lectures or presentations -- and that is purely because I don't have television. Seems like most people get their information from the TV, and I wonder if that's healthy. I think this is beginning to change with the younger generation.
So now I have three whole new things to think about and possibly write about, and they're all very interesting! 1. Human Impact on Climate Change 2. Critical Thinking 3. The TV Free lifestyle.

I'm reading a couple of books right now that relate in one way or another, so I hope to get around to commenting on them pretty soon.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, October 15, 2007

One for the Planet

Today, it turns out, is Blog Action Day, where bloggers around the world are encouraged to blog on the environment. And it turns out that as a climber, I have an interest in the environment because of what I've seen in the mountains.

It's easy not to care about the environment. For most of us, environmental issues don't affect our day to day lives. In some places, if you go on about "the environment", people look at you like some kind of kook. Growing up in the 70's, there were lots of environmentalists around making noise, but in general they were treated like a bunch of weirdos. In my upbringing, there was a certain stigma attached to environmental issues. You still encounter this today even in young people. A lot of people just don't want to be worried about the environment.

I just posted a bunch of photos from my last trip to the Canadian Rockies. I started doing technical mountaineering in the Rockies in the mid-90's, starting with Mt. Temple, Mt. Edith, and Mt. Athabasca in 1997. Several years ago I went back to Mt. Athabasca with a group of friends. Although the route was familiar, I was really confused by how much steeper and more difficult the glacier seemed to be. I couldn't be sure if the route itself had changed, or if my memory was incorrect. I just couldn't imagine the mountain environment changing that much.

In recent years my climbing trips to the Rockies have confirmed what a lot of people have been saying... the mountain environment is really changing. The glaciers are melting like crazy, and a lot of the routes we used to climb are now either more difficult, too dangerous, or just plain gone. In this regard, mountaineers have a unique perspective on climate change.

1973

2006

Its not easy to find good photo documentation of glacial recession online (they don't tend to make good marketing material for the tourism industry). But you won't find any mountaineers who doubt global warming, glacial recession, and the drastic changes that are occurring high in the alpine, away from the view of city dwellers. Year after year, as we return to the Rockies, the same phrases... "It's just incredible", or "I can't believe it"... echo around as we stare at the remnants of glaciers and ice fields where only a few years earlier we had led troupes of novice climbers for a beginners day. Ice fields which now even the most experienced climbers in our group wouldn't try to climb.

Seeing these drastic changes first hand really drove home to me that the mountain climate and environment is absolutely changing. The Melting Mountains project aims to raise awareness of changes in the mountain environment. Reinhold Messner put it, “From the changes I have seen, it’s clear that climate change is a huge threat to the mountains. We need to act now and protect them for the future.”

The changing mountain environment impacts a lot more than just the climbing routes of mountaineers. The Columbia Icefields are the hydrographic apex of North America, feeding rivers that run into three oceans. They represent the largest accumulation of snow and ice south of the arctic circle and are a vital source of water for the continent. Unfortunately the rate at which they're disappearing is plain to see if you visit there often enough, and if the current rate of recession continues, the eight major glaciers that extend from this incredible spot could be gone in our lifetime.

This brings me to a more serious and insidious side effect of change in the mountain environment -- water. In some corporate and government circles, water has been referred to as "the new oil". Water shortage is no longer confined to far-away drought-stricken third world countries. And even as news of water shortages and the global water crisis grows, corporations are fighting to gain control of this precious resource that most of us take for granted.

"The wars of the next century will be about water." - Ismail Serageldin, vice president of the World Bank

In a special report entitled "Blue Gold: The global water crisis and the commodification of the world's water supply", issued by the International Forum on Globalization (IFG), Council of Canadians National Chairperson Maude Barlow describes the global water crisis, the push to commodify and commercialize it, and urges governments and citizens to act to save the world's water resources.

More recently, it has been developed into a book entitled Blue Gold - The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World's Water (2003), followed by Blue Covenant - The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water (2007).

Maybe reading books and reports isn't your thing, and you're looking for something simple you can start doing right away. Here it is:

Stop drinking bottled water.

There are so many reasons not to drink bottled water. Even the United Church has called for a ban on bottled water. The Polaris Institute website is a good place to start researching water issues, but here is a list of 7 good reasons to stop drinking bottled water and turn on the tap.
  1. Bottled water costs over six hundred times more than tap water. Bottled water costs up to $11.00 a gallon in the supermarket when most municipal water supplies cost less than one cent per gallon.
  2. Bottled water is not as safe as tap water. Tap water has much stricter quality standards than bottled water.
  3. Bottled water causes pollution. 1.5 million tonnes of garbage results from plastic bottles every year. Between 80 - 90% of water bottles end up in landfills, in the ocean, and in our food. A vast swath of the Pacific, twice the size of Texas, is full of a plastic stew that is entering the food chain.
  4. Bottled water depletes local water resources. Excessive water extraction leads to local water resource depletion. For every gallon of bottled water, two gallons are wasted in the bottling process.
  5. Bottled water is bad for the environment. Plastic water bottle production uses up to 47 million gallons of oil a year, enough to fuel 100,000 cars or remove 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  6. Bottled water is not pure spring water. Much bottled water is nothing more than bottled tap water (ie. Aquafina and Dasani).
  7. Bottled water is bad for your health. Xenoestrogens leached from plastic water bottles are associated with medical problems including infertility and breast cancer (manufacturers know this, so bottles are marked 'Do not refill').
A good alternative to drinking bottled water is to buy a stainless steel bottle to carry tap water. Its versatile, hard-wearing, and it looks good and shows you are in the know. Bottled water is out.

Its a small step we can all take, mountaineers or not.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Take Stock

Well I've uploaded just about everything worth uploading from my summer vacation pictures.

Other than posting pictures, I've been rebuilding my porch. As for sailing, the season is coming to a close and I'm sure I'll be writing about haul-out and winter boat projects soon.

But not before the Turkey Trot! A fun Thanksgiving Day race where the goal is to have everyone cross the finish line at the same time, a boisterous bevy of boaters, booze and ... birds. The winners - however they're chosen - each get a frozen turkey. Gobble gobble!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Going Home

Climbers' silhouettes against Mt. Odaray , Yoho National Park, B.C., Canada

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Fresh Snow

Mt. Hungabee, Yoho National Park, B.C., Canada.

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Escalade

Climbers on Mt. Odaray, Yoho National Park, B.C., Canada.

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.

Translate