Saturday, June 23, 2018

Is President Donald Trump a Vogon?

Is President Donald Trump a Vogon? 
The time has come, unfortunately, when we need to ask that question, even though it might seem like a joke, science fiction or a satire by Jonathan Swift
It is however, a serious question – deadly serious.
For those not familiar with the term, the Vogons are a fictional extraterrestrial species found in Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series of books.
In the first book, the Vogons destroy planet Earth to make way for a hyperspatial express route.
The demolition orders for planet Earth had been posted on Alpha Centauri for 50 Earth years.
“What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri?” one of them asks. “For Heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light-years away. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your lookout.” 
“Energize the demolition beams.”
Of course, those in the White House (or the nanobots controlling them) likely aren’t making room for a hyperspatial express route.
Far more likely would be they are sterilizing the Earth for a real estate development.
Let’s say that there is an interstellar civilization (that we’ll call the Kzintzi) looking for a new planet to settle.
A planet such as Earth, with all it its diverse life forms and ecologies, might be interesting to observe for a while, but it really wouldn’t do as a place to live.
Newcomers almost certainly would have little or no resistance to Earth’s millions of bacteria, viruses and other forms of life (read “War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells).
Far better to sterilize it or, better yet, get compliant (and not too bright) Earthlings to do it for you – fewer legal complications with the Galactic Federation’s First Directive that way.
So, what would the members of that interstellar civilization, the Kzinti, do? 
Perhaps they would hire interstellar real estate consultants (that we’ll call Vogons) to go ahead of their migration fleet and “clear the land” for them – for a sizeable fee, of course.
The Vogons would seek out planets occupied with a species advanced enough to burn fossil fuels but not quite advanced enough to control the greenhouse gases emitted.
The Vogons do a few subtle psychological manipulations here and there, the greenhouse gases increase beyond control, the oceans boil off and the planet is left totally lifeless, with even the hardiest microbes killed.
A few years later the Kzintis' interstellar fleet arrives at the sterilized planet (“Too bad, so sad”) and they cool it down to make it livable again – a trivial problem for a space-faring civilization.
We human beings have spent many years and hundreds of millions of dollars unsuccessfully searching the galaxy for signs of life.
By any reasonable calculation there should be hundreds if not thousands of advanced civilizations out there. Why haven’t we found any?
The standard answer is they aren’t there. 
A possibly more realistic answer might be that the universe out there is much like it is here on Earth – a dangerous place.
Perhaps there are hundreds or thousands of advanced civilizations in our galaxy but they keep their existences secret because there also are out there, as here on Earth, predators, parasites and other unpleasant creatures ready to prey on the weak or unsuspecting.
Human beings are altering the Earth’s environment. We are close to expanding off of our planet. We are about to develop artificial intelligence. In other words, we are dealing with a crisis the like of which has never occurred in the history of our planet. 
How likely it is that this crisis would attract the interest of interstellar predators, parasites or real estate developers is, to borrow a phrase, “an unknown unknown.”
What should we do? 
The cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has good advice. It reads: “Don’t Panic.”
– Keith McNeill

READ MORE: Stephen Hawking: We are close to the tipping point

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Prime minister Justin Trudeau should call for a worldwide referendum on global carbon fee-and-dividend at the COP21 climate change conference in Paris.
The conference will start on Nov. 30 and will last until Dec. 11.
The general consensus is that, while it will make some progress, it won't make the breakthrough we need.
A worldwide referendum on carbon fee-and-dividend would be that breakthrough.
James Hansen, the man who many consider the dean of climate scientists, has called for carbon fee-and-dividend many years and with some success.
Carbon fee-and-dividend is elegantly simple – charge a fee on fossil fuels at source, similar to a carbon tax. Unlike a typical carbon tax, however, the money would not go into general government revenue but be distributed in equal dividends to everyone.
For those on the right, it's a small government solution. Most governments already collect some kind of tax or royalty from fossil fuel production, and so little additional bureaucracy would be needed to collect the fee. Similarly, people would only need to prove that they are human beings and of a certain age to collect their dividends, meaning minimal bureaucracy on the distribution side as well.
For those on the left, carbon fee-and-dividend would tend to re-distribute income, helping to correct the world’s growing economic inequality. According to Citizens' Climate Lobby – Canada, two-thirds of people would receive more in dividends than they would spend in fossil fuel fees. The bottom 20 per cent of earners could expect to receive 150 per cent more than they would pay.
Many economists agree that carbon fee-and-dividend would be our most powerful tool in dealing with climate change. In fact, it is hard to imagine a successful approach that does not include carbon fee-and-dividend as its central pillar.
Here are some ballpark figures.
According to Wikipedia, the world produces about 30 billion tonnes per year of carbon dioxide through the burning of fossil fuels. A fossil fuel fee set at the same level of B.C.'s carbon tax of $30 per tonne of carbon dioxide would therefore raise about $900 billion per year. Assuming that the dividends would only go to adults, and that 5 billion of the 7 billion people in the world are over the age of 18, then that would mean every adult human being on the planet would get a dividend of about $180 per year.
Carbon fee-and-dividend might be our most powerful tool, but to have a hope of being effective it would need to be global.
National programs, even if they involve major emitters such as the United States or China, are simply not going to cut it.
Put a fee on fossil fuel use in one jurisdiction and certain industries will move to another. If the fee rises high enough, there would be the danger of creating a black market for untaxed oil and coal. Both outcomes could be minimized by global carbon fee-and-dividend.
Going global implies going through the United Nations. Implementing global carbon fee-and-dividend would justify and require reforming that organization. A good place to start might be by creating a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.
Here in Canada, as in many other nations around the world, we sometimes put important questions to the people in a referendum. One example would be the referendum on transit held last spring in B.C.'s Lower Mainland.
Organizing a worldwide referendum on carbon fee-and-dividend would be a difficult but not impossible task. The United Nations has organized successful votes in war-ravaged locations such as Kampuchea and East Timor.
Human-caused climate change is a global problem and requires global solutions. A worldwide referendum on global carbon fee-and-dividend would be a good next step, and Canada should lead the way.
– Author Keith McNeill is the editor of the award-winning Clearwater Times newspaper. Last spring, McNeill, age 65, and his friend, Jean Nelson, age 81, cycled from Toronto to Ottawa to promote an online petition calling for a Canada-wide referendum on carbon fee-and-dividend.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Meeting with the politicians during days three and four of the CCL conference

Participants in Citizen Climate Lobby-Canada's 2014 conference in Ottawa get ready to fan out on Parliament Hill on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 22 and 23.

Days three and four of the Citizens Climate Lobby-Canada conference were when the rubber hit the road.
After two days of workshops on Nov. 20 and 21, the nearly 70 participants at the conference fanned out across Parliament Hill to speak to 43 MPs and senators to tell them about using carbon fee-and-dividend to control climate change.
Most of them came back optimistic. The general feeling was that there is movement happening behind the scenes in Ottawa on this issue.
This reporter visited three people on the Hill: my own Conservative M.P. for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, Cathy McLeod, New Democrat finance critic Nathan Cullen, the M.P. for Bulkley-Skeena, and Senator Nancy Greene Raine of Kamloops, also a Conservative.
The meeting with Cathy McLeod went well. She is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labor
CCLers meet with Cathy McLeod, MP.
and Western Diversification. As such, she has a nice office in the Justice Building
with a beautiful view of the Ottawa River.
With me on the visit were Sonia Furstenau and Blaise Salmon of the Cowichan Valley, Geoff Richards of (I believe) Waterloo, Ontario, and Michael Polanyi of Toronto.
McLeod was, perhaps not surprisingly, the perfect hostess – quickly putting everyone at ease.
One got the impression that she was happy to meet with ordinary Canadians to talk about an issue, rather than with professional lobbyists.
Her questions were shrewd and forthright, although one never knew quite what her own thinking might be. She often used phrasing such as, “There are those who say that….” and then asked for a response.
The meeting with Nathan Cullen was not quite so relaxed, possibly because he was expecting to be called away to a vote in the House of Commons.
“Let’s start at the end and work back,” he said, wanting to make sure we covered the meat of the meeting first.
The other CCL members at this meeting were Sonia Furstenau and Blaise Salmon of the Cowichan Valley, Laura Sacks of Nelson, and Nicole Melanson of Saltspring Island.
New Democratic policy is to seek a cap-and-trade approach to climate change control, rather than fee-and-dividend.
Cullen conceded this approach has problems, as the different approaches to cap-and-trade can be complicated, making it too easy to cheat.
The NDP finance critic asked some tough questions about the fee-and-dividend approach. One got the impression, however, that he might have been looking for good answers that he could use if he brought the subject up elsewhere.
This reporter’s final meeting was with Senator Nancy Greene Raine late on the Tuesday morning. She was between meetings in the East Block and, as her office is in another building, we had to meet in the hallway by the security counter.
Sen. Nancy Greene Raine (third from left).
The meeting was to have been for a half-hour but the senator was detained and it only lasted for 15 minutes.
The former world ski champion was apologetic for the inconvenience but a fair amount of information was exchanged nevertheless.
Greene Raine was skeptical about some aspects regarding human-caused global warming.
She showed some interest, though, in the dividend side of the fee-and-dividend proposal, which would help those on limited incomes and stimulate the economy.
Those attending the meeting with me included Laura Sacks of Nelson, Rachael Derbyshire of Guelph, Cathy Lacroix of Toronto and Valerie Blab of Red Lake, Ontario.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Here's a photo of me somewhere in the Prairies, probably Saskatchewan, during my walk in 1987.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

CCL-Canada conference - Day Two

Photo shows the participants in Citizen Climate Lobby 2014 conference - except for the photographer.
The second day of the Citizen Climate Lobby - Canada conference was even more interesting that the first.

Speakers included a Skype appearance by Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and evangelical Christian who was born and grew up in the Toronto area but who now lives in Texas. She talked about the need to shape your climate change message to your audience - for example, evangelical Christians.

Michael MacMillan talked about his book, "Tragedy in the Commons," which is based on interviews

Michael MacMillan
done with 80 former M.P.s about their experiences in politics. Even though many of them had been in senior cabinet positions, they overwhelmingly were unhappy with the high level of party discipline in the Canadian parliament. Several reforms were suggested.

CCL executive director Mark Reynolds gave an address titled, "The Way Forward." When things go wrong, people ask, "What's wrong with me?", "What's wrong with them?" and "What's wrong with it?" he said. A better approach would be to ask, "What are we committed to?"

A common metaphor used to explain how people react to the threat of climate change is the story of putting a frog in a pot of cool water and gradually warming it. The frog supposedly will remain until it cooks. Tom Rand, the
Tom Rand
keynote speaker in the afternoon, talked about his book "Waking the Frog," which examines the psychology of denial.

Final workshop was a panel discussion on economics with Tom Rand, Celine Bak (president of Analytica Advisors), Stewart Elgie (University of Ottawa and member of the new EcoFiscal Commission), Christopher Ragan (chair of the EcoFiscal Commission), and David Robinson (Institute for Northern Ontario Research and Development).
Although Celine Bak emphasized that she is not an economist, the panel members seemed to agree that the consensus of economists was that the best way to tackle climate change would be by pricing carbon dioxide - preferably through a carbon tax.

Stewart Elgie said a carbon tax set at $30 per tonne (the same as B.C.'s) would generate $20 billion per year federally (assuming there are 20 million adults in Canada, that would mean a carbon dividend as proposed by CCL would amount to $1,000 per year per adult).

The day closed with convention participants getting together to plan their meetings tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday with M.P.s and senators.
Panelists (l-r) Tom Rand, Christopher Ragan, Stewart Elgie, David Robinson and Celine Bak.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

CCL-Canada conference - Day One

The first day of the Citizens Climate Lobby - Canada 2014 conference in Ottawa was interesting and informative.

Main speaker was Mark Reynolds, the executive director of CCL. He outlined the history of the
organization and outlined the approach they take when speaking with legislators - respectful and non-confrontational, to listen as much as to speak.

Final item on the agenda was the handing out of assignments. I'm to meet with my M.P., Cathy McLeod plus M.P. Nathan Cullen on Monday, and with Senator Nancy Greene Raine on Tuesday. Groups of between three  and five CCLers will be visiting each.