About Ann Coulter and the University of Ottawa

25 03 2010

The media is blowing this up right now and everyone is leaving out bit of information as per usual.

Let’s get some things straight:

Ann Coulter, Right-wing American Pundint, was invited by the Conservative students group at the University of Ottawa to speak publicly.

The Provost of the university sent Ann an email warning her about free speech laws in Canada, which differ from those in the U.S.

On the day of the speech, large crowds filled the lobby outside of the small room in which Ann was supposed to speak. The police said that they would not be able to ensure her safety because of the size of the crowds. The decision was left to Ann and her body guards whether or not to follow through with the talk.

The University of Ottawa did not cancel Ann’s speech.

Ann’s body guard cancelled the speech.

Was it right to shout down Ann and prevent her speech from happening? Not really, though, protesters have the same rights to yell what they want as Ann has to say what she wants.

Ann Coulter seems to me to be a highly paid actor. She says things that she knows will seriously upset people because it gets her attention and therefore, it gets her money. This aside though, she should still be allowed to speak. By disallowing this, protesters at the University of Ottawa have given themselves a bad name. We saw the same things happen to a number of protesters in Copenhagen in December. Lets not paint them all with the same brush though. Ann Coulter does not represent the majority of the right. Loud and rambuncious protestors do not represent the majority of the left.

Thanks to the Ottawa Citizen for writing an in depth article explaining this issue. http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Organizers+university+cancelled+Coulter/2721580/story.html

No thanks to the Toronto Star for skimming and skewing. http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/785037–coulter-s-right-to-free-speech-defended

Advertisements




China Snubs Obama Town Hall

16 11 2009

From: The Globe and Mail, 2009

In a very typical and anticipated move, China has decided not to allow millions of Chinese citizens to hear the President of the United States speak when he visited the country today.

The national television station, the Central China Television Network, will not be broadcasting a ‘town hall’ type question and answer period with 500 chinese students in Shanghai. The event will be broadcast on local Shanghai television and on the website of the official Xinhua News station. These two sources will broadcast the event uncensored. But these two news stations aren’t exactly accessible to the country as a whole. The US State Department plans to run feeds of the talk on Twitter, which China says it will allow access to, though as it stands, internet censorship in China does not allow access to Twitter, Facebook, or even Google. 

Why the reluctance to allow citizens to hear President Obama speak? They allowed Clinton to speak uncensored – George W Bush too. Maybe it’s because of quotes that supported those who “faced down facism and communism”. Or his warnings that go something like, “those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent know that you are on the wrong side of history”.

A bit more on this in: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/china-restricts-obamas-qa/article1364342/





We Could All Use a Second Look

25 08 2009
From: CTV, 2009

From: CTV, 2009

“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way. “

– From the film Dead Poets Society




Hydro-Electricity vs. Rainforest Protection

25 08 2009
Dam Reservoir from: Mongabay, 2009

Dam Reservoir from: Mongabay, 2009

Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest is a hot topic this week it seems. The Guardian Newspaper published an article today on the proposal for 229 small scale dams in the Brazilian Amazon. This comes after my post yesterday on rainforest depletion vs. economic growth in Brazil. The issues are similar. On one hand, you have the farmers, villagers and residents of smaller towns trying to lift themselves out of poverty and grow along with their country’s economy. On the other hand you have the Indian tribes of the Amazon as well as a world wonder of a natural ecosystem that is ultimately quite fragile. The guardian article talks about how the tribes are changing drastically and adapting to modern times, with wireless internet installed recently and televisions in a few homes, all of which are powered by a generator that runs from 9am to 9 pm. The article only makes mention of the village of Pavuru though, leading me to wonder if any of the other 29 directly impacted villages have any of these comforts? Even if they are becoming accustomed to such things, they state that they do not need electricity from the dams. They fear that damming all the tributaries will prevent fish from migrating upstream and thereby cut off their access to some fish – the main source of food for the tribes.

The Amazonian tribes are also displeased with other government plans to build roads, and other hydro-electric dams, inluding plans for one of the largest dams on earth. Once again, I am going to have to side with the rainforest on this one. As with other developing countries in the world, Brazil has the opportunity to develop efficiently and differently than North America and Europe. They can efficiently consume electricity, construct buildings with passive cooling in mind, and plan to grow in harmony with their natural surroundings rather than grow overtop of  them. While constructing a select few small scale hydro-electric dams may not have a dramatic effect on the surrounding ecosystem and villages, building one of the world’s largest dams, or blocking most waterways with 229 small dams, will certainly have a detrimental effect. The scale of these projects is simply too large for the system in which they are being placed.

The Guardian Article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/aug/23/brazil-amazon-electricity





How to Store Nuclear Waste in Canada

24 08 2009
From: ecofriendlymag, 2009

From: ecofriendlymag, 2009

Community resistance to hosting public need facilities such as power plants and landfills is nothing new. Governments historically have gone into communities and imposed these public need facilities on helpless citizens. Sometimes governments succeed in stifling community opposition but in other cases, communities band together to reject the proposal as was the case with the European and American multi-billion dollar nuclear waste storage plan. The same will likely apply to the storage of nuclear waste in Canada. Or will it?

The Canadian Government has opted to address the storage of nuclear waste by working with the public. On behalf of the Canadian Government, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) was tasked with developing a site choosing process which will comprise of two major components: a willing host community and a good geological site with a steady rock formation where groundwater is not easily available. NWMO is working with organizations and individuals on important principles and elements for a fair process to identify an informed and willing community to host the storage facilities.  Interested communities are invited to volunteer themselves as a potential host community. It seems that the Canadian Government is willing to cooperate and ask rather than tell. Additionally, the Canadian Government has asked NWMO to work with the host community for 8 to 10 years to discuss concerns and issues regarding storage of nuclear waste.

An aside: Canada has more than two million high-level radioactive bundles of nuclear waste that needs to be stored for approximately 10 000 years. It will cost between 16 and 24 billion dollars just to construct the storage facility. While ample research has been done to ensure safe storage of nuclear waste no one really knows what will happen within the next 10 000 years, or even the next 100 years for that matter. So who should bear the potential unknown risks of storing nuclear waste? While the Canadian Government is putting emphasis on identifying a willing host, aboriginal communities appear to be targeted. NWMO has specifically identified aboriginal consultations as a separate component of implementing a nuclear waste storage plan. Is this a good thing? Are we honourably trying to better educate and consult with aboriginals? Or are we simply trying to entice certain communities who are in desperate need of money and job opportunities? Both of which will be made available to communities who host nuclear waste. Just a thought to consider…

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/08/19/f-nuclear-waste-storage-options.html

http://www.nwmo.ca/

Thanks to Sarah English for contributing





China and Pollution: What You Can Do

18 08 2009
From: Current, 2009

From: Current, 2009

I know this probably isn’t News to anyone, but China is pretty bad when it comes to pollution. Often the argument goes like this:

  • China’s recent history of water pollution, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions is higher than anywhere in the world.

But then there is the counter argument:

  • North Americans along with Western Europeans have far higher greenhouse gas emission rates per capita, in fact the emissions per person in china are about a quarter of those of his or her United States counterpart.

And my counter argument?:

  • If China’s pollution is so high when their per capita rate is so low, that means there are a few very large, very powerful corporations, power plants, etc in the East that are allowed to pollute without consequence, or so it seems to me. We can’t punish the already struggling and impoverished general population of that country.

My personal argument isn’t based in fact so much as it is in observation and inference. We often hear about industrial catastrophe’s in China such as the recent lead poisoning of nearly all children in one village. We see the polluted haze that consumes Beijing daily (the olympics sure didn’t help thier image). We know that the country is very rapidly running it’s water resources dry and on top of that, it is said that a major water pollution incident occurs every other day. In effect, most of these problems are partly induced by us westerners who demand Chinese goods day in and day out, from irons to computer chips. It is within our capacity to change the way China manufacturers it’s products. We have the ability to demand a clean manufacturing process and the fair treatment of employees by only purchasing goods that meet our requirements. Wal Mart, of all places, is sort of doing this. They are developing an environmental rating system for all products on their shelves, and if their manufacturers don’t comply, they’ve threatened to drop them. The catch here, is that the system will only apply to packaging, which Wal Mart says it will reduce by a whopping 5%. This doesn’t mean much in and of itself, but it may hopefully spawn a new movement towards consumer knowledge of what they are purchasing. A rating system that expalins the approximate greenhouse gas emissions created by that product, the amount of recyclable material within it, the exact toxins that go into the manufacturing process, the amount of water used. If the west were to make purchases based on this type of data and not solely price, then maybe we could see a great change in Chinese manufacturers?

For now, you can look desparately for North American made products (occassionaly you can still find some clothing, shoes, office products, etc.), and you can improve your knowledge of the manufacturing industry in China. Two relatively mainstream documentaries are worth watching: WalMart: The High Cost of Low Prices, and Manufactured Landscapes. You can also support Human Rights Watch or support any number of environmental organizations, many of which will be involved with China in some way.

We can’t blame the country of China for the environmental problems of the world. We in the west have certainly been polluting for a longer period of time. Consider our industrial revolution was over 100 years ago, China’s has happened within the past 20 years. However, they are not going to change all by themselves. A quote from Wang Yongli, a water engineer in Shijiazhuang says, “We have a water shortage, but we have to develop…And development is going to be put first…In Israel [where there are also extreme water shortages], people regard water as more important than life itself. In Shijianzhuang, it’s not that way. People are focused on the economy.” If we as consumers show that we want environmental and social justice through our purchases by buying locally as much as possible, maybe the Chinese will then see the need to meet western regulations on both the environment as well as human rights. This is as much our problem as it is theirs. Don’t blame China until you stop supporting their dirty industries with your wallet and demand change.





Two Activists Murdered in Chechnya

13 08 2009
Prayers Over Zarema's Body from: Dayton Daily News, 2009

Prayers Over Zarema's Body from: Dayton Daily News, 2009

The bodies of Zarema Sadulayeva and Alik Lechayevich Dzhabrailov were found in the trunk of their own car early today in Chechnya. It appears that human rights activists are in more danger than usual this summer in Chechnya – this following last months murder of Natalya Estemirova. One day ago, the two activists were abducted from their office in Chechnya. Zarema Sadulayeva was the head of Let’s Save the Generation, an organization that tasked itself with aiding children that had been affected by violence in Chechnya.

Witnesses reported men entering the offices claiming to be a part of security services. The men demanded that the head of the organization and her husband go with them. Minutes later, the men returned to claim Ailk’s telephone and his car, the same car in which their bodies were found this morning.

These two put the number of human rights defenders murdered up to six within the past twelve months in Chechnya.

Take Action

See RickB’s post for more details: http://tenpercent.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/murdered-left-in-the-boot-of-their-own-car/