Sunday, April 3, 2016

War Memorials ... What are We to Remember?

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you all well.

This post is on a rather different topic than usual. On Apr 2, 2016, I wrote to our Mayor and Councillors.

A report to Community and Protective Services Committee on Wednesday, March 3 - LAVIII Public Art Monument - recommends funding up to $100,000 to be "drawn from the City of London Public Art Acquisition Reserve Fund" for purchase of a LAV war vehicle, to become a war memorial at Wolseley Barracks.

In my own opinion, an object phrased as having "unsurpassed lethality" and described as "formidable and dominates the battlefield" is not an art piece.  Those phrases come directly from the General Dynamics website, advertising the merits of their products.

I urge all members of City Council to vote against spending City funds to purchase a weapon to be used as a war memorial.

Ursula Franklin once wrote that "violence is resourcelessness".  She has written and spoken about "the futility of war and the connection between peace and social justice", and has been an active member of the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace.

I'm sure she would challenge London Council to come up with a more resourceful way to remember soldiers killed in war ... and perhaps to come up with a memorial that indicates that the lives sacrificed by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were related to lives lost and livelihoods destroyed of the people in that country.

War is not a series of isolated soldiers.  Canadian lives lost in a war elsewhere do not give us permission to forget the people of that other country.

A thoughtful expression of it being wrong to spend any money on such a vehicle for a monument is in Larry Cornies article, printed in Saturday's London National Post (er Free Press)  ... but, notably, not on the website.  I urge you to read it and consider.

Another London Free Press article reported that all members of CPSC voted for this.
I hope that all Councillors next week will vote against City funds to purchase a lethal weapon for a monument, and will request that any monument meet Franklin's challenge.

One councillor wrote back to let me know he had recused his vote at Committee because he is in the Canadian Armed Forces.  I wrote him back, of course.  

My late father was in the British army for 14 years, about 1937 to 1951, serving in Egypt, Malta, and what was for his time Palestine.  My Dad almost never spoke about his time in the army, but I remember turning around one time when a war movie was on tv and he had tears in his eyes.  He said sometimes, when a news item came on, that people never thought what war did to the people living in the country where the fighting happened.  My mother's first fiance was a Canadian pilot, killed within the first year of WWII.  Dad never bothered her to get rid of his photo, which she kept in the bottom drawer of the dining room buffet; I still have that photo.

So, in my experience, remembering soldiers and people of the war zone is connected.  I hadn't even recalled these things until the recent news items ... and have seldom had a reaction to anything as viscerally as the thought of another memorial tank.  (And I hate those guns pointed out from Provost by the river forks.)

Thanks for the ear everyone,

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Critics of LAV memorial stir political discomfort before Tuesday decision

Monday, March 28, 2016

Preserve, within a wild sanctuary

Good morning!

I hope this musing finds you well.  And that you've had some time over this past Easter weekend to do something you enjoyed.

... It may be that all one needs to write is some inspiration from the voices waiting inside Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (my copy being the 1955 edition, by coincidence, the year I was born).

Hoping for some concrete ideas about the word "sanctuary" I turned to the only quotation indexed to that word:

Preserve, within a wild sanctuary, an inaccessible valley of reveries.
from a Certain Measure (1943)
by Ellen Glasgow (1874-1945)

Not even sure what it means!  Why can she not get to the reveries - the dreams?

But there's a sensibility I like.

She's instructing us to keep those (as yet?) dreams safe, inside a wild sanctuary.

Implying that our dreams are wild?  That our dreams are fresh, new, unexplored ... not everyday and overused?

Thinking this much about a single line ... it's rather like figuring out poetry, which I admit I've never like to do.  Perhaps I'm finally old enough to tackle poetry?  It's been rather fun this morning thinking on Glasgow's words.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Monday, February 22, 2016

The world does not run just fine without you


I hope this note finds you well.  And doing something interesting that counters the long February ... that lone February 29th  must surely equal 5 days in any other month!

Without expecting to, I've been reading about how to be an activist.  A friend recommended a book with a title as long as many a 19th century classic: Blueprint for Revolution: how to use rice pudding, Lego men, and other nonviolent techniques to galvanize communities overthrow dictators, or simply change the world.

Author Srdja Popovic touches on all those things and more as he recounts his own experiences with the Serbian revolution, and going on to train people from other countries in how to focus on goals and bring them about.  His experience is mostly with people whose countries are under the thumbs of political tyrants, and the movement is toward democracy.  The dangers of such situations are real; the consequences of mistakes can be fatal.

His focus is on "big picture" things, important things like having a clear idea of what your goal is, defining your group's "brand", figuring out the biggest audience you can get on your side because they already agree with something you agree with, using nonviolence and humour, beginning with actions that are small and achievable, following through ... and other things like making sure any action has the details planned and people assigned to carry out the details.

Reading, I knew that what he said was important, and correct ... and I also had some nagging feelings of distress. 

Where were the people?  Particularly, where were the women?  I think he cites only two examples where women are the leaders of actions. 

And although I recognize that his "how-to" book is a sort of "meta" how-to" - and forgive the term "meta"! - I would have liked him to at least mention some of the resources that give the how-to organize and carry through the individual events that lead to the big change. 

There were few references to change other than political governance.  Where were the references to environment, gender, social justice, economy, city bylaws, school board rules ... all sorts of things where the ordinary people (Hobbits, in his reference) make so many changes?

Just a note on Hobbits, characters in J.R.R. Tolkien's books.  Popovic is not the first person to refer to Hobbits when he describes how people can come from everyday lives to make change.

A Canadian woman,Bobbi Speck, became a leader in the 1969 fight against an expressway that was to be built through a neighbourhood in her home city of Toronto.  She was in the late stages of pregnancy and then a new mother when she and others went door to door, met with city council, and did all sorts of organizing work. At some later date she had a chance to note that:

" ... And life can seemingly return to normal, but the little people are forever changed.  This is the theme of The Hobbit and the trilogy by R.R. Tolkien, and this is something we know in our hearts without being told."  [Speck]

This quotation, given in Elizabeth May's (2006) book, How to Change the World in Your Spare Time, is just one place where May emphasizes the power of individual people, and that we become more powerful by doing because it helps us recognize just how much we do know.

"The first step of engagement will leave you feeling empowered.  Moreover, any notion you may have had that the world runs just fine without your help may be shattered. ... it becomes increasingly clear that those in power are not very competent.  It becomes obvious that you know more about the subject than those who are regulating an industry or making zoning decisions.  [May]

Elizabeth's book is a how-to that advises how to handle details of many types of activities that make up the big picture of change.  She stresses the utility of humour, and the necessity of kindness, clarity, and nonviolence in actions. 

I only recently found out that she lived in Muriel Duckworth's home in Halifax, during at least part of her time at university.  Muriel was one of the founding members of the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, and someone I met and knew during my two years living in Halifax in the mid 1980s. 

I've met Elizabeth May only once here in London, Ontario ... and, as you see, my blog is named after her book.  Knowing that two of my most important influences had not only met each other but were long-time friends and colleagues, was a pure sit down and cry moment.  Totally soggy, throat swollen, and completely good ... knowing I was truly connected to not only a big picture but a big, many-coloured, many-peopled, vision.

Well, this post drifted from where I thought it would go!  I'd intended to make a few more notes on non-violence stuff and activism from The Transition Companion and mention more about Voice of Women, and the Raging Grannies ... mostly to say that Popovic's book might be a most recent one, but it sure isn't the only one, and I prefer the inclusivity of my other references.

The world needs us all.

Very best regards,

Why's Woman

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Risk Doing Something


I hope this note finds you well.

My husband and I were talking this morning ... about some online criticism Prime Minister Trudeau has gotten for "selfies".  Quite a few of the comments don't seem to realize that Trudeau is not the one taking the selfies; rather, others want him in their selfies.

Selfies are not the point tho'.  More to the point is that use of media is an essential tool in how politicians work these days.  As my husband said, [former prime minister] "Harper had a travelling hairdresser. If that doesn't tell you something about attention to image, nothing can!"

And if activists on fronts of environment, poverty, food security or anything else are going to get their messages out and - more important perhaps - if  they, if we are going to communicate with others, engage, others ... well, I guess we have to learn how to use media in ways that keep us ahead of the politicians and lobbyists on whatever the "other side" is in our cause.

 I suppose I'll come kicking and screaming to more media.  I hate having to learn new technologies and their individual quirks and ways of screwing up.  And I'll always say that getting people knitting together in a room is a great way to ensure that things get talked about and to make sure everyone knows what she (or he) is going to do once out of that room.

Underlying whatever methods are used to get people in touch and doing, is the simple fact that there are a lot of things to be done!  And, to quote further from something my husband wrote down:

"Tough times are not the times you want to go into a shell. This is the time to be optimistic, daring, out there, step up, stand out, say good things and be present. Turtles aren't going to bring Canada anything new... and foreign bigness is just going to rob us of what's left of our vision. If we want our economy to be our economy, we may well have to reboot it all from the ground up. That means that everyone who has a sense of industry and commerce needs to be industrious and commercial and risk doing something

That's as far as I've gotten today with this train of thought. 

Hope your own day goes well.  Best regards,

Why's Woman

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Guelph Organics Conference a good place for conversation about why GMO has got to go!


Happy New Year!  I hope that 2016 will be a healthy, happy, interesting time for you.

Barbara Kingsolver points out in her book Small Wonder that "a sound-bite culture can't discuss science very well". To talk about genetic engineering requires conversations about biodiversity, land rights, toxins and health, and respect for a "commons" of life.  It requires respect for farmers, researchers and all observers of the complexities of growth and selection.  The 35th Guelph Organics Conference will be held January 29 - 31 ( and is a wonderful place to have conversations.   

I mention the conference because there's been a series of articles in our local London Free Press newspaper (one of the Sun Media papers).  

Recently, a LFPress editorial advocated insecticides that threaten food security. LFPress also praised research into an alfalfa splice and speculated it could be a magic bullet for drought resistance, without mentioning existing drought-resistant seed and farmers who know how to hybridize.  Then, LFPress gave space to advocacy of rice genetically modified to provide Vitamin A, without mention that more Vitamin A can come into the diet from leafy vegetables. 

The same pro-genetic modification of seed article also quoted people who commented that the "louder", activists are "winning" the public relations battle to turn the public against genetic modification of seed. It's a funny praise, in a way, for low budget organizations in their opposition to world-market-dominating, billion dollar, agri-chemical companies!

Who's put the pressure on our local newspaper?  Are the same articles published all across the Sun Media "family" of newspapers? 

I'll leave you with a bit more from Barbara Kingsolver.  Every essay in her book Small Wonder is worth reading and pondering.  The essay quoted below - A Fist in the Eye of God - is a an education and a philosophy in itself, well worth reading and talking about.

Kind regards,

Why's Woman

[when someone asks] "In two hundred words or less, can you explain to me why I should be nervous about genetic engineering?" I tell them, "Sit down, I'll make you a cup of tea, and then get ready for more than two hundred words."

A sound-bite culture can't discuss science very well. Exactly what we're losing when we reduce biodiversity, the causes and consequences of global warming - these traumas can't be adequately summarized in an evening news wrap-up. Arguments in favor of genetically engineered food, in contrast, are dangerously simple: A magazine ad for an agribusiness touts its benevolent plan to "feed the world's hungry with our vitamin-engineered rice!" To which I could add in reply my own snappy motto: "If you thought that first free hit of heroin was a good idea..." But before you can really decide whether or not you agree, you may need the five hundred words above and a few thousand more. If so, then sit down, have a cup of tea, and bear with me. This is important.
               Barbara Kingsolver, in essay A Fist in the Eye of God, in Small Wonder,

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Quotations through the year ... perhaps they'll touch you too?

 Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well, as we head toward the end of 2015.  Not overburdened with Christmas or other celebration dinner plans, and certainly not having to do more shopping! 

I've just taken a browse through my 2015 Inner Reflections calendar, where I put quotations from whatever I happen to be reading, as the thought touches me, through the year.  This past year I've not filled in nearly as many days as usual; this is a pure reflection of being too busy with other things that aren't as important as taking the time to reflect  each day on someone else' thought, idea or belief.  Next year I'm going to try to get back to keeping the notes.

Below are some of the thoughts that I did record.  Individually or together, they have meaning ... and not always do they reconcile.  That's people and ideas!  That's one's own mind, over time and situations.

I hope some of the the quotations below have meaning for you, or spark your own train of thought and perhaps writing or action.

Best regards, as always,

Why's Woman

You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture.  Just get people to stop reading them. Ray Bradbury

Don't ask what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.  Howard Thurman

The strength of collective silence is probably one of the most powerful spiritual forces.  Ursula Franklin

A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.  Leonard Nimoy

I ask only one thing of you: give me your hand.  I will not let go.  We are on a mission to help nature, our world, and our only home.  Together, we will succeed.  Diana Beresford-Kroeger, from The Sweetness of a Simple Life

I rage at the imminent loss of my friend. And I think, 'What would Terry [Pratchett] do with this anger?' Then I pick up my pen and I start to write.  Neil Gaimon

Granny Weatherwax' definition of sin: "When you treat people as things."

A good garden's built on basics.  The first is soil fertile enough to grow crops well and the second is the knowledge of how to make the soil fertile if it isn't.  Harry Dodson, from Harry Dodson's Practical Kitchen Garden, 1992, BBC Books

In nature's economy, the currency is not money - it is life.  Vandana Shiva

All it takes is one good person to restore hope.  Pope Francis

We need to discern who we are and expand on our humanness and sacredness.  That's how we change the world, which happens because WE will be the change.  Grace Lee Boggs

I veer between optimism and realism.  As ever, I like optimism better.  Elizabeth May, from COPS21, Dec. 7/15 report

The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.  Pete Seeger

Things are impossible only until someone decides they're not.  Let's imagine a better future and work together to create a safer, cleaner and more just world.  David Suzuki

Prepare for the victory party.  Elizabeth May

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Final Agreement Reached at UN Climate Negotiations

Final Agreement Reached at UN Climate Negotiations
December 13, 2015          The following was posted by Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada. She has been at the COP21 climate talks in Paris ... where she's gotten the energy to make regular postings I don't know, but she has ... and hurray for her!

               The morning after 13 days - 3 all nighters…And the Paris Agreement is accepted. The COP21 decision is agreed. What does it all mean?
               I have been working on climate for the last 29 years. In that time I have seen lip service from most politicians, courage from a few politicians, venality from some corporations (Exxon come to mind), leadership from others. I have witnessed opportunity after opportunity squandered for political expediency.                Agreements signed and then ignored. Overall we have procrastinated and lost decades when we could have averted the climate crisis nearly entirely.
               Now we are in it. With loss of life and devastating droughts and heat waves, extreme weather events, sea level rise and loss of Arctic ice and permafrost. No longer are we arguing about a future problem. We have already changed the climate, so the debate of 2015 is “can we avoid the very worst of the climate crisis? Can we ensure the survival of human civilization? Can we save millions of species?” To do so requires transitioning off fossil fuels.
               You will undoubtedly hear some denounce the Paris Agreement for what it does not do. It does not respond with sufficient urgency. It does not use the levers available to governments to craft a treaty that is enforceable with trade sanctions to add some teeth. Those criticisms are fair. As trade lawyer Steven Shrybman said more than a decade ago “If governments cared as much about climate as they do about protecting intellectual property rights, we would have laws that require carbon reduction in every country on earth.”
               Nevertheless, the Paris Agreement is an historic and potentially life-saving agreement. It does more than many of us expected when the conference opened on November 30. It will be legally binding. It sets a long term temperature goal of no more than 1.5 degrees as far safer than the (also hard to achieve) goal of no more than 2 degrees. In doing so, it may save the lives of millions. It may lead to the survival of many small nations close to sea level. It may give our grandchildren a far more stable climate and thus a more prosperous and healthy society. It clearly means the world has accepted that most known reserves of fossil fuels must stay in the ground.
               It is absolutely true that Canada announcing support for 1.5 degrees mid-way through the conference made a huge difference in keeping that target in the treaty. I heard that from friends and contacts around the world.
               To avoid 1.5 requires immediate action. Unfortunately, the treaty is only to take effect in 2020 (after it is ratified by 55 countries, collectively representing 55% of world GHG emissions). We have built into the treaty mandatory global 5 year reviews – what is called the “ratcheting up mechanism.”
               The mechanism to force all governments to assess the adequacy of their own plans only kicks in in 2023. That gap from 2015 to 2023 could well foreclose any option to hold temperature to less than 1.5 or even 2 degrees.
               So in addition to the Paris Agreement we also passed the Decision of COP21. It includes some actions before 2020. The language there is far from perfect but gives us a chance to increase targets before 2020. In 2018, there will be a “facilitative dialogue” within the UN to assess the adequacy of targets and to prepare for new ones for 2020. The decision document is actually longer than the treaty itself and includes many actions to be undertaken within the ongoing UNFCCC COP process. Among them, the IPCC is requested to produce a report to COP spelling out what level of GHG emissions will lead us to holding global average temperatures to no more than 1.5 degrees C above those before the Industrial Revolution.
               Canadians can be rightly proud of what our government did in Paris. While I did not support our position on every single issue, I cannot be more proud of what we did on most issues, nor can I thank our newly minted (and now totally exhausted) Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, enough for her work.
               What matters now is what we do next. Canada’s climate target remains the one left behind by the previous government. We have no time to waste in re-vamping and improving our target. We should be prepared to improve it again in 2020. But let’s ensure we get started. The Liberal platform committed to, within 90 days of COP21, consultations with all provincial and territorial governments. In his speech at COP21, Trudeau expanded that to engaging with municipal governments and First Nations as well. That is all excellent. Ideally this sets in motion a quick-start to identifying a more ambitious target with actions spelled out in the spring 2016 budget.
               Earth Day 2016 has been chosen in the decision document as the day for formal signatures to the Paris Agreement. Ban Ki-moon has been requested to organize a signing ceremony in New York at UN headquarters. Let’s all take a moment to send a thank you note to Prime Minister Trudeau and Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna and urge that Canada’s new target be ready to be tabled at the UN on April 22, 2016 when Canada shows up to encourage all other countries to improve their own targets.
               Paris threw us a lifeline. Don’t let it slip between our fingers.