Friday, November 23, 2007

Murdering Our Closest Relative

An article in yesterday's edition of the Guardian Unlimited reminded me of an earlier shocking Guardian article about the same subject. I first read about the horrible situation the Palm Oil industry has created in a Guardian article from March 25, 2007entitled "Five Years to Save the Orang Utan." The palm oil industry is rapidly on the rise as an alternative to trans fats, and it is found in one of every ten grocery products. The demand for palm oil as a biofuel, especially in the European Union, is also a key player in the Orang Utan crisis. Compared to 1995, Britain now imports twice as much palm oil amounting to one million tonnes per year. Indonesia and Malaysia produce 83% of the world's plam oil. Unfortunately, these two countries are also home to the natural rainforest habitat of man's closest relative. Orang Utans share 96.4% of our human DNA.

According to the March 25 article, "A United Nations report has found that illegal logging and fires have been overtaken as the primary cause of deforestation by a huge expansion of oil palm plantations, which are racing to meet soaring demand from Western food manufacturers and the European Union's zeal for biofuels." The Borneo Orang Utan Survival Foundation UK warns that by 2012, orangutans in the wild could be close to extinction.

More from "Five Years to Save the Orang Utan" follows:

"But the new UN report warns: 'Today, the rapid increase in [oil palm] plantation acreage is one of the greatest threats to orang utans and the forests on which they depend. In Malaysia and Indonesia, it is now the primary cause of permanent rainforest loss. The huge demand for this versatile product makes it very difficult to curb the spread of plantations.'

Displaced from their rainforest habitat, the orang utans struggle to survive in the oil palm plantations and are regarded as an agricultural pest. Mindful of the potential loss in profits, farmers have carried out a vicious extermination programme.

Michelle Desilets, director of the Borneo Orang Utan Survival Foundation UK, said: 'They are left hungry so they go in search of food in the plantations and destroy the plants. They become easy targets. Some plantation owners put a bounty of $10 or $20 on the head of orangutans, which is worth a few weeks' salary for the workers.

'Workers don't usually have guns: the orang utans that get shot are the lucky ones. We've seen them beaten to death with wood sticks or iron bars, doused in petrol and set on fire, trussed up in nets or tied up with wire which cuts through their flesh. Often a mother is killed and eaten while its baby is sold on or kept as a pet. In the local plantations where we're working, the managers have now agreed not to offer the bonus. But there's still a macho thing about bringing down an adult male.' "


We can not allow our closest relative to become extinct, especially not by an industry deemed "environmentally friendly." I felt only some relief by the article in yesterday's Guardian entitled Palm Oil Industry Signs Up To Green Labelling Scheme. Yesterday, "a certification process designed to allow palm oil producers that meet environmental standards to label their products as eco-friendly was launched." The Round table meeting that decided the criteria was attended by producers (Proctor Gamble, Unilever) and environmental groups (WWF, Friends of the Environment).

After reading the following from the article, I worry about the enforcement of this certification process:

"Launching the certification process, Malaysian commodities minister, Peter Chin, accused environmental groups of harming palm oil's image, particularly in the UK – where it is estimated that one in 10 of all products sold contains palm oil. 'Using these [emotive] arguments, they often manage to pressure the rest of the supply chain towards giving support through the adoption of negative policies, as being the case with some major retailers in the UK,' said Mr Chin."


Facing the environmental crisis we have created is not an easy path. Mistakes are being made along the way; palm oil and nuclear energy are examples of those mistakes.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Sad Loss for Moose Jaw-North

Above: Glenn Hagel (Sketch by Larissa Shasko)

The final results are in. NDP Glenn Hagel has been defeated by Sask Party Warren Michelson in the riding of Moose Jaw-North. I live in the riding of Moose Jaw-Wakamow, and I ran in the provincial election for the Green Party of Saskatchewan in my home riding. Moose Jaw is a small city with a population of 35,000. It is divided into two provincial ridings. Moose Jaw North consists of the entire section of the city located north of Caribou Street, which runs east to west. Moose Jaw has only one noticeably wealthy part of town. It is an area named Sunningdale, and it is located as far north in the city as possible. Of course there is a Wal-Mart and a Tim Horton's near to Sunningdale, and the SUV's are accompanied by at least a few Hummers. Typical...

I am a strong supporter of maximum wages. I don't like seeing those with excess money flaunt it over others as the government seeks to meet their every wish. That is largely why Warren Michelson defeated Glenn Hagel; the Sask Party promised the well-off citizens of Sunningdale even more money. Forget about that $1000 tuition break and a universal drug plan that even included unemployed adults (oh, the horrors!).

Instead, we elected a change. For Moose Jaw-North, that change somehow feels very wrong. Glenn Hagel has been MLA for that riding since 1986. He is the most personable MLA that I have ever met. I was very shocked by his defeat. He is quite respected in his community. I aspire to someday be as friendly and committed to my constituents as Mr. Hagel was. I didn't get a good impression of Warren Michelson. I felt him to be rather reserved. What a mistake for the city of Moose Jaw. What a mistake for Saskatchewan.

Corporations and large scale donations from Alberta financed the Saskatchewan Party campaign (which is actually pretty ironic, but is also deceitful and unfair to Saskatchewan residents.) The Sask Party, and our province's government, is now at the mercy of those whose donations got them elected. Hasn't anyone wondered why the proposed nuclear plant on Lake Diefenbaker or at Elbow is designed to split the power evenly between both Saskatchewan and Alberta!? Yet, you can't split the risks involved with a nearby nuclear plant that our province's citizens would have to endure. Why would I put our beautiful province at risk for gas guzzling Alberta? THANKS SASK PARTY! THANKS FOR TRYING TO SCREW UP MY GENERATIONS FUTURE JUST TO WIN POWER! Thanks...

The Green Party of Saskatchewan was the only political party in the election to oppose nuclear. We were almost completely censored by the gatekeepers of the media though. Don't believe the myths. Nuclear is not green! Please seek out truthful information; don't rely on the media or the government to tell you what is green or safe.

The Green Party did well. We went from .55% of the vote in 2003 to 2% of the popular vote in 2007. In Moose Jaw-Wakamow, I received 2.27% of the votes. In 2003, the riding received 67 votes. This was my first time running in Wakamow, and the Greens received 167 votes, exactly 100 more than the last provincial election. I felt the same frustration after running for the federal riding of Palliser. I received about 3.5% of the votes. This was around 1200 votes, up from approximately 800 votes in the previous federal election. Growth in a new party takes time. I was excited to hear about the results of the latest Strategic Counsel survey (for the Globe and Mail/CTV News). Page 14 shows that the Green Party, with 13%, has overtaken both the NDP (12%) and the Bloc Quebecois (11%) ! This is the first time this has ever happened and it is quite surprising. For the Green Party of Canada, 13% is quite a growth from receiving approximately 5% of the vote in the 2006 federal election. However, I do not view public opinion polls as overly reliable. Regardless, the poll is encouraging.

The campaign was decent. It is always a unique experience. I am quite burnt-out from the high stress and constant demand of being a candidate without a large campaign team or enough donations. Although I am very tired, I am glad I took the opportunity to stand up for an alternative to rhetoric. I did have fun. I enjoy the debates, and I truly believe in Green Party policies. I do believe we are the party of the future. However, I really wish that future could start today.

Political Song of the Week:

Eve of Destruction by Barry McGuire

This song is definitely one of the greatest political protest songs. The lyrics are so full of meaning, and despite being from 1965, this song is extremely relevant to today's society.

The following lyrics are from the beginning of the song:

"The Eastern world, it tis explodin'. Violence flarin', bullets loadin'. You're old enough to kill, but not for votin'. You don't believe in war, but what's that gun you're totin'."



Sunday, November 4, 2007


Rhetoric can be defined as: Artificial eloquence; language that is showy and elaborate but largely empty of clear ideas or sincere emotion.

OR also as: Language that is elaborate, pretentious, insincere, or intellectually vacuous: His offers of compromise were mere rhetoric.

So what exactly is political rhetoric? I found this link to An English Primer. It is a glossary translating political rhetoric into plain English by Thomas Sowell. It appeared in National Review, Dec 31, 1985 v37 p17(1). Some examples from the glossary follow:

Crisis: Any situation you want to change.
Bilingual: Unable to speak English.
Non-judgmental: Blaming society.
Compassion: The use of tax money to buy votes.
Insensitivity: Objection to the use of tax money to buy votes.
Simplistic: An argument you disagree with but can't answer.
Rehabilitation: Magic words said before releasing criminals.
Demonstration: A riot by people you agree with
Mob violence: A riot by people you disagree with.
Obviously, there is humour in Sowell's glossary.

It has been impossible to get around the rhetoric of anwers and issues in this election. The SaskParty wins first prize for the most rhetoric.

Here is what Brad Wall had to say in a recent story about Wall's promises to young people in the Moose Jaw Times Herald:
“The NDP tends to educate and export,” he said.
“We need a plan to train and retain. We are the only party whose platform includes long-term funding for post-secondary education. It includes all post-secondary institutions, including the Palliser campus of SIAST.”

The article continued:
“There are two tight races here in Moose Jaw,” he said.
“We’ve got two great candidates here and we want to support their efforts. They are excellent representatives for our party and would make excellent MLAs.”

What does this have to do with my life, and what does it mean? RHETORIC! (language that is showy and elaborate but largely empty of clear ideas or sincere emotion)

From my week