Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Book Review “Blowout” by Rachel Maddow

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Published by Crown 2019

ISBN 978-0-525-57547-4

Ebook ISBN 978-0-525-57549-8

I am very fortunate to have a neighbour who likes to buy hardback books and then rather than keep them looks for someone who might like to read them. Even though $40 Canadian is, I suppose, not out of reach, it is still a delight to get my hands on an almost new book, for free. In this case, covering the history of the oil and gas industry is mostly familiar territory, although there is quite a lot here that I seem to have managed to miss at the time, or had perhaps just forgotten. And just because it is three years old does not mean it is out of date since nothing much has changed since it was published.

For any kind of life to continue on earth, the oil and gas industry must, as a matter of urgency, be brought under control. Its trajectory is still to expand the production of the fossil fuels that have now produced the unprecedented threat of the climate crisis.

“The oil and gas industry, as ever, is wholly incapable of any real self-examination, or of policing or reforming itself. Might as well ask the lions to take up a plant based diet. If we want the most powerful and consequential industry on our planet to operate safely, and rationally, and with actual accountability, well make it. It’s not mission-to-Mars complicated either, but it works”.

Maddow’s book is mainly concerned with the United States, of course. Not that matters in Canada are any different. We too pour subsidies at both federal and provincial level into oil companies whose profits have been growing exponentially. We used to get considerable revenues from the royalties levied on these companies. Now that is next to nothing and, at the same time, the favorable tax treatments and supports are in the billions on dollars. Yes billions with a B. Maddow does not mention how Norway has been treating the oil and gas industry – it is not even listed in the index – but that might have been a welcome sign that reform is possible. But probably not very likely as long as Republicans still dominate Congress. Though there was one shining moment that she does mention when both parties and both houses got together to ensure that Trump could not unilaterally cancel sanctions on Russia. Which was a very definite objective of Putin’s campaign to get him elected.

There is much detail of the recent activities of the industry, including of course the Deepwater Horizon – which got so much coverage at the time – as well as a second Gulf drilling rig leak which went on for much longer and was even worse but got hardly any attention. The Taylor oil spill started in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan struck. It remained a secret until 2010, and by 2018 was still leaking seven hundred barrels of oil into the Gulf every single day. The industry still has little more than paper towels and dish liquid to clean up spills and very little oversight to ensure that spills don’t happen. “For every 1,000 wells in state and federal waters, there’s an average of 20 uncontrolled releases – or blowouts – every year.” (US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement)

Then there is the tale of fracking and the damage to water resources, homes, farms and businesses from a vast earthquake “swarm”. Again Maddow has plenty on this but misses the way that the industry has been very much aware that it loses vast amounts of methane (a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2) but simply regards that as a cost of doing business – and not something that it highlights as in many cases the methane gas they do manage to capture is simply flared, as liquid fuel for motor vehicles is by far the greatest source of demand for the industry’s output. Outright lying, and obfuscation, is naturally the industry’s preferred method of dealing with this issue. Though they do have a commitment to increase the use of methane – “natural gas” – which is claimed to be the cleanest fuel when in reality it is anything but. It is only recently that I have seen mainstream media picking up the story that gas appliances in the home – mostly stoves – are responsible for indoor air quality to be worse than anything that would be permitted industrially. And in this region Terasen (which used to be BC Gas) is proposing a large LNG export terminal in the Fraser estuary at Tilbury. There is already a smaller terminal there and it is also the case that in the US, where ports get more oversight from local authorities than in Canada, would be very unlikely to be permitted due to the proximity of many other businesses and even residential development. LNG production and transportation in general is also bedevilled by methane leaks that are underreported and difficult to control.

Maddow has a very engaging style and the book reads very easily. There is a substantial (nearly 20 pages) of Notes on Sources. With, of course, copious links to information available online. And there is also a very careful analysis of the mind set and ambitions of Russian dictator Putin, including exactly why he has such a vast and successful social media presence and which has done so much damage to democracy and public discourse. It well worth the read. Both the book and the audiobook are currently available at the Vancouver Public Library but there is a short wait list for the ebook.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 2, 2022 at 12:20 pm

End of the Line

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(Coming to digital and cable on demand platforms in the United States June 14)

Feature Documentary/ Not Yet Rated / Running Time: 65 Minutes

“Award-winning filmmaker Emmett Adler’s feature documentary END OF THE LINE is a character-driven political drama about the New York City subway crisis and a long overdue reckoning on infrastructure. 

Establishing the vital economic importance and grandeur of New York City’s historic subway system, the film dives into its dire modern-day troubles picking up in the late 2010s when flooding, overcrowding, power failures, and derailments have become commonplace. After a particularly bad spate of disasters in the summer of 2017, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proclaims a state of emergency and hires a new international wunderkind executive named Andy Byford to save the subways. Byford, an earnest Briton with an impressive resume, enters as a charismatic would-be hero.

As the political turmoil behind the subway’s decline comes into sharp focus, scenes in barbershops, bodegas, and bakeries show the frustration and devastation among business owners and residents who are caught in the middle. 

Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic furthers this, and brings to light America’s need to shore up its infrastructure in cities across the country and the inequality struggles that are central to this debate. A heartfelt and scrupulous exploration, this film poses the question: what happens when the lifeline of a city goes flat?

This film is dedicated to the heroic New York City transit workers who lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During his tenure as President of MTA NYC Transit, Andy Byford presents his
Fast Forward Plan to fix New York City’s transit system.
PHOTO 1
(Photo Credit: Gravitas Ventures)
(L-R) Andy Byford and Joe Lhota in Emmett Adler’s END OF THE LINE
Description:
During his tenure as President of MTA NYC Transit, Andy Byford presents his
Fast Forward Plan to fix New York City’s transit system. MTA Chairman Joe Lhota stands to Byford’s right. (2018)

Written by Stephen Rees

April 20, 2022 at 12:51 pm

Posted in Railway, transit, Transportation

Tagged with

Cloud Album

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Last week we went to North Vancouver. For the last two years we haven’t been anywhere very much, but I have wanted to go see the new Museum of North Vancouver for its restored streetcar, and whatever was on at the Polygon Gallery. I had also thought of fish and chips for lunch at the Quay market but that was not to be. They are undergoing renovation and the the chip shop is not one that has stayed open. Fortunately there are other options.

The Polygon has no permanent collection but the current exhibit (until May 1) uses the same title as this post. I did put the three pictures below on Flickr but they have been mostly ignored.

John Constable's Clouds
John Constable's Clouds
John Constable's Clouds

They are three paintings by Constable that he produced outdoors at great speed to record the changes in clouds as the British weather changes rapidly. I was a bit nonplussed by their reception but perhaps I should also have posted this image

I was sufficiently inspired by the exhibit as a whole to point my camera at sky outside.

Clouds
Clouds

I don’t claim to be a Constable, but it is now a lot easier to make cloud images than in 1822. I was also much less impressed by some of the (very small) images made by early photographers – later in the 19th century – who were also using far less sophisticated equipment. I don’t know why but somehow looking at the actual paintings made by Constable was much more impressive than watching a program about him on my television set.

These images were all made later in the day. So I would like your response to this question: is it worthwhile for me to post these to Flickr?

Written by Stephen Rees

April 16, 2022 at 12:05 pm

Posted in photography

Guest Post for National Poetry Month

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I get at least half a dozen emails every day from PR people offering me content for this blog. It is not often that I decide to use any of this stuff – but then I don’t always read everything. I just skim in case I might miss something. What you can read below is something that captured my attention. I recommend that you read all of it. And I hope that some book sales might result from that.

—————————————————————————–

National Poetry Month is happening now! 

Eugenia Zukerman is CBS Sunday Morning’s classical music correspondent, world renowned flutist, and now author of the memoir Like Falling Through a Cloud: A Lyrical Memoir of Coping With Forgetfulness, Confusion, and a Dreaded Diagnosis(East End Press). Eugenia has Alzheimer’s and Like Falling Through a Cloud is a lyrical memoir she wrote shorty after diagnosis. Through poetry, Eugenia has processed her own diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, and inspired others around the world as well.

A few of the posts are pasted below. More at www.eugeniazukerman.com

A few years ago my daughters told me they were worried about my forgetfulness, my loss of words, my confusion. They suggested, or rather insisted I get tested. A flutist, writer, artistic director, busy playing and performing, I simply refused. But when I finally agreed to trek uptown with my younger daughter I was tested. I was shocked that indeed my cognitive ability was compromised and would only get worse. I was quietly terrified and indignant, and when I got home, I went to sat down at my desk and stared at the wall for what seemed a long time. I did not cry. I did not move. But then, for some reason I took out a pen and paper and started to write. What spilled out is mostly in verse. Putting pen to paper helped me to find my own way through the brambles of loss.

What resulted is my book, a lyrical memoir titled Like Falling Through a Cloud: A Lyrical Memoir of Coping with Forgetfulness, Confusion, and a Dreaded Diagnosis

Here are three poems I’ve chosen from Like Falling Through a Cloud to which I’ve included an intro to each:

BACK  

I think this poem speaks to the confusion and fear I was actually feeling in a hot crowded subway as I realized I had no idea to find my way out of the underground station. I remember having a mix of panic and self anger. “How can you be so stupid,” I remember telling myself. Yet I believe I was oddly poised and when I emerged from the station and I was able to compose myself and walk home, cooling calmly off.

I’ve returned to the city

            where everyone is busy

                 and scurrying

                        and worrying

and it’s late summer

            subways are crowded and hot

   folks are sweating a lot

 and the trains are

       always late

and some man gets up

 to offer me his seat

  which is sweet

      if somehow insulting

here’s my stop

     I’m attempting to exit

I push             my way out

  doors close behind

    but  when I look up at a sign…

            this stop

                        is

                                    not

                                                mine  

                        And worse

I’m totally turned around and can’t figure out

            do I need to go back uptown

or change to the downtown track and how do

                        I do that

            FIGURE IT OUT, BIRDBRAIN

             I wander around the station

            looking for an exit, any exit           

            JUST GET ME OUT OF HERE

there!

      stairs!

            I stagger up

                        until I’m out

                              above ground

Out of breath

            having arrived

                        survived

A walk home will be good

            I need to get my bearings

                but I won’t be sharing

            the story of my panic or pretty soon

                                    I’ll be forced to wear

                                       a lovely bracelet

                                       inscribed:

                              MEMORY IMPAIRED

————————————————————————————–

GETTING IT TOGETHER 

Here I am trying to be responsible, thinking about what I should be doing to get ready to leave my worldly goods to my family by going to my banker. At the same time I was imagining the idea my husband and I concocted, in a kidding mode, that we would put on deer suits, go out on the first day of hunting, and wait to meet our fates… hoping of course that the hunters would know how to shoot straight.

I’ve made a date

with my

banker

because I hanker

to know where things stand

when it comes to what I’ll hand

to my next of kin

so I should begin

to keep track of stuff

to see if there is enough

to pass around

when I’m under the ground

I’m not being dramatic

but I can no longer be static

about what lies ahead

when I’m dead

which oddly I do not dread

              instead

I want to avoid leaving a mess

for the family to assess

I’d like them to say

she left it this way

to keep trouble at bay

and to avoid a fray

I don’t expect to croak

at midnight’s stroke

but I don’t want to be

one hundred and three

which my mother’s achieved

I will stick with the plan

I’ve made with my man –

when the time seems right

we will have the delight

of donning deer suits

on the first day of hunting

and we’ll go out in the fields

and wait

      to meet our fates —

  only I  hope

   the hunters  know how to

shoot

      s

t

      r a   

i

   g

h  

     t

IN ORDER TO PROMOTE TRANQUILITY AND CERTAINTY    

                  WHEREAS

The parties were married to one another in a civil ceremony

                WHEREAS

as a result of their marriage the Parties wish by this agreement to

define their rights and interests in one another’s property; and

                 WHEREAS

each of the Parties has been informed of his/her rights and privileges in and to the property of the other under the laws…and each understands that under law their marriage confers specific rights upon each of them; and

                 WHEREAS

in order to promote tranquility and certainty…the Parties desire to define and limit by the Agreement the interests, rights and claims which accrue to each of them in the property of the other by reason of their marriage to each other; and…

                 WHEREAS

If the parties are wearing  their respective deer suits and each has donned their

respective antlers, then each understands that the rights and claims of the other

will be null and void if  he or she should be the receiver of the first bullet; and

                WHEREAS

 as a result of being the first receiver it will not matter diddly squat

                  who gets what

              but let it be noted

that the certainty of  tranquility will have been perfectly promoted.

————————————————————————————–

A SUPER SUNNY SUNDAY

Here I am on a spring afternoon reveling in the beauty and bounty of nature.

Almost August

       and the tomatoes are bulging

on their vines

          the flowers continue

to burst toward the sky

     in colors that astound

while on the ground

           our once hearty kale

      has been ripped out by rabbits

who attack at dawn

     and are gone

                   in a flash

leaving the crop tattered and torn

           Nothing lasts forever

not kale or tomatoes or cucumbers

   or the glorious flowers that fill our fields

      or the people we adore

        and though I know my days are numbered

       I feel unencumbered

          by thoughts of my demise

             I do not embrace

             my inevitable decline

          but I’m determined

                  to find

       a way to make the rest of my stay

           on this problematic planet

                 filled with light

                    and love

                        and

                    music

As for the deer suit I promised to don

      I don’t think I’ll put it on

not now     not yet

    I’m not ready

               I feel steady

   and I have a strategy to keep on keeping on 

                 which is simple:

      wake up

            fetch the flute

                   summon up Syrinx

          give thanks for another day

                   and then

            play on!

                  play on!   

Written by Stephen Rees

April 6, 2022 at 11:26 am

Posted in Art

Tagged with ,

Tony Robinson in Canada

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“Around the World by Train” with Tony Robinson Season 2 Episode 4 – Canada

Currently available streaming on Knowledge Network – or broadcast repeat on April 9 11pm

I will start by stating that I am greatly enjoying this series – just as much as I did Season 1, and I am happy to recommend it. It is in my opinion much better than than Michael Portillo’s similar efforts, although I have yet to see his version of Canada.

BUT there were errors and omissions in last night’s episode that I just cannot let go.

Amtrak Cascades Mud Bay Surrey BC

Tony travelled up the Pacific Coast from California (last week he ended up in Los Angeles) on Amtrak to Seattle, then took the Cascades to Vancouver. Of course that train arrives at Pacific Central but he got that confused with the former terminal of the Canadian Pacific – now Waterfront which handles SkyTrain and West Coast Express. I would have thought that the story of the competition between CP run by an American and the Great Northern which ran across the northern United States and was run by a Canadian would have been opportune here but there is only limited time on the program and they wanted to show Tony pretending to be a hockey goalie. It is, after all, entertainment.

The omission that is less easy to forgive is the first section after his arrival here when he asks why there are so many Scots in Canada, which gets a response about settlers from everywhere else. There is not one word about the people who had been living here for thousands of years, and still do, despite the settlers best efforts to assimilate them. At least we now seem to be trying to make amends, to some extent.

Then he takes off on the Rocky Mountaineer – but neglects to mention the intermediate overnight stop in Kamloops, which gets no coverage at all, and arrives in Jasper, which is in Alberta. Again that fact is not mentioned because he is too busy helping the National Park Rangers chase the elk out of town. He gets back to Prince Rupert on the VIA Skeena service, which gets a great deal less attention than was devoted to the Mountaineer. There is of course no train from Prince Rupert to Alaska, but he does get a short ride to Talkeetna on the Alaska Railroad.

Holland America train from Anchorage to Denali

Again, the opportunity to examine the extent to which Canadians now take care of passenger service on the railways that built modern Canada was missed. Though he does meet a young Calgarian woman who had never ridden any train in her life until boarding the RM.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 5, 2022 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Transportation

Green

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WordPress has started a new monthly prompt to encourage posts. “WordPrompt, a single-word monthly exercise that aims to inspire you to create new posts, regardless of what or how you publish.”

This month’s WordPrompt is:

GREEN

As it happens I recently took a picture of the grass at Trafalgar Park – one of our neighbourhood parks. I was thinking mostly of getting pictures of the sakura (tree blossoms) but I was struck by the quality of the lawn which will once again be our nearest cricket pitch. We have had a great deal of rain – and the grass has greatly benefitted. Actually out of shot in the image is the very large puddle the ducks were enjoying.

Green
This is from a link to Flickr but on my screen it looks out of focus so below is the original
Which looks better and I needed for the “Featured Image”

Written by Stephen Rees

April 5, 2022 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Transportation

Tagged with

The Bicycle Diaries: Last Entry

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I took our two bicycles to Our Community Bikes this morning. I was responding to a Tweet I had seen yesterday that said donated bikes could get to “new Canadians”. So I thought of the increase in refugees that we are seeing Canada accept, and I liked the idea that maybe a Ukrainian might find one of our old bikes useful. There is, of course, no way to tell who will get the bike you donate – and maybe it just gets used for parts or something. And since this is currently tax form completing season for last year, the thought of another tax receipt was also welcome.

The shop is on Main Street near the junction with Broadway, which is going to be the location of a new underground station. So lanes are closed, turns are banned and access is a bit awkward. The idea is that you park in the lane and they come and take the bike, or bikes, from you when you call them. The lane is blocked at the southern end by the Broadway works. And, on this occasion, by a large truck which has backed down to deliver supplies to a restaurant. I get out of its way by going to an anonymous space which turns out not to be their back door after all. By the time I have taken the bikes off the bike rack and taken that off the back of the car and stowed it in the trunk, I notice that this has taken me 15 minutes – so rather longer than “I’ll be right out” lead me to expect. Two other people are also trying to donate bikes – and calling the shop but getting no response. The large delivery truck has now left so I can move my car closer to the back of the shop but then the recycling truck shows up. By gestures and a bit of shunting we get ourselves sorted out, and I go to the front door to see why we are being made to wait so long. I get a lecture about their mask policies instead.

I go back to the alley and find that one person seems to have just left his bike and gone and another is being told that her bike is not wanted as it is too old. They do take both the bikes I have, as well as the various accessories we will no longer need, like the bike locks, pump, helmets, two spare wheels and so on. My bike, while old is a bit like the hammer that has had two new heads and three new handles. My partner’s bike is six years old and cost $700 then. So I am gutted to hear that we do not qualify for a tax receipt. It is too late to put the bikerack back on the car and reload the bikes so I accept what seems a blatantly unreasonable decision. After all, writing a tax receipt doesn’t actually cost them anything at all.

The guy who is driving the recycling truck, who has been delayed by my car’s use of the alley, is very friendly. He remarks on the obvious value of my partner’s bike and is surprised by our willingness to give it up. I tell him I think that it is better that someone gets to use a bike that has been just sitting in a garage for two years.

My partner does not like cycling where we live. There are too many cars and too much speeding. We have used bike sharing systems in New York, Paris and Denver (and a rental in San Francisco) but have never used the one in Vancouver. We walk a lot, and take transit or an Evo if it seems like we have walked too far that day. Our nearest ShawGo station is about as far as the nearest Modo – and we haven’t used that either for the same reason. I cannot manage the hills which surround us in three of the four main compass points, and I blogged about the great electric wheel disaster some time ago. I also find that our local bike lanes tend to be badly designed – paint is no protection and sharrows actually make things worse.

So maybe, once we get to travel again, we may rent bikes once more. But Vancouver needs to get serious about protected bike lanes – and ebikes have to be one of the choices to get me on a bikeshare here. I hope whoever gets one of our bikes gets plenty of use out of them.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 24, 2022 at 1:49 pm

Posted in bicycles

Tagged with

“Four Lost Cities”

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A Secret History of the Urban Age by Annalee Newitz

This book showed up on my library hold list much faster than usual. It is not classed as a Fast Read by VPL but that is what it turned out to be. That is because it is very well written and engaging and it spends quite a bit of effort in debunking favourite interpretations of history and pre-history.

It is also written with an eye to the current market for books. As the jacket blurb says “it may also reveal something of our own fate”. Annalee Newitz strikes an optimistic note at the end of her book. Cities have always risen and fallen, and structures may survive but customs and practices adapt and in the long run humanity has managed to survive and thrive. So there have been major disasters – like the eruption of Vesuvius that ended old Pompeii – and administrative cock-ups and misdirections due to following false prophets – but somehow we manage to reorganize and keep going. There have been pandemics, and tidal waves, explosions natural and contrived and human spirit just keeps on going.

The reason I am writing this is that I do not share her optimism. We have never before lived through a time when we exceeded the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at 400 parts per million (ppm) and we did that in 2013. And kept on going. The dramatic weather events we saw in 2021 were the result of the CO2 emitted years ago. What we are emitting now is going to have impacts in the next century. We are almost certainly going to exceed the 1.5℃ average warming – the current “target” – and, as we are seeing, that is bad enough. The fires and floods were unprecedented but will not be unusual – and will get worse. And it is unlikely to be a steady decline but one that gets bad rapidly as the tipping points are passed.

We have already extirpated more kinds of plants and animals than ever before. We have comprehensively wrecked ecosystems – coral reefs and temperate coastal rainforests being the most noticeable. It is not just humans that are suffering. And that also applies to the pandemic – which is not just a problem for our species.

The people displaced by the volcanoes, earthquakes and flash floods of the past simply moved on to somewhere else. We are currently organised on the principal that we will no longer accept refugees, except in very limited numbers and special cases. There are some who think that we might be able to get off this planet and go to another one. I think they are deluded.

And all of this is before we take into account the risks that have always been there but were, by their very nature, unpredictable. We have just refreshed the grab bag of emergency supplies that lives in the front hall, just by the door. But if the Big One hits … We ought be learning just how fragile our survival systems are in reality. The barge on the beach is not a comedy show – any more than the increasing number of abandoned boats in the harbour are. The day that was lost to the AWS failure is nothing in comparison to what is inevitable but impossible to predict accurately enough.

Worse than all of that is a political system that willfully ignores events. That does not understand the sunk cost fallacy. That thinks we can always build another freeway if we lose bits of one. That has no interest in even debating the need for change from business as usual. That ignores the solutions to the problems we have been refusing to deal with for many years. Homelessness isn’t new – it requires that we provide homes. We don’t want to do that, but we will open more temporary shelters if there is bad weather. Drug addictions and their commitment health issues have been dealt with effectively elsewhere – but we won’t do that either. Anymore that we will end the carnage of death and injuries on our roads that other places no longer face. We know what we must do to reduce fossil fuel use – but our emissions of carbon dioxide and methane are increasing and show no signs of stopping.

And none of these problems are confined to one city. They are more or less common to all the “advanced economies”. And we haven’t even touched on the troubles of most of the rest of the world. Most of which are driven by the same crises that we are failing to tackle.

The next book on my hold list has shown up as I write. It is fiction. Good. I have had enough of reality.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 12, 2021 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Transportation

British Water

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This morning I got an email from The Guardian, a British newspaper that I subscribe to. This is a lightly edited extract from their newsletter – about how they get “scoops”.

<blockquote>… reporter Sandra Laville came across something rather curious that made her think ‘that’s funny’. In her case, it was a statistic. 

“I came across this figure that only 14 percent of waters in English rivers were of good ecological standard,” she recalls. “I thought ‘that’s really low’.”

She started asking questions – of officials, scientists at the Environment Agency, and crucially of campaigners determined to improve the quality of their local environment. 

The big breakthrough came when she secured data from water companies on when and where sewage had been released into rivers. When she totted up the answers it came to a total of 1.5m hours of dumping in a single year

“I remember swimming in the sea 25 years ago when there was a big scandal about sewage being poured into the ocean,” Sandra tells me. “I couldn’t believe this was happening in rivers too.” 

The revelations have put pressure on the authorities to come clean on the locations and instances of sewage discharge; on the water companies to take action and invest; and on the regulator to ensure that everyone improves their game. “Nothing will change overnight – this is a massive underinvestment in infrastructure,” Sandra says. “But this has really exposed what they have been doing.” 

</blockquote>

One of the leading reasons why I came to Canada was that I no longer wanted to be an Economic Adviser to the British Government. We were shared between the Department of Transport and the Department of the Environment, and I was going to be moved from looking at London Underground investments to Water Privatisation. And I did not want any part of it. In 1988 water in the UK was controlled by a network of Regional Water Authorities. They were very effective and a distinct improvement over the earlier patchwork quilt of Water Boards. In fact the reorganisation of those was also a significant factor in my earlier career at British Waterways Board in the early 1970s but that isn’t relevant.

Mostly I wanted to work on public transport issues. There did not seem to me to any justification for the privatisation of water. Indeed, it seemed to me that the only way it could be justified was that it would reduce “public spending” (i.e. using taxation revenues) and rely of private funding. For the private sector to make money they would need to find a way to create a profit margin in what was, at the time, absent as it was not needed by the public sector. It simply did not occur to me then that new water companies would seek to cut costs by dumping untreated wastewater in rivers and the sea – but that is what they have been doing.

One of the remarkable shifts in recent years has been the steady rejection of Hayek’s philosophy pursued by Margaret Thatcher and other right wing ideologues. Nearly every policy change introduced in the name conservatism has been shown to be fallacious. The claimed outcomes of better services at lower cost are never achieved in reality – though there has always been quite a bit of “clever” bookkeeping to make it look good. But it also seems that no matter how strong the evidence, when ostensibly left leaning, “progressive” parties get into power they fall into the same mire. Both BC NDP and federal Liberals are pursuing policies that are obviously designed to benefit the few over the broader public interest. This is most clearly true in the case of energy policies. Instead of picking the cleaner, more economically affordable renewable options, our governments are still choosing to support fossils – coal, oil and fracked gas. In transportation we still opt for more freeways and road expansions even though it is clear that this has never ever cured traffic congestion and can’t due to simple geometry. That we still have a mid twentieth century commitment to extending urban sprawl indefinitely which experience shows simply increases costs in general and “externalities” that we mostly try to ignore.

Today we heard the Throne Speech from Ottawa. What we needed to hear was that as a country we are going to change direction in view of the clear and present danger now posed by the climate crisis. For a long time governments at all levels have refused to face up to this challenge and pretend that business as usual can continue. We saw exactly that at COP26 in Glasgow. We got more of the same today from Justin Trudeau. The CG did not announce the end of fossil fuel subsidies and the cancellation of TMX. There was no mention of the export of US thermal coal through Canadian ports – which only happens because no local port community in the US will allow it. Canadian ports are only lightly managed – and that is a federal jurisdiction where local concerns account for nothing. There is a lot about cleaning up the most recent messes – but not very much about what needs to be done to cope with future issues which will inevitably be even worse, as the greenhouse gases that cause these disasters have already been emitted. Too many tipping points have already passed. Too little has been achieved through carbon capture and storage – except increasing the production of oil and gas. There are no offshore wind farms around here, very little geothermal power generation (despite huge potential) and not much in the way of energy storage or improvements to the grid to accommodate renewables. And there won’t be any time soon.

How bad does it have to get to see changes in policy? It has taken Britain 50 years to acknowledge that shutting down railway branch lines was short sighted and ineffective. The mess of water privatisation has also taken a similar amount of time to be acknowledged. In Canada our governments seem even more determined to refuse to change. But then we are still digging up asbestos to export – even though its use here is banned.(Even so, asbestos is still the number one cause of claims for worker compensation in BC.) We know what we are doing is not working. There was no major announcement about reductions of oil and gas extraction so now we know that big business is still calling the shots and humanity is doomed.

As Seth Klein just tweeted: “This #ThroneSpeech was an opportunity post-election, post-COP, post-floods to announce additional climate emergency initiatives & measures. The government took a pass. An exceptionally boring speech.”

Charity Launches Emergency Flood Response and Appeal

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I just received this press release from the Salvation Army. You may well have seen the news about the disaster that has befallen British Columbia. I am fortunate not to live in one of the hard hit areas. I am also an atheist but the Salvation Army has taken lots of stuff from us that we needed to dispose of over the years, some of which must have been sold and the funds used for their services.

No doubt there will be other appeals – and BC is getting help from the Canadian government. But if you were looking for some way to help we do know that the Sally Annes are on the ground Doing Good now.

POSTSCRIPT

This was posted to Twitter by the CBC shortly after this post was published

“Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) is now available for eligible British Columbians in southwest, central and southeast areas of the province and Vancouver Island who were affected by flooding and landslides from Nov. 14-16. DFA is available to homeowners, residential tenants, business owners, local governments, Indigenous communities, farmers and charitable organizations that were unable to obtain insurance to cover disaster-related losses.”

Lots of pictures of the damage – and the work being done to repair it

And Air Canada just tweeted “in response to #BCStorm, Air Canada is adding cargo capacity by upgauging 14 flights to #A330 & #Dreamliner aircraft to @yvrairport from @yulaeroport, @TorontoPearson & @FlyYYC to help maintain important economic supply links to/from BC. We continue to monitor this situation.”

The Provincial Emergency Coordination Center has been activated. Those who wish to donate funds, supplies, or services to support the flood recovery effort can e-mail donations@gov.bc.ca or contact the Canadian Red Cross at WeCare@redcross.ca or 1-800-418-1111.

Vancouver, B.C. (Nov. 18) — The Salvation Army has launched a massive emergency response effort to help victims of the worst flood in a century in British Columbia. Emergency Units are on the ground in six of the hardest hit communities across the province providing food, hydration, shelter, clothing, and blankets to first responders, evacuees, and flood victims.

“We have been on the ground since day one in the hardest hit communities,” says Mike Leland spokesperson for The Salvation Army in B.C. “We have several of our trained emergency response units actively supporting the impacted communities. Our feeding trucks are there, we have been airlifting in meals, and we have set up evacuation centres in communities to receive victims of the floods.”

With six emergency response vehicles in the field and evacuation centres open, The Salvation Army is on the front lines in Kelowna, Kamloops, Chilliwack, and Abbotsford, while locations in Maple Ridge and Abbotsford have been working around the clock to supply communities with food, hydration, and blankets. To date, the Army has provided close to 10,000 meals to those being impacted, as well as those first responders who are on the ground. They also mobilized two more Emergency Vehicles on standby in case the weather begins to change once again.

“Several of our locations outside of the impacted areas mobilized their communities immediately to assist in the effort,” says Leland. “This is a tragedy unfolding and we are here for those people and communities day and night and we will be here to end, and see this through into the recovery phase… this is what we do, but we don’t do it alone.”

The Salvation Army has also launched an Emergency Flood Relief Appeal. People can help by going to salvationarmy.ca/BCFlood or call 1.800.SAL.ARMY to make a safe and secure donation.

“We need people to help,” says Leland. “This is going to take everyone coming together, not only to assist right now, but to help these communities recover in the weeks and months ahead. Every dollar donated will go directly towards helping these communities today with essential services and then into the aftermath of these floods to help them recover.”

Written by Stephen Rees

November 18, 2021 at 10:54 am

Posted in Emergency