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

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Here’s the thing with your software

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screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-8-01-24-pm

So I have actually already whitelisted Wired – as the screenshot shows – but instead of showing me the page I get the appeal. Again. Which I have already answered.

Yes you are whitelisted. I will put up with your ads. Show me the content, dammit!

Written by Stephen Rees

January 9, 2017 at 8:06 pm

Posted in media, off topic

Tagged with ,

Old growth logging vs the carbon tax

with 8 comments

There is a Canadian Press story this morning which got covered by the CBC, where it caught my attention.

One year of logging old-growth forests in southwestern British Columbia blows away a year of carbon reductions accomplished by initiatives like the carbon tax.

That’s the finding of a Sierra Club report released today, entitled Carbon at Risk: B.C.’s Unprotected Old-growth Rainforest.

That’s the top of the CP/CBC story – and you can find the same thing elsewhere. In fact I think you should. For a start, missing from the CBC story is any substantive content that they have added – and, even worse in my opinion but common to most news web sites, there isn’t a link to the report. For a better example go to Huffington Post  which has the same CP story but at much greater length, and with an interesting back and forth between Rick Jeffery, Coast Forest Products Association president and Sierra Club spokesman Jens Wieting.  But also no link to the report.

In fact I actually talked to Jens Wieting myself this morning. First of all I did not even know that there is more than one Sierra Club – but I guessed that Sierra Club Canada was probably the source. Wrong, it’s actually the Sierra Club BC. Their web page is actually much more active and has the press release – but that doesn’t link to the report either. Jens sent it to me by email, but you can download it from the publications section. Its a six page pdf but worth a look.

I am not at all an expert in this field, but I have some connection to it. I would have had a job at the Forests Ministry had not the BCGEU “bumping” practices snatched it away from me. I did do quite a bit of research before the interview – and he who did the bumping didn’t have to – so I have been a bit more aware of the issues since.  I have been in BC’s old-growth forests – there’s small patches on the North Shore, but more impressive are Cathedral Grove and Meare’s Island.

The old growth

Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

Hug a tree

Meare’s Island

The latter was the famous site of the Clayoquot Sound protests. And I was also caught by a carbon offset scam which took my money so it could cut down old growth then plant new trees using the same justification that Rick Jeffery trots out. And which has been pretty much debunked. I do feel that the Sierra Club are a bit more reliable here as their report actually is backed by research and data, with useful links. That really is the point I am trying to make here. When you hear something on the radio or tv these days, they will often say “go to our web site for more information” but mostly it isn’t there. But there is Google. We watch tv news now with our tablets at hand. And when you read this

“They don’t want us to log,” said Jeffery. “That is the raison d’etre of the environmental groups. For them to tell you anything else is an outright lie.”

It is a matter of a moment to determine (by going to the report) that what they are calling for is

Increased conservation of the remaining old growth temperate rainforest, phasing out logging of old-growth and transitioning logging fully to second growth is urgent from a climate adaptation and mitigation perspective.

and

Improved forest management, in particular longer rotation, eliminating waste and selective logging, is equally important to reduce carbon loss. Forestry can be an important sector of the low carbon economy of the future, but not without increased forest conservation and improved forest management.

Perhaps if Jeffery had stuck to what he knows about – what his members are doing or proposing to do – and providing some source material to back that up, he might have some credibility. But by first claiming that he knows what the Sierra Club wants – and then calling them liars for their much more nuanced approach – it is not an end to logging that they are calling for – he discredits himself and his employers.  Of course if you are a business you want to maximize your return on investment – that’s what business does. But businesses that want to be around for a while, that do not want to be treated as social pariahs and have some understanding of the concept of sustainability, rather than simple greed for short term profits – do better in the long run.

“They’re basically telling you that once you cut that old-growth tree, that carbon all gets released into the environment,” said Jeffery. “It goes to other uses. It gets recycled. It goes into buildings and it gets stored.”

No they’re not. What they are actually saying is that clear cutting releases a lot but not all the carbon – and the report uses the rather generous assumption that about a quarter of the carbon is stored.  And there is a picture of slash burning to illustrate what actually happens in the woods when they cut the trees down.

There is a also in the CP story as printed by HuffPo some policy issues with quotes from BC Ministers – again something the CBC misses altogether. But rather than get into that, I do think that what is being demonstrated is that the BC carbon tax is an increasingly flimsy pretence at doing something about greenhouse gas emissions, that is more than offset by all the other activities of the present administration. Perhaps it is indeed the right way to do accounting, to log the burning of our exported coal, oil and natural gas against the nations that burn it. But if we weren’t subsidizing the extraction processing and transport of these fossil fuels, they would cost a great deal more, would be less attractive and those nations would look to other sources of energy. Renewables would be much more attractive to them.

The whole world would be better off if we left more of the oil, gas and coal in the ground. We would also be much better off if we stopped logging old growth forests (especially by actually being honest about how much carbon is released when they are cut and how poorly second growth compares at carbon sequestration). And when we do cut down the trees, we do a great deal more than simply ship off the raw logs elsewhere.

Why Kai Nagata quit his job

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I was simply going to retweet a link to Kai Nagata’s blog post . But I think it deserves more attention than that. I will admit I had never heard of him before – he was a journalist at CTV in Quebec, covering the National Assembly. I do not even know why I clicked on the link to read it at first. Just that it grabbed me and held me captive. He is – there is no doubt at all – very brave. And also very honest. And he gives a very clear, succinct and credible analysis of what is wrong with tv news in Canada.  Which, by extension, tells us a lot about ourselves.

I strongly recommend to my readership  that they set aside  a few moments to read it from beginning to end.

I have no idea where Kai Nagata’s quest will take him but I suspect this is not the last we shall hear from him. And I suspect we will all benefit from his decision to leave CTV News and go and do something more worthwhile. I wish him the best of good fortune.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Posted in media

TransLink board cautioned on risks of secrecy

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Jeff Nagel, BC Local News

A longish piece, but worth reading and apposite, given what I have already posted today. Kevin Falcon’s imposed structure on Translink was always going to be a bit awkward to handle. Because the only reason it was created was that Kevin did not like a decision the previous Board had taken some time to consider. They were not too keen on the Canada Line and had some very real questions to ask. I would like to be able to write that they had their doubts about the Gateway too, but if they did we did not hear about it. And what we have now is more like the Port and the Airport which were formerly federal institutions and are now supposed to be local but are completely unaccountable, and operate more like companies than public authorities. Except there are not even the equivalent of shareholder’s meetings.

Jeff has been using the FOI process to get hold of the sort of stuff that the previous board used to put on its web page. Now the previous board did not go out of their way to make it easy to find stuff. There were pdf files of board reports, and they were filed by the date of the meeting. And I could never find anything I wanted by using search engines – but usually somebody knew which day the relevant meeting had been held. Of course, minutes of meetings and decisions were somewhere else, but there was a “Board in brief” that was not the official minutes but was reliable and accurate. And of course the old Board wasn’t directly elected so I am not claiming it was adequate – but it was better than what we have now.

But the point Jeff is making is that this Board is not listening to its own staff. And what must also be remembered was that this Board was not selected for its expertise in transportation, or planning, or public accountability.

The FOI request generated 223 pages of material from the January and February board meetings.

Most of the reports would have been routinely released by the former TransLink board of mayors and councillors, who had counselled continued openness.

The information obtained details numerous decisions made secretly in recent weeks but shielded from public view – including the recent adoption of a whistleblower policy that sets rules for TransLink employees who report misconduct.

Much of the material has been blanked out and it is often impossible to tell what recommendations were made or actions taken.

What is thoroughly unsatisfactory about all this is the inevitable conclusion that since they are hiding, there must be stuff they do not want us to see. Why not? It is not as if this stuff has huge privacy or security concerns. The old Board used to meet in camera, when it had to. It also used to have premeetings, that were not official but “briefings”. So did the old Vancouver Regional Transit Commission. There were no public records of those meetings either.

The instinct of most officials is to keep things quiet and keep their heads down and avoid scrutiny as much as possible. It is not hard to find politicians who get caught up in that ethos. It is profoundly unhealthy. It is not about trying to embarrass people, or make them look any sillier than they are. It is about understanding how our money is being spent. It is about accountability and process. We deserve to kept informed and consulted. We elect governments – they are not appointed by kings or dictators. They serve at the will of the people, who can remove them if they fail to perform.

This is an important principle that has been lost sight of in the rush for efficiency and business like decision making. But public authorities – ports, airports, ferries, transit, road builders and maintainers – are not just about the bottom line, like most companies. They deal with huge issues of public significance, and most of them are more important than the financial rate of return on capital employed, which is all most PLCs care about.

Oh and one other thing before I forget – who are these “whistle blowers”? I never met one in the seven years I worked there. I was aware of people who had been got rid off , who every so often popped in public and pointed out some of the sillier things they were aware of, but they were generally ignored as eccentrics with a personal axe to grind. I do know that the people I worked for were terrified about some things that I knew about would become public. When I was terminated I was made to sign a contract which comprehensively prevented me from talking about anything, with all kinds of dire consequences. It seems that it was standard boiler plate and not specially created for me. But I have never had to keep quiet about stupid decisions because they were plain for all to see. I have never repeated gossip, and I kept no private records, so I do not need to behave like Deep Throat.

But I suspect that if this Board keeps going in this direction there will be people who will find it necessary to give unattributable information to people who can get it out. Or even publish it themselves. Many secretive organisations have found anonymous bloggers in their midst in recent years. I hope so anyway.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 6, 2008 at 10:35 am

The Tyee

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I know that regular readers of this blog will know of my affection for this publication.

They have now produced a video, which I originally got by email, and I urge my readers to look at it and send it along to those who may not yet have discovered this source of information.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 30, 2007 at 3:27 pm

Posted in alternative news, media