Stephen Rees's blog

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

More about flickr

with one comment

This is not about flickr as an organisation, it is about my experience of it. I saw the tweet I have copied above this and it moved me to write a blog post. I can’t do this in a tweet. I may not even be able to do it in a blog post.

What I really need to be able to do is to reach out to someone. Someone I do not know in real life. But he comes from the same part of the world I do and shares at least some of the same enthusiasms. But on flickr he has decided to block me. When that happens flickr doesn’t tell you right away. You get “Contact Notifications” when someone follows you, but not when they block you. You find that out when you try to comment on their post. Or when you want to add one of their images to your gallery.

I blocked someone because they accused me of being creepy, and frankly I don’t see anything to be gained by arguing with someone who does that. I wasn’t expecting the subsequent “revenge”. But then no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

So why did I get blocked by someone else? Interesting that, so I have to explain a bit. I wasn’t fighting with him. I just thought the word he used to describe a municipal transportation service to be inappropriate. East Ham Trams were not a company.

Now the person I am talking about actually encourages this kind of communication. Under every picture he posts to flickr it says “If there are any errors in the above description please let me know. Thanks”

So yes, calling the Tramways Department of the County Borough Council of East Ham a “company” is an error.

So I let him know. And he blocked me!

I happen to be the Administrator of the flickr Transportation group. There are other groups on flickr where I have seen the clear message “Block the Administrator and you will be removed from the Group”. Mine don’t say that. As long as the pictures meet the definition of Transportation then I have no concerns. But, for goodness sake, say you want to know about errors and then block the people who tell you …

One other thing. Not especially relevant or important. But he didn’t take the pictures. He has been buying old photographs and then – because they are in black and white, almost inevitably – he colorises them. And does a pretty credible job. And then puts his copyright on the colorised version.

“(if you want to use it, at least credit me and link to this description!) “

So would you like to see one of his pictures now?

No?

Didn’t think so.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 8, 2021 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Transportation

Who decides what is “creepy”

with 4 comments

Someone recently added this label to a picture of mine on Flickr. I did not like that comment so I deleted it. It was quickly replaced so I blocked that user.

Today I got this message by email

Hi Stephen Rees, Your account was brought to our attention and upon review, we determined that your voyeur content is in violation of the Guidelines and Terms of Service. You can also read the following help forum discussion about voyeur content on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/help/forum/en-us/95223/ Specifically this comment from staff: https://www.flickr.com/help/forum/en-us/95223/#reply625343 Please delete all content in violation immediately. You have 3 days to remove the content or your account may be terminated without further warning. Note: Since these images are not allowed on Flickr marking them as private is not enough, they need to be deleted. Regards, Flickr Staff

No reply to this message is permitted. No further discussion of the subject in the forum is permitted either.

I have to assume that if I delete every picture taken at a public place of a woman or women wearing a bikini that I may be allowed to continue to have an account on Flickr. Flickr staff do not provide any information as to which pictures they decide are “creepy”. There are currently over two million pictures on Flickr which are found by using the search term “bikini”.

Apparently from looking at the comments thread 95223 cited about what is problematic is that the pictures are said to be taken “secretly”. Well I use a pretty large point and shoot camera

Purple-Bikini-original
This isn’t my image so I could not delete that but apparently this isn’t creepy.
bikini beach hot girls
This isn’t my picture either but it might be creepy since they didn’t know Eduardo was taking it
Canon SX730HS triptych

This is my current camera. I like it because I can literally slip it in my pocket. But as you can see “secret” isn’t really an option. And I do like “street photography” or as it is sometimes called “candid”. This is one of my favorites

Accidental candid portrait

The subject was unaware, as were these people

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/5721082544/

No I don’t know why that shows up as a clickable link and not a picture – but when looking for that I found this

Lydia?

Now she is well aware that I took her picture – but am I also cleared of the accusation of posting “voyeur content”?

I did not delete this one either

If you're going to San Francisco ...

There’s not a lot of skin on show – but there are some people who have a thing about wetsuits. Rubber fetishists who slaver over swimming hats. No, really. And then there is this comment on the thread that is picked up approvingly by the member of Flackr’s staff who then closes discussion

posting them to Flickr for the purposes of sexual gratification

Exactly how is that determined? Especially when there are swathes of images which are overtly sexual but are hidden through various devices but are allowed to remain, however for “voyeur content” the standard shifts “these images are not allowed on Flickr marking them as private is not enough”

No I don’t understand, but then flickr also got excited about

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/51039299698/

But backed down when I told them it was in the sculpture garden of the New Orleans Museum of Art and was publicly available for free – including groups of schoolchildren.

Since Flickr did not provide any list of what they thought was objectionable I made a link between what someone else had labelled “creepy” and what prompted their message. “Your account was brought to our attention” again, no mention of who did that but dollars to donuts it’s the ill mannered lout I blocked.

Venus Victorius

When Renoir made this sculpture – from the same collection referred to above – can we be absolutely assured that he got no sexual gratification from it? Or was the fact that he probably paid his models enough to escape censure by Flickr’s anonymous staff? No one could accuse him of secrecy. But then I have always felt that photography was not a crime, and that if you were in a public place you have no reasonable expectation of privacy. If I can see something, I can take a photograph of it. That does not mean I am a voyeur, nor that I am seeking to satisfy the sexual tastes of voyeurs. But then when Ira Levin produced his novel “Sliver” it was promoted with the tag line “You like to watch, don’t you?” Which is another way of saying that all humans share the same pleasure from people watching.

Is it at all reasonable to demand that no one must ever take pictures where there are people sunbathing? Or rather they can take them but they mustn’t post them to flickr even if they are marked private.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/13905505416/

I didn’t delete this one. Was I supposed to? If it only included the figure at the right end of the row, would that be sexually gratifying anyone?

This is a cut and paste from Flickr’s “Community Guidelines”

  • Don’t be creepy.You know the guy. Don’t be that guy. If you are that guy, your account will be deleted.

If you think that is an adequate explanation please leave me an explanation in the comments below.

I do not want to lose my flickr account. I am doing my best to comply, but frankly the way that the policy is worded is worthy of Humpty Dumpty. “When I use a word it means what I want it to mean, no more or no less.”

Please, do not go to flickr and enter the search term “naked” or “sildenafil” – and of course before you do that you will need to turn off “safe search”

UPDATE June 11, 2021

I have now created a 20 page softcover book. When I deleted what I thought were offending pictures, I did not keep track of them and my memory is not what it was once. But I think I probably got them. I still have a flickr account so it seems I must have guessed right. None of the offending pictures are in this post.

If you would like a copy of the book please write to me at rees dot stephen (a) gmail dot com

I only ordered one copy for myself as a proof and, of course, found a typo as soon as opened it. The price varies quite a bit based on the numbers ordered. It can also be made available as a pdf file or a proper ebook. Both would be considerably cheaper than an actual paper book. If you express an interest I will be able to quote a price based on volume – and then I would have to add something for post and packing.



 

Written by Stephen Rees

June 3, 2021 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Transportation

Private Equity Exacerbates the Climate Crisis

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The following is a Press Release from the Private Equity Stakeholder Project. If you are unfamiliar with Private Equity and how it works I suggest you read Cory Doctorow on the subject.

Pension Forum Investigates the Role Private Equity Plays in Exacerbating the Climate Crisis

The University of Washington’s Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies hosted a forum Wednesday that explored the relationship between pension funds and other institutional investors, the climate crisis, and the impacts on communities and the environment. Trustees and representatives of dozens of investors with more than $10 trillion in assets combined participated in the forum.  

Moderated by Michael McCann, the University of Washington Gordon Hirabayashi Professor for the Advancement of Citizenship, panelists spoke of the growing urgency to interrogate the role private equity plays in exacerbating the climate crisis, often using pension fund capital. 

Treasurer of the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union Paul Finch said at the forum, “What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get managed. And we need to better understand what the risk is and we need better measurements of investment risk. We need less blind trust of investment agents. We need to appoint more critical thinkers to these pension boards who are equipped and educated with the tools to be able to understand the risks that exist.” 

Panelist Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham) – Gidimt’en Checkpoint Spokesperson on Wet’suwet’en Territory, British Columbia, said, “Our resistance creates huge instability and risk to investors. We know that [KKR’s] Coastal Gas Link project has been delayed for at least one year and many seasons due to direct action and the requirement of added infrastructure throughout the pipeline route. 

“We will never stand down and will continue to resist this project and others like it that do not gain consent from our people. It is a bad investment that will never see the returns that pensioners deserve.”

Participants discussed how labor unions, pension fund trustees, and Indigenous rights and grassroots organizations are working to encourage climate-safe investment practices and explore avenues for further collaboration. 

Finch said, “What we found is that if people don’t have the tools to properly measure what’s happening in the markets, then they’re not able to make informed decisions in the best interest of their members or their beneficiaries. Across the board, the risks associated with these [fossil fuel] investments are not being properly analyzed or understood. Since divesting [from fossil fuels] our union has approximately earned, net of fees, 12.5 percent on the market, on average, every year.”

Even as the US has rejoined the Paris Agreement, and the Biden Administration is advocating for greater investment in clean energy infrastructure, and as publicly traded companies begin to commit to net-zero emissions, private equity firms – such as the Blackstone Group, KKR & Co., and the Carlyle Group – continue to acquire fossil fuel assets, contributing to the climate disaster we are experiencing. 

Earlier this week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released a groundbreaking report that stated that in order to achieve a net zero energy system by 2050, from today, there should be “no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects, and no further final investment decisions for new unabated coal plants.”

Private Equity Stakeholder Project Climate Director Alyssa Giachino told forum attendees, “There is a universe of economic actors outside of the public markets – like private equity — that are finding buying opportunities in assets shed by publicly traded companies. Absent pressure and real accountability, private funds managers will continue to invest institutional investors’ capital in oil and gas despite the risks. The public needs real information to hold private equity accountable to the impacts they have already had on the environment and marginalized communities.”

Mitch Vogel, Trustee of the Illinois State Universities Retirement System and Eileen Moran, member of the Environmental Justice Working Group of the Professional Staff Congress – CUNY also participated on the panel.

You can watch the recording of the forum here.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 21, 2021 at 8:52 am

Is the Shine Starting to Come Off Bill Gates’s Halo? A ‘Nation’ Investigation

The rest of this post comes from a Press Release from The Nation. There are three articles in the links below but fortunately if you are not a Nation subscriber you can have three free articles. I think you will agree when you have finished reading them that this is a very worthwhile use of your time. And, if you have not been paying attention, go read Cory Doctorow’s latest on his blog

The Nation’s Tim Schwab—whose incisive three-part investigation into the Gates Foundation won a 2021 Izzy Award for independent media—is out with a new deep dive into Bill Gates’s opposition to patent waivers on Covid vaccines: A stance that isn’t just ideological, but could be linked to the Gates Foundation’s co-ownership of a vaccine company—and likely a vast trove of intellectual property:

Is the Shine Starting to Come Off Bill Gates’s Halo?

The billionaire’s role in perpetuating vaccine apartheid in the name of protecting intellectual property rights has begun to draw criticism.

Amid a growing chorus of criticism for Bill Gates’s role in the unfolding vaccine apartheid around the world, Schwab reports that many have understated the full scope of the Gates Foundation’s interests in this debate—including the sprawling array of intellectual property the charity has acquired access to through its grants and investments. And the fact that the foundation co-owns a vaccine company. It is increasingly urgent to ask if Gates’s multiple roles in the pandemic—as a charity, a business, an investor, and a lobbyist—are about philanthropy and giving away money, or about taking control and exercising power—monopoly power.

ABOUT: Tim Schwab (@TimothyWSchwab) is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C., whose sweeping three-part Nation investigation into The Gates Foundation was part of a 2019 Alicia Patterson Foundation fellowship.

The first installment uncovered the historically opaque operation’s two billion dollars in ‘charitable’ donations to private businesses, documenting how their endowment generates far more income than it gives away. The second part unearthed the foundation’s hundreds of millions invested in companies working on Covid-19, putting it in a position to generate windfall revenues, which Gates himself has failed to disclose publicly. The third piece offered damning criticism of the foundation’s highest-profile research project, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which holds near-monopoly power over global/public health. It exposed a welter of financial conflicts of interest and other irregularities at The Lancet, a leading journal that publishes much of IHME’s work.

Representingthe first substantive investigation into the Gates Foundation in 15 years, Schwab provided readers with a singular narrative about how the super-rich transform money into power and wield a devastatingly undemocratic hold over public policy.

Founded by abolitionists in 1865, The Nation has chronicled the breadth and depth of political and cultural life from the debut of the telegraph to the rise of Twitter, serving as a critical, independent, and progressive voice in American journalism.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 10, 2021 at 11:52 am

Posted in Pandemic

Tagged with ,

Don’t get scammed

with 3 comments

I am pretty sure that you must see the same kind of adverts that I see. Every so often I see something that seems like a Good Idea. Unfortunately I seem to be a bit gullible. I tend to trust people. They tell me they have something that will be useful, and present some details, and I think that I would like that. On this blog I documented the great electric bicycle wheel disaster. You would have thought that would have inoculated me to some extent. But I have also fallen for the fake nutritional supplement scam – and more than once.

I saw an advert for a device that said you could reduce your electricity bills “Stabilize Your Current, Remove Dirty Electricity, Slash Your Power Bill Today!” The device is sold as Voltex. It comes with a 60 day money back guarantee.

I bought two devices and neither of them actually works. When plugged into a live receptacle they are supposed to light up a Green LED. Neither of these actually managed that.

As you can see there is a green plastic track across each device, and that dull green line is supposed to light up when there is power present.

When it did not light up I did what I should have done before sending them my credit card information. I did a Google search and the first hit was this one “Is Voltex a scam?” on reddit. From that I found links to two YouTube videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XD7M_tJ-SwM

I must warn you that Voltex continues to advertise on the internet. I have seen ads that pop up when playing games. The claims made in these advertisements are unsupported by science. As those two videos above demonstrate Voltex cannot do what they say it does.

I went to the Voltex site to find out about returns. There is also a contact page.

This is the reply that I got

Hi Stephen,

Thanks for getting back to us and sorry for the disappointment you have with our product. I understand how frustrating it must be.

I’d love to help you out with this. I just need a little more information before you can return the product back to us.

Before we go ahead and arrange a return, could you please send us some clear photos of the entire item along with the packaging, if possible? Could you also let us know the reason you’re returning the item?

In order to be eligible for a refund, you have to return the product within 30 calendar days of your purchase. The product must be in the same condition that you receive it and undamaged in any way.

Once we receive more details, we will be in touch with you shortly to discuss further steps.

We do not require an RMA number upon returning the unit. Please email us a photo of the postage receipt or the tracking number once you drop the package.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please let me know. I’m here to help.

Thank you so much for your patience.

Best,

Connie ll Customer Service
Representative

——

Did you notice how the 60 day guarantee on the ad has now shrunk to 30 days?

I sent her the same picture that I used for the top of this post. Then I repacked the bag it came in and took it to UPS.

Here is the second email I received after I had supplied the picture

——–

Hi Stephen,

Thank you for sending the photo and sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.

In order to solve this issue, we have a few options we can offer:
1.    According to our Returns Policy, we do not provide a return slip, and all of the costs of returning the product(s) have to be covered by the buyer. To avoid this, we would like to offer you a CA$62.00 discount and you can keep the product(s) that you bought.
2.    If that is not an option and you would like to get a full refund, you will first have to send the item(s) back to our returns center.

Here is the return’s address the item should be shipped to:

Returns Depo
451 Mirror Ct. Ste 106
Henderson NV 89011

After you ship the products, please don’t forget to send us a receipt with a tracking number. Once the parcel is delivered, we will refund you within 3-5 business days period.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

——-

I looked up the cheapest way of shipping that would still get delivered in the now 29 day period which appeared to cost ~$20.

I must admit that I was a bit surprised at the address given in that last email since the package it came in had a return address in Burnaby. My partner suggested I take it there myself, but of course that would void the conditions laid out. I also called the number on my credit card: I was told to return the unsatisfactory items but to make sure I got a tracking number for the parcel. In the event that I do not get my refund, the credit card company will use the tracking number on the shipping receipt as evidence that the charge on my card should be reversed.

Below is the product information supplied with the device.

On the other side of the document photographed below it states:
ELECTRICITY SAVING SPIKE BUSTER

Adopt the latest and high-efficient technique of Germany to save electricity

*save energy sources efficiently environmentally friendly stabilize the current

*source stand current waveform protect devices

*prolong the life of the electric devices easy

*usage no need maintenance

UPDATE May 20, 2021

I got my VISA statement today which shows a refund from the vendor which was posted on May 10.

So yes I did get back what I paid, except that I had to spend money and time shipping back the nonworking product sent to me. Sometimes when I see ads during games there is a way to block them – for example Google ads have a little device in the top right corner of the ad where you can ask for that ad not to be shown. But there seems to be no way to complain about downright fraudulent claims. And obviously Voltex manages to find enough people who don’t bother with trying to get a refund that they can afford to buy more ad time. So this is the best I can do to try and get the message across. See title at top of page.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 5, 2021 at 12:25 pm

Posted in energy

Tagged with

Civil society reacts to Trudeau’s new Climate Target

with one comment

The following content was provided by the Climate Action Network. Some of these quotes from activists may get into the mainstream coverage, but I am willing to bet that most of it will be “balanced” to meet the preferences of corporations.

_______________

This morning during the opening plenary of President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate, Prime Minister Trudeau announced Canada’s new 40 – 45% climate target range. This target marks an increase in ambition, up from the nation’s previously stated target window of 31 – 40% as announced in December 2020’s Healthy Environment Healthy Economy Plan. 

This announcement confirms Canada’s intended level of commitment, which fell under swift scrutiny earlier this week when a number (36%), released as part of the federal budget, was widely mistaken for a new greenhouse gas reduction target. 

Canada’s target announcement this morning was made alongside that of several other nations in attendance at the Leader’s Summit on Climate, and comes on the heels of ambitious targets announced just days ago by other Paris signatory nations including the UK, who has brought forward a new 78% by 2035 target, and the Biden administration’ commitment to reducing emissions by half by the end of the decade. 

“It’s good to see Canada driving up ambition and it’s not enough. The new target is not aligned with 1.5C – that would require a 60% emissions reduction goal. We hope to see Canada continue to ramp up ambition, both in future years and as NDC consultations occur in coming months on the road to Glasgow. Canada not only needs to improve its climate targets, but also pass strong legislation to meet those targets. Canada’s proposed Net-Zero Accountability Act, currently stalled in the House, must be strengthened as it contains more of a duty to report than a duty to achieve. As Prime Minister Trudeau noted, Canada is an energy exporting nation and that is one of the country’s main barriers to climate ambition. Canada’s new NDC should address emissions from oil and gas production, ban fossil fuel subsidies, and enshrine Just Transition legislation.” Catherine Abreu, Executive Director, Climate Action Network Canada 

“If Trudeau’s government is serious about fighting climate change, his administration needs to stand up to big oil, starting with the cancelation of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, and bringing in strong regulations to limit climate pollution,”  Sven Biggs, Canadian Oil and Gas Program Director

“Canada was once a climate leader. We can be again, but only if this government has the courage to acknowledge that we cannot reach our climate commitments so long as we rely on fossil fuels for jobs and our energy needs. Any successful climate plan must include massive investment in supporting oil and gas workers to transition to a clean energy economy,”  Sonia Theroux, Executive Director, Leadnow

“The problem with Justin Trudeau’s new climate pledge can be summed up in two words – fossil fuels. Neither Trudeau’s new climate plan, nor his budget, nor this new climate promise include a plan to tackle soaring emissions from tar sands, fracking and other fossil fuel expansion that makes Canada the only G7 country whose emissions have gone up since signing the Paris Agreement. Canada needs to cut our emissions at least 60% by 2030 and pass legislation like a Just Transition Act to make sure we meet our Paris commitment and leave no one behind,” Amara Possian, Canada Campaigns Director, 350.org

“The ambition has certainly been raised, but it doesn’t match the climate emergency. To make a difference and positions itself as a leader, Canada needs to set targets of at least 60% by 2030 and help other countries decarbonize. The longer we wait to put in place the policies and regulations that will take us to carbon neutrality by 2050, the steeper the slope towards that goal will be,” Émile Boisseau-Bouvier, climate policy analyst at Équiterre

“Trudeau’s proposed target is less ambitious than what climate science requires, with no commitment to phasing out fossil fuels at home or abroad. Canada is a rich country yet its target is less than Canada’s fair share of the global effort and less than what the U.S. is proposing. We should be proposing at least a 60% reduction in emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels, alongside a plan for a just transition for workers as we phase out fossil fuels. We must start with eliminating  fossil fuel subsidies immediately. After more than five years in office, the Trudeau government is still incapable of proposing a target as ambitious as that of Joe Biden who took office just three months ago. Despite recent positive commitments on climate, Canada remains under the influence of the oil and gas industry, which prioritizes private profits over the wellbeing of communities and the environment. The costs of inaction will be greater than the cost of acting quickly and decisively.” Keith Stewart, Senior Energy Strategist, Greenpeace Canada

“This is not a climate emergency target.  Canada is one of the very worst emitters and needs to do more. This target will not halt the 2 degrees of warming that puts the future of the Earth in danger. A global fair share target is 60% – and it is doable.  Anything less is just not acceptable – it is a recipe for ecocide. Canada’s target as announced fails future generations and must change; as must the Climate Plan. We must  tackle the need to phase out fossil fuels 100% and transition to a renewable energy future.”  Lyn Adamson, Co-Chair, ClimateFast

“Canada could be a climate leader, but climate leaders do not deal in empty promises or half-measures. Climate leaders do not build pipelines through stolen land or sign off on enormous fossil fuel subsidies with the same pen they use to legislate net-zero by 2050 targets. Canada is the only G7 country whose emissions have increased since the Paris Agreement. But this is not only a crisis of emissions, it is a crisis of equality. Canada’s inaction on climate is a betrayal of the people and areas most affected by this crisis. Anything less than a commitment to reduce our own emissions by 60% by 2030 is an insult to those we continue to hurt with our inaction. It is time for Canada to get serious on climate, to wind down the oil and gas industry and support workers through the transition rather than continue delaying the inevitable.” Alyssa Scanga, Youth Organizer, Climate Strike Canada 

“Canada is a wealthy nation that has been among the top 10 emitters of greenhouse gases for decades. We helped create the climate crisis that threatens the future of our children. We must make a deeper commitment to fight climate change and we must have a realistic plan for keeping that commitment. We must stop investing in the oil and gas sector. We must invest deeply in energy efficiency and renewable energies; in walkable, bike-able and transit-supportive communities. These investments will reduce air pollution and improve health, while creating new jobs and fuel savings.” Kim Perrotta, Executive Director, Canadian Health Association for Sustainability and Equity (CHASE)  

“Canada has increased its ambition on climate change, but reductions of 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 are needed to limit climate-related risks and impacts that are disproportionately affecting women and marginalized communities. We call on Prime Minister Trudeau to ensure environmental justice and gender justice are central to Canada’s climate actions. In addition to domestic actions, this will require Canada to commit at least $1.8 billion a year of public investments in climate finance in order to support women and other vulnerable people in developing countries to respond and adapt to climate change.”  Anya Knechtel, Policy Specialist, Oxfam Canada

“New Brunswick risks undermining the province’s capacity to protect its citizens and compete in a decarbonized global economy if it fails to develop its own electrification and decarbonisation plan to reach near zero by 2050 and 60 per cent by 2030, a level that would see the province’s emissions fall to 5 million tonnes in 10 years. While the province’s emissions currently are in line with the new proposed federal target of 40 to 45% below 2005 by 2030, other federal requirements apply regardless of where our province’s emissions are, including the need to phase out coal from electricity generation by 2030, meet the requirements of a clean fuel standard, and a rising carbon price reaching $170/tonne by 2030.

New Brunswick has a hard work to do, just like all provinces, and every country in the world to ensure we get on a path that avoids 1.5 degrees warming. We can’t negotiate with the atmosphere. The global carbon budget is small and rapidly declining. The province needs to comply based on the laws of physics, not politics,” Louise Comeau, Director of Climate Change and Energy, Conservation Council of New Brunswick

“Prime Minister Trudeau’s announcement today that Canada will reduce emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 represents a big step forward. Still, we absolutely must go further. Under the banner of For the Love of Creation, people of faith, national churches, and faith-based organizations have been active in the call for Canada to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and invest in a just transition to a fair, inclusive, green economy that creates good secure jobs, and promotes the well-being of everyone in Canada. Canadian climate ambition continues to be undermined by federal support to the oil and gas sector and a failure to embrace transformational change to ensure the liveability of the planet and the flourishing of all creation.” Karri Munn-Venn, Senior Policy Analyst, Citizens for Public Justice

“Today’s announcement of Canada’s new climate target does not deserve much celebration. While an improvement over from its previous, even more inadequate, pledge, this target does not represent what Canada could and should do to reduce emissions at a pace necessary to prevent a climate catastrophe and human rights disaster. It also places an excessive burden on developing countries. With such a weak target, Canada is effectively saying that poorer countries, who are less responsible for climate change, must also halve their emissions by 2030. It’s time the Government of Canada started treating climate change like the global emergency it is by acting in a manner proportional to the scale of the crisis and in line with its full capacity and responsibility.” Fiona Koza, Business and Human Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada

“As part of the Arctic, the Yukon is already experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis. While we applaud the increase from Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent budget announcement of 36% emissions reduction to a murky number between 40 to 45%, sadly this goal does not account for the increasing emissions in Canada. Considering that Canada is one of the world’s biggest producers of greenhouse gas emissions, our minimum Fair Share would be a 60% emission reduction by 2030. We call on the Federal Government to reassess their target.” Coral Voss, Executive Director, Yukon Conservation Society

“In its latest report on the State of the Global Climate, the World Meteorological Organization stated that we need deep reductions and immediate action on the climate crisis. However, Canada’s carbon emissions reduction target is not adequate and does not include emissions from the military. The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are the biggest emitters in the federal government. The Trudeau government continues to make massive investments in fossil-fuel powered militarism like new tanks and fighter jets. To stop global warming, we need to stop war.” Tamara Lorincz, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace

“Human bodies do not tolerate half-measures in resuscitation–we crash and die. COVID-19 does not tolerate half-measures in its management–cases skyrocket. Similarly, keeping the climate from trespassing across tipping points of no return is not a situation where half-measures constitute a healthy response to climate change. A 40-45% reduction in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 does not represent Canada’s fair share of emissions reductions. So our job is to over-deliver. Our ambition heading forward must be to push hard, push fast, and not stop until we create the governance frameworks, through a strengthened Bill C-12, the resources, via a reallocation of fossil fuel subsidies, and the political will necessary for us to wake up in 2030 and find that we have done our part in stabilizing the Earth’s climate and providing a healthy future for our children.” Dr Courtney Howard, Emergency Physician, Past-President, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

“Canada needs to sharply ramp up its climate action. Our country is now officially a climate laggard. We have the weakest 2030 carbon reduction target of G7 countries, the  lowest level of  financial assistance in the G7 for developing countries to address climate impacts, and second in the G20 in fossil fuel subsidies. Setting low goals means getting weak action. Today, Prime Minister Trudeau explicitly named the biggest barrier to Canada being a climate leader: the production and export of dirty oil. Now he needs to address that problem by phasing out all fossil fuel production and use.” Dale Marshall, National Climate Program Manager, Environmental Defence

“The Road to Net Zero needs all hands on deck.  We have a very good made-in Canada Just Transition model to work from: the 2019 National Task Force on Just Transition for Canadians. Coal Power Workers and Communities set out strong principles and recommendations to guide Just Transition.  Let’s implement them!  Getting it right is about good sustainable jobs and strong Communities.  Just Transition is the bridge that takes us there.”  Joie Warnock, Assistant to the President, Unifor.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 22, 2021 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Transportation

Film Review “Everybody Flies”

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Trailer

I have not flown for nearly a year. My last trip was to New Orleans, in January last year. Looking back my usual pattern seems to be about 3 or 4 air trips a year, though in 2019 there was also only one flight as we had resolved to see more of our own province. But I have been on flights when there were odd smells in the cabin. I have not personally experienced a fume event but there are many.

The air in nearly every modern jet plane comes from the engines “bleed air”. The only exception is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner which has a separate, electric powered compressor for cabin air. The air is also recirculated through a HEPA filter which removes things like germs. Unfortunately it is not fine enough to remove smaller particles and that is where the trouble starts. Every jet engine needs lubricant and every can of that lubricant carries a health warning. It contains Tricresyl Phosphate a mixture of three isomeric organophosphate compounds. The “fume events” occur when the bleed air gets contaminated by the leaking lubricant. It can also be contaminated by other fluids. The aircraft industry has known about the issue since the 1950s and has always downplayed it.

Pilots and other aircrew, flying all the time, are much more likely to experience a fume event than passengers – but there are now records of large numbers of events affecting both. Former BA pilot Tristan Lorraine had to give up flying due to ill health and retrained as a filmmaker. “Everybody Flies” is his examination of the increasing amount of evidence that the air in most aircraft is nothing like as safe as the aircraft makers and airlines would have you believe. What he presents in his documentary are the first hand experiences of crew and passengers and their subsequent health issues. There is also quite a lot of independent research now and academics saying things like “if you don’t know what the safe level of exposure is, then it should be zero”. Captain Lorraine is also spokesman for the leading global organisation dealing with the issue of contaminated aircraft cabin air: The Global Cabin Air Quality Executive (GCAQE).

The movie is gripping and the story has an eerie air of familiarity. The aviation industry is following the same playbook as the tobacco and asbestos industries used. Indeed one of the interviewees sounded like me. She had been trying to get her case into a courtroom. After 15 years she had to give up and declare bankruptcy. “They have far more money than I had” so they could spend more on delaying the process. Exactly the same message that lawyers gave me, more than once, when I felt I had a good case and a strong sense of injustice. The lawyers tended to agree that I had a strong case but “they have more money than you do.” Indeed one case was settled against me simply because that was cheaper than fighting it. There are also regulators. Usually government appointed bodies tasked with protecting the public and employees, but who have become entirely captive to the industry they are supposed to regulate. The National Energy Board protects the oil and gas industry and advances its interests, not those of society in general and certainly not the natural environment.

But the aviation industry also has to guard jealously its reputation for promoting safety. That has taken a big hit thanks to Boeing’s handling of the 737 MAX mess. Just as the automobile industry suffered from the VW cheating emissions systems – and the more recent Toyota scandal. Currently they are doing that by pretending that there is not a problem. This position is becoming untenable but has lasted 50+ years so far.

Everybody Flies” is “under consideration” for an Oscar and BAFTA. It already had a standing ovation at the Sundance Festival. Its release to theatres is delayed by COVID. I hope that it shows up on streaming services too. I feel very privileged to have been offered a review link – which, of course, I cannot share. But I do hope that you will get to see it soon. I also hope that you will click on the links I have provided for I am sure that there will be much more bafflegab and distraction before the industry as a whole moves towards acknowledging the problem and installing better air filters. Making a start on that now, while so many commercial aircraft are grounded makes a great deal of sense, but then that is never going to be the industry’s first concern.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 16, 2021 at 12:05 pm

Book Review: “Finding Our Niche”

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Okeover Arm Provincial Park
Okeover Arm Provincial Park, Lund, BC
my picture on Flickr
First Nations have been gathering oysters here for ages
They are delicious

There is a great deal of bad news around. In fact that is probably always true since conflict, drama, threats and warnings are what sell newspapers, or these days get clicks on links. And actually this review can include links to the author and his ideas, so I can refer you to those rather than rely on quotations from his text.

Right now most of the world is facing a pandemic. And one of the reasons that we are not coping with it well so far is that the people who make the decisions in our society are trying to keep the economy going no matter what impact that has on human mortality. Humans are naturally gregarious. Work is normally arranged around everyone being in the same place and communicating face to face. Yet at the same time the more we gather indoors, the less care we exercise on the distance we keep, the more we share the pleasures of eating, drinking and talking to each other, the more successful the virus becomes: spreading, mutating, infecting. Economy and human health are in conflict.

This has to some extent replaced coverage of the other great threat, not just to humanity but all life on earth. Global warming. In our province (BC) we have produced plans to reduce the use of fossil fuels, but we are actually trying to increase our production of them for export. We know we need the forests to store carbon from the atmosphere yet we are cutting them down faster than ever, especially the old growth forests which store the most carbon. Canada has declared a climate emergency but has just approved three more offshore drilling sites. We bought a pipeline, one that was clearly a future financial liability – otherwise it would not have been looking for a buyer. It is based on the least likely scenario, that more countries will want to buy diluted bitumen, when renewable energy producers like wind and solar are now cheaper than fossil fuels. Saving the planet conflicts with the economy too.

Clearly what we have been doing is not working. Add to that the near collapse of democracy in the country to the south of us, and it is no wonder we are pessimistic. So books that look at better ways of dealing with the place where we live should have a ready market.

The problem is that we have bought into a whole load of ideas which are either outright lies or at least wildly misleading. The Tragedy of the Commons, for instance is based on the misrepresentation of history. The commons were not over exploited by the overall greed of society in general, but rather the greed of the already wealthy and powerful. There were regulatory measures in place, managed by the community, to protect the commons for use by all, but a few had the ability to overturn that for their own benefit. Yes there are some very greedy, dangerous people, but we are not all like that nor do we behave like that whenever we get the chance. Terra Nullius was a lie too. America wasn’t fenced but that did not mean it was not owned by anybody. Just like Australia, or New Zealand, or the South Pacific Islands. There were lots of people there before “us” – Europeans. We didn’t actually discover anything (other than our own ignorance of their existence) and the people there were not savages.

In fact the societies that existed in those places were remarkably successful even if they did not adhere to our current preference for measuring GDP or possession of precious metals as measures of success. Philip Loring is an anthropoligst and ecologist. He is an academic at the University of Guelph, Ontario and this is his first book. It is based around the knowledge that people who have thrived in places for millennia have obviously understood their environment better than the people who have not learned the lessons that the industrial revolution ought to have taught us. We are also still in thrall to people like Thomas Hobbes, who coined the phrase “nasty, brutish and short” for life when it was in a state of nature. And Adam Smith who may hold the record as the most widely misunderstood economist of all time.

The ideas that Loring discusses are common to all indigenous peoples – all of whom have learned over very long periods of time what works in their places to make life better for everyone. We now know, thanks to academic research and archaeological evidence that the places Europeans colonised had been occupied by humans for thousands of years by people who were not just hunter gatherers, but who managed their resources carefully and adapted themselves and the places they occupied to be more productive. Many developed advanced civilisations, and there is also much to be learned in why they collapsed. But the people were still there after these collapses, and their lives were a great deal less stressful.

Indigenous knowledge is inextricable from place. And therefore is not only complex and interwoven with that place but also guarded by those people carefully. Actually the greatest loss of human knowledge might not be the loss of the library at Alexandria but the burning of all but ten of the books written by the ancient Maya. What Loring does is distill some of this knowledge into a remarkably small number of general principles. In fact his chapter headings are all single words. Keystone, Engineers, Pristine, Novel. There is very little of the usual verbosity of American academia. It is much more about storytelling. And he has some great stories. Some familiar – the clam terraces of the Salish Sea – and some new to me. The reasons the Hindus revere cows, for instance. And how life is possible in North Western Mexico even though the Americans have used up most of the water in the Colorado River.

I will also confess that I have a couple of difficulties which are not dealt with in the book. For a start, who gets to be regarded as an aboriginal? Obviously not me. I come from East London, England and my ancestors come from all over the place. Secondly the thing I learned about some of my ancestors is that they were fabulists. Great storytellers too, but the “histories” they told were far from the truth, though as all great myths and legends are, based on true events. So people who rely on oral histories, in my experience, have not been a reliable source – even though I am sure they were trying to pass on wisdom. Then there is the problem of how stories are guarded. There is one story that Loring says “is not mine to tell” – but then he does produce a precis of it.

Here is a story of mine. I was part of an environmental assessment of a proposed development on Vancouver Island. The development was opposed by the local First Nation, who hired a woman of European extraction to assist them in presenting their concerns. At one meeting she started to explain the use that the FN applied to part of the site, at which moment the head of that group objected. “That’s not your story to tell!” he said to her, angily and the meeting promptly broke up. It is difficult enough for me, with my background, to trust oral histories. It is even more difficult, I think, for aboriginal knowledge and wisdom to be passed along to people who need it, if the owners of those stories are not willing to share.

There are also three anecdotes in the book which illustrate the same point. He was trying to do something and someone else seemed to block him but without giving a reason. A bit like a teacher I heard of who told his student “You’ll figure it out” rather than actually explaining what he was talking about in a way that the student could understand.

But even so I recommend this book to you as it is thought provoking and it does carry a message that is hopeful and may help you feel a bit more optimistic. You can read more about the book here, and more about the author here.

Finding Our Niche: Toward a Restorative Human Ecology

by Phil Loring, Arrell Chair in Food, Policy, Society and Associate Professor of Geography at the Department of Geography and Arrell Food Institute, University of Guelph.

Publisher: Fernwood Publishing

ISBN-10: 1773632876

ISBN-13: 978-1773632872

Available from wherever books are sold

Written by Stephen Rees

January 14, 2021 at 4:40 am

We don’t all feel the same.

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EVERYBODY ON EARTH
IS FEELING THE SAME
AS YOU
Sign seen at the North End of the Arbutus Greenway
January 3, 2021

“Everybody on Earth is feeling the same way as you” asserts a sign posted recently in the City of Vancouver.

When I saw that sign my first thought was “What makes you think that?” I suppose it must be some reference to the current pandemic. But my experience tells me that not all of us think the same way about the events we are living through. And this assertion seems to me to be quite easy to disprove.

I posted this image to Twitter and then added a number of thoughts of my own. I seem to have made a mess of the threading process and it got a bit derailed by a misunderstanding with a commenter, so I thought I could set matters straight here.

Here is a very far from comprehensive list of those who definitely are not feeling the same way as me:

There is a small group of highly privileged people who feel now is the time to travel to warmer climes.

There are a large number of people who are very anxious about when they will get the vaccine.

There are people who have made lots of money thanks to the pandemic.

There are people who feel it is really important to try and reverse the result of the last US presidential election

There are people who are utterly certain that there is a God, and that he is an old white male who prefers them over everyone else.

There are people who feel that by driving a Tesla and installing solar panels in their summer home that they have done more than enough to qualify as environmental activists.

There are people who are optimistic about the future of humanity on this planet.

There are people who are more concerned about ducks than you or me. “Foie gras is produced by force-feeding ducks”. [From an email I got from one of the petition generation sites.] No it’s geese actually.

I am pretty sure if I had conducted a survey of my Twitter readers I would have got a very mixed bag of “feelings” – and if you think you can add something feel free to comment below. One thing I know for certain is that everyone carries their own bag of hammers (credit Michael J Fox for that one) and their feelings are going to be very different on any subject you choose. I know of individuals right now whose feelings have very little to do with the pandemic but very much on their recent experiences. The loss of a mother to suicide. The surprising recovery of a husband not suffering from Covid but a very serious condition indeed: we thought that he was going to die and he is getting better.

There are also people who seem convinced that Covid won’t hurt them. The blithe certainty of a family we know that seems to think that many “bubbles” can overlap with no risk. The people who gathered in downtown Vancouver – and elsewhere – to protest the requirements to wear masks.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 4, 2021 at 11:40 am

Posted in Pandemic

Recent transport news items

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Mass Transit discusses the recent ransomware attacks on TransLink and STM (Montreal). They were preceded by a number of similar attacks on U.S. transit properties. TransLink is still rebuilding some of its online service affected by the ransomware attack.

Trains magazine commented on VIA’s 2020-2024 plan. VIA states the current iteration of The Canadian is unsustainable and lays the blame on “host railroad actions”. A return of tri-weekly service is not possible because VIA does not have enough equipment to support the 5 required consists.

The full VIA report (PDF) makes for depressing reading, particularly for western Canadians.  

The report links to the federal Transport Minister’s Mandate Letter in which VIA rates two mentions – one to work on high speed rail in the Toronto-Quebec City corridor (Windsor-Detroit no longer matters?) and the other to improve VIA travel to National Parks. There is not much here for the west, although the National Parks connection might be used to justify extending The Skeena back to Edmonton, over CN’s objections, of course..  

BC Transit and the Fraser Valley RD proposal (PDF of the Agenda go to page 103) to extend the Fraser Valley Express bus service (Chilliwack-Abbotsford-Langley) from Carvolth Exchange to Lougheed Town Centre SkyTrain station was put on hold due toCOVID. BC Transit has asked the FVRD to recommit to this proposal with a planned implementation in January 2022.


A synopsis from the Toronto Star of  what can happen (i.e. not much) to rapid transit plans when conflicting political and bureaucratic agendas overwhelm the  process.

Thanks to Rick Jelfs

Written by Stephen Rees

December 19, 2020 at 10:38 am