War on Knowledge – Part 1: Plight of Science Research

blogimage2Freedom of expression – do you take it for granted? If so, think again, and be aware of economic and political forces that, slowly and steadily, have been chipping away at the capabilities of, and outlets for, our independent thinkers and contributors to cultural production throughout Western society. As a Canadian, I will focus on what is happening in Canada, although similar trends undoubtedly are unfolding elsewhere, because of globalization.

First of all, more than twenty years ago, media corporations began to swallow up independent news media producers in larger and larger mouthfuls. Many freelance journalists were silenced, and even staff journalists – up to recent weeks in Canada – continue to lose jobs in major newspapers. The result is the deterioration of journalism.

Secondly, the Canadian federal government in 2007 and 2008 initiated major cuts to the arts and related cultural industries that, once again, diminished our cultural production. Creative professionals use all forms of cultural media, not limited to news, yet also nonfiction and fiction writing, theatre, dance, music and a range of visual art forms that include documentary and dramatic film. Several schools of training were forced to close, as well as various archives, or forcibly shrunk for lack of funding.

Third, universities have been going down a controversial road of increased corporate financing of departments that influence choices of research, even prior to the severe 2008 economic downturn. Consequences of the latter, however, included loss of major private sector endowments, hence, fewer tenured and more sessional professors, larger classes, and a growing tendency to use doctoral students to teach under-grad courses.

Fourth, adding to how our historical archives already are compromised, the latest blow by the hand of Canada’s federal Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper is the muzzling of Canada’s science research community. (See my 2013 post “Freedom of Expression for Public Scientists is Vital.”)

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The muzzling continues. Linden MacIntyre, one of Canada’s outstanding investigative journalists, on CBC-TV’s fifth estate episode aired January 10, 2014, opened a window onto examples of significant long term environmental research in Canada now terminated.

What shocked me, in watching fifth estate, not only are the terminations themselves (immediate without notice). But, moreover, the contempt exhibited towards individual federal scientists who had dedicated a lifetime to their respective fields of knowledge and, worse, have been denied access to their own life’s work.

My outrage barely begins to describe what I think of Harper’s actions, which are not simply ideological, but are, in a word – ignorant. His actions, moreover, are dangerous to the sustainability of a well-informed, truly democratic society, and undermine the human and environmental health of a nation state that formerly won international acclaim.

Harper, during his years as Canada’s Prime Minister, has distorted truth, obfuscated facts, censored debate in our parliament, even proroguing it when convenient to his ideological trajectory of single-minded industrial economic development that dismisses serious existing and future environmental concerns.

Well, at this point, you might be asking: Now tell us what you really think?

Actually, I want to communicate here some shared concerns of fellow Canadians from their responses by organizations and in news stories that recognize what we are losing. For there is a ripple effect from this unconscionable destruction of knowledge.

Let me point out, first of all, that the actions of Harper are more than a critique of partisan politics. The fact is, not all Conservatives agree with him.

For example, I read one recent comment on a news website by a person who identifies himself as a member of the Reform Party when Harper was one of its leaders; but today he feels betrayed, and writes: “We now have one of the most autocratic, secretive, and environmentally unfriendly governments in history.”

Another critic of Harper’s actions is Tom Sidden, a former federal fisheries minister in Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government. As a 2014 CBC News online post reported, Sidden introduced many of the environmental protections that were taken out of the act in 2012. Note Sidden’s response to one of the latest actions by Harper:

“I call it [closing libraries] Orwellian, because some might suspect that it’s driven by a notion to exterminate all unpopular scientific findings that interfere with the government’s economic objectives,” Sidden told CBC.”

A recent press release by The Writer’s Union of Canada (TWUC) emphasizes the national tragedy of Harper’s closing of federally established research libraries across Canada. For example: “The legacy of a century’s research into Canada’s most vital resource – water – has been dismantled and worse, in some cases, discarded.”

The Professional Writers’ Association of Canada (PWAC), in which I have been a member for 30 years, identifies several examples of losses to our collective knowledge as Canadians. The press release emphasizes: “Freedom of Expression and Access to Information are two principles that must apply to any healthy civilized democracy. Its press release includes a cautionary note:

“What emerges is a clear pattern: the deliberate downgrading of knowledge itself and a refusal by our own government to allow us to access it.”

Access to information is becoming more difficult not just to scholarly researchers, yet also for all Canadians, which violates a right stated clearly on a federal government website: “Every person in Canada has the right to request access to government records… This right is essential to foster greater government accountability and transparency.”

A person, therefore, could reasonably ask, what happens when information not only is difficult to access, but no longer exists?

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), in its “2012/2013 Review of Free Expression in Canada” reported: “The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is at the bottom, with a grade of `F,’ singled out for its zeal in muzzling scientists and keeping critical research findings from Canadians.”

In the above-mentioned fifth estate episode on CBC-TV, Peter Ross, cited as Canada’s only marine mammal toxicologist, points out that in the spring of 2012 the federal government closed the Department of Fisheries contaminants program, dismissing Ross and 55 of his colleagues across Canada.

Tom Duck, professor of Atmospheric Science at Dalhousie University, helped found the world-renowned Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL). But, similarly, in 2012, the budget was cut, his research stopped, and most of his colleagues left the country to find other work.

The above examples, and others, are outlined in CBC’s online news story that refers to the content of the televised episode of fifth estate, “Silence of the Labs.”

The Canadian Science Writers Association (CSWA) is not alone in denouncing the Harper government as “Orwellian.” Its press release contrasts Canada’s current federal government with previous governments which encouraged federal scientists to openly discuss their work with the media and public. Commenting on federal politicians today:

“As the journal Nature, one of the world’s top science journals put it, the Harper government’s policy is a “Byzantine approach to the press, prioritizing message control and showing little understanding of the importance of the free flow of scientific knowledge.””

This CSWA website, moreover, provides a long list of articles of concern published from sources that include the international press. The world is watching.

In closing, the December 2013 Bulletin of the Canadian Association of University Teachers/Association canadienne des professeures et professeurs d’universite (CAUT/ACPPU) is also worth reading. The bulletin mentions a CAUT report that provides insight why government actions reducing basic research in recent years have serious consequences.

381218_330063993673975_224356170911425_1527653_323767602_n3To sum up, how will this pattern of limiting, censoring, and erasing, Canada’s scientific research affect us in the near future as citizens, and for current and future generations of science students and professionals?

Do you wonder what types of research no longer can be studied in Canada’s universities? What types of jobs will be available for the next generation of scientists? Can we expect another brain drain?

How can we protect the imperiled health and safety of our nation’s natural environment, without fuller and deeper awareness that is our right in a democracy?

Be worried, be outraged – and take action to demand a stop to Harper’s path of destruction.

Remember. The vitality of a democracy resides in the active participation of its citizens beyond, yet including, in whom we place our trust as political decision-makers.

Happy New Year, and let us make it so.

CARTOON CREDIT: Pascal Elie, Canadian cartoonist

 

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The Meaning of Christmas – Teachings for the New Year

blogimage2Looking out upon yet another snow squall from the window of my farmhouse office I am reminded, as I am each day, how much human life depends on the forces of the world of Nature. Indeed, deepening my appreciation of the natural world is one of the primary reasons why I chose to relocate from a metropolis seven years ago and live immersed in the countryside, surrounded by fields and woodlots inhabited by a variety of wildlife. Late December rudely awakened many thousands of Canadians – particularly in the cities – to the darker forces of Nature. The onslaught and aftermath of ice storms altered the tranquil vision of `white Christmas’ as a celebratory event characterized by the gathering of families and friends to share store-bought and home-made gifts.

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Gifts of a different type, I suggest, also are being offered to us – as teachings – whenever what provides comfort and convenience disappears, suddenly, and the activities to which we have become accustomed are sorely disrupted.

In the spirit of Christmas, at the best of times, for me the teachings are remembrance, gratitude and kindness. So I believe it is, as well, in these uncertain times.

Remembrance of loved ones who have departed to the world of Spirit is an important element of celebrating life. The sharing of storied memories about family members and dear friends no longer with us is one of the sacred practices that establish bonds among family relatives and deepen other relationships that we cherish.

My friend Kevin Hart, who is a United Church pastor for the Saugeen First Nation community, told me about a special `Blue Christmas’ service that he would be offering, as a separate event prior to the customary Christmas service. For the special Blue Christmas gathering, he invited two traditional First Nation spiritual elders, a husband and wife, who each would contribute rituals to honour those who have crossed over, and also the surviving family members.

For the Blue Christmas service – aside from my friend’s chosen sermon – the First Nations woman would offer a drum song, while her husband prepared a ritual fire outdoors and keep vigil there. During the religious service participants could safely express their grief, and then place their tear-filled tissues into a bag. In the closing ritual, this bag would be placed in the sacred fire, for each person’s sorrow – energetically and symbolically – to be released to the Creator through the upward wafts of smoke.

Gratitude is another teaching, even as it is interwoven in the web of remembrance, namely, remembering to be grateful at all for everything – and everyone – who contributes to our well-being. At the best of times, how do we measure our well-being?

Do we get swallowed up by the exchange of material goods in our consumer-driven society, and express gratitude only for the “presents received” or instead, more importantly, for the “presence of” caring individuals?

As for the teaching of kindness, to whom do you bestow kindness? Is your generosity limited to a select few individuals, or sometimes include total strangers, locally and globally?

Can you recall particular moments in life when you received unexpected kindness, possibly from a total stranger? I invite you to see one of my own stories in a blog post a year ago titled “Spiritual Teachers Among Us in Unexpected Places.”

My first cousins have a tradition, practiced among the adults through many years. Instead of exchanging gifts with each other, they give money to their respective selected charities at Christmas season. This year, for example – to my delight – my cousin Patti donated money to my portal page on the Canadian Red Cross website for the Typhoon Haiyan Appeal. All donations are anonymous, so that I only found out when she told me at the Christmas Day gathering at her home.

Throughout December I focused my volunteer energy on fundraising for the Philippines. My previous blog post outlines the film event that I organized.

Despite a car accident while distributing 100 flyers in two rural counties, I continued to do so, white-knuckled, in a much smaller rental car (and without snow tires). Sadly, when the event day arrived, only three people showed up, likely because of a pending snow squall. Regardless, I pursued further fundraising in emails, directing potential donors to my portal page.

Social and environmental recovery, as well as economic, is long term for the Philippines. The catastrophe, of course, went off the news radar, superceded by ever-unfolding news stories, from the passing of Nelson Mandela (one of the great heroes of our time) to the more recent news of extreme weather events closer to home for Canadians.

Yes, Christmas this year for many Canadians was upsetting, understandably, when both the exchange of gifts and the presence of loved ones was disrupted, even terminated, by severe ice storms across several provinces. As well, in Alberta, a number of families still remain without homes, after record-breaking floods that happened months earlier.

Kindness, nevertheless, is a human possibility through all that befalls us, and a quality that bonds the human family. Indeed, the kindness of folks towards each other during this destabilizing extreme weather – close to home and across the world – could be the most notable, remembered gift from this 2013 Christmas season, long after it has ended.

At this historic moment, I genuinely believe that we are called to a transformation of consciousness, a societal transformation that needs to develop from the grassroots seeded by the human heart rather than be bureaucratically imposed from above, the latter merely limited to political and economic expediencies.

We are fully capable of doing so. What essentially is required from each of us is an act of will as well as a caring heart. Forget finger pointing, and blaming, various levels of authorities in regard to their limited resources. Yes, we can speak out and demand better.

Yet, what fundamentally is required to address the enormity of our uncertain planetary future is to take back more personal responsibility, such as wiser choices in our lifestyles, developing our humanity more fully, and more actively caring about each other and the life support system of the planet – to safeguard the future for the children to come.

En route in driving several hours from my cousin’s home to my farmhouse, I dared to stop in a large shopping mall to look for long underwear. Usually I avoid shopping on Boxing Day like the plague. Could I cope with the throngs of people packing the aisles of stores to get a good deal? I just wanted more woollies for the next power outage (which I confronted sooner than anticipated upon arriving home that same night).

News reports told us how thousands of Torontonians remained without power for a week. Thousands more folks, regardless, were populating the malls on Boxing Day, weighted down with numerous bags of goodies. I wondered how many of them were grateful simply to have a roof over their heads; for I could not help contrasting the excesses of a North American mall with the destitution of the Philippines people.

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Who among the shoppers had extended their well-being to strangers, locally or globally, through donations or volunteerism in the weeks and days leading up to Christmas, or perhaps during other seasons, if at all?

In a recent email I was delighted to hear from an affluent friend who spent two days serving holiday meals to older street men. He wrote: “It was humbling to see their pleasure at a plate heaped high with food and other treats.” Although this friend characteristically downplayed his kindness with the subject title “Humbug time,” he genuinely has a good heart. He shows it through a simple act of caring for him yet one which has a profound outcome for the destitute recipients.

In other words, my friend’s act of caring represents the spirit of Christmas that can be carried forward into the new year, and be expressed in a multitude of ways. They range from types of outreach to improve the well-being of the homeless in our midst to engaging with the wider world, and assist the restoration of a sustainable existence for fellow members of our human family whose lives have been devastated by natural, and industrial, disasters.

As a closing note, I do not know how much longer my own portal page will continue online. Whether going there or directly to the Typhoon Haiyan Appeal page of the Canadian Red Cross, please know that the names of any willing donors are anonymous and protected. Alternatively, I appreciate that your heart might be more closely aligned to other causes.

Hope resides not in what the new year brings to us yet rather what we bring to the new year, in co-creating a more loving world together.

PHOTO CREDITS: Ice storm in Toronto taken by Aaron Vincent Elkaim, The Canadian Press; and Typhoon Haiyan image by Erik de Castro, Reuters.

 

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Fundraising for Philippines – We Are a Human Family

blogimage2How do you experience yourself responding to a visual image of what looks like a boundless field of prairie grasses bent over by the force of the wind, against a similarly infinite expanse of the wide open sky? Does it look bleak, isolated, even threatening, with no human shelter in sight? Would you feel vulnerable standing in such a field? Would you sense absence or presence of life? Conversely, would you feel a sense of freedom in such openness, that anything is possible under the warmth of the life-giving sun? Would you instinctively sense that there are forces of life unseen, both in the world of Nature and within your own being?

The prairie scene in the flyer below shows the scene of a transformative day in the life of Everett Soop. He walked into that field, carrying in his heart the wound of isolation, and the bleakness of life. Yet he later walked through that field home again, not just to his physical homestead. But, more importantly, he carried an awareness of the unseen force of life awakened within him, to confront a life of adversity that formerly felt overwhelming. My film Soop on Wheels illustrates Everett’s perseverance to transcend adversity in the timeless and universal `hero’s journey’.

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Such is the tenacity of the human spirit that the people of the Philippines are called to awaken within themselves, to confront unspeakable devastation. For, regardless, they too must call upon their inner strength to survive, indeed, to prevail, following Typhoon Haiyan.

They cannot rebuild their lives alone, however, whether outer or inner. As a human family, we all are called, sooner or later, to give our loving support to each other wherever the need arises on our small yet fragile planet.

Aside from our prayers, donations are essential to help people rebuild their lives, to restore homes and communities, to assure the availability again of clean water and nourishing food, to heal not just wounded bodies yet, moreover, traumatized souls and hearts broken from losing loved ones and everything familiar to them.

I will add a few more insights to this blog post in the coming days. First of all, however, I continue to spend most hours travelling locally to post flyers in the public spaces of many towns in two rural counties.

For people who cannot attend my above-mentioned event, the Canadian Red Cross has set up a portal page on its website for my film event. I invite you to consider making a pledge there.

Please know that you can make donations to this portal page up to, but not including, December 23rd. The Canadian federal government then is matching all donations made to charities such as the Canadian Red Cross that are submitted up to December 23rd.

Meanwhile, thank you so much to folks who are considering donations, and who already have expressed their compassion and generosity to help the people of the Philippines in this most challenging time of need.

Please Note: Every penny of donations at my event, and also given through my portal on the Canadian Red Cross website, will go to the Typhoon Haiyan Fund.

The donation box on my blog post here already existed, and is separate, intended to help me with my private circumstances.

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The Yin-Yang of Democracy – Use It or Lose It

blogimage2Never before in my life have I been in such close proximity to the workings of Canada’s governing institutions. This witnessing recently took place at a month-long public hearing held by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), in Bruce County, Ontario. The focus is a proposed deep geologic repository (DGR) for low and intermediate radioactive waste, to be located a bit more than a kilometre from the (current) shoreline of Lake Huron. This lake is within the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence River Basin, one of the last large basins of fresh water on the planet, and source to drinking water for an estimated 40 million people in Canada and the United States.

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Every day from mid-September to Thanksgiving I attended this hearing. Following my own 30-minute presentation in the first week, most of my waking hours not spent at the hearing were devoted to further research and preparation to ask questions, when suitable, after other presentations.

More than a hundred interveners gave oral presentations of either 10 or 30 minutes in length. The three-person Joint Review Panel (JRP) then would interrogate the presenters, to gather evidence from all parties speaking in favour of, or against, the proposed DGR. All parties included Ontario Power Generation, Inc. (OPG), the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), and registered members of the public.

Following each JRP interrogation, further questions were allowed from registered public participants. Written submissions by other citizens, Canadian and American, who could not attend, also were read into the public record.

My own presentation made the case that the environmental guidelines themselves were flawed. I also critiqued methods of scientific inquiry, such as computer modelling, as inadequate to understand fully how living organisms function, let alone properly measure the impacts of radioactive contamination.

In other words, the science is not there – if it ever could be – for human beings to assume that we know sufficiently how to bury materials, that contain ionizing radiation, and be able to ensure reasonable safety to human and environmental life. The uncertainties are too many.

Other presenters later criticized the ways that Ontario Power Generation, Inc. (OPG) did not even meet the guidelines, in its proposal to construct a DGR, using a shaft design that only is in a conceptual stage. The OPG’s report also fell short on several aspects of its environmental research, because of major gaps of information, on top of the uncertainties.

The facts exposed during this public hearing were unbelievable, resembling a `theatre of the absurd.’ The very idea of burying radioactive waste so close to a major lake system boggles the mind. Where do I begin?

The `proponent” here refers to Ontario Power Generation, Inc. (OPG), which owns the land occupied by Bruce Power and the site where the DGR is proposed. The OPG also owns other Ontario nuclear generating station sites, from which low and intermediate radioactive waste would be delivered, as well, to this proposed DGR beside Lake Huron.

The OPG works in liaison with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO). But that fact repeatedly has been put aside by the JRP, to the chagrin of those of us who are local citizens. For we know too well the current political manoeuvrings by the NWMO in our municipalities to promote a second DGR, for high level radioactive waste.

JRP’s insistence to stick with their original `Terms of Reference,’ whether reluctantly or not, indicates one of the fundamental flaws in the regulatory process. It obligates the panel to focus only on the proposal to bury low and intermediate waste, as the terms originally described it.

What is worrisome, meanwhile, is how the proposed DGR project, for which the panel members signed on to adjudicate a public hearing, has shape-shifted more recently into a different project.

OPG now wants to add `decommissioning’ radioactive waste to this proposed DGR, which could increase its size two-fold or more, with interrelated consequences on the engineering design (i.e. size) and all aspects of the environment – terrestrial, aquatic and underground pathways. Aside from volume, the proportions between low and intermediate waste would be altered, hence, as well the eventual `cumulative effects,’ the latter which OPG has sorely underestimated.

Indeed, even as the panel circumscribes the public hearing to its original mandate and the initially proposed DGR, the unknown factors are many. They range from still unknown effects of various radionuclides on entire ecosystems, potential of water seepage, questionable robustness of shaft seals and more, to the inevitable upcoming extreme weather events and climate change that will disrupt the geology.

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Meaningful predictions are humanly impossible, yet OPG and NWMO stubbornly – and arrogantly – persist in making them. Despite repeated criticisms about their research, they kept to their original script that there will be “no significant adverse effects.”

The panel members are not fools. Even though they are constrained by the original DGR proposal, to their credit they have been relentlessly questioning the obvious lack of rigour in the research delivered by the OPG/NWMO to the regulator, which is the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The panel, moreover, has questioned the CNSC about why it gave certain approvals.

The OPG’s report to justify its proposed DGR, produced as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), must meet the approval of the CNSC, which is a federal government agency. This EIS also must meet the regulations of several other government ministries. These are the players, together with municipal politicians in Bruce County, who provide the back story in a democratic process that has been a sham up to this current public hearing process.

For the wider public – not just local citizens in Bruce County – but as well folks farther afield all the way south to include our American “cousins” – most particularly in Michigan – were not decently consulted about this proposed DGR. A number of local, and American, interveners provided that evidence.

Two among several of the American interveners, in fact, included Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood and Michigan State Representative Sarah Roberts, who verified the lack of inclusion in public consultations, and lack of awareness among their citizens, until recent months.

Throughout the public hearing I had a heavy heart in looking at too many empty chairs. For a while, I thought, must we always wait for major disasters before people wake up to stop further violation to the earth? But then, compassionately, I recognized the fuller truth of apparent disinterest is a lot more complicated.

Living in Bruce County for seven years, I recognize that it is too easy to accuse folks of indifference. Instead, the empty seats symbolize the dark, hidden side of a rural region, in a struggling global economy, in which a visible portion of the population have grown to perceive a dependence on a single industry. Doing so, I would argue, is more a convenient mental construct than the actual reality.

In this case, the major single employer is the nuclear industry, signified by Bruce Power, said to be the largest nuclear generating station in the world. Through the several decades that it has entrenched its foothold in this region, the more inclusive economic vision – that encompasses a significant agricultural community as well as a strong tourism legacy – appears to be getting side-lined by the political and corporate power-holders whose vision is more one-dimensional and self-serving.

The result is, many citizens feel muzzled, by fear of losing jobs or losing the business of highly-paid workers at the power plant and its related facility, the Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF), where the low and intermediate level waste has been stored safely for 40 years or more.

Another big question that is surfacing is, how much do Bruce Power workers feel silenced if and when they and, in turn, family members, contract life-threatening illnesses from undetected radiation poisoning. Local health studies are shamefully lacking.

Also largely silenced is the farming community, collectively feeling the government pays no heed to their voices. Yet, perhaps more than any other moment on this planet, we need to retain, and protect, sustainable agricultural land, and clean water, in a world that is heading towards a water and food crisis.

The Municipality of Kincardine is the primary community that would benefit the most, economically, because close to half, maybe more, of its residents are employed at Bruce Power, and the DGR is proposed to be built next to it. The selfishness of certain Town of Kincardine residents that spoke, in their presentations, to how wonderful the economic benefits are – for them – must be challenged.

I remind myself that what I am witnessing is a microcosm of the human condition, in which there are the self-serving `haves’ willfully oblivious to the ripple effects upon the `have-nots.’ The former make troubling choices to enhance their own economic gain, with no consideration for the larger human and environmental costs now and in the future.

Humans can continue to create and develop diverse forms of energy production. But once the water and the soil get contaminated, the sources that sustain life are gone, forever.

Three farming families presented well-informed views at the public hearing. They spoke out about the risks and dangers which the OPG/NWMO consistently minimized in their thousands of pages of research.

Very important to acknowledge – even emphasize – are the outstanding presentations by concerned citizens. The above farmers, among other intrepid individuals from many walks of life, chose to educate themselves and take responsibility to engage proactively in `participatory democracy,’ to stand up for what really matters – valuing and protecting life.

Indeed, beautiful to behold in the formal, regimented space of a public hearing have been the soulfully powerful voices of ordinary citizens not just “using” but, moreover, “reinforcing” the democratic process by making sure their voices are being heard.

In doing so, such individuals, who come together from neighbouring communities, as truth tellers, have exposed what is politically unethical, corporately manipulative, and environmentally not acceptable about the whole trajectory of this DGR project to date.

Also important to acknowledge are the professional experts who have dedicated their lives to various fields such as engineering, ecology, biology, law and human health. They travelled long distances to share their knowledge and concerns about the dangers of burying radioactive waste so deeply underground.

Ed Burt, the eldest presenter at age 85, gifted us with a 30-minute presentation that was magnificent. The reason is, he spoke from a place of love, as a gifted storyteller who offered the long view. Working on the land, Mr. Burt also has dedicated his life to raising nuclear awareness. I told his wife that I wish our Euro-western culture could honour elders and storytellers, like her husband, in the ways that Indigenous cultures do.

Indeed, further life-affirming about the public hearing process was to sit together with Aboriginal people. Our closest neighbours are the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON). Its eloquent spokesperson at the hearing is Chief Randall Kahgee who, with his astute legal counsel, spelled out what really matters.

The spiritual integrity of our shared concern for the earth, and the children yet unborn, is creating a major step forward in cross-cultural healing.

Last, but not least, were the voices of youth. In separate 30-minute presentations, Caitlin McAllister and Hana Splettstoesser, both secondary school students, expressed very articulate messages to remind us again that it is their generation and the generations to come that will inherit the outcomes of whatever gets decided.

For me, what links Mr. Burt, Chief Kahgee, and Misses McAllister and Splettstoesser in importance is their implicit recognition of the `sacred feminine,’ a running theme in my blog writings. The sacred feminine is the life force within everything alive, energetically connecting our spirit with the earth, and why human consciousness needs to evolve to heal and strengthen that reconnection as a species.

Standing together, as biological and spiritual beings, simple caring has helped us discover the best of who we can be, and perhaps awakened inner resources of strength in some of us previously untapped. Most of us took on a daunting task without funds, sacrificing much time through many months of our lives, to present scientific and spiritual insights that have been treated respectfully by the Joint Review Panel. Our work is not yet done.

As for the supporters of the proposed DGR who live in Kincardine, and Saugeen Shores next door, they simply put human faces onto the folly of what the larger North American society, so attached to its comforts, has been seduced into believing through the past half century.

I urge everyone, collectively, as a North American society (and elsewhere) to reflect upon how we got to this historic moment. One intervener defined this moment as “the chickens coming home to roost,” to characterize the dilemma of what to do with increasing radioactive waste.

Nuclear energy has been presented to us through a magical marketing machine, creating a myth that we all can enjoy affluence, while misrepresenting nuclear power as clean, safe and green. What then do you call the radioactive waste being produced?

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I now intend to bury myself again in the public hearing materials, and prepare more questions as a concerned citizen, for the upcoming final three days of this critical event.

For your own further education about this complex and controversial issue, please explore webcasts and transcripts available on the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission website.

You also can study the written submissions and power-point presentations for the public hearing on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website.

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I Have a Dream – Standing Together to Heal the Earth

blogimage2The remembrance on the recent 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous 1963 civil rights March on Washington stirred up memories about life then and now, both in regard to social history in the United States and Canada and, as well, my own life journey since the early 60s. My awakening to social justice, however, originated not in the plight of African Americans and the civil rights movement. I grew up in a new suburb in north Toronto, Ontario, within a cultural mix of people, all of whom my parents welcomed into our home. Fortunate, to me, is the fact that the neighbourhood became primarily Jewish, although my own family was not.

I always have felt blessed that I grew up in a neighbourhood where I experienced being in the minority culture, yet enjoyed the comraderie with a cultural community different from my own “Anglocized Celtic” heritage. Thus, the enjoyment of friendships across cultures originated at an early age, because so much of the bounty of my life has been invested in close relationships with folks outside of, as much as within, my own culture.

The foremost qualities of the people that always impressed me include: awareness of community and ensuring the welfare of each other, followed by a sense of social justice more inclusive of the wider human family and, finally, generosity of heart.

In other words, I truly believe that one of the most valuable experiences for children is for them to grow up among neighbours, and school mates, within a circle of humanity’s cultural diversity. In doing so, we can see each other in regard to what we hold in common as spiritual and biological beings living on this physical plane of existence.

The key is to develop relationships through which we understand each other at a heart level. Developing the heart’s qualities, in turn, requires offering children opportunities to protect and restore what really matters through caring, laughter and creating beauty.

Indeed, children can be our teachers. Consider how deeply we are touched when ever we hear stories about how a single child has taken an initiative to start a project that, ultimately, transforms the life of entire communities. Such life-affirming actions are an inspiration in showing how change always is possible – through love and will.

Consider, for example, Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, aged 16, shot last year by the Taliban (the extremists of fundamentalist Islam), who miraculously fully recovered. This July she spoke to the UN General Assembly, the full text published in The Independent. More recently, she received the International Children’s Peace Prize from Kidsright, at The Hague, The Netherlands.

Furthermore, Malala Yousafzai will join Harry Belafonte, age 86, when they both receive “2013 Ambassador of Conscience” awards bestowed by Amnesty International in “recognizing individuals who have promoted and enhanced the cause of human rights through their life and by example.”

Harry Belafonte is a marvellous role model to all generations, not just as a civil rights activist from the 1950s yet, as well, supporting humanitarian work throughout his life. Indeed, according to a Wiki biography on Belafonte, he was a confidante to Martin Luther King, and stood within a circle of celebrities across racial and cultural divides to speak out against social injustice and cultural racism – a very courageous stand at that time.

At that historic moment in the United States – the pivotal turning point characterized by the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 – many people suffered physical blows that maimed, even killed, heroic individuals who put their lives on the line to demand justice in a highly volatile social and political climate.

Believe me, the folks in my Boomer generation powerfully recall the consciousness-raising aura of that period, as ever-hopeful youth who were determined that we would change the world to become a better place to inhabit for everyone.

Do not believe that mainstream media are telling the full story when certain reporters tend to focus on the differences across generations – and pit us against each other – such as stereotyping Boomers that we all got co-opted into the system. What is true is that some people of every generation will choose the easier path.

More important is to pay attention to the stories of those who choose the roads less taken in the face of all types of adversity. That phenomenon as well has continued throughout human history, and how we grow closer to our human potential.

We need heroes and heroines in every generation, particularly those individuals who speak and take a stand on controversial issues because they care, not because some day they might be hailed as heroic.

Also important in the co-creating of a world worth living in is to recognize and support the actions of growing numbers of grassroots folks – and you may be among them or could choose to join them – who challenge environmental and social injustice somewhere on this earth. In other words, great change happens through many unsung heroes and heroines.

In that spirit, I find that my own life journey has brought me full circle back home again. As I described in the `spiral journey’ of my previous blog post, when we embark on an inner journey we repeatedly confront familiar material yet find ourselves responding in new, transformed ways – if we consciously choose to grow and learn.

As a young woman I became ashamed of my Western cultural history, particularly as it pertained to the colonizing of Indigenous peoples, and turned away from my own culture for many years to become almost totally absorbed as a helper engaged with Aboriginal issues.

Then I intuitively came to recognize the value and wisdom of coming home again, through a journey home to my soul as a child of the Universe, while looking upon my own culture with new eyes – more compassionate and forgiving. I had come to understand the soul woundedness of my own Euro-western people, whose ancestors had severed our covenant with the earth so long ago.

Today I find myself in a location unexpected a few years ago, a place of further personal healing for me as well as consistent with my ethos for caring about each other and caring about the earth.

The beauty of this moment is to take a stand among fellow human beings across cultures, which includes fellow community members of Euro-western ancestry side-by-side with our Aboriginal neighbours.

We are standing together to fight against an unspeakable violation against the earth – the proposal to build a deep geologic repository (DGR) for radioactive waste. (And, yes, I have been speaking about this issue in previous posts. Meanwhile, my in depth research has taken priority over producing a regular blog in recent months.)

The beauty is two-fold – the cross-cultural healing possible through standing together and transforming our interrelationships. Also, we mutually recognize the sacredness of all life and the imperative to protect the world of Nature that sustains life – now. As we heal her wounds, we will be healing our own on many energetic levels.

NUCLEAR_WASTE_7_INCH

I am completing this overdue post in the wee hours following the first day of a month-long public hearing. A Joint Review Panel will hear testimonies from all parties, for and against the above-mentioned proposed DGR project.

All Hearing Documents are posted on the website of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), for the duration of the hearing, and hopefully longer. Also, you can read the written submissions some of which are in two separate documents – the initial written text, followed by visual materials or a powerpoint version of the text. (Only some writers chose to attend the public hearing as oral interveners.)

For anyone who wants to be educated and much better informed about nuclear waste – which is a critical issue elsewhere as well – I urge you to put some time aside to study various documents. Also, webcasts are available “live” through the above-identified link, and at a future time may be online again for a while as an archived webcast.

By the way, I am presenting on Wednesday afternoon, September 18th, in a half hour time slot. Times are not specific because of question periods after each presentation.

Believe that anything good and beautiful is possible when enough people stand together to care. We must do so for the children.

 

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