July Cruel Month For North

(August 5, 2016)

July was not kind to the North.

A heat wave made the north coast of Alaska as hot as Key West, Fla. Barry Prentice lost his airships when that savage windstorm hit St. Andrews Airport. Omnitrax, with a stroke of a pen, became Nullitrax, as it cancelled grain shipments to Churchill and put the skids under both the port facility and the town.

All three reactions to these events really need to be viewed from a perspective where we can see what’s left of the forest, not just the side of one tree — and considered in a time frame that goes beyond next Tuesday.

Of course, weather fluctuates — but the July heat wave in the North follows a year of record-breaking temperatures across North America and around the world. (However hot it was here, it cracked 54 C in Iraq.) Ice in the Arctic is vanishing, and Greenland’s glaciers are receding at a rate far beyond projections. All this means rapidly rising sea levels and extremes in local weather — such as the 85 millimetres of rain in two hours that flooded out parts of fire-ravaged Fort McMurray at the end of the month.

Climate change is real. The trends we are seeing are not going to reverse themselves — things will only get worse. We need to adapt to changing climatic conditions and to do whatever we can to mitigate the causes of global warming — at the very least to buy ourselves more time.Arctic

Read More

Bus Companies Provide Essential Service

(July 20, 2016)

When the last Beaver Bus went by my house on June 30, it had a hand-made sign attached to the back that thanked Selkirk for 68 years.

That’s a long time for the wheels on any bus to go ’round and ’round.

Beaver Bus Lines ended its run between Winnipeg and Selkirk with about as little fuss and fanfare as it had always demonstrated driving through every kind of weather Manitoba throws at us.

Forty years ago, that bus made it possible for me to live at home and go to university — just as it made the same thing possible for my own kids. Even when we drove to the city, in bad weather (or when the car packed it in), we always had the option of “catching the Beaver.”

You could pretty much set your watch by it, regardless of the time of day or road conditions. When the Beaver Bus was late, there was a problem somewhere — and when weather took the bus off the road, everyone with any judgment at all stayed home and waited until the roads were plowed.

Read More

Easier to Call Home From Kenya

(June 22, 2016)

Travelling to the developing world always reminds me what Canadians take for granted is a luxury elsewhere.

Three weeks in Kenya reminded me clean water and the infrastructure to deliver it are a primary responsibility of government. Flickering lights and frequent blackouts make ensuring reliable electricity just as important.

I even found myself thinking fondly of stop signs, traffic lights and people directing traffic. In Nairobi, traffic is an organic flow of intuitive manoeuvring by instinct rather than by rule, slowed to a manageable pace only by volume, potholes and speed bumps. Traffic lights and traffic cops wreak havoc instead of imposing order, and I was happy to let someone else drive.

It is no surprise the developing world is developing. What we need to remember is the things — in our stop-lighted, well-watered and electrified world — we can learn from people who live in places such as Kenya.

Take cellphones. Here we fuss that MTS is being bought out by Ma Bell and so our rates will go up, though the network will not improve. I would be first in line to buy shares if only MTS (and Bell) could be taken over by Safaricom, Kenya’s main mobile telephone company.

Read More