A tweet, full of sound and fury, signifying…

(January 25, 2017)

It is not entirely a misquote of Polonius, in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, to say “brevity is the soul of (t)wit.” Certainly this vain, false and generally unpleasant character — who uses these words to tell the king and queen their son is “mad” when he is not — would have enjoyed spewing his opinions on Twitter.

Profound ideas can be expressed in few words (as in Japanese haiku), but “profound” is not usually an adjective applied to the transient wisdom of a tweet. It used to be said that “today’s news is tomorrow’s fish wrap.” In comparison, much of what passes for social media today is instead more easily depicted as breaking electronic wind.

We could blame Marshall McLuhan for this problem, as misquoting him to conclude that “the medium is the message” excuses a lack of content in the Twitterverse. But when 140 characters describe the policies and intentions of political leaders, nothing good comes of it.

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In Defence of Dandelions

(July 29, 2016)

The Pallister government’s announcement it would review Manitoba’s cosmetic-pesticide ban sent a groan through the local environmental community.

All the hours spent on a monumentally slow process that began in 2009 led to a report from the Manitoba Roundtable for Sustainable Development in 2011, to the “Tomorrow Now” Green Plan of 2012, to an announcement of a four-point strategy in 2013 and to royal assent to the legislation June 12, 2014 — leading finally to the ban coming into force Jan. 1, 2015 — appears to have been wasted.

Even though the legislation was anemic in comparison to that in other provinces (such as Ontario and Quebec, which had done this years earlier), it was a victory of sorts — not for the eco-lobby, as some would complain, but for good science, common sense and the public interest.

It took five years to implement a ban that looks as if it will be turfed within two years, thanks to a change in our provincial government.

It is hard to believe it really was “change for the better” in the face of announcements such as this one.

The Pallister government will not be the first to be accused of political patronage and cronyism, of taking care of its friends before taking care of the public interest — and in opposition, the Progressive Conservative party certainly levelled enough accusations of its own on that score.

It could, however, be the first to make decisions that were pragmatic rather than partisan, based on scientific evidence and common sense and not on ideological voices in their heads.

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Environmental Defenders Deserve to be Defended

(July 14, 2016)

It matters most when something happens in your own backyard.

Whatever the tragedy or problem, the further away something is, the less important it becomes.

It is not that we don’t care about those other people, somewhere else. We do. It just doesn’t lead us to do something that interferes too much with our day. It’s just not personal.

That can change in a heartbeat, of course. Ask people involved in fundraising for the cure of a particular disease. Most will have had a family member or friend affected, if they are not survivors themselves.

The same is true for environmental issues. Live downwind from a refinery or downstream from an industrial facility and you will have a different opinion than others of the environmental price we pay for how we live. Get driven from your house due to flood or forest fire and you will think differently about water issues. Develop a serious food allergy and you will read labels intently — and you will have different opinions about what is in our food.

Recent events, therefore, matter most if you are a member of the black community, the LGBTTQ* community or the police. It becomes personal when these things directly affect you or someone about whom you care.

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