Thursday 22 October 2009

XXV ... not long now

Up, Down.

André Dahmer Malvados Encontro Anual dos Donos do Mundo
Annual Meeting of the Masters of the World
You mean to say that we can generate fear ...
... and then sell protection!
Wow Henry. Your idea gives me shivers ...
Look at that, already we have our first client!

Elvira Madigan, Pia DegermarkElvira Madigan, Thommy BerggrenElvira Madigan, Pia Degermark
Elvira Madigan, Pia Degermark
from Elvira Madigan, a Swedish movie from the 60s ... interesting the way screen-grabs from DVD movies are sort-of washed out, so I brightened them with Photo Editor, Pia Degermark & Thommy Berggren, it came to mind the other day (XXI - I guess XXX will be a fitting end then) so I ordered a copy and it came today and I watched it - I had no idea that it was a true story, Hedvig Antoinette Isabella Eleonore Jensen & Count Bengt Edvard Sixten Sparre, but I remember that it hit me like a ton of bricks and as I watched it again I saw some of my emotional touchstones turning up, that shade of yellow dress, taking a bit of bread and almost crying, other things ... I guess you could call it extreme romanticism but I am not going to get into the analysis

last words ... his "I can't," and her "You must." was Bo Widerberg clever enough to know that these phrases would sound as in English? likely was I guess ...

louche: adjective, Oblique, not straightforward. Also, dubious, shifty, disreputable, from French louche/lousche squinting, Latin lusca, feminine of luscus one-eyed.

Pia DegermarkPia DegermarkPia DegermarkPia DegermarkPia DegermarkPia Degermark

I can imagine some phony intellectual like Woody Allen, or even an almost-real one like Rick Salutin, saying, with an exquisite sneer, "He was like some 60s refugee, still trapped in Elvira Madigan ..." something like that ... whatever

here's a rogues gallery: Jack Layton, Jim Prentice, Marcel Coutu, Michael Martin, & Maude Barlow (alphabetically by first name :-)
Jack LaytonJim PrenticeMarcel CoutuMarcel CoutuMarcel Coutu with son SamMichael Martin climate envoy CanadaMichael Martin climate envoy CanadaMichael Martin climate envoy CanadaMaude Barlow in BoliviaMaude Barlow
Maude Barlow was selected last for this list, it was not balanced, I thought there should be some distaff in there, some visual interest :-) ... and now that she is a Heroine of the Environment, doh!? ... no waidaminit it's the "2009 Planet in Focus International Eco Hero Award," so we need to see what Maudie looks like ... Eco Hero, another Caped Crusader I guess, like the Pope :-)

why is Jack Layton in there? just another vain bourgeois son of a bourgeois son from Hudson Quebec, just another 'it's about ME' guy from Toronto ... wringing his hands in the national media about his pretty little Bill C-377/C-311C-311, all good except that 80% in 2050 is too little too late, I bet that somewhere he has claimed to be following the science ... but the science I am aware of says 80% by 2020, 90% by 2030, with the tipping year of 2015

I trust the rest of them are obvious ... well, maybe Michael Martin ... oops, poor Michael has not made it into Wikipedia, but the OED tells me that an 'envoy' is a second-rank diplomat (first being ambassadors and third being chargés d'affaires) so maybe that's it ... one day in Bangkok some people get up and leave a Canadian presentation of some kind, I don't really know why - maybe someone needed to use the bathroom? but our Michael says so publicly seconded by some other diplomatic son of a diplomatic son and all is well until Jim Prentice hears of it, oh my! so, it is the joint public denial which explains nothing that has earned him this flying fickle finger of fate award :-)

Samsø Google EarthSamsø Denmark mapSamsø Island mapSamsø context map from Spiegel articleSamsø Soren HermansenSamsø Paul Erik Wedelgaard
Samsø Island in Denmark almost looks like a good place to go to :-) except that Denmark is flat, highest elevation in the country is 550 feet, on Samso ... can't find the number, but not high enough for the long term I'll bet.

I have been thinking about the Vancouver Winter Olympics, collected some good cartoons ... there are some issues, in fact I think it is a sham ... and I noted the news of elementary school teachers effectively offering courses in terrorism with a smile, and this editorial by Cam Cole didn't change my mind but it caught my attention: It's elementary, my dear children: The Olympics are a sham, entertained me, made me laugh ... all good :-)

1. Pia Degermark - You always get another chance, Pia Lundgren, January 2004.

2-1. Canada envoy sees draft climate treaty achievable, Jeffrey Jones, Sept 22 2009.
2-2. Walkout over climate talks, Steve Rennie, 13th Oct. 2009.
2-3. Statement by Minister Prentice on Bangkok Climate Change Talks, Jim Prentice, Oct. 14 2009.
2-4. Copenhagen climate deal unlikely: Jim Prentice, Kelly Cryderman, Oct. 15 2009.
2-5. Allow higher oil sands emissions: CEO Marcel Coutu, Shawn McCarthy, Oct. 15 2009.
2-6. On a cost basis, carbon-capture projects are madness, Jeffrey Simpson, Oct. 19 2009.
2-7. Pass climate bill before UN summit, Layton says, Heather Scoffield, Oct. 19 2009.
2-8. Ottawa dashes hope for climate treaty in Copenhagen, Shawn McCarthy, Oct. 22 2009.

3. International Eco Hero – Maude Barlow, Planet In Focus International Film & Video Festival.

4. An Ecotopia for Climate Protection - Samso Island, Clemens Höges, 10/22/2009.
4-1. Part 1: Samso Island Is Face of Danish Green Revolution.
4-2. Part 2: 'Everyone Can Do What We Are Doing'.
     4a. Samsø Island, Denmark, Wikipedia.
     4b. Samsø Kommune in Danish.
     4c. Getting a Green card.

5. It's elementary, my dear children: The Olympics are a sham, Cam Cole, October 16 2009.

Pia Degermark - You always get another chance, Pia Lundgren, January 2004.

We remember Pia Degermark as the beautiful young girl in the film Elvira Madigan. At 17 she became world famous and flirted with the King. On the surface, she was a glamorous jetsetter but behind the facade lay deep sadness. Anorexia, drugs and eventually prison. Today, however, Pia Degermark is finally back on track.

"I have regained my faith in my fellow man."

"I suspect I would perhaps have had an easier life without Elvira Madigan" says Pia Degermark. "Perhaps I would have avoided anorexia, hyperactivity and substance abuse" and in her next breath "But of course you can't change the past"

She was born to the heights of society and descended to its depths, she has been to hell and back. Still, she looks fresh and healthy. Her face is still as beautiful as when she made Elvira Madigan, but the once innocent and trusting eyes now reflect a reality shaped by a decadent lifestyle, homelessness and life down and out coping with a drug problem.´

There is pain in her glance, but also happiness at having survived despite everything. There is even a mischievous sparkle that bubbles forth at times.

"My life began to improve about five years ago when I began cognitive therapy, when I regained a closer contact with my mother. I have broken out of my more destructive patterns of behaviour and found my faith in mankind renewed."

Now her handmade cushions are on display in a Stockholm gallery, a real comeback if you consider that the last news we had of Pia was of her being awarded 630,000 SEK for lost income after a traffic accident which crushed her right leg.

The Traffic Insurance Society has appealed this decision however and Pia still hasn't seen a penny of it. The past year she has been unable to work but for two years prior to that she was working as a cultural assistant for an Athletics foundation.

"I would rather work with handicrafts. I find it difficult to work for someone and know that I must be at the office every day at 8.00".

She points at the cushions in the room: "These are a form of therapy, that one symbolizes my mother and the one in the corner, that's for Ann Zacharias. We have known each other for twenty years but only really began to socialise this autumn. There's no competition or jealousy between us, she's a dear friend."

Two huge armchairs dominate the living room; Pia serves tea and buns, and sits herself down in the armchair with studs on the armrest.

She has been making cushions for years. Traces perhaps of her hyperactivity?

"It provides both an outlet for my creativity and something to occupy my hands."

She suffers continuous, severe pain after her accident and says that the only thing that really helps to ease the pain is swimming:

"So I swim almost every day. The pool here at Hägersten is the best in Stockholm, and part of the reason I chose to move here two years ago."

Her godfather helped her with the money necessary to get the contract on the apartment. Pia gives the impression of being five, fifteen and fifty, all at the same time, a child, a precocious teenager in a mature woman's body. Just after the success of Elvira Madigan, an English journalist asked Pia's mother "How was Pia as a child?" The reply? "Pia never was a child"

"It just wasn't for me" says Pia. "I have always been stubborn, as a six year old, my constant dieting forced my mother to put me into the Princess Lovisa Hospital, it took me a long time to learn how to play, to be a child, to explore boundaries."

"I grew up in such a incredibly sheltered environment. When I was just ten, we all moved to Switzerland, apart from my brother who was attending the International School at Sigtuna. I went to a little village school before attending a boarding-school for girls."

Pia carries on to tell of the materially rich life they had, whatever she pointed at, she got except for what she really needed, the security of family life. Her family was not fully focussed; she got no clear guidelines or clarity, only mixed messages of what was and was not acceptable.

"But I got huge amounts of love from my mother!"

Pia and her mother still enjoy a close relationship; they celebrated Christmas and New Year in Lucerne, Switzerland at her mother's home, with her son Cesare, from her relationship with Pier Caminneci.

When they met, he was heir to the Siemens' millions, a divorced father of two and a notorious European playboy. In 1971, came a fairytale wedding, 8000 carnations in four different colours where flown in from Cannes to titillate such luminaries as Christina Onassis and the then Crown Prince Carl Gustaf.

Whilst Pia was at that time anorexic and excitable she was at least temporarily free from the more serious symptoms of hyperactivity. She had graduated with excellent grades and even managed to appear in two films, not quite in Elvira Madigan's class but even so!

"Father took care of the money. That was how he exercised control over me."

Pia tells how her father was an alcoholic and the more he drank, the worse his jealousy became, how he treated her more like a girlfriend than his child.

"He couldn't stand my husband, so when I married, he divorced my mother. Then my husband sank so far into alcoholism I just had to leave him.

They lived an extravagant jet set life, light-years away from the suburban tranquillity that characterises her life these days. In their heyday Pia and Pier would think nothing about hiring a jet with 25-30 friends just to get to a party.

After the divorce, Cesare lived with her father in Germany. She speaks of her son with tenderness and love. They meet two to three times a year and talk on the telephone every week.

"He's very social, funny, loving and has a good dose of commonsense. Cesare, he's very thoughtful and human. He has studied law and works as a property broker. He has just got a girlfriend so am looking forward to becoming a grandmother."

Pia says it was tough to leave him when she returned to Sweden. She felt like a bad mother, but she herself chose to let her son's father take care of him. Her second son, Robbin, on the other hand, was taken from her by the Swedish social services.

"For the last 10 years, I have only been able to see him once a month for 3 hours. He was placed in a foster home when he was little, the foster father is always there when I meet Robbin. I have tried everything to get custody of him again. I have been in a stable situation and drug free for over six years now but I have a stain on my character as far as the social services are concerned, one I don't deserve.

The explanation for this is simple, life just spiralled out of control for Pia.

When Pia returned to Sweden she had met a new man, together they ran a conference centre at Djurgården. This relationship ended, Pia went to America and worked in the film industry, it was there she was introduced to amphetamines.

"They helped to control my hyperactivity, I took them just to get through the day, without them I probably would have killed myself"

On returning to Sweden at the end of the 80's, Pia went to work for an Anorexia foundation.

"It took too much out of me, I invested too much of myself in it and when one of the girls died, I just couldn't cope anymore"

In 1991 Pia was convicted to 14 moths in prison for drugs and fraud offences and assault on a civil servant. She had amongst other things succeeded in getting money out from her father's bank account and was reported to the police by his new wife. At this time, she met Janne, a criminal and drug abuser, and became pregnant with Robbin.

When he was born, both her first son Cesare and her mother were present:

"It was wonderful, even though I had a caesarean, I was fully conscious and could see everything, I was so happy."

When Pia and Janne ended up in prison, they received family therapy but to no avail, Robbin was taken by the social services. When Pia got to see Robbin at Helsingborg's hospital, she took him in her arms, climbed out through a window and fled with him to Helsingör. There they enjoyed three months together before an acquaintance turned them in to the police.

Pia began injecting amphetamine after this and became infected with Hepatitis C. She will soon under treatment for this, an unpleasant process with side effects similar to those of chemotherapy but she is determined to go through with it.

"Even though Robbin loves his foster family and the social services have promised them he can stay till he is 18, I will not give up the fight."

"He is such a fragile boy" says Pia. We have changed scenery, moving to a favourite restaurant in the local square.

"He seems so pure and unaffected, even though I cannot say I know him so well, we often go to a film so it is hard to really talk. Mind you, he is less anxious now he has got a girlfriend, he has got over the "girl terror" so we can hug and kiss a little more now!"

There are no other distractions in Pia's life now, it is Robbin that counts.

She lights a cigar, a couple of men sitting in the restaurant turn and scrumptiously glance over, they point and whisper "Isn't that Pia Degermark?"

"I am often recognised" she says, sounding both gratified and troubled.

The fair weather friends are long gone. They disappeared as soon as Pia landed up in jail.

"They didn't dare hang around after that" says Pia "and I think a lot of them were jealous and thought I pretty much deserved what I got because I had had it so easy, as the ex girlfriend of the King and a 17 year old world famous film star. I have felt their spite.

"All I have ever tried to do is survive" she continues, "I have survived partly because I feel there is another life, that you can come back, perhaps to something better. My involvement with sport and my enjoyment of nature has helped, when I was at my most depressed, I saw no colours, now I see every nuance and shift of shade. Incidentally, do you know how many colours there are in a tree?"

I have no idea, but as Pia says, miracles do happen.

She smiles.

"I am alive and I can still laugh."

Copenhagen climate deal unlikely: Environment Minister Jim Prentice, Kelly Cryderman, October 15 2009.

Less than two months from key global climate-change talks, federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice says he has doubts that an agreement will be hammered out in Copenhagen.

Less than two months from key global climate-change talks, federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice says he has doubts that an agreement will be hammered out in Copenhagen.
Photograph by: Grant Black, Calgary Herald

CALGARY — Less than two months from key global climate-change talks, federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice says he has doubts that an agreement will be hammered out in Copenhagen.

"Increasingly, people are being realistic — that it's hard to see a full and complete agreement being arrived at," Prentice told the Calgary Herald editorial board this week.

"There's probably too much work to be done in the time left to achieve that."

U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is working on alternative bilateral agreements with countries such as India and China, with the aim of reviving a process that appears increasingly deadlocked between developing countries and advanced economies.

Prentice said the Copenhagen meeting is still important, but "it's more likely we'll be working toward some agreed principles."

Regardless, the minister said, Canada will go ahead with its own plan of reducing climate-changing emissions by 20 per cent below 2006 levels by 2020 — and each province will individually have to live up to that target, including the home of the oilsands, Alberta.

"There will have to be a parity of effort across the country," Prentice said.

"We're all in this together. If that's going to be Canada's national target, then each province is going to have to share their share of the burden."

Prentice added the caveat that specific agreements have not been worked out between Ottawa and the provinces.

But there's no doubt the federal government has more ambitious targets than Alberta. The Stelmach government's plan allows for increases in emissions — called absolute emissions — until 2020.

While a difference in greenhouse-gas strategies has been a source of contention between Alberta and Ottawa, provincial Environment Minister Rob Renner appeared unfazed by Prentice's comments.

"It's a very complex discussion," Renner said. "I'm comfortable that we will have a unified position when we get to Copenhagen."

Renner added the province hasn't shied away from being proactive in making CO2-reduction targets — based on how much industries produce rather than absolute caps on emissions. But he said more ambitious targets are possible.

Alberta's "legislated reductions are relatively modest," Renner acknowledged. "Once everybody else comes on board, there's no reason to believe that we can't increase the effort . . . but we can't do it now because it would put us out of sync with everyone else and it would make our industry totally uncompetitive."

Canada's position is to replace the Kyoto accord with a new agreement.

In that vein, Prentice also commented on a controversy about whether developing countries walked out as Canadian representatives spoke in Bangkok earlier this month.

The minister said that didn't happen; those countries chose not to participate in the technical discussion.

Allow higher oil sands emissions: CEO Marcel Coutu, Shawn McCarthy & Richard Blackwell, Oct. 15 2009.

Move would impose greater burden on others, but strict limits on producers would stifle the industry's growth, says head of Canadian Oil Sands Trust

Ottawa, Toronto — Alberta's oil sands producers should be allowed to significantly increase their greenhouse gas emissions, even if that means forcing other sectors to take on additional expensive obligations to meet Canada's climate change targets, an industry executive says.

Marcel Coutu, chief executive officer of Canadian Oil Sands Trust, (COS.UN-T32.20-0.27-0.83%) travelled to Toronto Thursday to spread the industry's message about climate change. The oil industry stance highlights the dilemma facing the federal government as it prepares regulations to meet its commitment to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 from 2006 levels.

If the oil sands were allowed to expand production with only marginal improvements in their per-barrel emissions, the rest of the country faces a much harder and more expensive challenge in meeting Canadian targets.

The Alberta government and the oil industry argue for “intensity-based” targets that would require lower per-barrel emissions, but allow growing industries to increase their overall output of carbon dioxide.

Critics argue the oil companies should face absolute caps on their emissions, but Mr. Coutu said such an approach would stifle growth in Canada's most important resource development.

Strict emission limits would “put a very, very heavy burden on a business that is [in] a growth mode” and is a key engine of the Canadian economy, he said.

Mr. Coutu – whose company owns 36.7 per cent of the Syncrude oil sands project – acknowledged other sectors would have to take up the slack if the oil sands have only intensity-based requirements and Ottawa imposes a national cap on emissions.

“That's the math and there is no escape from that,” he said. “What we have to do is prioritize what is most important to the economy and our quality of life. At the end of the day I don't think there is a single element of our economy that is more important than energy.”

The math is clearly daunting.

Driven by its need to keep the oil industry growing, Alberta has set regulations that will see emissions continue to grow between 2006 and 2020, even as Ottawa attempts to cut levels by 20 per cent over that period. With Alberta representing more than a third of Canadian emissions in 2006, the failure by that province to cut back will require the rest of the provinces to reduce their emissions by more than 35 per cent from 2006 levels over the next 10 years.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice has been consulting with provinces on the pending federal regulations, and has encountered resistance from outside Alberta that its industry would either be bound by different rules than others, or would be allowed to increase emissions to the detriment of other sectors.

In a meeting with The Globe and Mail's editorial board, Mr. Coutu played down the oil sands' contribution to the country's climate change challenge. He noted the vast majority of emissions occur in the consumption of energy – driving cars, flying airplanes, heating homes and commercial buildings – rather than in its production.

He said that oil sands currently represent only 5 per cent of total Canadian emissions. However, that figure could triple if planned expansions proceed and other sectors rein in their creation of carbon dioxide and other climate change gases.

Mr. Coutu said it's necessary to look at those figures from a global perspective, because additional Canadian petroleum production from the oil sands would be replacing production – and emissions – from elsewhere in the world.

The fact that Canada is a net exporter of energy must also be taken into account, Mr. Coutu said, because Canada could end up taking the environmental responsibility for a product that is eventually purchased by a foreign user.

While it is up to the government to make the call on carbon policy, the oil sands industry needs to “emphasize the importance of energy [and] the importance of crude oil in the mix,” he said.

Environmentalists agree with the oil industry on one point: that an effective climate change policy must target energy consumers as well as producers. But the growth of emissions in the oil sands would make the overall effort far more difficult, said Dale Marshall, a policy analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation.

On a cost basis, carbon-capture projects are madness, Jeffrey Simpson, Oct. 19 2009.

The small reductions gained by staggering per-tonne costs illustrate what every independent analyst knows: The Harper government's 20-per-cent reduction target will not be met

Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes so many spending announcements, flying like Mary Poppins on speed around the country to distribute billions of dollars, that the news media have given up analyzing any of them.

For the heck of it, let's look back to last week, when Mr. Harper dropped into Edmonton to announce $343-million of federal money for a coal-fired TransAlta Corp. carbon-capture and storage (CCS) project. Simultaneously, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach announced a contribution of $436-million, for a total investment of $774-million of taxpayers' cash.

That Harper-Stelmach announcement followed an earlier Ottawa-Alberta one for a coal-fired Shell carbon storage project. In that case, the combined federal and provincial contribution was $865-million.

The two announcements – both for coal-fired facilities, the oil sands therefore remaining untouched – mean about $1.6-billion in taxpayer money in the years ahead, or about $220 for a family of four.

What do we get for that sum?

We get, at best, a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions of 2.1 million tonnes. “At best” because the announcements were tempered with hedging words such as “could” achieve and “up to one million tonnes.” Therefore, something less than 2.1 million tonnes might actually be captured.

Let's be generous and assume the two projects costing $1.6-billion do in fact bury 2.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, the most-prevalent gas contributing to global warming. Such a reduction would mean a per-tonne carbon-reduction cost of about $761 – staggeringly, wildly, mind-blowingly higher than any other conceivable measure designed to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. Want a contrast? Alberta has a piddling carbon tax on emissions over a certain level that companies can avoid by paying $15 a tonne into an technology fund.

What does 2.1 million tonnes mean in pan-Canadian terms? Canada emits about 720 million tonnes of CO{-2}. Mr. Harper has pledged by 2020 to lower that amount by 20 per cent, or about 144 million tones. The two carbon-capture projects just announced, by lowering emissions 2.1 million tonnes, will therefore achieve about 1.4 per cent of the reductions the Harper government has pledged at a cost, remember, of $1.6-billion. At this rate, achieving the 20-per-cent reduction would cost almost $110-billion between now and 2020.

For Alberta? The province, with 11 per cent of Canada's population, is responsible for about 30 per cent of the country's emissions. Taking 2.1 million tonnes from Alberta's emissions will represent about 1 per cent of the province's total emissions. As the province's emissions rise, courtesy of further development of the oil sands, the predicted carbon-capture and storage gains will necessarily represent less than 1 per cent of total emissions.

But wait. After these announcements, Alberta has more money left in its $2-billion fund for encouraging capture and storage. This is the fund the province whips out to show critics that it is serious about global warming.

There remains about $800-million in the fund, but if future projects are like the two just announced, once the entire $2-billion is spent, Alberta might have lowered its emissions by maybe 2 per cent.

On a cost-benefit basis, these carbon-capture and storage projects are madness, leaving aside the fact that taxpayers are picking up the bill. They are wildly expensive for the small amount of carbon they will (might?) prevent from entering the atmosphere. They are most definitely not a substitute for a serious climate-change policy that, however structured, must put a price on carbon emissions by those who produce them – either upstream emitters such as industrial concerns and/or downstream consumers.

The small reductions gained by such large sums also illustrate what every independent analyst has concluded: The Harper government's 20-per-cent reduction target will not be met; indeed, it is increasingly being seen as a joke.

Can anything good be said for these announcements, apart from the nice public relations they brought Mr. Harper and Mr. Stelmach?

At a stretch, these projects will test technologies that, if successful, could eventually bring unit costs down and perhaps be exported overseas, although plenty of other companies and jurisdictions are now in the race to develop carbon-capture and storage technologies.

CCS will be part of the long-term effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, but the possibilities of its contribution have been hyped by promoters and political actors beyond what is reasonable to expect. And the initial costs, as these projects show, lead to staggeringly expensive per-tonne reductions.

Pass climate bill before UN summit, Layton says, Heather Scoffield, Oct. 19 2009.

Delaying vote on greenhouse-gas legislation until after Copenhagen conference would force Canada to ‘stand naked before the world'

Ottawa — NDP Leader Jack Layton says parliamentarians have a chance this week to restore Canada's reputation as a protector of the environment, just in time for the high-stakes Copenhagen meeting on climate change.

Mr. Layton said all the MPs have to do is vote down a Conservative motion on Wednesday. The motion would delay an NDP bill to set out strict greenhouse-gas reduction targets for Ottawa, and require the government to give progress reports.

“We have another delay tactic being proposed,” Mr. Layton said Monday in a message meant to target Liberal MPs in particular.

“If that motion passes, it would be impossible for the bill then to come back before Copenhagen. And Canada would simply have to go and stand naked before the world, with Stephen Harper's terrible position on climate change.”

The bill has gone through the House of Commons before, with the backing of the Liberals, but never made it into law because of last year's election.

Now, the bill has been rejuvenated, gone through second reading and committee hearings. But the Conservatives are asking for a delay that would send the bill back for more study, and the NDP suspect the Liberals will agree to the Tory “foot-dragging.”

Mr. Layton wants MPs to reject the delay, so that they can vote for the bill and send a strong message, before the crucial meetings in Copenhagen take place in December.

That summit is hoped to yield a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, a global greenhouse-gas treaty ratified by dozens of countries, including Canada but not the United States.

The Harper government has been non-committal in the process leading up to Copenhagen, Mr. Layton said. But if MPs pass his Climate Change Accountability Act, it would send the world a strong message that the Canadian public and its elected representatives want to take action.

The bill sets strict targets for greenhouse-gas emissions and calls for an 80 per cent reduction from 1990 levels by 2050. Mr. Layton says he has the backing of the Bloc Québécois, but needs the support of the Liberals in order to make any headway.

The Conservative government has pledged to lower greenhouse gases 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020.

The Liberals supported the NDP bill last year. By highlighting the Tory motion for delay, and the NDP is indicating that if the Liberals side with the Tories, Mr. Layton will hammer Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff for lack of action on the environment.

Mr. Ignatieff made it clear last week that the environment will play a centre role in his next election platform.

Liberal environment critic David McGuinty said Monday that the bill is being divided into two parts, and so requires more study.

Ottawa dashes hope for climate treaty in Copenhagen, Shawn McCarthy, Oct. 22 2009.

Best possible outcome of climate talks is smoother path to later deal, Prentice says

Ottawa — Hope is vanishing that a historic deal to address climate change can be concluded in Copenhagen, and Environment Minister Jim Prentice says the best chance is for a political agreement that would pave the way for a treaty to be signed later.

But Canada will continue to insist that it should have a less aggressive target for emission reductions than Europe or Japan because of its faster-growing population and energy-intensive industrial structure, Mr. Prentice said in an interview Thursday.

Canadians must also recognize that any national emissions cap has to reflect differing conditions across the country so as not to punish high-growth provinces, he added. The minister has been consulting with provinces on a plan that would impose a cap on industrial emissions, but allow Alberta's energy-intensive, emissions-heavy oil sands to continue expanding.

“The Canadian approach has to reflect the diversity of the country and the sheer size of the country, and the very different economic characteristics and industrial structure across the country,” he said in a telephone interview.

However, Ottawa will not release its detailed climate-change plan, including its proposed emissions caps on large emitters such as oil sands and power plants, until there is more clarity on how the United States intends to proceed in global climate-change talks in Copenhagen in December, and on what an international treaty would look like, the minister added.

“Copenhagen is a very significant factor in how matters will be approached continentally, and how matters will be approached domestically,” he said.

The Harper government has been criticized for undermining the global talks by insisting on smaller reductions for greenhouse gases than other developed countries, by demanding that emerging economies such as China and India agree to binding caps on their emissions, and by not tabling a plan for meeting Ottawa's own targets.

Mr. Prentice insisted Canada remains committed to reaching an agreement but was not hopeful it could be concluded by December.

“I have to take a realistic view that, given the amount of work that remains to be done, we're running out of time,” he said.

Top United Nations officials are expressing similar pessimism. Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said Thursday it is “unrealistic” to expect a treaty to be negotiated in the weeks before Copenhagen.

In New Delhi, Indian and Chinese environment ministers agreed to a common stand, rejecting binding limits on emissions but pledging to reduce the rate of growth of emissions.

On Wednesday, John Podesta, a prominent Democratic adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, told an Ottawa audience that it is doubtful a treaty will be signed in Copenhagen, but that there may be an overarching political accord that would pave the way for a treaty.

Mr. Obama is battling to get climate-change legislation through Congress before Copenhagen to strengthen his negotiating hand, but that too appears unlikely. The President plans to travel to China and host India's Prime Minister next month in hopes of finding common ground that would allow the two Asian giants to accept binding limits tied to their need for growth. Without some commitment from the emerging economies, Mr. Obama will have a much tougher job winning passage of the bill now before the Senate.

In Canada, environmentalists and federal opposition parties have slammed the Conservative government for adopting an emission target that falls well short of the country's commitment under the Kyoto Protocol, and far short of what many other developed countries are doing.

Ottawa proposes to reduce emissions by 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020. If achieved, Canadian emissions would be 3 per cent below 1990 levels; under Kyoto, Canada committed to cutting its greenhouse gases by 6 per cent from 1990 levels by 2012.

The European Union has said it would reduce emissions by 30 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020, if other developed countries would accept similar reductions. The U.S. climate legislation sets a target of a 17-per-cent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020, but is more aggressive than Canada's in subsequent years.

But Ottawa's chief climate negotiator, Michael Martin, said Canada's economic and population growth over the last 20 years was much stronger than EU growth, meaning Canadians would pay a higher cost to meet the same emissions targets.

The government's 2020 target represents a 26-per-cent reduction from 1990 emission levels on a per-capita basis, after adjusting for population growth.

Mr. Martin addressed a parliamentary committee which is studying a New Democratic Party bill that would commit Canada to reduce emissions by 25 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020, a target that is consistent with both Kyoto and the EU's approach for the next round.

However, the climate ambassador said Canada's targets are “comparable” to more aggressive ones because they will be just as costly to achieve.

Liberal environment critic David McGuinty said the Harper government is avoiding responsibility for addressing climate change, both globally and domestically.

“We're negotiating without a plan” to achieve the reductions Ottawa has already committed to, he said. “They're ragging the puck, killing time and hoping to avoid the issue until after the next election.”

Canada envoy sees draft climate treaty achievable, Jeffrey Jones, Sept 22 2009.

CALGARY - Countries struggling for a deal on combating climate change are likely to overcome divisions and agree on a draft treaty to serve as a basis for upcoming talks in Copenhagen, Canada's chief negotiator said.

Countries must winnow down a 199-page negotiating paper at a series of talks before the Copenhagen meeting in December. Key players, including UN Climate Change Secretariat head Yvo de Boer, have expressed fear that it may not happen given the slow pace of discussions to date.

"I believe we can do that," Michael Martin, Canada's chief negotiator and ambassador for climate change, said a meeting hosted this week by the International Institute for Sustainable Development. "To help us get there, there will be a lot of ministerial engagement between now and Copenhagen."

There had been optimism that countries could streamline the negotiating text at meeting in Bonn, Germany, in August, but longstanding divisions between developed and developing countries and other issues prevented that.

After a United Nations summit on climate change on Tuesday, meant to spur the talks among 190 countries, a total of three weeks of meetings in Bangkok and Barcelona remain before the Copenhagen talks.

Discussions leading up to Copenhagen have put rich and poor nations at odds over how to distribute cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

Developing countries are pressing developed ones to contribute hundreds of billions of dollars annually to help them cope with rising temperatures.

Participation of the United States and China, which are responsible for up to 40 percent of the world's emissions, are seen as key to success in a treaty.

For Canada, it is important to harmonize its targets with the United States, said David Runnalls, chief executive of the IISD, a Canadian-based environmental think tank.

"I think the lesson that the Canadian government learned from Bush's decision not to go forward with Kyoto is that you can't get that far distant from the U.S.," Runnalls said, referring to former U.S. President George W. Bush.

"It's essentially a continental market, and one of the problems we had after Bush withdrew was that all Canadian industries started complaining they weren't going to be competitive anymore."

He said he was not concerned about the lack of progress to date in reaching a draft treaty.

"If you got a half a dozen key governments -- China, Brazil and South Africa, along with the U.S., Japan and the European Union, you could get an agreement. Everybody else might not like it, but they wouldn't kick and scream and yell," he said.

For its part, Canada has set a goal to cut emissions by 20 percent from 2006 levels by 2020. That is after failing to achieve a Kyoto commitment of reducing emissions 6 percent from 1990 levels by now.

Statement by Minister Prentice on Bangkok Climate Change Talks, Jim Prentice, Oct 14 2009.

OTTAWA - The Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Envoy, Michael Martin, refute reports by Canadian Press that there was a "walk-out" by developing G77 countries at a UN climate change meeting in Bangkok to protest Canada's position.

In particular, they want to clarify that there is not, and never has been, any discrepancy in their respective accounts of what transpired there.

An informal discussion was convened one evening among interested Parties on the possible legal outcome of the negotiations.

During that discussion, some developing country representatives indicated that they were not prepared to discuss this subject and chose to leave the meeting. They did not "walk out on Canada's address" as has been reported, their decision to leave was taken before Canada spoke during the meeting.

It is important to note that not all developing countries left the meeting. Many African countries, South American countries and members of the Alliance of Small Island States did not leave the meeting. All Parties returned to the negotiations the following day.

Since 2008, Canada has called for the outcome of the UN climate talks to be a single legal undertaking, building on the Kyoto Protocol, with GHG commitments for all major emitters, including the U.S., China & India. Canada's position in this regard is widely shared by other developed countries, including the U.S., the European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Russia.

Canada is taking action to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home, in North America and internationally. Canada is engaged in the ongoing negotiations under both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, with the objective of achieving, at Copenhagen, an ambitious, environmentally effective international climate change agreement.

Walkout over climate talks, Steve Rennie, 13th October 2009.

OTTAWA -- The government's push to abandon much of the Kyoto protocol prompted dozens of developing countries to walk out on Canada's address during recent climate talks in Thailand, The Canadian Press has learned.

The mass walkout came after the Canadian delegation suggested replacing the Kyoto Protocol with an entirely new global-warming pact, according to one of the negotiators and notes taken by others at the meeting.

A widening and bitter rift between rich and developing countries over climate change was laid bare last week when delegates from 180 nations met in Bangkok to shape a successor to Kyoto before its first phase expires in just over two years. The United Nations hopes to broker a draft deal in time for a meeting in Copenhagen this December.

The developing countries want a new climate deal to complement Kyoto, but Canadian officials told the room they would rather replace Kyoto with one agreement, according to meeting notes.

Canada's delegation was apparently open to putting "some or all" of Kyoto in a new climate pact, the notes say.

At that point, the South African delegation stood up and led the Group of 77 developing nations -- except for a group of small island states -- out of the room.

"The conversation, in our view, at that point in time was effectively over and the G77 left the room," Joanne Yawitch, a South African negotiator at the Bangkok talks, said in an interview.

Talks resumed the next day, she added. "We're not going to walk out of any negotiating process," Yawitch said.

The developing nations were perturbed that Canada and other industrial countries would consider copying parts Kyoto into a new treaty. "You can't do a cut and paste on a ratified treaty," Yawitch said.

"You have to re-open it and negotiate what you would cut and paste. And we think that the risks are that you might end up with something that might be considerably weaker."

Environment Minister Jim Prentice declined comment.

International Eco Hero – Maude Barlow, Planet In Focus International Film & Video Festival.

This award is given to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and made a lasting contribution to environmental awareness, action and change on the international stage.

"The life of an activist is a good life because you get up in the morning caring about more than just yourself or how to make money. A life of activism gives hope, which is a moral imperative in this work and in this world. It gives us energy and it gives us direction. You meet the nicest people, you help transform ideas and systems and you commit to leaving the earth in at least as whole a condition as you inherited it.” Maude Barlow, Trent University, June 2009.

Maude Barlow is a visionary and inspiration to environmental activists the world over. Undaunted in the face of opposition, she has gained the ear of the powerful while empowering the powerless. Through her tireless efforts over four decades taking action on behalf of women, against free trade and now, water rights, she has become a true Eco Hero advocating on behalf of the planet, for all.

Maude Barlow is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the United Nations General Assembly. She Chairs the Board of Washington-based Food and Water Watch and is a Councilor with the Hamburg-based World Future Council. Maude is the recipient of eight honorary doctorates as well as many awards, including the 2005 Right Livelihood Award (known as the “Alternative Nobel”), the Citation of Lifetime Achievement at the 2008 Canadian Environment Awards, and the 2009 Earth Day Canada Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award. A best selling author or co-author of 16 books, she recently released Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and The Coming Battle for the Right to Water.

The film Blue Gold: World Water Wars based on her book that she co-authored with Tony Clarke opened the Planet in Focus Festival in 2008. Barlow has worked indefatigably advocating that we should never forget about the world’s most precious resource, H2O. It sustains us all and is the source of life.

An Ecotopia for Climate Protection - Samso Island, Clemens Höges, 10/22/2009.

An Ecotopia for Climate Protection
Samso Island Is Face of Danish Green Revolution

Part 1: Samso Island Is Face of Danish Green Revolution

The Danish island of Samso is a mecca for climate protection experts, because its residents generate more energy than they consume -- with wind turbines, solar panels, straw combustion and heat exchangers that extract heat from cow's milk. The small ecotopia will be held up as a model at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

Six years ago, Paul Erik Wedelgaard decided it was high time to set a new course for his future, even though he was already 70 at the time. The sun, the cold and the sea have carved deep furrows into his face. His wooden fishing cutter, the "Kyholm," is plowing southward through the Baltic Sea, to the place where the symbols of this future -- wind turbines -- stand off the coast of Samso.

Even today, Wedelgaard is almost as agile on deck as he was at 14, when he began fishing. But his catch of cod has declined sharply in recent years, and the small salmon farm he was operating with a partner wasn't sufficiently profitable. And then along came those young men who had decided to start something of a revolution -- on Samso, of all places. They had ideas, and they had an ambitious plan.

They were concerned about the world and the climate. Most of all, however, they were interested in Samso and all the money they hoped could be made there. For people like Wedelgaard, it seemed like a relatively safe bet.

Part of their plan included erecting 10 giant wind turbines in the Paludan flats, at a cost of 24 million kroner, or about €3 million ($4.4 million), each. The machines were to be owned by the Samsingers, as the island's residents are called.

'We Have to Do Something for the Children'

Wedelgaard knew, of course, that the Paludan flats are located in a particularly windy area. It could work, he thought to himself. He sold his half of the salmon farm, took out a bank loan and invested 3.5 million kroner in one of the turbines, unit No. 6. Wedelgaard will have recouped his investment in four years. "We have to do something for the children," he says. He is referring to his four children and the others on the island.

Samso is a laboratory where the Danish government launched a social and technological experiment 12 years ago. Before that, heating oil was brought to the island by ship and electricity, mainly from coal-burning power plants, was transmitted through cables. For each Samsinger, 11 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide were pumped into the atmosphere each year. The goal was to reduce those 11 tons to zero within 10 years, without special subsidies.

The Samsingers joined forces, erecting the wind turbines and attaching solar panels to their roofs. They built central straw burners, and they installed machines to harness geothermal energy and the heat from cow's milk to heat houses, and to extract rapeseed oil from plants grown on the island to produce fuel for their tractors.

A Climate-Neutral Island

Eight years later, they were already producing more energy than they consumed, which made them climate-neutral, and today they produce 40 percent more energy than they consume. Only two questions remain. Can the approach used on the island, which comprises 22 villages, 4,000 residents and a small cannery, work elsewhere? And does the rest of the world even want to emulate the Samsingers?

These are the sorts of questions that will be asked on Dec. 7, when politicians from around the world gather in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Their goal is to prevent worldwide temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). This is only achievable if emissions of carbon dioxide and the consumption of coal, oil and gas are drastically reduced. Experts are already at odds over just how drastically.

"It's important to negotiate, but then they have to go home and do something," says the man who organized the small miracle on Samso Island. "We don't wake up every morning thinking about how we're going to save the polar bears. No, people think about themselves." But this isn't a problem for Soren Hermansen; it's the solution.

A Climate Change Guru

Hermansen has become a guru of sorts for climate experts and politicians. Last fall, his name appeared on the cover of Time, together with the names of other "Heroes of the Environment." The cover image featured circles of different sizes to indicate the relative importance of each name. Hermansen's circle was about four times the size of that of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California.

It isn't easy catching Hermansen on his island. He spends a lot of time flying around the world. He has just returned from Copenhagen, where he appeared before the Danish parliament, and before that he was in Japan, Korea, Italy and Brussels. José Barroso, the head of the European Commission, was at the Brussels meeting, where the Russian energy minister quarreled with his Ukrainian counterpart on the sidelines. And Hermansen, a former farmer from the village of Kolby Kaas on Samso, sharply criticized them for not making a sufficiently serious attempt to do what his fellow islanders have accomplished.

Hermansen, 50, his short hair slightly graying, has the physique of an athlete and is quick to flash his big smile. Now he is sitting in a building that, with its shiny metal skin, looks a little like the Starship Enterprise -- in the middle of a rural village. Hermansen plays the role of Captain Kirk, as director of this "energy academy" in Ballen, an old fishing village. Visitors from around the world come to Ballen to examine the equipment the Samsingers use and the infrastructure they have developed. Of course, the building itself is also a model, with its solar panels and a computer that occasionally opens and closes ventilation flaps in the roof.

Hermansen describes how the Samso concept works. In 1997, the Danish Energy Ministry announced a contest. A region was to be selected to test how effective renewable energy can be in a real environment. It was a clever contest, requiring the winning region to achieve a carbon footprint of zero with existing technology and without special assistance or subsidies from Copenhagen. This would make the results more readily transferable to other places, and the whole project wouldn't cost the government a single kroner.

An engineer in the city of Aarhus, across the water from Samso, hit upon the idea to write a plan for Samso. He analyzed how much electricity and oil the Samsingers consumed, how much biomass grows there each year, how strong the wind blows and how long the sun shines. Then he wrote his plan -- and won the contest.

Samso was dubbed an "eco-energy island," a title not unlike a brass medal -- well-intentioned, but almost worthless. It helped in obtaining the necessary permits for the new equipment, but the Samsingers themselves had little use for the designation at first. When TV reporters came to the island to interview the mayor, he was at a loss for words and had to consult the concept before answering their questions.

The engineer advised a few people on Samso to establish an association, or else, he said, the plan would never materialize. Fifty Samsingers attended the first meeting in Tranebjerg. But the island's remaining 3,950 stayed home. They were simply unable to see the engineer's concept as a profitable enterprise.

Part 2: 'Everyone Can Do What We Are Doing'.

Hermansen saw it right away. He had already had a wind turbine installed on his father's farm in 1984. He is a good talker, and he loves to persuade people. Pumpkins make poor conversationalists, which was reason enough for Hermansen not to spend his life working as a farmer. He was looking for a project, and this was it. The 50 islanders at the Tranebjerg meeting quickly agreed that Hermansen was to be their representative.

He went from house to house to promote the plan, drinking vast amounts of coffee in the process. Then he bought a cider press. Almost everyone on Samso has apple trees, he reasoned, and offering them fresh apple juice was the perfect way to get them to listen to his pitch and calmly discuss the project. "The question was: How can we all continue living on Samso? In the year before, the slaughterhouse had closed down, putting hundreds out of work. It was our Great Depression," he recalls. The plan is better than the slaughterhouse, he said, and soon his argument began having the desired effect.

Three heating plants were built between villages in the southern part of the island, and pipes were laid into the houses. Now the farmers bring the straw that they used to burn in the fields to the plant, where it is burned to generate heat. The farmers are paid for their hay, building the three plants created short-term construction jobs, the villagers are saving money -- and their money stays on the island.

'Everything Has to Belong to the People'

They also built a solar heating plant on the northern part of the island, as well as the wind turbines. Eleven were to be built on land and 10 on the Paludan flats. Big companies were not to be permitted to own any of the windmills, says Hermansen. That was his most important selling point, he says. "You can't do anything from top to bottom. Everything has to belong to the people. It has to become their project."

One of the first islanders to understand the concept was Jörgen Tranberg, a man with an angular head and bushy eyebrows. He owns 150 black-and-white Holstein cattle, which makes him a major dairy farmer on Samso. He is a smart man. His cows crowd onto two ramps to his left and right, as the milking machines click uniformly. He earns less than 22 cents per liter, he says -- in other words, not much.

But Danish law requires electric utilities to buy wind energy at prices significantly higher than production costs. This turns wind turbines into significant moneymakers, an insight that didn't escape the attention of Tranberg's bank. He invested €2.5 million.

He built a turbine on the hill behind his silage tank and invested in half of Turbine No. 8 on the Paludan flats. The community now owns five of the offshore generators, using part of the proceeds to fund the Energy Academy. About 400 Samsingers own the remaining offshore wind turbines and the turbines on land, of which Tranberg owns a very large share. "I think the weather here is always good," he says. "When the wind blows, the rotors turn. When it rains, the feed for my cows grows. And when the sun shines, I take my boat out for a spin." He laughs and calls his dog Vaks. Vaks means shrewd in Danish.

The wind turbines provide Tranberg with about €3,000 in gross daily revenues, while his cows earn only about €1,000 a day -- and have to be milked twice.

Extracting Heat from Cow's Milk

Even the cows do their part to save the world's climate, and they contribute to Tranberg's bottom line in more ways than one. A cow's body temperature is 38.5 degrees Celsius (101.3 degrees Fahrenheit), and the milk has to be cooled down to 3 degrees Celsius. Tranberg, like other farmers, has installed a heat exchanger near the milk tank. The device is as large and angular as a refrigerator, and it even works like one: It cools the milk, releasing heat that is used to heat the house. The wind turbine provides the electricity to run the heat exchanger.

The only remaining net emitters of carbon dioxide are Tranberg's and the other island residents' cars. The ferry to the mainland consumes 9,000 liters of diesel fuel a day. Nevertheless, Samso's overall energy production is still CO2-free, because the island exports more electricity than it imports oil.

But Hermansen isn't finished yet. Automakers Citroën, Peugeot and Mitsubishi plan to start building electric cars next year. Hermansen is negotiating with the electric utility DONG Energy and the wind turbine manufacturer Vestas. He envisions a technology that would allow electric cars to be connected to the generators, and would include computers that charge the cars' batteries when the wind is blowing and tap electricity when it is not.

"We are completely normal people here. Everyone can do what we are doing," says Hermansen. But then he adds: "In the countryside, that is. Cities are a problem."

The Egyptian ambassador visited the island some time ago. After touring the facilities, he said that the number of people living on Samso could fit into three apartment buildings in Cairo -- buildings with no abundant source of cheap straw nearby and not surrounded by the sea.

It's elementary, my dear children: The Olympics are a sham, Cam Cole, October 16 2009.

I wish I were a kid again, so I could correct all the ways I went wrong.

Mrs. Pardely, my Grade 1 teacher -- actually Grade 1 and half of Grade 2, because I was accelerated through Grade 3 in two years (I'm not saying I was brilliant, I'm just saying) -- was a terrific early influence and made going to school every day a treat.

Her only shortcoming, sadly, was her utter failure to promote critical thinking in her six-year-old pupils.

So I went through elementary school believing that the three businesses my dad ran out of his office, the Vegreville Land Co., were so that our family could have a better life. Mrs. Pardely never told me he was, in fact, an instrument of the capitalist real estate conspiracy that was buying and selling property ... for money! Not having all the info at my fingertips, I was stupid enough to think he was a pretty good dad.

In my ignorance, I thought our yellow '58 Chevy station wagon was a fun car to go on holidays in, when in fact, if she'd been doing her job, Mrs. Pardely would have made me feel guilty about riding in such a big, unwieldy, gas-guzzling monstrosity whose component parts no doubt were built in factories that oppressed the working man.

I thought John Diefenbaker was a swell prime minister, but Mrs. Pardely neglected to tell me that the economy was in the toilet because of him and his fellow Tories, nor did she mention that the beloved war hero who was president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was a member of a golf club, Augusta National, that did not have a single female member. If only I'd known that stuff at the time, I'd have been a lifelong supporter of those egalitarian economic wizards, the NDP, and never taken up golf.

In fact, looking back, I was a pretty clueless kid and now I feel guilty about having been so happy, swimming and playing baseball and hockey and golf -- and field hockey with tennis balls and broken hockey sticks, and tackle football without helmets or pads. I blame it on my teachers.

It's a wonder I wasn't killed, with no one warning me of the dangers of having fun irresponsibly.

But the worst, by far, was how taken I was with my first exposure to an Olympic Games -- Rome, 1960 -- watching on television the exploits of the larger-than-life American athletes of the era: sprinter Wilma Rudolph, boxer Cassius Clay, decathlete Rafer Johnson.

If only I'd had the kind of teachers Vancouver's six-year-olds have today, I'd have grown up knowing there was nothing admirable about Olympism and the sacrifice and achievements of Olympic athletes.

I'd have seen the Olympic movement for the sham it was, and is, because Mrs. Pardely would have set me straight, told me the Olympics were "not about the human spirit" and that they "have little to do with athletic excellence" and that "they are a multi-billion-dollar industry backed by real estate, construction, hotel, tourism and media corporations, and powerful elites working hand in hand with government officials and the International Olympic Committee."

And me, running around wishing I could be an Olympic athlete some day. What an idiot I was, when I was six.

Thank goodness the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers' Association (VESTA) is looking out for today's Grade 1 kids, making sure they don't grow up with such inappropriate dreams. Or any dreams at all, really.

With the help of the Olympic Resistance Network (ORN), the women and men in charge of forming our kids' impressionable young minds want to ensure that children will not leave their classrooms thinking Olympic athletes are good role models, or that the Olympic movement is a positive force.

Today's Mrs. Pardely will make sure her six-year-olds have no illusions. It's never too early to trample on a kid's ignorant glorification of something as clearly destructive as the Olympics.

Why, right here in Vancouver, not only have the 2010 Games already failed to cure homelessness and ruthlessly trampled on the rights of professional protesters to organize vandalism, they have been responsible for the building of a SkyTrain line, a navigable highway to Whistler, and a condo project -- currently known as the Olympic Athletes' Village -- that may result in citizens paying an extra $5 each a year in taxes because, scandalously, it turns out to have cost money to build.

Little Johnny and Sally need to be told these things, pronto, or they could grow up scarred by pleasant thoughts and uncomplicated views of the amazing athletic feats that will take place here in four months. They could reach puberty thinking that it was pretty neat, having played host to the world, having staged the planet's largest cultural exchange, a gathering of great athletes in their hometown such as they will never see again in their lifetimes. We can't have that.

So thanks, VESTA, for not waiting until the kids are teenagers, say, when they might actually be able to process the negative information you and your "Whatever It Is, I'm Against It" pals are about to feed them.

Nip those dreams in the bud, I say. Get 'em early. That's the kind of preventive action that makes us all proud to pay your salaries.

No comments: