Canada’s Tailings Ponds

What was once boreal forest and fresh water is now one of Canada’s tailings ponds. These tailings ‘ponds’ are so large, they can be seen from space.

Canada's tailings ponds
© Greenpeace / Eamon Mac Mahon

Q: What the heck is a tailings pond?
A: It’s the toxic wastewater, chemicals, sand and clay that’s left over after separating heavy crude oil (bitumen) from the soil in what are commonly referred to as Canada’s tar sands.

Wikipedia: "Tailings, also called mine dumps, slimes, tails, refuse, leach residue, or slickens,[1] are the materials left over after the process of separating the valuable fraction from the uneconomic fraction (gangue) of an ore."

I recently viewed a film titled Petropolis and was shocked by how little I knew about the actual size of this industrial misadventure. I had clearly been sucked in by the oil companies’ environmentally-concerned TV ads. I suspect it has required a massive public relations budget to keep the full scope of this pillage out of the news.

Have you watched or read ‘The Lord of the Rings’? Do you remember when Saruman the White ordered the destruction of the forests? Even the words of J. R. R. Tolkien and the images of Peter Jackson would have a very difficult time portraying the devastation clearly shown in Petropolis.

A few things that just don’t make sense to me:

  • it requires about three barrels of water to produce every barrel of bitumen, that’s apparently enough water to service a city with a population of two million
  • the tar sands daily consumption of natural gas is enough to heat four million homes
  • carbon dioxide emissions equal the total emissions of every car in Canada
  • we’re getting rid of trees that reduce pollution to produce oil that increases pollution

Q: Who is profiting from this devastation of Canada’s environment?
A: The oil and gas companies. According to The Toronto Sun 20120409 (VINCENT MCDERMOTT, QMI AGENCY), “In the University of Alberta’s Parkland Institute study, completed in mid-March (2012), the Edmonton-based think-tank concluded the oil and gas industry has raked in $260-billion in pre-tax profits since 1986, while the public received less than $25-billion — less than 6% of the total value.”

The oil companies would have us believe that the Canadian tar sands are a wonderful resource, after all it’s the second largest oil reserve in the world. I’m not so sure because there are clearly enormous environmental costs to this type of industrialization. When oil prices were lower, the tar sands had potential, but it was simply to expensive to separate the heavy crude from the sand and the clay. Today, high oil prices have made heavy crude oil extraction economically feasible, but it doesn’t appear to me that technology has progressed to the point where oil can be produced in an environmentally friendly manner. That plus, what about the environmental impact of the required, very controversial, pipelines.

Aren’t we trying to move away from carbon-based fuels? Wouldn’t it be far less expensive and far more friendly to our environment to build solar farms and wind farms? What about solar panels on every home and garage? There must be a clever way to use the tar sands, on a small scale, to help us fund Canada’s transition to green technologies.

Update (20120530): Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, referring to Canada’s tailing’s ponds stated, “…you’ll be able to drink from them and you’re gonna be able to fish from them…”. He was interviewed on CBC’s Power and Politics by Evan Solomon. My question to Mr. Oliver is, “When?” Perhaps hundreds or even thousands of years from now that may be possible. I suspect Mr. Oliver will issue a correction in the near future, because, bluntly, if he believes what he said, he’s been drinking far too much of Big Oil’s Kool Aid.

The Harper Conservatives Make Me Shudder

Harper Conservatives

There have been five Conservative, Prime Ministers of Canada, in my lifetime, but only the Harper Conservatives have managed to make me shudder. From my vantage, Canadian politics has gone off the rails and Canada is feeling less and less Canadian every month.

My explanation is that the Harper Conservatives aren’t at all like their predecessors, they are Canadian Progressive Conservatives in name only. The reality is that they’re a group of "angry old uncle," libertarians. Alberta’s longstanding, political discontent (Reform Party => Alliance => Harper Conservatives) combined with a very cleverly orchestrated manipulation of our political system has allowed them to seize power.

The Harper Conservatives’ all too familiar pitch is smaller government and lower taxes for everyone, but they share similar goals with the Republicans in the USA. Their underlying goal is, as always, to enable a small number of rich people, the 1%, to become wealthier and more powerful.

Greed is a Scary Thing.

Inexplicably, many people will vote for lower taxes even if it goes against their own self interest.

As a young physician I made the mistake of complaining to my parents about the taxes I was paying. My father responded, "You’re really going to have to adjust your attitude. Be grateful that you’re earning enough income that you can pay a lot of tax. Our taxes enable us to assist our fellow Canadians and help us do many good works around the world."

I listened to my dad, I adjusted my attitude and learned to be less selfish.

The great purpose of life is to be of service to others.

In my six decades Canada has been known as a country:

  • blessed with bountiful resources (forests, fresh water and clean air)
  • inhabited by happy, well-educated, tolerant, well-mannered, peaceful people who value and encourage diversity
  • with very few guns, very few murders and a declining crime rate
  • with an impressive social safety net, including our health care system
  • willing to contribute significantly to peacekeeping efforts worldwide.

Contrast that with what we’ve become known for in the very short time since the Harper Conservatives took power. A country:

  • eager to develop controversial crude oil pipelines
  • willing to squander our resources for short-term profit by favouring carbon-based fuel (tar sands) production, ignoring green technologies and apparently proud to become the first and only country in the world to denounce The Kyoto Protocol on the environment
  • happy to cozy up to the NRA (National Rifle Association) by abandoning our long-gun registry
  • in a hurry to impose stiff mandatory sentences for marijuana offences
  • whose priority is building more prisons even though the crime rate is declining
  • planning to spend billions of tax dollars on fighter jets instead of social programs
  • willing to sell asbestos to the third world
  • actively dismantling the Wheat Board and planning to end protection from foreign imports of dairy and eggs
  • using omnibus legislation to conceal major policy changes, thereby preventing normal public scrutiny
  • of political scandals (In and Out, alleged robo-calls).

Do you remember when Justin Trudeau gave the eulogy at his father’s (Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s) funeral and quoted his father as saying, "… never attack the individual. One can be in total disagreement with someone without denigrating him as a consequence."

Contrast Trudeau’s paradigm with what the Harper Conservatives’ attack ads did to Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatief. I was dismayed that so many Canadians allowed themselves to be influenced by American-style attack ads. Interestingly, most folks in the middle and on the left of the political spectrum didn’t vote Conservative, they just didn’t bother to vote. As a direct result, we now have a majority government that over sixty percent of our voting population did not endorse.

Are you happy with the direction the Harper Conservatives are taking Canada? Is greed really that appealing? I’d love to see my children and grandchildren enjoy the kind of Canada I’ve experienced throughout my lifetime. That’s not going to happen with the Harper Conservatives.

Don’t sit back hoping a charismatic, new leader for the Liberals, NDP or Green Party will appear. Canada’s future depends on a majority of Canadians standing up and proclaiming that, "Canada is much better than the Harper Conservatives’ ideology."

Food Chemicals

Food Chemicals Codex

What are food chemicals?

Food additives, mostly salt, smoke and various flavourings have been used for many hundreds, if not many thousands of years. About a hundred years ago, not much had changed on the additive front, most people purchased their vegetables, fruit, meat (including fish), dairy, grains, fats and oils, locally and only in season.

The food industry and food scientists have done a remarkable job of making most foods available year round. Unfortunately, convenience has resulted in a very long list of food chemicals. Did you know that there’s a book called the Food Chemicals Codex (FCC) that lists over a thousand chemicals (flavourings, colourants, preservatives, processing aids and nutrients) that are commonly added to our food?

Over 1,000 Food Chemicals

Would our health be better if we only consumed food that actually looked like food rather than most of the packaged stuff we see in the grocery store?

Canada’s Environmental Irresponsibility

I’m embarrassed by Canada’s environmental irresponsibility and specifically by Canada’s current conservative governance. The most recent embarrassment is Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol; making Canada the first country in the world to abandon this historic, international, environmental treaty on climate change.

Abandoning Kyoto was irresponsible. It’s also humiliating, Canada is better than this.

Fact: Over sixty percent of Canadian voters, who cast ballots in the last federal election, did not vote for the Conservative Party, the political party that just humiliated most Canadians.

Q: How could the Harper Government back out of a treaty that Canada ratified years ago? Where was the debate? Why wasn’t this momentous decision brought to a vote?

Some time ago, I laughed in agreement when Brian Topp wrote, "Unfortunately, the angry old uncles are now in charge of the government of Canada…" If I could edit that article for The Globe and Mail, today, I’d add a couple of words, "Unfortunately, the angry, arrogant, greedy, irresponsible, old uncles are now in charge of the government of Canada."

"Unfortunately, the angry old uncles are now in charge
of the government of Canada"

Q: What can we do?
A: Make sure that your voice is heard.

Frustrated Canadians, might want to consider:

  1. electing more women
  2. encouraging the Green Party and the Liberal Party to merge
  3. electing Elizabeth May to lead the ‘New Green Party’.

1% vs 99%

1% vs 99%: Capitalism has been hijacked by greed. For the last couple of decades, capitalism has been primarily benefiting just 1% of our population.

Q: Are you pissed with politics?

I am too, but don’t make the mistake of thinking, "Politician’s just don’t get it." The reality is that conservative politicians are getting exactly what they want.

Here’s some current economic data, courtesy of Robert Reich‘s recent online articles, that illustrates precisely how well conservatives are serving the richest 1%.

Robert Reich

Robert Reich was the nation’s 22nd Secretary of Labor and is a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. His latest book is "Supercapitalism."

"New data from the Commerce Department shows employee pay is now down to the smallest share of the economy since the government began collecting wage and salary data in 1929.

Meanwhile, corporate profits now constitute the largest share of the economy since 1929."

"… tax rates on the super rich are now lower than they’ve been in three decades"

"This tsunami of big money into politics is the real public nuisance. It’s making it almost impossible for the voices of average Americans to be heard because most of us don’t have the dough to break through. By granting First Amendment rights to money and corporations, the First Amendment rights of the rest of us are being trampled on."

Related posts:

>> All They Cared About Was…

>> Collective Good

I Left Network Marketing

Why I Left Network Marketing: A quick explanation…

Comment: It’s possible you arrived at this blog post because you were redirected from one of my old network marketing websites. I apologize if the information you might have been searching for is no longer available.

I attempted to create wealth for myself, my family and friends with a couple of direct sales businesses. I persevered for over a decade. I enrolled thousands of hopeful people; unfortunately, only a couple of those people earned a significant income. My goal was to help, but the attrition stats were undeniable. I started to feel like I was picking pockets rather than doing good. The big question is, did I fail thousands of distributors, or, did network marketing’s business-model for distributors let all of us down?

I recently decided to sever my ties to the network marketing profession. Thank you to all the wonderful people, I’ve met along the way. I wish you health, happiness and enormous success in your future endeavours.

Network Marketing – Think Hard Before Joining

Network marketing has been around for over fifty years, so its track record is very well established. Millions and millions of people, worldwide, have enrolled; unfortunately, the vast majority ended up losing their money. Significantly, and contrary to myth, only a minuscule fraction of one percent of network marketing professionals have actually earned serious incomes.

Here’s a typical example: ‘Big Money’ stories enticed people, by the hundreds of thousands, to discover an exotic, super-fruit, juice company. Titillated by stories that the company’s top income earners were paid millions of dollars every year, financially desperate people felt they had new hope; some actually dreamed about earning as much as $100,000 per month. What happened to their dreams?

Not too long ago, that company’s, government mandated, income disclosure statement revealed that:

  • fewer than one percent qualified for commissions
  • of the one percent who qualified for commissions, only ten percent earned more than $100 a week

99% never earned any money. 0.9% earned less than $100 per week. 0.1% earned more than $100 weekly.

You might be thinking, “One out of every one thousand people earning $100, or more, per week doesn’t sound too bad.” Unfortunately, your thought process may not have factored in the distributor’s business related expenses. How much did the distributor spend for their required monthly product order? What were her/his marketing expenses (examples: product samples, magazines, brochures, DVDs, postage, newspaper ads, websites, pay-per-click ads and leads)? It’s, usually, surprisingly difficult to get a network marketing business into profit.

Q: What makes you think it will be different for you?

Here’s a quote I saved* (warning, it’s depressing for network marketers):

Roland Whitsell, a former business professor who spent 40 years researching and teaching the pitfalls of multilevel marketing: "You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone making over $1.50 an hour, the primary product is opportunity. The strongest, most powerful motivational force today is false hope."

*Note: My apologies to the original author, I neglected to record the attribution when I saved his/her quote.

Something New

Network Marketing Heads Up cover

I’ve published a downloadable eBook in ePub format. The title is ‘Network Marketing Heads Up.’

Network Marketing Heads Up download icon

>> Visit NetworkMarketingHeadsUp.com

SONY DHR-1000 Prosumer Video Studio

SONY DHR-1000 video studio

Shoot and edit your video with or without a computer.

Great fun! Give Steven Spielberg a run for his money.

SONY Prosumer Video Studio

SONY DHR-1000 editing console

  • DHR-1000 SONY Digital Video Cassette Recorder (DV/MiniDV editor)
  • GV-D300 SONY Digital Video Cassette Recorder (MiniDV)
  • PVM-14M2U SONY Trinitron Monitor
  • DCR-TRV900 SONY 3CCD miniDV Handycam
  • SPC-DVF2 SONY Handycam sports (submersible case)
  • VCL-ES20x2 SONY Universal Correction Lens Kit
  • VCL-0752Hx0.7 SONY Wide-angle Converter
  • VCL-1452Hx1.4 SONY Telephoto Converter
  • HVL-20DW2 SONY Video Light
  • AC-V700 SONY AC Adaptor/Charger
  • NP-F950 SONY InfoLITHIUM Battery
  • NP-F950 SONY InfoLITHIUM Battery
  • NP-F550 SONY InfoLITHIUM Battery
  • NP-F550 SONY InfoLITHIUM Battery
  • NP-F330 SONY InfoLITHIUM Battery
  • DS-5 Circular Polarizer B+W
  • 1450 Case Pelican

$895 for everything – all items, excepting batteries, are in mint condition

My youngest daughter is selling my video gear on Vancouver’s Craigslist.

Both digital video cassette recorders (mini-DV and mini-DV/DV) and the camera are equipped with FireWire (IEEE 1394) interfaces.

Update: All of the equipment listed above has been sold. Thank you for your interest.

All They Cared About Was…

When I was a teenager, I lifeguarded and taught swimming at the YMCA in Ottawa. When the Health Club manager was away, I was asked to fill in for him. It was a strange experience.

Background: My father had a Ph.D. in chemistry and ran the RCMP’s crime labs. My mother was a nurse, seamstress and artist. Our dinner-table conversations were substantive, interesting and full of humanity.

When I worked at the YMCA Health Club, all they cared about was MONEY and that’s all they ever talked about. The "Y" was where some of Ottawa’s money guys had lunch and regaled each other with stories of profit. It was a sad site for a young man, but mostly it was simply depressing. Where were the tales of helping other people live better lives?

I don’t think much has changed in the last forty-five years. I’m fearful that today’s moneyed elite have completely lost site of the collective good. The two percent of the population that controls ninety-eight percent of all the money appear to be oblivious to what’s happening around them. They even see massive foreclosure stats as a golden financial opportunity. I’ve always worried that Capitalism’s Achille’s Heel was and still is GREED.

Do you suppose Hampton billionaires learned anything from world history, specifically the French Revolution? Are they at all concerned by the Occupy Wall Street protests? I don’t know what to think about the protests, but I suspect sociologists might see them as a warning sign.

Related post: Conservative Greed

Natural Gas Fracking

What is natural gas fracking or fracking for natural gas? Fracking is a, commonly used, short way of saying or writing hydraulic fracturing. Wikipedia‘s descriptive first sentence is:

Hydraulic fracturing, often called fracking, fracing or hydrofracking, is the process of initiating and subsequently propagating a fracture in a rock layer, by means of a pressurized fluid, in order to release petroleum, natural gas, coal seam gas, or other substances for extraction.

There’s a very stark contrast between Exxon Mobil’s commercial and the Gasland trailer:

Exxon Mobil

Gasland

>> Gasland is now on PBS

If wellness is one of your priorities, you owe it to yourself to watch Gasland.