Tim Flannery: Keeping Our Eye on the Big Picture

Graham Saul
Graham Saul of Ecology Ottawa gave the introduction to Tim Flannery at the Writers Festival.

Tim Flannery
It was a full house at the OIWF’s theatre for Here On Earth, Tim Flannery in interview with CBC’s Lucy van Oldenbarneveld.

Tim Flannery is a field biologist. He has discovered and named 30 species including two kinds of tree kangaroo. (How’d they miss being detected? Palm sized marsupials? Curious and curiouser.)

He has written a lot of books to get people into the loop on environmental concerns but also was a person of the stage, an excellent speaker, fluid in presentation, prepared and off-the-cuff in Q&A. He was the chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council.

His latest book looks at global warming in part. He looks at what Dawkins, Darwin, Wallace and Lovelock have worked out. His reckoning is that we have 50 years to turn around our carbon emissions before we kick it to another notch that may tailspin us unrecoverably. If each country honors their pledge at the Copenhagen meetings, we are 2/3 of the way to the necessary targets.

He believes that individuals need to incrementally change habits but it needs to be more. If we have top-down regulation paired with economic penalties and incentives, we can shift industry and options. We can make a level playing field on higher ground.

As it stands, people who make a cleaner factory are de facto penalized because to do things properly takes more money but the goods they make can’t demand a higher enough price to cover the cost. Companies who run cheaper and dirtier get the advantage. If a government imposes grants to retrofit operations to run cleaner in a graduated plan to phase out the old ways and imposes fines on doing things wrong, then there’s an incentive and no disincentive to change.

This is also true in a world-trade context. If one country changes, but others don’t the smoggies can thief the air and water and trade it for more cash. China made a big pledge to change the amount of pollution made and are taking an economic hit right in their GDP to do so for the longer-term, larger-picture. They shut down factories for weeks at a time to make their targets for better air quality and life quality.

He cited a case in Central or South America where entrepreneurs were going into the jungle and clear-cutting illegally to make pastures for cattle. The cattle were then taken to abattoirs and then exported. By satellite images the government could monitor the illegal forestry and the cattle movement. By going to the abattoirs and the trade ports and informing them that they were dealing in the products of illicit goods and fining heavily, the trade and the clear-cutting dried up quickly.

He also pointed out that the cost of coal is rising and the cost of solar panels is declining so that by 2014 the trend lines intersect and it will be cheaper to shift from carbon-based fuel. For top-down programs to encourage the transition now would be in the best interest of business.

It’s not our imagination: Our oceans and arctic are warming. We have increasingly frequent and erratic flooding and progressive desertification and at this point in monitoring, we can track a particular pollutant to a particular weather pattern. In a way this might be a route to responsibility if we can internationally legislate and make legally liable a particular company for a particular mess of flood to another area of the world.

We have as an international community come to an accord for change before. For example, the 1997 Montreal Protocol where nations agreed to make the necessary changes to stop the growth of holes in the ozone layer. Those aerosol cans got kicked out of production.

In the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants many nations agreed that a range of goods such as solvents, polyvinyl chloride, and pharmaceuticals were too dangerous and needed to be phased out.

Tim Flannery

We are interconnected, he argues, like the termites are, except they have been making complex societies with specialized workers, agricultural areas of gardens, irrigation, structures with air conditioning for 100,000 years and we’ve only been at it for 10,000.

While termites are held together by genes, we are held together by memes of like-mindedness. In termite colony too there are flies that look and smell like termites but are actually predators on the colony who look after their own interests, not that of the overall colony.

We don’t have time to waste on anger on mistakes made. That energy can be better used to change. He said, look at rugby (soccer, hurling, football? some field sport with a large ball) — Anger is a gambit the other team uses to try to make you take your eye off the ball and lose. We need to keep playing.

Quote: “The purpose of education is to keep a culture from being drowned in senseless repetitions, each of which claims to offer a new insight.” ~ Harold Rosenberg at QB

Thursday Thirteen: Good from the Week

13 Thursdays

  1. Top news story? 5 years in the making, Between Stations, a 40-page collection of train poems, is out from obvious epiphanies press!
    Between Stations
    Looks beautiful if I do say so myself. Buy one here.
  2. Anything after that is rather anti-climatic but anti-climatic is a good as a rest, isn’t that what they say?
  3. No wait, there’s more. In a couple week I’m on a poetry panel with Gillian Sze and Lorna Crozier
  4. And I’ve signed on to be an irregular columnist with Local Tourist Ottawa. It’s a group endeavour where we talk up great events and people who everyone should get a chance to know about.
  5. My first column is up here.
  6. In a couple weeks I’ll announce where else I’ll be starting as a columnist.
  7. I finally started to dig thru the pile of papers to address and sent some lettermail out my hair. Phew, it was virtually a medusa of a stationary store up there.
  8. Another good from the week? Shopping. Sometimes browsing thru all the textures of a used clothing store is the most relaxing thing to do. The tactile brings you out the skin, not in the head. And if you do find a treasure — like this victorian shirt — it’s probably affordable.
  9. After a hankering for new pieces of jewelry, Sheela-Na-Gig is tempting at $7 for a pendant but the seashell/vulvas are better designed but $40.
  10. Seagull:
    Ottawa has 21 gull and tern species. Did you know the speckled ones are a year old? In second year they are juveniles with some speckling left. Adult males and females have no difference in plumage.
  11. Science daily says seagulls can recognize faces, and match types of facial expressions of humans. Alert birds are smart birds.
  12. Almost all Nobel laureates in the sciences are actively engaged in arts as adults.

    They are twenty-five times as likely as average scientist to sing, dance, or act; seventeen times as likely to be an artist; twelve times more likely to write poetry and literature; eight times more likely to do woodworking or some other craft; four times as likely to be a musician; and twice as likely to be a photographer.” — Bob Root-Bernstein, Ph. D., physiologist and MacArthur Fellow.[via]

  13. Quote: rm: How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to critical prose)? What do you see as the appeal?
    Richard Greene: It seems normal to take on different challenges. It is all pleasurable.

Check out all the people playing Thursday Thirteen.

10 Apr 2011, 5:41pm
General Glad Game Ottawa Photos

Scenes Seen

lucky ron and boy
The pic I took just before Lucky Ron offered him a guitar pick. Mom nudged him forward to take it. Boy looked at it, then, baffled, pocketed it anyway.

The pic Bri took outside the Laff as Lucky Ron played.

The boy came up to the railing and sometimes danced in the swinging about way that little kids have. When motorcycles scared his sister into a squeal in the stroller he gave her a kiss and went back to the music.

We also went to get some pastries and made a bit of distraction as we both photographed the croquembouche.

What else?

two readers
The Eco-Jest-Us went off with excellent performances last night. It went till about 11 pm. Here, two poets goof about before the show.

I have a lot of photo attempts to go thru to see if I got much useful shots. It’s ridiculous the degree to which I can’t compose a photo to save my life if I’m nervous at all. (Since I was hosting, oy.) But Bri took some photos too so there’s bound to be a few good ones.

[P.S. Pics are now up at Flickr and a post is up at pesbo.]

What else?

Someone balanced out the copper plaque with a bit of romance. (Like how Alex & Steph could be any gender combination.)

first robin
Tulips are rising and our first robin is spotted! How nice to be rained on instead of snowed on for a change.

Glad Game: Little used clothes shops to peak into. The possibility of looking without buying. The possibility of buying. A bit of sun and warm. The possible T-storm tomorrow. Getting a full sleep again. The possibility of taking off from online for a week or so. That the show went on last night and the mood was good. The theatricalness of a green room and stage manager. The fabulous music; Daniel was onto something — one instrument and voice soothes the soul of any beast.

Quote: “Shyness is just egotism out of its depth.” ~ Penelope Keith

8 Apr 2011, 2:46pm

Above the Real

seagull by the wire
Were skies ever so blue? Why should sparrows on a wire get all the press?

you never know where
You never know where a surrealist might pop up.

among the letter shelves
My latest picture i seems appropriate because functionally I’m largely just aware of my head and hands.

Quote: “”You’re not altogether stupid. As a matter of fact, you sound like a very religious man who doesn’t believe in God.” ~ W Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge [via Isabella]

7 Apr 2011, 8:32am
Arts Environment Events, Holidays and Festivals Ottawa
Comments Off on Eco-Jest-Us



It is the jesters who have the most unguarded ear of the king and court. At Eco-Jest-Us there will be performances by youth, improv, musicians, bands, poets and jesters for justice, craft workshops and art show and much more from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Arts Court Theatre on Daly Ave.

Quote: “I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this.” ~ Emo Phillips

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