Tag Archives: Canada

Climate change and mental health.

One little known aspect of climate change could be the rise of suicides as the temperature keeps climbing. In India, climate change has been linked to 60,000 suicides in the past 30 years. Researchers believe that the impact of climate change on mental health will be as important as economic recessions.

The links between mental health and global warming have not been well researched so far, but a new work has analyzed temperatures and suicides across the United States and Mexico. This new study found that suicide rates rose by 0.7% in the United States and by 2.1% in Mexico when the average monthly temperatures rose by 1 degree Celsius.

This study was adjusted for various seasonal variations, levels of poverty and even news of celebrity suicides. Scientists also found that hotter periods resulted in more suicides irrespective of wealth and the climate of the area.

The study does not prove a causal link between rising temperatures and more suicides, but the results show consistently the link over time and in many different places. The study also looked at Twitter messages and found that the use of depressive words increased as the temperatures rose. This suggest that mental wellbeing deteriorates with warmer temperatures. Levels of violence also increase when temperatures increase.

According to the study, if carbon emissions are not cut it is estimated that between 9,000 and 40,000 additional suicides could be expected by 2050 in the United States and Canada. Another good reason to tackle climate change.


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Ecosystems shrinking in Alberta, Canada.

A new study on ecosystems in Alberta has concluded that portions of it are shrinking faster than the Amazonian tropical forests. The study concluded that 70% of Alberta is still intact, most of it in the northern part.

However, in some areas of the province human activities such as forestry has increased from 20% to 29%, an increase of 60%, nearly two times superior at what was found in the Amazonian forests over the same period. That is surprising and shocking at the same time.

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Wood Buffalo National Park is in peril.

This park which is located in Canada straddles the Alberta-Northwest Territories and is a vast stretch of grassland, forest, wetland and lakes. With 45,000 square kilometers it contains one of the world’s largest freshwater delta. Flocks of waterfowl and songbirds are often found on its shores. According to UNESCO it has an outstanding and universal value and therefore was designated a World Heritage Site.

According to experts the area is now in danger more than ever, especially since 2014. The main threats stem from the possible development of hydro dams. With less water flowing in the park birds will be affected as well bison’s and muskrats. Even people will get stuck on mudflats as water levels will not be high enough. Oil development upstream of the park could also endanger it. The Frontier oil sands mine proposed would be the closest to the park yet.

Parks Canada has responded that the focus of various reports were too narrow, pointing out that the challenges come mostly from outside the boundaries of the park such as climate change. It has also said that the reports did not take into account the future management actions that it intends to take to correct the problems. In other words, we have to trust Parks Canada that it will do the right thing for the management of the park.

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The buying and selling of weapons.

I read an interesting article last week in the New York Times about who sold what on the global scene in respect to weapons. No surprise that the leader was the United States, accounting for fully 50% of the market. Russia was second and Sweden was third. I was surprised to see Sweden in such a high position. It just does not sound right for a so called social democracy.

The top buyer of arms was South Korea and most of these weapons were bought from the United States. No surprise there as the threat of North Korea has not diminished in recent years. I do not see any problems in two democracies buying and selling weapons from each other. Where I draw the line is when poor developing countries buy weapons from the larger and well developed countries, and in 2014 this totaled a whopping 62 billion dollars.

I find this to be quite immoral. Some of these poor countries are saddled with severe problems of poverty and yet, they spend money on weapons. In some cases, theses weapons are used on their own people. Surely a more developed country like the United States should be more morally concerned about aiding and abetting injustices, and having its weapons used in conflicts that have more to do about egos being bruised than legitimate self-defense. I am particularly appalled when some of these poor countries use these weapons on its own people, like the Egyptian state has done in the past.

I am concerned when I hear that the Saudi government has bought from Canada tanks and other military hardware, even if it is justified that it is for its domestic market. Translation; we will use this against our own people who might want forcibly to change the system. In other words, we will be aiding and abetting the royal Saudi family in continuing its illegitimate reign in Saudi Arabia. Nothing to be proud of.

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Do we have a climate deal?

On the face of it, yes we do have a global climate deal. But, as always, the devil is in the details, and some of them are missing. Sure, countries have agreed to the following; to limit to 2 degrees or less the rise of global temperatures, to help poor nations cope by giving money, to publish greenhouse gas reduction targets and to be carbon neutral after 2050 but before 2100.

So, it does appear that the document signed by countries has some legal basis as well as good will. But it still must be ratified by 55% of the countries that emit 55% of the greenhouse gasses. That certainly means that countries like the United States, China, Russia and India must ratify the deal if it is to be implemented. A big if in the case of the United States.

I suppose that one can be an optimist and say that countries will realize sooner than later that it makes economic sense to limit theses greenhouses gases to below 2 degrees, but the ways to achieve this will bite economically, especially at first. For Canada, this certainly means a carbon tax for all provinces. And certainly the end of subsidies to the oil and gas sector in Canada.

Everything I have read indicates that we will not achieve that target. It is simply too difficult. We will probably end up with a rise of 3 to 4%. And that means flooding of coastal cities. At least the rich nations can throw money at the problem but what will the poor countries do? Perhaps that will be the incentive for them to stop investing in military expenditures and to start investing in coping strategies aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change.

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The inhumanity of Man.

Once again Man’s thuggish instincts have reared their ugly head. In the middle of a civilized country a group of terrorists inflicted maximum pain on innocent civilians. Paris is reeling from the shock, and so are all civilized people all over the world.

The details of the attack are still sketchy, but we know that at least 7 or 8
terrorists struck several Parisian targets. At least some of the terrorists had the good sense of killing themselves. That is several less of them. At last count more than 129 people have been killed, and more than 300 have been injured. Words fail to express the sorrow and pain that ordinary citizens feel all over the world. Make no mistake, one day it could be us, in any city of this planet.

Of course there was a failure of intelligence, and that is the scary part. If we
did not know it, we know it now; it is impossible to be secure in one’s country at 100%. Because we live in a liberal democracy, at least in Canada, one must expect that opponents of freedom and democracy can and will find loopholes. That is unavoidable. The right balance between freedom and a police state must be found. I prefer to err on the side of freedom, and accept more risk in my day to day living.

Vive la France!


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No to dirty oil.

The president has finally decided; no to the Keystone XL pipeline that was supposed to bring the oil from the tar sands to the United States. It was a predictable decision on the part of the president. Oil has been cheap and plentiful for several years now. The United States is now a net exporter of oil, a reversal from several years back. The necessity for this pipeline was simply not there. The real nail in the coffin was the approaching climate change conference coming up in December in Paris, France. How could an American president go to that conference and say with a straight face that he intends to combat climate change and yet say yes to a pipeline that would bring dirty oil from Alberta. It simply would not make sense.

For Canada and the new government, this decision was a foregone conclusion. The new government knew that. What hurts Canada is the label “dirty oil” that the President stuck on the tar sands. It was a needless prick in the soft underbelly of the oil industry which is right now suffering from very low prices. In Alberta thousands of workers have been laid off due to this glut in oil on the market as well as weak demand. To be labelled as well as “dirty oil” is compounding the problem.

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