6. The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist

Sep-07-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Sticky fingers, indeed! We cover the theft, and the question of why Quebec has a strategic maple syrup reserve. Then Redditor Magnus_Maximus reveals to Americans some sappy truthiness about Canada and maple syrup. There’s more of his sweet humour after the link.

* Canada’s Emergency Maple Syrup Reserve Has Been Stolen The Grope and Flail

About 10 million pounds of syrup was stored at the site, at a value of more than $30-million. Anne-Marie Granger Godbout, executive director of the federation, said the organization is still trying to determine how much is missing and declined to offer an estimate. But a spokesman from the Sureté du Québec said the loss was significant.

Ms. Granger Godbout said the theft shouldn’t put the global supply of maple syrup at risk, but warned it could allow the thief to undercut legitimate producers.  Quebec produces between 70 and 80 per cent of the world’s maple syrup, with the bulk of export sales taking place in the United States, according to the federation.

* Why Does Canada Have a Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve?   Jordan Weissmann  The Atlantic

On Friday, news broke that thieves had stolen $30 million dollars worth of Quebec’s strategic maple syrup reserves. Much as the United States keeps a stock of extra oil buried in underground salt caverns to use in case of a geopolitical emergency, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers has been managing warehouses full of surplus sweetener since 2000. The crooks seem to have made off with more than a quarter of the province’s backup supply. (I personally suspect these guys.) 

Why exactly does Canada need to stockpile syrup? To find out, I called up Michael Farrell, an extension associate at Cornell University’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and an expert in all things maple.“We think of it as a little cottage industry here in the states,” he told me. “But up there [syrup is] a big industry that’s responsible for a lot of people’s livelihoods.” 

* Magnus_Maximus comments on Maple Syrup, and Canada Reddit

This is not as big a deal as the media is making it out to be. First, it was not THE Strategic Reserve, it was a Strategic Reserve depot, and one of 33 scattered through out the country, not counting the provincial reserves, and in the case of bigger cities and towns, municipal reserves. This probably represents maybe 3-5% of the total national maple syrup reserves. 

Second, the reserves are just that, reserves. They’re only needed if there were a maple syrup shortage or other dire national emergency, and neither is the case right now. In my house we have a standard 400 gallon maple syrup tank (with hot and cold syrup taps in the kitchen, bedrooms and living room), and it’s more than ¾ full right now. I called my local distribution company, and they assured my that my bi-monthly deliveries won’t be affected. Even if we missed a delivery (which isn’t going to happen), just what I have left at home will last four or five weeks easy, and longer if I ration waffles. 

This is a non-story, being over hyped by the pancake lobby. You’re all tools of Big Flapjack. 

smpx: Maybe on the East coast, but over here in Vancouver syrup prices have hit an all time high, even with syrup conservationists doing house-to-house inspections. There was a 30-minute line at the goodwill syrup distribution at the church, which is unprecedented. BCSyrup (our provincial distributor) just announced a 3% increase of regular subscriptions over the next 4 years, and families with more than one dogsled are expected to see a 6% increase. Liberals are going to use this as their centre policy in the next election because people are losing faith in the Maple market. Times are tough, man. We need proper reform.

Magnus_Maximus: Once the national syrup pipeline was finished, I thought you Westerners would finally stop complaining, but leave it to government mismanagement to still screw things up. Quite frankly, I think the entire system of inter-provincial syrup equalization transfers is a farce, and provinces that can’t produce enough syrup on their own should just buy it on the open market.

You’re right, reform is long overdue. Politicians campaign on a syrup for everyone ticket, 45% of Canada’s National Debt is from syrup, people still buy it on the black market and things never change. Sigh.

Tyrien: It bothers me that I cannot tell if this is sarcasm or not.

Magnus_Maximus: As a Canadian, I’m sorry that you’re bothered. Sorry.

4. Our Home on Native Land

Jul-20-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: A collection of pieces underlining that, as Bruce Cockburn sings in Stolen Land, “From Tierra del Fuego to Ungava Bay/  The history of betrayal continues to today”.

* Our Ghost Dance Kathleen Peine Counterpunch

It was said that if the dance was done with extreme precision and adherence to ritual, the oppression would stop. Wild game would return, and a new age would ensue….This began in 1890, just a few years after the General Allotment or Dawes Act. This legislation was viewed as a benevolent method to force Native Americans into the world of progress.  But, as was to be expected, benevolent became malevolent in almost record time.

Native American lands were taken up by the US government and split into distinct lots, based on ownership, not communal living as was the norm for those cultures. Poor land was provided to the recipients, and an enforced hierarchy based upon social status was placed on people who generally didn’t think that way. Men were designated as heads of households, placing European designations on male-female relationships. Before, there had more of a distinct, but equal footing. Oh, and they needed to take on Anglicized names. For paperwork clarification and expediency, of course.

…The fight of course, was never fair. The microbes fought on the behalf of hierarchy and misery as many places fell victim before the first physical European contact in their area even occurred. All it took was for one member to return to the tribe after a brush with those microbes. Often the areas were conveniently cleared prior to arrival. Many generations of Europeans had lived in filthy conditions crowded near domesticated animals, and this created the vicious zoonotic diseases able to remove large swaths of life at will. Those Native Americans with amazing immune systems who survived were left to bear witness to the annihilation of their cultures. 

* Charles C. Mann, 1491 Atlantic Monthly

Before it became the New World, the Western Hemisphere was vastly more populous and sophisticated than has been thought—an altogether more salubrious place to live at the time than, say, Europe. New evidence of both the extent of the population and its agricultural advancement leads to a remarkable conjecture: the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact.

* A Pile Of American Bison Skulls Waiting To Be Ground For Fertilizer, 1870S Wikipedia

* Indian Land for sale 1911 (via boingboing)

July 13th, 2012 :: Year 9, Issue 26

Jul-13-2012 | Comments (1)

1. Canada vs. Stephen Harper

Bird’s Eye: McLuhan once said of Richard Nixon that he looked like “the railway lawyer who signs leases that are not in the best interests of the folks in the little town.” Stephen Harper has that look, and it’s being seen, both abroad and at home. Here are some current views of the Dear Leader, as he’s seen abroad.

* Canada’s International Reputation Slipping Under Stephen Harper Yahoo News

In 2010, Stephen Harper received accolades for persuading his G8 peers to embrace his initiative on maternal health and his government was lauded for its handling of the economy during the worldwide economic slowdown.

Two years later, the situation is distinctly different. At this week’s G20 summit in Mexico, Canada’s delegation — led by Harper and finance minister Jim Flaherty — is but a bit player with little or no influence.

Long-time Globe and Mail columnist Jeffery Simpson recently wrote about Canada’s diminishing international reputation.“Canada under this government failed to win a seat on the UN Security Council, a stinging rebuke. Canada’s once-sterling reputation for caring about Africa is over. Canada’s reputation in the Arab world is mud, because although ministers never criticize anything Israel does, they never miss a chance to lecture the Palestinians,” he wrote in a recent column titled ‘Canada is back on the world stage? Hardly.’

* Harper Assaults Environment The Guardian

But Canada’s pristine image — and more importantly its environment — is not likely to recover from what critics across the political spectrum say is an unprecedented assault by the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper on environmental regulation, oversight, and scientific research. Harper, who came to power in 2006 unapologetic for once describing the Kyoto climate accords as “essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations,” has steadily been weakening environmental enforcement, monitoring, and research, while at the same time boosting controversial tar sands development, backing major pipeline construction, and increasing energy industry subsidies.

Critics say that assault reached a crescendo in recent weeks with the passage in Parliament of an omnibus budget bill known as C-38, which guts or significantly weakens rules relating to fisheries protection, environmental assessment, endangered species, and national parks. Under this bill, the criteria that currently trigger environmental assessments, for example, have been eliminated, leaving such reviews more to the discretion of the Minister of the Environment and other political appointees. The Fisheries Act will no longer be focused on habitat protection; instead, it will restrict itself largely to the commercial aspects of resource harvesting. Ocean dumping rules will also be changed to allow the Minister of the Environment to make decisions on permitting. And Parks Canada will no longer have to conduct environmental audits or review management plans every ten years. In addition, budgets cuts will eliminate the jobs of hundreds of scientists working for various government departments that focus on the environment and wildlife.

* Canadian Politics: Time To Flip  The Economist (Thanks Murray)

This strategy of polarising the electorate, playing to core supporters and vilifying opponents has been effective. But there are signs that it may be wearing thin. In recent provincial elections in Alberta and Ontario parties linked to Mr Harper lost elections they expected to win.

There are also tentative signs that the opposition is becoming more credible. In last year’s election the centre-left New Democrats (NDP) displaced the Liberals as the official opposition, winning 103 seats including 59 of the 75 in Quebec. That unexpected success was mainly because of the appeal of Jack Layton, the NDP’s genial leader, who died months after the vote. His replacement, Thomas Mulcair, has started well, imposing party discipline, dropping leftist talk and moving towards the centre. He has called for a balanced approach to developing the tar sands, taking more note of environmental worries. He kept the party quiet during four months of student demonstrations against rises in tuition fees in Quebec—a silence that seemed to flummox the Conservative attack machine.

* “What do we want? SCIENCE! When do we want it? AFTER PEER REVIEW!” Guardian

The scientists of Canada are revolting. They marched through Ottawa in their thousands on Tuesday, a sea of white coats making its way up Parliament Hill, carrying tombstones and a coffin to symbolise the “death of evidence”, chanting “What do we want? SCIENCE! When do we want it? After peer review!”

Scientists seem to be forever complaining they’re marginalised so, it might be tempting to roll your eyes. When a group from the UK drove a coffin down Westminster last May they were described as “childish”. This recent Canadian action might look similar, but it was far from childish.

They weren’t simply sticking up for their pay cheques, they were sticking up for the right to ask difficult questions and provide uncomfortable knowledge, in particular when it comes to the Arctic. They were sticking up for the things they research as well as the right to keep doing their research. They were sticking up for the planet. The Canadian scientists who spoke to the Guardian were keen to stress this is less about research budgets versus the rest of the economy, and more simply evidence versus ideology.

2. The Arctic Gold Rush

Jun-22-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Here’s a cynical theory: Stephen Harper does believe in anthropogenic global warming, but thinks it will help the corporations who support the Conservatives. Why? Because it will make the tarsands more viable, open up new fishing banks, new acreage for farms, and a shipping route through Canadian waters. So what it it kills millions of people in other countries? What is clear is that the arctic nations are pushing full steam ahead on exploiting the newly revealed wealth of the Arctic. We start with War Tard’s summary, and follow up with the Guardian. In the distance, yet another doomed group of Canadian environmental scientists (now there’s an endangered species!) warns Harper of the coming enviropocalypse, as they get pushed off the funding cliff onto the rocks below.

Life in the Arctic, These Days

* New Cold War  War Tard

The major powers like the US, China and Russia are still waiting for the Arctic ice to hurry up and melt. And that process is moving along at a pace that makes the average environmentalist want to sign ten more petitions amid Discovery Channel commercial breaks and bong hits. The Arctic is said to have up to 25% of the world’s oil and gas sitting like Inca gold under all that pesky ice and, with current global oil production maxed out and prices rising fast, the North Pole sure has the potential to be proxy resource war central in the increasingly tense 21st century.

In 2007, the Russians planted a titanium flag on the seabed under the polar ice which was a pretty ballsy move ripped straight out of the 16th century when European powers had a habit of sailing to foreign shores and planting flags on valuable shit they didn’t own. That flag move was designed by Putin to tell Canada, the US, Denmark and Norway (who all claim a piece of the Arctic action) that the Russian claim theoretically extends all the way to the Pole. Naturally, this pissed off everyone and sets the stage for a Cold War Part II later on this century.

Another fun thing about the melting ice is the profitable new shipping routes that are opening up. The famed “Northeast Passage” is a handy shortcut from Europe to Asia that bypasses the Suez Canal and becomes ice-free every summer. Lately, that shipping lane along the northern Russian coast is becoming increasingly viable even in winter. The Russians like this because it would mean cheaper export routes for Russian oil tankers to burgeoning energy hungry soon-to-be superpower, China. The Russians recently exported 60,000 tons of oil products to China via northern Siberia on the vessel, Perseverance. A trial voyage for sure, but a whole lot cheaper than building a pipeline to China.

* Oil Rush In The Arctic Gambles With Nature And Diplomacy  The Guardian

The small group of international scientists, politicians and business leaders are using the Arctic research station as a makeshift conference centre for urgent talks on how to fast-forward a low carbon economy. They have come to the snowy archipelago of Svalbard, a few hundred miles from the North Pole, to hear the latest bad news on melting glaciers and climate change.

“Nowhere are the implications of global warming more visible than in the Arctic. Ecosystems as well as livelihoods are presently undergoing rapid change. In spite of all the evidence provided by science, most governments in the world have failed to take the necessary action,” warns Anders Wijkman, the Swedish MEP who is chairman of this special symposium.

After hearing predictions that 30% of species could be extinct and a fifth of Bangladesh underwater before 2100, he urges the removal of “all subsidies on fossil fuels” and a much stronger commitment to renewable power in measures to build a sustainable future.

Yet outside the room, in the grey Arctic waters, an oil rush looms which threatens more carbon emissions and the risk to the natural world of an accident similar to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

* Doomed Panel Sends Harper “Reality Check” On Global Warming Montreal Gazette

Members of a federal advisory panel, who recently learned their organization was on the chopping block, are sending Prime Minister Stephen Harper a “reality check” on the economic dangers of his global warming policies.

In a new report released Wednesday, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy said Canada’s provinces were doing the heavy-lifting toward the country’s efforts to fight global warming while the federal government would pay a “high-cost” to meet Harper’s targets.“Because 2020 is only eight years away, many of the emission reductions required to meet the target are high-cost reductions,” said the report. “Delays to a co-ordinated approach with abatement coming from all provinces and all sectors, will only increase the final costs of achieving Canadian climate goals and targets.”

The report, entitled Reality Check: The state of climate progress in Canada, was actually requested last year by Environment Minister Peter Kent, who recently decided to eliminate the round table and its annual budget of $5 million.

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