There’s No Pleasing the Environmentalists

Writing in the Guardian, George Monbiot opines that Electric cars won’t solve our pollution problems – Britain needs a total transport rethink.While his is a British view of the issue, his opinion serves a good cautionary tale.

Could it be true? That this government will bring all sales of petrol and diesel cars to an end by 2030? That it will cancel all rail franchises and replace them with a system that might actually work? Could the UK, for the first time since the internal combustion engine was invented, really be contemplating a rational transport policy? Hold your horses.

Is bringing all sales of gasoline and diesel powered vehicles to an end by 2030 rational transport policy? In a country as small as Great Britain, electrics are certainly more practical than they are here in North America. The same can be said for rail. What will the franchise based private rail system be replaced with? Unions and the former head of rail under the Labour party want to go back to a state operated system, even though that system was also terrible, and since privitization began 25 years ago, ridership had been steadily increasing prior to the pandemic.

A switch to electric cars will reduce pollution. It won’t eliminate it, as a high proportion of the microscopic particles thrown into the air by cars, which are highly damaging to our health, arise from tyres grating on the surface of the road. Tyre wear is also by far the biggest source of microplastics pouring into our rivers and the sea. And when tyres, regardless of the engine that moves them, come to the end of their lives, we still have no means of properly recycling them.

OMFG. How do you get a loss out of the win that complete electrification would give to the environment?

Cars are an environmental hazard long before they leave the showroom. One estimate suggests that the carbon emissions produced in building each one equate to driving it for 150,000km. The rise in electric vehicle sales has created a rush for minerals such as lithium and copper, with devastating impacts on beautiful places. If the aim is greatly to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, and replace those that remain with battery-operated models, then they will be part of the solution. But if, as a forecast by the National Grid proposes, the current fleet is replaced by 35m electric cars, we’ll simply create another environmental disaster.

Yes, manufacturing goods generates emissions. Same can be said for manufacturing gasoline powered vehicles. You need to look at net emissions. If you think zero emissions from anything is the only solution, why not start a nuclear war and wipe out humanity? Lithium can be mined from sea water. Currently, its harvested from salt flats, which few people would call beautiful places. Open pit copper mines are admittedly a blight upon the eyes. What is the alternative? Again, if the environmental outcome from electrics is better overall, why not take the win?

Switching power sources does nothing to address the vast amount of space the car demands, which could otherwise be used for greens, parks, playgrounds and homes. It doesn’t stop cars from carving up community and turning streets into thoroughfares and outdoor life into a mortal hazard. Electric vehicles don’t solve congestion, or the extreme lack of physical activity that contributes to our poor health.

Do people want to give up the freedom of car ownership? If not, who the eff are you to demand they do so? Would politicians and the rich be forced to abandon their vehicles too, or is it rules for thee but not for me?

So far, the government seems to have no interest in systemic change. It still plans to spend £27bn on building even more roads, presumably to accommodate all those new electric cars. An analysis by Transport for Quality of Life suggests that this road-building will cancel out 80% of the carbon savings from a switch to electric over the next 12 years. But everywhere, even in the government’s feted garden villages and garden towns, new developments are being built around the car.

I would assume they are building roads because they know if they don’t, the people will hand them their walking papers. As long as you have a free country and we plebs like the freedom that cars give us, it seems sensible to build with this in mind. Again, emissions from building roads would be incurred with or without electrics. Conflating these two issues is ridiculous.

Rail policy is just as irrational. The construction of HS2, now projected to cost £106bn, has accelerated in the past few months, destroying precious wild places along the way, though its weak business case has almost certainly been destroyed by coronavirus.

And when the pandemic has abated, if the project is abandoned, you will bemoan the government’s lack of progress on improving the rail system. Are you implying that coronavirus lock-downs should be permanent?

If one thing changes permanently as a result of the pandemic, it is likely to be travel. Many people will never return to the office. The great potential of remote technologies, so long untapped, is at last being realised. Having experienced quieter cities with cleaner air, few people wish to return to the filthy past.

This is true for some, but there will be plenty of jobs that are not amenable to remote work.

Like several of the world’s major cities, our capital is being remodelled in response. The London mayor – recognising that, while fewer passengers can use public transport, a switch to cars would cause gridlock and lethal pollution – has set aside road space for cycling and walking. Greater Manchester hopes to build 1,800 miles of protected pedestrian and bicycle routes.

If people do indeed use these routes to the same capacity that they would be used by automobiles, or ideally more, then I agree this is sound practice. Will that be the case once Coronavirus subsides, or will people return to transit and leave your bike lanes empty?

Cycling to work is described by some doctors as “the miracle pill”, massively reducing the chances of early death: if you want to save the NHS, get on your bike. But support from central government is weak and contradictory, and involves a fraction of the money it is spending on new roads. The major impediment to a cycling revolution is the danger of being hit by a car.

Another major impediment is weather. Riding in the run is horrible. In Canada, snow covered roads can make bicycling completely impractical.

Even a switch to bicycles (including electric bikes and scooters) is only part of the answer. Fundamentally, this is not a vehicle problem but an urban design problem. Or rather, it is an urban design problem created by our favoured vehicle. Cars have made everything bigger and further away. Paris, under its mayor Anne Hidalgo, is seeking to reverse this trend, by creating a “15-minute city”, in which districts that have been treated by transport planners as mere portals to somewhere else become self-sufficient communities – each with their own shops, parks, schools and workplaces, within a 15-minute walk of everyone’s home.

Central planning doesn’t work. I think that cities can improve things with regulation and infrastructure improvements, but the state cannot force businesses to relocate. There is a reason that clusters of firms in a single industry happen: synergy. While over time, videoconferencing and other technologies may make the need for business districts less, the state cannot force this change, only help to enable it.

This, I believe, is the radical shift that all towns and cities need. It would transform our sense of belonging, our community life, our health and our prospects of local employment, while greatly reducing pollution, noise and danger. Transport has always been about much more than transport. The way we travel helps to determine the way we live. And at the moment, locked in our metal boxes, we do not live well.

And who will determine whether or not I am allowed to own a vehicle? These metal boxes transformed the world, allowing freedom of movement when the economy in one area became depressed. The state cannot create “local employment”. Taking away people’s freedom to choose where they live is not the solution. I would rather live free than be told what to do by dimwit state bureaucrats, who have shown they are good at only one thing: making sure that they are the ones to benefit when freedoms are taken from the people.

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Series Review: “Absentia” (seasons 1-3)

* * * B

Absentia is a Prime series revolving around FBI agent Emily Byrne (Stana Katic) who, after being abducted and presumed dead, returns after 6 years. All three seasons are good. The first revolves around Emily’s search for her abductor. The second moves on to the backstory of why she was abducted in the first place, and focuses on her son Flynn. The third season’s long arching plot does tie back to the first to, but is more stand alone, involving organ transplants and a weaponized virus.

The plot is clever, and keeps you guessing, with many twists and turns. Emily is well characterized as a damaged and almost psychotically dogged person. Her father is perfectly acted by Paul “Belloc” Freeman. The remaining cast are solid. Emily’s ex-husband, who is also an FBI agent, is annoyingly stupid, but his character remains consistently written, so it works.

If you like action, mystery, and crime dramas, you will probably like Absentia. It has the suspense of 24 without the corniness. Emily Byrne, though a bad ass, is not a Mary Sue. She gets knocked out regularly, and has to use her wits as often as her martial arts. Her partner Cal, added in season 2, is similarly bad ass, and has an interesting back story added in season 3.

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Cultural Marxists Cry When Criticized for Trying to Cancel Pinker

Richard Hanania, writing in Quillette, claims to have learned the Lessons of the Pinker Affair: The Problem with the Academy is False Beliefs, Not Intolerance. While he gets some of it wrong, I largely agree with his conclusions.

Earlier this summer, over 600 signatories signed an open letter to the Linguistic Society of America (LSA), denouncing Steven Pinker for “speaking over genuine grievances and downplaying injustices, frequently by misrepresenting facts, and at the exact moments when Black and Brown people are mobilizing against systemic racism and for crucial changes.” I tweeted a link to the letter, and was glad to see my tweet gain traction as people were able to see the absurdity of the charges for themselves.

600 people who disagreed with Steven Pinker, a mild mannered Liberal, denounce him as a racist, and yet the same idiots say “there’s no cancel culture”.

[A recently published] paper is devoted to correcting what [it’s authors] call Pinker’s misrepresentations and complaining about people being mean to them on social media. The title is “Who Speaks for Us?,” and the tone and content of the article show that the letter writers feel bullied by the responses from me, Pinker, editors at Quillette, and others in the press. They complain that Wikipedia and the media have taken Pinker’s side in the debate, that nobody will publish their op-ed responses, and that the psychologist is represented by a public relations agency while they mostly are not. They attack Pinker for both complaining about cancellation, while seeming to contradict himself when noting that the signers of the letter were so unimportant that he only recognized one person on the list.

Boo hoo!

As Kastner et al. point out, Steven Pinker is more prominent than anyone on the list [of his denouncers]. He proved in the aftermath of the affair that he was more than capable of defending himself. How, then, could he complain about a witch hunt carried out by a group that is mostly made up of graduate students and junior scholars? I received my PhD in 2018, and know that most graduate students do not feel particularly powerful. They have finished a four-year degree and are still making $20,000 a year, with years of additional study and postdocs ahead of them before they can have any hope of finding a job. If and when they do, they will have little control over where they live and make less money than a manager at Walmart. When they attack Steve Pinker, one of the most prominent public intellectuals of our time, grad students and junior scholars can understandably feel like they are actually speaking truth to power.

Libel is libel. Just because I’m able to defend myself against a knife wielding maniac doesn’t mean I shouldn’t complain about having to do so, even if he was a 120 pound weakling.

Of course, such an argument would imply that a low-ranking member of the Cheka with uncertain career prospects would be justified in complaining about a kulak who used his wealth to hire a security guard. The typical young academic—not all of them, but the type that sign letters like this—does not see it this way. To Kastner et al., the LSA is a self-governing organization of the field, meant to create standards for diversity and inclusion. Pinker’s comments are out of step with the mission of the organization, and serve to alienate women and minorities. In this telling, the signers of the letter are not the cancellers. It is Steve Pinker and those outside the academy who have power in this case. As far as I can tell, this argument is correct.

This is simply the cultural Marxist claim that the “oppressed” cannot themselves be oppressors. Absolute rubbish!

The letter signers point out in Kastner et al. that they did not call for Pinker to be fired, only for the LSA to distance itself from him. It seems reasonable to accept that a professional organization can, in the abstract, create standards it expects its members to live up to.

It’s unclear to me whether Pinker actually violated any LSA guidelines. The accusations against him are pretty vague, and in some cases antifactual. Publicly libelling someone is worse than privately calling for an organization to censure them.

In their indictment against Pinker, the 600-plus linguists pointed out that he believes in natural differences between men and women, and the importance of genetics in influencing human behaviour more generally. He doubts that one mass shooting is evidence of patriarchy in the United States, points to statistical evidence showing racism against African-Americans is decreasing, and argues that the attention given to police shootings of black men is disproportionate. Pinker is accused of “dog whistling” by talking about “urban crime/violence,” and “co-opting” the work of a black scholar by giving his own interpretation of the latter’s data.

There are natural differences between men and women, genetics does influence human behaviour, and using anecdotal evidence as “proof” of a conjecture when statistical evidence belies it is nonsensical. Saying that people can’t talk about urban crime and violence because it’s “racist” is bullshit. Saying that Pinker can’t criticize the work of another scientist because of his race is actually racist.

Reading the letter, what I am struck by is not its dismissiveness towards free speech. All they asked was for the LSA to stop listing Pinker as a fellow and media expert. In principle, practically no one disagrees that academics who promote particular positions in public should face consequences for them. Few would argue that a homeopath is entitled to a position in a medical school, or that the work of an astrologist should be promoted by a professional organization of astronomers. While we may draw a bright line against government restrictions on speech, once you recognize flat-Earthers should face professional consequences in academia based on their views, there is no principled position against deplatforming people for other opinions.

There is no principled position against libel? Are you insane?

To the cancellers, racism and sexism are the most fundamental aspects of American society, and humans are all born with equal capabilities. A person who refuses to recognize things so clearly obvious and true can only do so as a result of bad motives. (If you find this strange, consider how you would respond to knowing that someone who believes that vaccines cause autism was working as a professor in medicine.)

Who gives a rat’s ass what the cancellers “believe”. Humans are not all born with equal capabilities. We are not robots or clones of each other. A person who does not recognize things so clearly obvious and true can only do so out of bad motives. If a professor in medicine had seen evidence that vaccines caused autism, I would expect them to believe it, or at least attempt to verify it.

What is it that distinguishes, then, cancellation campaigns that cause outrage (talking about sex differences, IQ, genetics) and those that do not (flat-Earthers, creationists)? As far as I can tell, the targets in the former cases are saying things that are scientifically valid, while those in the latter are saying things that are not. For many thoughtful people this is the hill to die on, not the abstract commitment to platforming all voices, a standard that virtually no one will ever live up to.

One shouldn’t cancel flat-Earthers or creationists either, unless their beliefs are getting in the way of doing their jobs. Ben Carson was simultaneously a creationist and a brain surgeon. If he was the best brain surgeon, he’d have been the one I would want operating on my brain, not the incompetent atheist.

As Tyler Cowen wrote in response to the Harper’s letter of earlier this year, in deciding who to invite to sign the document, “the organizers had to ‘restrict free speech’ in a manner not altogether different than what they are objecting to.” They were therefore not objecting to restrictions on speech when they complained about “cancel culture,” but something else.

Bullshit. Anyone who wasn’t invited to sign and wanted to could simply write their own letter. It would only be cancel culture if someone involved in the group writing the letter was kicked out.

The correct response to the cancellers is not simply to say that they should respect free speech. Rather, one must say to them that you are attacking people for stating things which are true, while you are stating things which are false. It does not matter which side of the debate is more prominent, or which side has more minorities and women. The identity politics view of the world fundamentally misunderstands reality, and people who respect truth should be on the side of whoever stands against it, whether a grad student is attacking a famous intellectual, or vice versa.


This is not for their benefit, but for that of everyone else. We’ll likely never reach the signers of the LSA letter. Someone who does not believe that there are any innate differences between boys and girls is too disconnected from reality to ever give a fair hearing to an argument in favor of the free marketplace of ideas. A few set out on the long path towards an academic career do so because they have a passion for understanding how the world works. In many fields, the vast majority do not, and are enthusiastic participants in and shapers of the culture that has been created in the universities, as it is their compensation for years of low pay and uncertain career prospects.

And these we call the parasites of academia.

While certain fields and disciplines continue to seek truth, it is simply time we accepted that many do not, and are committed first and foremost to a false view of the world. Instead of engaging with such people, what those in the press and outside the academy should do is focus on marginalizing the unhealthy parts of the academy that have been conquered by what Wesley Yang calls the “successor ideology.” Kastner et al.’s self-pitying paper reads as if it was written by an isolated community that could never have imagined that the outside world might intrude on their internal discussions, and ultimately laugh at and set aside their most cherished beliefs. They feel overmatched by the response, and realize they have been discredited outside their narrow circle.

Again, I agree. The state should not be spending our tax dollars funding the “unhealthy parts of the academy”. As usual, any time the government puts its thumb on the scale, the result is more money spent to deliver worse results.

Maybe this affair will lead some signers of the letter to form doubts, prompting them to inject new ideas into their fields, or leave graduate school altogether for the private sector. But for those who do not, these insular academic cultures will need to be discredited, rather than reasoned with. Large swaths of the academy may deserve to be ignored or even mocked, but in other fields, in think tanks and newspapers, and on blogs, social media, and websites like Quillette, real debate and the search for truth continue.

Though again I agree, I don’t think it’s sufficient to ignore or mock the antiscientific cultural Marxists who have infiltrated academia. When an older relative that you love has cancer, you should do everything you can to make sure they become cancer free, not merely laugh at them for smoking.

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Covid-19 and Climate Change Are Not Comparable

Aaron Wherry writes for CBC news that the climate crisis is still a massive threat — even in the middle of a pandemic.

The profound and urgent threat of climate change still hangs over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government — quite literally this week, after smoke from the wildfires in California and Oregon spread across the continent, casting a dull haze across the skies. Questions are being asked now about how quickly or enthusiastically the Liberals should turn their focus back to that challenge. There is, after all, the small matter of an ongoing health emergency to tackle.

Climate change is a problem that government can do little to address. The pandemic is an urgent problem that the government can take clear actions to help us solve.

But the unfolding climate emergency will not get any easier to deal with over time — and the Liberals might regret missing any available opportunities to make meaningful progress toward the mid-century goal of net-zero emissions.

Climate change is not an emergency, nor is it even a crisis. It is a slowly evolving problem. I agree that government shouldn’t ignore it, but it is not as urgent as the pandemic.

Although it’s not clear if the government’s actual plans for the next year have changed (or if it’s merely the official messaging about those plans that has been adjusted), it has shifted its publicly stated focus conspicuously to the immediate crisis posed by COVID-19. “[Controlling the spread of COVID-19] is our government’s 100 per cent priority,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Tuesday. “It is what we are overwhelmingly focused on.”

And this is absolutely as it should be.

While a moment could be emerging when political circumstance and necessity align to create a rare opportunity for real change, it would be hard for any government to do much of anything if COVID-19 is allowed to run roughshod. COVID-19 is also (understandably) the central preoccupation of most Canadians: according to a survey by Abacus Data, 45 per cent of Canadians still believe the pandemic will get worse before it gets better.

While 45% of Canadians are probably wrong (the second and subsequent waves are likely to be smaller and less deadly than the first), the pandemic is still a pressing issue. Until we can release all government restrictions on the economy, doing everything possible to mitigate their ill effects should be the government’s top priority.

Parents nervously sending their children back to school might not be terribly interested right now in hearing about the better world that might emerge in the wake of COVID-19 — and they might be very inclined to punish any government that seems to take its eye off the immediate threat.

You don’t start planning renovations when the house is on fire.

As much as combating climate change and building a clean economy can still seem like optional pursuits — things that would be nice to have rather than necessary — Liberals might worry about seeming to have let “green” interests hijack the moment.

Might? They surely would. People care about their lives and the lives of their children. Covid-19 is an immediate threat. Climate change is a slow process. Humans are terrible at dealing with causes and effects that are separated in time.

Outside government, talk of a green recovery began soon after the pandemic’s arrival. But it would be a mistake to dismiss the idea as a passing fad; while Abacus polled fear about the pandemic, it also found that concern about climate change remains high, particularly among Liberal, NDP, Bloc Québécois and Green voters.

With all the resources we are diverting to the pandemic response, there will be even less to devote toward programs for a “green economy”.

While Gerald Butts, a former senior adviser to Trudeau, counselled progressive policy wonks on Monday to mind the real pandemic-related anxieties of voters, he also was part of a panel of experts that laid out a plan Wednesday calling for $55 billion in green spending over the next five years, largely focused on retrofitting buildings, expanding the use of zero-emission vehicles and accelerating the development of clean energy.

The government can’t expand the use of zero-emission vehicles without spending money we don’t have on subsidies to the electric vehicle industry. This actually gives the industry less incentive to reduce the cost of their products. The government can’t accelerate the development of clean energy without spending money we don’t have on subsidies to the energy industry. Subsidizing the retrofitting of buildings makes slightly more sense, since retrofits that don’t offer a quick return on investment are unlikely to be funded by property managers and home owners. Why not stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and use the money saved to subsidize retrofitting and public transit, which is much greener than electric vehicles?

But the task force also pointed out that such investments would be in line with plans being pursued by Germany, France and the United Kingdom. If Joe Biden is elected president of the United States in November, his plans could include as much as $2.7 trillion in green spending.

Just because your friends jump off a bridge doesn’t mean you should. We should enact policies because they are useful, not because everyone else is doing it.

Not all of the problems COVID-19 has exposed or created can be solved by green spending — and it can’t be said that this government has demonstrated a peerless ability to manage multiple major priorities at once.

Which problems caused by the pandemic can be solved by “green” spending? This government has not demonstrated much ability to manage and major priority.

But a government interested in the long-term goal of a clean economy should still be able to find opportunities to do that while simultaneously addressing the short-term needs of a battered economy. The Liberals themselves did that in May when they offered funding to clean up abandoned oil wells and asked large companies applying for pandemic-related loans to provide climate-risk disclosure.

Tying pandemic relief loans to climate risk disclosure add meaningless paperwork to companies that are already in trouble. Spending money on cleaning up abandoned oil wells at a time when the government is already going into serious debt for the pandemic response seems irresponsible.

It also shouldn’t be forgotten that the Liberals already had a list of green things to do before the pandemic arrived. The platform that Trudeau ran on in the fall of 2019 promised new support for retrofits and zero-emission vehicles, a tax cut for companies that develop clean technology, climate change accountability legislation and new flood-mapping (not to mention that plan to plant two billion new trees).

It also shouldn’t be forgotten that the Liberals are a minority government. Should they piss off enough people, their opposition might get together and defeat them.

A global pandemic has complicated everyone’s plans for 2020. But Parliament should return next week with the ability to resume something resembling normal proceedings. And not even a global pandemic can fully excuse a government from doing important work.

Given that the second wave has hit, maybe it will.

As if to reassure the proponents of a green recovery that something is in the works, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson was one of the four ministers selected to stand behind Trudeau on Wednesday when this week’s cabinet retreat ended. But when Trudeau and Freeland did talk about a green agenda, it was in terms of jobs.

Makes sense. When a bunch of voters are unemployed because you forced their employers to close their business, its probably a good idea to focus on jobs.

An emphasis on jobs could ground the green aspect of the government’s agenda in the most immediate and practical concerns of both nervous families and fretful economists. It also would serve as a reminder that a green recovery isn’t about hugging trees — it’s about the future welfare and prosperity of Canadians.

Fretfrul economists? You mean those who are rightly concerned about the massive deficit spending that is occurring?

A report released by the Institute for Climate Choices today makes the case that reducing emissions and growing the economy should not be treated as mutually exclusive goals — and that Canada’s work of building a clean economy has only begun. If a government wants to build long-term growth, a transition to a low-carbon economy seems like a decent place to start.

We aren’t looking to grow the economy right now, merely to begin to reopen it, and that should be treated as a much higher priority that reducing emissions. If people can’t afford to put food on the table or pay the rent, they aren’t going to care about a rebate on an electric car.

No one can dispute the fact that other issues are now demanding the government’s attention: child care, long-term care, inequality, precarious work, a wounded economy and the ongoing challenge of living with the threat of COVID-19. No government would be easily forgiven for ignoring such things.

Correct. If they do, or are even perceived to be doing so, the Liberals will pay for it in the next election.

But until Canada is on a clear path to net-zero emissions, nearly every federal government can be asked whether it has fully seized every chance to combat the climate crisis — a crisis that was worth worrying about before COVID-19 arrived and will still be worth worrying about long after the virus has faded.

With fossil fuels being the only economic way to heat our buildings, how do we suppose that we will get to net-zero emissions? Is this a reasonable target? Is there is enough hydro, solar, and wind power that is even close to cost effective to provide all the power for heating, cooling, and transport that we need? Certainly not with the technologies we have today. If we want to use green electricity for heating, will we consider building nuclear power plants? If you support green energy and not nuclear power, you are a hypocrite.

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Will Liberals Stand Up to the Cultural Marxists?

A month ago in Quillette, Yoram Hazony wrote a critique of Liberalism titled The Challenge of Marxism that is well worth reading as a Conservative viewpoint on the battle between the neoliberal centrists and the so called progressives. Today, Cathy Young responded with Reports of Liberalism’s Death—A Reply to Yoram Hazony.

Hazony—author of the 2018 book The Virtue of Nationalism, and of last year’s anti-liberal manifesto “Conservative Democracy”—correctly identifies some Marxist elements in today’s “social justice” movement: the crude “oppressor/oppressed” framework employed to understand all human relations; the notion that both oppressors and oppressed suffer from “false consciousness” insofar as they remain unaware of the real power structures shaping their lives; and the belief in “the revolutionary reconstitution of society” followed by the disappearance of class conflicts. He also offers some useful thoughts on what makes Marxist ideology so dangerous: the reductionist view of social dynamics, and the lack of any clear idea of how utopia is to be achieved after the underclass has seized power.

While I found little new in it, Hazony’s article was a good read.

Hazony’s real target is not Marxism at all, but liberalism: “It is often said that liberalism and Marxism are ‘opposites,’ with liberalism committed to freeing the individual from coercion by the state and Marxism endorsing unlimited coercion in pursuit of a reconstituted society. But what if it turned out that liberalism has a tendency to give way and transfer power to Marxists within a few decades? Far from being the opposite of Marxism, liberalism would merely be a gateway to Marxism.”

This is bullshit. Hazony targets both Marxism and those who, in his opinion, are enabling it to take power.

In Hazony’s view, this process is the result of liberalism’s nature. “Enlightenment liberalism,” he writes, “is a rationalist system built on the premise that human beings are, by nature, free and equal,” and these “self-evident” truths are rooted in nature and reason rather than “the particular national or religious traditions of our time and place.” Consequently, liberalism will always be vulnerable to the rational claim that any violation of equality is an injustice. Reductio ad absurdum, a male-bodied person who merely identifies as a woman can demand a place on a women’s athletic team (since arguments to the contrary would have to appeal to traditional concepts of “woman,” “man,” and fair competition) and anyone can demand admission to Princeton University (since arguments to the contrary would have to appeal to traditional concepts of private property, free association, and merit).

Here, I part company with Hazony to a degree, in that a genetic male is not a genetic male because of “tradition”, though Young’s use of the ridiculous term “male bodied person” speaks to the true weakness of her position. Private property and free association are similarly more than traditions. Denial of the most basic property right, right to self ownership, is an admission to belief that slavery is not a priori immoral. Like religious Conservatives the world over, Hazony denies that morality can exist without a basis in religion.

It is true that many modern-day liberals reflexively bow before any demand or claim couched in the language of equality, just as many Cold War-era liberals felt compelled to concede that Soviet communism, however repugnant in practice, nevertheless pursued noble egalitarian ideals. But is this mindset endemic to “Enlightenment liberalism” or a distortion of it?

Here, Young invokes the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. If no true liberal would kowtow to cultural Marxists, how is it that they have been given the keys to our universities? How is it that they have taken over Canada’s Liberal party, and that the UK’s Liberal Democrats have wasted away as Corbin’s neomarxist Labour party grew to become the opposition to the Conservatives. How is it that progressives have succeeded in pulling the American Democrats so far to the left that Trump, a “Reagan Democrat”, is now seen as the reincarnation of Adolph Hitler?

With his mocking reference to “self-evident” truths, Hazony takes a swipe at the liberal ideal articulated in the Declaration of Independence, but neglects to acknowledge that it champions liberty as well as equality. It’s hardly news that these two tenets of Enlightenment liberalism often conflict, but those conflicts are resolvable and can even be healthy if the two elements balance one another. (To some extent, conflicting forces are essential to a dynamic culture.) It is only when the importance of liberty is diminished and equality comes to be understood as equality of outcomes—not in its original Jeffersonian sense of fundamental rights or of basic moral worth—that liberalism is in danger of succumbing to the radical egalitarian or “Marxist” temptation.

I agree, and I think Hazony does as well. The problem is that Liberals have allowed equality to be redefined as equity. Today, the English department of the University of Chicago announced that they are only interested in Ph.D. students who specialize in black studies. This is not equality of opportunity.

It’s also worth noting that Christian millenarianism (a belief in the imminent fundamental transformation of society, often based on principles of total equality and abolition of property) arose centuries before the Enlightenment. Medieval millenarian sects such as the Joachimites and the Dulcinians in the 13th and 14th centuries have been described as adherents of “religious communism”; so have Reformation-era movements such as the Hutterites and the radical Anabaptists. (The German Anabaptist preacher and theologian Thomas Müntzer, executed in 1525 for leading a peasant rebellion, was hailed as a proto-communist fighter for social justice by Friedrich Engels and honored accordingly in the Soviet Union and especially in East Germany, where his image graced a banknote.) According to Hazony’s logic, this implies that Christianity too has a fatal flaw that makes it susceptible to Marxist rot. Likewise Judaism, the ancient offshoots of which included the Essenes, a thriving sect in Judea around the start of the Common Era described in the 1908 Jewish Encyclopedia as practicing “communism.”

Pure deflection here. Hazony isn’t talking about ancient movements, he is talking about the here and now.

Meanwhile, Enlightenment liberalism, far from hurtling down a slippery slope to egalitarian derangement as soon as it won, took a very long time to extend equality of basic rights to the female half of the population and to many racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. Attachment to “particular traditions” led to the perpetuation of what most of us—Hazony surely included—agree were heinous wrongs, such as the enslavement of blacks in the United States and the colonial possessions of many European countries. To a large extent, it is awareness of these wrongs has made many modern-day liberals skittish about rejecting any claim of injustice that comes wrapped in the mantle of “civil rights” and “equality.”

Allowing cultural Marxists to destroy your culture because bad things happened before you were born is weakness, and things have gone far down the slippery slope indeed. It is one of the reasons that Trump was elected, though dissatisfaction with the neoliberal status quo was likely a far greater factor.

Many of Hazony’s other arguments are bold leaps and unsubstantiated assertions. For instance, he writes: “In a liberal society, Marxist criticism brings many liberals to progressively abandon the conceptions of freedom and equality with which they set out, and to adopt new conceptions proposed by Marxists. But the reverse movement—of Marxists toward liberalism—seems terribly weak in comparison.”

I agree with Hazony that cultural Marxism has grown at the expense of Liberalism, and that movement in the other direction has been less significant, though there are signs of a growing counter culture of unabashed “classical liberals” like Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, Carl Benjamin, Sam Harris, Brett Weinstein, and others.

The “Great Awokening” of recent years certainly looks a lot like a “liberal flight” toward deeply illiberal—and possibly quasi-Marxist—far-Left views. But historically, there is no evidence that this movement is unidirectional; liberals’ romance with communism collapsed in the second half of the 20th century, and American and European liberalism had undergone a massive shift to the center by the century’s last decade. Even in recent years, the backlash against “political correctness” has hardly been negligible. It’s a little too early to declare defeat.

I agree that it’s to early to declare Liberalism’s defeat. My problem is that last time, it took the Gulags of Russia and the Killing Fields of Cambodia before the average person could see the true dangers of the Communist ideology. How much suffering, destruction, and violence will we go through this time before Liberals say “enough” and stand up to the authoritarian left?

Even more baffling is Hazony’s apparent conviction that reliance on “reason alone” leads to the conclusion that a person with an intact male physique who self-identifies as female should be allowed to participate in athletic competitions as a woman (or that the definition of “woman” is culturally bound). Radical transgender ideologues would no doubt be pleased to hear that; but they are certainly not confident that reason will win converts to their position—they have tried to shut down debate on such issues on the grounds that the debate itself is intolerably injurious to the well-being of trans people.

I agree that reason does not lead to progressivism. Hazony’s point is that by espousing cultural relativism, enlightenment Liberals opened the door to cultural Marxists by allowing them to coopt the definitions of words. The word “equality” is a great example. Are two people equal if they are given the same opportunities, or if they are made equal by the state? Hazony’s solution is to anchor meaning in tradition. Neither absolute relativism nor blind allegiance to tradition is sound.

Does Hazony not know that reason is out and “lived experience” is in? Or that the “social justice” Left most certainly does not regard Enlightenment liberalism as a friendly ideology? Claims that the Enlightenment was a font of racism and that liberal values such as reason and individual autonomy are a part of “white male culture” are staples of progressive rhetoric.

I think he does know. What he’s pointing out is that Liberals (by and large) allow this kind of rhetoric to go unchallenged.

Is it possible to find commonalities between liberalism and the “social justice” progressivism that Hazony and other critics classify as latter-day Marxism? Of course; among other things, modern liberalism strongly supports racial and gender equality, embraces secularism, and opposes traditional restrictions on the sexual behavior of consenting adults. But this hardly proves that liberalism is a “gateway to Marxism.”

The proof is in the pudding. Will Liberals stand up to the cultural Marxists? If not, they have indeed been their gateway to power.

In the West, conservative critiques of the modern bourgeois lifestyle with its soulless consumerism, hedonism, and hollow careerism often overlap substantially with leftist ones. For that matter, Hazony himself explicitly embraces elements of Marxism, namely the idea that liberals who defend liberal principles are privilege-blinkered oppressors unable to see the harm their preferred policies are causing to the oppressed. In his version of this argument, the oppressive principles are secular public education, freedom of expression that extends to pornography, and free trade. The oppressed, meanwhile, are religious believers, (female) adult performers, and the working class.

Criticizing Liberalism does not make one a Marxist. It is true that neoliberals are oppressive. The demand that the state educate all people and indoctrinate them with the principles of secular ideology is particularly irksome, as the school system is one of the first institutions to be coopted by ideologues. Even in the early 70’s, Canadian public schools were overrun by unionists, and we spent more time in Social Studies on the union movement than we did on the enlightenment, which I can’t recall being given more than a passing mention.

A mere three decades after the liberal order’s post-Cold War triumph, discontent with liberalism is at a high point on both the Left and the Right. But it will be a while before we are able to judge whether this is a profound and fatal crisis resulting from liberalism’s inherent flaws (such as inability to correct systemic inequities, or to provide meaning and community) or a temporary ailment resulting from a convergence of bad decisions and circumstances (the war in Iraq, the 2008 financial collapse, the surge in migration). It is also possible that Western democracies are simply adjusting to the new realities of modern liberalism, including the decline of traditional religions, vastly expanded personal choices (thanks both to rapidly rising affluence and to changing societal attitudes), automation, and unprecedented access to information and public platforms.

Agreed. Liberalism is on the ropes, but it’s not over until it’s over. [Young goes on to point out how bad things were in the past before Liberalism.]

This does not mean, of course, that we should champion liberal-progressive monoculturalism. Hazony is correct when he argues that in order to survive, liberalism needs conservatism to keep it balanced and grounded. (If nothing else, I am increasingly convinced that the survival of liberal society depends on an education that imparts knowledge of history—by definition a conservative enterprise.)

What about science? Progressives are at least as anti-science as Conservatives. A scientific, rational world view should be championed. Liberals can’t do this if they bend the knee to “progressives” who claim that science is “white privilege”. Only a culture that deals with the world as it is will prevail in the long term.

The problem is that when Hazony asks contemporary liberals to join a “pro-democracy alliance with conservatives” in order to hold off the neo-Marxist barbarians at the gate, he’s not talking about the conservatism of Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher—an essentially liberal conservatism, the aim of which is to conserve classically liberal values. In America, he’s talking about the degraded national populism of Donald Trump, which is fundamentally un-conservative in a cultural sense (Trump is an agent of chaos who shares the Left’s scorn for “respectability politics” and stokes deranged conspiracy theories). In Europe, it’s the creeping authoritarianism of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.

Politics are not respectable. Both neoliberals and neoconservatives are deeply corrupt. These are not deranged conspiracy theories, any more than the notion that the progressive left are cultural Marxists is, even though they claim it is. I see no evidence that Hazony is a Trumpist or supports Orban. The idea that the centre left and the centre right should come together to defeat the far left doesn’t seem outlandish, just unlikely.

A little more than 40 years ago, in 1978, a very Hazony-like broadside against the Enlightenment and liberalism was delivered by the late Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the great Russian writer, thinker, and chronicler of the Gulag. In his commencement speech at Harvard University, Solzhenitsyn attacked the Enlightenment and the Renaissance for paving the way to communism by promulgating “despiritualized humanism” and “freedom from religion.” Not unlike Hazony, Solzhenitsyn warned that liberalism was helpless to resist the forward march of Marxist radicalism—communism, in this case—because it was compelled by its nature to be sympathetic to communist ideology.

Solzhenitsyn echoed Nietzche, in that he saw the death of religion as a loss of the foundations of society. Nietzche saw this as an opportunity to evolve humanity, whereas Solzhenitsyn, being a Russian who had suffered terribly at the hands of the Soviets, saw it fatalistically. I agree with Nietzche that we have an opportunity to become something greater than we were when Christendom held sway over Europe. Yet Solzhenitsyn was right to caution us to be vigilant against the return of Communism. Simplistic ideas always remain attractive to fools, no matter how many times they’ve been shown to fail.

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Is Lab Grown Meat the Future?

Documentary filmmaker Liz Marshall is about to release a documentary, Meat the Future, on how new food science grows meat from cells without the need to breed, raise and slaughter animals.

The film, from the documentary Channel, tells an exclusive story about an enormous new idea that offers hope to the world. It is about the pioneers behind the birth of the “cell-based meat” industry: a food science that grows real meat from animal cells without the need to breed, raise and slaughter animals. I chronicled this story over three and a half years, between 2016 and 2019.

Sounds interesting. I keep up to date with the latest news on this subject, but the news tends to be shallow.

Prior to making feature-length documentaries, I spent a decade traveling the globe making films for broadcasters and for non-governmental organizations about some of the most pressing social justice issues of our time. I filmed in war zones, in sweatshops and across sub-Saharan Africa bearing witness to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. I felt the weight of responsibility in filming people’s real stories with intimate access, and I felt despair and helplessness when I considered the magnitude of social and economic injustice. I realized that our planet — the one home that unites us all — was in peril and that, as a privileged Canadian filmmaker, I could make a difference.

This makes me less interested. Someone focused on social justice is unlikely to do this subject, which equal parts bioscience and economics, justice.

My first feature documentary, Water on the Table (2010), was about the fight to protect water against the levers of privatization. It led me to make my 2013 animal rights film, The Ghosts in Our Machine, which focused on the invisibility of billions of animals that are exploited for food, fashion, entertainment and biomedical research. Ghosts was seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers across the globe, on every continent, and continues to be used as a consciousness-raising tool, gently removing people’s blinders to this complex moral issue.

I agree with having government prevent private companies from destroying natural water supplies. This is one of the few areas where government regulation can be good: prevention of a “tragedy of the commons”. While I don’t think using animals for food or biomedical research is immoral, I am personally against their unnecessary exploitation.

Through my work, my eyes were opened fully to the need for transformation, so I wanted my next feature documentary to be laser-focused on a big, viable solution. In 2016, a light bulb went off when I came across the novel and commercial development of cell-based meat, also referred to as “clean meat,” “cultivated meat” and “cultured meat.”

Seeing lab grown meat primarily as a solution to the ‘problem’ of humans eating animals is focusing on one of its least compelling attributes.

I was certain about making Meat the Future after meeting Dr. Uma Valeti, a Mayo Clinic–trained cardiologist and the visionary CEO and co-founder of Memphis Meats, the world’s first cell-based meat company. “This has been something that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid, thinking about the impact on human lives and animal lives, and the ills of food production,” says Valeti in the film.

Call me cynical, but I would expect the CEO of a lab grown meat company to use these arguments to push their company and products. I guess I’ll have to watch the documentary to judge his sincerity for myself.

Food trends come and go, but meat has been a staple of human civilization for millennia. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations notes that worldwide meat production is projected to double by 2050. According to the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the world’s population is expected to expand to 9.8 billion by that time.

Finally, we come to one of the issues that lab grown meat may help us to address. Eating meat is not a “food trend”. Consumption of animal protein is what allowed homonids to evolve the large brains that enabled speech, tool making, and everything that makes us human. The burden that farmed meat puts upon our limited resources is a huge issue. Sustainable alternatives will be needed, at least in the near term.

Since the post-war era, suppliers have innovated production to be more efficient, allowing them to produce meat faster, at larger scale and with greater output. But this has been at the expense of the billions of animals that suffer under cruel conditions, enduring repetitive breeding and gestation, the physical impacts of  growth hormones, confinement, long transport and slaughter. Kill-floor workers suffer psychological and physical stress, too, so it’s not an ideal situation for people either.

As I said, farming animals for meat is not immoral. I would prefer it was done in as humane a ways as possible. An alternative whose only benefit is that farm animals won’t be involved in it’s production is not going to fly. There must be other more compelling reasons to turn from the status quo.

Animal agriculture also takes up roughly 45 per cent of the global land surface area, and research shows its direct impact on climate change: by 2013, the FAO noted, 14.5 per cent of human-induced global greenhouse gas emissions could be attributed to the livestock sector.

This is a somewhat more compelling argument, assuming that lab grown meat has significantly lower emissions than farming. What would drive enough adoption to make a difference?

According to research published by the Good Food Institute, when compared to conventional beef at scale, cell-based beef has the potential to reduce land use by more than 95 per cent, climate change emissions by 74 to 87 per cent, and nutrient pollution (a type of water pollution) by 94 per cent.

The land use argument is significant in places like Brazil, where deforestation is occurring. In the long term, returning grazing land to forested parkland would also reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide. If these numbers for emissions reductions are accurate, they are also significant.

It is life changing, deeply fulfilling and often exhausting to make feature documentaries. I am reflective about our human evolution. We need solutions, urgently — transformation for people, for animals and for our planet. We do not know when cultivated  meat will be in grocery stores, available at scale, but its journey into the world and revolutionary promise — as featured in Meat the Future — is a story that I hope opens hearts and minds to what is possible.

While I’m happy this documentary was made, I would like to see more about the cost and health benefits of lab grown meat. These are the most compelling arguments that will drive it’s adoption, IMO.

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Endgame: Global Heating Used to Push Global Taxation

If Global Warming is truly a crisis, why does Robin Russell-Jones of the Guardian worry Will the Cop26 climate conference be a national embarrassment for Britain? If embarrassment is what you’re most worried about, you don’t seem very serious about the impacts of global warming. This is a shaming tactic being used to push the weak minded into supporting a new globalist power structure. Get your tinfoil hat!

If the government doesn’t get its act together soon, then Cop26, the UN climate change conference due to be held in Glasgow in November next year, could become a national humiliation for the UK and an environmental catastrophe for the rest of humanity.

So which is it? Humiliation is an emotion, and therefore can’t hurt you. An environmental catastrophe clearly can. To put these two on par makes you look like a fool.

One likes to imagine that the UK government is taking the climate emergency seriously, but that illusion has been shattered by the appointment of the former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott as a UK trade adviser. Abbott has described global heating as “absolute crap”. One of his first actions after becoming prime minister of Australia was to abolish his own climate change advisory council, followed by a decision to scrap Australia’s carbon tax.

Tony Abbott is a politician. Who cares what his opinion of climate science is? Does he give good advice on trade? As a trade advisor, that’s what he needs to do.

Global heating is starting to run out of control. At a time when the need for concerted international action is greater than ever, the international community is failing to reduce its carbon emissions. The Kyoto protocol was designed to curb global emissions of all greenhouse gases, but annual emissions have actually risen by more than 60% globally compared with 1990, the baseline year for the protocol. More carbon has been emitted as a result of human activity since 1990 than in all previous yearssince the start of the industrial revolution. By any standards, the Kyoto protocol has proven a spectacular failure, but the fault cannot be laid entirely at the door of the UN.

Continually changing the term you use for global warming–first global warming, then climate change, then climate crisis, then climate emergency, and now global heating–makes you sound like an alarmist. Stick to the facts, or people will (rightly in this case) assume your trading in propaganda. Getting countries to take concrete actions against their own economic interests is hard. I don’t blame the UN for the failure of the Kyoto protocol.

The main obstacles to progress have been the reluctance of fossil-fuel-dependent nations to change their business model, and the cynical strategy of disinformation launched by the fossil fuel industry, and secretly funded free-market thinktanks, notably the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

We are all dependent on fossil fuels. Electricity can be generated without carbon dioxide emissions, though today, much of it would have to be generated by nuclear fission. Much of our industry and transport rely on fossil fuels. Over time, factories can be retrofitted with electrical equipment and gasoline and diesel powered vehicles replaced with electrics, but that will take time, and currently, electric alternatives are not cost effective, meaning they aren’t affordable to all of us.

Cop26 is probably our last opportunity to turn this situation around, but it won’t happen without a set of game-changing proposals from the organisers. Probably the most critical measure would be to introduce an effective global carbon tax. At the moment we have carbon trading schemes, but these are just a market mechanism for purchasing the right to emit carbon. It is cheaper for industry to pay for its emissions than to invest in greener technologies.

A UN conference is not going to turn anything around. We don’t have any global taxes, and thank God for that. The federal, provincial, and municipal taxes I pay are bad enough. I see zero chance of any agreement on a global carbon tax, given that many countries don’t have national carbon taxes. Industry will invest in greener technologies when they offer a long term benefit. Government incentives can encourage this to a minor extent, but throwing tax money at corporations hardly seems like a good idea. We need innovations like electrified trucks that actually offer cost savings to the industries that adopt them.

The most fair and equitable method of introducing a carbon tax is to set up a global carbon incentive fund, and to levy the tax on countries whose per capita emissions of carbon dioxide are above the global average. The fund would then disperse grants to countries whose per capita emissions are below the global average. The beauty of this scheme is that it penalises the richer nations for their profligate lifestyles, and it incentivises developing nations to avoid fossil fuels and to develop their energy infrastructure using low-carbon technologies.

There is no global body that can tax countries. If Canada’s Liberal government were to agree to being taxed by the UN, I suspect the Conservatives would run on pulling us out of such an agreement, and would probably win with the help of this issue. Government cannot ‘solve’ global warming with taxes.

For this strategy to work the price needs to be set at the right level initially, and then escalated rapidly. The UN has determined that carbon emissions have to fall by 7.6% each year over the coming decade if we are to have any chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C. The current carbon price on the European emissions trading system is just under €30 per tonne of carbon dioxide, so one proposal would be to set the starting price at $30, and then double the price every two years.

Since the biggest emitters (China, India, Russia, and the US) are not part of the EU, the EU’s trading system has little impact on emissions. I don’t expect one of these countries to sign up if the others don’t as well. Good luck with that.

The calculation for the amount of carbon needs to be made on the basis of consumption, not production. Many countries export a large volume of manufactured goods, so their territorial emissions are high, whereas the end consumer is based in another country. China, India and Russia, which together represent 40% of all carbon emissions, would benefit from using consumer-based emissions, whereas the US would lose out, but not as much as would the UK.

Proposing a tax on consumption means that the US will have more incentive to manufacture at home. Since the US is already pulling out of the Paris Accord, you had better hope that the Democrats win the presidency in November if you want any chance of the US signing on to such a tax. Demanding that the US pay a global carbon tax would be a huge gift to Trump, or to the Republicans in the midterms in 2022.

At $30 per tonne, the UK’s contribution would be more than three times larger: $7bn versus $2bn, reflecting the demise of the UK’s manufacturing base. However this is still less than half of the annual budget of the former Department for International Development. In addition, the UK started the industrial revolution and would have been responsible for virtually 100% of global carbon emissions in 1750. It is therefore entirely appropriate for the UK to lead the world in demanding a consumption-based carbon tax.

Is there support for massive new taxes among the UK Conservatives and their massive majority?

Calculating the figures should be straightforward, as the Global Carbon Project already produces annual consumption estimates. However, it does have limitations. The Global Carbon Project does not include other greenhouse gas emissions, and more importantly it does not estimate carbon dioxide emitted by changes in land use, such as deforestation, crop-burning, ploughing and so on. So there needs to be a supplementary tax that penalises environmentally irresponsible governments such as Brazil’s, which seems to regard trashing the planet as a political accolade.

And Bolsinaro will tell the UN to stick it where the sun don’t shine, and this could help his chances of reelection.

The solutions are clear, but as host nation, Britain is in desperate need of a leader with vision and determination. The question is: can anybody identify anyone in Boris Johnson’s cabinet who might have the political will to carry this forward?

‘Clear’ my ass. I certainly hope that for Britain’s sake that the Conservatives nip support for global taxation in the bud. I have little faith that Canada’s Liberals won’t sign up to such a plan, though I think it would hurt their already shaky popularity. If Biden beats Trump, which is far from a sure thing despite what the media would have you believe, I could see him supporting this plan as well. If Trump is reelected, the Americans are unlikely to even participate in the conference.

This article is pure globalist propaganda. I don’t believe its objective is anything to do with the “global heating climate crisis”; it has everything to do with shaming countries into supporting a new globalist tax regime. If you are one of the seeming minority of sane people who see that government is largely waste, you can only shake your head when you see people advocating for more of it, especially when their argument is that not to do so would be embarrassing. Making such an argument is pathetic.

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Self Help’s Achilles Heal: Finding Purpose

Legions of self help authors have written books and articles promising to help you reach your dreams. Among this plethora of material–positive thinking, planning, time management, networking, negotiating, and more–there is plenty of useful advice on how to reach them, but precious little to help you determine what they are.

In discussing leadership, Jim Collins talks about the difference between managing and leading. The workers are marching through the jungle. The managers are encouraging them, deciding which path to take, and sharpening the machetes. The leader is the one who climbs a tree and yells out “We’re going the wrong way.” The vast bulk of self help literature tells you how to sharpen your tools, but not what you should do with them.

Take Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. His first two habits are “be proactive” and “begin with the end in mind”. The obvious questions these raise are “be proactive about what?”, and “what should the end be?” No amount of “first things first” will help if you’re going in the wrong direction. As Collins says about his comparison companies, they were very efficient at running around in the fog.

I’ve read a lot of self help literature, from Covey to Wayne Dyer, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, and dozens more. Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way may offer a good path for some, though I found daily writing didn’t help me. Yet the best advice I’ve come across once more comes from Collins.

The first bit of insight comes from his book Built to Last, which talks about how the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company overcame the fact that their garnet mine was of such low quality that they couldn’t even produce grinding wheels to become 3M, one of the world’s great companies. Collins describes their strategy as one of branching and pruning. 3M didn’t set out to invent masking tape or post it notes. Rather, the company created a culture of innovation and experimentation.

Another insight comes from Collin’s fourth book, Great by Choice, where he explains the process of controlled innovation followed by companies like Microsoft. They make a lot of small, limited investments, and only progress the ones that succeed. I try to follow this practice myself. For example, I created a new website on When it wasn’t successful, I rolled the content back into this blog. The entire experiment only cost me some time, and I still have all the content I developed, so little was actually wasted.

Some other practices that I’ve found worthwhile are reading and watching videos on Youtube, primarily to get ideas about things that interest me. Garage sales are a great source of cheap books. If you buy a book on Thai Chi for a dollar and find it isn’t your thing, you can just donate it to the local charity shop. Another great source of meaning for me is in memories. For example, I read the Lord of the Rings at a very young age, and fantasy and mythology have remained deep interests. By searching back through memories, I occasionally recall passing interests that I can now explore more fully.

If you’re looking for meaning, try to stay open to new possibilities. Don’t get obsessed with mastering the first thing you find that piques your interest. As Jim Collins says, “try lots of stuff; keep what works”. There’s a reason that the meaning of life is an eternal question. Finding something meaningful enough to last a lifetime is hard. Don’t give up on it.

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How to Rebuild a Plywood Deck

This summer’s big DIY project has been rebuilding my second story back deck. It’s a smallish (12′ x 8′) plywood deck that is partially covered on two sides by the eaves of the house and the laundry room. I’ve had to replace the part that’s exposed to the elements every five to ten years. This time around, parts of the plywood nearer the house had rotted out, so I decided to replace more than I had done in previous years.

The first step was to remove the old deck. First, I pried up all the old flashing along the outer edges with a pry bar and a hammer, then pulled the flashing out. Next, I decided that it would be too much work to dig out the decking where it met the house, so I cut the ends off the new plywood sheets and 90″, to leave a 6″ strip of old decking under the original cant strip. This is lazy, but works because the wood along the side of the house is protected by the eaves.

By laying the plywood sheets on top of the old deck, I was able to trace the cut edge of each sheet onto the old decking, which I then cut with my skillsaw, with the depth set to 3/4″ to just go through the decking but not cut the underlying joists. I then went through the labourious process of finding all the screws in the old decking, removing any that could be removed with a drill and a Robertson screwdriver bit, and cutting any that couldn’t be removed with a cutoff wheel in my Dremel.

When this was done, I ripped out the old decking (two full width sheets and one 16″ strip) and laid down the new deck. On the inner edge along the house, I cut to fit and installed sections of 2″x6″ under the joints between the 90″ sections of new plywood and the 6″ strip of original decking along the edge of the house. This wasn’t needed on the long inside edge of the 16″ strip, because it lined up on the centre of a joist. I screwed it all down with 2 1/2″ Robertson construction screws and a drill with a Robertson screwdriver bit.

Finally, I nailed on new flashing around the outer edge, unscrewing the pickets on the railing where needed to slip the new flashing in behind them. Per instructions in the Ducan TufDek product I decided on, I cut the flashing to butt up the joints without overlapping. I used stainless steel ring nails rather than the galvanized roofing nails I’ve used in the past.

Next, I had to finish the new deck’s surface. I decided to try the Ducan TufDek system, purchased from Home Depot. This 4 part system is relatively expensive, but should be far more durable than a simple rubberized deck coating, which is what I’ve used in the past. The first step is to seal all edges, joints between sheets, and cracks and knot holes with the TufDek joint compound. After edges and joints were filled, I laid polyester mesh tape over the joints and spread another layer of joint compound over them.

The polyester tape has some stretch, so its hard to keep flat, and if it bunches or folds, the joint won’t be smooth. It helps to pull it a bit taught after sticking down one end of the joint. Work carefully so as not to pull on the tape too much. I ended up needing twice as much joint compound as suggested by Ducan. After the joint compound had dried, I applied the primer with a brush and paint roller.

The next step was to apply the texture. I covered all edges and seams with a brush, then applied the texture to the rest as recommended, with a squeegee. This method really didn’t work for me, leaving thin patches, deep gouges, and lumps were drips of the texture had splattered off the end of the squeegee. I’d recommend ignoring Ducan’s advice and applying the texture with a paint roller. In my case, I took off the worst of the lumps with a plane, then added two more coats of texture using only a brush. Again, I needed twice as much texture as Ducan recommended. Finally, I applied a single coat of colour.

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Global Warming Increases Number of Intense Hurricanes

For years, there have been claims that global warming increased the chances of intense (category 3 or higher) hurricanes. Until recently, the NOAA had found no significant correlation between global temperature and intense hurricane frequency in the Atlantic, and only a very small correlated increase in the Pacific. That changes with a new study, Global increase in major tropical cyclone exceedance probability over the past four decades.

This study used an additional decade of satellite data not used in previous studies. The authors found that there was an increase in incidence of intense hurricanes of between 2% and 15% per decade. This means that the number of severe hurricanes has increased by about 36% over the last 40 years. Supposing there were 2 severe hurricanes in 1980, that would mean likely there would be 3 this year.

The abstract of the study doesn’t tell whether it found a correlation between global temperatures and the intensity of storms, but logically, one would expect that the reason there are more intense storms is because on average, all storms are more intense than they were in the past.

The study doesn’t address what percentage of the increase in global temperatures is natural, and what part of it is man made. Nor does it predict what will happen in the future, though it seems likely that the trend will continue, unless the world’s climate were to significantly change, which would likely be even more damaging than the hurricanes.

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