Sunday, June 4, 2017
After what has surely been the dreariest and wettest winter/spring on record, an early start to summer appeared with the Queen Victoria Day weekend. The sun was shining, the outdoor patios & beaches were crowded and everyone had forgotten about the provincial election which had resulted in no clear winner. A brief respite from the unending trio of Vancouver woes; real estate prices, traffic congestion, and pipelines.
After a week of sunshine the rain returned and so did the three headed hydra. The Liberals attempt to dismiss the monster as a figment of people's imaginations didn't work but the NDP/Green plan to slay the beast wasn't all that credible either. The NIMBYism of certain Vancouver neighbourhoods wasn't going to allow for denser, low cost housing solutions, and neither was the absence of a speculator's tax, so people were fleeing to the suburbs and getting caught up in oil fuelled traffic jams on obsolete roads & bridges that nobody wants to pay for upgrading or replacing.
Just as in the olden days of previous gold rushes, the speculators and people with money continue to pour into the city hoping to cash in on a slice of paradise. An entire house of cards economy is built upon ever increasing layers of loans and finance to keep everything in motion. Luxury shops spring up everywhere to take money from the rich for overpriced, trinkets, baubles, and articles of clothing while elsewhere merchants for the regular folks struggle to stay in business with ever increasing rents and competition from the Internet.
Oblivious to the more dangerous threat of oil being delivered by rail car as opposed to pipelines, the city`s futurists plan for an economy driven by video game programming, craft breweries, and installing made in China solar panels, with people cycling everywhere. Meanwhile people living outside the lower mainland wonder what they will do for a living once all the oil & gas exploration, mining, and logging has been shut down.
The history of B.C. has always been one of boom and bust, which is what happens when the lure of easy money becomes stronger than the desire to be grounded in reality. In a land of super abundance it always seems like the good times will never end. But for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and the question we should be asking ourselves now is what happens after the goldrush?
Sunday, April 23, 2017
For the second year in a row Vancouver's annual 4/20 event was held at Sunset Beach and police estimated the crowd at more than 35,000 which was even bigger than last year's. 4/20 (which stands for April 20th) is, for anyone who didn't already know, the world recognized day of celebration for the planet's dope smokers. Throughout the day the Vancouver locals make their way to the designated rally point and spend the day skipping out (if they work or go to school) lighting up, and waiting until 4:20 precisely when everyone exhales at the same time and blows a cloud of marijuana smoke into the atmosphere. In Vancouver this has been going on for 22 years.
Getting together to smoke some pot at 4:20 p.m. has been allegedly happening since 1971 when some high school students in San Francisco coined the term. In past years the event was held in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery, which was formerly the city's courthouse, in a none too subtle dig at the forces of law and order which, until this year, had deemed cannabis to be an illegal substance. As with alcohol, cocaine, heroin, or any other substance governments try to ban under the hypocritical guise of morality, it only serves to drive it underground and into the hands of criminals who thrive on the profits. With a government that has finally seen the light, Canadians will soon be free to get drunk or stoned with impunity.
On the 3rd/4th Sunday of every April a very different sort of get together happens and that is the Vancouver Sun Run. For 33 years now thousands of people have been getting together for a 10 km run/walk through the downtown to promote health, fitness and community spirit and to support amateur athletics. It has grown to be one of the world's largest race events that even Vancouver's occasional rain can't suppress.
What the two events do have in common however is group think. Not for these folks the quiet contemplation of life while getting a buzz or leaving footprints in the sand/snow where nobody has gone before. Yes it's all in good fun but it's also another example of sheep-like behaviour where collective actions overrule individual thinking. Too often this has been the cause of most world problems and not enough of the solutions when everyone so desperately wants to be part of the "in crowd".
Sunday, March 19, 2017
|Nelson back in English Bay - photo by Junie Quiroga|
|Crowded Vancouver Aquatic Centre|
|Vancouver Aquatic Centre from the inside - photo by Junie Quiroga|
|Vancouver Aquatic Centre from the outside|
|Crystal Pool from the inside|
|Crystal Pool from the outside|
|English Bay - photo by Junie Quiroga|
Sunday, March 5, 2017
|Laughing Men - photo by Junie Quiroga|
|Crying Men - photo by Junie Quiroga|
|Snow covered bikes - photo by Junie Quiroga|
|Angry birds - photo by Junie Quiroga|
|Birds searching for good grass - photo by Junie Quiroga|
|Geese on English Bay in the winter - photo by Junie Quiroga|
Sunday, January 8, 2017
Some cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong, New York, and Chicago have so many interesting buildings it's hard to know where to begin. There can also be a monument like the Eiffel Tower for Paris, the Statue of Liberty for New York, Christ the Redeemer in Rio, or Big Ben in London that defines a city.
Nearby ruins and/or ancient buildings are often what defines a city like the Parthenon in Athens, the Colosseum in Rome, the Forbidden City in Bejing, the Giza Pyramids of Cairo, or the Aztec Pyramids of the Sun & Moon in Teotihuacan/Mexico City. There's also those that ended up a little further away like the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Mayan pyramid of Chichen Itza, the Inca ruins of Machu Pichu, and the Great Wall of China.
There are also all the religious monuments such as Ankgor Wat, the St Peter's Basillica in Rome/Vatican, Mecca, Stonehenge, or St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow,
But none of these cities has the natural backdrop that makes Vancouver so unique. Rio and Hong Kong may have their forested hills and magnificent beaches but neither they or any other city has the snowy mountains on their doorstep in addition to the ocean that allows for residents to ski in the morning and sail or swim in the afternoon. It's what makes Vancouver unique and simply the most beautiful city on earth.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
|Kinder Morgan pipeline protesters along Vancouver's Cambie Street|
One way out of this moral dilemma is to start taxing carbon (which is what the oil & gas industry is all about) and there are currently two models to choose from. The first is a simple per tonne price that is currently set at $30.00/tonne in B.C. or $0.07 cents per litre of gas and will soon to be copied by most of the other provinces. The second is a cap and trade plan that is dependant on a complicated emissions trading market full of regulations and loopholes. Not surprisingly this is the system favoured by Ontario and Quebec. In theory both could work but in practise nobody wants to pay and, regardless, oil from Alberta still needs to get to market which it will by either rail or pipeline.
|Persistent (crude) oil vs non-persistent (refined) oil|
|Chevron refinery in Burnaby|
There are those who would like to see a tanker ban along the entire north coast from the top of Vancouver Island to the Alaska border which would make it impossible for tankers to leave Prince Rupert or Kitimat. Not very practical for the various LNG proposals under discussion, as well as David Black's refinery plan, which then puts even more pressure on Vancouver. As anyone can see, the route from Vancouver to the open ocean is pretty straightforward (unlike the Douglas Channel route from Kitimat) and, when you combine that with a tug escort the entire way, it's basically impossible for anything to go wrong and why there won't ever be a tanker ban here.
|Freighters in English Bay - photo by Junie Quiroga|
Sunday, November 27, 2016
|Aurora and Qila|
|Beluga pool at Vancouver Aquarium|
|Belugas in Churchill|
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Of course as any dinosaur fan would know the earth was much warmer in the old days (colder as well) and, during the Jurassic period, some 150 million years ago, most of the earth was covered in a lush rain forest. Times were certainly changing in those days with the single land mass known as Pangaea splitting into Laurasia in the north and Gondwana in the south. There were no polar ice caps at either end and ships would have been free to transit the north without worrying about encountering any icebergs. Of course the passengers wouldn't have seen any polar bears either.
|Continental formations prior to the Jurassic period|
|Nelson & the dinosaurs at the ROM|
Whether the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid hitting the earth, or the volcanic eruptions that were creating havoc everywhere, they certainly wouldn't have survived either the ice age that preceded them or the last one that came along afterwards and only ended 11,000 years ago. The earth's climate has been undergoing some very severe fluctuations over the ages and, as the sun continues to brighten, it will probably continue to do so.
Since the last ice age the planet has gone through half a dozen periods of warming and cooling and, if Franklin would have timed things better, he too might have been able to get through. During the.Medieval "warm period" Vikings under Eric the Red came to Greenland and established settlements that lasted until the 15th century and the onset of the "little ice age". Trees and various herbaceous plants flourished there and the Norsemen were even able to grow barley.and raise livestock. They shared the land with the Dorset who were the original inhabitants and then later the Thule Inuit who settled all of what is now Alaska and Northern Canada.
Until the start of the "little ice age" the waters of the high arctic were free of pack ice in the summer months which made it possible to hunt whales, particularly the bowhead whale, a slow swimming animal that sleeps near the water's surface. Fish, other sea mammals and caribou were also important food sources for the Thule but it was the bowhead whale whose summer range expanded from the Bering Sea to the Beaufort Sea and the Canadian Archipelago that really provided the most bang for the buck. With global cooling this all changed and the Thule communities were broken up as people were forced further south and had to rely on other hunting strategies.
Commercial whaling in the 19th century nearly wiped out the bowhead whale population but, since 1972 when all commercial whaling was outlawed, the species has since recovered and the Inuit are now permitted to have a limited hunt as part of their traditional culture. Melting ice may or may not make things more difficult for the polar bear but it might also help revive the Inuit way of life and improve things for other creatures that cruise the arctic waters. Slightly warmer waters may also improve fish stocks such as cod and herring.
The dead dinosaurs and vegetation lying buried in the Canadian soil are what formed our oil sands, and have since been identified as one of the world's largest petroleum reserves. With the retreat of the glaciers and the end of the ice age, these oil sands are now able to be exploited and they form the basis of our oil & gas industry. In addition to being able to navigate our northern waters there's another potential upside to global warming for Canadians as this could make more of the country available for agriculture and habitation. As the world's second largest country but also having one of the lowest population densities, we certainly have plenty of room for all those fleeing the tropics.
For all the talk about global warming we need to remember that for 9 months of the year the area around the Northwest Passage is frozen solid. Birds fly south, bears hibernate and everyone else does their best to just try and keep warm. It's dark all day and night and the only way to get around is by ski-do, snowshoe or airplane. But come summertime things change radically as things heat up, the ice starts to melt and it becomes the land of the midnight sun. With the open water beckoning it's hot fun in the summertime once again and a chance for others to check out life in the true north.
|Norse ruins in Greenland|
|Revival of the bowhead whale hunt for Inuit people|
|Polar bear on an ice flow off Baffin Island|
|Air & sea temperatures in Cambridge Bay|