Thursday, November 27, 2014

Civil Disobedience -- a Civic Responsibility?

Now that more than 100 people have been arrested on Burnaby Mountain, questions are being raised about how many of those arrests may have been illegitimate. The BC Civil Liberties Association has posed this question, basing it on possibly inaccurate boundaries of the area under injunction -- an area Kinder Morgan is challenging in court today. The company is hoping to expand the area that's blockaded and to extend the days they'll be allowed to do their exploratory surgery in the forest.

As far as I'm concerned, all the arrests should be tossed. It seems to me that the protesters (whom I prefer to call protectors) are only performing their duty as citizens, defending an area that's a City of Burnaby park, one that's been deemed a conservation area at that.

The history of civil disobedience is lengthy, and instances of it span the globe. It has made the difference in many situations where injustice needed to be revealed (think, for one, the work of Gandhi).

Here's an article that will remind you of some important examples of civil disobedience in action. I especially love Richard Seymour's (author of the piece) concluding statement about civil disobedience: "It is the way in which progress is made."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Protectors of the Mountain: Standing up for all of us

Yesterday the arrests began on Burnaby Mountain. Kinder Morgan's injunction against the protest by the protectors was enforced by the RCMP, many of whom looked less than enthusiastic about the job they were required to do.

KM's lawsuit against some of the protectors certainly contains some absurdities. Consider this line from the Dark Mountain Manifesto, a document worth reading: "It is hard, today, to imagine that the word of a poet was once feared by a king." Yet, despite the fact that the 'king' is now a corporate 'king' rather than a person, that is exactly what has happened. A poet is amongst those being charged, and his poetry has been offered as evidence against him.

These photos were taken earlier in the week, when the weather was much kinder (that's 'kinder' as in 'gentler' not as in the name of Richard Kinder, the person who established the Kinder Morgan corporate entity), before the injunction was being fully enforced.

Today, even in the rain -- and bearing in mind the ongoing arrests -- people have gathered, this despite the road being blocked and the trek to the site being a steep uphill climb.

Fortunately, the City of Burnaby's mayor and Council are continuing with their own injunction in their ongoing attempts to protect the conservation area on Burnaby Mountain, where surveying and potential drilling are to occur. Machinery arrived on the mountain earlier today. I can only hope there is some way of blocking the kind of devastation that occurred earlier this month at the Blaauw Eco-Forest. When I head up there again next week, I will see for myself.

In the meantime, I can only pay attention to news reports and, I admit it, worty.

I fear that if Burnaby's court action does not result in protecting that city's bylaws (the ones that have been contravened by KM's cutting of trees), the laws of all cities and municipalities in Canada will experience the same fate -- that their bylaws (especially conservation ones) will be meaningless. Can you say (without choking) "pipelines in Stanley Park"?

Friday, November 14, 2014

A black day for green

This is the forest that was saved a couple of years back, in large part through efforts of the Han Shan Project. Since that time, the land was bought from Langley Township and put aside as a site to be protected in perpetuity, a place that would serve as a living laboratory for students from Trinity Western University.

As you step onto the path leading into the forest, you're greeted by a sign offering guidelines for using the preserve. Among these is the note that the path is designated for use by people, that vehicles aren't allowed -- even horses aren't permitted.

Last weekend, on the pretext of the Township needing to build a fence, at least one bulldozer was allowed to break these rules. It cut what's been called a  'swath' through the forest. But its track seems much broader than could have been necessary. It extends for at least a kilometre, and doesn't seem to make any sense in terms of being a fence-line -- I couldn't tell what it might have been protecting -- and from what.

I'm not sure who dropped the ball as far being in charge of stewardship, but someone sure did.Tomorrow is election day for municipalities in B.C. and somehow I suspect that voters in Langley Township have no idea the extent of the havoc that's been wreaked in lands that were supposedly protected. The current mayor, running for re-election, is using the taglines, "responsible leadership." But where, I ask, was the leadership required to look after this eco-forest?

I'm dejected, not only by the destruction I witnessed in the Fort Langley forest, but by today's decision from our provincial Supreme Court granting an injunction to Kinder-Morgan. The ruling means that the protesters -- who've been trying to protect parkland on Burnaby Mountain -- must break camp by Monday afternoon. So much for the right to protest, so much for protecting space that's been decreed as a conservation area.

It's hard to hold out much in the way of optimism, especially where, as if to top things off, the Keystone Pipeline Project passed today.

If you go out to the woods today, you're in for a big surprise. Those words are from a song that once seemed innocuous, The Teddy Bears' Picnic. Although I remember a surprisingly freaky version of that song, nothing could match the horror of the surprise I was in for today when I walked in the woods. If you care to see the short video I took while walking in the forest today, here it is.


Monday, November 10, 2014

First of the season?

I took this photo nearly a month ago, figuring it was likely the first of many more I would see over the course of this winter. Between fears of Ebola and the far less exotic (and easier to deal with) seasonal outbreaks of flu, this may well be the winter for the wearing of surgical masks.

But then yesterday I saw Interstellar and saw the same masks. To my surprise, characters in the film were using them for a completely different reason – dust! The future depicted is one where farmlands have again turned into a Dust Bowl. Crops have failed (can you say ‘Monsanto’?) and the Earth’s population faces starvation. Bleak, eh.

So, maybe my concerns over seeing a woman on a bus wearing a surgical mask shouldn’t be so great. After all, buses are likely a veritable Petri dish for sharing germs – breathing in each other’s faces, hanging on to straps (who knows who might have held on before you, and what they might have been infected with?), so maybe she had a good idea.

Not exactly wanting to go out on a limb (not even a big one) with any predictions, but I’m wondering whether we’ll see more of these masks blossoming before spring. 

Monday, November 03, 2014


Here in British Columbia, it's just about time for municipal elections, so signs have been popping up faster than autumn mushrooms.

When I saw this one, I couldn't help wonder whether the sign-raisers realized what they'd done by placing the sign where they did.

The man in the portrait has been our mayor in the past. I, for one, was not in agreement with many of the changes that came to our city during his tenure.

Now he's back, full of promises, which I'm not sure I can believe. High pressure gas line, indeed.

I like to think the sign-raisers did this intentionally, giving us not only a chuckle, but perhaps a bit of truth-in-advertising.

And, no matter who you might be voting for, be sure that on the 15th, you get out there and make your X.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A shirt named Dave

I was going to write about a shirt named Dave. Or else about an author named Kate. Or about a book called A Surrealist Alphabet. Or maybe even about Mashed Poetics, which just celebrated the Tragically Hip.

But all of that seemed less important after yesterday's miserable news -- that the CBC had fired Jian Ghomeshi. Huh?? He's almost single-handedly revitalized our public broadcaster, bringing it -- more than anyone else -- to an audience of people under the age of 50.

The Giller Awards have already joined the bandwagon, announcing Ghomeshi won't be hosting their upcoming award ceremony. And I think now of 'Canada Reads' -- yet another institution that's bound to trickle away into lassitude without the vigour Jian injected into it.

I'm reminded of Good Morning, Vietnam and its story of how a powerful entity -- in that case, the U.S. military -- got rid of Adrian Cronauer, a DJ who was actually connecting with listeners.

I'm also reminded of Pierre Elliott Trudeau's famous statement, presented (somewhat ironically, I suppose, on the CBC archive), "The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation." Nor, I contend, does the CBC.

When I was little, I had my own terrifying way of understanding the term 'getting fired'. I thought you got set on fire -- and worried that might some day happen to my dad.

This weekend's firing might as well be that literal, though I don't think it's going to be Jian going up in flames. With this action it seems more that the CBC has set light to its own self-destructing fuse. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Poetry, poetry, poetry!

Last week -- in my life at least -- was a week filled with poetry. Tuesday meant a little (and I mean little, only a ten-minute gig) reading at The Paper Hound, a bookstore that serves as a great reminder of what a real bookstore is. Heck, any bookstore with Tintin living there qualifies as special in my mind. But while I was there, people came in asking for everything from books on calligraphy to books en francais. Amazingly, the owner/proprietor was able to help -- a far cry from the often bored-looking, unengaged worker-slaves at the dreaded chain stores.

Then on Wednesday, I attended SFU's Lunch Poem series, with features Tim Bowling and Donato Mancini. I suppose two poets couldn't have been more different in their work. And that may have very well been what created such a great dynamic. I'm still playing around with ideas buried in notes I scribbled at the event -- and better than my night-time notes, these are even readable.

If three days in a row isn't too lucky for words, Thursday was an evening where ten poets performed, but in pairs. Each pairing had prepared some kind of collaborative work for the event. And each was totally different from the others.

Jude Neale sang (in full operatic soprano) part of the work she and Bonnie Nish presented. The poet who'd written a piece about the exclamation mark was 'answered' by a poem about the question mark. Another actually danced her accompaniment to a poem. And all of this in a brand-new branch of
Vancouver Public Library, tucked into a building housing a supermarket and condominiums.

Another pairing explored similarities and differences in where/when they were born and who they'd become. My partner and I experimented by writing a renga together, then riffing on it in a couple of new directions, an experiment that you might want to try for yourself.

A busy week? Yes. But if only every week could be as rich!