Older Writing

Europe by Canoe

    I get a lot of crazy ideas; here’s one I actually acted on.

    “One of the great things about canoeing in the Czech Republic is the ubiquity of riverside bars. Every summer hordes of Czechs flock to their waterways, grab beer, dogs, babies, guitars, and funny Mexican sombreros, hop in beat-up, heavy plastic kánoes, and leisurely paddle downriver in laughing, drinking, singing flotillas. Whereas for Canadians canoeing is identity-defining, Czechs take it about as seriously as mini-golf.”

    The Tangled Ethics of Eating

      We used to provision ourselves with our daily bread; now we roll a cart down the grocery aisles. This is my attempt to work through what to think about as you browse the supermarket shelves.

      “While the focus of this essay has implicitly been directed at answering the question, “What ethical considerations should I take into account when purchasing food?” the broader social context should not be overlooked. Although important, personal choice is not enough. If sustainable food is ever to be voluntarily embraced by more than an educated few, we must organize our voices collectively to change government policy.”

      The Neoliberal Revolution

        An overview on how everything economic started heading in the wrong direction, right around the year of my birth: 1974. Sorry, everyone, it’s not my fault!

        “As the 1970s ran their course, neoliberalism gradually took over from Keynesianism as the reigning economic orthodoxy, to be consummated in the Anglo-Saxon world by the elections of Margaret Thatcher in the UK in 1979, Ronald Reagan in the US in 1980, and Brian Mulroney in Canada in 1984.”

        Life, Liberty, and a Little Bit of Cash

          So I’d like to point out that I was into the Basic Income idea long before it was cool. Or long after. You see, it was cool in the 1970’s, then it became a fringe idea during the long neoliberal 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s. Lately, though, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s being talked about again enthusiastically in quite mainstream circles. The caucus of the centrist Liberal Party of Canada even called it their top policy priority in the fall of 2020. If you’ve never read much about the idea of a guaranteed income for every citizen, then this article is a good starting point.

          “Three years ago, Jay Hammond figured his time was nearly up. At least he’d led a full life: Marine Corps fighter pilot in World War Two; bush pilot in Alaska; master hunter and fisher with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and over two decades of political service, culminating as the Governor of Alaska. Shortly after retiring from office, he dreamt that he’d be granted 20 more years of life at his beloved Lake Clark homestead, to do penance for whatever “sins of omission or commission” he may have inflicted. When those 20 years expired in 2002, Hammond waited stoically for the end.”

          Take Your Time

            A revolutionary call to inaction. Workers of the world – relax!

            “In the early twentieth century, many thinkers wondered aloud what people would do with all their free time come the turn of the millennium. In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes cast his gaze forward to the lives of his generation’s grandchildren, and predicted that the steady accumulation of capital would compel them to face their ‘permanent problem – how to use [their] freedom from pressing economic cares…to live wisely and agreeably and well.’ He suggested that by 2030 they might still work three hours a day just to ‘satisfy the old Adam’ in most of them.”

            Zen and the Art of Home Maintenance

              An essay on my mom’s allergy to home maintenance.

              “But perhaps more importantly, my mom has a strong sense of ‘good enough’ in a world that always seems to be pushing for better. She (to the annoyance of Bell) was one of the last holdouts for the pulse dialling system, she continued using Carleton University’s freenet email service long after everyone else had switched to more user-friendly platforms, and she drives cars until their axles break. In stark contrast to the growing ranks of the technology-enamoured, who sometimes seem to love their gadgets more than the ends these things purport to serve, her values are grounded in results. If it gets the job done – even with a bit of inconvenience or effort – it’s good enough for her.”

              The Gross Domestic Hoax

                A piece I wrote for Saturday Night Magazine on the misuse of the Gross Domestic Product (how we measure economic growth) as the prime indicator for societal well-being. GDP is simply a measure of total economic activity, and since calamities and environmental exploitation can generate a lot of economic transactions – at least in the short term – the overreliance on GDP ultimately guides us in the wrong direction. The piece also looks at some more appropriate alternative measures – such as the Genuine Progress Index.

                “Each day in this country there are an average of eight car crash fatalities, 623 injuries, and 1700 collisions. Taken yearly, the car crash “industry” runs into the billions. A conservative estimate made by the SAAQ – Quebec’s public auto insurer – puts the economic yearly “benefit” of car accidents at nearly $3 billion for Quebec alone: or 1.4 percent of the province’s GDP.”

                A Pillar of Air: Hang Gliding in the Tibet of French Canada

                  The best gig I got as a result of my aborted film school studies was to work on the crew of a travel/adventure TV show that filmed an episode in the tiny Gaspé village of Mont-Saint-Pierre. At the end of our shoot, each crew member was treated to a tandem hang-gliding flight. This is my account of that experience, as well as an exploration of the history of gliding.

                  “‘I grew up by the coast in France,’ Patrick quietly explained, ‘watching the seagulls. Then I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull and wanted more than ever to fly.’ When he saw an early hang glider on TV, he wasted no time in writing away for one. Soon the package arrived in the mail and he carried it up to the top of a small mountain and put it together. ‘I sat there all day, looking out over the valley below, trying to find the courage to fly. Finally, it started to get dark, and I didn’t want to walk back down, so I put on my harness and flew to the bottom. I will never forget that first flight.’ Now, after countless subsequent flights, he tries to recapture the exaltation of that first step into thin air the best way he can: vicariously, by taking others for their first flight.”