Reason 2 not to elect the Conservatives: stupid and destructive climate change policy

After they were done pointing the finger at Paul Martin’s LIberals for dropping the ball on Kyoto (which, though a reasonable accusation, is ridiculous coming from Stephen Harper or John Baird) and had finally caved to public pressure on addressing environmental issues and human-caused global warming, the Conservatives have come out with a set of policies and proposals to address climate change that can only be described as stupid, myopic and dangerous.

As the Sierra Club of Canada’s recently published Voter’s Guide to the Climate Crisis Election makes plain, the Conservatives are flying in the face of science. Ignoring the IPCC recommendation that “developed countries reduce their emissions 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020”, the Conservatives instead aim to achieve 3% below 1990 levels by 2020.

Don’t bother looking for the science behind these numbers — there isn’t any. The Conservatives are wilfully ignoring the consensus of the world’s most qualified experts and playing fast and loose with the future of Canada and the planet at large. And, I have to ask, since when is it a strategy of a right-wing party to advocate for more regulation? I thought Government was supposed to let the markets sort things out for themselves, as would be more the case in, say, a carbon tax like that proposed by the Liberals and Greens.

McDonough and Braumgart write in Cradle to Cradle, “negligence starts tomorrow.” Well, for the federal Conservatives and Canada at large, negligence has already begun, and will continue on October 14th if we vote them in again.

Reason 1 not to elect the Conservatives: trashy campaigning

As this Reuters article notes, Stephen Harper today found himself apologizing for a Conservative attack-ad website ( – I’m not going to give it my link juice) on Liberal leader St├ęphane Dion in which a Puffin flies behind Dion and poops on his shoulder (in the revised version, the puffin just flies behind Dion).

Way to raise the professionalism bar, guys.

Seriously though, does the Conservative campaign against Dion not remind anyone else of the Republicans’ “flip-flop” attack campaign against John Kerry that (successfully) distracted the stupefied public from real issues? I can’t be the only one who’s worried by the Americanization of Canadian politics that is leaching in through the Conservative party.

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way We Make Things

Without exaggerating, I can say that this is probably the most important book I’ve read in a long time. And that’s not for lack of “important” books on my bookshelf. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things is important because it introduces the reader to an entirely novel way of thinking about design, the relationship between the economy and the environment, and industrial production.

the book underwater and doing fine
Made from "plastic resins and inorganic fillers," the book itself is durable and, as the picture from a recent Algonquin camping trip shows, waterproof

Rather than a general overview of the book or William McDonough‘s architecture firm or the amazing work it has done with everyone from Ford to the Chinese government, I’d rather talk about some of the conceptual distinctions that authors McDonough and Michael Braungart introduce.

Continue reading “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way We Make Things”

Google chrome: speed at the price of bloat?

Yes, Virginia, Google Chrome is fast. I installed it on my Windows XP work machine to give it a whirl, and it certainly rivals if not outperforms Firefox 3 in the speed department (though I haven’t found it to be as fast as some).

Hardware manufacturers everywhere must be thanking Google for this development. As this Slashdot article points out, both Internet Explorer 8 and Google Chrome aim to overcome the limitations that a single-process approach imposes on traditional browsers (i.e. more prone to irrecoverable crashes, less robust when running multiple web apps). What this means is that both IE8 and Chrome will be more resource intensive. Sure, you can have flickr, google maps, and photosynth running all at the same time in different tabs, but it will cost you in extra RAM and CPU overhead (not that this is surprising).

So, even if all our applications do eventually get moved off our desktops into “the cloud”, as some people predict/hope will happen, we will still need faster and larger computers to be able to run these increasingly complicated, JavaScript-laden and Ajax-y web apps. The days of the dumb terminal are over and aren’t coming back.

In any case, I’m sticking with Firefox 3 at least until Chrome is available for Mac and gets a comparable set of plugins.

End of an empire

Consider that the 20th century saw the emergence of something like an American Empire. What we are seeing in the 21st century is the slow death of this empire. Many people have predicted its impending collapse, but I’m not talking here about the balooning deficit, its proclivity to entering into unwinnable, unpopular and costly foreign wars, its useless war on drugs, its ludicrous adult population imprisonment rate, its poor public school performance, or its broken healthcare system.

The greatest sign that the US is a nation in decline is its apparently increasing desire for joke politicians. I’m not talking about this (though seeing Joe Biden like this makes me worry a bit less about the potential for some video of me in a compromising situation to leak onto the web):


I’m talking about this:

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin with a gun
apparently she's a better shot than Cheney

I’m talking about a gun-toting potential vice-president who thinks climate change isn’t human-caused, and thinks we should teach about the “debate” bewteen creation science and evolution in public school. (I also believe in teaching the controversy.)

I’m talking about GW Bush, the Governator, Dan Quayle, Jesse Ventura, and Ronald Reagan.

For some reason, the US is the only country in the world where, in the race to become the nation’s leader, it’s a serious advantage to not seem too smart.

The good news from Palin’s selection is that the Republicans won’t be able to whine about Obama’s purported “lack of experience” any more. Not that experience is any guarantee of anything: was Bush more experienced than Obama? Perhaps, by most definitions of “experienced.” But that didn’t stop him from making stupid decision after stupid decision.