Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Birds are back in Town

In grade school, our teacher would challenge us to be the first to bring in the news of what she called, “A Sign of Spring,” each new sighting dutifully added to a growing list on the side blackboard each April morning under a few florid, semi-birdlike drawings she had created there in coloured chalk. Although it’s getting late to start such a list here at Shekinah, Sunday’s sightings would have included the ice on the North Saskatchewan having been broken up overnight and now floating away, and the pileated woodpecker being back in town.

He’s really a magnificent bird, is the pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). The pileated part of his name comes from the Latin pileatus meaning “capped.” He can measure half a metre in length, is known for pecking rectangular holes in old trees and for his raucous laugh.

His favourite food is the carpenter ant, and in the few days he’s been here, he’s hacked away half the frame around one of the large windows in the Timberlodge where he’s not likely to find many ants of any kind. Our pileated woodpecker is not very bright, you see; a few ants short of a lunch, you might say. He perches on the windowsill of the nature room and squawks at his reflection repeatedly. Either he thinks he’s being challenged for territory by another male woodpecker, or he’s fallen in love with himself—like Narcissus—and can’t understand why the beautiful bird in the window won’t come out to play. In any case, he takes out his frustration on the window frames.

The robins are back too, of course, and the ducks. It was a noisy walk home from the chalet yesterday; a highly agitated drake was complaining loudly (like the pileated woodpecker, mallards have not been granted a singing voice by the creator) as two other ducks chased him back and forth above the Deer Meadow. I assume it was a fight over a hen—it almost always is, whether with drakes or young men.

I pondered again the wonders of the natural world yesterday as I re-collected wet garbage scattered over half an acre by some marauding bear, coyote or sasquatch. I don’t think our woodpecker was responsible for upsetting the can, ripping off the lid and feeding on leftover margarine oozing from a tub discarded by winter picnickers. The interface area between us and the “natural world” isn’t always that pretty.

Have a happy spring.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Energy: Whence goest thou?


CBC Saskatchewan has a weekly 5-minute radio program called Provincial Affairs in which the political parties are given free time to say what’s on their minds. Yesterday, Laura Ross of the Saskatchewan Party lauded the achievements of the current government, particularly the injection of a billion dollars into infrastructure development (highways, schools, hospitals, etc.) inside a balanced budget.

My ears perked up—as they say—when she talked about energy initiatives because there’s been a great deal of talk about the refinement of uranium locally and, possibly, the generation of nuclear power in the province. The provincial government has appointed Dan Perrins to guide province-wide public consultations on “the findings and recommendations of the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) report (http://www.gov.sk.ca/news?newsId=b55f0006-6b7d-41f5-a560-03584b7ae908)”, but Ms. Ross pointedly left the impression that it was to be a general exploration of the province’s energy future, and she also made it clear that hydro, wind, solar, nuclear, thermal, will all be on the table.

I hope individuals will seize this opportunity to educate themselves on the costs and the benefits of the various kinds of energy generation and make their wishes known. It makes a difference.

In all likelihood, our province (not to exclude others) will begin a major energy project. It may be tied in to a hope that the tar sands of mid-western Saskatchewan can be developed and we know that such a venture would require massive energy. We’ve been able to “go to school” on Alberta’s experience on that!

Whatever the long-term plans for that option turn out to be, aging energy facilities and the concern for climate change make a serious discussion on future energy needs critical.
The next major energy development will be a far-reaching commitment, a signal to all and sundry that we are either driven by short-term economics or by environmental issues and sustainability. The expenditure will be so large—in all probability—that the final choice will exclude the others. Developing nuclear capability, for instance, would cost massive amounts of money, all of which would have to be recouped through future energy bills and taxes. Likewise, the carbon sequestration technology doesn’t come cheap.

If I attend a hearing, my vote will go toward two initiatives: reduction of energy use and development of a combination of solar, wind technologies so that our energy is gathered from thousands of small sources rather than from a few mega-projects.

Where will your vote go on this subject, and why?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday reflection

. . . do this in remembrance of me

It’s Good Friday, April 10, 2009.

It’s my 67th Good Friday.

Behind me in the Horse Lake Mennonite Church last night (Maundy Thursday) sat a wonderful lady for whom this will be her 102nd Good Friday. Amazing. In a pew near the back of the little church, a baby would periodically complain loudly that although this was only his first or second Maundy Thursday, already he didn’t care for it much; he probably didn’t get the fact that only the grown-ups were allowed to eat the little bit of bread and drink the juice from those neat little cups.

He may still knit his brow over the mysteries of these symbolic observances when he’s 67 . . . or 102.

Jesus’ commandment to “do this as a memorial of me,” is probably a later addition to the Gospel account of the "Last Supper", likely influenced by Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian Church regarding the observance of the Christian version of the Passover meal, which he called “The Lord’s Supper.” (I Corinthians 11: 19 – 24, NEB) It’s probably thanks to Paul’s influence that we have come to adopt the rather-rigid forms of the Lord’s Supper meal, and have attached to it some of the mystical quality that would have the Catholic faith arrive at transubstantiation doctrine, for instance. I remember how I worried as a young adult that I was “drinking judgment on myself” at Communion because I was “drinking the wine unworthily.”

The way we often eat the tiny bread, facing the altar of the church but not each other, increases our consciousness that this is in some measure an individual act with mystical powers of personal regeneration . . . or of personal judgment.

Food and drink are number one and two on the list of blessings provided by creation. The lack or abundance of these things distinguishes the rich from the poor, the destitute from the comfortable. Gluttons think of little beyond food and drink, while—ironically—the starving also think of nothing else. It’s when I sit down with friends to the abundance of a table that I am moved in a way that the ritual of communion fails to move me, now in my 67th year of its various repetitions.

I wonder if Jesus was hoping that we would “remember him” whenever we eat and drink; I wonder if he wouldn’t be more pleased with us if we took time to acknowledge the blessings of creation every time we eat and drink. I wonder if he wouldn’t favour our remembering—whenever we eat and drink—that we are consuming gifts of creation, often at the expense of the hungry.

Jesus was a martyr for the poor, the ill, the downtrodden, the starving and the lost. He asked us to continue his struggle to emancipate them, to liberalize religion so it would embrace them instead of judging and enslaving them again.

And for this, ritualized religion justified killing him.

Whenever we eat or drink alone, we ought to remember that there is a great struggle going on, and acknowledge again that we have committed ourselves personally to Christ's side in that struggle. Whenever we eat together as a community of Christ’s followers, we should acknowledge that there is a near-cosmic battle going on, and remind ourselves that, as a group, we have committed ourselves to the side to which Christ has called us and to which we have said, “Yes!”

It's another way to look at Maundy Thursday's "Lord's Supper," Good Friday and the Easter resurrection symbolism.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

What about the CBC?

My Great Grandparents ca 1875

What About the CBC?

I don’t know all the details, but I do know that the CBC is suffering a deficit as a result of a loss of advertising revenue. The main reason—I’m told—is the recession and businesses’ need to cut costs. A request for a loan from the Canadian Government was turned down because—so a government spokesperson said—the CBC would then have loan payments to make on top of normal operating expenses and would therefore be hard-pressed to remain viable.

Chrysler and GM are suffering deficits because of lost sales resulting from their inability or unwillingness to compete with car manufacturers that produce better, more efficient and greener vehicles, plus the general malaise of the market. The government stands ready to extend money to them amounting to 21 times what the CBC was asking for—each.

If the car companies have to pay back the loans in future, does it stand to reason that these loan payments on top of their general expenses may make it difficult for them to remain viable?

Or is it that our government cares about the success of private corporations and does not care about the survival of a public corporation like the CBC? This would fit Conservative Party objectives, seems to me, except that the bailout of car companies falls so far short of another objective that it’s hard to see what conservative philosophy in this country is all about anymore. I think they used to call it “free enterprise,” a politic where government frees up entrepreneurship to act as the economic engine of the country, not interfering with the right to be profitable; not subsidizing it if it begins to fail.

I appreciate the CBC. For my money, it provides the best news and documentary coverage in the country and has the capability to act is a distinct national asset in many ways. It also provides commercial-free, informative radio, and I am one of those who will not listen to a radio station that bombards me with loud commercials, phone-in rant shows and country music. I appreciate intelligent radio: As it Happens, Ideas, Tapestry, etc. for which CBC is known.

Let your MP know that you want our government to support the continuation of a strong CBC.

copyright g.epp, 2009