My earlier post on Solar powered light emitting balloons elicited some thoughtful responses, and as comments aren't always read by visitors I thought I'd address them here. Go read the comments, I'll wait.
You're back? Good. First off, thanks all. Robert, I was actually wondering if anyone was making the connection with the Tropicana sun. So much I wondered if it factored into the student's idea. But really they have very different goals. The Tropicana "sun" was done to sell orange juice. Cool trick, but really that is what it boils down to.
I think the part that really gets me about this idea, is not that it is dreaming big. There's nothing wrong with dreaming big, but not every dream needs our approval. Some deserve derision. Anyone who has driven in a city can deride the idea of commonplace flying cars, they are dangerous enough traveling in one plane.
What really gets me is the arrogance of the idea that darkness is the problem here. The idea that my world is less rich because of it. I'd argue that it is richer because of such unique aspects of the Arctic. It is this idea that we need to beat back nature in order to make our lives better. This need to want to constantly push back the wild. That the way the natural world operates up here is somehow flawed. That bothers me.
And while we shouldn't restrict our ideas to our corner of the globe, if we are going to present ideas that address "enormous problems of in these Arctic communities with the remoteness and lack of light" we should at least have a smattering of knowledge about those communities. Suggesting that the balloons could guide ships in the depth of winter at Iglulik shows very little knowledge about them.
Is it hard to get a taste of this experience? This smattering of knowledge? Of course not, it is expensive but not hard. Another architecture student spent time in Arctic Bay this year. Wanting to be able to address the problem of affordable, practical housing he came up to live with an Inuit family. He came to see how lives are lived here. Now the problem, like almost any other is more complex than that, in this modern world there are many different ideas about what makes an home ideal. But it is at least an effort.
I realize that not every bit of research is practical in and of itself. That the benefits of well thought out pure research can yield surprising results in other areas. If you have a solar cell that could collect light over the period from May to August and release it from November to February, then you have something. It doesn't need a balloon though, it'll save the Hamlet a fortune for the street lights. And use less oil.
I don't know what it is about the Arctic that attracts the wild ideas of southerners. Especially architects. There are all manner of strangely designed buildings up here, designs that make you go "Huh". Futuristic looking buildings including some that look like space ships. Jentography, when she was Jen of Nunavut even ran a contest on her now defunct contest site about strange buildings.
That is exactly what we need up here (sarcasm alert). Forget trying to find affordable practical housing for the north. Forget trying to address the insane cost of transportation that make living here unaffordable. If only we could have light all winter long that would be so much better. Who wants to see stars anyway? Energy solutions that reduce our reliance on oil generated electricity, what ever for? You have solar powered night lights.
You'll note that the two students who "won international recognition for their idea to cut through the seemingly endless months of darkness in the Canadian Arctic" have never been to the freaking Arctic. But hey, they studied about it in an intense studio design course.
But lest you think its all just about improving our lot with the endless Seasonal Affective Disorders that plague us, there are very practical aspects to their idea as well. For example, moored near the shore, these lights could act as lighthouse to guide vessels to port when they are operating from November to February. This would greatly aid them while they are plowing through four feet of ice. And they'd help guide Inuit hunters back home, because they've been unable to find their way around up here for the last five thousand years.
I don't know why I let these memes bother me as much as I do.
Perhaps it is the sheeple nature of it all. Perhaps it is my general distaste for this lack of questioning of anything that appears online. It ranks right up there with me with the urban legends and hoaxes that fill my mailboxes. Well, not so much now as I have most people on my email list trained. Except my mom, but really how do you tell your mother to stop sending email hoaxes to you. I'm just happy she's comfortable with a computer and other technology.
Right now it is the "Post a cartoon character to your profile to end child violence thingy" that is driving me bonkers. Okay interesting experiment on social networking I suppose. See just how far you can take it. But unfortunately people actually believe they are "taking a stand" or "raising awareness" against child violence.
So my question is: How exactly? Really. How exactly is this taking a stand? Raising awareness? Is it raising awareness that the problem exists? Does it educate us as to the scope of the problem? That there is a problem? Does it help us find resources to help? Show us how to volunteer as foster parents? To report abusers to the police or social workers? What exactly does it do? Exactly.
Does it make people who are violent towards children suddenly realize the error of their ways? "Don't hit me mommy. Don't you remember you posted Wile. E. Coyote on your facebook profile a month ago?"
I'll submit that it does none of that. I'll submit that this, like the colour of your bra meme and others before it, does one thing. And that is give us some amorphous feel good feeling about ourselves. Look at me, I'm helping end child abuse.
And cartoons? In an anti-violence campaign? Look, I don't believe that watching cartoons will lead to violence, but they are (especially the ones from my childhood and earlier) probably about the most violent genre there is. The intent, as I gather, is to remind us of the happier time of our childhood. Now I can't say for sure, because I had a childhood that was violence free. But through my work I met a lot of kids who couldn't say the same. I'm guessing that the last thing some of them want to remember is that childhood.
So if you are out to make a stand and raise awareness in this cause, or any other cause, do just that. Post resources that will actually raise awareness. Volunteer your time with social services or another organization that works in the field. Perhaps one that tries to help victims of violence and sexual violence. If you abuse children, stop. Go get help. It might take a lot of help, but it'll take a damn lot more than posting a photo of Bullwinkle and Rocky on your profile picture.
This is an expansion of the thoughts I was trying to express in my Remembrance Day address this morning, through my tears.
Remembrance comes easy for me. I've had family in pretty much every major conflict from the Napoleanic Wars on through to Korea. My Great-great-Grandfather was at Waterloo, and he took a French bayonet through his hand, injuring him permanently. Uncles and cousins were in the Second World War, of course one of them, Clare, gave me my name and his death gave me part of my identity.
My Grandfather was a soldier in the Great War. When I was small I had the keen interest in soldiers and military things that most young boys have. The kind of thing that gets them to draw tanks and planes and bombs. So I pestered my Grandfather to tell me about the war, to tell me about being a soldier.
One time, I asked Grandpa if he had killed anyone. Grandpa kind of paused and looked away. Then he told me that it was what they had to do. He told me about a time that he came upon a German soldier. Both reached for their grenades, Grandpa his Mills Bomb, the German his potato masher. Grandpa's was on target, landing between the other man's feet, killing him.
We ask our young men and women who go to war to do terrible things for us, and to make terrible sacrifices. They do it at our behest, so we do not have to. War is Hell, my Grandfather knew that as well as any man. But he also knew that sometimes we have to go to war. After the Great War I'm sure my Grandfather hoped and prayed there would never be a need to go to war again, it was after all the "War to end all wars". But when the world found itself at war again, he was at the front of the line trying to go back. He couldn't because of a hernia, but he served at home, and recruited young men and women, knowing full well that they would be making terrible sacrifices and doing terrible things.
We might have success at war, but war itself is a failure. It is our failure to find another way, to resolve a particular conflict, or to stop some group from doing terrible things. Sometimes, unfortunately, in our world, it is a necessity.
Remembrance requires more of us than two minutes of silence once a year. It requires us to acknowledge constantly the terrible sacrifices we ask others to make for us, and the terrible things we ask them to do on our behalf. It requires us to constantly seek the resolution, and to prepare when we fail at that. It requires us to remember all of the time, what happens when we fail in this world to find peace, and security.
Photo of my grandfather's carving underground near Vimy courtesy of J. Richardson
I'm back from spending the last week down at the Nunavut Trade Show, put on by the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce. I had a wonderful and profitable time down there. Profitable in terms of a nice sale of carvings and other art/craft from Arctic Bay's Heritage Centre, but more so from making great contacts that are going to help me in my job as the Economic Development Officer for Arctic Bay.
I had one small problem. Half of the time I had no clue what anyone was saying. Everyone in this game apparently speaks in Acronyms. Really, I had more letters thrown my way than in a bowl of Alphabet Soup or a text message from a 15 year old girl with a cellphone. I actually stopped someone mid conversation once and said "You know, it sounds like you're speaking English, but I didn't understand half of what you just said."
The major thing is that I'm new to my job, I'm sure that before too long I'll be spouting off ABC's and XYZ's with the best of them, but for now its a lot of "Huh?" I began keeping a list at my desk for some of the acronyms that bounce off my forehead and land at my feet, but that quickly went south. Fortunately I don't have to risk repetitive strain injury writing them all out, for the Nunavut Economic Developers Association has done it for me. So if you are new to this world like I am, or just curious about what everyone calls themselves up here, and their programs you can visit NEDA's (there I go) business resource page, where there is a downloadable list of common acronyms (although it is just the agencies, and doesn't cover things like funding programs and their ilk).
You know, I whined about the weather a fair bit in the last little while. It was snowy, cool, and miserable for much of our vacation south, and the weather seems to have followed us. Ottawa was nice when we arrived but pouring rain when we left. It was gorgeous here the day we got home, but since then it has snowed steadily under dark grey skies.
But I feel terrible about that whining today. Our weather didn't destroy our home and most of our belongings, almost killing us in the process.
Debby is a friend, and extremely talented artist, who writes that absolutely amazing blog Drawing the Motmot. And really, if you have never visited her blog you need to. The art is stunning, and her writing sublime.
Yesterday her home was destroyed by a tornado in a storm that spawned a number of them that ripped through Oklahoma. She and Mike narrowly escaped, making it to the cellar just as the tornado hit. Elsewhere the storm killed at least five people.
This is a photo of her house from her facebook page.
As bad as losing the house would be I find my thoughts keep turning to the things that filled up that house, the things that one gathers around them throughout their lives. The home of an artist and scientist must be especially filled with objects, art and keepsakes that enriched that home. As I laid in bed last night I kept thinking about a book of Mike's, E.O. Wilson's mighty tome on ants inscribed by Wilson himself, somewhere in that rubble.
Houses can be rebuilt. Debby and Mike are safe. That is the key thing obviously. I just can't imagine, as I look around the apartment with only a portion of our keepsakes and treasures here, what it would be like to lose all of that. I wish I could help, and I hope that very soon Debby will be gazing out her studio window at scenes like this one that she posted just a week ago.
So we're flying out for a short vacation to visit my family in Manitoba starting next week. The airfare for the four of us is almost $14,000, and that doesn't include a leg for two of us on Aeroplan points between Iqaluit and Winnipeg. The airfare for the four of us between here and Iqaluit (return) on First Air alone amounts to over $10,000.
So you can imagine my excitement today when I learned through a friend's Facebook status that First Air has begun offering beneficiaries of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (3/4s of my family) a 55% discount on all flights. That would save $3500 or so, a pretty significant amount.
But my momentary joy that airfare was going to be a little more reasonable for a significant portion of Nunavut's population was short lived. Shortly after I called to change the reservations to take advantage of the discount I receive a call back from the Airline of the North. Seems as though the discount only applies to fully refundable full fares, so the actual cost with the discount was $3,300 per ticket not $2,600 we were already paying. Thank you First Air.
Oh, for those doing the math that would mean a full fare return ticket between here and Iqaluit (1,200kms) would work out to around $6,000.
Okay, say you were a group of international scientists, doing research on the Arctic, and coming off the International Polar Year, and you were going to hold a major conference to discuss your the findings over a broad area of Arctic issues. Things like the Environment, and Climate Change, with a stated goal of reviewing our understanding of the arctic system in a
time of rapid environmental change. Say your organizing committee was from across the circumpolar world. Places like Canada, the US, Russia, Finland, Sweden, France and China (France and China?) Where would you hold your conference?
Say the conference would "provide an open international forum
for discussion of future research directions aimed toward a better
understanding of the arctic system and its trajectory. Topics will range
from basic understanding of the Arctic and system-wide change to
developing response strategies to adapt and mitigate change. The
conference also will provide an opportunity for resource management and
service agencies to link the most recent science findings to their
objectives and priorities. All of the sessions have been designed to
include human dimensions and social science research to ensure a
balanced portfolio in conference talks and discussions." Where would you hold your conference?
If you answered Miami Florida, then you're right in step with the people organizing the State of The Arctic Conference this coming March. Yes, thatMiami Florida. Southern tip of the continental US. About forty degrees south of the Arctic Circle, and about 90 degrees (F) warmer than my little corner of the Arctic at this very minute. Miami is about 3,300 kms (2000 miles) from the closest bit of the Arctic by any definition. (image by Wadester16, by Creative Commons licence) I have to say that after my initial knee jerk, I'm not quite sure what to think about this. The reason they give for holding the conference in Miami, is that it is centrally located and offers cheaper airfares. The centrally located part makes (supposedly) a smaller carbon footprint, and who doesn't want to save money. Money that can be better spent on research I suppose. It is a good thing, that the Arctic, and the environmental challenges it face, are being discussed, being researched.
But it smacks of "lets have a warm get away". There are other centrally located airports, relatively cheap to get to, and most of them a lot closer to the Arctic than Miami freaking Florida. For that matter there are ways of getting together that don't involve flight, if the carbon footprint is of central importance.
I get that a conference like this would cost a lot more if it was held in Arctic Bay, or Iqaluit, or hell Yellowknife. But this is a world wide conference, Helsinki is a lot closer to the Arctic, or Chicago, or Anchorage. Or Edmonton. But Miami?
All this smacks of is one of the central complaints that people who live in the Arctic have when it comes to policy and research and other such matters. That for the most part, it is run by people who have a huge, huge, disconnect with the Arctic itself.