DR VICKI BISMILLA
KULBINDER SARAN CALDWELL
REV. TONY ZEKVELD
Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink
By DAVID SUZUKI
There’s no shortage of solutions to the climate crisis. Rapidly developing clean-energy technology, reducing energy consumption and waste, increasing efficiency, reforming agricultural practices and protecting and restoring forests and wetlands all put us on a path to cleaner air, water and soil, healthier biodiversity and lower climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions.
Clean-energy technologies, including energy-storage methods, are improving as costs are dropping. Exciting new inventions like artificial photosynthesis, machines that remove atmospheric carbon to create fuels and windows that convert light to electricity show what people are capable of when we put our minds to resolving challenges.
It’s critical that we continue to develop, deploy and scale up solutions, so why are we still mired in outdated ways and business as usual? For decades, experts have been warning about the consequences of rapidly burning fossil fuels, yet greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise as the planet heats up faster.
Europe is in the midst of a record heat wave; Chennai, India, has run out of water; farmers in Canada and the US are seeing diminishing returns after prolonged droughts; refugees are flooding borders as extreme conditions, water scarcity and failing agriculture increase conflict and displace millions – all caused or exacerbated by climate change. Even in rainy Vancouver where I live, the city implemented early water restrictions when the usual spring showers didn’t arrive.
People and organizations from the entire spectrum of society are calling for action. Students are marching in the streets, progressive decision-makers are putting climate disruption at the top of the political agenda, and Indigenous Peoples are asserting their rights to protect lands and waters from fossil fuel projects.
In the US, more than 70 leading health organizations – including the American Medical Association, Lung Association, Heart Association and College of Physicians – issued a statement urging political candidates “to recognize climate change as a health emergency”.
The Canadian Medical Association, Nurses Association, Public Health Association, Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Urban Public Health Network issued a similar statement.
To their credit, every major political party in Canada has a climate plan, some more detailed than others, and the current federal government has implemented many strong policies, despite its continued approval of fossil fuel projects. But we’re still not on track to meet our Paris Agreement commitments.
Here and elsewhere, the fossil fuel industry still rules, enjoying massive government subsidies and tax breaks and government and media promotion. If we understand the problem and its urgency – and mountains of scientific evidence amassed from around the world over decades confirms we do – and we have solutions, why are we so slow to act?
Astonishingly, despite the overwhelming evidence and what people worldwide are clearly experiencing, many still refuse to believe there’s a problem, or if there is, that’s it’s human-caused or urgent. Some may be overcome with denial in the face of such frightening prospects; others have been duped by continuing efforts of the fossil fuel industry and its media and government advocates to cast doubt on the evidence. Some may realize the problem exists but choose to elevate short-term profits and economic gains above the conditions we need for health and survival. Some people are afraid that the necessary changes will cause too much disruption – a prospect that becomes more likely the longer we delay. Others are unwilling to admit that our prevailing economic paradigms no longer fit current conditions.
Fortunately, many people and organizations are refusing to let the barriers stop them.
Many reject the propaganda and conspiracy theories and are working hard to develop and implement solutions, and to demand better of our elected representatives.
We’re at a pivotal point. Fossil fuels, plastics and private automobiles have brought benefits to many parts of the world, but our wasteful, consumer-oriented ways have also created enormous challenges for humanity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns we have less than a dozen years to cut emissions so they don’t build to a point that puts us on a path to climate catastrophe. Resolving the issue will offer numerous other benefits, from cleaner air and better health to greater innovation and equality.
It’s time for us all to accept reality and work together to address the challenge.
• With contributions from David Suzuki Foundation’s senior editor/writer Ian Hanington. More at www.davidsuzuki.org.
The three Ps of problem-solving
By DR VICKI BISMILLA
As a retired senior executive, I try not to go back to the organizations that I served because new executives don’t need previous executives poking around.
However, recently I was invited by the union of an academic institution where I served as second-in-command to speak at the retirement of their local union president, and I readily accepted because I have such high regard for this person.
In many institutions the relationship between union presidents and senior executives can often be acerbic. But this union president and I never had a harsh or angry word between us. He is a consummate gentleman, kind, gentle, professional, highly knowledgeable and he subscribed to the belief that everything can be handled in a fair, professional and dignified manner.
That was not to say that he was a pushover. He got what he needed to get for his members with a firm, fair, ethical negotiating style. He approached issues with grace and I worked hard at finding a balanced resolution both for the organization I represented and for his members.
Many readers of this magazine work in unionized environments. Some of you may find that the atmosphere is tense while others may find that collegial relationships exist between your union and your employer.
I discovered that the key to establishing a professional and collaborative working environment was being firm, fair and respectful in all interactions.
Our union president and I met every two weeks to talk about matters before they became issues and to talk about issues before they became problems.
There were three guiding principles to our biweekly discussions. I called them the three Ps – people, policy and paperwork.
Whatever the matter we were discussing, the person/people involved was the most important part of the tripod. Regardless of what happened or who had allegedly done something wrong, the person or persons involved had to be treated with respect and dignity. Facts had to be gathered systematically, transparently and thoroughly. Once who said what or who did what had been disentangled then the two of us could look at the matter from different perspectives and try to arrive at balanced conclusions.
The policy part of the tripod was the provincial/federal law or the organization’s written policies and in the case of a unionized workplace it is the collective agreement that binds both parties. And if there was a gap between the law and policy where resolution was not contained in existing documents then we worked out a local agreement.
worded addendum to a collective agreement and is meant to resolve a serious issue that the collective agreement did not foresee. An example of this could be arriving at an agreement about how employees would be evaluated. This would involve a few members of the union together with administration and would need to be very circumspect in upholding the organization’s need for excellence and the union’s need to have their members’ skills respected.
The third P was the paperwork. We made sure that follow-up paperwork was done. These were carefully worded, dated and signed by both of us. They were usually letters to the parties involved outlining the steps that had to be followed in resolving the issues.
Sometimes, however, the paperwork was not as simple. An example of a large and significant gap that we needed to address together several years ago was the absence of guidelines to govern how an employee could be eligible for a religious day off. Two decades ago the only official days off were Christmas and Easter, both Christian holy days. But with so many authentic world religions in a diverse democracy, pious people needed to take a day off for prayer when the western calendar did not include their holy day. So, the union and our administrative team undertook the immense task of writing guidelines for religious accommodation. These guidelines have served two large organizations where I worked very well for over two decades now.
I know that many readers lead large, important and busy organizations and you have your own tips about effective and collegial problem solving.
My three Ps have served me well:
People. When dealing with people, especially students and employees, it is critical to first and foremost make sure that the person or persons involved in the issue are all right. Provide emergency care, first aid, counselling or de-escalation spaces immediately and call for help when needed.
Policy. Always have the policy in front of you when meeting to discuss issues.
Paperwork. Make sure that you complete all follow-up paperwork and get them signed before filing securely.
• Dr Vicki Bismilla is a retired Superintendent of Schools and retired college Vice-President, Academic, and Chief Learning Officer. She has authored two books.
DEAR DIDI, How do we as parents answer the
“What is your son doing?” question?
By KULBINDER SARAN CALDWELL
In your response to the kid who wanted a gap year (July), you said it would help him figure things out. What if that “gap” becomes the plan? Our son did just that, but it’s been nearly two years and he is still trying to find his way. Meanwhile, all his classmates have gone on to universities and are on set career paths. What advice do you have for parents like us? How do we answer the “What is your son is doing?” question? – Perplexed Parent
You are asking two questions. One that is more about you and the other regarding your son’s plan in life. And the authors of the answers are also different.
One is yourself: How do you, the parent, respond to another’s inquiry about your child? Quite frankly, you can answer as much or as little as you want. Whenever anyone asks this question, there can be any number of reasons why they are being inquisitive (read nosy).
The other person is your son. It is tough enough being a child and trying to find your way through life, they don’t need the added burden of being responsible for how you answer your friends and family about their life plans.
Growing up in a small town, I was constantly aware of how my behaviour – good or bad – would be reflected on how my parents and family would be viewed by our South Asian community. There was a constant third eye that was watching and all of my friends felt the heaviness of the pressure. You didn’t really feel like you had the freedom to breathe, let alone find out what you wanted to do with your life.
So I followed the rules and made my escape as soon as I could to university in the big city leaving my parents behind. Now as my son is getting older, my husband is already hoping that he will stay in the city and more specifically with us, as long as possible. I think he kinda loves him! I do too, but I would like him to make his own path in life by making his own decisions and sticking to them, regardless of whether it works out or not. We learn as much from our mistakes, as we do from our successes.
With your son, it looks like it’s probably the time to have a talk with him to check in and see where this is headed.
Regardless of it being a gap year or not, your son still has to take action and try things – a job, a course or something. This time is supposed to be a chance for him to try new things, not keep doing things the same way as before. Does he have a plan? Every plan should have a beginning, middle and end, along with key milestones to hit and check-ins to see if the plan is working or needs adjustment. He may need you to start asking the tough questions, be a sounding board and help him make sure he gets back on track. It’s often better to put our heads together as a family to move forward rather than doing it on our own. Once he figures out what to do with his life you both have the same answer when people ask, “What is your son doing?”.
I may be able to help
Is there something that you wish you could talk to someone about? Email me at Kul@DearDidi.com or follow me on Twitter and Facebook at @DearDidi_KSC. Want more Dear Didi? Listen to my pod-cast – Generation Immigrant – on all major platforms. Listen, rate, review, repeat. Hope to hear from you soon!
Who made marriage and why?
By REVEREND TONY ZEKVELD
The historical definition of marriage has always been understood as ‘the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others’.
This is the traditional definition of marriage.
This begs the question, however. Who decides what marriage is? Who made it? Did man decide that marriage should be this way? Is this why society has always had this traditional understanding?
If marriage is man-made, then it can be argued that the historical definition is arbitrary. Society is free to change the definition as it wills, according to the spirit of the times in which one lives. You can make marriage to be whatever you want.
But if God made marriage, then there is no argument or reason to change what marriage is. The Bible says that God made marriage. It was instituted by Him at the very beginning of history. He created man in His image. He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make a helper fit for him”.
The Bible says that, “The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept He took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
The Bible then says this, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others has always formed the backbone of society.
So why did God make marriage? He did so with three purposes in mind. First of all, for companionship. It is not good for man to be alone. Second, for the propagation of the human race. The human race is to continue and increase. A third reason is the well-being and orderliness of society.
A marriage with God in the centre is the means for building strong families and a strong society. Why are there so many broken marriages and what is the solution? We save that for our next article.
• Reverend Tony Zekveld can be reached at Hope Centre at 416-740-0543 and email@example.com.
Thank heavens, this is not Leila Land!
By SHAGORIKA EASWAR
I watched Deepa Mehta’s Leila on Netflix recently and found it profoundly disturbing. The six-episode television series is set in the near-future in India. But the severe water shortage with the rich purchasing the precious resource on the black market; the polluted, hazy, smoky skies; the giant piles of burning, smouldering garbage; and the misogyny and gender violence, all of these are familiar and present realities.
The “sky-high walls” segregating communities may be metaphorical, but communities seeking comfort and safety in numerical strength, of being among others like them is happening right now.
My initial reaction as I watched it was this looks like the present, not 2047, the year in which the series is set. And then it dawned. This is how it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago and this is how it will likely be on the 100th anniversary of India’s independence.
While beautiful, planned and “smart” cities are rising in the suburbs, older parts of most cities remain much as they were. They are too crowded to allow room for change.
And there is another area where nothing much has changed over decades. The prevalent mindset on those that labour for the privileged class.
My mother was given a hard time by other ladies for “spoiling” our servants as we called them before we learnt to call them domestic or house help in another age and another country. Clara ate what she cooked for us – not cheaper rice bought specially for her, for one – and took home a container for her children. She was dropped home on nights she stayed late if we had guests. Her standing in the family gave her the right to scold me for keeping my room untidy.
Years later, my cousin’s wife was told she was spoiling the maid who washed the dishes in hot water. Cold water was good enough for the great unwashed, even in Delhi winters. And speaking of winter, my cousin gave the watchman in his gated residential community a heater for his little cabin by the gate where he spent the night, making sure the residents were safe. Oh, what a hue and cry there was from some neighbours! Who was going to pay for his electricity consumption?
All these thoughts were playing in my mind one morning as I sat weeding the front beds of my garden by the side walk. A landscaper working on a large project at our neighbour’s home across the street drove up and greeted me. “You were here yesterday,” he noted with a grin.
“Yes, I am making slow progress as you can see,” I responded.
“I have iris too,” he said. “And they also keep flopping over. It’s hard to enjoy them when they do that.”
I pointed to another bed behind me and said I stake the iris and other tall plants to prevent that. And I asked him if he wanted more iris – I am always on the hunt for new homes for seedlings and plants I divide.
“Only if you will take some from me!” he said with a laugh. “That’s the problem with us gardeners, we are not ruthless. We can’t just dig up and throw plants on the compost heap!”
He wished me a good day and headed across the street.
I know Leila has upset some people for showing India in a negative light. It is not the first to be so criticized and will not be the last. I recall Rohinton Mistry being panned for writing about the beggars in India.
“I love my India,” said my nephew who returned to the country after studying and working in the US. He was not talking about the show but about media coverage that tends to highlight the ills.
“I love my India, too,” I assured him. “It’s because I love India that I care, that I am disturbed by what I read and hear and see on visits back.”
If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t write about issues like these – I’d be happy in my little corner of the world where the man who makes our homes beautiful goes back to an equally beautiful home.
He lives well and is treated with respect.
Thank heavens, this is not Leila land!