Mayday! This is Spaceship Earth

spaceship earth

Houston, we have a problem.

by Bruce Mason

It was a summer of fire, smoke and hard rain. Of nightmarish hurricanes and awakened dead reckoning. All connected and predictable, in fact, meticulously forecast for decades. Equally predictable is how quickly we forget the lessons and how easily we fall into death traps, exacerbating rather than mitigating. And it’s all down to a tiny, but global, cabal of fossil fools and liars and their financiers, followers, cheerleaders and enablers.

In late August, the real costs and consequences of inaction were on full public display, complete with smoking guns and dark, watery scenes of crimes against Nature, as fires and floods increased exponentially.

Surely, it’s time to stop naming hurricanes after people. How about Hurricane Exxon, Koch, Chevron and Shell, amongst the 90 companies responsible for two thirds of human-caused catastrophe? The 1 percent scooping virtually all new income, world-wide, while playing a losing game of chicken with Mother Nature.

Forty years ago they knew and fully understood the science, spent billions on government and so-called Think Tank disinformation, promoting the very technologies warming the planet, making disasters inevitable.

Just as the US National Weather Service introduced new colours on satellite maps to show the unprecedented magnitude of the 50+inch Houston downpour, we must make adjustments to fathom the cataclysmic scale of our collective problems.

“Global warming” morphed into “climate change” and “climate sceptics” have become “climate deniers.” It’s now time to call it what it really is: “climate crisis.” The World Health Organization conservatively warns it will be killing millions within a decade if left unchecked.

It’s tragically ironic that Harvey and its aftermath touched down in Houston, pounding the very centre, and quintessential symbol, of fossil fuel. A handful of scientists huddled in a small section of Mission Control, not underwater, to bring three astronauts – two American, one Russian – back to Earth.

As the trio of anxious space travellers slipped into gumboots on Texas tarmac, stark space images of dystopian flooding and fires were fresh in their minds, including BC’s continuing “season” of 1,000 fires. One million hectares – an area the size of half of Vancouver Island –burned, and in LA’s biggest-ever fire, it was much the same, while deadly smoke eerily returned: Seattle, to Denver, and Greenland, linking up, obscurring, more and more of the planet.

“It looks like an atomic bomb when you see the big billows of smoke,” 150 Mile House fire-chief Stan McCarthy reported, expressing his heartfelt concern for firefighters’ mental health.

The astronauts also witnessed historic rainfall affecting 41 million people in Asia, more in Africa; Europeans dubbed their searing heatwave “Lucifer” and regions of Australia were suddenly uninhabitable. Bangladesh was two-thirds underwater as floods ravaged Northern India, Nepal, the basin of the Himalayas and the financial capital of Mumbai, crossing the border into Pakistan.

Those particular events were all but missed in the America-centric corporate media, not wanting to “politicize” human catastrophe. “Unprecedented” and “record-breaking” became clichés, flavours of the week or hour, amid endless echo-chambers that all regulation is harmful and stunts economic growth.

Instead of clarity, we’re handed a prism of suffering; heroic man vs. nature narratives carved from the rubble, with no view or discussion of causes, let alone policy. Our attention capriciously re-focused on panicked speculation of nuclear war and endless examples of democracy, devolving into distracted idiocracy. Ignorant hubris, staring into an eclipse with naked eyes, praying for blind luck.

As flood waters subside, disease is becoming rampant. Irma has struck and other hurricanes are poised to strike, as more of the West catches fire. We are literally witnessing the end of the world as we know it. Look around. Where are the birds, insects? Why are trees and plants dying. Five-hundred-year floods don’t necessarily happen once every five centuries. They are events with a one-in-500 chance of occurring in any given year. Houston has now had three in the past three years.

While Fort McMurray burned, Justin Trudeau shilled for his elite donor class, who are now little more than arsonists. Their disaster capitalism is sure as hell amplifying damage, fundamentally altering everything in its insatiable, predatory path. As a species, we must take hold of our destiny and plan for something infinitely better.

“Talking honestly about what’s fuelling this era of serial disasters –even while they’re playing out in real time – isn’t disrespectful to people on the front lines,” observes Naomi Klein. “In fact, it’s the only way to truly honour their losses, and our last hope for preventing a future littered with countless more victims.”

Pope Francis pleads, in God’s name, “Listen to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor, who suffer most because of the unbalanced ecology.” We must re-visit consequence, the only way to break the cycle of ignorance and denial. Stop refusing to hold the negligent accountable, strike back with adequate force at toxic climate denial and corruption. The costs of engaging and heeding scientific guidance are nothing compared to the probability and gravity of coming loss, not even close.

Our strength is collective. It resides in the vast majority of people for whom homelessness is just an injury, an illness, a bad season, bad luck or one pay cheque away. We aren’t as disposable as the 1% treats us. It’s time to fight back against the greed, pipemares and other fossil fuel evils. To stand up for a better BC, in a better world.

Pure water is a lifeline to good health

pure clean water

by Dr. Allen E. Banik

The secret of longevity

There are at least nine different kinds of water. Some kinds can harden your arteries, form gall stones and kidney stones, bring on early senility… Other kinds of water work in reverse. What one type of water carries into the system, the other carries out. Let me classify these nine kinds of water. They are hard water, raw water, boiled water, soft water, rain water, snow water, filtered water, de-ionized water and distilled water. All are kinds of water, but remember this; only one of these nine kinds of water is good for you: distilled water.

Distilled water is water which has been turned into vapour so that virtually all its impurities are left behind. Then, by condensing, it is turned back to “pure” water. Distillation is the single most effective method of water purification. It is God’s water for the human race. In a manner of speaking, distillation is nature’s way. The weather of the world is created in the tropics where half the heat reaching the Earth falls on land and water masses. Here, heat energy is stored within water vapour through the process of evaporation, nature’s distillery. When the jet streams return ocean water to inland areas, they do so without sea salts and minerals, all of which have been left behind.

Nature’s natural distilling plant

Distilling water turns it into vapour and then through condensation back again into pure water. Rising vapour cannot carry minerals and other dissolved solids; it will not carry disease germs, dead or alive. The secret is that the vapour rises between all the suspended particles and chemicals in the air. When this condensation occurs as falling rain, it picks up airborne pollutants. Not so in a vented distiller where most of them are eliminated. If pure distilled water is boiled in a teakettle, no calcium or minerals of any kind will collect to coat the inside of the kettle even though you used the same kettle for 10 years.

Distilled water, then, is water of the purest kind. It is odourless, colourless and tasteless.

In the human body, water fills similar functions. It regulates the temperature of the body by helping take off extra heat resulting from an intake of some 3,000 calories of food each day. Water keeps the body from burning up. It carries waste products from the body. Distilled water acts as a solvent in the body. It dissolves food substances so they can be assimilated and taken into every cell. It dissolves inorganic mineral substances lodged in tissues of the body so that such substances can be eliminated in the process of purifying the body. Distilled water is the greatest solvent on Earth… By its continued use, it is possible to dissolve inorganic minerals, acid crystals and all the other waste products of the body without injuring tissues.

For purification, distilled water is the solvent of choice. Remember that great scientists now not only admit, but assert, that all old age, and even death – unless by accident – is due to waste poisons not washed out of the body. The legendary Dr. Alexis Carrel made heart tissue apparently immortal by regularly washing away the wastes of the cells.

Excerpted from The Choice Is Clear by Dr. Allen E. Banik, an optometrist who caught the attention of Art Linkletter for his insatiable quest for knowledge and an intense desire to trace all chronic and fatal diseases to a common cause. Dr. Banik’s life spanned 1901-1992 (91-years-young).

photo copyright Maxim Blinkov

Our home on native land

William Shatner

Why BC’s First Peoples should have the right to directly elect their own MLAs

by Paul H. LeMay

Image: William Shatner Sings O Canada directed by Jacob Medjuck, produced by Paul McNeill. Photo credit: Jordan Ancel 2011, all rights reserved. Link to NFB video.

Remember when William Shatner narrated his own playful version of O Canada, suggesting “Our home and native land” be converted to “Our home on native land”? At the time, he got more than a laugh. He reminded us that Canada was largely built on stolen land.

Despite treaties feebly asserting narratives to the contrary, backed by courts representing the conquering side, as Leonard Cohen might have sung, everybody knows the deals were rotten. They were perpetrated under the guise of a nobly-intentioned British Empire “burdened” by a moral obligation to civilize a largely uncivilized world populated by “primitive peoples.”

Today of course, we know better. We can readily see through the myth-making political spin of yesteryear, and in doing so, we take moral comfort in our more sophisticated political knowledge and think ourselves superior to our forebears. But are we really?

Sure, the Government of Canada sponsored its own version of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but it came nearly 20 years after South Africa’s own commission on apartheid. And yes, Canada signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2016, but it came nine years after it was originally endorsed by the majority of the world’s nations. And yes, Canada commissioned a national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, but only after years of protests and stalling.

So our track record is pretty clear; when it comes to indigenous peoples’ issues, we are still slow to act, especially when it comes to settling land title claims. Though many assembling at large social gatherings in Vancouver will utter phrases such as, “We would like to begin by acknowledging we are gathered on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Peoples,” such phrases are little more than symbolic acknowledgments of the de facto state of affairs. While the sentiments expressed may be sincere, what has actually changed?

To date, of British Columbia’s 198 or so First Nations, only 16 or 17 treaties have involved the ceding of any land rights. These deal with territories in BC’s northeast, northwest and small portions in the southwest. Vancouver Island alone boasts its own dubious collection of 14 treaties “negotiated” in the 1850s. As for the rest of British Columbia, most of us really do live on native land.

If we are truly sincere in our intent to heal our relationship with this land’s First Peoples, our generation needs to demonstrate greater effort at tangible redress than what has transpired so far. One place where this can occur is within our still representatively-impaired body-politic. When the incoming NDP government enunciates its Speech from the Throne this month, which is widely expected to contain a promise to move swiftly on the topic of electoral reform, it should enfold within it some effort to mend our society’s still damaged relationship with First Nations peoples. Here’s one place they could start.

Owing to the new government’s intent to incorporate some measure of proportional representation by the next election, the BC Legislative Assembly could reserve a number of legislative assembly seats exclusively for Indigenous representatives. Since BC’s Indigenous people comprise 5.4% of BC’s overall population, according to 2011 Stats Canada figures, given the 87 seats in the current legislature, the most reasonable number of seats would be four. Among other things, granting BC’s indigenous peoples such a guaranteed seat allocation would give something they’ve never had: actual voices in the province’s legislature.

But for such a proposal to work, the four aforementioned MLAs would need to be directly elected by BC’s indigenous people in a manner they deemed fit. For example, they could opt to vote using a preferential ballot from a province-wide list of indigenous candidates, and/or the province could be divided into four electoral districts representing four distinct geographical regions, such that each indigenous MLA would represent a single region.

Either way, provincial legislators need to be open to what First Nations themselves prefer, as might be expressed during anticipated electoral reform committee hearings. As such, and as a gesture of good faith, the next legislature should only consider drafting enabling legislation that would give indigenous peoples the latitude to tweak their own representational approach as they deemed fit over time.

Moreover, by giving indigenous peoples some say in the formulation of our laws, we in the non-indigenous majority would be doing something more: We’d tangibly demonstrate a sincere effort to reconcile with First Nations people in a fair and transparent way, an effort that could well serve as a model of what might later follow in the rest of Canada. After experiencing more than a century and half of social injustice, our indigenous brothers and sisters deserve no less.

Paul H. LeMay is a Vancouver-based independent writer specializing in psychology and politics. He once worked as the special assistant to Senator Sheila Finestone and since 2006 has written commentaries for The Hill Times in Ottawa. He also co-authored two books, with a psychiatrist, on the victimization process and the evolution of the human mind-brain system entitled Primal Mind, Primal Games.

VIFF evolving by involving

Still from Evolution of Organic

Photo: still from Evolution of Organic courtesy of Vancouver International Film Festival.

by Robert Alstead

How to stay relevant in the internet age? It’s a question organizers of film festivals across the media-saturated globe are asking themselves. While Vancouver’s film buffs can be depended on to cram in the 16 days of arthouse and overseas fare when the annual film jamboree starts later this month, VIFF, under executive director Jacqueline Dupuis, keeps a watchful eye on the cinema’s shifting sands.

This year’s VIFF program (September 28 to October 13, viff.org) builds on the changes introduced last year under the “Films Plus” banner with ‘creator’ talks, Virtual Reality events and nights that combine live music from local bands and the moving image. This year also sees a red carpet screening of award-winners from the Toronto-based Buffer Festival, a showcase for “elevated” YouTube storytelling.

While culturally speaking it’s not on the scale of Amazon swallowing Whole Foods, purists may recoil at the creeping influence of internet giants like Google on film festivals. Well, VIFF has a film for you. The excellent and evenhanded documentary You’re Soaking in It shows how the “math men” (and women) behind targeted advertising are working hard to know you better than you know yourself. Trading oceans of user data in a barely regulated marketplace, corporations have developed an invasive, or highly personalized, depending on your view, model of advertising whose reliance on brute computing power makes the golden age of intuitive, brand-oriented advertising look like art.

Scott Harper’s comparison of Madison Avenue versus Silicon Valley is a fascinating one, touching on many disconcerting aspects of our brave new world. It asks important questions about current practices like the risk of de-anonymized data falling into the wrong hands or using facial recognition software to interpret, in real time, our emotional response as we gaze up at the big screen.

Moving from the evolution of advertising, the upbeat Evolution of Organic charts the history of organic farming in North America from a bunch of “ragtag hippies” pioneering biodynamic growing techniques in the 1960s, to a global movement trying to scale that holistic idealism to industrial levels. The film is on firmer ground when establishing its rebellious roots as a response to pesticide reliance in the post-war years. “It smelled like the earth was meant to smell like,” remembers a grape grower after going organic. Ruddy-faced farm folk are good company, and archive material reveals it was fun, felt good and the food tasted better. As director Mark Kitchell brings the story up to the modern day, it becomes clear there’s enough material to create a whole television series, whether it be the Nigiri project using harvested rice fields as salmon nurseries, ranchers using Allan Savory’s earth-renewing, grazing systems, or the no-tillage practices that could help fix climate change. Leaves you wanting to dig deeper.

As VIFF pushes further into the digital arena, it’s also shoring up its role as a platform for homegrown talent. VIFF kicks off with Vancouver director Mina Shum’s Meditation Park, described as a bittersweet comedy starring Sandra Oh and Don McKellar. It tells of a Chinese-Canadian mother who embarks on a voyage of self-discovery in East Vancouver after discovering a woman’s thong in her husband’s pocket. The opening gala is part of a federal government initiative, Movie Nights Across Canada, marking 150 years of Confederation.

Bound to be well attended are the 12 BC films competing in the “Sea to Sky” strand (hashtag #mustseeBC), including films like On Putin’s Blacklist, a sprawling documentary that looks at how Russia’s ban on North American adoptions has hurt potential foster parents and children in Canada. Dissident Ilya Ponomarev, the only member of the State Duma to vote against Russia’s annexation of Crimea, provides fluid commentary on Putin’s modus operandi, while emotional, firsthand accounts by grown-up foster children and activists, including Pussy Riot, bring home the impact of Russia’s LGBT oppression.

A very different local film is Forest Movie by writer-director-editor Matthew Taylor Blais. The program notes are to be taken with a grain of salt; this is a concept film with little story and a very long, locked-off shot of some second-growth forest (looks like Pacific Spirit Park). Should be interesting with a live audience.

Song of Granite, an Irish/Canadian biopic, also likes to linger in its shots. Director Pat Collins uses the screen like a canvas to draw black-and-white scenes in the life of Irish sean-nós (old style) singer Joe Heaney, from his early upbringing in rural Galway to his later years in New York City before dying in 1984. The lead character is laconic and enigmatic, the dialogue spare and the solo songs given time to breathe and fill the room. A classic film festival film.

Robert Alstead made the feature documentary Running On Climate, www.runningonclimate.com

What a Life! Bob Turner

by Joseph Roberts

Bob Turner
Bob Turner (1944-2017)

The phone rang early in the morning. On the floor, between it and me, lay a brightly coloured business card with “ALL ONE!” written in large capital letters. Wondering where it had come from, I reached for the call. A voice from the past, Alex – a friend of Bob Turner for 45 years – reported the bad news: “Bob is dead!” Shocked, my mind raced, as the finality of the word “dead” sunk in, followed by tears. And questions of how could it be?

Bob was many things to many people. His Facebook page is huge testament, populated by real people, the type that appreciated the depth and wit of a real human, an authentic artist, clearly perceiving those around him. The first time we crossed paths was 1966 at a Centennial High School dance. There he was, in the Black Snake Blues Band, grooving on the bass. Fast forward to the founding of Common Ground, in 1982.  This Renaissance man in a van was hired to distribute our magazine. He laughingly and lewdly referred to himself as a “distabator.” His insights on society, art, music, people, politics, habits, continued unabated for decades. He was my go-to person for advice on distribution, music, parenting, and life in general.

Bob had a degree in early childhood education which he said, helped him understand us so-called adults. With disarming comments, always ready for the next round of jokes, he found his way into the hearts of most wounded adult children who crossed his path.

He did a stint as Artist in Residence at SFU. His home was a working artist studio two blocks off The Drive. And he befriended a stray cat that would only relate to him.

If you knew Bob, you understand why so many loved him and grieve his loss. I can go on and on, but I won’t. Let me pass the pen to another person who worked distributing magazines as Bob’s swamper and was with him the day he died.

Co-worker Paddy Kellington wrote : “My dear friend and the nearest thing I ever had to a real father (although HE would have laughed at the description) Bob Turner, died, September 5th. He wasn’t feeling well, so I made him stop and go home, although I thought Emergency would have been a better choice. I stayed with him to make sure he was comfortable. Shortly after 6, Bob simply fell asleep, and became non-responsive. I called Emergency, and as instructed, did CPR until the ambulance arrived. They couldn’t revive him. I am deeply shocked, deeply saddened. I had always thought being parentless, I’d be spared from this particular species of grief. Looks like I am not. He was a brilliant man, a great human…even if his sense of humour would have made a middle schooler wince. He was a great artist, and a great support and mentor for other artists, or frankly anyone who was genuine and struggling to articulate their voice.

He was remarkably patient, even with my rather reactive emotionalism (Bob was a pragmatic existentialist) and known for his ability to deal with near anyone or anything with humour and wit.

I probably laughed with him more than with any person I have ever known. I cannot believe we will never share a warped joke, or ridiculously satirical take on life, the universe, and everything else. Including, of course, ourselves.

No words are enough for a life as full as his, as quietly influential as his. Someone else who is more eloquent will, I hope, speak to the life of this very human and remarkable man. I am proud to have had his friendship. I loved the man. I will miss him.

Samples of his work are located at turnercom.com
https://m.youtube.com/user/TheMidniteComposer

Shining bright in darker times

photo of David Suzuki

SCIENCE MATTERS
by David Suzuki

Are we entering a new Dark Age? Lately, it seems so. News reports are enough to make anyone want to crawl into bed and hide under the covers. But it’s time to rise and shine. To resolve the crises humanity faces, good people must come together.

It’s one lesson from Charlottesville, Virginia. It would be easy to dismiss the handful of heavily armed, polo-shirted, tiki-torch terrorists who recently marched there if they weren’t so dangerous and representative of a disturbing trend that the current US president and his administration have emboldened.

Racism, hatred and ignorance aren’t uniquely American. Fanatics acting out of fear… are everywhere. But whether they’re religious or political extremists or both, all have much in common. They’re intolerant of other viewpoints and try to dehumanize those who are different; they believe in curtailing women’s and minority rights even though they claim to oppose big government; they espouse violence; and they reject the need for environmental protection.

Charlottesville was a tipping point, not so much because hatred and ignorance were on full display (that happens all too often), but because so many people stood up and spoke out against it and against President Donald Trump’s bizarre and misguided response.

The effects spilled into Canada, most notably with the implosion of the far-right and misnamed media outlet, The Rebel. The online platform, born from the ashes of the failed Sun News network, is a good illustration of the intersection between racism, intolerance and anti-environmentalism. Rather than learning from Sun News’s failure that racism and extremism are unpopular and anti-Canadian, Rebel founder Ezra Levant ramped up the bigoted and anti-environmental messaging, with commentators ranting against feminists, LGBTQ people, Muslims and Jews (Levant is Jewish), along with rejecting climate science and solutions to environmental problems!

The Rebel’s Faith Goldy was at Charlottesville, sympathetically “reporting” on the band of mostly male white extremists. When a racist drove his car into a crowd of anti-Nazi protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and seriously injuring others, it was too much for some of Levant’s long-time supporters.

Rebel staff and commentators, including a co-founder, cut their ties. Norwegian Cruise Line cancelled a scheduled Rebel fundraising cruise, hundreds of advertisers pulled out and principled conservatives dissociated themselves. Trying to salvage the site’s ragged reputation, Levant fired Goldy.

Meanwhile, the White House is in disarray and [doing] damage control around the president’s unhinged tweets, the ongoing Russian-influence investigation, constant firings, including chief strategist Steve Bannon, and legislative paralysis, not to mention a stupid belligerence that brought us to the brink of nuclear war!

At first, it appeared the tide of intolerance, emboldened racism and anti-environmentalism was rising, but now it’s looking more like the last desperate efforts of a minority of small-minded people… Canada and the US have checkered racist and colonialist pasts, but for all our faults, we’ve been evolving. Thanks to many people with diverse backgrounds from across the political spectrum who have devoted themselves to civil rights, feminism, Indigenous causes, LGBTQ rights, the environment and more, we’ve made many gains. We have a long way to go, but we must keep on and not let fear, hatred and ignorance block our way.

If we and our children and their children are to survive and be healthy in the face of crises like climate change and terrorism, we must stand together in unity and solidarity without fear. Like the many who gathered in Barcelona the day after recent horrendous terrorist attacks, the people who stood up to racists in Charlottesville, those who reject the anti-human agendas of media outlets like The Rebel and the many people worldwide who march and speak up for climate justice, we must come together to shine a light on the darkness.

We must use our voices, actions and humour to confront these anti-human undercurrents. We must confront our own prejudices and privilege.

Love conquers fear and hate. We must show those who want to bring us down or take us back to darker times that we outnumber them by far, everywhere.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster and author. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington. David Suzuki’s latest book is Just Cool It!: The Climate Crisis and What We Can Do (Greystone Books), co-written with Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

Reinventing your life

photo of Gwen Randall-Young

UNIVERSE WITHIN
by Gwen Randall-Young

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
– George Bernard Shaw

Perhaps your life has not gone as planned. Perhaps it did, but you are not sure that the plan is what you want anymore. Change can be hard. I often have clients that are dealing with major change and frequently the change is not of their own choosing.

What I see is that the old life, in some significant way, is gone. It may be the death of someone close, the ending of a relationship or job, a financial setback or a health crisis. In most cases, there is a longing for the return to the old life, a wish to wake up and find it was all just a dream. This is normal.

However, when the longing and resistance to change persists, over time, it prevents one from moving on. I picture it like this: you have been moved to a new house but you do not furnish it or put up pictures because you are focused on the old house and you want it back. You are not really even living in the new house, but rather merely existing. You do not plant flowers or even get to know your neighbours or the neighbourhood.

You realize you cannot go back, yet you spend time thinking of the old life, replaying memories and asking “Why,” but this leaves you sad and depressed. The only way to move forward is to look at this new house and start figuring out how you can make it a good place for you.

With big life changes, it is important to access resources. These include friends, family, helping professionals and perhaps accountants and lawyers. Recognize that so many others have been in your shoes and have survived.

You may feel you have lost a big part of yourself, but you are still here! There may be a void caused by the changes, but look at that as a blank canvas on which you can begin a new painting. What can you do with your time now that things are different?

With the busyness of modern life, many find they have lost touch with who they really are. It is easy to get so wrapped up in the context of our lives that we lose touch with who we are at the core of our being.

Think of the things you once liked to do. Are there books you simply have not had the time to read?
Is there music you love, but somewhere along the way stopped listening to it? Are their friends or family you have not seen in a long time? Many of them would be delighted to re-establish contact with you. Are there things you have always wanted to try but never did? A new interest, hobby or activity can invest you with a lot of new energy.

Yes, some things will never be the same, but that is true of all of life: everything changes. It is okay to look back now and then, but keep your eyes open to what is in front of you. Be in the moment rather than in the past. Notice nature, the sky, the earth and the stars. Feel your breathing and the beat of your heart. You are alive. You need to live.

Remember the words of Max Ehrmann: “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca ‘Like’ Gwen on Facebook for daily inspiration.

Star Wise – September 2017

photo of Mac MacLaughlin

STARWISE
by Mac McLaughlin

n the combined July/August column, I predicted it was going to be a very hot summer regardless of the weather and that has certainly proved itself out. We get all wound up regarding Mercury retrograde times in which communications, plans, negotiations and schedules go haywire. Mercury stops and goes direct motion on September 5, right on Donald Trump’s ascendant. The ascendant is a most sensitive point in any horoscope. Mars, the planet of exploration, courage, valour and bravery on the positive side of the coin, and war, anger and violence on the other side, accompanies Mercury and these two planets do not mix well at all. There’s bound to be trouble and controversy. Remember the great American eclipse on August 21? It occurred at 28 degrees of Leo – Trump’s ascendant – which is where Mercury and Mars meet up. That point is a cosmic hotspot, soaked with the fuel of frustration, irritation and anger and it won’t take much to set the whole thing ablaze. Let’s hope it’s a blaze of awareness, consciousness and love.

To add to the mix, Mercury forms a triangle with its higher octave planet Uranus, which will pan out in the form of epiphanies, brilliant strategies and powerful movements with masses of people involved. Later on in the month, we have a Jupiter/Uranus opposition that will be in play until mid-October. Anything goes with this wild-card combination of planetary influences. How about a revolution? Certainly, a revolution in consciousness is way overdue. There are so many bright and brilliant people out there that know that things must change, and change now.

We’re all on the same planet with the same blood in our veins. All of us are born the same way and estranged from the higher aspects of love and enlightenment. We need love and lots of it. One day, this planet will be run by highly enlightened souls that are fully conscious and endowed with the power of love and wisdom. Let’s start this party now. Let’s move the neanderthals out of the way along with all their greedy, warmongering friends. We have the the power of God’s love with us, and as my great Guru Param Sant Kirpal Singh Ji Maharaj has said, “The golden age will not fall out of the sky, but will come from men’s hearts.” It’s a wakeup call folks, and not from the nightmare of war and violence, but of love, light and caring for one another. I’m down with it, are you? Can you love me? I love you.

Mac McLaughlin has been a practising, professional astrologer for more than four decades. His popular Straight Stars column ran in Vancouver’s largest weekly newspaper for 11 years. Email mac@macsstars.com or call 604-731-1109.

Aries ZodiacARIES Mar 21 – Apr 19
Pay close attention to your dreams on September 9. Actually, all kinds of powerful information could be flowing through your consciousness from September 7 to 9. If you’re feeling restless, consider it a good thing. Sometimes, we need to be shaken up a bit in order to shake off the old and get on with the new.

Taurus ZodiacTAURUS Apr 20 – May 21
Your solar fifth house of entertainment and romance is strongly activated in September. The fifth house also rules over business adventures, gambling and creative endeavours. Embrace it all and enjoy all that life has to offer. Before you do too much embracing though, know that things are not as they appear to be, especially on September 29..

Gemini ZodiacGEMINI May 22 – Jun 20
Home, family, land and real estate are hot topics throughout the month. It may be time to buy, sell or renovate. Speaking of renovations, it might be high time for some internal renos. The stars are calling for it and it is always best to stay abreast of what the stars decree.

CancerCANCER Jun 21 – Jul 22
Your creative juices may be flowing as all kinds of ideas and epiphanies come your way. You might need to get any type of impediment regarding your overall health out of the way first. The stars are indicating it is time to take a long, hard look at everything and anything that needs healing.

Leo ZodiacLEO Jul 23 – Aug 22
Love has a beginning, but no ending. Love should always increase, but never decrease. Now, the love planet Venus visits Leo until mid-month after which it enters your house of personal values and earning capacity. It’s time to dig deep and get to the truth of what is what and what is real.

Virgo ZodiacVIRGO Aug 23 – Sep 22
The full Moon on September 6 will bring light and awareness. Actually, September 4 to 7 are very dynamic days and nights. Try to remember your dreams and pay attention to psychic impressions that come your way on these days as well. September 17 to 20 are dynamic days in which a new start is indicated.

Libra ZodiacLIBRA Sep 23 – Oct 22
An energy shift takes place on September 22. The autumnal equinox affects the magnetism of the Earth and it most likely will affect your magnetism as well. Important shifts in consciousness take place for those sensitive enough to pick up on them. September 21 and 22 are days in which unique and interesting news arrives.

Scorpio ZodiacSCORPIO Oct 23 – Nov 21
Scorpio people are very keen on the power of the collective. Not only keen on collective power, but many Scorpio types love to be at the head of whatever is going on. They love to run the show. September offers up myriad opportunities to get together with like- minded souls, groups and affiliations of all sorts.

Sagittaurus ZodiacSAGITTARIUS Nov 22 – Dec 21
Saturn, which rules falls from high places, lingers in Sagittarius for a few more months. My Sagittarius neighbour fell off his ladder and my Sagittarius grandson fell off of his motorbike. Both are licking their wounds. Brighten up; they’re all good lessons learned in the school of hard knocks. Career opportunities may manifest this month.

Capricorn ZodiacCAPRICORN Dec 22 – Jan 19
Spirituality, philosophy and all matters to do with travel and education come into play now. Overall, this is a time of transition and regeneration. It’s a long-term thing and not something to be worried about. The main theme is continuing to let go of the past, enjoying the present and embracing the future.

Aquarius ZodiacAQUARIUS Jan 20 – Feb 19
Oh, what a trail we have left behind throughout the ages. It’s nearly overwhelming to even consider how long our soul has existed and how many times you have reincarnated on this planet. Heavy and heady as it is, you might be interested in delving into the deeper waters of the soul’s existence now.

Pisces ZodiacPISCES Feb 20 – Mar 20
The full Moon on September 6 occurs in your sign. The Moon conjuncts with Neptune opening up a channel of awareness and connectedness with your higher self. Pay attention to all that comes to pass from September 4 to 7. Love, forgiveness, kindness and gentleness will get you to where you want to go.

The Daisy Project

One woman’s inspiring journey through BC’s mental health system maze

DRUG BUST
by Alan Cassels

When you spend as much time as I do reading medical literature, parsing studies and thinking about their statistically significant ‘findings,’ you get a certain view of medicine. Research is not created equal and there is a strict hierarchy of evidence where randomized trials are considered superior forms of evidence in evaluating treatments. Better yet are those meta-analyses; the combined summaries and syntheses of many randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are considered the gold standard in determining if there is ‘proof’ of a treatment’s benefits. At the other end of the spectrum are ‘case studies’ that may be just the observations of one or several patients. Then there are personal stories which tend to be ignored, dismissed as ‘anecdotal’ and said to be of limited usefulness.

While I am all for good-quality meta-analyses, I also think we have a lot to learn by reading case studies and personal stories. They are really important and can be very illuminating, often revealing, in excruciating detail, how our health system works in the real world to help sort out peoples’ health problems.

Over the last 20 years or so, I have been contacted by hundreds of people, all with a story to tell, often with an altruistic motive which says, “I don’t want others to suffer the way I have.” Among those who have called me, those taking statins often ask if their muscle weakness could be due to those cholesterol-lowering drugs. “Likely,” I say. Others wonder if their mother’s anti-alzheimer’s pill could be causing her to feel nauseous. “Probably, yes.” Others question the prescription for an amphetamine for their 10-year-old boy who can’t sit still (sheesh). These people all have stories to tell and they are rich and rewarding.

What many of these people have in common is that they have been harmed by the treatment they’ve been prescribed. But what isn’t common are those who have gone through terrible medical experiences yet can move beyond the trauma to meaningfully communicate it to others.

Over the last 30 years or so, Daisy Anderson has seen 18 different psychiatrists, been prescribed more than 30 different medications, was given electric shock treatments, been hospitalized repeatedly and faced the stings of rejection and isolation. With an admittedly difficult childhood, marred by various types of abuse, she documents her slow journey through BC’s mental health system in incredible detail. Her story, just published in the book, The Daisy Project: Escaping Psychiatry and Rediscovering Love, speaks to those who find themselves navigating what passes for mental health care in BC.

I asked her why she wrote such a book, painfully recalling and documenting her struggles in what seemed like an incredibly uncaring, hostile system. Her answer was simple: she wanted to tell the world when she got better. She didn’t like the way she was being treated and she wanted her life back.

The problem, of course, is being diagnosed with a mental illness and trying to get well when it seems everything – including your family, the medical system and even the lawyers – might be working against you. It means negotiating for yourself and being your own advocate. As Daisy writes, “Disability was about letters, forms and proving that I was extremely ill. It also meant having to ask a hotheaded psychiatrist to write a letter and sign his name.”

Thankfully, she did find people along the way, particularly a psychologist, and others who were able to help her. As she writes, “I sought solace from anyone who would listen.” A switch happened when she admitted to her very helpful psychologist that “psychiatry may have harmed me.” For her, “it felt like a turning point, a sign of my transformation from an indoctrinated psychiatric patient into a strong independent woman.”

Many of the people who end up in the mental health system are there not because they have a ‘brain disease,’ but because they may have ended up with a diagnosis of ‘anxiety’ or ‘depression,’ which started them down a cascade of anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants. Daisy’s life might be a testament to what happens to adults who have been through childhood abuse, yet it was the abuse by the mental health system that really slowed her recovery. But Daisy survived the dismissive psychiatrists and their armamentarium of toxic drugs and thrived in spite of them, refusing to accept the view that others had of her. Thankfully, she found a psychologist who “really listened,” helping immensely. Unfortunately, psychological help can be very expensive and not readily available for people on limited means. As to the ‘secret’ of her survival, she told me, “I just had to tell my story.” Being a natural documentarian where her diary was her “release,” her pages and pages of records and copious notes all helped her advocate for herself based on the facts of her own case.

As for getting off drugs, she comments on the system I know about, in which people take prescriptions with very limited ‘informed’ consent. As for all the drugs, she told me, “You need to know a lot and you need to be given time to think about it. You need to be given alternatives and you need to know the problems you will face on the drugs.” For example, you can develop diabetes with the newer antipsychotics, but nobody is typically informed of this or really understands what the full ramifications are of getting a ‘new’ disease. The drugs, she says, are “complicating things immeasurably because the doctors don’t see the side effects or underestimate their effects on one’s day to day living.”

Most people might not know that stopping many psychiatric drugs involves a “withdrawal effect,” which can make them terribly ill. Unfortunately, tapering patients is not a speciality of most doctors and, for Daisy, stopping her benzodiazepines (drugs prescribed for anxiety or sleeping) was difficult. Along the way, she had to research the best ways to do so (discovering the Ashton Protocol) and take information to her doctors so they could reduce her drugs slowly and safely.

Above all, Daisy’s “project” is a plea for people to be “listened to.” She shows that to improve the care of people with mental health difficulties, the system needs to be adaptive. “Not everyone will benefit from counselling, medication or cognitive behavioural therapy,” she says, but people should be offered these options. “There has to be far fewer medications” and most importantly, she says, people with mental health problems need “someone who can listen and understand.” What also helped her return to health was many of those other things that generally increase our enjoyment in life: yoga, walking, being in nature, belonging to art and craft groups and spiritual practice. “Basically, being in a community of people who accept you as you are.”

I asked Daisy what is causing the growing sense of mental ill health in society and she responded immediately, “Lots of people go through tough times. But when you lose your husband, etc, you may need support, but you don’t need medication.” She adds, “Sometimes, we get blamed for being sick when, in fact, society is doing it to us.” For her, the solutions are complex, but she emphasizes going to the root: “The first thing we need to do is care for our children… but don’t blame parents.”

The new NDP government created a new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions to deal with the issues. According to the Ministry, “One in five British Columbians will be affected by a mental health and/or substance use problem this year.” Minister Judy Darcy received a ‘mandate’ letter from the new premier which stated that her job, in part, was to ”guide the transformation of BC’s mental-health-care system” and to “focus on improving access, investing in early prevention and youth mental health.”

I’m hoping Judy Darcy will have people like Daisy Anderson advising her.

EVENT

September 14, 7PM: Vancouver book launch of The Daisy Project: Escaping Psychiatry and Rediscovering Love. At the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, 949 West 49th Ave. All are welcome. Free.

Alan Cassels writes about pharmaceutical policy in Victoria and is the author of Seeking Sickness: Medical Screening and the Misguided Hunt for Disease. www.alancassels.com

Bill C-59 will help safeguard privacy

But more needs to be done

photo of Marie Aspiazu

INDEPENDENT MEDIA
by Marie Aspiazu

After over two years, the federal government finally delivered on a long overdue promise: namely, the reforms to the draconian Harper-era gem, Bill C-51. These proposals were set out in the National Security Act 2017, or Bill C-59. Thepublished after a tireless, nationwide movement calling for the full repeal of Bill C-51 and a lengthy national security consultation that began last fall.

Amongst the top reforms called for in Bill C-51 were stronger oversight and accountability measures, rolling back expanded powers for the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) to conduct police activities, repealing provisions for broad information sharing between government agencies and rejecting mandatory data retention laws for telecom companies.

But did Bill C-59 go far enough to address the top privacy concerns of Canadians and tackle the many other deeply troubling aspects of C-51? Or is it just a half-baked measure by a federal government seeking to claim it did its part while leaving some of the worst pieces of C-51 lurking beneath the surface? The answer lies somewhere in between.

Bill C-59 is undoubtedly a positive step toward safeguarding the privacy of Canadians, as it includes encouraging reforms such as a new pan-government review body for our spy agencies and a much narrower definition of “terrorist propaganda,” so that this term no longer encompasses activities like peaceful protest and artistic expression.

However, it falls short of addressing some of the most serious concerns associated with Bill C-51, namely information sharing and police powers for CSIS. This is particularly disappointing, given the national security consultation revealed Canadians have significant concerns related to the sharing of sensitive data with foreign governments. Furthermore, broad powers for CSIS to collect and retain “publicly available” datasets went woefully unaddressed.

There was also no mention of measures to protect Canadians from invasive mass surveillance devices like Stingrays or proactive measures to protect encrypted communications, which have become essential for many of us in our everyday lives and critical to our digital and economic security.

Overall, the reform leaves worrying gaps that indicate the new legislation fails to give Canadians the privacy standards they’ve been asking for in an era where privacy is under constant threat by both government agencies and powerful corporations.

More importantly, despite C-59 making some progress on privacy, it remains clear Canadians are still hungry for a full repeal of C-51 and won’t be satisfied with half-measures. What is certain is that C-59 will have to be substantially improved to give Canadians the robust privacy protections they deserve. And there is an opportunity for this to happen through amendments as the bill goes to committee in the fall.

There’s no doubt this will be near the top of MPs’ to-do list when Parliament returns. Use OpenMedia’s online tool to message your MP with a simple click at act.openmedia.org/ProtectPrivacyC51 and ask them to fill in the current gaps and strengthen our privacy protections.

If we flood our MPs’ inboxes before they resume Parliament in the fall, they will not be able to turn a blind eye to our pressing concerns on C-51. Canadians can speak out at act.openmedia.org/ProtectPrivacyC51

Marie Aspiazu is the social media specialist at openmedia.org