Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

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Why Everyone’s Vote Is Vital

Originally published as a column in CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on May 1, 2017. 

Our days are rife with politics. News, campaign bites, signs abounding. Provincial elections coming up! Wednesday night found me listening to Elizabeth May at the Double Tree Hilton hotel downtown. No matter your colours, politically speaking, an admirable and inspiring presence like Ms. May’s transcends all of that. She has a straight backbone and accountability. We need more politicians like her to help restore people’s trust that things can turn out better after all.

We can get ourselves there on May 9, or between May 3 to 6, if you prefer advance voting. Please get out and vote. Voting is, at once, the right, duty and chance that can see us building a better future.

To say the clock that measures our time as a species on this planet is ticking may sound too much like the doom and gloom predictions that environmentalists have been delivering lately. I agree, it’s not pretty. But it’s real.

Last Friday, president Trump reversed the order regarding drilling in the Arctic and the Atlantic. The oceans that are already at risk due to warming, acidification, overfishing and plastic accumulation, will see more drilling for fossil fuels. The announcement spoke of jobs and other benefits, without any references to the risks.

That our governments, provincial and federal, should re-examine their stand on how they deal with the fate of future generations, no matter what our neighbours to the south do, is an understatement. We now know that carbon dioxide levels have breached the 410 parts per million threshold. Another kind of beast unleashed, one that we should stop feeding and soon, or else.

One way to do it? Go and cast your vote. Read up on what each candidate and their party stand for, ask questions, and listen to debates. A lot is at stake. Jobs are needed, yes, but creation of jobs should be the result of an ‘out of the box’ process. A much needed reform.

The world as we know it has been changing due to climate change, and in face of that kind of threat, money can do little, if anything, to compensate.

We cannot turn back the clock or put the greenhouse gases back in the bag. But we can ask that our governments show concern for the environment, globally and locally.

And there are many local and province-wide issues our future elected MLAs will have to deal with. In Clearwater, industrial logging at too large a scale in high-risk areas has brought the local population of the Canadian Southern Mountain Caribou to a dire situation: there are but 120 left roaming (and declining).

The infamous Site C project, criticized by environmentalists and scientists here in Canada and abroad is a failure to care of our present government, to put it mildly. An environmental, economic, and cultural disaster waiting to happen. Disasters that have already happened (Mt. Polley mine tailings spill) have yet to be properly addressed, legally, ethically, and morally speaking. The present government has failed at that too.

If environmental issues are not your highest concern, there are plenty of other issues in need of addressing: child poverty (British Columbia has, after all, and shamefully so, the highest child poverty rates in Canada), lack of proper medical care, and lack of a proper school system, to name but a few.

These issues are but testament to the need for change in how our provincial government deals with life at all levels.

It has to be good for more than a select few, and it should happen even in the most remote communities (think access to clean water which is a basic human right.)

It has to come with a vision for what the future could be like, should alternative technologies and industries be promoted so that our pale blue dot and our children have a fighting chance.

It has to come with people being offered jobs that do not put their own communities and health at risk, and it has to come with a good education and medical system.

The order could not be taller. Nothing could be delivered overnight either once May 10th comes around. The future is built one day after another rather than delivered in one day as a done deal.

What matters now is to choose politicians whose minds and hearts are open, and who are willing to communicate and follow up on issues. Leaders with the moral stature and vision that will call for fairness and ethics in determining who gets to do business in British Columbia, making transparency the word of the day and the standing practice in all governmental offices.

Yes, a lot is at stake. Voting is the one thing that can be done to save what can be saved and through that, our future. Please consider casting a vote when the day comes and encourage others to do so too.

It’s Time We Decriminalize Political Discourse

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on April 2, 2017. 

If I had a dollar for every time I was part of a conversation that had people purposefully steer away from subjects such as politics… well, you get the idea. It’d be a good chunk of money.

I know conversations that venture into politics can turn contentious, but that’s the nature of the beast. It doesn’t have to be all ugly though. Like with everything else, there is a learning curve that eventually can help us get to the place where we can engage in healthy dialogue that does not turn friends into enemies.

It seems we are inching the other way. Political conversations will get you a raised eyebrow in many circles. That, I dare say, is a threat to democracy itself.

We are soon to be immersed, as a province, in the thick of the provincial elections campaign. There will be news stories about parties and candidates, ugliness included, platforms to read and understand, and many will experience the campaign fatigue that comes from all that information pouring over our heads like incessant rain.  Come May 9, we will have to make our choices. And they’d better be good, is what most of us think to ourselves. But what’s good for the gander will not be good for the goose, or so we think.

The ‘good’ – in whatever sector we’re talking about – will not be the same for everyone, at least not in the details. The basics are the same for most of us: a good education system, medical needs taken care of no matter your social status or age, decent jobs and minimum wages that allow people to live rather than barely survive from month to month, the list goes on. It’s a long one. Then come the specifics. That’s where what’s good for some may not work for others and things like climate change-adapting economy proves too big a conversation to start. The specifics can turn healthy dialogue into ugly word exchange.

Scary as that is, if people aim to give it a decent makeover to the point of making political dialogue at any level possible, we’d all benefit from it.

That cannot happen though when so many of us are shying away from talking politics, considering it boorish and aggressive. It can be, but it doesn’t have to. Public discourse is what keeps democracy alive so it makes sense to have one brewing at all times. People staying away from political conversations at a time when they are most needed – prior to elections – has no positive outcomes whichever way you look at it.

If children and youths learn that talking politics is a dirty deed, they’ll be hard to convince to step up and vote when the time comes. That is a recurrent issue not just in British Columbia and Canada, but in many countries around the world.

When people start asking questions, exchanging information, debating, and engaging in public discourse that makes their concerns visible, that forces the political parties to pay attention and tailor their values to match those of the people they represent.

I get it. Political garb is far from the entertaining stuff that pours from social media platforms, sitcoms, reality shows, or whatever else people flock to these days. Getting past the gagging and learning what each party stands for or lack thereof in some cases, discerning through the promises that have the potential to become reality or fall flat on their faces, that can have some seriously uplifting down the road. Literally.

We usually read about developing countries dealing with corruption and people having to bear the effects of it, be it environmental disasters caused by loose industry standards, subhuman living conditions and treatment of vulnerable population groups, prosecution of people who dare challenge the system, to name but a few. The buffer zone between here and there allows us to touch on those topics or shake our heads disapprovingly while counting our blessings that come with living in a democracy.

As it turns out, those issues pop us everywhere, including Canada. One way to keep them at bay is having people engage politically – from the level of their living rooms to barber shops to public rallies and talks – so that knowledge can be shared, views can be challenged and wrongdoings turned into good decisions and deeds for the community.

It’s about time we decriminalize political discourse and instead focus on making it civil and constructive. There are tomes written on the art of conversation. An almost lost art, I’d say, that can be revived.

Public comments that follow online articles are often vitriolic in their nature and quickly turning to personal attacks. Many use fake names rather than their real ones, which adds to the volatile nature of the present political discourse, making it look ugly and boorish.

By decriminalizing political discourse, we can bring back something that often gets lost in today’s hurried life: a society where everyone has a voice is a better one. Though we call the hunter and gatherer societies primitive when we compare them with our present one, there was one thing that somehow the ‘primitive’ mindset included: everyone contributed to the well-being of the community, that ensured more than their well-being. It ensured their survival.

One facet of it nowadays could be the willingness to engage in educating ourselves politically, engaging with open minds in dialogue that will have us know more, challenge more, be humbled or bold when the situation calls for it, and most importantly, change what needs to be changed when the time comes to cast a vote. A privilege that cannot be ignored.

That our children will follow our example and be grateful for leading the way towards a better future, I have no doubt. That too is a privilege we cannot afford to ignore.

Why Some Media Outlets Should Rethink Their Ways

Originally published as column in CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on February 20, 2017. 

We are in the midst of much turmoil worldwide. Unrest is becoming the word of the day. Controversial topics and happenings pouring in with our daily news can make you feel so small and overwhelmed. The ant in the anthill.

Amidst the flurry of news over the last few weeks, the smiling face of a child kept popping up. Head tilted cutely, sweetness beaming towards whoever took that photo, likely his parents. Next to that photo was a photo of his grandparents, also smiling. Their story was so sad and heartbreaking, it brings tears every time. You may have heard or read about the little boy and his grandparents who got violently killed in Calgary in 2014. After a painful trial, justice has been served a couple of days ago: 75 years without parole.

Many media outlets followed the story, relating on yet another gruesome detail. Every time I saw another headline about the story, I cringed. I thought of the family that was going through this. I cannot imagine pain that runs that deep, though I’ve met pain in my life.

Then, two days ago, I read the little boy’s mom’s impact statement. I’d call it heartbreaking but it would be an understatement. One of the things that saddened me the most was her telling of how hard she fought to have the media leave the photos of her dead son and parents unpublished.

That was her child, those were her parents, that was her childhood home, and some of the media outlets took no notice of how the publishing of photos would affect the people whose lives have been so painfully and permanently altered by an senseless, heinous act. No one other than jurors, detectives, lawyers, and judge need to see those photos anyway.

Some people may find it compelling, and armchair detectives may get their fix perhaps, because they are detached from the story, but for those who lost so much, the photos that are now available online will make for a continuous nightmare.

I cannot find a reason for which a self-respecting journalist or media outlet would push humanity and compassion out of the way to make room for the sensational. Journalists are story tellers. They pick ideas from here and there, they are approached by people who want their story told, and then they go on hunting down stories to bring forth. It’s a tough job.

There are some amazing people out there who make the world a better place by exposing wrongness, by having the courage to stand for worthy causes, and by putting their lives on the line, metaphorically and literally. Some of the ones I follow and greatly admire share one simple quality: compassion. Hats off to them. They all know when a line should not be crossed.

Others and the outlets they represent do the opposite. If pain is an inherent, unfortunate part of the story they relate on, they dig deeper into the wound, leading to what Nathan O’Brian’s mother, Jennifer O’Brien, called ‘less than honourable work.’ While freedom of speech is a must and high ratings are important, there ought to be some conditions in place for not breaking someone’s heart further while having the privilege of earning your money by telling their story.

Because in the end, it is a privilege, in my opinion, to be able to put a story out there for people to see or read. It is a privilege that no journalist should abuse. Then there’s trust. Many times I have had people around me say ‘I’d better not say anything more about this or it’ll end up in one of your articles.’ For the record, I have yet to wade those waters. Truth is, I never will. For the above-mentioned reasons; trust first of all.

Here’s the thing. It’s been almost eleven years since my mom’s unexpected passing. It was a tough river to cross, that kind of pain; I am never too far from those waters, though time has worked its magic in dulling some of the pain. I remember the days after when everything seems to be out of place and hurting: the sky, birds’ songs, and holding my toddler’s hand. My mom could not have that anymore, so I could I enjoy it from then on?

Losing someone dear or going through heartaches of a similar nature chips at our hearts, but adds new dimensions: compassion, understanding and kindness. You know the feeling of wearing that kind of shoes. In a world that keeps on spinning, nothing makes sense anymore and yet life keeps on churning.

The sad story of the little boy and his grandparents is but a small story in the sleuth of daily news, yet it’s one story journalists are expected to tell with much sensitivity and compassion, while still delivering a powerful message. No graphic photo that the mourning family fought hard to keep from the public eye can make a story more powerful. Horrific yes, but that’s betrayal to those who matter the most in the story.

Because of all of that and more, I felt ashamed to read about that mom’s horrific ordeal that some of media made worse. I wish that all aspiring and established journalists will read those passages and I hope, just like she hopes, that one day enough public backlash will spare other families from the pain her family had to go through while fighting the media.

In fact, I hope that all respectable media outlets will add to the backlash so that there will be a consensus on how to go about telling stories. If someone would ask my opinion on how to go about it, I’d say just like I tell the boys all the time: be kind, leave a person’s dignity intact and listen. Never stomp on someone’s heart. Never.

Where To From Here (Or Why Changing Our Ways Can Spare Some Of The Trouble Ahead)

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on February 13, 2017. 

Again, a week of many happenings. Like many of you who heard the story of the Kamloops couple who stopped to offer their help at an accident scene on the Coquihalla and were hit by a car that lost control, I kept hoping that Anna and Matt Grandia, parents of two, will both survive and recover. Sadly, Anna Grandia passed due to her severe injuries. The pain her family goes through and for the rest of their lives, is impossible to put into words.

Yes, it is unfair and senseless; these things always are. Following such tragic stories, you’d expect most of us drivers would learn something and apply it. Speed can kill, speed and winter weather conditions even more so. Yet if you drive around Kamloops and outside the city limits too, you come across speedy, careless drivers whose recklessness not only puts their own lives in danger, but mine and yours too.

What are we learning from reading or watching the news? How far does the message reach? Too often, a simple shrug and the next piece of news moves our attention from stories such as this, heartbreaking as they are.

Albert Einstein once defined insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ In case of driving recklessly and the mild consequences the reckless or drunk driver faces, compared to the pain he or she causes to others, well, they are, for the most part, severely disproportionate.

This is not an argument for sacking and punishing people for the sake of doing so. It’s about protecting everyone and making sure rules that keep everyone safe are being reinforced. Because let’s face it, heartbreaking stories seen from a distance elicit a certain response. Yet being in that story changes the terms completely. No one should have to go through something that can be prevented.

Whether it is protecting all people in a community from the ill consequences of dangerous driving, or protecting the community (up to the level of province, country and beyond) from any kind of peril brought upon by someone’s actions, we all need to be able to see where changes need to be made and do all that we can to see them implemented.

Two events I attended at TRU this past week added to the argument. On Tuesday I attended a talk by Naomi Klein. True to her reputation, she said it as it is and in no way sparing the ugly bits: environmentally speaking, we are in a rough spot, our commitment to the Paris agreement not only lacking some touches here and there, but being the complete opposite of what it should be.

With a powerful wind of climate change denial blowing incessantly from the south of the border, and our provincial and federal governments’ commitment to extracting and using more fossil fuels instead of reshaping our ways to sustainable alternatives, things are really not looking good. No, such things are not immediately visible, nor are they served as reminders in our media. We want to keep a sunny optimistic attitude as a society, and we believe that somehow things work out regardless. Again, I am reminded of the definition of insanity by Einstein. Powerful stuff.

Better regulations for industrial polluters that would prevent more carbon from being added to a constantly heating atmosphere, plus better and unbreakable ways to reinforce the regulations, that would get things moving in a different direction.

A forum on air quality, also held at TRU and hosted by Dr. Michael Mehta, professor of geography and environmental science, who has been recently and diligently monitoring the air we breathe using sensors peppered all throughout Kamloops, brought yet another problem forward. The air in Kamloops is often farthest from clean.

From the pulp mill emissions to idling, to air traffic pollution and residential wood burning in town, our air, on a bad day (and they are not rare, unfortunately), is but a collection of small particles and gases that can and do cause serious health problems, in some of us more than in others.

There are solutions, the forum participants, which included the Green Party, NDP and Communist Party candidates for the May 2017 provincial elections, concluded. Things need to change if we are to see better air days.

Better regulations and better ways to reinforce them, not for the benefit of corporate profit but the well-being of the community, yes, it can be done. Our brains are wired to find solutions when a problem is identified. As it happens, denial often gets in the way.

Future bad happenings can be avoided. We now know that leaving things unchanged will have us find ourselves, yet again, to the fork in the road labeled ‘crisis’. Trouble is, which each time we return to one crisis or another, we may find that the time we have left to change things may be drawing short or that we may have had one too many freedoms normally granted by a democracy, taken away from us, which renders action and change far more difficult.

From rules pertaining civilians to those concerning the industry, locally and country-wide, if we care about our collective well-being and our children’s right to inherit not only a better world but also the courage to speak up and influence change when change is due and needed, we ought to change some of the rules we have in place.

As said many times by many wise people throughout history, change starts with bettering ourselves at a personal level by reviewing our values. That way we can be objective in seeing what needs to be change at the level of our community and beyond.

Environmentally Speaking, We’re Really, Really Messing Things Up

Originally published as a column in the Armchair Mayor News on Friday, November 28, 2016. 

The last two weeks have been tragic in many ways. If you’ve read the news and are perhaps waiting for something positive on the diesel spill near Bella Bella, you most likely know about the unacceptable low-class response that came from the government.

Yes, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans PR team build a nice little positive update stating that the tug boat that leaked diesel into the water has been pumped clean and the attention is now focused on removing the Nathan E. Stewart barge from the waters near Bella Bella. Right. And then?

Then not much. Our premier said that what we have learned from this spill is that the federal government needs to provide better spill response for any future unfortunate incidents. As for the environmental impact of the spill, including the local economy and way of life… chances are you won’t hear much from either the provincial or the federal government.

The latter is likely pondering over the slew of lawsuits that come with the latest governmental insistence that the LNG terminal near Prince Rupert must continue. It will be a big mess, if we are looking at the Muskrat Falls protests that just about wrapped up this last Wednesday though many scientific arguments were brought against the LNG plant, nothing influenced the federal mind towards rethinking the project.

If it sounds topsy-turvy, it’s only because it is. Who is then to stand up for what’s right environmentally speaking? Ideally us, the people who live here and raise our children here hoping that the world we leave to them will be a liveable one. The question is: are we? Are we united in adopting the one goal that can see us alter the course just enough to ensure survival? Hard to tell at times.

A couple of weeks ago my family and I drove through Cache Creek and witnessed a road check by conservation officers. They were searching for poached animals. A few days later I heard on the radio that over 70 wildlife act violation tickets were handed out and some warnings as well. That was of course, in a small community in the interior. Care to guess what the province-wide poaching stats look like? Your guess is as good as any and no one can tell real numbers since there are far too few conservation officers in the field and the paper work that is done by those tied to their desks does not include poaching numbers.

I’m ready to say if you describe these scenarios to anyone without mentioning this is happening in Canada, they’d never guess it was here. After all, we should have world-class spill response units and technology in place, we should have objective and careful documenting of environmental consequences following a spill, we should by now have a ban in place that will protect the West Coast and preserve its pristineness and yes, we should have enough conservation law enforcement officers and tough enough laws that will deter most of the marauders from poaching. People should not be expected to fend for themselves like the Heiltsuk Nation people are doing now and there should be news of the spill all over so people can stay informed, talk about it and help. No environmental crisis should be ignored, no desperate outcry muffled by pollical positivity that can almost (and cruelly so) pass for facetiousness.

Our planet overall is not doing too well either. Climate change is still debated in some circles (beats me) but there are signs that cannot be ignored and science-based facts that stare us in the face. Among them, a recently published report that predicts the disappearance of two thirds of all the wildlife should we not adopt some quick and drastic changes to how we live as citizens of a planet suddenly too small too crowded and seriously taken for granted. It’s enough to make one tear up and ask how this is possible.

Pollution, unrestricted logging, and large scale farming add to the changes brought upon by a now finicky climate, and the ultimate consequences have to do with our existence on this planet. Human life is intricately and intimately connected with that pf other forms of life, from bacteria to large mammals and from invisible plankton to old-growth trees. Seeing the connection becomes a game changer. Educating ourselves and acting out of respect for life in general is not an invitation anymore, it’s an act of civil duty worthy of everyone who care about being alive.

The said crossroad cannot be ignored. It’s a simple question: What’s it going to be? If we are to prevail, something must change. Any less reminds me of a song by an Irish group called Flogging Molly: ’’Cause we find ourselves in the same old mess/Singing drunken lullabies…’ Late as it may be, there is still time to change the tune.

Why Do Pitt Bulls Get More Public Attention Than Abused Children

Initially published as a column in the Armchair Mayor News on Friday, October 7, 2016. 

ProtectSince 2011, at least 233 children between the ages of three and 18 have been subjected to sexual abuse while in foster care. That is in British Columbia alone. The majority of them were girls and more than 60 percent Indigenous. To put it in perspective, approximately 25 percent of the children in foster care in our province are aboriginal.

The report created some ripples on the day it hit the press, but definitely not enough and the ripples also did not carry through the next few days. In other words, it’s not something we talk about and become rightfully shocked by.

In contrast, the Montreal pit bull ban got so much publicity and word of mouth that it reached many corners of this province and the country too. While I will not go into that debate, my contention revolves around what makes us tick as a society. That over two hundred children (many more go unreported) were subjected to sexual violence in Canada in this day and age should make us all stop and question our priorities as a society.

Love or hate pit bulls, the thing is, we talk about it, we have it in the news, petitions are flying (one had approximately 191,000 signatures a week or so ago) and we collectively argue about the ban. There are some pretty strong opinions flying out there if you care to check the news.

For the record, I love dogs. I have one I dearly love, and I do think that dogs deserve to be cared for the right way. But, I am of the belief that every dog owner should be charged or drastically fined should their dog attack anyone and harm them. The money should go straight to shelters to help other animals.

On the other hand, are we being just as vocal about those abused children? A year ago or so I wrote a column about a little girl (age 2) who died while in foster care, bearing many signs of physical abuse. It saddened me then and it still saddens me now. There was a lot of muddling in the case as the foster parents denied being physically abusive and the natural mother who fought hard to get her baby back had a history of mental disease.

B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux still maintains that the ministry has rigorous standards when choosing foster parents. Outrage? Nah. New measures will be implemented, possibly after paper-pushing, stamping, approving of this and that, and then some more paper-pushing. Meanwhile, children suffer.

It’s hard to believe our most beautiful province has a shameful reputation when it comes to how we take care of children. Not mine or yours most likely, but of those who were born under less lucky stars. The most vulnerable of them all. They drop even lower and the sky above them darkens even more with every day of abuse and mistreatment.

It’s high time we put a stop to that. That in every society throughout time people found themselves at the opposite poles of status, financially or otherwise, is true. But nowadays we are privy to enough information to be able to step up and stop any kind of abuse, to shorten decision-making time when a child’s life depends on it and to make it big news and a subject of conversation until the issue does not longer exist. To paraphrase our PM who is still dragging his feet in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Inquiry, this is 2016. Almost 2017 in fact.

I believe in compassion and second chances, yet there is a fine line we ought not to cross when dealing with children who are subjected to sexual violence of any kind. The problem is, many of these children are scarred for life. Second chances are, in these cases and sadly so, more often for the perpetrators than for the young victims.

When we think of the future we think of children. They are the ones carrying the legacy into tomorrow. The more we allow as a society for a partially rotten legacy to exist, the more troublesome the future we hope for becomes.

A quote I often think of belongs to Nelson Mandela: ‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’ Am I right to assume that our society’s soul is not doing too well at the moment? We can each do something to make it heal by fighting to treat our collective children better and let no harm of the above sort come to them.

Yes, We Talk Politics. Here’s Why

We do not watch TV in my family. That leaves us in the dark when a question like ‘Have you seen the last episode of…’ surfaces, but it’s a risk worth taking.

I read the news instead and often times conversations around coffee, tea, and meals, have us talk about the latest in politics. Children included. I’ve always believed that most children if given the chance and without having their minds inundated with useless, mainstream stuff, can have pertinent opinions.

We need that in today’s world more than ever. People taking the time to think, the courage to speak up and engage in conversations that may prove challenging, revealing but are overall necessary for pushing us towards knowing more, knowing better and educating ourselves.

We need our children to grow up knowing that it is not impolite or poor manners to engage in political conversations. It is necessary, because knowing what goes on in the political world can just make the world as a whole better. Simply because sooner or later that knowledge applies to voting, a tool that (should) shape the democratic world.

When a child is passionate about nature, for example, specifically the ocean, and tries to understand why people overfish and pollute the oceans which endangers us all ultimately, it is hard to come up with a good enough explanation.

That politics is intimately tied with that too is unfortunately true. Much like trawling, there is a whole lot of stuff that politics drags behind in terms of connections with industries or large companies that work for profit, no matter what’s at risk. That of course puts the politician in a sensitive spot where he has to watch out for the interests of the people, their well-being, that of the world around them, and yes, all of that should be done independent of big money.

Can a child understand that? Can they understand that though it seems Lilliputian in size, our freedom to make choices, from the businesses we support to supply our daily meals to the other utilitarian products provided by big companies, is a very important democratic muscle that grows bigger and stronger the more we use it.

At the risk of sounding overoptimistic, I will say children do somehow understand that or are capable to do so if we take the time to explain that to them. And we should. It’s the world they will inherit so it makes sense that they should have a say in how things are run.

A Canadian company is aiming to start deep sea mining sometimes in early 2017. That’s a lot of drilling and disturbing of worlds we have yet to learn of fully. That there are still species unknown to humans in those depths, that our very lives depend on the intricate mesh that marine life is, should be reason enough to give any company some pause for thinking and reconsidering. When our children grow and have jobs and funds that can be invested, they should know better than to buy stocks that chip away at the world they live in. It takes saying it out loud for them to learn.

Politics can teach a lot about ethics, or lack thereof. That politics is one of the least gracious of all the good conversation sisters is true. Yet imagine what the world would be like if most people save for those in positions of power, would engage in polite, often meaningless chit-chat, and no one would ever remark on indignities, unfairness and downright abuse of power.

We do not even need to cross the border to get close to some of that. As CBC recently revealed, a Canadian company sold armoured vehicles to both war-torn Libya and South Sudan. In both cases, the ethical and humanitarian implications are painful to discuss albeit important to do so. Sure these trades cannot reflect Canadian values. We are after all known for apologizing when someone steps on our foot; we are the kind nature-lovers with a postcard-worthy country and an appetite for wilderness discovery. We’re kind and helpful towards people who are in dire straits (see the case of recently relocated Syrian refugees).

There is enough news and information flying every which way to make this serious and saddening offense towards humanity disappear with no one wiser on whether the company stopped its death-causing trades or if anyone was sanctioned for what could almost pass as criminal acts. There’s been enough cases of ‘forgiveness’.

It is true that there is not enough time in a day to read about all that deserves attention. Canadian politics alone, local and country-wide, is enough to make your head spin. Add to that the heartbreaking events unfolding in Syria at the moment as millions of people are in need of water under sweltering heat and amidst daily bombings. South Sudan with its millions of displaced, famished people too. Millions of African farmers punished severely by climate change.

Yet if enough people talk politics, each bringing some pieces to the big conversation about the world, we might just realize that we know more and better simply because someone took the time to inform themselves, and decided to share it with others. To ask questions, to make us think, to make us do our part as much as we can.

It is by all means easy (not on our conscience) to stick to our summer fun that might or might not include water which we have free access to (imagine the complete opposite), to happy conversations and good things happening in the world, because really, there are many. But we ought to be fair and impartial and give enough attention to issues that can raise eyebrows or make people uncomfortable. After all personal comfort should come second to human suffering, environmental destruction or any other issues where violation of what is humane, ethical and respectful is evident.

So go ahead, talk about Trump and his undignified approach to politics, talk about mines and the site C dam, about pipelines and wars unfolding far away. Allow your children to pipe in and voice their opinion. It’s their world too. We may be personally attached to one issue or another and become reactive when another brings it up (case in point: mines and pipelines). Yet healthy debates can lead to exactly what benefits both sides: consideration and respect for people and the environment. Ethics. It’s possible to have it good in many ways, much better than we do, if we stand up, listen, speak our mind and respectfully learn and educate at the same time. It’s a win-win.

So yes, we talk politics. Now you know why.

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