January 31, 2007

How Do Canada's National Newspapers Frame Sustainability?

This is the topic of my research project for my MA in Professional Communication from Royal Roads University.

At no time have people been more concerned about sustainability than they are now. We read and hear about environmental sustainability, corporate sustainability, sustainable development, and building sustainable communities. The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change published on October 30, 2006, forecast that human impact on climate change could result in damage to economic growth on the scale of the great wars and the economic depression in the last century. It was followed by stories based on an article in the journal Science projecting that global fish and other seafood stocks could completely collapse by 2048 if they continue to be lost at their present rate.

A recent Angus Reid poll called Canadians Question Government on Environment shows that 71% of Canadians do not think the federal government is doing enough on pollution and climate control, and in another Angus Reid poll, Environment Becomes Key Concern in Canada, 26% of Canadians say the environment is their top issue when it comes to the next national election, beating all other categories.

How are mass media framing sustainability? How does media coverage relate to the original concept of ?sustainable development? proposed by a United Nations commission nearly 20 years ago? The World Commission on Environment and Development issued the Brundtland Report in 1987, saying ?sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.? Is there evident bias in how mass media report on sustainable development??in how the issue is framed? If there are biases in how mass media frame issues of sustainability, what are they?

In particular, how do the National Post and The Globe and Mail, which respectively are viewed as being Canada?s conservative and liberal national newspapers, frame sustainability and sustainable development? Do they cover the same stories? What are their biases, if any? How do they differ? How are they similar? What sources do they use? The underlying hypothesis of this research is that coverage and sources differ between the two newspapers, with the National Post slanted toward conservative stories highlighting business and economic impacts, and citing government and business sources, while the The Globe and Mail takes a more liberal stance, and cites more non-governmental organizations and environmentalists.

This research will shed light on the framing of sustainability in Canada?s national newspapers so that readers are aware of what is covered and how it is covered. The media play a huge role in setting agendas and framing the news, and citizens will benefit by becoming more discerning consumers of what they read.

Posted by Paul at 09:30 PM

January 29, 2007

Review: The Patricias

The Patricias: The Proud History of a Fighting Regiment
by David J. Bercuson

This well-researched book on the history of one of Canada's most storied regiments reinforced in my mind the incredible sacrifices our military has made, and our government's lack of sustained support for our forces. It also debunks the myth that Canada's army has been primarily a peacekeeping force.

I would like to quote at length from the book's conclusion (it was printed in 2001):

"The world is a far different place at the dawn of the twenty-first century than it was in August 1914, when Hamilton Gault first thought of raising a regiment for war. It is no coincidence, however, that members of the regiment he founded helped to bring a sort of peace to the Balkans and now serve there whenever their turn comes. The war the Patricias were raised to fight, after all, started in Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia, not very far from the Canadian area of responsibility in Bosnia today. War is a much more technical phenomenon than it was in 1914, and some would argue that it is far deadlier and more destructive. That may be so, but war is still war and the primary job of all soldiers -- killing others and offering themselves up to be killed -- has not changed since the dawn of time. The same attributes of courage, steadfastness, loyalty, dedication to a higher cause, and a love for comrades in arms that exceeds love of self, motivated and sustained the Patricias in those first days in the Ypres Salient, at Bellewaerde Ridge, at the Hitler Line, at Kap'yong, and at the Medak Pocket. They sustain the regiment today."


Posted by Paul at 09:03 PM

January 28, 2007

Trout Repopulate Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers were happy to tally 55 trout in their winter trapping run on Burnaby's Byrne Creek--a number that was near previous highs. The results were heartening considering that a year ago a toxin introduced into the creek through a rain drain (storm drain) killed all fish throughout most of its length. We identified species, measured them, and released them back into the creek.

NOTE: It is illegal to trap fish, and streamkeepers do so for monitoring purposes under the auspices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

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Streamkeepers retrieve a trap.

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Measuring a fish--you have to be gentle and quick so as not to harm them.

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Streamkeepers work their way up the misty ravine.

Posted by Paul at 09:51 PM

January 27, 2007

Foggy Fish Trapping on Byrne Creek

Twice a year Byrne Creek Streamkeepers set out Gee traps in the creek to check on populations of cutthroat trout and young coho salmon. We leave them in overnight and come back the next morning to identify, measure and release any fish that are caught.

It was a foggy, mysterious morning on the creek today, with a forecast for sun. I love the arduous tramp up the ravine. It's hard to believe you're in a city once you get into its depths. Well, the old tires here and there, and the garbage that washes down the creek are reminders that this is not pristine wilderness...

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The foggy ravine before the sun burns through.

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John, Dave, Dave, and Yumi set a trap and check water temperature and pH.

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Yumi checking pH. The results were good all along the creek.

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Resting on a trail as the sun tops the ravine rim.

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Lovely light pours through the woods.

Posted by Paul at 08:07 PM

January 25, 2007

Review: Saskatoon History Trivia Quest

Saskatoon History Trivia Quest
by Robin and Arlene Karpan

I received this 176-page collection of Saskatoon history trivia for Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed munching my way through it a few pages at a time. I was born and raised in Saskatoon, so I was familiar with some of the content, but lots was delightfully offbeat and truly trivial--in a good sense. It's one of those collections of snippets that is perfect for the magazine rack in the bathroom :-).

Posted by Paul at 09:32 PM

January 24, 2007

Dead Cutthroat Trout, Mayflies in Byrne Creek

We found a dead cutthroat trout in the sediment pond above the spawning habitat in Burnaby's Byrne Creek today. It was about 30cm long, and when we opened it up, it was a male. No signs of external damage. There were plenty of other live trout around, so it wasn't killed by a toxin. I wonder if was an early spawner near the end of its life cycle. CORRECTION: Yumi believes that it was spiked by a heron -- there was a stab wound that I assumed I had inflicted when I scooped it out of the pond with a pike, but she thinks that the size and shape of the wound were smaller than what the pike would have done.

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We also saw many mayfly nymphs in pools on the spillway between the sediment pond and the overflow pond, and also found one hatched, rather bedraggled looking mayfly floating on the surface of the sediment pond. We fished it out with a twig.

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Posted by Paul at 04:33 PM

January 23, 2007

Review: How to Do Media & Cultural Studies

How to Do Media & Cultural Studies
by Jane Stokes

This is one of two texts I'm reading in preparation for researching and writing my final project for my MA in Professional Communication from Royal Roads University.

It's a slim tome at less than 200 pages, but it covers the bases and provides references to more detailed works in specific areas.

I am on the last lap of the program, with two classes and my SP (short project) to go. If all goes well, I should be done around June, and while I've greatly enjoyed the program, my professors and my fellow learners, I'm looking forward to finishing.

Posted by Paul at 08:54 PM

January 21, 2007

Stream of Dreams Starts Another Year

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The Stream of Dreams Murals Society started off another year with its Annual General Meeting and first board meeting of 2007 this afternoon. I had the honour of continuing as president of the board of directors for another term.

I am so proud of our people, they have accomplished so much. Every year the number of kids we reach with our watershed education program continues to mushroom, and Dreamfish are wiggling their way onto fences all over Canada now. This little organization just keeps chugging away, while demand for our program continues to soar.

I'm amazed at what the society accomplishes on a tiny budget -- mainly due to the fact that so much rides on volunteer hours. Thanks to everyone who has pitched in!

We cannot satisfy the demand for our program and teach more teams to deliver it without increasing that budget. So please visit the website and use the secure link to donate whatever you can to support this invaluable educational and artistic effort, while receiving a charitable receipt. Thanks!

Posted by Paul at 08:41 PM

January 20, 2007

Seeds for Change: Local Solutions to Global Issues

I attended the Seeds for Change: Local Solutions to Global Issues conference at the University of British Columbia yesterday and today. It was organized by the UBC Student Environment Centre with support from the Sierra Youth Coalition.

While initially I felt somewhat out of place amidst a sea of young people, it was a fun and informative conference. Speakers ranged from Marx and Lenin-spouting whippersnappers to erudite professors with well thought-out presentations.

It's good to see that kids do care, and are thinking about the environment and sustainability.

I particularly enjoyed presentations by three well-spoken profs:

1) Yves Tiberghien on "The Global Battle over the Governance of Genetically Modified Food." He maintains an interesting site on the Politics of Genetically Modified Organisms.

2) Michael Byers, Professor, Canadian Research Chair in International Law and Politics, who spoke on "Climate Change -- Why Nothing is Happening at a Global Level." He gave an entertaining talk on why politicians and corporate leaders calculate that there is no reason to deal seriously with climate change.

3) Kai Chan, Assistant Professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, who spoke on "Conservation Planning of Ecosystem Services." The topic dealt with how ecosystem services (the benefits of nature that sustain and fulfill human life) are neglected and abused because they are not traded in markets and not accounted for in standard accounting practices.

Posted by Paul at 07:41 PM

January 16, 2007

Species at Risk Conservation Series 2007

The South Coast Conservation Program put on a one-day species-at-risk "Toward Solutions That Work" seminar in Burnaby today. There were a number of interesting speakers in the morning, followed by a planning exercise in the afternoon. I found it to be a very useful session, with a broad range of participants from municipal governments, the provincial and federal levels, and NGOs.

The planning exercise was eye-opening. Each table was given an air photo of an area that had three creeks running through it and extensive forested areas, with some development encroachment. Our task was to design in development for several thousand residents and some commercial facilities, while providing for several species at risk that depended on the existing ecosystem.

Needless to say we all came up with wonderful plans, only to see what really happened. The air photo had been taken in 1948 of an area in Coquitlam that was eventually 98% paved over and developed. Very sad.

The heartening aspect was that at least we discuss preserving urban biodiversity these days. Sustainability was not even on the table 30 or 40 years ago.

Posted by Paul at 07:23 PM

January 04, 2007

Salmon Spawning Season Ends in Byrne Creek

As winter sinks its grips into the lower mainland of BC with unusual ferocity, it appears that the salmon spawning season has ended for southeast Burnaby's Byrne Creek for another year. Autumn is the most exciting time of the year for Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, for the return of salmon to this struggling urban waterway in the autumn is the most visible evidence that our efforts to protect and enhance the watershed are not in vain.

This year the returns were poor -- at around 35 chum and coho we saw only about a third of the over 90 spawners recorded in 2004 -- our best year since volunteers began to rehabilitate the once-dead creek about 20 years ago. It was a wild, wet and snowy year though, so we suspect we missed salmon that we couldn't see in the high, dirty water, or that were flushed away in the heavy rains before we could find their carcasses. A good sign is that we saw at least 10 redds (nests of eggs) in the spawning channel, well up from sightings in the last few years.

You may scoff at these numbers, but seeing as only about a third of the creek remains in a somewhat natural state, and the rest is piped or ditched, any positive results are to be celebrated.

Streamkeepers patrolled the creek almost daily as the weather allowed, and though past records indicate the spawners peter out by mid to late December, we continued into the New Year, hoping...

We have lots of other activities to keep us busy until once again we begin stalking the creek for the first spawners next October, but we'll miss them. They surmount incredible odds from birth to going out to sea, to returning to spawn and die, and we appreciate every one that makes it back to "our" small, battered creek.

Posted by Paul at 09:44 PM

January 02, 2007

Going Cold Turkey On Holiday Excesses

After having turkey, turkey fried rice, turkey pizza, turkey sandwiches, turkey noodle soup and turkey stew, washed down on various occasions with bourbon, wine, nihonshu (sake), and Ukrainian and Japanese beer over the last week, I'm looking forward to going cold turkey on holiday excesses. I am blessed with the gustatory delights of several cultures in my family, so I still have Ukrainian Christmas (January 6/7) to wallow through before my New Year resolutions officially kick in.

The last couple of weeks have been a blast, but my body is definitely feeling the effects. I've had so much fun that it's making me tired and cranky! I can't sleep at night because I'm stuffed, so I'm dozy all day. I'm writing this at 4:30 in the afternoon and I can barely keep my eyes open.

Of course I have nobody to blame but myself. I don't have to eat and drink that much. It's embarrassing when you think of all those going hungry in the world. Yet all my good intentions aside, I repeat the cycle every year. There's something about humans and society and feasting, that when we have the wherewithal to indulge on special occasions or during holiday seasons, we tend to go overboard. It's the feast or famine gene, yet now that some of us lucky ones can pretty much feast anytime we want to, we still overindulge.

Posted by Paul at 05:05 PM

January 01, 2007

NHK Kohaku Music Show Surprises

My wife and I always watch Japanese national television NHK's (English site here) year-end Kohaku men vs. women singing extravaganza. I believe this year was the 57th running, and some of the singers haven't missed a show -- just kidding :-). It's a tradition, and while the music ranges from insipid to (rarely) inspired, it's a way to catch up on the Japanese music scene, see who is in and who is out, and rate the songs while giggling, and occasionally, sniffling at the odd tear-jerker.

Kohaku has also become a lifeline to the "good old days" when we lived in Tokyo, and often watched the show live while visiting Yumi's parents in cold, snowy, northern Japan.

The younger pop stars are usually not very good, to be charitable -- most of them are mass-produced by mainstream Japanese music companies, and it shows. It's gotten to the point that I almost prefer the traditional, overblown, sappy enka singers, mainly because some of them have real pipes.

NHK, staid as it is, has gradually increased the amount of flesh allowed -- perhaps ratings have been declining. Skirts have been getting shorter, blouses more plunging, bras more pneumatic, and one song this year blew the audience away with apparently topless female dancers. A few songs later, an announcer came on to apologize after a rash of telephone complaints, explaining that they were not really naked, they were wearing costumes that made them look naked. OK, whatever, the result was the same :-).

Anyway, there was a real gem in the show this time around -- Angela Aki (also see Wikipedia). I'd never heard of her, but she blew us away with her flawless, pitch-perfect singing, her capable piano playing, and, as if it matters, her Nana Mouskouri looks. I've already ordered a CD, and have been checking out videos of her on YouTube.

I really have to get back to monitoring music more closely!

Posted by Paul at 06:39 PM