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PostPosted: June 30th, 2013, 10:17 am 
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The Toronto star has an architect who writes a regular column, usually about city planning issues and the latest building that's gone up in the city.
Today's column talks about how we deal with nature when pursuing progress and development - using the Alberta flooding as example.
"... the environmental crisis is more than an inconvenient truth; it is the overwhelming issue of our times."

Quote:
Alberta flood coverage misses the point: Hume
Stories about the flood response are heart-warming, but should be more about Earth-warming.

The media would have us believe the story of the Alberta floods is about the indomitability of the human spirit in the face of unprecedented adversity. That may be correct, but the truth is as much about our ability to create disaster as to overcome it.
Undoubtedly the catastrophic events of recent weeks were the result of unusual if not unique circumstances, but the fact is the floods were also a result of human actions, or should we say, lack thereof.
All eyes will be focused now on how government will help those who have lost everything because of forces beyond their control. Rebuilding will cost billions and, says Alberta Premier Alison Redford, take as long as a decade.
But in reality we are all implicated, especially here in Canada, where many dismiss climate change as a tree-hugging plot that would slow economic growth, compromise the vanishing middle-class dream and hamper Stephen Harper’s re-election hopes.
Any number of scientific studies tells us that the sort of flooding seen in Alberta is not only inevitable, but that such extreme events can be expected to happen more frequently and more violently. Indeed, the environmental crisis is more than an inconvenient truth; it is the overwhelming issue of our times.
Whether it’s New Jersey Governor Chris Christie or Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, those heroes of the disaster who would have us believe we’re stronger than the storm are doing us no favours. Yes, we need to rally round the flag, but we also need to drop the fantasies by which we live and enter the realm of reality.
You’d think that Canadians, who hear stories weekly about the vanishing Arctic, the disappearing boreal forest, the melting tundra, falling water levels, record summer heat and warmest-ever winters, would be at least a little skeptical about getting back to business as usual.
Instead, we buy into the idea that climate change is something with which we can’t afford to deal. Why, if developers were required to build responsibly, it might threaten our prosperity. If we had to pay the full cost of energy, we’d have to cut back, live more modestly, and we wouldn’t like that very much, would we?
Video
Shelter houses cats and dogs after Alberta flooding
If we were to introduce even an iota of common sense into our planning regimes, the Province of Alberta would have to stop selling property located in a flood plain. But then, more stringent rules might adversely affect property values, and then where would homeowners be?
On the other hand, one might ask, where are they now? In many cases, quite literally, up the creek.
Still, given Barack Obama’s sudden interest in the file, the Canadian government finds itself in its usual position of having to play catch-up with Big Brother. But even if the two countries were to reach their disappointingly weak targets — a 17 percent cut in 2005 greenhouse gas emission levels by 2020 — it wouldn’t make enough of a difference to matter. Even these goals, which are little more than a moral sop, are too much for us to meet.
And so, little remains but to recount heart-warming tales about neighbours helping neighbours, valiant emergency responders and dogs being rescued. Perhaps they will help us feel better about things, but they certainly won’t change them.
Mother Nature, observers like to say, is unpredictable and do what we may, she will have her way. Having been raped by humans for centuries, maybe it’s no surprise Mother Nature — as we so coyly put it — can no longer be trusted.
Christopher Hume can be reached at chume@thestar.ca

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PostPosted: June 30th, 2013, 2:11 pm 
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A big question that will need to be answered is why didn't they heed their own advice in the buried 2006 flood report.
Just google 2006 Calgary flood report ...
I smell some lawsuits coming
but hey they sold and developed in areas that where flooded in 2005...
I guess it was good for the economy.
Jeff

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PostPosted: June 30th, 2013, 9:34 pm 
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From IPCC 2007:
"Risks of extreme weather events. Responses to some recent extreme events reveal higher levels of vulnerability than the TAR. There is now higher confidence in the projected increases in droughts, heat waves and floods, as well as their adverse impacts. {5.2}"
http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_dat ... spms5.html
"There is now higher confidence than in the TAR in projected patterns of warming and other regional-scale features, including changes in wind patterns, precipitation and some aspects of extremes and sea ice. {3.2.2}"

ALLAN note:
Here TAR is the Third Assessment Report (from 2001):
http://www.grida.no/publications/other/ ... /ipcc_tar/

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PostPosted: July 1st, 2013, 8:41 am 
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JJ

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...why didn't they heed their own advice in the buried 2006 flood report.

...

I guess it was good for the economy.


Also good for the city tax base... more houses being built and more land being developed means that more taxes flow to the municipal government, making it larger and more powerful. With buyers/residents, there have been all kinds of floods in floodplain developments during the last ten years and from news reports, the property assessments in these kinds of areas still remain high in the bigger picture... owning a house near water is still seen as a benefit rather than a liability.

Will the developers or the municipal bureaucrats be faced with lawsuits, especially if the unforeseen effects of climate change are brought into the picture... the developers will have made their money lawfully and moved on, and the by-the-book bureaucrats will move on, comfortable in the security that their jobs and pensions provide.

I'm not sure how credible Christopher Hume can be as an environmental critic... there's this remark on economy and wealth creation which might explain motivation.

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Why, if developers were required to build responsibly, it might threaten our prosperity.

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PostPosted: July 1st, 2013, 3:55 pm 
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Googling around, I do not see a general consensus among climatologists that "bad" weather events are going to be more frequent or more intense. I've seen some non-scientist idiots insist that Hurricane Sandy would not have happened except for "climate change".

Anyway, it's pretty clear that the societies of earth are *not* going to hit the brakes on burning fossil fuel in time to head off global warming. Meanwhile, for decades it has been known that CO2 spikes follow temperature rises, rather than leading. Explanations for that have been attempted, but the matter is not settled.

The sea will rise way higher than it is now. It's done that many times in the past, and the earth has been warm, ice-free, and higher in CO2. Yet life went on, and evolved.

The idea that mankind can manage the climate and the planet to preserve the conditions in which we have burned our candle at both ends, is hilarious. The earth has always undergone great changes, some very sudden, and always will change.

Speaking of floods, when the ice damming Lake Agassiz let go about 8000 years ago, water poured out through the Hudson channel and into the north Atlantic so fast that within a few days it resulted in the ocean rising a couple of feet. Bring your beach stuff in when you're through sunbathing.


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PostPosted: July 1st, 2013, 5:07 pm 
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Actually the overwhelming issue of our times is human overpopulation, but NO ONE has the guts to talk about it openly and honestly. Climate change is just a symptom.

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PostPosted: July 2nd, 2013, 8:06 am 
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I agree 100% that human overpopulation is the overwhelming issue of our times, and will increasingly be more overwhelming for every generation to follow. Conversation is a non-starter for virtually everyone because humans have such a strong attachment with passing on their genetics to another generation. That attachment is firmly entrenched in virtually every faith, and has roots far deeper in our DNA to propogate the species.

However, I don't agree that climate change is a symptom of over population. Climate change has surely ben exacerbated by increasing population, but climate change has been created by a small subset of the entire human population. As the current generation of greenhouse gases by western societies, the population of Earth would need to be an over an order of magnitude lower than it is for the earth to not experience climate change. We blew through that population barrier many generations ago.

It's very obvious that despite intelligent humans understanding the social consequences of logrithmic increases in populations for millenia, most humans support the concept (maybe it's hold out hope) that humans have the intelligence to engineer our way out of the problem, because we obviously lack the intelligence to control the problem.

PK


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PostPosted: July 2nd, 2013, 8:52 am 
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Actually the overwhelming issue of our times is human overpopulation, but NO ONE has the guts to talk about it openly and honestly.


I'd argue that the overwhelming issue of our times (at least from the American POV) is the failing economy and finding ways to restore it (wearing Obama's YES WE CAN hat for a moment).

There are two ways to restore failing economies... (1) increase the population, thereby increasing the number of workers, and (2) increase productivity.

A larger population provides all kinds of benefits, ignoring the environmental problems... there are more people working and spending, and that's very good for boosting the economy.

If rising sea levels threaten NYC with flooding, encourage immigration from lands becoming submerged and put 'em to work building seawalls and shoreworks. And bring in lots of engineers with heavy machinery.

This is all assuming that there won't be any complications from the population increase, of course... and that the sea will behave itself as predicted while rising.

:wink:

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PostPosted: July 2nd, 2013, 9:28 am 
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Economies have succeeded and failed for milenia. It's no different now. Humans want an ever growing economy with no correction.... No economy in human existence has done this, and it's a pipe dream to believe it will exist. This is a correction, and massive amounts of money have already been made in the recession we just came out of... Sadly most of this money was made at the expense of people who could least afford it.

The whole concept that "THE ECONOMY" is failing in the US is ridiculous. The reality is that most segments of the US economy are doing fine. Two segments, Manufacturing, and Construction are still struggling. Manufacturing may struggle for generations in the US. Construction is starting to improve, but it's always the last segment to experience a recovery (My father and brother were/are in this boom and bust segment). While there are ways that the US economy could improve (likely at the expense of other countries economies), the painful shift of the US economy from manufacturing has and will continue to be painful for a while.

PK


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PostPosted: July 2nd, 2013, 9:37 am 
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Guys that write articles like that at a time like this around here, when still many thousands of people are out of their homes, and others left with badly damaged homes or home that have been condemned, obviously care little of the effect of their words on these people. To many around here that are hearing stuff like that now, feel like they are getting kicked in the side while they are down. They don't want to hear who, how, or why the flooding happened, but would rather hear words of encouragement, or better yet see actions that might help the regain even a part of what was lost.

I know many of you only see a few bits from the media, but let me tell you from someone (though unaffected directly myself), has seen firsthand the devastation caused by the flooding, and the effects it has had on the people affected. Thousands and thousands of memories and keepsakes destroyed. Things that have little monetary value in some cases, but things that carry the fond memories of years past.

There are still many out there who have not even been back to their homes to be able to check on them. Many who had to abandon pets that undoubtedly have not made it.

There have been a few others who I (and many others around here) believe are doing nothing more than trying to promote their own environmental agenda, on the backs of many of these people who have lost a lot, and in some cases everything. David Suzuki for one, who in the middle of the flooding, wrote a column that basically said "See, I told you". Not the right time to put that out there, Dave.

And yes, there are developments that into the future need to be better thought out, there is no doubt of that, but now is not the time. Let's first deal with this catastrophe, and then into the future when rebuilding address these new development concerns.

Most of the homes destroyed were in old areas that were first developed well over a hundred years ago.

The bottom line of what I am trying to say, is to first show some compassion before harping on what could have, should have, been done, and what we should be doing into the future.

ezwater wrote:
The idea that mankind can manage the climate and the planet to preserve the conditions in which we have burned our candle at both ends, is hilarious. The earth has always undergone great changes, some very sudden, and always will change.

I completely agree. Our actions on this earth, one way or the other, will have little effect on how things turn out in thousands of years.

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PostPosted: July 2nd, 2013, 10:54 am 
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I'm in full agreement that during any disaster, there needs to be compassion for people affected. But we also know that during the periods following great "natural" or "anthropogenically exacerbated" events is when you have the most impact on affecting change.

It's a fine line to walk, but I think if you want to affect change in society... following a disaster is the time.

PK


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PostPosted: July 2nd, 2013, 10:59 am 
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PK,

Quote:
The whole concept that "THE ECONOMY" is failing in the US is ridiculous. The reality is that most segments of the US economy are doing fine.


The 2007-2008 credit crisis and crash didn't mean anything? Jobs? Unemployment? Banks going bankrupt? Foreclosures? Corporate bailouts?

Take a look at this chart showing trend in GDP.... those old highs in productivity sure aren't showing up like they used to.

Image

http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united- ... gdp-growth

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PostPosted: July 2nd, 2013, 12:26 pm 
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frozentripper wrote:
PK,

Quote:
The whole concept that "THE ECONOMY" is failing in the US is ridiculous. The reality is that most segments of the US economy are doing fine.


The 2007-2008 credit crisis and crash didn't mean anything? Jobs? Unemployment? Banks going bankrupt? Foreclosures? Corporate bailouts?

Take a look at this chart showing trend in GDP.... those old highs in productivity sure aren't showing up like they used to.

Image

http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united- ... gdp-growth


FT, Jobs, unemployment, Banks going bankrupt, foreclosures, corporate bailouts are all temporary things. They increase and then they decrease, and then increase and decrease again. People, corporations, financial institutions, and even nations get pinched. They all are very real when you are impacted, but a majority of the US economy weathered the recession with little damage, and a portion of the US economy made huge amounts of money. I'd hardly say that the US economy is failing.

As to the chart. Is the norm of an ecomony an ever increasing GDP unabated? Is that even a reality for millenia into the future of humans? How much of the GDP growth is tied to the increase in population and how much to increasing productivity? Increasing population is not likely to be an ever increasing variable for human existence. How does a democracy based on economic properties deal with the potential that both variables may ultimately reach a level where they cannot increase logrithmically forever?

Look, I agree the ecomony isn't back to the freewheeling days of the Tech boom, or the nearly immediately following real estate market boom. I hardly see boom status as the only benchmark determining success and/or failure of the US economy.

PK


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PostPosted: July 2nd, 2013, 6:16 pm 
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pknoerr wrote:
I'm in full agreement that during any disaster, there needs to be compassion for people affected. But we also know that during the periods following great "natural" or "anthropogenically exacerbated" events is when you have the most impact on affecting change.

It's a fine line to walk, but I think if you want to affect change in society... following a disaster is the time.

PK

I completely agree. There should most definitely be some proper planning done, and it should start fairly soon too. But this can come after the affected home and business owners deal with recovering and healing from what happened. To place any of the blame on them at this time does nothing to help them, and only adds to their misery.

I guess knowing many of these people myself who are friends, relatives and customers, and seeing the grief they have to deal with, fogs my forward thinking some. I just can't stress enough how devastating this has been for them. I guess when it hits this close to home, the reality of it sinks in way harder.

Our cities and towns were first built along waterways, as they were the highways of old. People have always lived there. Pretty tough to move whole neighbourhoods out of potential flood plains, we are talking hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have their whole life's earnings sunk into these properties.

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PostPosted: July 2nd, 2013, 7:30 pm 
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PK, I have my doubts that those in power in Washington will be satisfied with simply waiting for an economic rebound that should happen all on it's own. Unless I've been misunderstanding news reports totally, there's a great deal of concern over the malaise and how to restore economic growth, especially to reduce unemployment and poverty, and eventually to reduce the national debt.

The Republicans are probably even more worried than the Democrats since in their view the Dems are set to screw things up completely by printing megasums of money and their overspending, to inject some life into the system.

A failing economy fails to provide adequate jobs and results in poverty throughout portions of the population (eg. Spain, Greece). Anyway, time will tell... not holding my breath on a quick rebound here.

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