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Monday, April 30, 2007

The Land of Milk and Honey?

Seems our fellow Canadians are catching on that all is not well in the land of oil and money. They are re-thinking moving out to join the craziness that is Boom Alberta. In the 3rd quarter of 2006, 25,000 moved West. In the 4th quarter, that number halved. High housing prices are cited as a major cause, as are improving economic conditions in the rest of Canada. If this a sign of things to come, labour shortages will continue. I got a sense of how bad it is other day when the Harvey's restaurant I wanted to go to was closed due to lack of staff - in the middle of the afternoon!

And although still a youthful province, many Albertans are aging. By 2016, 14% of the population will be seniors, and that number rises to 20% by 2031 (and I'll be one of them - eek!).

Who will be here to do the work? Alberta's immigration policy parrots that the door is wide open. Unfortunately, many immigrants find employment barriers and racism alive and well when they arrive. And funding for diversity and anti-racism initiatives is abysmal. If we are going to entice newcomers here, we have an obligation to ensure they are integrated and accepted into our culture. And we have to take a long hard look at our own attitudes while we're at it.

The Alberta Advantage has come full circle - many now talk about the Alberta disadvantage. High cost of living, too much traffic, overcrowded, under-funded transit, too little parking and a building frenzy all over the place.

Stay tuned, Canada. This could get ugly.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Disappearing Honey Bees

Seems our honey bees are disappearing at an alarming rate. Now, usually, I wouldn't be too worried about this, as I am a well-known avoider of buzzing insects, but this has caught my attention. Honey bees are great pollinators. As much as I dislike them, I have a very healthy respect for them. I really like berries - all kinds of berries - and therefore I know we need honey bees.

So what's happening? Scientists don't know, but they have at least named the problem - Colony Collapse Disorder. Seems the bees are leaving the hives and just disappearing, or the beekeepers are opening up the hives to find thousands of little dead bee bodies. Very sad.

So what's causing it? So far I've heard theories about cell phones, stress, cumulative effects of pesticides and GMO plants. Cell phones disrupt the bee homing signals and they just get horribly, horribly lost. As for stress, bees are actually trucked thousands of miles every year to pollinate our crops. Maybe they have just had it and are having little bee nervous breakdowns. Or, more sinisterly, GMO plants have something evil embedded in their modified DNA and it has had a horrible, and unexpected, effect on the bees.

I have been hearing about this phenomenon in the alternative press for some time, and it has even hit some of the mainstream press. But it has caught the American Senate's attention (http://www.chewswise.com/chews/2007/04/senate_hearing_.html). Take a look at what one beekeeper had to say:

* that a third of all food crops rely on bees for pollination;
* that California almonds - 80 percent of the global crop - require more than 1 million bee hives for pollination.
* that the American honey bee population has dropped 30 percent over the past two decades;
* that domestically produced honey accounts for only 31 percent of all sales, a figure that has been steadily declining.

And you gotta love this beekeeper. One of the Senators asked if cell phones were the cause of the decline. His response? "On the cell phone issue, we took all the phones away from the bees," Brady quipped. Nice.

But this is a harbinger issue, if you ask me. First bees, next berries, then ????

Pity the poor bees, to be sure, but pay attention to this issue too. Oh, and buy honey and almond futures.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What the *#*_&_)*@?

OK. I disappeared for while. Long enough (probably) for many to give up on my very existence.

But fear not. Bast is BACK, baby! I am even leaving clever posts on a Canadian Senator's website: www.albertasenator.ca My own personal and quirky way of trying to be politically relevant in a crazy world.

In my own defence (and as I might be the only one writing - and reading this - it really is my own defence) I have been very busy. And I will be travelling in May, so busy again. I keep thinking that once this month ends, it will be better. So far this year, not so much. Life is just plain busy. So busy, in fact, I have yet to watch some wonderful DVDs I have been given or bought.

I have also had car troubles. Like I bought a new one. That's trouble enough. But then it was immediately involved in a hit and run as it was innocently parked on a residential street. Bastards. So one $500 deductible and pulling in a major favour later (body shops in Calgary are backed up for about two months), I now have a new car again. Like they couldn't have hit the 20-year old Mazda ....

So there you have it. Recent events. More anon. Watch this space.