Category Archives: News Rant

Parting With The Penny

Soon to be a relic like the $2 bill

It’s been on the chopping block for years but now it’s official. The penny is getting the axe! Come fall, the penny will no longer be minted and the ones in circulation will slowly be corralled and destroyed.

I’ve been dreading this day for some time now. That may seem extreme but eliminating the penny means the rounding up of prices, certainly not the opposite. It means $20 instead of $19.97 and in my experience, that couple of cents can add up over time and make for real savings.

I was lamenting about this penny business to my mom and she told me that when she was travelling though Europe many years ago, a number of countries had gotten rid of their one-cent coins. When an odd number came up at the checkout counter, vendors would dole out candy as a consolation prize. That gives penny candy a whole new meaning. Well you know what, Canadian Conservative government? If you’re even thinking of that silliness, you can keep your Tic Tacs! I want my one-cent and I want it now!

Inflation shminflation! The penny still has value as far as I can see. One cent’s worth, in fact! There may be people out there who don’t care about their pennies but what about those of us who do? What about those of us who pay for our coffees with the change lingering in our pockets? What about those of us who save our pennies and find that with the accumulated coins we’re able to actually purchase something? What about those of us who slip our pennies into slot boxes for charities at the grocery store or Tim Horton’s?

If the penny is more expensive to produce than it’s worth, why not mint something cheaper? Is killing the penny altogether really the only option? I guess it’s a good thing the new $50 and $100 bills are looking fancy, we’ll probably be shelling out more of them now. I’d like to see some data about how a penniless nation spends more over time.

Another irksome budget item is the cut to funding for the CBC. It’s a wonder the public broadcaster hasn’t been done away with like the penny. I can’t say I’m surprised. Chances are that if it revolves around creativity of any kind, the Tories want little to nothing to do with it. As the creative minds in this country multiply, funding for creative initiatives is reduced. It’s high time for a change, we’ve been putting up with this nonsense since 2006! Oh wait, Stephen Harper’s a bona fide musician isn’t he? He belts out Beatles songs given any chance. How dare I contest that the Conservatives have fuzzy feelings about art?

To conclude today’s short rant, I will leave you with some classic sayings and one song that will be meaningless to our future generations thanks to today’s sad news:

“A penny saved is a penny earned”

“Penny candy”

“That cost a pretty penny”

“In for a penny, in for a pound”

“Find a penny, pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck”

“A penny for your thoughts?”

 

Freaking Fracking

A sign in protest of fracking (℅ Chiot's Run - Flickr)

I recently watched a documentary that truly horrified me. It’s called Gasland and it’s all about the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) that has been going on in the United States. Fracking is a process used to extract natural gas from otherwise impenetrable shale underground. As far as environmental abominations go, fracking might blow the rest of them out of the water.

Gasland was produced in 2010 but it recently came into my radar when I heard of a documentary filmmaker and his crew being arrested for trying to record a public hearing about hydraulic fracturing. Being a thorough journalist, Josh Fox is working on a sequel to Gasland and was hoping to capture the meeting, which was pertinent to his research. He was asked to turn off his camera but when he refused, citing his rights, he was handcuffed and arrested for “unlawful entry.” That’s right, he was arrested for “unlawful entry” into a public hearing.

This happened in a country that prides itself on its Constitution and Bill of Rights, especially the first amendment. You know, the one that encompasses freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Josh Fox knew his constitutional rights but that didn’t stop him from being forcibly removed from a hearing about a serious environmental threat that everyone should be made aware of.

Before watching Fox’s documentary, I knew what fracking was, and knew that it was a catastrophic and irresponsible method for tapping into natural resources (then again, there aren’t many methods for natural resource extraction that aren’t) but Gasland really opened my eyes to what was going on beneath the crust with this filthy process.

Gas companies approach property owners promising large sums of cash for permission to lease pieces of their land to drill for gas. Many are swayed by the sweet smell of Benjamins and so begins the drilling on their land. The companies drill into the earth and force pressurized fracking fluid into the ground, breaking a pathway for the natural gas to escape. This fracking fluid isn’t just water though. It’s made up of hundreds of toxic chemicals – known carcinogens and others.

The fracking fluid comes back up. At least, some of it does. Then it sits in pits of earth until the big bad gas companies come to collect it and haul it away. Meanwhile, the chemical water leaches into the ground and evaporates into the air, doing all kinds of damage in the process. If that isn’t bad enough, the companies actually spray the wastewater into the air as mist so it will evaporate faster. They don’t want to be responsible for hauling too many truckloads of the stuff back. Not that there’s anywhere safe to put gallons of chemical-infused water.

Oh yeah, remember how this disgusting water was forced into the ground to break a pathway for the gas? Well, that pathway isn’t just one smooth channel. Small veins break off from the main corridor, allowing natural gas and leftover wastewater to find its way into the water systems surrounding the gas line. The companies assure people that fracking will change nothing about their way of life. The landowners are told their air and drinking water will be just as it always was. Yet many people who have had their land tapped find themselves sick, find their animals and crops suffering, and find their drinking water so contaminated that it can literally be set on fire.

This is possible because under the Bush administration, gas companies performing hydraulic fracturing for natural gas were (and still are) exempted from adhering to the Safe  Drinking Water Act. That means they are given carte blanche to drill for gas without having to be accountable for their unsafe methods and without being required to seek out and implement safety precautions.

If the process itself isn’t enough of a nightmare, fracking uses some 3.5 million gallons of water! When the world’s supply of fresh water really starts to thin out, what will be thought of such wastefulness? How can squandering and contaminating so much of one of Earth’s most precious resources be justified for the purpose of fracking? When you consider the materials it takes to complete a frack job, do gas companies really reap more than they sow? Does the general public?

In addition to the millions of gallons of water required for fracking, it takes hundreds of truckloads to complete one job. I’d be interested to know how much fuel it takes to make hydraulic fracturing possible. I wouldn’t be surprised to find less gas is procured than is expended on the whole circus itself.

It boggles my mind that in an era that ought to be defined by enlightenment, such foolishness persists. And what for? Great sums of money for a great few. Every human being should have a vested interest in the well-being of the environment. Without it, there is no future. That money can blind in such an alarming way, as is illustrated by fracking, is a terrifying thing.

At a time when the focus should be shifting swiftly to alternative, renewable energy sources, it is a disgrace that practices like fracking continue. It is also scandalous that many governmental representatives including presidential hopeful Mitt Romney tout fracking, paying no mind to the perils behind it. This practice promise nothing more than to send our planet spiraling more quickly into ruin. This may sound dramatic but the situation is grave and the fear is that there’s no reversing the unthinkable damage that has already been done.

I hope to see a day in my time when we collectively smarten up and work towards a more sustainable way of life. Until then, I commend the filmmakers (like Josh Fox), journalists, environmentalists and laypersons that strive to spread the message that our way of life needs to change, and it needs to start mattering what the results of our actions are.

When this message finally catches on, processes like fracking will seem as barbaric as cannibalism and human sacrifice, and we will have overcome what will surely be remembered as a dark age in human existence.

Don’t (the Royal) We want More than This?

On November 23, one week after news broke of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement, CTV’s National newscast still spent about four minutes of airtime on the story. On November 16 a good quarter of the program was dedicated to the royal news with live bits, expert perspectives and all. Dare I mention the number of prestigious front pages the engagement has hijacked? Maclean’s November 29 issue with 52 pages dedicated to the story depicts the pair with a caption reading “William & Kate at Last,” Hello Canada’s latest issue advertises nothing other than the royal engagement articles that lie beyond the cover, and even the U.S. edition of Time Magazine had to subtly slip the news onto the front page.   

Aren’t there more important things happening in the world that we should know about? Some notable events this past week included Ireland’s resistance to a bailout from the United Kingdom, the tragic spread of cholera in Haiti after hurricane Tomas, and North Korea’s worst attack on South Korea in months. The engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton even overshadowed the joyous news of Aung San Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest which she had been sentenced to for her efforts to bring democracy to Burma.

 

I challenge our population to smarten up and care about the real world issues. The sad thing is that the November 16 newscast that spread word of the engagement probably drew in more viewers than it had in weeks. I know that some people really do care about the venue and the colour scheme that the Prince and pending Princess are considering for their big day but let us keep such frivolous details to the gossip mags, shall we? As far as I’m concerned, a simple copy story would have been more than enough of a dedication to the report.

 

I guess this is the part where I point a finger at myself for hypocrisy. Here I am making the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton my top article. Well, hopefully there will be no suspending me from my duties. The Queen may be on my money but she’s no employer of mine. I’m sorry Bishop Richard Chartres, you’re all alone in social media limbo for now.  But for good measure, I wish the newly engaged pair all the best in their future endeavours.