York-Durham incinerator

Showing Up (take 2)

& I’m pretty sure I’ve written before about showing up, & while I sat in court today the thought passed through my mind that my life/Life seems to be all about showing up.

& I was showing up today [November 30th], I did show up, it was a court hearing about the proposed York-Durham incinerator being planned for right down on Lake Ontario, just-just-just west of the lovely (not) Darlington Nuclear Generating Station on beautiful Lake Ontario, & a whole bunch of us showed up – we did! – & it all took hours & hours & I had the thought quite a few times during all those hours that old Charles Dickens really got it right when he said the law is an ass.

The law is an ass, in many ways, & I am betting even those who earn their livings from it would agree with that assertion, but that thought will have to wait for me to pursue it another day perhaps…

& we don’t know yet what the learned judge will decide, but by golly he actually came right out & acknowledged & thanked those of us in the “audience” for our participation, at the end of the court session, which went on for 6 hours instead of the 2 we had thought it would take, with expired parking meters & time for lunch (& some wonderful belly laughs, what fun!) in the coffee shop in between

& during the lunch-in-between I’d picked up a copy of a local newspaper ‘cos it happens to have a photo in it that I thought it would be good to have

& I drove back to my small town Durham Region town & even though it wasn’t really “suppertime,” I was ravenous, & I thought wouldn’t a beer & a burger be nice?

so I went to my decent local restaurant (there aren’t so very many of them in my small-town Durham Region town) & ordered a beer & a burger & I looked through the paper that I thought I only bought for the article/photo of the $75,000 incinerator groundbreaking party

& by golly doesn’t it turn out to have an article about the proposed new reactors at Darlington, & the article is so full of bumph & bullshit that it almost causes me to lose my appetite

& then I’m looking over the book I happen to have with me Dying from Dioxin by Lois Gibbs of Love Canal fame, & I heard Lois Gibbs speak, once, at an IJC (International Joint Commission) meeting, ½ a lifetime ago, or I guess it only seems like half a lifetime ‘cos OMG such a lot such a lot such a lot has happened since then

& I read how dioxin suppresses the immune system (& simultaneously I’m hearing the song “Mercy, Mercy Me” – things ain’t like they used to be, radiation underground) & I’m thinking

“Holy Geez! I came here to GET AWAY from reality, but it looks like reality has chased me down once again, the Universe doesn’t always have the same plan as the one I have, reality is showing up

& I read about dioxin which is produced by municipal solid waste incinerators, by the way, MSW incinerators like the one the big brains (not) in Durham Region are about to have built, & how dioxin downloads into our babies through our breast milk(1), & our babies wind up with more dioxin than we Moms have (‘cos we download our own lifetime load to our babies)

& I read about how endometriosis is on the increase

& then I remember too that today is 2 years to the day from when I was arrested in the federal finance minister’s office along with 6 other activists, & later we were sentenced in this very-very courthouse I am now sitting in for this hearing about a dioxin-producing incinerator-to-be

& I’m actually wearing the same outfit – it’s my getting arrested outfit, apparently, my black jeans & my white shirt, & then I notice the dudes on TV are talking about “movember” & mustaches

& I think, Shit, yeah, isn’t this about prostate cancer awareness or something? (you see how little I pay attention to the “news,” & what’s on television), & think yes, Dave (who was also arrested in the federal finance minister’s office 2 years ago) is gone now, he died of prostate cancer two months ago, & I am absolutely 100% convinced his cancer was caused by his mother’s exposure to lead as a young woman(1), & now he’s gone, & we really couldn’t afford to spare him, you know? & he was only 56 years old

& then I drink some water (my beer is gone & I’d really love to have another but I know I really mustn't) & I drink a few sips & I think

Well, at least this water is not fluoridated, & probably doesn’t have a ton of tritium in it...

& I eat my dill pickle, the last thing on my plate, & I remember my pretty amusing dill pickle story that I love to trot out whenever I can, but you know what? let’s leave that one for another day too, shall we?

& I think again

Yeah. Showing up.

It’s all about the showing up, isn’t it??

& I wonder, are we all showing up?

Are enough of us showing up?


p.s. & I think I am showing up, on the whole, & it also sometimes seems when all I really want to do for a few hours is stay away, the Universe seems to have another plan in mind for me

show up...show up...show up...show up...show up…

p.p.s. couple years later I am adding this p.s. -- long long after I posted this, I came across this wonderful wonderful item that I now include every week in my e-mails among the "quotes for the week" I try (& sometimes fail) to update weekly:

“4 Rules for Life: Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. Don’t be attached to the results.” -- Angeles Arrien, U.S. teacher, author (1940 – )


(1) Sandra Steingraber’s book Having Faith – An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood, Perseus Publishing, 2001, discusses dioxin downloading & maternal lead exposure & lead crossing the placenta.


Burning Durham Region

So, I went to a Durham Regional Council meeting the other day (Nov. 23rd). There were a # of “delegations” from members of the public who are outraged by:

1. Our politicians having voted to go ahead with a $272 million municipal waste incinerator. Outstanding issues? Pollution. Lousy contract. Contractor that seems to get in hot water/deep doo-doo everywhere it operates. Technical issues. Health issues. Cost issues. Legal issues. Zoning issues. Need I go on?? Lots of info about this whole business here:

2. The $75,000 “groundbreaking” party back on August 17th . It was a “high end” affair, you understand. Our prime minister was even invited! (He didn’t come of course; why would he?? He’s got way better things to do; any 3-year old can see that!!)

There’s been tons of press on this – & those of us appalled by our politicians are pleased the Toronto Star & the Orono Times have been pretty hard-hitting on it (the latter paper is not on the Web, so I can’t provide links to its articles. Try them on Facebook though!)

I’m pretty newly back to Durham Region after 8 years away & not as familiar with all the personalities & political shenanigans as I ought to be. Just going to make some short observations under a couple of different headings.

THIS is Democracy?

  • Adversarial atmosphere. Many of our politicians seem to view the public as unwanted intruders. Maybe even more or less as unruly peasants. (We elected them to serve us! We provide the money that pays them. Via our tax dollars. Sheesh!!)
  • A regional chair un-elected by the voters of Durham Region
  • Citizen “delegations” entitled to 10-minute presentations. Doesn’t matter how complex the issue – 10 minutes, chop chop!!
  • Hard-hitting delegations by citizen activists that are chockfull of relevant facts & allegations are followed by … no questions??
  • I’ve seen it in the nuclear biz. Seems always the “proponent” (i.e., the industry that wants to build some fancy nuclear facility, or, in this case, incinerator) gets plenty of time with the politicians, the bureaucrats, Works Dept. types. Taxpaying citizens? Shoo. Just go away, pullese…

This is what we call democracy???


  • Boredom Alert: when the individual members of regional council make announcements about events in their communities; one can easily imagine all the wonderful photo ops our pols are so thrilled to star in. Snore…
  • Business As Usual: One suspects local politicians (like politicians everywhere) may be a little too prone to serving industry before citizens, doing a certain amount of feeding at the trough, being mouthpieces for aforementioned industries & spending taxpayers’ money as though it were their own while simultaneously acting as though “the public” that elected them is dirty, unwashed, ignorant & should just stay out of the way & let them do their business. Business as usual. What can I say?? (This shouldn’t be “news” to us, either. It’s been going on at all levels of government forever…)
  • Irony Alert: raising $$ for cancer (for cancer?? Hmm. Cancer research, I guess) was mentioned. I suspect none of the pols “get” that the very thing we incineration foes are engaged in is trying our damndest to prevent cancer. Duh, eh??
  • It Ain’t Rocket Science! I’m “getting” that not every elected politician is, um…exactly what you might call “the sharpest knife in the drawer.” Many seem to be content to let the hired guns (high-priced consultants of various stripes) rassle with the complex issues – & do what the regional chair tells them to. Only thing is, burning garbage is not wildly complex. It isn’t rocket science – not at all. A single evening spent doing some study & report-reading would make this quite abundantly clear. It’s lovely when human beings “get” that we are “all in this together.” Solidarity is very cool. But not when it’s in the interests of polluting the planet & failing to take responsibility for one’s actions & decisions.
  • Who Knew?? All in attendance at regional council meetings are expected to stand when the boss man (the regional chair), enters the room. Egad! This so-called “leader” is not even elected by the voters of Durham Region, & I’m supposed to stand for him??? It’s bad enough he wears a ridiculous “chain of office” & sits on a chair elevated above his colleagues & is rude to members of the public (sometimes councillors, too); we’re expected to stand for this guy???


  • Carpet-sweeping: those who voted against the McConnell/Neal motion to fully investigate the way this incinerator party came to pass (a party for which there was never any actual budget or financial planning. Apart, that is, apparently, from staff being directed to make it “the best of the best”).
  • Kissing the Chair’s Butt. It appears there are quite a # of Durham Region pols whose chief game, regionally speaking, is keeping their mouths close to… well, we all know the expression about kissing the boss’s a-s… Not naming any names here! Citizens can figure this out for themselves.
  • Let Them Eat Cake! I guess we’ll award this to the woman who, along with her husband, was invited to the $75,000 groundbreaking party (because they are strong supporters of the incinerator project) & who spoke in a very superior tone about those who oppose the incinerator & who were decidedly NOT invited to the groundbreaking party (she actually said she is “excited” about how good this trash burner will be for the local economy. Egad). One could so easily see this woman saying “Off with their heads!” & her little rebuke to a fellow citizen present set us all back on our heels. (I suspect her attitude & comments were a bit over the top even for the Council members!)
  • Old-Style Politics award – 4-way tie! Councillors Drumm, Ballinger, O’Connor & Pidwerbecki all vie for this one. They’re all equally entitled to the Style vs. Substance award as well (see below).
  • Solidarity award – to the 2 regional councillors (Jennifer O’Connell; Pickering & John Neal; Oshawa) who put forward a motion to have the groundbreaking party financial situation properly investigated (the motion was defeated by the Let’s Sweep it Under the Carpet contingent) & also to Nancy Diamond (Oshawa) for her magnanimous question to one of the members of the public who was doing a delegation, to ensure that the high school students present were aware of his educational background (Ph.D. in Physics). This woman has got some serious class, I gotta say…
  • Style over Substance award to Whitby Councillor Joe Drumm, who commented that the groundbreaking party was done “in style,” & who “takes umbrage” at criticisms levelled against staff. (He seemed to be saying it doesn’t matter to him how much $$$ the party cost, as long as it “looked good,” & also that one must never criticize staff…even when they screw up really badly, one assumes. Yikes.)
  • You REALLY JUST DON’T GET IT, DO YOU?? Tough call on this. For now, we’ll give it to Oshawa councillor Nester Pidwerbecki, who told the crowd present it makes him “emotional” when the “total transparency” of the Council is questioned. (?????) He is also very upset by citizens who oppose the incinerator who somehow (in his view) caused a delay that cost the Region $1 million a month (sorry; I was not living here when this happened; can’t comment on it intelligently). What is it he doesn’t get? Incinerator opponents don’t want the damn incinerator!! No incinerator? No $1 million per month extra costs. No $75,000 groundbreaking party. What part of “We don’t want this damn incinerator thank you very much” is it that you don’t get, Mr. Pidwerbecki??? We too can get a little emotional when we think about the pollutants it will spew (which are being underestimated & will be under-reported & under-monitored & swept under the carpet by the “Health Unit” & the “Ministry of the Environment,” & will be breathed in by our children, grandchildren, ourselves, the food we grow & eat, Lake Ontario, etc. etc. Geez. What is it about this that is so darn hard for you folks to grasp?????)

As a placard I saw earlier this Fall in Ottawa (while attending a tar sands protest on Parliament Hill) said,

Silly adults. The future’s for kids!


p.s. Oshawa Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki commented during the Council meeting that he found himself becoming emotional when discussing the $75,000 groundbreaking party & accusations of wrong-doing. It made me recall 2 trash-related occasions when I became very emotional. The first was when I toured the Brock West Landfill site over 10 years ago & saw the acre after acre after acre monument to human waste. Productive farmland morphed into a wasteland of garbage. I was also powerfully reminded of the time I toured an incinerator in Detroit, Michigan, while down in Windsor (Ontario) for a Recycling Council of Ontario conference. Both these occasions made me cry (& truth to tell, I don’t cry all that readily). To me, sheer over-the-top waste & human-caused pollution can really get me going.

p.p.s. I will do a blog posting soon listing the many habits I practice routinely in order to minimize my own personal contribution to the garbage problem. I’ve been hard at this for 22 years now, so most of it is long since 2nd nature to me. I used to coordinate local Waste Reduction Weeks, give ‘supermarket tours’ pointing out how we can change our shopping habits to minimize waste, write newspaper columns about it, create & share brochures & videos, & so on & so on. Perhaps if we were all really intent on creating a Zero Waste society, we’d soon stop talking about building $300 million monuments to waste, pollution & cancer-creation.

p.p.p.s. My other incineration-related posts are found here under a new heading.

Quote of the day: “A clear conscience is more valuable than wealth.” – Filipino proverb

Runner-up Quotes: “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.” – Mark Twain

“You assist an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees.” – Mohandas Gandhi (lots of good quotations about civil disobedience here)

“The hard part about change, is, well…you have to actually change.” – Jon Cooksey, Director of ‘How to Boil a Frog’

Placards for Pols

* My other incineration-related posts are found here under a new heading.

So, I attended a Durham Regional Council Health & Social Services & Works committee meeting recently. We have a “burning” issue in Durham Region [east of Toronto, Ontario, Canada] – our politicians have in their infinite wisdom (???) decided to sink close to $300 million dollars into a municipal solid waste incinerator. Oh…politicians. They always like the BIG projects, don’t they?? Big (dumb) projects always seem “sexier” than many small (smart) ones. It makes me so tired.

But I don’t really want to do a lecture on the un-wisdom of politicians – just want to float an idea for some easily portable, inflatable placards to have handy any time one is at a meeting like the one I was at on November 10th & saw Durham’s Regional Council doing their little stupid dance.

Of course I’ve written about the need for placards before – earlier this year, while attending the hearings on the proposal to spend billions of dollars on new reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station.

There are some definite similarities I’m noticing.

The politicians always act like they’re so smart & really know what they’re talking about, but really they rely totally on their hired guns, the consultants, with their fancy suits & their slick powerpoint presentations, & any citizen with a small amount of understanding of the issue at hand & a slightly discerning ear begins to be able to sniff out the political/industry-inspired bullshit almost before it’s spoken aloud.

Ah. Nuclear plants. Garbage incinerators. Both so very, very yesterday, hmmmm?

Well. I don’t have much time & I gotta get this done, so here goes with my suggestions for phrases to use on placards. Really hope someone comes up with some cleverly engineered portable, inflatable ones. I’m heading to another meeting tomorrow, & I just know the placard sayings I’m going to suggest will be eminently reusable/recyclable then & on many other occasions:

  • Arrogance alert!
  • Back to Math class, please!!
  • Bafflegab!
  • Bozo alert!!
  • Bullshit!
  • Corruption: can you smell it too?
  • Get Durham Region out of my mouth, thanks!(1)
  • Have you forgotten who hired/elected you to DO THIS JOB?????
  • How’s about a little humility?
  • I don’t want to be in your little club thanks but could I please just have a cup of coffee?? (um, since my/our tax dollars are paying for your coffee...)
  • Is there any good old-fashioned integrity in the room???
  • JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION, please! (& spare us the bafflegab/bullshit routine)
  • ‘Not statistically significant’ is a bullshit phrase
  • Please stop treating the public like a bunch of morons
  • Pssst – I think I hear the sound of the gravy train!
  • Rogues!
  • Spare us the fancy language, willya? (or simply, Obfuscation/Fancy Language Alert!!)
  • YOU, Sir (or Madam) really don’t know sh-t from shinola
  • You talk really-really-really fast but it’s all just BULLSHIT!
  • Your so-called science sure isn’t very scientific!
  • We’re paying your salaries…I guess you forgot??
  • Where’s the transparency???

A few more random observations:

  • Civil servants often seem to forget the civil part – as well, of course, as forgetting whom they are hired to serve & who pays their salaries. Ditto for politicians, of course. Not to mention all those corporate pillagers.
  • I am fatally tired of people in fancy suits who think they're so damn superior to the people – the citizens – the taxpayers – who pay for their fancy suits, & their junkets, & their…well, I could go on, hmmm?
  • We pay their salaries. They get coffee & sandwiches at these awful meetings; we get treated like a mob of unruly peasants; not even a cup of coffee. It’s appalling! (& the public, the so-called “average citizens,” stay away in droves. Death to apathy!!)
  • We get 10 minutes to say our piece to these people we have hired &/or for whom we voted (or didn’t vote) & whose salaries we are paying. They get to act like kings & queens…on our dime. & you thought feudalism was dead???

Finally, a suggestion for the future of politics (& everything else):

  • No more fancy meeting rooms
  • No more fancy suits
  • No more fancy powerpoint presentations that tell everything but the TRUTH

From here on in?

  • Everyone wears jeans & a T-shirt.
  • We all sit in a circle.
  • We all remind ourselves over & over again that we’re all in this mess together. The only way back out of it is also together. (Our politicians & the bureaucrats? They need our intelligence. They just don’t get that yet.)


P.S. I’ve said this before, in a recent post about a nuclear waste conference I attended. It doesn’t really make me feel good to be sarcastic, sardonic, rude. I know down to my bones we all had a hand in making these messes together, & clearly, the only way out of them is also together. Could we please get at it??

P.P.S. In other posts elsewhere I’ve listed some other placards (or bumper sticker wording) I really like, e.g. the ones I’ve seen down at Occupy Toronto (here & here). Also at a Grassy Narrows event I attended in 2010. And, at nuclear-related hearings, here, here & here

P.P.P.S. A person has got to have a little fun, you know?? I guess that’s why I always come up with these crazy placard ideas (or the awards I am always handing out to the nuclear industry). It’s enough to make a person crazy or despairing (or both). Fun is fun, & as they say in the ‘Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dreamsymposium, it’s important in the midst of all these very serious messes that we seek out “urgent joy.” Don’t you just love that advice??

Quote of the day: “One of the things I argue in my book [A Journey Through Economic Time] is the extent to which people go to avoid rational decisions – the very large role of mental deficiency in economic history. Generally, people have been very resistant to attributing a causal role in history to stupidity.” ~ John Kenneth Galbraith, Economist

(1) This in reference to the fluoridation issue, which was also under discussion at the November 10th committee meeting. & don’t get me started on our so-called health units, which like military groups everywhere seem to actually believe it really makes sense to destroy something in order to save it. OMG. The stupidity that takes place routinely in bureaucracies is enough to make a person weep. Of course there are good people at work doing good things in these broken organizations…of course, of course, of course. But the systems they work for are broken; you hear what I’m saying??