May 30, 2013

What good is saving the planet? asks ExxonMobil CEO

To be fair, the issue is complicated.

However, yesterday, at a shareholders meeting, Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil Corporation, the world's largest oil company, said

Mr Tillerson was responding to issues raised by activists wanting the company to establish some simple greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Shareholders voted down that motion by a margin of 3 to 1. They also nixed a proposal to ban discrimination where sexual orientation might be a factor. Apparently ExxonMobil already has that covered.

Makes a person wonder if buying anything from a company like this is a good idea. In Canada, and throughout much of the world, the company is known by its Esso brand name.

And about that suffering thing... Mr Tillerson might not have to suffer as much as others. He recently received a 15 per cent pay raise bringing his salary for the past year to 40.3 million dollars.

May 29, 2013

Sarah McHugh's moose hide slippers

The loyal follower of The Murray Chronicles will remember the Dawson City Journal, my photo journal of three months spent in Dawson City, Yukon, and the popular post: Annie Smith's beaded moose hide slippers. Those beautiful slippers continue to be worn by the writer on an almost daily basis.

Just before leaving Dawson in late December, I found some slippers at a local market. They were crafted for me by the artist Sarah McHugh. The slippers arrived after we returned from Argentina and were well worth the wait.

Sarah learned her craft from two elders: her mother and mother-in-law. She has sold hand-stitched slippers and mitts to local Yukon residents, to visiting tourists, and has sold and shipped her products to people on four continents.

Sarah uses only traditionally tanned moose hide because it provides a softer and much more aromatic hide with a strong wood-smoke smell. Her hides come from local tanners and include moose, elk and caribou. She uses furs, such as beaver, fox, wolf and wolverine, all sourced from Yukon trappers.

My slippers are moose hide with beaver fur and beaver tail leather, and the smell really is fantastic: wood, smoke and moose, a constant reminder of my time north of sixty.

Sarah operates under the name Mad Mitters Luxury Furs and you can see more of her work by visiting her Mad Mitters facebook page.
photo of Sarah McHugh by the river: by the artist

May 27, 2013

Strange signs in Vancouver

Hmmm... it doesn't look invisible to me.

Roswell North?
Or strange craft
from the Golf Islands perhaps.

Well this could be confusing. Especially since the sign 10 metres further shows the avenue as being 46th.

Maybe a compass would have helped. 

May 26, 2013

10 years on ~ the Kirchners in Argentina

Yesterday was yet another national holiday in Argentina, a nation that has more public holidays than most other countries, certainly many more than Canada. Revolution Day celebrates the revolt 203 years ago that ended Spanish rule.

May 25 was also the anniversary of a decade of Kirchner presidency, first by Nestor Kirchner, who died in 2010, to be followed by his partner, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner.

La Presidenta addressed several hundreds of thousands in central Buenos Aires last night, amid a festival-like atmosphere of music and celebration, of speeches and more speeches. With inflation increasingly proving to be a nasty thorn in the side of her government, she called the past ten years a victorious decade "won not by a government, but by the people."

The Kirchners began an era of what they called social inclusion, by transferring some wealth to the poor (some would say they also transferred much wealth to themselves) and bringing to justice the criminals of the "dirty war." They initiated significant state intervention into the economy to create jobs and wealth, the exact opposite of the privatisation and "anything-goes" kind of capitalism that held sway in Argentina during the 1990s. Unemployment decreased significantly, and pensions and minimum wages increased substantially over the past ten years. The government legalised abortion and same sex marriage, established a Universal Health Benefit which lifted about four million people out of desperate poverty. Over the past decade 1200 schools have been built in Argentina, compared to only 100 in the previous twenty years. Good things happened under the Kirchners.

Yet high levels of poverty persist. Income disparity remains dramatic. Transportation networks outside Buenos Aires limiting the potential for economic growth. Anti-corruption policies for government and business remain largely non-existent.

In 2007 the President's office interfered with the statistical department of the government and now no one believes the numbers coming out on inflation, unemployment or poverty. And no one includes the IMF and the World Bank and most transnational corporations, all of which Argentina needs on-side if economic growth and social inclusion policies are to continue. Inflation, since 2007, according to official figures, hasn't gone over 10 per cent per year, yet citizens see the escalation of prices, sometimes doubling in a single year. Unofficially inflation is considered to be around 30 per cent yet the government refuses to budge.

Economic uncertainty has created huge waves of resentment within Argentina. There is much at stake for this democracy and its citizens. The lavish spending on a national holiday, and its obvious self-promotion of la Presidenta and her government, had little to do with the poor of the country. Would  the cartoneros, the poorest of the poor in Argentina, have the time to look up from their work to enjoy the fireworks?

photos from AP/Clarin

May 24, 2013

Bird Land

Moving is wonderful. People leave things behind. Like this cactus left on our balcony. We have moved more than just a few times during the past year; to Dawson City, Yukon, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and places in between and beyond. It has been nice to finally begin to settle into a more permanent residence here in Vancouver.

Living, finally, in one place gives us a chance to create something of our own, including setting up a bird feeder from a great store on Broadway called Wild Birds Unlimited. Initial results were disappointing. No one came. Maybe it was the food we were offering, or the slightly political tone of our bird feeder. Maybe it was a generational thing, or that the polls were wrong.

With the provincial election now out of the way (an election for the birds if ever there was one) the birds have started to appear. In large numbers as it turns out.

Apparently the word is out, at least among sparrows and finches: Jeem y Sherry offer a great mix of ... well, seeds actually. Sometimes in English. Sometimes in Spanish. And always with a progressive accent.