What do Antarctic explorers, a major national telco, and mental health have in common?

Now that I look at this title I can see that I’ve set myself up for some wrong answers! So, no, the answer is not that anyone skiing to the South Pole (and then climbing the highest mountain in Antarctica) must have a mental health issue. And, no, the answer isn’t that anyone who thinks that there are not hidden charges and changes behind the “deals” the telcos advertise must have a mental health illness. Not that those aren’t reasonable answers! But in this case, the Antarctic explorer, who I’m proud to say is a local Fredericton man, and Bell Canada have both committed to helping make a huge difference in our awareness and support for mental health.

I am one of the lucky ones who has not struggled with a mental health issue … so far. Not only do statistics show that in any given year 1 in 5 Canadians (and Americans, Australians and most other nationalities) deal with a mental health issue, it is also the case that nearly half of the population will struggle with a mental health illness at some time during their lives. Nearly half the population, and still mental health illness continues to have a stigma attached to it, despite its widespread nature, reaching across every spectrum of society. We continue to feel we need to keep our mental health issues hidden. And yet, being able to talk about it, to feel empowered to reach out for support and understanding, is key to treatment. Continue reading

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Wordless Wednesday – what are we doing to our planet? | Jan 22/20

Image credit: ARCADIO ESQUIVEL / Cagle Cartoons

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Kindness, compassion, and post-truth

My philosophy discussion group is “studying” Post-Truth this term. More often than not we’re exploring a philosophical topic where the ideas are so challenging (along with the writing) that we spend ages trying to make heads or tails of what the philosopher is saying. (It’s really way more fun than it sounds!) In this case, however, it is painfully clear. There’s nothing difficult to understand about what post-truth is; the difficult thing is figuring out just how we can get past it.

Post-Truth?! What is that, anyway, yet another catch phrase of our times, like fake news and hoaxes? When are we going to get past this strange world of alternate universes? Well, it turns out that Post-Truth really is an accepted and accurate term to describe the world we now find ourselves in. The mainstream news sources that people used to count on for thorough investigative reporting (the most reputable newspapers of old and the pre-historic 30-minute-per-night news telecast of a respected journalist on the few TV stations we had available in the ‘olden days”) are relics of the past. Your truth can now be whatever you want it to be, or more realistically what someone else wants you to believe. We all – or at least far too many of us – now follow our own version of the truth – the one we like best – and we never have to bother ourselves with another point of view, and certainly not the factual truth. How we feel about something is, apparently, more important to us than whether what we like is based on fact. Welcome to our divisive post-truth world.

Sigh. What a world, eh? The same amazing Internet that allows us to connect in so many positive ways also allows targeted news outlets to isolate us from one another with their versions of the news – and make gobs of money at the same time. Don’t forget that part of it. The phrase from Watergate – “follow the money” – applies to just about everything. Continue reading

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How can climate change not be the main goal of all countries in 2020? Canada?!

Australia is burning. California’s been burning. British Columbia’s been burning. Portugal’s been burning. This summer, the Arctic broke records for wildfires in Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Siberia. In the Arctic!  We’ve seen storms more volatile and ferocious than ever before, bringing destructive flooding.  Massive glaciers and ice sheets melting at unheard of rates. Threat of coastal flooding of epic proportions. Island nations fearful of being swallowed up by rising seas in the foreseeable future. What could possibly be more important to every country and every political leader than addressing climate change?

You got it, money. Not the money needed to make radical changes. Not the money needed to support innovation in developing new sustainable energy sources. Not the money needed to incentivize people to embrace new technologies free of fossil fuels. No, it’s all that money flowing from fossil fuel-based industries that decision makers are loath to give up. It’s all in place. It’s already there with their lobbyists. It’s already there with the “experts” paid to dispute the role of burning fossil fuel and cutting down our forests in climate change. “But it’s about protecting people’s jobs.” Yes, there are lots of jobs at stake, but part of a solution is investing in new jobs for a new economy. These changes towards a sustainable – fossil-fuel free – future can come now or they can come after far more devastation has been wrought on our planet by the onslaught of man-made climate change.

We all know that every single country on the planet except the United States has signed on to the climate change accord. Every single one. Even those in the middle of civil wars. So, with one outlier – albeit a big one – the world agrees that this is an issue. However, some countries are taking their commitment to the accord they signed a lot more seriously than others. As a citizen of the planet, I am distressed. As a proud citizen of Canada, I am alarmed by our absence on the current report card from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), headquartered in the UK. Continue reading

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Canada Declares Peace

This gallery contains 15 photos.

Originally posted on The Out And Abouter:
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Normally you would find a satirical article here. In this case, it would attempt to skewer the fetishization of war so banally common in the world today –…

Gallery | 4 Comments

Your very own self-awareness questionnaire

I’ve been holding off on reblogging this intriguing post for a while now, but the beginning of a new year seems like the perfect time. Karen, in the UK, writes on a number of topics in her blog Some Kind of 50. One of the things that amazes me about her posts is that she actually comes up with a list of 50 points or suggestions for whatever topic she’s writing about. Not the ten best this or the twenty worst that, but 50. How does she do that?! And in almost every case, every one of the items on her list deserves to be there. She had a list of 50 women who inspired her; I could only legitimately come up with twenty. Last week she provided her readers with a list of 50 things we can all do to help protect our environment. Not 15 or 25, but 50. And they’re all good ideas.

The list I want to share with you is her list of questions to ask yourself to help you judge your self-awareness. Yup, there are 50 of them! As far as I’m concerned, each one of them is thought-provoking and encourages self-reflection. Self-reflection and soul-searching are good for us at every stage of life, and particularly helpful during this brief period of time at the beginning of a new year when many of us are busy setting goals for self-improvement. Maybe a look at some of these questions and some deep thinking about answers will make you decide that self-improvement isn’t really what you need; self-reflection is more valuable. If nothing else, the questions are fun.

Continue reading

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What the Bushmen of the Kalahari can teach us

Who would have thought that the longest “serving” hunter-gatherers on our planet, the San people of southern Africa, more commonly referred to as Bushmen, would have some important reminders for the rest of us. But a Christmas book I just finished, intriguingly entitled Affluence without Abundance: The disappearing world of the Bushmen by James Suzman, suggests just that. It appears that modern mankind’s move from hunter-gatherer societies to stay-in-one-place agrarian societies brought us far more stress, far longer and harder working days, and far more inequality. I don’t think many people would want to exchange their modern life for that of a hunter-gatherer, but where did we go so far wrong, and why?

I happen to have traveled through Bushman territory in 1970, driving through the Karoo Desert in northwestern South Africa on the way to Oranjemund, just across the border in what is now Namibia. The landscape was flat, dry, and rough, with extremely sparse vegetation. The only animals we saw were a few very scruffy looking ostriches, along with a magnificent, healthy-looking gemsbok. Traffic was more or less non-existent for hundreds of miles. There was nothing enticing about the landscape. We passed a few San “settlements”, collections of very low-to-the-ground shelters made out of sticks and grasses. They were built low so as to provide little resistance to the winds. And they were not built to last because, as seasonally relocating hunter-gatherers, they moved from location to location depending on the cycle of the rainy season, following the animal migrations. They would build and rebuild as needed.

This was a few decades before government actions in Namibia, South Africa, and Botswana took over what had been the land used by the San people for at least 70,000 and perhaps more than 100,000 years to use for pasture land for Bantu peoples and, of course, white farmers and for nature preserves. We didn’t know it then, but we were observing, just in passing of course, the end of as much as 100,000 years of human history. These days, the San people throughout the region have been dispossessed, resettled to small parcels of land, and are now encountering all the social challenges and ills that have befallen so many of the world’s indigenous peoples as they have been “colonized”. That’s a story for another day, and, sadly, one that is exceedingly heartbreaking and has no simple solutions.

But despite the fact that there is nothing compelling to the naked eye (and “modern” mind) about the lives and environment of the Bushmen, this book brings to life the day-to-day lives of the traditional Bushman and their social structure that allowed them to adapt and survive as hunter-gatherers for many, many millennia longer than any other group of human beings on earth.  Definitely some food for thought. Continue reading

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