Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Sunday, December 2, 2018

While the planet burns, we bulldoze

 The space probe InSight landed safely on Mars last Tuesday. NASA is working on plans to send humans to Mars. When it happens, I hope NASA will include some real estate developers. 

            They would love Mars. It looks exactly like what they do to the earth when they’re building new projects. 

            Mars has no vegetation. No tree-hugging residents to protest about the destruction of their natural habitat. No cuddly animals to arouse the sympathies of sentimental do-gooders.

            For over 20 years, I have taken my dog for walks on the ridge that rises to the east of my home. Although it doesn’t have palm trees and sandy beaches, it’s about as close to paradise as I can imagine. Knee-high grass grows wild among the pines. Sunlight filters through the branches, illuminating the local sunflowers. From a rock bluff, I have a view along the 160-km lake that fills the Okanagan valley. 

            But a developer – I could name the company, but any other developer would do the same – bought that ridge. 



            So my familiar trail now must cross a wasteland. Our feet sink into mud still bearing bulldozer tracks. The rest of the land looks like Syria after a bomb blast. Between dynamite and bulldozers, not a green twig visible anywhere. Native bedrock has been blasted into sharp-edged chunks that hurt my dog’s paws. Rainfall can now land on exposed rock surfaces that have been safely sealed underground for eons; the water dissolves exposed minerals to form a toxic trickle.

            My hiking boots clatter on a paved access road, a concrete sidewalk. 

            Above the road, on what’s left of the old trail, my boots fall softly on pine needles lying thick upon earth that can still soak up rain. 

            Dog and I climb to the highest point of the ridge. Below us spreads a Mars-scape waiting to hatch a thousand new houses, with three-car garages. 

            Yes, I’m bitter. Yes, I’m angry.

            Even the viewpoint I stand on won’t survive untouched. Someday, a restaurant will perch there. With a magnificent patio, and a menu limited only by your credit rating.

            It will happen. Because land that doesn’t produce tax revenues has no value for a municipality. 

            And everyone knows, the only thing that matters is money.


Replicating Noah’s flood

            So we humans will continue destroying our planet, and everything that lives on it, as we grovel before the gods of wealth and endless growth. 

            We destroy natural habitat for roads, houses, and big-box stores with bigger parking lots. Then we demand that someone cull the deer, racoons, and coyotes forced to move into our yards.

            We bulldoze the trees that can help to absorb the carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels -- solar energy trapped and buried over millions of years.

            We pollute our streams and oceans. 

            We have wiped out 60 per cent of all wildlife already, on land, in the oceans, in the air. 

            There may, or may not, have been a massive flood that wiped out everything except Noah’s boatload of favoured species. If it happened, it was a mass extinction far surpassing the demise of the dinosaurs 70 million years ago. 

            The Bible says that God caused Noah’s flood. We have no one to blame but ourselves for the “flood” that’s happening today.


Beyond denial

            The science gets more and more exact. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), having consulted over 6,000 studies -- far wider than the scientists who gave us that other threat to life, nuclear weapons -- conclude that climate change has anthropogenic causes. That is, we humans are doing it to ourselves. 

            We have just twelve years to reverse the trend, says the IPCC. Or we’re cooked. Literally. 

            Past a certain point, if temperatures continue to rise, the climate itself will take matters out of our hands. The melting of polar ice will let open oceans absorb more heat. As mountain glaciers shrink, so will lakes, rivers, and water supplies. As arctic permafrost thaws, it will release methane – a greenhouse gas 40 times more potent than carbon-dioxide. 

            Exposed to daytime temperatures above 55 C, we humans can no longer cool our metabolism enough by sweating. We will die. So, eventually, will anything that has cells containing water -- plants, insects, reptiles… If rising temperature should reach 100 C, the fluids in cells will boil.

            The only survivors will probably be bacteria and viruses. 

            Who might make another attempt to combine into living cells, to start the evolutionary process once again. 

            Or maybe they’ll be smart enough not to try.


Copyright © 2018 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

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The topic of “politically correct” language generated so many letters that I have had to edit quite heavily. So if your favourite line doesn’t show up, sorry, but that’s how it goes. 


Bob Rollwagen took an employment perspective: “When an individual uses a racial slur or takes any bigoted position, unintentionally or accidentally,  they have usually exposed their inner hidden beliefs. They may regret it, or excuse it, [but] it was part of their thought process so they must have believed it and now feel compromised as they will be more easily identified in the future. They must be named or they won’t be stopped when it is critical.

            “When you do [or say] something wrong, fix it now. When your hiring policy has been biased, fix it. Some will say it is unfair because they thought they would have been hired under the biased rules and now will not when bias is removed. We all win when the best are hired fairly.”


Tom Watson wonders which way the pendulum is swinging “At a luncheon recently, a supporter of Donald Trump said that the main reason he likes Trump is that he has done away with political correctness. I, along with you, hope that choosing words more carefully will begin to happen more frequently, but what this person said suggests that it's leaning more in the other direction. Like it or not, we have become increasingly more partisan, thence more divided, so that anything the ‘other side’ says is fair game for ridicule. In fact, any representative of the ‘other side’ is also fair game for ridicule.”


Helen Reid added a further point to PC language: “Its intent is to restore their rightful place in the human race to those members of it who, for too long, have been disparaged and excluded… It is the [fear of] sharing power that fuels the resistance to it.”


James Russell called it a good column: “I rarely see the ‘political’ adjective used except by people who are fundamentally oriented to putting other people down on the basis of their alleged alien-ness (differences from ‘the norm’). 

            “The adjective ‘political’ seems to make it appear that the rightness is only there from a particular, partisan, perspective.

            “I have certainly benefited from being a male, white, well-schooled, Canadian of a certain age and middle-class Christian background. But I didn’t choose it any more than I chose not to be female, with different pigmentation, from a different culture, geography and social class. Luckily, I came out far enough ahead that, with enough real-life education, I don’t mind a degree of payback. I’d prefer to do it through the tax system, to remove my own biases as much as possible.  And I’d be happy to see more people from different back-grounds involved in the tax-setting (and paying) process.”


Isabel Gibson remembered being on the wrong end of disparaging language: "’I'm 25 and I have two children. I'm not a “girl”. This was my annoyed response 41 years ago to an unsuspecting teaching assistant (likely no older than I was) who had called on ‘the girl in the back row’ to answer a question in a university math class. 

            “These days, I think I'd either let it ride, or take it up privately, at least on a first offence.

            “We could all dial down the outrage we exhibit when someone offends us with their language -- intentionally or inadvertently, maliciously or obliviously.  We can all do better, but neither side of giving/getting a figurative slap upside the head is a good place to be, if our aim is to build community.”


Robert Caughell noted, “Previous governments appointed people based upon their political/financial connections; we now have a Defence Minister who has been in war/battles, an Immigration Minister who has been through the immigration system, etc. But being PC has its limits. People are/becoming frustrated by their inability to express their thoughts without worrying about offending anyone.” 

            Robert also objected to “people who create new words just to be trendy/hip. I/others  have responded to newspaper articles/letters pointing out the misinformation in them. But people take that as a slight on their intelligence and respond in kind. We are unable to have civilized conversations with others without it becoming a mud-slinging match about people’s entrenched beliefs/ideologies.”


Steve Roney opposes “affirmative action. ‘Affirmative action’ is, of course, a euphemism. Like all euphemisms, it seeks to disguise an ugly reality that we do not want to admit to. The words by themselves mean nothing, but are applied as code for discrimination. And discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity is always wrong, no matter what words you use to cover it up.

            “Discrimination does not ‘right a previous wrong.’ You might argue that someone else with the same skin tone or of the same sex was discriminated against in the past. But, obviously, it is not the same person, and the person you are discriminating against now equally had nothing to do with it. It is not justice to repeat a wrong endlessly with new people. A million wrongs never make one right. 

            “Moreover, while any claim of discrimination in the past is at least debatable, the present discrimination is beyond question; while there is nothing we can do about discrimination in the past, we can at least end discrimination now.”


Fran Ota countered, “Words do matter. Yesterday was ‘Christ the King’ Sunday...or ‘Reign of Christ’, and we addressed how the words ‘King’ and ‘Lord’ etc. affect our thinking....and more subtly than we might like. Are they relationship words or power words? 

            “So I used with the congregation of the word ‘tolerance’. If we have ‘religious tolerance’ or ‘racial tolerance’ we are basically saying we ‘put up with’ other religions and races. And that we can stop tolerating whenever we choose, and make laws against other faiths -- as we are seeing south of us. It’s a power word. But if we exchange ‘respect’ for ‘tolerance’ we are into a ‘relationship’ word. Which changes how we see, understand, and approach others.  It’s a harder word to live out, but for followers of Jesus it’s the word we must live.”






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To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think too many links constitute spam.)

                       Ralph Milton’s latest project is a kind of Festival of Faith, a retelling of key biblical stories by skilled storytellers like Linnea Good and Donald Schmidt, designed to get people talking about their own faith experience. It’s a series of videos available on Youtube. I suggest you start with his introductory section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u6qRclYAa8

                       Ralph’s “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal -- is still available. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. More details at wwwDOTsinghallelujahDOTca

                       Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. <http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca>

                       I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom

                       Alva Wood’s satiric stories about incompetent bureaucrats and prejudiced attitudes in a small town -- not particularly religious, but fun; alvawoodATgmailDOTcom to get onto her mailing list.

                       Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom or twatsonATsentexDOTnet





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