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

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29

Apr

2018

Let’s hear it for unsung heroes!

Author: Jim Taylor

This has been a good week for heroes. We even know the names of some of them.

            For example, the cop who arrested the driver of the rented van , the man who drove down Yonge Street in the north end of Toronto, knocking over people like bowling pins. The officer was alone. He faced a man who made threatening gestures, as if he were drawing a handgun and pointing it at the officer. He yelled, “Shoot me! Kill me!”

            But the police officer, Constable Ken Lam, didn’t.

            I’ll repeat that, in case you missed it -- he didn’t shoot!

            Const. Lam said afterwards that he was just doing his job, the way he had been taught.

            I suppose something similar may happen in the Excited States, sometimes. But I’ve never seen it on TV. Have you?

            But there was another hero, in the mass shooting at the Waffle House restaurant in Nashville. James Shaw Jr. wrestled the shooter’s rapid-fire assault weapon away from its owner. (I’m deliberately not naming the perpetrators in these two incidents -- they get too much publicity already.)

            Shaw said, “I was just trying to get myself out. I saw the opportunity and pretty much took it.”


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25

Apr

2018

Start small to make a difference

Author: Jim Taylor

My father was a pretty good painter. While at university in Toronto, he took lessons from A.Y. Jackson and others of the famed Group of Seven. But as the years passed and his life got taken over, more and more, by academic studies in psychology and religion, he grew more and more cautious in his use of paint. 

            One day, a friend who was also a painter dropped in. She watched him working with fine brushstrokes and tiny dabs of paint. She squeezed flaming magenta onto his palette. She took his brush. She slapped a blob of magenta onto his canvas. 

            It stood out like an erupting volcano. 

            “There!” she commanded. “Paint to that!”

            To his credit, my father did. A single blob of vivid colour changed that painting. And all the paintings\ he did thereafter. 

 


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22

Apr

2018

One Earth Day a year is not enough

Author: Jim Taylor

My office window looks out onto an orchard. On this particular morning, my neighbour the farmer is spraying his trees with something toxic. He’s garbed from head to toe in impervious yellow plastic, and wearing a gas mask over his face, as he drives his tractor up one row, down the other.

            I keep my window closed. I don’t want any of it on me.

            I know the spray kills certain pests. I wonder what else it kills. How does it affect the bacteria in the soil, the worms, the fungi that serve as nerve endings for tree roots?

            Not all farmers use these sprays. I know other farmers who don’t spray their trees. They encourage worms. They compost their wastes. They thin blossoms by hand. But they pay a price for their commitment -- more hand labour, uncertain sales, lower profits.

            I can’t blame my neighbour for trying to grow perfect fruit. He knows how fussy consumers can be. I wonder why we consumers think that only unblemished fruit is worth buying. We pick through the bins in our supermarkets, rejecting apples that have a tiny scab, peaches with a small bruise, grapes with even a trace of shrivelling.

            Does it ever occur to us that a chain of consequences leads directly from our shopping preferences to a farmer swathed in a hazmat suit to protect himself from his own toxic sprays?

            Probably not. Yet that’s the whole point of Earth Day, marked around the world today.


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18

Apr

2018

Earth Day and goddess worship

Author: Jim Taylor

This coming Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day. Not to be confused with Earth Hour, back in March, which promoted turning off surplus electric lights for one hour, causing a wave of darkness to sweep all around the earth. Earth Day has a larger focus this year, to “End Plastic Pollution.”

            “Plastics,” says a promotion piece, “poison and injure marine life, disrupt human hormones, litter beaches and landscapes, [and] clog our waste streams and landfills. The exponential growth of plastics now threatens the survival of our planet.”

            I don’t disagree. But I see plastics as a symptom of a deeper malaise. We didn’t have plastics until we made them out of fossil fuels. And our use and abuse of fossil fuels reflects the belief that this planet is a lifeless landfill site where we humans can dump our waste products forever.

            Basically, we don’t care much about the earth that gives us life.


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15

Apr

2018

The people who work at making bad things worse

Author: Jim Taylor

There hasn’t been this much news about chemical weapons since Saddam Hussein didn’t have them after all.

            First it was the Skripals, father and daughter, apparently poisoned by some kind of nerve agent in Britain. More recently, it has been Syrian civilians, hundreds of them, including children and elderly.

            In both cases, the perpetrator hasn’t been conclusively proven. The U.K. holds Russia responsible for the attack on the Skripals, possibly as revenge for his having betrayed his own government by providing secret information to British Intelligence.

            Similarly, the western nations blame Syria’s ruler, Bashar Al Assad, for the poison gas attacks on civilians in a suburb of Damascus, one of the last stands of Syrian rebels.

            In all this finger-pointing, I see very few media commentators examining the nature of the weapons themselves.

            So here’s a brief history -- Chemical Weapons 101, perhaps.


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