Friday, February 24, 2012

pipe dreams: Enbridge and the Northern Gateway Pipeline

Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline - wiki article

Though the matter is up for debate, and I don't really know enough about the matter to discuss it at the length it deserves, I do know that a project this large should gain more attention than I believe it is. My friend Chelsea shared this article today and I think it provides a perspective that is not only important, but will likely be lost in the wash of Corporate Voices, Political Progress, and Apathy.

It disturbs me how often I'm hearing these stories lately. First it was the Belo Monte Dam in the Amazon, next it was the Coral Sea preservation in Australia (in 24 hours, the Australian government could approve the world's biggest marine reserve to help preserve spectacular coral reefs and endangered species. But the commercial fishing industry is lobbying to oppose it. Petition here). Now I've decided to look into the Enbridge pipeline and I admit, I'm baffled.

When will we stop choosing Money over Life?

Excerpt below from the Vancouver Observer.

Oil executive son's testimony at Prince Rupert Northern Gateway pipeline joint review panel
Carrie Saxifrage

Posted: Feb 20th, 2012

It was a hot, sunny and humid day, after monsoon rainfall my entire time there -- I think it was most likely the Prince Rupert weather following me overseas -- and on that day a hand full of managers thought it would be fun to take me out to the jetty, where they loaded and unloaded the super tankers. Situated a lengthy route away from the refinery itself, we drove down to towards the coastline.

On our way there, we drove past many different villages. Each one looking extremely impoverished. I learned later that this was not always the case. There was a time in this region where fishing, farming and the local economy truly flourished. But once the refinery project was approved, among other projects in the region, they built a pipeline directly through nine different villages. Over a period of time, there was pipeline breakage which contaminated an underground aquifer, and spoiled the wells and water supply of the majority of the surrounding villages. As industry expanded, and land bought and sold, men were forced into cheap labour at the refineries, after lifetimes of sustainable farming and fishing -- now dependent on one or two companies for employment. Women, children and elders went starving after losing access to fresh water, with no accountability for cleanup -- just left to fend for themselves. I ask, what would be the case here in our region? Do you see any potential similarities?
Converging onto a thin strip of man-made road spanning about two miles in length, we arrived at the Jetty, greeted by military personnel. After a lengthy process of clearing me for entry, we walked onto couple massive docking stations. To my right, men were conducting repairs on a rather standard sized vessel, no larger than the ones you would see here in our Harbour. In the distance, a ULCC fresh from the Middle East was rolling in from the horizon. The size of the vessel stopped me in my tracks. After 10 minutes, the ship stopped and made a slow bank horizontally out at sea.
I asked one of the managers -- Jitesh was his name -- why the ship stopped so far out. He told me that because of the size of the ship, they had a floating unloading station, and through another piping system they unload and load way out there, and that connects to the main routing station at the Jetty, to be piped a few miles back to the refinery.
I asked him why, and he said, "Even though we have docking stations here, it is for the smaller vessels that are used for domestic purposes. But these larger vessels that come from the Middle East can run aground easily."
This, in open seas, I thought.
So we all stood there, suspended in what felt like an eternal moment -the heat waves rising above the calmed Arabian Sea, and the ship danced in the horizon as I stood dumbfounded by its sheer mass. One man comments: “I always forget just how large those vessels are.” 

A few moments pass as we all stood, just watching.
Out of the silence, Jitesh says to me “Do you see what we are doing here Mr. Lee?”
I asked “What’s that, Jitesh?”
He replied, with an unexpected, sobering tone: “We are destroying future generations for now, and forever.”
And in this kind of slow motion life moment, I felt this kind of tingling feeling on the top of my head– and with sweat dripping down from the inside of my hard hat onto my face, the sun beaming into my eyes -- I squint over at six men slowing nodding their heads in silent agreement.

view the full article here

Thursday, February 16, 2012

tyto alba

on tonight's way home
a wingspan caught my eye;
from tip to tip: a wider span
than other birds I've seen at night.
I could not make the kind,
but noted only that the wings were
power filled
strength in feathered form
and grace laden.

at last, the creature turned it's head
to look at me,
and there in the eyes that met mine
I saw the face of my heartbeat:
an owl, pure white and stunning
in solitary nature,
struggling to decide
if it would land
or take off;
in quick rotation from one to the next.

there went my breath
into the owl's fight
and there went my heart as well;
deciding skyward
losing flight.

© afterthoughtcomposer

Photo by Peter Otten


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day


On a day where hearts are made visible
and advertised and shared,
I hope you discover a safe location
for your heart, and find comfort there;
whether it be in the arms of a man
or the arms of your favorite chair.

© afterthoughtcomposer


Monday, February 13, 2012

what you don't know about your GMAIL account.

This is a bit techy in nature, but here goes, since I'm annoyed.

If you have a Gmail or Google account, your FULL NAME as you have entered it is not private. I don't mean your username (the "send as" option; that is changeable), I mean your full name that the account is registered under. For example, if your name is Ashley Smith and your user name is Ashley Mashley, then 'Ashley Smith' is just as searchable as Ashley Mashley (terrible, terrible nickname. I hope no one calls themselves that). I recently discovered this because my blog comes up in the search when my full name is entered (a co-worker of mine found my blog this way...surprise!).

Sites like,, list what is called "source information" - thereby removing from themselves any responsibility for privacy invasions. ie; "We're just listing what's available!". Thanks to Gmail, Google, or whoever's in charge, my information is popping up on these sites as "source" information...even things like my full name - that according to the privacy policy in Gmail, is PRIVATE. (hint: your private information is not private).

I'd write Google, but I can't. Their "Contact Us" information is a list of clickable links that lead to forums where people just talk about their problems and no one from Google says anything of value.

rant concluded,
anger not dissipated.



what are 400,000 hectares and 40,000 people worth?

...That's what will be lost and/or dramatically altered with the inputting of the government approved Belo Monte hydro-electric dam in Brazil. 400,000 hectares (400 square kilometers) of the Amazon forest will be cleared for this project. Pardon me, but isn't the Amazon forest rather important? And these 40,000 people are from the Kayapo tribe, who live along the Xingu river in Brazil's northern region, will be forced to relocate as their homelands flood. Where will they go? How devastating will the effects of this dam be, on the forest, the river, the people, and the world's eco-system?

The Chief of the Kayapo tribe hears the final decision.

We can't reverse this action, once it's through. Once we clear that forest and flood these people out of their homes, kill nameless numbers of plant and animal species in that area of the world...that's it. We can't go back.

A petition has been started to stop this dam from being built. Use your voice for good: Amazon Watch

UPDATE: According to this at times unnecessarily sarcastic article, the photo is actually of Chief Raoni, an indiginous leader in the Amazon; apparently he's greeting an old acquaintance and has begun to cry ("as is customary" said my source....ahem....). HOWEVER. The article is helpful in reminding us of the following:

the president of Brazil approved the Belo Monte dam project, an 11,000-megawatt dam that is slated to be the third biggest in the world — after the Three Gorges in China and Itaipu, which is jointly run by Brazil and Paraguay. First proposed more than 30 years ago, Belo Monte has moved forward in part because it is a hydroelectric dam and Brazil has committed to lowering its carbon footprint. But if it’s built, the dam will wipe out an unknowable amount of biodiversity and have untold effects on displaced native people. It will also wipe out part of a rainforest that itself acts as a buffer against climate change. (my emphasis)

So there you have it. The photo is improperly linked to the issue, but the issue is still at hand.


where to put people that aren't new


I went to church yesterday for the first time in what was, admittedly, a long time. I won't say I don't like church any more (my mom reads this blog, after all); but I will say that there is a bit of a cynical knot at work inside me, that mostly shows up when I am in buildings that have crosses on the roofs. As I sat down with my friend and the service started I texted Leah, my fellow cynic, about my current locale and she responded like the good friend she is: "Look with new eyes, Ashley."

Through my new eyes I found that my thoughts were the same, but perhaps formed with less urgency; and in this I found myself thankful for Leah's reminder. New eyes or not, though, I still had those questions. I took notes during the service -- not about the sermon, but during -- writing my ideas down instead of letting them build up. Church attendance fills my head with ideas.

Here's what I was noting. Pardon, of course, that these thoughts seem unrelated.

The church my friend and I went to was largely dominated by the elderly, or the well-on-their-way. We sat at the back, and so it was easy to see the vast amount of greying heads before us. That is, the heads were grey until my eyes met the stage. The band that day was composed of all young people, none older than 30 by the looks of it. I should clarify that I do not think it's bad that young people are involved; but as I surveyed the room I couldn't help but wonder: where do the older ones fit? Sadness hit as I wondered if they fit at all, and then still further: would they want to? Our world quietly dismisses the elderly and overvalues youth. Do our churches do the same?

We were greeted in the sanctuary by loud music on the overhead speakers and a quickly flashing projector screen; no image staying longer than 30 seconds or sitting still while it was up there, and the "background" music was loud enough that hearing conversation was an effort. The giant, wall-to-wall windows at the side of the sanctuary were covered with large blackout screens (so much so that I didn't notice there were windows there, until the service ended and they opened us up to the natural light, and a beautiful view of the horizon), thereby forcing our eyes to the only available distractions, at the front. All the songs we sang were written within the past five years, and by artists that are also young themselves. The feeling in the sanctuary was not one of sanctuary, but rather, of busyness; and though this church is an aging staple in that community - no age or age-old-wisdom showed in their presentation of themselves. As I sat there and waited for the band to play, for the band to stop, for the sermon to be over; I thought of how many times I had felt this way in church. The answer? Sanctuary in a sanctuary is rare, so far as I have seen it.

The pastor spoke ironically; charging us, during a modern-second-service with it's own catchy "Title!", to be counter-cultural. He labored that our world has chosen things that the church should not: all inclusiveness, non-exclusivity in salvation, and so on; and then urged us to read up on the fires of Hell, so our repentance could come quickly. He boldly stated that we need not focus on a God who "loves us" (quoted words: spoken with a degrading whine), but rather on the exclusivity of Christ and our obligation to do what he asks. In essence, the goals he pressed upon us were to live against culture in every facet, rejecting all forms of change, submitting only to obligatory tasks and reminders of the eternal furnace. Also pressed: movies are evil.

The combination of everything, from the absolute chasm of ages between those presenting and those in the audience, to the constant noise and the drone of images on screen, to the pastor of this same church half-yelling that we "Can Not Afford to Play Church or Treat it Like a Social Club"...this combination wore me out. I found an orange in my purse, peeled it where I sat, felt the sting of fresh citrus in my nostrils, and wondered where The Church had gone.

It all seemed so ironic, that a group should be so intent on attracting people who come from the very same culture it rejects. The church, much like (and it seems, in following) current culture, is about Newness - or at least as far as appearances are arranged. We love a new pastor, after all (because the last one was aging) and new music, and new programs, and new service times. Newness is not bad in and of itself, but is really amoral and can foster brilliance. But sewn into this fabric is an awkward midpoint: the ideas we have so readily adopted in the church are the same ones oft' condemned by 'us'.

We bend to culture by separating the old and the young; into the early and late services, into the youth and seniors groups. We've gone along wholeheartedly with the need for constant renewal, prettier bigger buildings, higher offering goals and attractive spokespeople. We try to appear culturally relevant to a culture we later reject.  If we are to be different, then let's be; not for the sake of being counter cultural, but for the sake of integrity. Let's move from our hearts, and not towards the condemnation of the very people we say we want among us.

As I sat there in the pew, thinking about things like newness and history, projectors and outreach programs, sermons and smart graphics, I wrote this question in my notebook: What do we value more as a church? Our people or our cultural relevance? I put the dot on the question mark and sat quietly listening. I felt the buzz of the electric boxes and the congregational breathing. I looked at the older people sitting in front of me and all across the room, and wondered how deeply we have gotten ourselves in. Would a modern church let an 73 year old lead worship?

There's a "hip" joke in there somewhere.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

from the archives: direction

As it has happened before, my three-years-ago commentary is eerily fitting to the thoughts I have today. As such: a re-posting of some thoughts on forest pathways and the faith that leads us through them.

Feb 7, 2008

I am learning that direction is not necessarily about an ending place, but rather, it's about where we're looking while we walk the Journey. Who cares where we're going? Wherever we end up, we got there by taking steps; one foot in front of the other and one heartbeat at a time. Steps taken with hesitation are still steps forward; and Faith is still the hand that steadies us as we go. As this mysterious ending place continues to elude and evade us, we are still asked to be ready and to travel anyway.

This is easy to write, but harder to see; the lighting shifts as the answers around us begin to fade into questions. When the only thing we know is that there are two roads equally accessible, and two different patterns that beat in the same sweet heart...what next? What do we do when everything we have known is suddenly replaced with dangling carrots, and this 'blessed assurance' evades us just as quickly as this road we're on?

I guess I don't really know that part yet. I know that pain still hurts and questions still go unanswered, just as surely as I know that My God will achieve his purpose in everything (or do I really know this?). There are no empty words with God, no empty promises, no pointless ventures. But there is suspense, and patience-cultivating, and tiny glimpses. There's the please-just-tell-me's, the i-don't-know-yet's, and the Journey. There is always the Journey.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

you are cool too.

I probably shouldn't pit one cool person against another, or force comparisons amongst friends. How silly of me. For the record, I think you are pretty damn awesome, too.

Apparently, in 1920s Louisiana, if you weren’t standing on an alligator by age 3, you got sent
to a special school. I guess that would make me pretty special.
(via Pinterest)

Anita is (much) cooler than you

first email of my day looked like this:

Today’s the day I perfect my plastic smile and perky strut.
...May today be the day we all perfect our struts and shed the plastic from our smiles; though if plastic is required, then grin away. If you're really lucky, maybe today's the day you find a friend like Anita (you can't have her though; she's mine).

Monday, February 6, 2012

how to attain oily feathers

File this one under "Rants and Raves."

...they're at it again. The women, I mean. They've grown tired of my snack eating, food-loving, non-weight gaining, happy in my skin. So now they do what they always do: talk about me, but not to.

It should come as no surprise to me really; I've been here before with alarmingly common rotation. My mom promised me in grade 10 that one day it would be over; so did the school counselors; so did the adults --  that high school and it's asinine cruelties would, eventually, stop.

Sadly, what I've found is just the opposite. Women will be cruel as long as they can be; they will mock as long as it suits them (as long as they don't like themselves), and in me they'll find a delightful loophole: it's politically correct to belittle thin women. So the words continue, the passive aggressive behavior continues, the ungrounded, unfounded exclusion continues; and the onlookers are silent.

Normally I smile pretty and say nothing and sit in the knowledge of what they haven't quite figured out yet: that I'm on to them; that I know it is out of their own desperate unhappiness with the mirror that they choose to pick on me (I and my weight are a litmus test for fledgling self esteems).

But this time, I'm reacting. I can't sit under cruel scrutinizing eyes anymore without bringing something to the table. As a sure sign of the mature adulthood I've long-since entered into: bring on all my form fitting skirts, the high heels that make my legs look longer, the shirts that show my tiny waist. Bring on extra snacks and extra snack crunching at my desk and my body's refusal to change shape.

"Like water off a duck's back" sounds good, and once adopted as a lifestyle, sort of works. But after a lifetime of being the lone oil-covered duck in a pond filled with haters, I've run out of the desire to make sure these women feel good about themselves while they pick me apart.

Duck, imploding (but damn, does she look good).


Friday, February 3, 2012

the day all lovers wait for

Only 12 days left!!!

...until we can all buy chocolate at 50% off!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


An epiphany landed on my heart's step:
Since I am happy,
I should be happy
(though I don't know the end,
nor exactly where this started).
So as I feel my pulse reacting
to better winds
and the wildness of unseen pages,
I find that I am, and am letting myself be,
and am breathing in

© afterthoughtcomposer
 . - 'happy'