1, 2, 3

2018-08-16

in Daily updates

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You would think a country where the entire state of New South Wales, responsible for a quarter of their agricultural output, is currently in drought and where water scarcity threatens their long-term viability as a country wouldn’t be such a climate change villain. Their wildfires keep worsening and their most important river is drying up. Alas, as with Canada’s oil-selling obsession, Australia seems more concerned about selling as much coal as possible to China as with maintaining a habitable continent.

Even without factoring in such exports, their emissions of greenhouse gas pollution have been steadily rising since 2013 after a period of general decline going back to 2005. Perhaps that’s unsurprising as they repealed their carbon tax in 2014.

This ties into a frightening possibility: as the most vulnerable rich countries are hit harder and harder by climate change they may not draw the lesson that international cooperation is necessary, retreating instead into self-defeating selfishness.

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My central aim for this summer was to focus on developing my PhD research project. To that end I didn’t seek a teaching assistant position or other paid work, like commercial photography or the time I helped run the Summer Residence Program at Massey College.

Mostly that has gone well. I’ve gone from seeking ethical approval to beginning to conduct interviews with people at a variety of schools. I’m putting together a detailed timeline of events that took place in each Canadian campaign, based in part on the idea of cycles of contention from the theoretical framework behind the project. I have started writing the first three chapters — on the issue context, literature context, and activist repertoires — and I have a lot of ideas for each.

For the fall and winter terms I have accepted three TA positions. One is yet another second year Canadian politics course, with tutorials to lead and grading. The other two are grading only (though I will be giving a lecture in one) within the School of the Environment. TA work will be a distraction from the dissertation, but it can also be useful for structuring time and will help with maintaining general financial stability.

I expect that in September it will become much easier to contact research subjects efficiently, as students, faculty, and administrators awake from their summer comas. We’re looking for a new third floor housemate as well, since the current occupant of our largest room is leaving to pursue a job opportunity selling supplements.

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The whole medium of blogs seems to have largely died, certainly when compared with the heyday of dozens of my friends having LiveJournal- or Blogger-hosted sites. This page has also lost some of its drama since the Oxford and even the Ottawa days ended. The late years of a PhD tend to be a time of loneliness and isolation. Many of your day-to-day obligations like coursework have fallen away and you’re meant to be devoting yourself to a project that almost by definition has appeal to only a narrow range of people.

It’s not terribly clear who, if anyone, is still reading this site, as comments seem to have gone out of favour as well.

If anyone’s still around other than the long-reading family members who I know about, you have my thanks and another invitation to comment. Anonymous commenting is recommended for those who prefer it.

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There’s a lot that’s unnerving about the rise of China: their no-questions-asked support for authoritarian regimes, the worsening arms race they are in with the US and others, the surveillance state they have developed, and their massive contribution to climate change, to start with. One element that hits close to home is how their gaokao university entrance exam — which tests loyalty to the Chinese state as well as knowledge — is starting to be accepted for admission to western universities including the University of Toronto and McGill.

Judging by my own teaching experience, a significant fraction of people admitted to university on the basis of Chinese credentials don’t have the English language and other skills necessary to succeed in an undergraduate program taught in English. It’s even more uncomfortable to think that people will be getting in using scores that were awarded for properly parroting back the ideological preferences of the Chinese government.

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