2012 tritium:

2019 tritium:


It complicates the process of completing my PhD dissertation, but there has been highly encouraging movement from administrations targeted by fossil fuel divestment campaigns. While McGill has again said no, Concordia and UBC have pledged to go beyond their prior partial commitments and entirely divest from fossil fuels:

The movement has generally had a hard time in Canada, perhaps because of the size and influence of the fossil fuel industry.

I’m working this week on finishing my NVivo coding of interviews, then moving on next week to finishing the literature review. Spending the rest of the month working on a finalized and complete manuscript, I will need to make sure to mention new developments without expressing false confidence about my ability to explain something which happened so recently and which I don’t have independent data about.


Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysysk’s 2019 report says that the Ontario government’s proposed climate policies are insufficient to meet their (inadequate) target for reducing greenhouse gas pollution:

The province estimates that its new approach will still meet federal reduction targets of 30 per cent below 2005 emission levels, or the equivalent of 17.6 megatonnes by 2030.

But that estimate is based on an older forecast that accounted for initiatives around electricity conservation, renewable energy and cap-and-trade — programs that have all been cancelled by the Ford government.

Lysyk estimates the new plan will only reduce emissions by between 6.3 and 13 megatonnes by 2030.

Page 147 of the report says:

Emissions Estimates Underlying Plan Not Supported by Sound Evidence

The Plan projects that Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions will be 160.9 Mt in 2030 if no further climate initiatives are taken. To reduce Ontario’s emissions by 17.6 Mt to meet the 2030 target, the Plan outlines eight areas where the Ministry expects emissions reductions to occur. We reviewed the evidence and assumptions the Ministry used to estimate the emissions projected for 2030, as well as the reductions for each area. Based on our review, several of the estimates are not supported by sound evidence. Our assessment of the assumptions and double counting of initiatives found that the Plan overestimates the emissions reductions expected. Overall, our analysis found that the initiatives in the Plan have the potential to achieve between 6.3 Mt to 13.0 Mt of the 17.6 Mt emission-reduction goal.

This reinforces how many Canadian provincial and federal governments see climate change as a public relations issue: an area of criticism where they need a rhetorical answer to manage the level of criticism they get in the press.


Spies tend to make extravagant claims for their craft, but the reality of espionage is that it frequently makes little lasting difference. Politicians treasure classified information because it is secret, which does not necessarily render it more reliable than openly accessible information, and frequently makes it less so. If the enemy has spies in your camp, and you have spies in his, the world may be a little safer, but essentially you end up where you started, somewhere on the arcane and unquantifiable spectrum of “I know that you know that I know…”

Yet very occasionally spies have a profound impact on history. The breaking of the Enigma code shortened the Second World War by at least a year. Successful espionage and strategic deception underpinned the Allied invasion of Sicily and the D-day landings. The Soviet penetration of Western intelligence in the 1930s and 1940s gave Stalin a crucial advantage in his dealings with the West.

The pantheon of world-changing spies is small and select, and Oleg Gordievsky is in it: he opened up the inner workings of the KGB at a pivotal juncture in history, revealing not just what Soviet intelligence was doing (and not doing), but what the Kremlin was thinking and planning, and in so doing transformed the way the West thought about the Soviet Union. He risked his life to betray his country, and made the world a little safer. As a classified internal CIA review put it, the ABLE ARCHER scare was “the last paroxysm of the Cold War.”

Macintyre, Ben. The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War. 2018. p. 182–3 (ellipses in original)


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One of the cleverest and most philosophical limericks is:

There once was a man who said, “Damn,
It has borne in upon me I am
But a creature that moves
In predestinate grooves;
I’m not even a bus, I’m a tram!”

It’s strange that living in Canada’s largest city I nonetheless overwhelmingly see the parts that are within an hour’s walk of my home, and I tend to see the same short stretches of street day after day when doing chores, meeting friends, or working on my research.

To deliberately defamiliarize myself a little I took the list of 75 TTC subway stations on Wikipedia, drew a random number between 1 and 75, and took the subway to York Mills to explore a new neighbourhood and take some photos.

Next time I’ll try to do a random journey while there is more daylight left, and perhaps with a friend in tow. As an experiment this time I only brought my keys, camera, and a TTC payment card — no phone, music player, cash, or wallet. I had a surprising number of conversations, perhaps just because I wasn’t listening to headphones or staring at a screen, but clearly actively paying attention to what was happening around me.


While there have been times, mostly when I was at Oxford, when I made an effort to write daily for the sake of communication to people at home and documentation there is often a negative correspondence between how busy I am in life overall and how much I post.

Pretty much my entire effort is devoted to the successful completion of my dissertation and PhD, though a project of such duration is inevitably a study in the practice of survival and the maintenance of social relations as well as intellectual application and research effort.


A few weeks ago The Economist ran this cover and two stories on Saudi Aramco, climate change, and the future of the global oil industry:

They claim: “Aramco’s underlying strategy is to be the last oilman standing if the industry shrinks, pointing to the upheavals to come”.

I wrote recently about the non sequiturs often used the defend the Canadian oil industry, notably the claim that Saudi Arabia’s awful human rights record makes it better to extract oil here than there. A chart from The Economist’s longer article further challenges that view:

If we can only use a fraction of the world’s remaining oil without causing catastrophic climate change, it makes sense that we should use the cheapest and cleanest oil. It makes no sense whatsoever to keep investing in the Canadian industry when the capacity already exists globally to extract all the oil the carbon budget will allow.



In chapter 10, book 3 of the Lord of The Rings, Treebeard describes to Gandalf how Saruman will be guarded in Orthanc following the destruction of Isengard by the Ents:

‘Leave it to the Ents!’ said Treebeard. ‘We shall search the valley from head to foot and peer under every pebble. Trees are coming back to live here, old trees, wild trees. The Watchwood we will call it. Not a squirrel will go here, but I shall know of it. Leave it to Ents! Until seven times the years in which he tormented us have passed, we shall not tire of watching him.’

It is a line which has been in my head on account of an enhanced need for watchfulness in the last year and six months.

Later when they meet in chapter 6 of book 6, Treebeard greets Gandalf with a reference to this new Watchwood:

‘Welcome to the Treegarth of Orthanc!’ he said. ‘I knew that you were coming, but I was at work up the valley; there is much still to be done. But you have not been idle either away in the south and the east, I hear; and all that I hear is good, very good.’ Then Treebeard praised all their deeds, of which he seemed to have full knowledge; and at last he stopped and looked long at Gandalf.

Soon Treebeard explains that he already released the man he was meant to be guarding:

‘But he is gone. Yes, he is gone seven days. I let him go. There was little left of him when he crawled out, and as for that worm-creature of his, he was like a pale shadow. Now do not tell me, Gandalf, that I promised to keep him safe; for I know it. But things have changed since then. And I kept him until he was safe, safe from doing any more harm. You should know that above all I hate the caging of live things, and I will not keep even such creatures as these caged beyond great need. A snake without fangs may crawl where he will.’

‘You may be right,’ said Gandalf; ‘but this snake had still one tooth left, I think. He had the poison of his voice, and I guess that he persuaded you, even you Treebeard, knowing the soft spot in your heart. Well, he is gone, and there is no more to be said.’

Gandalf shortly after Gandalf says to Frodo:

‘Yes, I think you had better do that,’ said Gandalf. ‘But alas for Saruman! I fear nothing more can be made of him. He has withered altogether. All the same, I am not sure that Treebeard is right: I fancy he could do some mischief still in a small mean way.’

That seems applicable to my own situation as well. I shall try to do better than Treebeard at incorporating a necessary ongoing watchfulness into a healthy growing thing, both with the thought of the enduring of the vigil and of the mental balance of those carrying it out, who must remember why the world deserves protecting.