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I find the debate about Canadian arms companies selling weapons and vehicles to Saudi Arabia a little perplexing. The media coverage seems to turn on the question of whether the arms and equipment are being used to oppress the civilian population of Saudi Arabia. I find this perplexing because there seems to be ample evidence that oppression at home and abroad is the main business of the Saudi government, and that anybody selling them anything should expect it to be used that way.

On one hand, it’s appealing that moving to non-fossil fuel sources of energy could undermine countries like Saudi Arabia. On the other, it’s frightening to think what would happen to the region in a future where nobody wants or is willing to use their oil.

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“Nothing sways them from the habit—not illness, not the sacrifice of love and relationships, not the loss of all earthly goods, not the crushing of their dignity, not the fear of dying. The drive is that relentless… If human life was so simple that people learned from negative consequences, well then human history would be very different… The drugs solve problems in people’s lives, in the short term. Of course, they create problems in the long term… When you stress animals, they’re more likely to engage in addictive behaviours… Our whole social policy’s based on stressing the addict—and then we hope to redeem them—which flies in the face of science, not to mention human compassion… We’re punishing people for having been abused in the first place.”

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I just finished a new research proposal on campus fossil fuel divestment campaigns in Canada. I am in the middle of a series of meetings with faculty members, working both to refine it into something the department will approve and to establish a committee.

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