It’s selfish, but one thing I hate about living in central Toronto is that there are sirens of one type or another audible almost all day and all night long. Even when no sirens can actually be heard, I hear them screaming in my imagination.

The message: “It’s an emergency! But you can’t do anything about it” is frustrating and also a reminder of my feelings of pained impotence in response to climate change.

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The rise of mass democracy is often attributed to the emergence of new forms of political consciousness. The autonomy enjoyed by coal miners lends itself to this kind of explanation. There is no need, however, to detour into questions of shared culture or collective consciousness to understand the new forms of agency that miners helped assemble. The detour would be misleading, for it would imply that there was some shortage in earlier periods or other places of people demanding a less precarious life.

What was missing was not consciousness, not a repertoire of demands, but an effective way of forcing the powerful to listen to those demands. The flow and concentration of energy made it possible to connect the demands of miners to those of others, and to give their arguments a technical force that could not easily be ignored. Strikes became effective, not because of mining’s isolation, but on the contrary because of the flows of carbon that connected chambers between the ground to every factory, office, home or means of transportation that depended on steam or electrical power.

Mitchell, Timothy. Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil. Verso; London. 2013. p. 21

Two responses:

First, it’s unfamiliar to think of fossil fuels as a positive force for social welfare.

Second, perhaps the familiar climate activist strategy of building a social movement is insufficient and we need to think about what means (if any) can align power with the objective of a stable climate.



I’m playing in the qualifying tournament for the online Hive world championship.

In the first round, my opponent forfeited. In the second, I lost both games (the tournament structure is to play two against each opponent, alternating who moves first). In the third round, I won the game where I moved second (black on though not necessarily under official Hive rules) and so did my opponent.

Yesterday, I lost a game against an opponent playing white, then won the second game, which I think was the most interesting in the tournament so far.

I’m glad I’m not getting totally destroyed in these random match-ups, though I clearly have a lot to learn. Ordinarily, I don’t play with the pillbug expansion, which is standard for these tournaments. I need to update my opening theory to take better advantage of the pillbug and mosquito and generally improve my planning and strategic analysis. As with chess, I tend to play too tactically, which sometimes turns up surprising and effective moves, but can also leave me paralyzed in the late game.

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in Photo of the day


In a perceptive tweet Ziya Tong argued: “In the 21st century you’ll find cameras *everywhere* except: where our food comes from, where our energy comes from, and where our waste goes”.

I have long been of the view that if people were forced to look at where our meat, eggs, and dairy come from, few would still be willing to eat them.

That lines up with a recent episode of The Current, in which Anita Krajnc’s acquittal for giving water to pigs heading to a slaughterhouse was used to open a broader conversation about animal transport in the meat industry, including high mortality among “spent hens” used to make nuggets and chicken soup.

My vegetarianism has softened since the long period when I was pretty strict about it starting in 2005, though not for any morally-informed reason. Rather, I think it has just been a result of the way meat-eating (among so many other unsustainable and potentially unethical behaviours) is normalized in our society.

At a minimum, I will try to be more mindful again going forward. Talk of “spent hens” and the conditions of pig, cattle, and horse transport has kept me vegetarian since the broadcast.