Things I am seeking

Life now chiefly consists of three tasks:

  1. Finding somewhere permanent to live as soon as possible, but ideally by August 1st and by necessity by August 28th when non-students must leave the co-op
  2. Finding any employment to help defer the costs of living
  3. Finding long-term employment in the fight against climate change, perhaps most plausibly in the clean energy sector

I don’t think life has ever been so open-ended and unanchored for me, which is disorienting and worrisome when there are so many problems in the world and among people who I know.

The most sustainable option for housing would be finding a 3 bedroom unit along with two other people and getting on a formal lease. That would finally free me from the uncertainty I had at 410 Markham and 611A Marlee, where I was only safe as a tenant as long as a prior flatmate who the landlords allowed on the lease was there.

Of course, finding two other people and a place all at the same time is quite a coordination problem. I am also open to an affordable 2 bedroom unit with a lease and a suitable flatmate. I also need to consider just taking over a room in an existing place, given how little time I have to search, but that would likely mean being put back in the precarious situation of an off-lease tenant which has made housing into the stress volcano that I live on top of since Pieter Basedow’s worst abuses began in February 2018.

Theoretically I could stretch to finding a cheap place on my own, but (a) every $100 per month matters in terms of retaining a low cost of living and sustaining resources for future troubles and (b) provided they are conscientious and respectful of privacy, I prefer having the unobtrusive company of flatmates to being alone.

DeSilva and Harvey-Sànchez divestment podcast series complete

The fifth and final episode in Amanda Harvey-Sànchez and Julia DeSilva’s series on the University of Toronto fossil fuel divestment campaign, successively organized by, UofT, and then the Leap Manifesto and Divestment & Beyond groups.

The episode brings back guests from each prior era, and includes some interesting reflections on what organizers from different eras felt they learned, the value of protest as an empowerment space and venue for inter-activist networking, the origins of the Leap Manifesto group in the aftermath of the 2016 rejection, as well as how they explain President Gertler’s decision to reverse himself and divest five years after he rejected the campus fossil fuel divestment campaign.

Threads on previous episodes:

Morneau linking economic growth to social stability

Asked about de-growth and related concepts as a response to the apparent unsustainability of quality of living improvement based on economic growth:

If we have declining GDP per capita, it is very hard to have social harmony against that challenge.

Former Canadian Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, at a 2023-04-28 Massey dialog

Reasons I will never have a child

1) I don’t see it as an obligation or a virtue

There are already so many humans that our biomass far outweighs all the wild animals on the planet. I don’t see any reason why a world where the population falls by 90% through free choice would be a bad thing. The idea that individuals have an obligation to reproduce the species when the species is already so numerous and dominant that it threatens its own survival does not make sense to me.

2) I don’t expect to be financially secure, especially in old age

The lesson again and again from our politics is that the people who are influential right now skew the system for their immediate benefit. The people they usually harm to do so are those in the future. Our politics seems to be growing more and more dysfunctional as climate change stresses the system. If we do zoom right over the cliff edge into 4 ˚C+ of warming by 2100, I don’t expect any government pension or health care systems to still exist in Canada by the late 2040s or so, when I may really start needing them.

I have been working hard since elementary school, but I do not have stable housing or a sense of security. Nor do I expect to find either. In a life where I can barely take care of myself, it doesn’t make any sense to add someone else on.

3) They would be born into peril which we are still choosing to worsen

The kind of Earth our generation inherits does a lot to establish our life prospects. The people in power right now are behaving as though they are determined to leave a maximally impoverished planet for our descendents. We are devastating biodiversity, recklessly unbalancing the planet’s vital systems, and permanently closing off avenues toward a good life for people who can come after us because we act primarily to satisfy our desires in the here-and-now. We also have a million self-serving justifications for why our behaviour is OK, and the people who we are harming in the future can do nothing to censure or stop us.

The coming generations will be living inside the most colossal act of vandalism one group of people have imposed on another. So far, that is the chief legacy of the people alive and making policy decisions now.

4) I don’t want to devote that much of my life to any project

Whenever a friend sees me enjoying playing with a stranger’s dog, there is a good chance they will tell me that I ought to get a dog. To me, this seems like the difference between enjoying sandwiches and choosing to own a bodega. I like dogs when their owners are at hand, when I am not responsible for their care and welfare, and where someone else will take over immediately if there is a problem. Having a dog of my own which requires constant and expensive care is way beyond what I am willing to take on, and a human baby would be infinitely worse.

I already have no idea of how to plan for the future. Analytically, I have to accept that wildly different possibilities exist for the rest of my lifetime. It is very plausible that we end up in a future of climate chaos, where international cooperation breaks down and conflicts flare, and where individuals retreat from empiricism and reason into self-justifying delusions and self-serving religions. If we add several metres to sea levels and make vast areas uninhabitable, the disruption will be far greater than the world wars — and it may persist for hundreds or thousands of years. At the same time, nobody can say what the promises of advancing human knowledge and technology may be. Perhaps new energy sources and technologies like artificial intelligence and synthetic biology will not just solve our climate problem, but throw us all into a techno-utopian post-human future. It is also possible that we will muddle through into a world largely similar to what we have now (perhaps if we use solar radiation management geoengineering to push off the climate problem for another few decades). That’s the only scenario where conventional old-age planning (max out your RRSP contributions!) makes sense, and it feels to me like the least likely scenario given how all the disruption which we are experiencing today is the time-lagged effect of GHG pollution in the 1980s, and we have polluted much more since so we have much worse to expect even if we change course in the future.

To sum up, I can’t even afford a bus pass. I don’t know where I will be living in six weeks or what I will need to give up in order to get there. The future to me broadly looks terrifying and like more than I will be able to handle. Under those conditions, a determination not to procreate seems sensible and hard to dispute.

Ongoing occupation demanding fossil fuel divestment at U of T’s Victoria University

Friday was day 12 of Climate Justice U of T’s occupation at Victoria University, pressuring them to divest from fossil fuels.

They have a guide online for people wishing to visit the occupation.

They also have a petition.

Old Orchard homes

Toronto’s Old Orchard Properties bills itself as a builder of “luxury custom homes” but, as a renter since the August before last, I think anyone who gets a tour and takes a detailed look will see that their self-praise is unjustified.

The bannister along our staircase has always wiggled so much that I doubt it would
hold me if I fell; the locks are cheap and the light fixtures take one bulb instead of two and are located in places too high and dangerous to reach (like above an open area for a
staircase, with a wobbly railing beside). The locks and plumbing fixtures are the irrationally cheap sort that landlords choose even when they are responsible for maintenance, and the air conditioning cuts in and out and cannot maintain a stable temperature in summer.

I know every business represents itself as premium, even if it makes discount napkins for the prison and public education systems, but it is particularly galling for a landlord which has treated us so badly as tenants.

Dissertation on TSpace

I am still trying to get them to replace the file with one that has a few minor typos corrected, but my dissertation went live on the University of Toronto’s TSpace platform today:

Persuasion Strategies: Canadian Campus Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaigns and the Development of Activists, 2012–20

Please don’t buy one before asking if I was planning to make you one already, but you can buy a print copy at cost from I am also ordering a batch to reduce shipping costs, so if you want to get in on that let me know.

Prohibiting eviction through fraud

One of the reasons why Toronto’s housing market is such a disaster is that landlords are basically immune from any mechanism for punishing them for misconduct.

They can abuse the ambiguity of the Residential Tenancy Act to baselessly refuse to assign someone new to a lease, as a way of forcing existing residents to leave or accept an illegal rent increase.

There is also widespread reporting on abuse of mechanisms that let a landlord evict a tenant for their own use of the space or similar reasons. I have personally — and had friends — threatened with eviction for a wide range of trivial or invented reasons, all as a pressure tactic to add stress and try to illegally force people from their homes.

The Landlord and Tenant Board system is completely jammed up, with even the most urgent hearings taking 8-9 months to happen (and then they may be inconclusive, leaving everyone waiting again).

One remedy that could improve things would be a criminal offence for evicting a tenant through fraud or abuse of process. Theoretically a mistreated tenant could sue for damages, but it’s hardly likely that someone scrambling for a place to survive would accept those legal fees and risks. Having a criminal offence would create a real stick to discourage and prevent landlord misconduct, slightly rebalancing power relations in order to make the law work more as written and less as words to be ignored and misused by those driven only be the desire to collect as much rent as possible.

Creating a criminal offence is justified for at least three reasons. Even good tenants who follow the law and pay their rent may face daily and severe stress from the knowledge their landlords are trying to get rid of them illegally. I have been personally and seriously stressed about housing, often to the point of losing sleep, almost every day since the crisis with my flatmate at my old place began years ago. Even with the extreme stress of a PhD program to compare with, Toronto’s housing market is worse.

Taking away someone’s home is a very serious matter, which is why we regulate housing so much in the first place. If the existing system cannot contain landlord misconduct, there must be one with more coercive power against them. Secondly, there is extensive evidence that this misconduct is widespread, if not routine. A significant change is needed to disrupt a rotten status quo. Finally, the potential monetary rewards for landlord misconduct are huge, especially when it has become normalized throughout the system. Only a strong counterbalance has a chance of blunting the incentive for landlords to profit through illegality and misconduct.