Canadian oil production expected to cross 5 million barrels per day

Taking into account both the things we are doing right (some carbon pricing, some other efforts) and what we are doing wrong (building more fossil fuel production, transport, and use infrastructure) Canada is still not even moving in the right direction on fossil fuels and climate change: Canada could lead the world in oil production growth in 2024.

The people leading our society are earning a legacy as the worst wreckers and vandals in human history: inheriting a planet that is the sole jewel of life in the solar system, and passing on profound and perhaps inescapable peril to their human successors while simply blotting out most of the rest of life on Earth.

Low feelings

It is hard to say when it began, because the stress and loneliness of the PhD blended into my post-PhD feelings, but it’s quite fair to say that I have been feeling consistently low at least since I learned that I would have to leave my old home in North York in March.

One big contributor is surely the feeling of anticlimax after the dissertation was released. This wasn’t some obscure academic tract about an issue of specialist interest, but a very current-day analysis of humanity’s most pressing problem. I was expecting, or at least hoping for, debate and pushback from people in the activist and policy communities. So far, the most substantial response to what I wrote has been a half-hour discussion with my brother Mica and his wife Leigh when they were visiting Toronto. In the dissertation I express my worry that — even though their aspiration and plan is to change the world — activists get caught up in routine behaviours like marches which occupy their time and effort but do little to change minds or policy. The total non-response to my research so far is a minor bit of additional evidence that activists aren’t generally too compelled by external analyses of their efficacy.

Another dimension is no doubt simple isolation. The layers have been stacking for me in that area: it’s harder to make and keep friends as an adult, it’s harder when you’re no longer a student, and it has become harder as people have pulled their social attention inward to a small group during the pandemic. Getting anybody to attend any sort of event has become substantially harder, and as corollaries the events that do happen have less attendance and energy and there are fewer events.

Another item for this decidedly non-comprehensive list is my sense that most of the people who I know (or, at least, peers and younger people — the dynamics of the affluent and established are different) are not doing well. People seem stymied in achieving the sort of adult lives they want, and especially in finding any sort of work which is psychologically and materially rewarding. It feels like to a large extent our parents got rich and retired, but most of us have never been able to move up into the positions they held at our stage of life. As with housing, there is a feeling that the older and best-off parts of the population have grabbed everything and are keeping it for themselves. This feeling becomes especially embittering when paired with the knowledge that they are actively choosing to hand over a ruined planet to their descendants every time they keep electing leaders who keep the future-wrecking fossil fuel industry going.

It is hard to escape the feeling that I have spent the last 20+ years building up for what I thought would be an intense period of intellectual effort, civilizational re-consideration, and mass political re-organization… and have found myself instead in an epoch where smaller-scale but acute disruptions have monopolized public attention to the point where we seem to be paying even less attention to the big trends than we were 10-15 years ago. It’s very hard to feel optimistic about the future, and it is simultaneously profoundly alienating when society at large is choosing to ignore the existential seriousness of the crisis which we are in. Living among people who are likely to be remembered as history’s greatest wreckers (on the optimistic assumption that anyone will be around with luxuries like paper and literacy to write the history of the present) carries with it feelings of rage and hatred against everything around me: the cars pumping out their fumes in a million lines idling behind red lights, the kaleidoscopic variety in our supermarkets at the same time as we are smashing the Earth’s biodiversity and capacity to support us, the elections that still turn on trivialities even though the consequences of our choices are as serious as death…

Feeling that our civilization is such a disaster is utterly isolating, since our fellow human beings cannot help taking that personally as a criticism and rejection of their own lives and priorities. Meanwhile, it’s impossible to have any confidence in the future. Over the last 20+ years, humanity has shown that we are totally capable of knowing the consequences of our actions and the stakes being played for and still choosing to ruin the world which we inherited. As much as I sincerely delight in the possibilities and experiences of life, I don’t know how to avoid the feeling of being a witness during the time of humanity’s downfall.


We have arrived safe in North Vancouver via Kamloops, Lillooet, and Whistler — managing to avoid any major fire delays more by luck and Sasha’s dedication behind the wheel than by foresight and planning. He did all our driving in three back to back days, and did today’s stretch through the heaviest traffic, steepest and twistiest roads, and our only night driving of the voyage.

We worked in a few short pauses to enjoy the views from the mountains. I hadn’t realized how beautiful the area around Lillooet is, with a semi-arid landscape, rocky peaks overhead, and vertiginous drops into the river canyon. It would be a fine place to return in no hurry and with a tripod and landscape photography gear. A hot tip from a German man at a roadside viewpoint took us on a ten minute hike to a stunning panoramic view at 50.65983, -121.98589.

A stop in Pemberton yielded kimchi and pulled pork sandwiches and smashed fries, which seemed just right as our last rest and meal of the journey.

After a night in tents and three solid days of driving, the last stretch in the dark through Whistler and Squamish had Sasha showing his only noticeable fatigue of the journey, which we countered with lively songs and an effort I made to dance in my seat to kinetically counteract the idea of tiredness.

Our parents welcomed us late in the evening with great hospitality and kindness. Because of the fires and the importance of Sasha not driving when too tired, I had been planning based on a five day drive with two extra days for delays and detours. As a result, I am in Vancouver with five days before the next phase of this visit is to begin. To pack light, I omitted to bring any camera gear, so my hope of digitizing the family albums on this visit is set aside.

While the time together was joyful and rewarding, we did spend the day very concerned about the fire threatening Bechoko. I watched the news and fire map updates while Sasha kept up with friends over messages and social media. The danger there is great and everyone has been directed to evacuate, and the structures and environs of the community are in peril. All we can do now is hope that the three homes that have already been lost will be all that are taken, and then regardless of the actual damage realized during this fire season do what we can to support the people impacted. I wish this unprecedented fire season was having a decisive political effect, pushing the public and politicians to accept that it is madness and a profound and irreversible betrayal of the young to keep producing and expanding fossil fuels. It isn’t really prosperity when you get or stay rich by burning up the prospects of those who will come after you, but our cognitive blockages to accepting and taking responsibility for the consequences of our actions continue to paralyze us into accepting a world-wrecking status quo. I don’t know what can break that complacency, but the way in which we carry on heedlessly incinerating the future with our coal, oil, and gas dependence is setting us up to be justly remembered as the generations that squandered the common heritage of humankind for the sake of our own ease and enjoyment.

We are sliding toward geoengineering

Geoengineering is a very dangerous and ethically questionable response to climate change, but it feels increasingly inevitable.

Governments are simply not willing to do what is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change, which is unsurprising because voters refuse to elect anyone who even gestures at the scale of change required.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that worsening climatic conditions make people more willing to support fossil fuel abolition. Instead, it seems to drive people toward false solutions or just inchoate anger. Even the ‘serious’ governments are still using taxpayer money to subsidize brand-new fossil fuel production. Everyone has a story about why their industry is the one that doesn’t need to shut down.

It is hard to believe that when climate disruption continues to get worse every year (with El Nino, people are predicting next year will be the hottest in history) the worst-hit places won’t start modifying the atmosphere to try to cancel it out — side-effects, impacts on others, and long-term risks be damned. We are a species that has always preferred monthly life-long $1500 injections with a mystery drug to be thinner, rather than changing our diets.


Alberta’s 2023 election

Al Jazeera reports:

Canada climate battle looms as Alberta takes aim at PM Trudeau

In her victory speech in front of cheering supporters in Canada’s oil capital Calgary, Smith called on Albertans to stand up against policies including the federal government’s proposed oil and gas emissions cap and clean electricity regulations, expected to be unveiled within weeks.

“We need to come together no matter how we have voted to stand shoulder to shoulder against soon to be announced Ottawa policies that would significantly harm our provincial economy,” said Smith.

“Hopefully the prime minister and his caucus are watching tonight. As premier I cannot under any circumstances allow these contemplated federal policies to be inflicted upon Albertans.”

How do we fight for a future without fossil fuel arson when our fellow citizens are keen to sustain and enlarge the fires, even when the secondary effects bring hell-like conditions home?

173 days after my thesis defence

Emotionally, this feels like one of the darkest times I can remember.

I feel like finishing the PhD has done me no good and left me at a blank place with no routes out.

I am overwhelmed by anger, grief, and fear to be moving from one precarious housing situation to another, with no prospect of getting to somewhere I will feel safe.

At the same time, it feels like the political problems in our societies and globally have become irresolvable pathologies, wherein all our responses become selfish, anger-driven, and self-defeating.

Rounding it out, I feel like my entire extended network of friends and family are also in crisis and in need of help themselves.

I feel like growing up in a prosperous suburb in the optimistic 1990s left me with a bunch of expectations and that the experience of life now is a clanging repudiation of the idea that if you educate and apply yourself you will have a desirable or at least a decent future.

Likewise, I feel like the idea that honesty and integrity are desirable traits was a misunderstanding of how humans relate to each other. They don’t want honesty and impartial standards that also apply to them — they want comforting and appealing lies, and then lies about those lies being lies. Institutions don’t want employees or members who apply high standards to them impartially — they want people who interpret loyalty as openly pretending to have high standards, while actually not applying them to the institutions which they are embedded in.

The last makes me feel like my whole identity is eroding. I have always been stubborn, forthright, and willing to assert my own views, sustained in part by the hope that broadly speaking and in the long term those would be good things for me. Now it is starting to feel like the only way to survive in the world is as a sycophant too captured and afraid to object to the failings and misconduct of the people and organizations that control us, that we endure only by their dispensation, and that — even though we all feel that the system has entered an accelerating phase of shaking itself apart into broken fragments — we will nonetheless continue to punish critics of the system rather than implement effective repairs.

Contrast with:

30 days left on Marlee

Today begins my final month on Marlee Avenue. My landlords at Old Orchard Properties unlawfully refuse to assign anyone new to the lease, or to recognize me as a tenant even though they have been collecting rent from me faultlessly for two years.

I have not low income for years and the job hunt is proving difficult. Finding somewhere to live is more urgent and fundamental though. If I can find an OK room with good people for $800–$1000, I should subsequently be able to find an OK way to pay the rent.

Unchangeable light fixture

Want to change this light fixture? You can either be 15 feet tall and balance on the stairs, or you can put a ladder beside the wobbly railings and lean over the chasm to take off the cover (unusually cheap for taking one bulb instead of two) and change the bulb.

—Questionable architecture from Franca Siesto and Tony Siesto’s Old Orchard Properties in North York

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.

Humanity’s marbles

In humanity’s efforts to fight climate change, we’re not just playing for all the marbles — we are playing for every marble factory and shop that ever was or will be, every piece of art and writing which has ever concerned or alluded to marbles, every historical record about marbles which has ever been generated or read, and every mind with an understanding of what marbles are and mean.

Political parties with a planet-wrecking policy on the issue (allowing any new fossil fuel development) are unelectable regardless of the rest of their platforms, economic conditions, or the limitations of their opponents. Being OK with destroying the future for today’s young people makes them morally unworthy to govern. It would be the greatest betrayal that has taken place from one group of generations to their successors, to destroy the uncomprehended and irreplaceable richness of the living Earth humanity inherited all because some dirty industries and the governments and banks they control want to hold us back from abolishing and abandoning fossil fuel energy.