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.









in Photo of the day




in PhD thesis, Writing

I have been productively refining the dissertation, adding to the precision and extent of its content. There is still NVivo analysis to be done and the iterative process of refining the manuscript with the committee, but all the indications so far are that the interviews I conducted provide useful information for what happened during these CFFD campaigns and what participation meant for many of those organizing them at the time. They may well disagree with some of my overall analyses about how to achieve decarbonization, but I have huge respect for their demonstrated success and passionate commitment. It’s the insuppressible youthful energy of this movement which has given it salience in the minds of university administrators and the media, through everything from dignified protests to rowdy chanting marches to informal discussions among faculty members about supporting an ongoing divestment campaign. People can see that young people now believe that their lives are at stake, and the feelings that raises are insuppressible.

Canada’s 2019 election has been another frustrating one for those who think climate change is the most urgent and important political challenge we face – with Canada’s electoral system and party structure working against us on one hand and the practical effect that the Liberals and Conservatives are controlled by oil-linked industries including finance and the auto sector on the other.

Nobody is proposing a plan for Canada to do a fair share in controlling the problem and overcoming fossil fuel dependence, except maybe the Greens who cannot form a government.

The expectation for my riding is that Liberal minister Chrystia Freeland will win, followed by NDP, Conservative, and Green candidates. That leaves me pretty free to vote as I wish. I do feel there is some purpose in rewarding the Liberals for their inadequate but still somewhat serious climate policy, in contrast with the rollback to Harper-era delay with the Conservatives plan. At the same time, the party has been incoherent on the issue (like all the others parties) vaguely supporting the general aim of decarbonization and planetary stability but making near-term economic choices that show only a superficial interest in overcoming fossil fuel dependence. The NDP may be theoretically better on the issue, but their positions in recent years have been inconsistent to the degree that they don’t seem likely to be much better than the Liberals.

In the end I’ll probably vote Liberal or Green: the former as a way of saying that the minimum standard of a rising carbon tax is crucial and must be maintained, or the latter as a way of saying climate change is much more important than the other issues being contested.

I just hope we don’t end up with a Scheer government. Living through the Harper years was painful enough for anyone who can see that we’re squandering our chance for a cheap and low-conflict route to climatic stability, guaranteeing a at a minimum that we will need to pay far more to solve the problem after industry-backed delay than we would have needed to if we really got started after the UN climate convention in 1992.


While finishing my dissertation remains my top priority, I also signed up for an amateur radio course being offered by the Toronto Amateur Radio Club.

It’s something like ten 2-hour instructional sessions, followed by the federal government exam to get a basic certification and call sign.

It should be an interesting way to spend a couple of hours on Monday nights, provide a useful life skill, and grant an opportunity to meet another community of nerds.