Category Archives: Family

A Young Humanitarian in the Family


We attended the Manitoba Teachers Society young Humanitarian Awards.  One of the awards was given to Luxton School  and its Grades 4,5, and 6 members of a group called Kuamini.  This group included 24 students including our very own  own granddaughter Emma.  This group earned the award as a result of their school project to raise awareness, funds, or items for local charities and global initiatives.  The plans for Kuamini, we were told, are always student generated. The group has raised funds for a family that lost their home in a fire, helped to provide medicine and raised awareness to end child labour in Ethiopia, Haiti and rural China. They’ve raised their voices to support Pink Shirt Day and to end bullying. They’ve held an assembly to talk about the 94 calls to action for Truth and Reconciliation. They’ve taught their fellow students about residential schools on Orange Shirt Day. They are the bright, shining stars of the Luxton community.We are proud of them. In particular of course, we are proud of Emma.

Emma was of course not the only award winner. I was very impressed by Alliana Rempela young 11-year from Arborg with a lot of accomplished under her belt. She has written a book that was endorsed by Malala on the cover. It is a child’s book on human rights.  She’s helped local charities bring Syrian refugees to the community and then spent time during summer holidays tutoring the Syrian newcomers and making them feel at home in the community.  When she was five she sold pictures she painted to raise money for a youth shelter. When she was 8 year’s old she raised over $2,000 for the Malala fund by selling her art in 5 different countries. She has not stopped. Her current project is to sell her book and use the proceeds to build a school in Nicaragua. I could not resist buying a copy. I loved her line in the book: “Beating Bad with Beauty.” Pretty good for an 11-year old author. I loved her flawlessly delivered speech in which she thanked the Syrian refugees for coming to their town and teaching her what life was like in Syria. Can you imagine how her life was enriched by refugees? And we worry about the dangers of refugees

We were proud of her too along with all the other young humanitarians. Makes me wonder, what have I done nearing 70?

We were proud of her too along with all the other young humanitarians. Makes me wonder, what have I done? Emma, Alliana and all the other young humanitarians, you are special. Thanks.


PS I have not posted a photo of the group as I did not have permission from all 24 of them

Life and Death on South Mountain

I went for a hike with my sister Barb and her husband Harv. It was wonderful. We all hike at sort of the same speed. Hiking in the mountains is one of the best things about the Sonoran Desert. Yet sometimes it makes you think. This was one of those days.

We drove up the South Mountain to get to the top of it. The valley looked magnificent. Except for one problem: It was not a minor problem. It was smog. We started with a couple of wonderful overlooks, but the sight of smog in Phoenix disturbed me. Of course this was not the first time I have seen it, but it sure is disturbing from on top of this mountain in the city. What are we doing to this  wonderful valley? When you think about it you realize it is disgusting.

Not a pretty picture

Some people seem reluctant to admit that there is smog in Arizona. To me it was obvious. Almost every time we drive from San Tan Valley to Mesa or Phoenix we can see haze in the distance. This is not fog. Phoenix does not often have fog. But it often has smog.

According to WebMD, “The greater Phoenix area  is the 5th worst for smog in the United States!

It is true that fewer people in the United States are breathing smoggy air, thanks to clean air laws. At least for now. No doubt Donald Trump will soon get around to dismantling these laws just as he has so many other regulations that he claims are bad for business. They are bad for bad business; they are not bad for good business.

Smog or ground-level ozone, still poses a health threat. About one-third of Americans live in areas with unhealthy air. Air pollution can make it hard to breathe and increases one’s chances of having lung cancer, asthma, heart attack, strokes, and other nasty diseases. Yet what is the American Congress doing about it? Here is what The Guardian said about it, 

More than half of the US population lives amid potentially dangerous air pollution, with national efforts to improve air quality at risk of being reversed, a new report has warned.

A total of 166 million Americans live in areas that have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution, according to the American Lung Association, raising their risk of lung cancer, asthma attacks, heart disease, reproductive problems and other ailments.

The association’s 17th annual “state of the air” report found that there has been a gradual improvement in air quality in recent years but warned progress has been too slow and could even be reversed by efforts in Congress to water down the Clean Air Act.[1]


I don’t know about you, but this does not sound very pleasant to me. I don’t want Donald Trump and his cronies to get rid of these “job-destroying regulations” as he keeps calling them. I think they are vital.

More recent studies do not paint a rosier picture either. As The Huffington Post reported recently,

Air pollution isn’t among the causes of death that medical examiners list on death certificates, but the health conditions linked to air pollution exposure, such as lung cancer and emphysema, are often fatal. Air pollution was responsible for 6.1 million deaths and accounted for nearly 12 percent of the global toll in 2016, the last year for which data was available, according the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.[2]


As Philip Landrigan of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai advised, “Air pollution is one of the great killers of our age.”[3]  Many have pointed out before me that the right to breathe is pretty darn fundamental. It is right up there with the right to clean water and fertile soil and bio-diverse ecosystems. We can’t live long without clean air. Yet we treat the world as a garbage dump.

I think George Monbiot puts his finger on the problem–Our lives of endless consumption. As he said, “Our consumption is trashing a natural world infinitely more fascinating and intricate than the stuff we produce.[4]

         Monbiot also asked a very pertinent question:

This is a moment at which anyone with the capacity for reflection should stop and wonder what we are doing. If the news that in the past 40 years the world has lost over 50% of its vertebrate wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) fails to tell us that there is something wrong with the way we live, it’s hard to imagine what could. Who believes that a social and economic system which has this effect is a healthy one? Who, contemplating this loss, could call it progress? [5]

This is my opinion:  Our modern industrial system (capitalism and its imitators) has clearly demonstrated that it is anti-life. It has been great at producing stuff, but this stuff is killing life on the planet. When will it be our turn to be killed? Who is next?

I do not for one minute deny that each of us is responsible. We have to learn to curtail our consumption. We must do better. We cannot continue to facilitate the destruction of life on the planet?

Yet at the same time, we must remember that corporate capitalists are good–very good–at manufacturing desires in us. They spend a lot of money buying advertising, spin, and propaganda to convince us that we need their products. And by and large that money is well spent. It works.

Standing on South Mountain I thought about these things. I didn’t do anything about them, but I did think about them. Is that enough?

[1] Oliver Millman, The Guardian, April 20, 2016

[2] Erin Schummaker, ‘Air Pollution is Killing Millions Around the globe each year,” The Huffington Post, January 23, 2018

[3] Erin Schummaker, ‘Air Pollution is Killing Millions Around the globe each year,” The Huffington Post, January 23, 2018

[4] George Monbiot, “Its time to shout stop on this war on the living world,” The Guardian, (October 1, 2014)

[5] George Monbiot, “Its time to shout stop on this war on the living world,” The Guardian, (October 1, 2014)

Today I went dancing with an old woman


Yesterday (not really today)  I went dancing with an old woman. How could that happen? It seems impossible, but it is true. Chris–my lovely wife–turned 67. I am married to an old woman and she is married to an even older man. How that happens seems mysterious. I once heard it said, that no person ever wanted to be any younger than he or she was. I actually thought I believed that. Now I know that is a ridiculous statement.

Chris turned 67 and instead of me taking her out to a fancy restaurant, which I gallantly offered, she said she wanted to go dancing with friends at the local Golf Course terrace. Believe it or not, we have been doing that about once a week since we got here. I never thought I would do that either. But there it is.

What does it all mean? I don’t know. Perhaps we are just trying to fend off the grim reaper. Perhaps we are just trying to have fun. Perhaps Cyndi Lauper was right. Girls just wanna have fun. And old men too.