Category Archives: New Attitude to Nature

Pueblo Traditions


Pueblo peoples have lived in the American Southwest for millennia and descend from the ancestral Puebloans.  The ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert are included in this group.  The term Anasazi is sometimes used to refer to ancestral Pueblo people, but it is now largely avoided. Anasazi is a Navajo word that means Ancient Ones or Ancient Enemy. That of course is why they don’t like the word anymore. Just like Inuit people no longer like the name Eskimo.  Many first nations don’t like the names that European settlers imposed on them so we should avoid using them. But it is tricky for us to do that. I know someone who got in trouble for using the name “Eskimo” which is the name she was brought up with. We should all do our best to learn the preferred names. But others should recognize that we are not perfect.


Pueblo traditions are different from some Christian traditions. Their traditions tell the Pueblo people that they must honor Mother Earth by taking care of her as their ultimate reference. Would you not take care of your ultimate reference as Paul Tillich suggested? That was how he chose to define “God.”


I recognize that in recent times some Christians have emphasized that the instructions in the Bible should not be interpreted to mean that humans have dominion over the earth. Rather they now interpret the prescription in the Bible to mean that they ought to be custodians who nurture the earth. Yet historically Christians interpreted their Holy Book to mean that they had Biblical obligations to subdue the earth, which in the view of many people, like me, was not just a license but instructions to plunder the world.


A few years ago I saw an film on PBS called  Native America: From Caves to Cosmosin which a Hopi woman recounted in Hopi the following myth (and I use this word carefully not to reference something that is not true, but rather something that is important, very important):

Massaw told us this world is a gift to us

And we must care for this place

He said, ‘To find your home you must find the center place,’

So we made a covenant to walk to the world’s farthest corners

To learn the earth with our feet

And to become one with this new world

And to find our center place


In the origin story of the Pueblo people they are given a sacred quest after they emerged from the earth. They are told to find the center place. Some went clockwise and some counter-clockwise. They built an image in the rock to show where they were. It was a spiral around a center spot. “Finding the right place–the center place–lies at the heart of Pueblo belief. It is more than a physical location. It is about living in balance with the natural world.”


I have seen a number of kivas in my travels through the American southwest. A kiva is a space used by Puebloans for sacred ceremonies and sometimes political meetings. Among the modern Hopi and other Pueblo peoples, “kiva” means a large room that is circular and underground, and used for spiritual ceremonies. They are sacred places. According to the film I watched, “The search for the center place is built right in to the kivas.  Every kiva is aligned to the 4 compass directions.” Of course there are 2 more sacred directions, including up and down. When the people climb out of a ladder in a kiva it is symbolic of their journey where they emerged from the earth. The Hopi believe the 6 directions give the Kivas great power.


To me, the most important part is the fact that it centers the occupants so that they can become part of the earth, not separate and apart from it. It connects us to the sacred earth. I see that as an essential religious act.

This is ancient ceremony but I think it ought to be a part of a new attitude to nature which we should be willing to learn about from our indigenous peoples.


First Masters of the Sonoran Desert

                                                       Sonoran Desert


According to one archaeologist the Ancestral People of the Sonora Desert were the “First Masters of the American Desert.” I like that term. It gives them the respect they deserve. They did in fact learn to live and even thrive in the harsh conditions of the Sonoran Desert for more than a thousand years.  They built brush-covered houses in pits that at first were loosely arranged. Later they built more organized villages around courtyards.

The Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert (formerly called Hohokam) learned to live in harmony with the desert. They harvested the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert, including saguaro fruit, mesquite beans, mule deer, rabbits, turtles and fish among others.

The climate in the region was hot and dry with very few all-year water sources and very sparse rainfall, and therefore provided very challenging conditions for permanent settlement. That was a challenge that the Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert were up for during their 1,000 years of occupation here. They were darn good farmers. They grew crops that could withstand the harsh conditions. That included crops such as corn that matured fast enough that the plants were not exposed to the elements for too long. Some of their crops could be grown twice per year. They also planted beans, squash, tobacco, cotton, and agave. In their fields they also encouraged the growth of several local wild plants such as amaranth.

Interestingly, the main cause of death of the Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert was tooth decay. They chewed corn and the sweetness caused tooth decay that led to many deaths.

In addition to farming, the Ancestral People also gathered food, medicine, and building materials from the surrounding wilderness. They collected wood, fruit, buds, and seed from plants such as Palo Verde, mesquite, ocotillo, ironwood, creosote, Bursage, and saltbush among others. They even ate saguaro, cholla, hedgehog, and prickly pear cactus.

The Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert culture is thought to have begun at about 300 BCE (Before Common Era) to 300 CE (Common Era). During this period of time, the  Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert began local agriculture and it is for this that they became most famous–justifiably famous I might add. They established villages with pit houses, storage pits, grading tools, baskets, and pottery. They also drew from the Mesoamerican civilization. It is fairly clear that by about 300 CE in Arizona the Ancestral People lived in permanent settlements along the Salt and Gila Rivers both of which ran permanently during this time before dam construction.

Ancestral farmers saw water as their most precious resource. It was sacred to the Ancestral farmers of the Sonoran Desert and facilitated the diversity of their crops.  Modern farmers plant monocultural crops.  Ancestral farmers often planted what they called “The Three Sisters” on one hill.  That meant that they planted corn, beans, and squash. Each crop helped the others by providing shade, shelter, or nutrients.  The earliest plants then provided shade for late comers, thus improving productivity. They did not believe in tilling the soil to remove competition. They expected their crops to cooperate with each other. A modern Canadian scientist, Suzanne Simard, has tried to make this important point about the ecosystem of the subtropical rainforest in British Columbia. Plants do compete with each other, but they do much more than that. They actually help each other too.  North American foresters had a difficult time understanding this. They assumed trees only competed with each other. She proved they also cooperated with each and even in some cases helped non-kin. The ancestral people of the Sonoran desert understood this 2,000 years ago.

Ancestral farmers concentrated on conserving water. They were not labour efficient, because to them labor was cheap. Water was expensive. As a result, they were very efficient with water, their most critical resource.

Modern farmers employ elaborate modern equipment that mechanizes the work and conserves human energy, thus conserving or minimizing their primary resource. They use huge water systems to bring in massive amounts of water to the desert. As a result, they are inefficient with water and very efficient with human labor. Modern farmers could learn a lot from ancestral farmers and vice versa.


My Buddy David Boyd knows the score


A few years ago, I listened to a lecture by David Boyd at the University of Manitoba Law School’s Robson Hall.  Boyd is the writer of some excellent books on environmental law and policy.  After that lecture I was talking to him and he mentioned he needed a ride to his hotel so I offered him a ride. We had an interesting chat on . I mentioned to him how much I enjoyed his books. So, I call him “my buddy” even though we only met once.

Recently he has been appointed special rapporteur on human rights and the environment by the UN. According to the Guardian, as part of his new job he has warned of the creation of pollution “sacrifice zones across the world where tens of millions of people are suffering needlessly from strokes, cancers, respiratory problems, and heart disease as a result of toxic contamination of the environment.  Nature is fighting back to the onslaughts inflicted upon us by humans.  There is a war against nature which humans seem to be winning, but I am reminded as the saying goes, that “nature always bats last.” As The Guardian said,  “Nature can strike back at repetitive injuries foisted upon it.”

Boyd also mentioned physical health issues, including cancer, heart disease, respiratory illness, strokes, and reproductive health problems as well as “incredible mental health problems associated with living in these places because people feel exploited, they feel stigmatized.”

Boyd pointed the finger at modern businesses in particular as culprits in this nasty war. He called them “the main culprit, with most willing to overlook social and environmental costs in favour of their bottom line.”

This compliments my claims that capitalism, in many respects is predatory. In fact, I would say, capitalism, or the modern economic system really, is a serial predator. At least is it is left unharnessed.


Humans are Sleep walking towards the edge of a cliff


It doesn’t take much thought to realize that nature is the basis of all life on the planet. And everything we have constructed is built out of the building blocks of nature. Without nature we are done.

Yet there is little evidence that we understand that. Our actions indicate that we do not understand this simple fact or we just don’t care. Either way it is clear that we are dismally ignorant.

Our current attitude to nature stinks. That’s why we urgently need a new one.

In recent years the World Wildlife Fund (‘WWF’) has reported on the astonishing effect that our species has had on all other species. As reported by Damian Harrington of The Guardian, recent study by the WWF reached this uncomfortable conclusion:

“Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens civilisation.”

Let that statement sink in please. In other words, since Chris and I met in 1970 humanity has wiped out more than half of all mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles.[1] That conclusion was reached in a major report produced by the WWF and 59 scientists from around the world. They also say the cause is the enormous and growing massacre of wildlife as a result of humans expanding consumption of food and resources that is destroying the web of life that nature took millions of years to produce. We are destroying “the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else. We are destroying what we most need!  As Mike Barrett the executive Director of science and conservation at WWF said,

We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff. If there was a 60% decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done. This is far more than just being about losing the wonders of nature, desperately sad though that is he said…This is actually now jeopardising the future of people. Nature is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is our life-support system.”

It is astonishing that we are  doing this. But we are.  We could do something about this, but we have chosen to ignore it. This reminds me of the people at Easter Island that kept cutting the trees on their island which they desperately needed for their survival until the trees were all gone. They actually did that. Is that what we are doing on a planetary scale? It sure looks like it. How can we deny that our society is declining? Is it surprising that I call my current tour “the Grand Finale Tour”?

 To say that we need a new attitude to nature seems hopelessly understated.

[1] I should mention that the numbers are little more subtle and not quite as grim than this suggests as Ed Yong demonstrated in a fascinating article for The Atlantic in Oct. 31, 2018

Insects are important pollinators


One of my first bosses,  Al Boily, my supervisor at Manitoba Hydro where I worked while going to university  taught me two very important lessons. First, he taught me how to work. The said the company paid us fairly so we had to work hard to earn that money. Until then, I thought money should fall into my laps just because I was a nice guy. I was as lazy as grass and needed to learn that lesson.

Secondly he taught me that ‘what is bad for insects is bad for people too.’ He was referring to the Vapona No-Pest Strips that caught flying insects on sticky paper and killed them. I thought they were great. I hated biting insects. He taught me differently. Again, a valuable lesson.

I realize that a lot of people have no sympathy for insects. Insects be damned is their attitude. Who cares about insects? Does that really make sense.

Without insects most foods could not grow. How would we survive without foods? Yet many farmers, and citizens too, believe we ought to be destroying as many insects as possible. I know I feel that every time I venture out into the forest or bog on years in which mosquitoes are in abundance. I must remember—as must you—that insects are vital to our food chain. About two thirds of foods require insect pollinators.

We already have a serious problem producing or harvesting enough food to feed the people on the planet/ Do we let 2/3 of them disappear?  Is that a rational solution?

Notwithstanding that, most people and many farmers believe pesticide use is essential for feeding the growing human population. As George Monbiot reported in The Guardian:

“A recent study in Nature Plants reveals that most farms would increase production if they cut their use of pesticides. A study in the journal Arthropod-Plant Interactions shows that the more neonicotinoid pesticides were used to treat rapeseed crops, the more their yield declines. Why? Because the pesticides harm or kill the pollinators on which the crop depends.”


Why are so many people so wrong about insects?  Monbiot explains that this way:

“Farmers and governments have been comprehensively conned by the global pesticide industry. It has ensured its products should not be properly regulated or even, in real-world conditions, properly assessed. A massive media onslaught by this industry has bamboozled us all about its utility and its impacts on the health of both human beings and the natural world.

The profits of these companies depend on ecocide. Do we allow them to hold the world to ransom, or do we acknowledge that the survival of the living world is more important than returns to their shareholders? At the moment, shareholder value comes first. And it will count for nothing when we have lost the living systems on which our survival depends.”


We should not allow ourselves to be hoodwinked by the pesticide industry. After all, our lives depend on it!

We have declared war on nature. Insects in particular. It is an ugly unjustified war that is leading to our own destruction. As the Indigo Girls said, “we are gluttons for our doom.” That is most unwise. Here is what Monbiot says we should be doing instead:

“To save ourselves and the rest of the living world, here’s what we need to do:

1 We need a global treaty to regulate pesticides, and put the manufacturers back in their box.

2 We need environmental impact assessments for the farming and fishing industries. It is amazing that, while these sectors present the greatest threats to the living world, they are, uniquely in many nations, not subject to such oversight.

3 We need firm rules based on the outcomes of these assessments, obliging those who use the land to protect and restore the ecosystems on which we all depend.

4 We need to reduce the amount of land used by farming, while sustaining the production of food. The most obvious way is greatly to reduce our use of livestock: many of the crops we grow and all of the grazing land we use are deployed to feed them. One study in Britain suggests that, if we stopped using animal products, everyone in Britain could be fed on just 3m of our 18.5m hectares of current farmland (or on 7m hectares if all our farming were organic). This would allow us to create huge wildlife and soil refuges: an investment against a terrifying future.

5 We should stop using land that should be growing food for people to grow maize for biogas and fuel for cars.”

I admit I would have a problem going vegetarian or vegan. I like my burgers.

This is the problem. Humans have declared war on nature, particularly insects,  on the false basis that this is needed to feed the world. This is a crucial mistake. It is time for us to smarten up. We need nature. Even insects! We need to change our attitude to insects. If we don’t give them respite from our assaults we probably won’t get through this century. And in the meantime we will make life here very difficult and dreary.


The Long and Winding Road to Extinction


Humans have been damaging the world and its biodiversity for thousands of years. Can we change what we do? Only if we change our attitude to nature.

Phoebe Weston of The Guardian saw a long and ignominious trail of corpses and decided to investigate the crimes.

The first cold case she investigated was the case of the disappearance of the huge mammals from North America—mammoths. They seemed invincible because they were so big. But they had vulnerabilities and one creature on the planet was able to take advantage of the opportunity. That was us. As Phoebe reported in the Guardian:

“The story of the biodiversity crisis starts with a cold-case murder mystery that is tens of thousands of years old. When humans started spreading across the globe they discovered a world full of huge, mythical-sounding mammals called “megafauna”, but by the end of the Pleistocene, one by one, these large animals had disappeared. There is no smoking gun and evidence from ancient crime scenes is – unsurprisingly – patchy. But what investigators have learned suggests a prime suspect: humans.”


The Pleistocene, was the geological epoch that lasted from about 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago, which covers the Earth’s most recent period of repeated glaciations covering large parts of the world.

Weston also looked at Genyornis, which was one of the world’s heaviest birds. It inhabited Australia and was more than 2 metres tall. Can you imagine encountering a bird as tall as a basketball player?  North America used to have beavers as heavy as fridges. It also had a glyptodon which was about the size of a small car. It went extinct 12,000 years ago. About 178 of the world’s largest mammals went extinct between 52,000 years ago and 12,000 years ago. Scientists used to believe their extinctions were caused by changes in the environment. Now they believe the primary killer was—again—us. So much for ancient humans living in harmony with nature!

But hunters were not actually the main cause of extinctions. That dubious achievement was made by farmers. Farmers who also claim to be working in harmony with nature. Sorry, they are killers too.

In particular, farming is the primary reason to eliminate the habitat of animals. As a result, now the UN has estimated that of all the mammals on earth 96% are livestock and humans.  Instead, 1 million species on the planet are now on the verge of extinctions. They need to make room again for more people and more livestock. Isn’t that sick?

Indigenous people who were both hunters and farmers, lived more sustainably on the planet, though they were not entirely innocent either. After all they drove those large mammals to extinction I talked about earlier.

Weston discovered that Professor Mark Maslin from University College in London said one of the driving forces that led humans to domesticate animals was their own unsustainable hunting practices. They killed all their food, so they turned to farming. As Weston said,

“Although the debate is far from settled, it appears ancient humans took thousands of years to wipe out species in a way modern humans would do in decades. Fast forward to today and we are not just killing megafauna but destroying whole landscapes, often in just a few years.”


It is now widely accepted that humans were in fact serial killers. The evidence is in. The jury has spoken. Humans are guilty. Pogo was right; we are the enemy.

That’s why we have to change our attitude to nature. The current path is mad.



Serial Killers of the Planet


Early on in this journal of our trip to the Southwest of the United States in 2023 I mentioned that I wanted to talk about 2 themes on the trip that are closely related. One is the decline of western civilization and the other is our need for a new attitude to nature.  [see] I have not been posting much about the need for a new attitude to nature. I intend to start remedying that deficiency now.

In that earlier post I talked about a Professor at the University of Manitoba who influenced me a lot, even though I never took a course with him. A friend of mine did and I was jealous of that. In a video tape of one of his lectures in Ireland many years later, I heard him opining about humanities’ dysfunctional relationship to nature. This was professor John Moriarty and he likened humans to a virus on the planet.

Years later in Phoenix on another trip a few years ago, one day, when days when the weather was bad (there are very few of those here) we hang around reading or do something inside. Like going to an Aquarium. Phoenix has a wonderful one called “OdySea”.

We saw many sharks that day. We learned that they are not as dangerous or as vicious as legend would have it. They are not humans after all.  The word “vicious” should likely be reserved for humans, not sharks. More people die from exploding champagne corks or falling out of bed than from shark attacks. In some years only 1 human was killed by a shark attack in the whole world. Who should be scared of whom? Yet it is sharks that we fear.

We also learned that sharks, like so much of life in the natural world are declining. We learned that shark fining accounts for the death of 75% of all sharks that are killed each year. Shark fining is the process whereby the fins of sharks are cut from their bodies while the sharks are alive because the harvesters do not want to bother transporting their heavy bodies. So usually they discard the sharks, which more often than not die a horrible death. They die of suffocation and blood loss in the water. Our species does not just kill sharks, we torture them! What other species does that?

The fins are used in shark soup. Mainly Asians enjoy such soups. In some cultures they are believed to have medical qualities. Others, like me, suspect that it is mainly superstition. Many Asians think eating something strong will make them strong. 75% of shark deaths each year are because humans think eating the fins will make them strong. And usually the death is horribly painful.

Where sharks are found they are apex predators Scientists have started to realize that apex predators are very important for ecosystems. They help maintain a balance with other predators and this helps to maintain biodiversity.

Some species in ecosystems are considered “keystone species.”  That means that they are necessary to maintain the health of the ecosystem. Without the keystone species the entire ecosystem can collapse. Sharks keep smaller predatory fish under control and this helps to balance the biodiversity by preventing over population of any species. Mother nature usually knows best. Humans not so much.

Even though sharks have been around for 400 million years many species of sharks might be extinct within the next few decades. They can’t seem to live with us!

Of course, this is entirely consistent with the loss of all kinds of life. A recent Living Planet Index compiled by researchers at the WWF and the Zoological Society of London from scientific data, shows vertebrate populations are set to decline by 67% of 1970 levels unless urgent action is taken to reduce humanity’s impact. We are destroying life on the planet. And doing very little about it. That is the long and short of it.

That day at OdySea we also learned things about the ocean. Although we enjoyed watching the penguins (who wouldn’t) they posted information that  like most other birds, penguins are in serious decline. The main causes are a decline due to a loss of nesting places and a loss of suitable food due to overfishing and pollution.  In other words, we are the problem. The old story keeps coming back. As the cartoon character Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

In the movie called Dirt: The Movie a speaker pointed out that the biggest pest was us. He asked an amazing question, “If there was a United Nations of Organisms would we be voted off the planet?”  Would earth reject our species as a virus just like our bodies reject viruses? It does seem appropriate doesn’t it?

Humans are the serial killers of the planet.

 I think it is obvious. We need a new attitude to nature. The old one is bankrupt.

The Way of Water


I am sorry that I have got stuck in Salina Kansas, but I have realized the Academy Awards show is fast approaching so I must post my thoughts on the awards before the show. Otherwise you might not believe that I had predicted the winners correctly. Each year I try to see as many of the films nominated for best Pcture a possible. I think with one week left to go I have seen all but 2 of them. I think I have a week to go.

The film The Way of Water supports the view of Professor Moriarty who influenced me so strongly more than 50 years ago when I was a first year university student at the University of Manitoba. Moriarty, in an old lecture I discovered on YouTube. Moriarty was of the view that humans were the Aids virus of the earth.

I think James Cameron, the co-writer, co-producer, and director of the film would likely agree with that assessment. Humans, in that film are clearly on the side of mechanized death fighting with life.  The original Avatar was not that different.

In this film we are once again shown the ubiquitous plot of a group of ‘good guys’ fighting a larger group of ‘bad guys.’ Frankly, I am getting tired of this template for every action film, but this film did have some redeeming social merit that ought to free it from the grip of artistic censors.

Though the narrative may be weak and overdone, the technical production values in this film are indeed immense and worth the trip to see the film all by themselves.

In the film the humans once again lead an assault not just against the Na’vi but actually against nature itself. This caught my eye because it is one of the two themes of this Grand Finale Tour I am on. The humans in the film frankly look at lot like Americans with their awful mechanized war equipment. To me this was the most interesting aspect of the movie. Americans, as “leaders of the free world”, at least in their minds, are leading the charge of humans against all life. Yet, amazingly Americans seem to love the movie that attacks them!

There is actually one sympathetic human in the movie, namely, Spider, who is the apparent son of Colonel Miles Quaritich who was born in Pandora, the land of the Na’vi but is allied with the humans who want to colonize Pandora which unsurprisingly is losing the war with humans from earth and is dying.

The invaders include ‘recombinants’—Na’vi avatars implanted with the minds and memories of deceased human soldiers.  Quaritich is the mainly evil leader of the recombinants.

The film is filled with suggestions that humans ought to appreciate and respect non-human life. This is of course an idea that is foreign to many humans. This is a lesson I endorse.

The whaling vessel manned by humans, brought me fresh reminders of that classic book Moby Dick I that read last year. In that book the fanaticism of Captain Ahab’s relentless pursuit of whales was severely critiqued, much as Cameron does in this film. The “whalers” pursue the hapless creatures for the purposes of harvesting their inner liquids which are the most valuable substance on earth. Of course, the rest of the carcass is dismissed. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Tonowari, the chief of the Metkayina clan who accept the arrival of the newcomers who are seeking asylum from the invaders, again pointing to a lesson to which Americans, and the rest of us, ought to pay attention. Many of the Metkayina lack sympathy with the Na’vi because they have human blood in them, but their leader teaches them the evil of discrimination and racism. More valuable lessons again.

Showing the respect to other creatures that humans at times seem incapable of, the Metkayina respect the intelligent and peaceful cetacean-like species called Tulkun. They consider these creatures part of their spiritual family much like Indigenous people of North America have for creatures other than their selves. Clearly, Cameron believes, as do I, that the indigenous have a better attitude to nature than American, and amazingly, from watching Americans viewing this film so do many Americans! Maybe a new attitude to nature is actually possible. Or is this pure science fiction? In any event the film explores some interesting ideas though often in a too conventional and clumsy manner.

All in all, it is a good but not great film. To me it was interesting.


2023 Grand Finale Tour

This is the symbol of our trip?


I have started this trip with my wife Christiane at the end of 2022. We intend to spend about 3 & ½ months in Arizona and then tour a part of the Southeast United States. I intend to report in this blog on what I have “observed along the way”, to use a phrase my cousin Roy Vogt used to call his regular column in the Mennonite Mirror about 50 years ago. I loved that column; I loved that title.


I will comment on many things from many places depending on where my meanderings lead me.

I am calling this the “grand finale” tour. By that I don’t mean that this will be our last trip.  I sure hope it won’t be our last trip. Such words are too ominous. Yet, in many ways I feel that the world, along with me is at a sharp precipice. Some pundits have even spoken about being at the edge of the apocalypse. Is that possible?

Often the world seems under assault.  I have often called this the Age of Anger. Or the Age of Resentment. Both of those emotions seem to fill the air.  Who is assaulting this world? Not foreign invaders. At least not in Canada or the US, the two countries most relevant to this journey.  In Ukraine we know that this year Putin led a Russian invasion of that much smaller country. They certainly felt the sting of assault.

But we in North America don’t have reasonable fears of invasion.  Interplanetary invaders also don’t seem nearby.  So who should we fear? As cartoon character Pogo said, “I have seen the enemy and he is us!” That is indeed the preeminent attacker we must most fear. We are the enemy.

 I remember the first time I tried to watch YouTube a few years ago. I wondered what or who I should try to watch. For some entirely inexplicable reason I picked on Professor John Moriarty who taught English literature in 1967 at the University of Manitoba during  my first year of university. He was not even one of my professors. A friend of mine was his student. I was taught by another fine professor, namely, Professor Jack Woodbury. Both Professors were brilliant and we were impressionable.

I believe John Moriarty was a first year professor who quickly gained a substantial following of young students, particularly young women. He was a campus star, but as I recall, he only stayed 1 year or so at the University of Manitoba and left to go back to Europe. What a pity.

About 50 years later I decided to search for his name on the YouTube platform and was stunned to find an old lecture of his someone had been recorded and placed on the Internet. It was an astonishing find.  By then he had gone back to the United Kingdom and was teaching in either Ireland or England. I was not sure which country. There he was in front of me, through the magic of modern technology, and  bringing me back to the days of my youth.  They were grand times challenged by grand ideas. Those were the ideas of the 60s that will forever be with those of us who lived through those times. Many of those ideas had to be modified and rejected, but an important element has stuck with us. Thank goodness for that.

And there he was with the same long hair that was an essential part of the costume for us sixties radicals. And what was Professor Moriarty talking about? He was talking about us. Us the enemy. Just like Pogo! He called humans “a virus on the earth” like the aids virus.  Moriarty was speaking before Covid 19 or he might have likened us to that virus. Instead he likened our species to the Aids virus that attacked the world’s immune system. He said we humans are like a toxin on the earth. We are ravishing it.  And once again, I found it difficult to disagree with the Professor. We, led by a vicious cartel of capitalists, are relentlessly attacking nature.

There is a second and closely related theme I want to explore in a meandering fashion of course, on this Grand Finale Tour. That is the apparent serious decline of western civilization evidence for which seems ubiquitous.

By now we know clearly and irrevocably, that civilization requires a reasonably stable environment. And we don’t have that anymore. If nature as we know is destroyed, we could create a new civilization, but it would take millennia. These two ideas are therefore inextricably entwined.

To avoid civilizational collapse, we desperately need a new attitude to nature. We need to turn away from our destructive ways. We must cease to be the toxins of the earth, the careless predators of the earth, we must become the champions of a new way to work with nature, rather than against it.

At the same time, we must turn away from the current path on which our civilization seems to be on an inexorable decline. Those two paths are closely intertwined. By destroying nature we are destroying ourselves. Together, these two trends are leading us to our doom.  On this trip (and beyond) I want to explore those two important themes. I have always thought an important part of travel is to learn new things. We travel to learn and become different people. Not completely different, but significantly different. That is what knowledge does. It changes us.

By the expression ” the Grand Finale Tour” I don’t mean mean that in the sense of it being the end of life or nature or civilization. But I must admit such thoughts have entered my mind. Particularly of late.

I hope we have many more trips to come. But it is the finale of my legal career. I gave notice to the law firm SNJ where I worked for nearly 50 years that I would retire and withdraw from the practice of law on December 31, 2022. I did that  and now I can no longer practice law. Since then I am no longer a lawyer. I have simply devoted enough time to that career. It is time to move on.

Christiane and I have noticed that we are not getting better and stronger each year. Funny how that happens. Each year seem to be a bit of a step back. We are no longer the healthy vigorous people we once were and will never be again. That is life (and death). We must face that. We hope to have many adventures before we pack up our tents for good and hope to enjoy the journey until then, but the future is of course uncertain. We want to make the best of it. This journey is the start of that finale. But as I do that, I also want to take a hard look at this world in which we find ourselves. Can it be on the edge of doom? Why? What can we do about it? Where do we stand?

I have chosen the sunset as the symbol of the trip. I am in my sunset years. Yet there is some light left. It may be fading, but it is not gone. Not yet.



We arm the Reasonable


in the documentary film Spirt to Soar, Tanya Talaga’s mother asked her to stop at a place where she had lived. It was devastating to see the clear cut there. The loss of forest was visceral.

Jody Porter spent a lot of time in Thunder Bay. She knew it intimately. She knew its secrets. Even the dirty ones.  She described it there as follows:


“We don’t know how to put into context what we are doing here. And again if you want to talk about how Thunder Bay is unique it’s because we are at the raw edge of that existential angst of what it is to be a Canadian. When your presence is deadly to the people whose land you live on.”

 Tanya Talaga drove by the same place I drove by on my home from Thunder Bay, namely, the place where the watersheds split. Some water flows north from their to the Arctic ocean. Other waterways flow south to the Great Lakes from where it flows to the cities of North  America and ultimately to the Atlantic ocean. Talaga said, “the water makes a choice.”

Talaga went on a trip into the forest organized by the elders. The purpose was to take the youth on a hunting trip. And to learn about the land. Talaga said, “I didn’t realize why I was going back to the land. that took me a long time and all the pieces of my life came into focus…I began to understand my deep feelings of dispossession, of the pain of separation from the land, and what it means to reclaim and what it means to belong.”  Non-indigenous people often do not understand the deep attachment indigenous people feel to the land and how it pains them to see it desecrated.


Jody Porter said this:

“We need to sit with who we are and what we’ve done here. And in that space there could be room to flip that narrative. To hear stories and to tell stories that belong here. And are from people who belong here. And tell us a story of what’s possible. The kinds of relationships that would make us all healthy.”


Senator Murray Sinclair said this,

“My success would be on whether I can be the best human I can be based on my teachings. That’s my success and that will be our successes as well, because if we try to create structures today that are simply copies of what Canada’s governing structures are, then we will fail.”


Talaga also said the 7 fallen feathers–the 7 indigenous youth who lost their lives:

 “they are now part of us. They are part of the land. And the water. And our existence. They are part of creation. We need to listen to the voices of our ancestors to tell us which way to turn, which way to flow with river. By telling our stories, the stories of who we are, how we live and how we die, we arm the reasonable. Once our voices are heard, once our truths are spoken, Canada you can’t say you didn’t know. You can no longer look away.  You see all my relations. We have fought to overcome the realities of our past and now we must turn to the possibilities of our future. We were always here. We are not going anywhere. This is where we belong.”


That is what it means to live on Turtle Island–together. Where we are one.