Athabasca Tar Sands

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The Canadian oil sands are the world’s fourth-largest reserve of crude oil but it is reportedly also one of the world’s largest sources of climate pollution. The mining of Canada’s oil sands, also known as tar sands,  unleashes massive volumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to more global warming as we struggle to stop going beyond an increase of 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) — levels considered “dangerous” under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Greenpeace is calling the Canadian government to stop the expansion of the tar sands and end the industrialization of a vast area of Indigenous territories, forests and wetlands in northern Alberta.

Why do countries like Canada continue such damaging energy resource extraction? Next, what can NGOs and civic organisations do to mitigate such harmful practices and policies? Next, are there examples in your own society that need some/urgent attention – practices that have similar (albeit) smaller impacts but are equally important?


Wolf Reintroduction and Habitat Impact


The reintroduction of wolves into Yosemite National Park has significantly highlighted the impact of the loss of even one species to the surrounding ecosystem. The impact has been felt by both fauna and flora. Clear changes have happened to plants, trees, riverbanks, insects, ravens, eagles, magpies, coyotes and bears (grizzly and black) etc.

In relating this to your own society, and you are hypothetically documenting the cascade effects of what happens when a species is removed from an ecosystem, what areas would be of concern to you today? Next, one must wonder that if this knowledge is already known that the cascade effects of losing one species can be devastating to that ecosystem, why do countries allow such a phenomenon to happen? Lastly, in terms of species that are close to extinction, which species would have the most impact if they are to be lost to our world today?


Silent Protests


Ex-NFL Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick has truly started a conversation on race and justice. Last year, the quarterback kneeled in protest during the anthem to start a national conversation. Thanks to the president’s blast of rage this week, we finally have one on a national platform.

Last sunday, players who previously wanted nothing of a racial dialogue now stood before giant flags, linking arms in protest. Owners who once wished their kneeling players would just stop offending fans fired off statements in their support. Networks who have avoided showing the raised fists of dissent had no choice but show the rows of players standing strong against Trump’s rage.

Are such silent protests necessary? Destabilising? Rational? Is civil discourse useful? Are there other ways to make the same point? So many questions and interestingly the ongoing discourse between both sides might/might not make a difference. What is your view?

Stop the Influx of Tourists!


While many cities open their arms to the tourist dollar, Amsterdam is bucking the trend. They intend to impose tourist taxes to limit the increase in numbers. This bold initiative is in reaction to the growing unease of actual Amsterdam residents that the tourist numbers are negatively changing the city landscape and thus they want to reclaim their city.

Is this a trend for the future? Many cities face this growing unease at the hordes of tourists that descend on their cities. Will more and more authorities start listening to the city resident feedback or will governments continue to believe that they know better and sideline the  feedback from the ground?

Ultra Thin and Porno-Chic – world of modelling

The world of modelling has had  a wake up call with fashion houses finally doing the right thing and banning ultra thin models from the catwalk and advertisements. Long has this practice of ultra thin models been lambasted for encouraging extremely harmful body types and health problems. This is possibly the first positive step in the fashion industry. Next, will be to deal with the trend of using really young models in suggestive poses that has come to be labelled ‘porno-chic’.

Is enough being done to clean up the fashion industry? What more can be done to improve the lives of these young models? What more can be done to improve the standards of advertising when it comes to negative and exploitative advertising?

Censorship and China

When we speak of censorship and China, we might immediately think of the Great Chinese Firewall. But Cambridge University Press have been implicated of something more sinister.

One of the most established publishing house, Cambridge University Press, has been accused of being an accomplice to the Communist party’s bid to whitewash Chinese history after it agreed to purge hundreds of politically-sensitive articles from its Chinese website at the request of Beijing. CUP has confirmed that it had complied with a Chinese request to block more than 300 articles from the China Quarterly, a leading China studies journal. This seems to be barter deal to ensure that ensure that other academic and educational materials remain available to researchers and educators in China.

Should we ban Killer Robots?


An open letter signed by Tesla chief and Alphabet’s Mustafa Suleyman urges the UN to block the use of lethal autonomous weapons to prevent a third age of war. Some of the world’s leading robotics and artificial intelligence pioneers are calling on the United Nations to ban the development and use of killer robots. The founders wrote: “Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. “We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”

Are these potential manifestations of AI still in the realm of science fiction and thus these founders may be selling an alarmist myth? Or do these autonomous weapons systems, which are on the cusp of development right now, possess a very real potential to cause significant harm to innocent people? What are some of the possible harmful potentialities that these robots possess beyond their defensive capabilities? Could these robots go on to affect global instability? What are some of the ethical and moral concerns that autonomous AI engender?