New Comic

July 31, 2009

The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best – and therefore never scrutinize or question.
~Stephen Jay Gould

I decided to go all the way and create a comic strip about sustainability. Since my favourite characters are the neohippies, I would like you to introduce Wann Abe and Hippe Te. He is a PhD student from UBC, she is a rich, alternative artist, and both live, where else? in Vancouver.

More Characters coming soon! Click on the image to go to Socialist!

socialist090731

Any resemblance to any real character is pure vengeance.

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A Brave New Iran

June 22, 2009

Fight till the last gasp
~William Shakespeare

Courage, my friends from Iran; The world prayers are with you.

Fight for your liberty, fight for your people, fight for your sons, and the great Persian Culture we all respect and admire.

آزادی آزادی خدا بزرگ است

آزادی آزادی خدا بزرگ است!

آزادی آزادی خدا بزرگ است!


Welcome to BIXI

May 12, 2009

Are we building cities for people or for cars?
~Jane Jacobs

I have never totally agree with Jane Jacobs’s vision of what a city should be: Her vision of high-density, highly concentrated cities is like a living hell to me, and my impression is that, for her, all cities should look like Manhattan; people cramming in high raises.

What I applaud of her vision is the pedestrian city, the city of parks and walkable avenues. I also think that any big city needs to cater to cars, AND public transit, AND pedestrians, AND alternative forms of transportation. There is no need to chose one over another, and I always tough that the cancellation of the Spadina Expressway and its branches was a huge mistake driven entirely by political, but not economical, social, or environmental reasons (Please moderate your hate mail, I have children reading this!).

The mere fact that megacities exist is antinatural. Such high concentration of people cannot be healthy, no matter how much environmental precautions are taken. Toronto likes to call itself a Megacity, but thank God is not, it is a very livable city, 2.5 Million people (aroung 6 in the GTA), with plenty of parks, ravines, rivers, bike lines, a not so good public transit system, and a not so good street/highway grid, BUT you can chose between a very livable downtown, an exciting midtown, and a familiar suburb, after all, Jane Jacobs also said that “the point of cities is multiplicity of choice”.

That is why I am impressed with Montreal’s new program: Today, at 11:00 EST, BIXI kicks off. The program is simple: You go to one of the 300 BIXI stations (BIXI=BIKE+TAXI), pay for a bike (first 30 minutes are free), ride it to your destination, and leave it in the nearest station. With 300 stations and 3,000 bikes just for starters, you would really have options.

bixiYou can also pay an annual fee of $78, taxes included, and ride unlimited. The bike looks cool, feels cool, and surely will improve your health. No more waiting for the bus, no more trying to squeeze in the subway: Take your bike and go!

These kind of simple ideas are what make a city works: To offer options, to let you chose your lifestyle, where you will raise your kids, and cater to your needs. I will be parking my car more often now that I have a choice (My famous bike was donated to one of my wannabe neohippie friends), and I think that is the way to change a city and its environment: person by person, ride by ride.



What is you label?

March 2, 2009

Labels are for cans, not people.
~Anthony Rapp

I was having dinner last night with some friends, and the conversation moved to political stances, neo-hippies labels, and driving cars. One of them even told me that he can see who I am referring to when I write in this humble media.

I assure to my rich readers (breaking the 150 a day record!) that I never have someone in mind when writing, unless I actually say so. The interesting part of the conversation was when another friend asked me how do I label me. “I am above labels” I answered, “everybody has a label” she replied.

According to one test I took in Facebook, I am a class-3 liberal. That means nothing when you can be a Class-10 liberal, or even a Class-10 conservative (Horror!). But I find more often than not that lot of  people like to put labels on themselves, and those labels, though providing a sense of belonging, limit their ability to think (note: I stopped talking about my friends here, do not send me hate e-mail!). I find people in the streets that join causes just because they are liberal, or because they are perceived as “just”, without further thinking. Can you be a liberal and a conservative at the same time? Can you be a leftist with a brain, and a rightist with a heart? Let’s ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Can you be pro gay marriage but against abortion?
  • Can you be socially liberal but fiscally conservative?
  • Can you support the efforts in Afghanistan but be against the Iraq campaign?
  • Can you give money to the World Wildlife Foundation while hoping that the guys at Greenpeace get soon real jobs?
  • Do you support welfare programs but are against a big government?
  • Can you drive a car but at the same time be an ecologist?
  • Do you think that a biker that rides on the side walk, run red lights, and go against traffic is actually worse person than a driver that obey the law?
  • Can you support genetically enhanced crops and still think that organic crops have a place on the market?
  • Can you be a meatarian but support vegans?
  • Can you work on Bay St (Canada’s Wall St) and still support the ideals of Mohammed Yunus about banking to the poor?

If you answer to YES to more than three questions, I welcome you to the unease world of thinkers that do not know all the answers, but actually may make a difference. The world is more complex than simple labels make us think!


A Brave New World

November 9, 2008

From Stettin in the Baltic to to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent
~Winston Churchill, Westminster College, March 5, 1946

On Saturday, October 25, I saw a bunch of kids protesting in front of the Royal Ontario Museum, in Toronto; they were against dinosaurs bones being exhibited, they wanted to bury back the bones. “Dinos are people too”, they were yelling. I wanted to kick their asses.

Such waste of organization, such abuse of the right of expression, such misuse of the privilege of being free. Only a few years ago, people would die for such a privilege.

Today is the 19th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. We may not remember, or may not know, the series of events that lead to this fall. Some people would remember Reagan’s words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” and think that his speech was a definitive hit to the Iron Curtain. These people piss me off.

The heroes here, the people with the real balls of steel, were not the manifestants in safe Western Europe and USA. There were not the neo hippies of late 90s; they were the East Germans, Hungarians, Poles, Czechs, all the people from the Warsaw’s Pact who actually risked their lives for Freedom.

The Berlin Wall did not “fell” 19 years today; it was chipped away for the brave men and women behind the Iron Curtain.

In 1989, the Stasi was still eliminating anti-communist and jailing people, when in May 2nd, the Hungarians made the first hole in the Iron Curtain. They cut the barrier between Magyar and Austria. Thousands of East Germans flocked down to Hungary, one of the few places they could travel. The West German embassies in Budapest and Prague were invaded by thousands of refugees.

The GDR’s government stopped the visas to travel to Hungary in August, which led the East German population to flood the streets of Dresden and Leipzig, manifesting against the measure. They were risking their lives: The GDR’s General Secretariat, Erich Honecker, was one of the last hard liners and wanted to eradicate the manifestations. People like Günter Schabowski, Berlin’s communist party leader, were trying desperately to hold him.

September 25, 1989: The Stasi arrested hundreds of manifestants in Leipzig. At the same time, the embassy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in Prague gave authorization to the East Germans camping in the Embassy to go to the FRG by train, but they should go through East Germany. When those trains arrived to Dresden, thousand of Germans tried to board them, while the police tried to stop them; the trains could not stop in Dresden, but they arrived in the FRG. That was a major hit to the GDR.

A few days later, in Oct 6th, Gorbachev arrived in Berlin to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the GDR. Unlike Honeken, the Soviet leader knew that the repression could not go on. He stated that History will testify against those who act too late.

Alexanderplatz, East Berlin: Gorbachev is back in Moscow and the 40th anniversary is over. The people of Berlin flooded the plaza, and the Stasi started acting fast, arresting everybody. People like Andreas Gutzeit, journalist, are taken to jail and interrogated. Meanwhile, the army is bieng trained to fight a war against the German People. In October 23rd, more cities joined the manifestations against the dictatorial regime, and Honeken is planning a bloody repression, then, Guenther Schabowski and other moderates realise that a confrontation against their own people will have disastrous consequences and they demand Honeken’s resignation. Surprisly, he accepts, but some hard-line leaders in the Stasi and the Army refuse to soft down.

In November 6th, Leipzig is witness of a huge manifestation, where half million people go to the street. The army receives instructions to stand on guard and is provided with two and a half times the ammunitions they would receive in case of Armed Conflict. They could level Berlin.

In November the 9th, only nineteen years ago, Schabowski and his allies are trying to negotiate a moderated solution to the conflict, while the East German Army marchs towards Berlin; then, in the Parliament, an agreement is reached: They will allow the travel abroad, in organised manner. A reported asked “when this measure will be in effect?” to what Schabowski answered “As far as I know effective immediately, without delay”.

Schabowski made the announcement too soon, the army does not know anything about the agreement; what the East German Politburo thought was a measure to buy time, opened the Wall doors. At 19:45 the world heard Schabowski: Everybody but the East German Army. One hour later, the East Germans started to line in Checkpoint Charlie, while the army was still in red alert. The orders are to protect the German Democratic Republic and its borders. The army is deployed in the checkpoints only to find thousands of East Germans demanding entry into West Berlin. Two hours after Schabowski announcement, the army has orders to shoot to kill anybody trying to cross the border. The world is nevertheless alert of the new agreement, and from West Berlin thousands of people started heading to the Wall. The soldiers tried to confirm orders to their superiors but all the lines are jammed, overwhelmed by all the officers trying to clarify the situation. The West Germans are climbing the Wall. The East German Army is crunched between East and West Germans, then, some newspapers started to circulate. DDR: Ab sofort alle grenzan offen: GDR: From now on, all the borders are open. The army officials decided not to resist the people’s power; 22:30, East German officers opened the checkpoint controls.

The Berlin Wall has ceased to exist.


Olympic Torch Protest

April 7, 2008

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.
~Albert Einstein

Any protest against China repression in Tibet would a well deserved one, but a protest has to be done in a smart way, trying to get the message to the people that can change it, and avoiding by all means to look stupid and radical.

The manifestations in France against the Olympic Torch are a perfect example where people stop thinking and start acting for the sake of acting. To protest the Chinese repression on Tibet, they decided:

  • Attack the Olympic movement
  • Destroy the Olympic flame, one of the most beloved icons of modern times
  • Endanger the athletes that carry the torch, like Stephane Diagana, 1997 400-meter world champion

Why the activist don´t aim the protest to China´s Embassy and consulates? Why don´t they send massive letters of support to the Dalai Lama? Why not to close the access to China´s Embassy, Consulates, and Economic envoys? No, they decide to attack the Olympic torch and the French athletes. I am sure there are better, more effective, and way more direct means of protest against Human Rights violations, but they decided to stop thinking and to act for the sake of act.


Earth Day 2008

March 28, 2008

Nobody can be so amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own.
~Sydney J. Harris

April 22th is Earth Day 2008, a day dedicated “to grow and diversify the environmental movement worldwide, and to mobilize it as the most effective vehicle for promoting a healthy, sustainable planet. We pursue these goals through education, politics, events, and consumer activism” (http://ww2.earthday.net/~earthday/about).

Similarly, tomorrow March 29th is Earth Hour, where we are invited to turn the lights off for one hour, between 20:00 and 21:00, with the sole objective of reducing greenhouse gases emissions and to have people talking about what to do to reduce people’s ecological footprint.

The event was born in Sidney, and it came from one of my favourites organizations, WWF. I have sponsored this organization since 1998 (http://mexicanphoto.tripod.com) and have always praise them to the point that I have solicited to work with them several times (they never called me, I sadly confess). In Talking With Perspective I elaborated about this organization and its efforts to make our world a better place. Having said that, I think that Earth Hour is just another feel-good ecological gimmicks.

The interviews of people promoting Earth Hour denote the “fun” part of being without electricity for one hour. They recognise the limited effect on greenhouse gases emissions but they mention that the real objective is having people talking about what can they do for the environment. The idea is amusing, but the problem I have with these events is that people often get a holier-than-thou feeling, talk about the problem, but do nothing more to address the issue.

The futility of such events derivates from the fact that real measures are really painful, no fun. To reduce greenhouse gases emissions we need to reduce consumption in our lives. We need to park the car, to reduce non-recyclable consumptions, to eat locally (no oranges in winter, unless you live in Spain), to stop spending our money in non-sense products. Lighting candles for an hour is fun, but in Canada, where almost our our electricity comes from hydroelectric power plants, lighting candles instead of a light bulb effectively increases greenhouse gases emissions.

What we can do to really have an impact? I propose some ideas in
Organic Versus Local, How to Eat Ethically?, My bulb is Burned, A Real Alternative to Ethanol? I, and A Real Alternative to Ethanol? II.

I will love to hear some of yours!

Seal Hunting. As we speak, several Quebecois seal hunters are heading to the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence for the annual harp seal hunt. Although the Government of Canada defends seal hunting, and despite my usual attitude towards commerce and the invisible hand that leads the markets, I can only regret that we are still pursuing such a barbaric custom, with no use whatsoever; seal products are non-sense idiotic luxury items that have perfectly substitutions. Going there and protest will do better than turning your light off for one hour, I will protest tomorrow in Montrèal, I hope you will too, wherever you are. I will trade you your one-hour with no electricity for one hour in front of a Canadian Embassy or Consulate, or if you live in Canada, write to your MP, or participate in one of the protests. Find more information in http://www.seashepherd.org/.