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Glorious Jabberwocky

by Archives September 5, 2006

Why Jabberwocky?

In 1871 Lewis Carroll wrote Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, the sequel to the popular Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the book, the character of Humpty Dumpty reads Alice a poem called The Jabberwock about a boy who slays a monster. The poem is essentially nonsensical which is why the word jabberwocky came to mean nonsense.

The first two stanzas:

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch…’

“It seems very pretty,” she said when she had finished it, “but it’s rather hard to understand! Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas–only I don’t exactly know what they are! -Alice from Through the looking Glass and What Alice Found There -Lewis Carroll 1871

In the book, Alice calls the poem “glorious nonsense.” I am beginning to think that glorious nonsense is an appropriate way to describe much of the pontification and policy supported by politicians, spin doctors, essayists and opinion writers like myself. To the reader it can seem glorious or nonsensical or both, and if you read too much of it, it can all start to seem like a lot of jabberwocky. ***

The summer of 2006 shall forever be known as the summer of the slideshow.

Not since grandma got back from grand canyon have we seen so many.

While Al Gore burned up the box office with his slideshow extraordinaire “An Inconvenient Truth,” a Canadian climatologist by the name of Tim ball was carrying out his own overhead projector crusade, wending his way across the country telling packed lecture halls, auditoriums, and hotel ballrooms that a little thing called global warming is actually a convenient lie.

Witness the battle royale for hearts and minds on the question of climate change.

In one corner we have people like Al Gore, and, for the most part left-leaning politicians, scientists and activists who believe that climate change is a real and imminent threat to our survival. In the other we have people like Ball and Federal Conservatives, particularly Environment Minister Rona Ambrose who want to stall public policy on the issue.

Ball is a consultant for a coalition of climate change deniers known as the Friends of Science (FOS.) He believes that global warming is a red herring; propaganda cooked up by Environment Canada and other agencies in order to shape public policy towards socialist ends, and to secure funding for new gadgets.

One bone of contention between the climatology establishment and deniers like Ball is a 1998 report authored by three leading climate scientists titled the MBH98 Report. It contained a graph which became known as the hockey stick curve demonstrating a stable climate over several centuries and then a sharp increase in the earth’s temperature during the past hundred years; a confirmation of global warming.

Ball and others have gone on record stating that the widely accepted hockey stick curve is the result of a “computer programming error” and that it is essentially unproven.

Casting doubt on established facts is the primary goal of climate change deniers and campaigners like Ball, whose campaigns work not because they change minds, but because they keep them from being made up at all.

Last May an Ipsos reid poll showed that 4 of 10 Canadians surveyed believe like Ball that temperature increases are due to the natural warming and cooling cycles of the earth.

These numbers should be encouraging to Minister Ambrose who is spearheading the push to make Canada’s public record on climate change a tabula rasa by cutting federal spending on programs to reduce greenhouse gases by 40 percent. In June, the federal government website climatechange.gc.ca was quietly shut down. So was the Energuide program which provided funding for energy efficient homes.

Ambrose also supports scrapping the Kyoto protocol in favour of a “new approach.” Unfortunately we have yet to see a “new approach,” and one wonders if it will simply be an absence of approach leaving a void in environmental public policy for industry to interpret as they please.

It is clear that the loudest voices supporting both Ball and Ambrose come from big business (primarily oil companies.) For her part it would be disingenuous to deny that she and the entire Harper government owe one to big oil. Ambrose has a vested interest in keeping her constituents and those of her fellow party members happy. Ball and the friends of science on the other hand, deny any connection with big oil saying that they receive funding from individual donors. Donors who are conveniently anonymous because the funds are administered by the Calgary Foundation, an umbrella charitable group based in that city, which protects the identity of donors.

Whether they openly admit it or not they are both essentially serving the same master.

In an excerpt from an interview given prior to one of his speeches at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in 2004, Ball said that global warming “would be good, because even Environment Canada acknowledges that you would have better agricultural conditions, a longer frost-free season”

Well gosh Dr. Ball that sounds just swell, we could grow pineapples in Winnipeg in December, now who on earth wouldn’t want that?

Dr. Ball believes that we should be concerned about global cooling rather than warming.

Well the good doctor can sleep soundly because according to Environment Canada 10 of the warmest years on record have occurred over the last 14 years. Perma frost is melting, millennias old icecaps are disappearing before our eyes and ocean temperatures are climbing. Pinapple trees can’t be far behind.

While debate is healthy, to stand in the face of such overwhelming scientific and anecdotal evidence and say that climate change is not happening as in the case of Dr. Ball, or to ignore it altogether as Minister Ambrose appears to be doing, smacks of contrarianism.

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