Poli Savvy: Turning WW3 and Franz Ferdinand into hashtags

On Jan. 3, the Twittersphere woke up with the hashtags #WW3 and #FranzFerdinand exploding all over social media.

This came right after Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was killed by American drones in Iraq. Memes were then shared and next thing you know, people were joking about being drafted for an imminent World War Three.

But why exactly are the death of Soleimani and WW3 trending together even more than, let’s say, the twisted relationship between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear threats?

Soleimani was a highly-known Iranian figure all over the Middle East, described in a statement by Trump after his death as “the number-one terrorist anywhere in the world.” Now, parallels are being drawn between him and Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which the younger generation usually knows as a rock band from the 2000s, but who was actually another famous General, killed more than 100 years ago in Bosnia.

As the heir of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ferdinand’s assassination is associated with the beginning of WWI. In comparison, Soleimani was considered as the next most powerful individual next to the widely popular President of Iran. With obvious similarities, the killing of Soleimani is seen as the boiling point to ongoing tensions between the US and Iran.

While the nonexistence of social media back in 1914 didn’t allow for these types of reactions, a hypothetical WW3 is currently turning into a joke. Knowing how devastating both World Wars were, aren’t these memes and tweets leaving you with a sour taste?

Yet, humour has always been a coping mechanism. So, in the meantime, I suggest revisiting the Scottish band’s 2004 song “Take Me Out” and scrolling down the comments for a good laugh.

As if you’re listening right before WW3 starts. 


Graphic by Victoria Blair


Solidarity for Lebanese protests reached Montreal on Friday

Protesters gathered in front of the Lebanese consulate in Montreal last Friday in solidarity with the uprising that started on Thursday in Lebanon.

Montreal joined many other cities like New York and London in this solidarity movement, where protesters chanted anti-government chants in Arabic like “Montreal to Beirut, we want to kick out every jerk.”

“We’re trying to show Lebanese people that we are with them and we stand by them and we are all against the government and what it’s doing,” said Dhalia Nazha, the event organizer in Montreal.

The small 10,500 square kilometer country has entered its biggest protest since the garbage crisis in 2015. Citizens are denouncing corruption among government officials and calling for the government’s resignation.

The protest sparked up after the government announced new taxes including one on the use of messaging apps during a major economic crisis. However, the decision was quickly retracted by officials amid the reaction of the population.

But it’s not all about Viber and WhatsApp. The regional turmoil in the Middle East has been affecting Lebanon’s economy for decades. The country now ranks third in debt levels worldwide at $113 billion US or 150 per cent of its GDP according to Trading Economics.

“They steal from the taxes, they steal all the money and they don’t renovate and don’t do any construction in Lebanon,” said Nazha about the current government. “We don’t have any recycling facilities, there’s a lot of pollution and they don’t try to tackle it in what way whatsoever.”

The country struggles to this day for better infrastructure even after billions invested since the end of the civil war in 1990. Citizens deal with daily electricity cuts, trash piling on the streets and limited water supplies from the state-owned water company, according to the Associated Press.

Many Lebanese chose to flee those conditions in search of a better alternative. Some that chose Montreal as their new home took part in the protest.

“I didn’t have a job or education, because education is really expensive in Lebanon, so I was forced to move here for better life conditions,” said Najib Issa, a 20-year-old mechanical engineering student at Polytechnique.

Job shortages and poor salaries also pushed Chantal Stephan to flee her home country. Stephan said she moved to Canada in 2004 to raise her three children who were there with her, all waving small Lebanese flags and chanting along with the crowd.

“I graduated in Lebanon and I didn’t manage to find a decent job, so I decided to move here to work and be well paid,” said Stephan. “Even with my master’s degree, I couldn’t find a decent job [in Lebanon].”

But there is a feeling of hope for the future of the small Middle Eastern country. This is one of the first apolitical, non-religious movements in Lebanon. The Lebanese population has been divided by political and religious affiliations for the past decades.

“We need to unite all together and stop to follow politicians that are controlling us by the tip of our noses,” said Stephan. “It’s important to stay all united because after all, we all want is the good of the country.”

Nazha, Issa and Stephan think this protest is the beginning of a big change that will enable them to reunite with their roots.

“I’m here tonight for my brothers, sisters, parents and every Lebanese that are still in Lebanon,” said Issa. “We’re only defending and reclaiming our rights. And now, we finally have a chance to  come back to our country.”


Feature photo by Jad Abukasm


Climate crisis: change is coming

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, and representatives from different Indigenous groups led the march against climate change in Montreal last Friday.

Around 500,000 people were gathered at Sir-Georges-Étienne-Cartier monument on Parc Avenue to trek to Bonaventure Parc, where Thunberg addressed the crowd.

“You are a nation that is allegedly a climate leader and Sweden is also a nation that is allegedly a climate leader,” said Thunberg during her speech. “In both cases, it means absolutely nothing because in both cases it’s just empty words. So we are basically the same,” she added, jokingly.

Photo by Laurence B.D.

The Swedish activist sailed  across the Atlantic on a zero-carbon emission sailing boat back in early September to take part in a United Nation climate summit. She spoke in front of the committee, condemning the inaction of world leaders.

“I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean,” she said during her UN speech. “Yet you all come to us, young people, for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams, my childhood with your empty words.”

She continued stressing the consequences of climate change, such as the extinction of complete ecosystems and the loss of individual human lives.

“We are at the beginning of mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth,” she said with an emotional, assertive tone.“How dare you.”

Alongside Montreal, hundreds of cities worldwide joined the march on Sept. 27, in solidarity against climate inaction.

In Montreal, a historical association of 21 organizations, including Greenpeace, the David Suzuki Foundation and the various branches of La Planète s’invite au Parlement, all came together in the creation and promotion of the protest.

“We are climate justice seekers,” said Jacob Robitaille, Concordia Geography student and internal coordinator for La Planete s’invite à l’Université (LPSU). “We want to have a just, equitable and equal transition. We are trying to develop a firmer, anti-colonial stance because we believe that the environmental crisis has everything to do with the abuse of Indigenous people; the constant oppression and taking away of lands. These issues are very much interconnected and we want to bring forward the message to regular people.”

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

It is therefore a question of education, said Robitaille. The LPSU’s fundamental goal is to educate the general public, from the bottom up, and incite policy change from the governmental institutions.

“Being a geography student, I know the climate crisis is driven mainly by diet,” said Robitaille. “People don’t grasp that issue enough. If you stop eating beef one week at a time, it has a significant impact on your CO2 emission, your water use and land use. It is really as simple as that.”

The LPSU, a student climate activist mobilization, started being more active last February, as an answer to Thunberg’s global cry. The movement has been overwhelmingly picked up by youth, as people want to get involved at a younger age. The people who are the most organized in this movement are the high schoolers, Robitaille said.

“They are fed up,” said Robitaille. “They don’t have a voice politically, they don’t have the means, there are so many barriers for them to get their voice heard; people don’t take them seriously. So, our movement is founded on that. We want to push a ground-up change.”

Indeed, according to François Geoffroy, a spokesperson for La Planete s’invite au Parlement, more than 200,000 students were given permission to strike on Friday.

And as Montreal saw 500,000 citizens walk down its streets on Friday, one can only imagine the impact of such a movement on the upcoming Federal election. The potential of leading this energetic youth to vote for a party that offers an environmental platform is undeniably massive.

Photo by Jad Abukasm.

Yet, the LPSU remains an apolitical organization. Instead, Robitaille said they believe in flipping the entire script around and are more than willing to denounce the nonsense and lack of policy from the Conservatives and Liberals.

On Sept. 24, three days prior to the march, 10 Quebec universities, including Concordia, united to declare a climate emergency. CTV News reported that they all recognize the need for social change and have vowed to become carbon-neutral by 2050, to finance more research on climate change, and to increase the number of environmental and sustainability-related academic programs and other resources.

The impact of the Global Week for Future, the series of international protests asking for climate justice, is yet to be seen. But the conversations are changing and there is currently a momentum building, according to Robitaille.

“At the end, we are just a group of students that don’t want to die,” said Robitaille.





The Concordian talks climate change, veganism, and the federal elections with participants of Montreal’s

Jad Abukasm contributed to this report

Feature photo by Alex Hutchins, photos by Jad Abukasm, Laurence B.D., and Alex Hutchins, video by Thomas Quinn


Concordia professor talks international environmental agreements

“I have a daughter,” said economics professor and researcher Effrosyni Diamantoudi. “I want her to live in a happy world, like I did—in a world that’s not stressed with hurricanes and storms and all the consequences that come with climate change.”

“I see the world is not the same as it was 30 years ago,” Diamantoudi continued. “It’s not just for the sake of academic curiosity. My research has an important implication on the world I live in.”

Diamantoudi and her team have been researching international environmental agreements, through an environmental economist lense, for more than a decade.

She explained there are currently 180 environmental agreements that have been signed worldwide, which speaks to the necessity of an alternative method.

“If it was a no-brainer, then we would be drafting one agreement and then we’d all go home and it’ll be the end of it,” said Diamantoudi. But as it stands, these agreements are usually written and cancelled and rewritten and more defined and drafted.

We have the Paris Agreement, she said, and the Kyoto Protocol before that, and the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit even before that.

After much research, Diamantoudi and her team suggest to embed the international environmental agreement within another overarching agreement, like trade, and involve as many countries as possible.

It is favorable for country leaders to be part of agreements. “When you’re outside of the agreement, then you have to pay taxes for everything you sell to those markets, you don’t benefit from everything they’re exporting. You lose a lot if you’re outside of a trading block, said Diamantoudi. “What we’re suggesting is a situation where the environmental agreement and the trading block becomes one body, and they negotiate over the two together.”

The concept is simple: if you don’t meet the environmental standards of the agreement, then as a country, you will have to pay a higher tariff.

“That’s a way of balancing the incentives,” said Diamantoudi.

Diamantoudi said their research shows that if some issues are tied into each other, it would reinforce the validity of the agreement.

Through this, more incentives would be created for federal governments to contribute, and for ways to ensure indirect punishment if the agreement isn’t met.

She explained there are several international agreements currently in the works, which usually involves much of the same countries, on a singular topic. A group of countries get together to talk about trade, and months later the same group talks about the environment, and then, another couple of months later, technology transfers, and so on.

Diamantoudi said there are three characteristics that explains the failure of most international environmental agreements.

The first is the lack of enforceability. There is no supranational authority overlooking individual countries to keep them accountable if they don’t abide by the agreements made in the international agreement. These agreements are voluntary, and have to be self-enforced, which therein lies a problem.

“Within a country, you can come up with laws,” said Diamantoudi. “‘Do not dump more than X pollutants in the river, and so on, and if you break the law then you get a fine, or you lose your business. Well, nobody can fine a country, and nobody can shut down a country.”

The second is freeriding. Diamantoudi explained that although it would be ideal for all of us to actually do our part, and keep our environment clean, each one of us individually deviates from the agreement because we count on the other to do their part.

If everybody else agrees to cooperate and to decrease their pollution, then each country individually has an incentive to free ride, to not meet their target, because they assume everybody else has. “They think to themselves ‘now climate change is under control, presumably, and therefore we can continue doing business as usual,’” said Diamantoudi.

The third is the heterogeneity of the problem. Not all countries are the same. So in that,  not all countries have the same economies, are the same size, have the same industry, have the same natural resources, and not all countries suffer the same environmental consequences.

“It often happens that the countries that contribute to this greater bad, are not the ones that suffer the most,” said Diamantoudi. “So there’s this asymmetry in terms of contribution to the damage, and in consequences of the damage.”

“We have a dire problem in our hands, which explains why so many agreements tend to be drafted, and fail, and why we are where we are.”

Diamantoudi further explained if there are some smaller agreements which also has the environmental agreement embedded, it could be a good start.

“If we cant have all 180 countries sign, could we have a group of 90, and another group of 90, by all means, it’s better than nothing,” said Diamantoudi

She further explained that in situations like the environmental crisis, people have to take individual responsibility for their actions as well.

“You can’t teach people to care, but you can teach people to understand better, so information, education, into how this all works,” said Diamantoudi. “Yes, temperatures have increased, yes the water levels have risen, but [educate them on] the consequences of that. Make the calculation of that cost [to them individually], make that information more publicly available so that the masses can understand what’s going on.”


Feature photo by Alex Hutchins


Poli Savvy: Misogyny of climate crisis deniers

At the beginning of September, People’s Party of Canada’s leader Maxime Bernier denigrated environmental activist Greta Thunberg in a tweet, calling her “mentally unstable.” Although he later retracted and apologized for his comment, this just  illustrates yet another ugly, misogynistic face of climate change deniers.

Really, why do white men seem to have a harder time accepting the environmental crisis than others? Worse even when a woman is in a powerful position and has a strong voice in the matter?

Research published by Oxford University explored the green-feminine stereotype, where both men and women judged eco-friendly products, behaviours, and consumers as more feminine. Simply put, it showed that men believe climate action is “unmanly.”

What Bernier did by attacking the 16-year-old activist was a demonstration of white fragility. Thunberg isn’t posting photos of what she is eating seeking some kind of instant glory. Her message is not a personal cry, but one that is universal. Inevitably, she confronts us with our own actions – or, mostly, our inactions.

It seems that Conservative white men have found their arch enemy within voices like Thunberg’s, which represent everything they believe is slowing them down; women and caring for the environment.

But truly, how fragile is masculinity to believe that environmental actions are more feminine? Isn’t it ironic that men tend to be considered less sensitive than women, but when it comes to the perception of their masculinity, we are suddenly walking on eggshells?

As Thunberg will be making her way towards Montreal to attend the climate protest on Sept. 27, we can only expect to see more misogynistic comments online. Comments which, sadly, switch the focus of what’s really at stake. The environmental crisis should not be a battle of the sexes.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


If we don’t act now, it’s going to cost us later

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan.

The conflict in Syria is extremely troubling. The country is currently in the middle of a gruesome civil war that is changing the face of the Middle East entirely. For almost two years now, the forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime have been fighting against those opposed to it, tearing the nation apart. Hundreds of thousands have fled to neighbouring countries and, even worse, over 60,000 Syrians have perished in this civil war. As time goes on and the war continues, things seem to be getting much worse. The conflict is shiveringly close to the capital city Damascus, where the death toll, as well as refugee toll, will double.

Needless to say, the situation is dire and it’s time that the international community, including Canada, steps in. Canada hasn’t really had a major role in Syria thus far, something that’s being discussed more and more often as the situation there worsens. Kyle Matthews, senior deputy director of the Will to Intervene Project at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University, wouldn’t even put Canada’s aid in the top three or four countries.

“The Canadian response so far has been … sanctions against the Assad regime and it’s had limited effects, because we’re not major trade partners with Syria,” said Matthews. “We’ve also come down pretty hard in public diplomacy, criticizing the Russian government, which hasn’t really had a strong effect either.”

Canada has also provided a significant amount of money to Syrians and has offered humanitarian assistance to help with the displaced people, accepting a little over 5,000 refugees. Overall, Canada’s response has been appreciated, but the aid is small compared to the conflict Syrians face.

It is important to look at the strain neighbouring countries have been feeling as well. Many Syrian refugees have been crossing the Syrian border into neighbouring countries and they’re starting to lack the resources to support them all.

“Already Lebanon is starting to be put under enormous strains because of the refugee flows coming into the country, as well as flows of weapons coming from Syria,” said Matthews. “We have Jordan that’s being destabilized and Turkey is in […] trouble as a NATO partner.”

The crisis in Syria is nowhere near finished and things can only get worse from here. I think we have to play the tables much more seriously and re-engage both of the political and military level with NATO. We cannot stand and watch while human rights are being abused, people are dying daily and a reckless dictator is doing all he can to maintain his leadership in a politically torn nation. It’s time for the international community to step in before this situation becomes even more volatile. That was the ultimatum offered by Kyle Matthews.

“Either we take things seriously now and try to do something or it’s going to probably implode and turn into a regional conflict, which is gonna involve a lot more money and a lot more involvement from the international community in the years to come.”

We have to start somewhere. Whether it involves a no-fly zone where one is needed, or a transport plane, or increased humanitarian aid measures. It’s these little moves that can make a difference and help avoid a full-scale Middle Eastern crisis.

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