Saint Nicolas Day in The Netherlands. A children's feast being ruined by racial strife because Nic's helper is a black man traditionally named Black Peter. Tradition. We loved Back Peter, and the goodies he brought. Children's choirs singing songs that no longer can be sung. Tradition subjected to editorials, debates, documentaries, protests and even violent clashes.  3

But yesterday, quite a day it was. For me it was. Ah, the usual routines of course; making breakfast and lunch, dishwashing, paperwork. An old fogey I may be, but I still like to pull my weight. By writing mostly.  4

And peeing. I am an old fogey and old fogeys do pee a lot.  5

A regional paper came out with the third and last one of a series of my three opinion pieces about tackling climate change. Vankleek Hill's "The Review." I'll show them in a jiffy. I had emailed a copy of my draft to an internet friend of mine and he, in turn, emailed it to his following, in the U.S. and around the world. One of his readers commented on it:  6

      Having followed this conversation, I find Mr. van Eyken one of the few (as you stated) that has the good of this planet as his mission. He seems to have given up, but I think he has not! Nor have many who know their time is limited here and our coming generations need people like Henry van Eyken who do not give up. 7

Well, if that wasn't nice enough I also was awarded fifty dollars for "Rambling randomly," the first piece in "Me and my world." It appears in the December issue of "l'AREF", a magazine for retired college teachers in Quebec.  8

      Oh, what a beautiful mornin'
      Oh, what a beautiful day.
      I've got a beautiful feelin'
      Everything's goin' my way.

From "Oklahoma." But I am rambling again. Old fogeys tend to ramble. But OK, here are the three pieces, editorial size, written in the hope they will lead to action; eventually. 

* * *

First, in the November 20 issue:  10

      "Going by readers' comments in recent editions of "The Review," climate change has finally become a hot topic. But not yet for most people, not by a long shot. Our recent federal elections' popular vote favoured a party that is still keeping climate change on the back burner. And so, here we have it: a small minority swayed by expert opinions and a majority not so encumbered. Meritocracy at the mercy of fickle democracy.  10

      "That brings us to the question, why not have both, working in tandem?  11

      "We, Canadians, have a bicameral government: a House of Commons, where our elected representatives hold sway, and a Senate, whose members are appointed by our Governor General upon recommendation by the Prime Minister. In recent years, the P.M. has selected candidates for Senate appointment from a small group recommended by an "Independent" commission for Senate appointments (but we do still have senators serving as members of a political caucus). There have been some further developments, but a persistent failure remains: a lack of senators from diverse scientific disciplines. Why should we be concerned about that?  12

      "Climate change calls for urgent changes in how we as a society function. Although I, and we may well assume many others, have some ideas about what we consider essential changes, it would be better to have experts from diverse disciplines putting their heads together to arrive at a well-integrated thought process. An important thing most of them have in common is a scientific bent of mind, which is vastly different from the minds most people, among the electorate as well among the members of both houses and career government servants.  13

      "I would suggest a Senate with a wide variety of expertise headed by a well qualified leadership to ensure thorough integration of their thinking toward making recommendations about how best steer the ship of state through the threatening storms facing us. It is thus that our Senate can, and, to my mind, must move to a rapidly developing meritocracy.  14

      "And it is thus that we might be able to combine the predominant wishes of our electorate with best available expertise.  15

      "I am well aware that the notion just expressed are merely so many words wafting away on the winds. As are those on placards held up by protesters marching in the streets.  16

      "Therefore, a next question to be considered is: how do we progress from words to reality? This is something I have been working on for a number of years. And that I like to make the subject of a follow-up piece, our editor permitting."  17

* * *

Second, in the November-27 issue:  18

      "In last week's "In your own words" I suggested that our Senate improve its range of expertise to better steer our ship of state through the storms that threaten our existence at an accelerating clip. Although the emphasis was on climate change there are other urgent issues such as lack of adequate food, fresh water and clean air, revolts and war as we strive for scarce resources.  19

      "It was in 2013, reading about financial malfeasance by senators, that I began taking an interest in our Senate and I soon thereafter began writing an "ongoing essay" about it -- adding, deleting, modifying as I learned and contemplated what was going on in that institution. (Long, but a patient reader may find it here: I soon learned that political partisanship prevents objective thinking about our people. Fortunately, the Trudeau government began going for (supposedly) politically independent senators. Unfortunately, the Senate—OUR Senate—still harbors a partisan caucus which appears able to stifle the efforts of their colleagues. More about that in a letter next week.  20

      "My essay touches on many issues that need addressing. Not doing so will get us deeper into a hole from which escape becomes unlikely. It considers how modern technology may vastly improve how our Senate functions. This includes how best to bring together the minds of experts in a wide variety of fields to deal with threats imposed by our natural environment as well as by human self-centeredness.  21

      "The medical journal "The Lancet " recently reported on a study about the kinds of afflictions doctors will have to deal with, all outcomes of climate change: You may have learned about it from the media: "The life of every child born today will be profoundly affected."  22

      "Some excerpts:  23

      "'A child born today will experience a world that is more than four degrees warmer than the pre-industrial average, with climate change impacting human health from infancy and adolescence to adulthood and old age. Across the world, children are among the worst affected by climate change ... with infants often the worst affected by the potentially permanent effects of under-nutrition.'"  24

      "'Through adolescence and beyond, air pollution ... damages the heart, lungs, and every other vital organ. These effects accumulate over time, and into adulthood, with global deaths attributable to ambient fine particulate matter.'"  25

      "As for recommendations about changing lifestyle and attitudes, I didn't notice any. But clearly ....  26

      "But clearly, cutting down the production of fossil fuels affects the livelihood of many fellow Canadians and, hence, raises the problem of how to deal with that. Clearly, that involves sharing this burden. Agriculture is a large contributor to greenhouse gases. Dealing with it puts a serious financial burden on our farmers, again a burden that needs sharing.  27

      "Such matters as people who need to escape from areas stricken by wildfires and by drought, in Canada and worldwide, call for either sharing or abandoning a sense of compassion.  28

      "Clearly, what is needed is a governance in our name that aims to take measures that may seem unpalatable, but are necessary. Or else, look after yourselves and the heck with everybody else.  29

      "Clearly, ensuring livelihoods means sharing in the work that needs to be done in a changing social environment, a topic about which books can be written.  30

      "Expect criminality to be on the increase -- I'll leave it to the reader to fill in the details.  31

      "Clearly, governance requires ongoing evaluations by a body of wide-ranging expertise, a body unencumbered by political partisanship. And that is where our Senate might perform a much needed function. A meritorious Senate working in tandem with elected representatives. Elected to deal with issues instead of selling outdated political philosophies.  32

      "And so, what is stopping us? Allow me to look at that issue next week.  33

* * *

Third, in the December-4 issue:  34

      "This is the third and final piece about tackling climate change, which is only one of many global threats. Robotization and artificial intelligence sprout others. Nuclear weapons, terrorism are others still, as are mismanagement of our economy and propaganda that misleads an already badly informed public. We are not through the list yet.  35

      Clearly, we badly need a government that is capable of guarding Canadians through perilous times. That calls for, besides political wit and a responsible opposition, far more expertise than we now have on tap. Missing are diverse scientific experts along with a management that puts their minds together for coming up with possible solutions. We cannot expect elected representatives to deliver these and that leaves a well-prepared Senate to take on the job.  36

      Even though our Senate today is supposed to be non-partisan, it is still infested by political partisanship. Partisanship is divisive. We experience it right now as people toy with breaking up our country. Partisanship stands in the way of serving the best interests of ALL Canadians.  37

      For many years it has been felt that our Senate needs to be modernized. Finally, in December of 2015, our Senate decided to form a 15-member Special Committee on Senate Modernization. Most of their sessions have been televised and I followed those ardently. I recorded them while inserting some personal comments. For those interested, see where clicking on the underlined dates brings up the sessions.  38

      I hoped that Senate diversity would be a major part of modernization. In fact, a senator recommended that I submit a Brief to this committee to that effect. I had some other correspondence with senators as well: some promises by a senior senator and a reputable political scientist (none of them kept), some laudatory comments about my insights.  39

      Eventually it became clear that the hoped-for appointment of much needed scientific experts was not going to happen. This led me to propose a half-way measure: the appointment of "senators pro-temp," people with the needed expertise who would participate in the Senate as colleagues, but without the kind of untouchable job security for the 105 senators as stipulated by our Constitution. Those "pro-temps" would function in a distinct body of expert talent to deal with complex, threatening problems. They would also form a pool for appointees to become regular senators. I did receive an email that the modernization committee considered this proposal. But nothing came of it.  40

      A newly appointed senator tasked her legal assistant to study my essay about the Senate ( He later wrote me a kind email:  41

      "First of all, I want to congratulate you for your terrific work regarding the Senate modernization process.  42

      "In addition to your brief called Toward a Guardian Senate, I also noticed that you are the first person to ever submit a paper to the Special Committee on Senate Modernization on February 19, 2016 (On Guard in a Global Environment). I would advance that you might be the person most interested in the Senate modernization across Canada.  43

      "I just wonder why you did not testify as a witness in front of the special committee? Were you ever invited? I think your work is substantial and should be more promoted, at least in front of the members of this committee.  44

      "Please let me know if I could do anything for your contribution to be more acknowledge in the Senate."  45

      Well, I pretty well knew that there was nothing the gentleman could do. I also suspected—observed, really—that Conservatives on the modernization committee were not only aiming to derail the kind of true modernization urgently needed, but also blocking me from being called as a witness. But suspicions are only suspicions. Until ....  46

      Until I read a newspaper article in Montreal's "The Gazette" of October 25 about the resignation of Senator André Pratte. Why did he resign? "Partisanship, lack of co-operation too much to overcome."  47

      The Special Committee on Senate Modernization petered out after a massive change in membership, Conservative obstinacy, mental fatigue taking its toll, and some final report of sorts.  48

      And so, there you have it, leaving me to wonder what else can be done to safeguard us and, more importantly, the children we are responsible for. Answers anyone?  49

      P.S. I received news while writing this piece that William D. Ruckelshaus died. He was director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency twice and a member of the World Commission on Environment and Development. Three decades ago he wrote words that are still with me:  50

      "A canooist shooting the rapids: survival depends on continually responding to information by correct steering," "Taking control of the future ... means tightening the connection between science and policy. We need to understand where the rocks are in time to steer around them."  51

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