Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Jane's Walk 2013: A Dorest Park Discovery Walk

Tips for the Walk Day! (from our friends at Jane's Walk

  1. Wear sensible shoes – something cushy and supportive. But that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice fashion. After all, Nancy Sinatra recommends boots made for walking.
  2. Dress for the weather – all walks go rain or shine. It's easy to stay warm and dry if you layer up and bring an umbrella if it looks like rain. Plan your Jane's Walk itinerary ahead of time.
  3. Confirm the dates and times your tours are offered.
  4. Ask questions and offer insights. Jane's Walk works best when the tour has a friendly, conversational feel. Introduce yourself to fellow walkers, volunteers and guides. Be curious. 
  5. Consider attending walks in neighbourhoods you already know and even live or work in, to deepen your appreciation and networks in the area. 
  6. Cultivate your curiosity – venture farther afield and find out what is wonderful about neighbourhoods you've only heard about in the media or didn't even know existed. Be adventurous. 
  7. Take lots of pictures, savour the sites and sounds. Stop in at a cafĂ©, pub or restaurant and linger. Develop your own impression of an area and share it with others. 
  8. Get in close – in order to hear the tour guides stand close to the speakers. Remember to leave enough room on the sidewalk for people to pass by and make sure to cross at the corners. 
  9. Share your thoughts and feedback with us on our website, on Twitter and onFacebook and consider supporting this work with a tax-deductible charitable donation
  10. Thank the hosts and volunteers for giving their time to this thrilling insider's guide to your local community!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Ten Commandments for Business FAILURE

This week I read Donald Keough's The Ten Commandments for Business Failure.  With easily digestible prose, clear examples, humility and humour - it's lessons are quickly understood and applicable well beyond the realm of business and for anyone interested in leading successful collaborations.  As former President of The Coca-Cola Company and one of the world's most sought after executive speakers, Keough, while quick to dispel any (or anyone's) claim of a legitimate silver bullet formula for success, is profoundly bullish on history's tried and true signs of failure.  Indeed, in example after example, and across sectors, cultures and historical contexts there lies ten blunders that companies and individuals make, and that when made over and over again they lead to failure so consistently that the list ought to be written in stone.  

Without further delay, the ten hallmarks of the pathway to failure are:  

01 - Quit taking risks
02 - Be inflexible
03 - Isolate yourself
04 - Assume Infallibility
05 - Play the game close to the foul line
06 - Don't take time to think
07 - Put all your faith in experts and outside consultants
08 - Love your bureaucracy
09 - Send mixed messages
10 - Be afraid of the future

Despite most being understood or quickly researchable from their names, I dare not elaborate more in this post and instead encourage you to pick-up a copy of the (short!) book or find one of his speeches online to consume, for Keough, like all great leaders, are masters of simplicity whose words are best spoken themselves.  

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Of Tupaia and Captain Cook ...

Kudos to the team at National Geographic on their inspiring 125th Anniversary Special Issue.  Featuring an almost issue-length expose on Why We Explore, the maps, photos, stories and glimpses into the future of journeys through stars and space represent a tour de force of migratory history and possibility.  To my great pleasure it also recounted one of my favourite chance encounters following the storied human migration out of Africa.  

In the winter of 1769, the famed Polynesian priest Tupaia met and presented British Captain James Cook with a map - the first that any European had ever observed featuring each of the major island groups in the South Pacific spanning a massive oceanic distance from Fiji to the Marquesas.  What evolved was a friendship and now legendary journey on the ship Endeavour. From island to island and many islands more, Tupaia wowed the sailors by successfully navigating the ship regardless of weather, day or night time conditions, without any of the *fancy* tools and technology Cook and his team found essential.  Perhaps more than his crew, Cook understood the significance of Tupaia's talents, and hypothesized that islanders scattered throughout the Pacific were likely part of the same people who long ago had explored, settled and mapped this part of the Ocean long before Britain was ever, well, Britain.  

It would take another two hundred years before DNA evidence of modern human migration patterns would ratify Cook's hypothesis.  Indeed, Tupaia's ancestors had colonized the Pacific over 2,000 years prior following a long, incrementally eastward march out of Africa another 70,000-50,000 years before that.  Cook's journey, meanwhile, represented a comparable milestone in the opposite direction - that of the continued westward movement of his own ancestors who had left Africa in the opposite direction at about the same time.  Thus, the serendipitous meeting and travels of Cook and Tupaia represented a closing of the migratory circle and completing the journey their ancestors embarked on together so many millennia before. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Between Two Worlds

It is helpful every once in a while to reflect on one's thoughts from a previous time and think about what has changed and what appears very much the same. Here is a re-posting of a blog entry I wrote in May 2007 that explored my work and travels on the margins of the ongoing climate debate. -Bryan

You can say that my life in recent years has been shaped by natural disasters. Working in the aftermath of earthquakes and Tsunamis had taken me on a memorable journey full of interesting places, people and conversation. It has helped shape career aspirations, given me wonderful friends, and has allowed me to develop a more global perspective on current events. Even though I spent much of ‘05-06 working specifically on issues related to the Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami, it really is difficult to analyze that disaster as an isolated incident. The year that followed saw countless human tragedies of massive scale – from a string of hurricanes through Latin America & the Caribbean, to devastating earthquakes in Indonesia and Pakistan, to the United States and Katrina – perhaps the tipping point for many of us to finally force ourselves to step back and reflect on what the heck is actually occurring. Though our African brothers and sisters lacked such ‘sudden onset’ events to captivate the worlds attention, they were not free from disaster as crises’ in Sudan, Niger and elsewhere were further complicated by food insecurity caused by record drought from the drying up of their lakes and rivers.

Whether I was brainstorming with colleagues in Geneva, having drinks with friends, or shooting the sh&t with random faces in far away places – the conversation never failed to turn towards how unstable this world has become. It didn’t matter if we were doctors, lawyers, engineers, public health professionals, insurance agents, journalists, fisherman or farmers – the central role of the environment and the generally poor political acknowledgement of this among donor nations became a sobering reality for us all. Some have said that people have difficulty grasping the importance of things they cannot see; that it takes a truly profound event in their own lives before they are able to connect all the dots. While that maybe true of some places in regards to global warming – for us it wasn’t so – things were happening very quickly all around – all we had to do was look and listen.

For a country that I did not know existed three years ago, the Maldives now occupies a special place with me. As a long north-south archipelago of over 1000 small islands in the Indian Ocean, it is a breathtakingly beautiful country filled with genuinely nice and caring people. After visiting a subset of these islands, however, to simply say these islands are small is a huge understatement as many of them have a circumference that is easily walked in half an hour. With an average elevation of only 1.5m above sea level, they further claim the title of the lowest lying place on Earth. As you might imagine, the impact of rising oceanic water levels are as clear here as anywhere – and this is evident in government priority setting and planning as officials are constantly thinking of tomorrow, pondering land reclamation schemes and forming alliances with other small island chains to search for solutions. This is a nation literally fighting for their very existence because of climate change – and it is of no fault of their own. With minimal industrial emissions, automobiles and energy consumption – they can safely thank the rest of us for much of their current fate. Perhaps the first moral lesson I carry home is that when a country such as my own contributes to this global mess, we have a responsibility to help clean up that same global mess - and not just in our own backyard.

From one extreme face of global warming to another – I visit one of the most famous glaciers on Earth as the summer of 2006 brings three friends and I to Tanzania and the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro – Africa’s lone remaining snow capped peak. Whether you have been there yourself, have watched An Inconvenient Truth, or have been shown photographs from other travelers, scientists or activists – you might have heard that this glacier is melting away. And it is melting FAST – with current thinking that the snows of Kilimanjaro will be no more in as little as 15 years. On the ground these reports were all corroborated by mountain guides, porters, safari drivers and other local residents we spoke to who all claim that scientific measurements are not even necessary – that even by the naked human eye it is visibly shrinking which each passing year. But what we don’t hear amidst all of these reports is how agriculturally, economically and ecologically dependent the nearby towns, communities and wildlife reserves are on the existence of this glacier and the waters that flow from it in the summer months. Even though Tanzania has traditionally been geographically well positioned so as to not experience the extent of drought that plagues elsewhere on the continent – as their internal waterways gradually dry and Kilimanjaro melts away, the impact on a giant share of its human and world famous animal populations will be devastating.

Since our adventure in East Africa, I have returned home to Toronto (Canada) where I continue to work and study. When settling home again following a long period of instability and regular traveling, there is an inevitable shell shock – a reflection period of sorts where one absorbs on the experiences they’ve had before they go out and really talk or write about where they’ve been and what they’ve seen. For me, this period lasted a little longer than expected and it wasn’t until fairly recently that I really became interested in communicating my story and ideas in more detail. The trigger for me, especially in regards to the welfare of the planet, was a conversation I had with Nancy Karetak-Lindell, Canada’s Member of Parliament for Nunavut. She was visiting Toronto as part of a town hall on “Northern Sovereignty” hosted by my local MP Carolyn Bennett. But it wasn’t just sovereignty that was discussed – we spoke of everything. As I had never really debated anything with someone from our Northern Territories before, this was a huge eye opener for me – it was non stop learning in hearing her perspective on current events and on the realities of life in our largest riding (inclusive of one fifth of our nations landmass!). Of all the issues, however, I was most captivated by talks on geography, and hearing her explain just how rapidly their climate and natural surroundings have changed in the past 20 years and are continuing to change; of how their culture is so immersed with their physical landscape, how there lifestyle is tied to the seasons, and how their very way of life is being redefined by our melting Arctic. Among other things, I immediately thought back to some of the places I’ve been and began to realize that this is by no means an “away” phenomenon; that it is no longer a “future” event that might one day come to pass; that it is happening here and now in our very home, and for those who still aren’t believers – it is time.

It’s as if we are caught between two worlds here in Canada. On the one hand - with 90% of our population within a short drive of the US border, many of us will probably not be terribly inconvenienced by global warming in the short term. Heck – I don’t like the cold and definitely wasn’t suffering from our record warm January ’07. Farmers won’t complain about the longer growing season, and politicians and corporations are already salivating at the prospects of the opening up of the Northwest Passage. But while this is occurring many places are already having their fears realized and some heavily populated parts of the planet could well be in crises within our lifetimes. This bubble we are living in is shrinking fast, and once the novelty of these things wear off, the dots to connect will become clear. The weather will be more sporadic, the storms more intense, and our true north will melt away; additionally, humanitarian crises engulfing so much of the rest of the world may lead to a boom in immigration and asylum seeking to spacious countries (like ours) as has never occured before. To paraphrase some recent statements by Al Gore, Stephane Dion and Tony Blair: We no longer lack scientific clarity on the reality of global warming, and there are no shortages of practical steps we as humans can now take. We know exactly the types of things that we can do to help prevent the Armageddon scenarios that have been prophesied – but we are lacking political will, and for this tide to turn in a democracy, it must be demanded by the people. On this issue, we are no longer living in a time where our grandchildren will be able to makeup for our mistakes. We are living in a time of consequence.

Aerial photograph of two Maldivian islands, taken by Ron Gluckman

Looking back on the Ice Fields from Uhuru Peak, Mt Kilimanjaro, taken by me

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Blue Jays are back!

The sold out crowd tonight for the Blue Jays' home opener against the Indians takes me back to the 90's when the Skydome Rogers Centre was packed game in, game out and falling attendance records were annual events.  After what seems like an eternity of mediocrity ever since, to say that fan excitement for our beloved franchise is back would be the understatement of the year.  Win or lose, and yes there is still a full season ahead of us - the millions of us fans across Canada are thankful to GM Anthopolous and the entire front office for putting together a team that we can get excited about!