Monday, October 29, 2012

I'm a Witch, not a Wiccan - A brief summary of broad pagan designations

Current Modern Paganism - Venn diagram

I have commented before on the usefulness of designations in the neopagan community. Though we are generally self-directed with many being solitary and "eclectic", it is darn helpful to be able to declare certain predispositions, especially if one is interested in working with others. In joining an on-line group or planning a ritual, the use of categories can help determine if a great deal of negotiation, or only a little, is required to make your collaborations most satisfying.
One question often asked is the difference between designations in the neopagan community.  Of course, there are a vast variety of answers, and as a very dynamic and vibrant community, these answers may be quite altered in a decade.  However, there are some trends that seem to have settled out for the moment... 
Earth Religions or Earth-Centred Spirituality is currently the designation for all those traditions that are outside most of the major religions, i.e.Abrahamics, Buddhists, etc., but that also follow an Earth based path.  It usually encompasses folk traditions, like European peasant beliefs and practices, as well as native aboriginal spirituality.  However, not all followers of those traditions would choose to call themselves pagan, especially if they also practice some form of Abrahamic religion as well. So it's best to not to assume, which is why Paganism is a subset of Earth Religions.
Paganism, or Neopaganism, is the modern catch-all phrase for many organized and non-organized Earth based religions and spirituality. Often seen as based on European Aboriginal practices and beliefs, it can also be used to describe traditional African, Asian, and North American spirituality, though less so, largely due to its primarily English usage. By declaring oneself "pagan", it specifically implies a resurgence in traditional Earth Based beliefs, sometimes in defiance of Abrahamics, depending on the area, and a reconstruction of traditional wisdom, knowledge, and connection with Nature as a completion of self and humanity.  It can be Deity based, supernatural, or atheistic.
Witchcraft is a subset of Paganism.  Because of the etymology and use of the word itself, witchcraft usually means pre-Christian folk beliefs of Western and sometimes Eastern Europe.  As a modern practice, it has two main elements, either one of which may be included. It is both tribal and a religious choice. For most, it involves the preference of using magic as meditation, prayer, ritual and empowerment.  For a smaller group, they are born into families that are known for the "Gift", "Second Sight", or the "Eye", if you are less popular...  In the past in most places, children born into these families or who showed potential would often have been trained and dedicated to help their communities. A few of these families that survived the Abrahamic purgings retained the gifts and occasionally the training and traditions that went along with them, though most rejected them, usually out of real fear and concern for their safety if they weren't outright converted.  Like many reClaimed traditions, such as native spirituality, modern witchcraft is a combination of contemporary writings and current analysis of past traditions, as well as past and extant examples of country and folk rituals, and to a much smaller extent, of witch families and their practices.  Due to recent advances in cultural archeology, it is also undergoing the greatest updates and flux. Though most are not from family traditions, modern witches can follow the folk beliefs of the aboriginal Europeans, or practice magic, or both.  They can also refer to themselves as witches if they come from a witch family or have the traditional innate abilities, without practicing a folk religion or spellcraft.  Or any combination of the above, including practicing witchcraft in other traditions, like Abrahamics. (Jewitches.  Heh.) It's a pretty broad category, but my usual test is - anything that can get you burnt as a witch by fundies usually qualifies you to self-identify as a witch. Spellcraft, Goddess worship, foretelling, healing... But not that heretic stuff. That's totally different.
Due to its heavy reliance on magic and its European structure, Wicca is almost entirely a subset of Witchcraft, though there are a few practitioners who could be considered outside of it, such as high magicians. Wicca is a relatively new tradition, with its origins largely in the middle part of last century, with some of the structure extending back into the Victorian era.  Drawing on what was known at the time of folk history and tradition, it is a conglomeration of primarily European beliefs, but also reflects turn of the century Orientalism with elements of ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Asian references. Though slow to start, in the last few decades it has had hundreds of writers popularizing it, and has seen an explosion in individual sects.  Because of its very modern feel and adaptations while retaining an aura of Romanticism, Wicca is one of the largest and best known segments of Witchcraft and neopaganism, and one of the fastest growing religions in the world.

Wiccans are almost always witches, but witches aren't always Wiccan. Wiccan is not the 'politically correct' term for witch.  It's a sect of witchcraft, like Protestantism is for Christians.  They have certain specific beliefs and rituals that identify them as a group.  You wouldn't call all Christians Protestants, would you? Hence, the Venn diagram.  I hope that clears things up, especially for the well meaning but less knowledgeable. 
Heathenism is a collective category of paganism who follow the Old Religion and who will sometimes consider themselves Wiccan if they practice magic but usually don't identify as witches at all.  Primarily men, they can be of a more structured faith, like Druids, or more folk based, like Odinists. They often identify with warrior culture and value traditional knowledge, self-reliance, personal strength and honour.

This is a very brief sketch, of course, and some in the community will dispute these categories.  There are lots of others as well.  Wizards, or High Magic practitioners, for example, deal with the Other World and its denizens in a rigid, formalized manner, and so can be from nearly any religion, including Abrahamics.  From what our current literature refers to, these are the general starting points and what most persons will intend to convey when they use these terms.  Feel free to comment on the specifics or dispute below!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hallow'een makes me twitch, but I love Samhain!

"Witches Tea Party"
 Yes, those are our real working uniforms! An actual image of a traditional institutionalized healing coven. (The robes are red, the traditional Western colour of healing magic.) These are members of The Hospital of Holy and Undivided Trinity at Castle Rising, Norfolk, England, founded by Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton, in 1610. Though ostensibly Christianized, the foundation provides for a governess and 12 sisters. (So, you know, a coven of 13, even including an HPS!) Here four of the ladies are enjoying their afternoon tea. ca. 1929
Image © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/

Samhain has always been one of my favourite High Holidays. Hallow'een, not so much...

Samhain (usually pronounced Sow-wen) is a traditional pagan recognition and honouring of our ancestors: their wisdom and knowledge, as well as their genetic contribution. One of the Eight Solar holidays, it is one of the great Feasts and Sabbats.  It is the dying of the Old Year and the beginning of the New, where the Veil between the worlds grows thin, and for three nights, those from the Other World can more easily join us. During that sacred time, not only shamans but ordinary folks can communicate with the dead. The Silent Supper (1) is a ritual some use to show our guests, giests, ghosts (2) our hospitality. The fairies, goblins, and other spirits from the Other World arrive at our door on the Day of the Dead, and we hand them treats to pacify them and beg for good luck in the New Year, or at least bribe them so they leave us alone.. Though only children now play the roles of the spirits, sprites, the traditional adult version of Hogmany, hagmane, or Hag's Moon, still takes place during the modern New Year, where mummers dress up in costumes and harass passers-by for drinks to curry the favour of the spirits. (3)

Halloween, on the other hand, is the Christian corruption and secularization of these nearly timeless rituals. First, they were banned outright, of course, condemned as Satanic. Unfortunately, they were way too much fun, and had so much antiquity, that the country folk continued on almost unabated. Next was the reduction to mere festival. As most of the sacred aspects were removed, the Church threw their blessing behind it, even turning the third day into All Saints Day, and the most sacred Eve was transmogrified into quaint country custom.  With this maneuver, the sacred Death or ghosts or monsters could be now anything, like professions, though that took centuries to really stick. And it was only last century that saw the degeneration to "slutty cat" costumes.

Naturally, however, witches have always been associated with this season in particular.  Specifically targeted by the Christian power elite for many reasons, they are also known for their correspondence with the Other World. Many were known as shamans, but they also performed the vital function of preparation and pacification of the dead, a task the Christian professionals later took over.  Witches were a vital and venerated part of the ceremonies, so with the denigration of Samhain as a Day of the Dead and start of the New Year to a costume party, the demonization of witches was inevitable.  The myth of Satanic worship doesn't hold quite as much water these days, of course, so the caricatures and stereotyping of witches has descended to the level of cartoons, but there is still that element of horror and fear associated with us, and the images are still used to frighten children and disgust adults.

I once saw a poster around the time of Samhain entitled "Questions to Ask a Witch' in an elementary school I was visiting for a spinning function. I thought "Great! Very enlightened and multi-cultural of them.' Until I saw the questions, like "Why are you evil?"  I'm surprised they didn't have the baby eating bit, too.

I called the school and was told by the principal that it was a project by only one teacher and her class. I gave the usual arguments; that some of the children there might be witches or come to it later and think it's something to hide - the standard issues for many minority groups. The poster was down the next day. The principal called me back to follow it up and told me that my complaint had made the teacher cry. Not my fault, of course, but it did point out that she knew that she had just not thought that through...  Hallow'een is chock full of such negative images.  It takes great patience to decide which ones are worth the effort to fight, and which ones to simply avoid...

My only necessary ritual for Samhain is getting dressed up in my full witch gear and give out candies to the goblins and fairies to sweeten the New Year. It's also the only time I can wear my outfits without getting, say, stoned, in my little Bible Belt area.

I sometimes get out some pictures of my ancestors, put them on the kitchen table, and treat them like giests. That is, both ghosts and guests. I set places for them, or offer them refreshment, and have a chat with them. Tell them how my life is going, ask for advice, burn a few candles, like you would for a ritual or a nice dinner, maybe spill some alcohol to drink on the ground outside. Pumpkin or turnip carving was originally sacrifice and ritual. I place potatoes and other harvest foods outside and on the table and other display areas. I also have a sickle, scythe, and other harvest objects that are integral parts of any displays. I also cook, play music, as I am also a professional Celtic musician, and do an ancient craft, like needlework or rugmaking. If you can't get everything done on Hallow's Eve, you still have two more days to celebrate!  Like all pagan Holy Days, Samhain is a three day event, which start on the Eve and ends on Nov. 2.  So I leave my altar and decor up the entire time.

If you don't have your own permanent Talking or Spirit Board, but would like to try communicating with your ancestors or house giests on this Night of Nights, when the Veil is thinnest, this traditional Wine glass divination should suffice.

Spirit Board Ritual - from Campanelli "The Wheel of the Year"

"An inverted wineglass...surrounded by a circle of letters. An alphabet in Gothic style drawn on squares of white paper help to create an appropriate atmosphere...

The wineglass... has several built-in safety devices. It cannot easily be operated alone, so spiritual possession is less likely, and since two or more people are operating it, self delusion is not so easy. (Ed. I personally disagree with that.)"

They also suggest five candles, one an indigo blue, anointed with oil, with a rune for travel between the spiritual planes.

"After a moment of meditation each person present places a fingertip on the upturned base of the wineglass and the traditional "Is anyone here that wishes to give us a message?" is asked. Then as the glass slides from one letter to the next, rapidly spelling out messages, read the words. You may find it easier to use a taper recorder because it can get confusing."

Dress up and decorate as you wish, even if you don't recognize Samhain as a sacred day, but please keep some sensitivity in mind.  Hallow'een doesn't give anyone a free pass to racism, sexism, or depictions of other people's sacred objects in a secular manner.  If it's a costume party for you, then have fun!  I'll be in my medieval garb lighting incense, playing madrigals, and of course, handing out candy to the spirits disguised as children who come to my door...


1) The Haunted Boonslick: Ghosts, Ghouls and Monsters of Missouri's Heartland

 By Mary Barile pg.58

2) guest (n.) Old English gæst, giest

"Geist (German pronunciation: [ˈɡaɪst]) is a German word. Depending on context it can be translated as the English words mind, spirit, or ghost, covering the semantic field of these three English nouns. Some English translators resort to using "spirit/mind" or "spirit (mind)" to help convey the meaning of the term."

3) Traditional Hagmena mummer’s begging song

To-night it is the New-year's night, to-morrow is the day,

And we are come for our right, and for our ray,

As we used to do in old King Henry's day.

Sing, fellows, sing, Hagman-heigh.

If you go to the bacon-flick, cut me a good bit;

Cut, cut and low, beware of your maw;

Cut, cut and round, beware of your thumb,

That me and my merry men may have some,

Sing, fellows, sing, Hagman-heigh.

If you go to the black-ark, bring me X mark;

Ten mark, ten pound, throw it down upon the ground,

That me and my merry men may have some.

Sing, fellows, sing, Hagman-heigh.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Anti-Witch Bigotry: Still as popular & deadly as ever

My current favourite Witch hate image.

I can't believe I have to do this in 2012, but some of us apparently need to be reminded that Hallow'een doesn't come with a "Get out of Bigotry Free" card.  It's bizarre, I know, but there is a bastion of folks who still believe that a licence to dress up also implies that they have carte blanche to commit acts that at any other time of year would get them fired, or sued, or worse. 

A survey of social media shows the same tired old arguments are being trotted out as justifications for intolerance.  "All in good fun", "get a sense of humour", "no one really gets hurt"...  The causal racism and sheer jackassery seems to be getting worse, not better. I won't even begin to go into the sexist and LBGT stereotyping, which is also glaring, obvious, and just as hate-promoting. Instead, I will focus on the racism, narrowing in on a deconstruction of anti-witch bigotry specifically.

Activist groups have made the argument for decades that constant and consistent negative stereotypes of certain groups deeply affect those who are part of that culture, as well the society they live in. These assumptions have been backed up by thousands of studies, and with persistence, their efforts have largely made such depictions distasteful at the very least, and illegal where possible. It has been a great boon to progressive thinking to have serious consequences to those who insist on reducing others to stereotype images and demeaning their lifestyles, cultures, or persons, thus trampling on their human rights.

Anti-racism Hallow'een campaign poster

I remember once when I was little that my very white, very racist, mother and her escort dressed up in blackface for a Hallow'een party.  It made a big impression on me.  I naturally had met people who were differently coloured than I was, but the weird, thick, dark make-up that my mother covered her face and hands with looked nothing like the skin it was supposed to represent.  Nor did the dark, curly wig seem at all like hair.  It took me years to figure out what her costume actually was, and exactly how it was so negative, though I was uncomfortable about it at the time, even in my innocent confusion...

Today, of course, it's generally no longer considered tasteful to go in blackface.  And it's starting to sink in that representations of traditional native garb, like headresses and face paint, are unacceptable public attire for those who have no cultural claim to it.  Though there are still hold-outs on that one...  In Canada, negative stereotyping of an identifiable people, such as black Sambos and Uncle Toms, "How" Indian chiefs and "Jewish conspiracy" literature are considered offenses under the hate crimes and human rights laws. The continuation of these negative concepts has put lives and lifestyles at risk from the ignorant and it is for that reason that this society has felt such laws are necessary in a just culture.  Though Harper and the neocon agenda have been doing their best to dismantle all the progress we've made..

Hampshire's Community Advocacy Assoc. anti-racism awareness poster

Just to put it in perspective...

The latest trend for negative stereotype costume ideas currently is Muslim terrorists, a vicious offshoot of the anti-Arab Islamaphobia being voraciously fed by the neocon propaganda machine.  Yah!  What a progression in tolerance.  And what fun!  

With all the anti-Arab lynchings that have happened in the Western world recently, plus the clearly discriminatory laws being passed, especially in the States, it is childishly easy to counter the argument that "no one gets hurt' by these depictions.  A quick Google search yields a plethora of recent material on the very real consequences of what Islamaphobia and anti-Arab racism are doing to communities.  It is clear that perpetuation of these stereotypes are getting people killed, destroying livelihoods and families and generally making life much harder, often for those who can least afford it, such as new immigrants. 

Establishing this, most reasonable people agree that these depictions of stereotypes are not in fact amusing or in good fun in any way, and are actually harmful and should be highly discouraged.  And yet, it's still open season on witches, for many reasons.  Don't think that counts?  Think again...  Let's start with the charming cartoon above.

This caricature perpetuates a similar Hate that says that all Muslims are terrorists, for example, only actually slightly more disgusting and vile. I know some might think it funny, but it's totally not. Baby eating jokes are never funny, and depicting it as a characteristic of an entire group puts us on the level of irredeemable Evil.  And what can you do with irredeemable Evil other than destroy it?

Where does that particular horrible idea in this illustration come from?  Good question. Blood Libel, baby killing or eating, is traditionally attributed to peoples that have been targeted for removable with extreme prejudice. Ancient Romans are said to have used it against Christians at various times, though current evidence indicates that may be Christian propaganda to justify their own martyrdom and later accusations of blood libel against other groups. Huns had this attached to them, which is why the name still invokes shudders after centuries. Jews have been the most common recipient of the Blood Libel tag in current millennium. And occasionally Gypsies. (The latest Jewish blood libel incarnation, with the same themes, is disturbingly alive and well in the Illuminate conspiracy myth cycle.) Used for generations to murder individuals from cultures accused of it, witches are only the most recent addition to this fable used to justify hatred. But if it’s only a caricature, and no one believes they look like that, then no one ever suffered or died from that myth. Right? And we're completely evolved now anyway and aren't at all susceptible to negative representations about a group of people, right? Right...

Using cartoonish depictions of this narrative to incite hatred and fear against a group of people is also not new. Wood cuts depicting the tale of Norwich and the Blood Libel in England for example were enormously popular, and reached what would be urban legend status nowadays. The story goes, in Norwich in the Twelfth century, a “boy named William was found dead in the woods outside of town, and a monk, Thomas of Monmouth, accused local Jews of torturing him and murdering him in mockery of the crucifixion of Jesus.” Though the case was obviously never proven, the boy was actually made the *first” martyred blood libel saint (there are more?!), legitimizing this horrific mythology in the eyes of the common people. After all, how could the child be a saint and do those miracles if he *wasn’t* sacrificed by demonic Jews?  Depictions of gleeful Hebrews bathing in the blood of children, and St. William in particular, are not difficult to find in the historic record, since so many were made.

Image to the right is a depiction of the story of Norwich and the Blood Libel

So to prove the hate and harm in the side-splitting witch comic above, let's try a quick mental experiment. Using the similar blood libel accusation for Jews, and our imaginations (since my photoshop is terrible), let's use the wood cut to the left as our model. Using the same large nosed rich men, obviously supposed to be a caricature of Jews, we throw in one of their sacred objects like a menorah for extra clarification, and then use the exact same caption. ("I only use local children".. Heh.)  Funny, right? Everyone used to know the "Jew and baby killing" stereotype, so if everyone is familiar with it, then it's not hateful, it's hilarity! It's because you can use such labels as punchlines - black guys are gangstas or Asians are good at math. Or blond women are stupid. Or gays are pedophiles. Or Jews and witches eat children. I mean, we all know it's not true, and no one really looks like that, but for some reason black men are getting shot in the streets for wearing hoodies, gays are beaten on their way home, and witches are still losing their homes, families, and livelihoods in North America. And their limbs and lives elsewhere.

In the top cartoon, the pointed black hats represent our Elders and express respect and power as the leaders of our community.  Rather like a Bishop's mitre. And it is these women who are depicted as the baby eaters! Not just anyone, but the community leaders. Rather like drawing the Pope and his cardinals carving up a choirboy. Funny, right? Surely no disparaging statement can be meant to the Catholic community in general... I mean, it's only their leaders.

It is in part due to the accusation of Blood libel that led to the Holocaust. There were many other factors of course, but with such beliefs rampant in the popular culture, some persons thought that "those people" only got what was coming to them. I mean, what else are you going to do with baby eaters? Which is why the Gypsies were also included in the Final Solution...

 *All* of these blood libel images could qualify as Hate literature according to the Criminal Code of Canada. "Hate propaganda" means "any writing, sign or visible representation that advocates or promotes genocide. The Code defines genocide as the destruction of an "identifiable group." The Code defines an "identifiable group" as "any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation." A group that eats babies certainly qualifies as one that should be exterminated, and these witches are not shown as crazy offshoots, but expected to be typical of their group. Otherwise, it's not funny!

Dress as whatever profession or imaginary creature or natural feature you like. But if you are choosing a costume that is characterizing a "culture" or "race", you are contributing to racism.

Admittedly, representations of witches aren't usually that bad. Often it's just old hags with hooked noses, warts, green skin, and buckle shoes riding brooms with their bloomers showing. But those very same images are also used as monsters to frighten children, and all that underlying hate and fear is understood, or they wouldn't be staples in Haunted Houses. They are trivializing images perpetuated by the dominant culture justifying violent historical and modern oppression, and they are not in any sense okay.

I've lost jobs because of this kind of myth. One neighbour suggested my house should be burned down. A friend only recently abandoned me entirely because her pastor confirmed her opinion that demons were haunting her because she hung out with me. Witches are losing custody of their children because judges really believe things like this about us. It is pure Hate literature, and it actually endangers my family. After hundreds of years of murder and torture of witches, women and children are still being killed all over the world for similar suspicions. But you don't have to take my word for it, or my personal life experience as a witch that it's still happening.  Here are just a few recent reports from around the world.

Witchcraft murder: Couple jailed for Kristy Bamu killing

More on that case, plus others:
Increasingly prevalent, albeit marginalized, unreported and thus “hidden” social phenomenon of torture and murder of children believed to be witches 
Imagine what Hallow'een is like for my family. All those positive images? Seriously. We must not be able to take a joke or something. Rather like the natives in my area having to put up with at all those Indian Chiefs coming to their door...

Witches are not fictional creatures.  We are not werewolves or Frankenstein monsters. We do not have green skin, and only some of us have warts. We are young, old, women, men, straight, gay, and of all shapes and sizes. Witches have always been, and still are, real people. We are recognized as legitimate churches with our own holidays by federal governments, and these negative images can be, and often are, a threat to our quality of life and sometimes our safety.

It's our sacred holiday of Samhain and, unless one actually is a witch, dressing up as stereotypical witches is bigotry.  Same with depictions of our sacred objects like brooms, cauldrons, wands, or other accoutrements. Even cartoonishly. When we do it, well, then it really *is* just all in good fun.  I mean, let's face it.  Sometimes, you just have to shake your head and laugh at all this...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Repudiation of Treehugger's Fort Mac article: What's really going on up there?

Fort Mac, aerial view
I've known Treehugger has been going downhill for awhile.  Like most on-line venues, as it has become successful, its voracious appetite for content has relaxed its criteria for journalism to near vaporous levels and has embraced a more mainstream outlook.  Shopping green and personal choices has become more of a focus than global change or activism.  Only to be expected, really, though I still looked forward to perusing its pages, since I assumed there was some degree of quality control.
That has all changed this week.  Hidden in the Design and "Green Architecture" section was an article about which I have some degree of knowledge, and this didn't agree with any of it.  In a curious piece on the construction of the Fort Mac airport lay a entire plethora of completely mistaken or misleading embeds on the Albertan and Canadian economy, labour, governance, and environmental standards.  It is rather subversive in its bizarrely unprovable statements presented as fact, which seemed to be designed to present a completely fictitious picture of Western Canada.  Why?  Well, the image they paint is far more in line with the Harper propaganda machine that it is with the reality on the ground, down to using identical language, in fact.  Think this appalling greenwash is a coincidence?  Think again.  The key words for the search on this 'article' are Alberta | Green Building | Tar Sands.  On an article about designing an airport with wood?  They apparently remembered to use the term 'tarsands' for searches...

Article is here: Fort McMurray Airport Is The Largest Cross Laminated Timber Building In North America
My comment was still there as of this writing, but no one has cared to refute it yet.  Though some voted it down...  If anyone can find anything inaccurate in what I wrote, please let me know!  I, at least, prefer to present the truth, rather than live in ignorance...

(Don't just take my word for it.  Here's a Rolling Stone article from someone who went deep into the tar sands culture in Fort Mac.)
I'll reprint most of my comments I left on Treehugger here.  I'll leave out some of the sarcasm.  You're welcome.
There are no such thing as oil sands. It's a greenwash, or at least a neocon framing, and is of very recent origin. Before mining, the correct terms are bituminous sands or bituminous earth (some of it isn't sand), though using those can be tiresome, so tarsands is acceptable, though slightly less accurate. (As to what's in those pipelines, it's here.) Oilsands as a term isn't even close. NPO's who use "oilsands" are in the clear. Those that don't have their funding removed and are labeled eco-terrorists. Just by putting that in your opening, you prove the article's bias and lack of accuracy.
The Mountain Pine Beetle is indeed working it's way through the trees, but it isn't the forests. Because it grows so quickly, the areas that are clear cut and then replanted by the timber companies companies choose the Lodgepole Pine almost exclusively, to the tune of 95%. It is the Lodgepole Pine that is particularly vulnerable to the Beetle, so the forests themselves aren't being nearly as hard hit as these tree farms.  It is these 'replanted' areas are the most devastated, not living healthy forests. It's much harder for the bugs to jump trees from different species, doncha know... Explain to me why they *still* keep planting Lodgepole Pine and devastating our remaining areas? Maybe they want the dead beetle wood for this "stronger than steel" product...
I guarantee you that workers do not fly home to the Maritimes after their "shifts". Unless you mean after months on the job.  Then it's more of a much needed vacation. It costs more to fly to Newfoundland from Edmonton than it does to fly to Europe, even though airplanes that travel to Europe stop at the Gander, NF airport to refuel - a point that makes my Newfie husband's blood boil, actually. The standard joke is that Fort Mac is the third largest city in Newfoundland, but the image of rig pigs leading the high life and jet setting over to the Rock for the weekend is more than laughable. The real need for that airport was for the executives, consultants, and other 1%ers who fly in to make their monthly contribution and inspection, and then fly out again as fast as they can. People are dying of horrible cancers up there. Wouldn't want to stay too long.. Oh, and they ship up foreign indentured workers, too, so they really had to lobby for the behemoth of an airport. Otherwise, they'd all have to drive up the Highway of Death to get there..
Fort Mac isn't really a town, either. It's a city of over 60,000 people, without counting the camps. And no one does. In fact, the facilities in the city specifically do not take into account the hundreds of work camps surrounding the area, which are then built with the bare minimums in mind. Estimates, and that's really all there are, suggest up to 30,000 men and women are working in these compounds in the woods. When they come into town on the weekends, exhausted and bored, there is utter chaos. And don't get me started on the tales of one of the greatest drug trades in Western Canada, and its subsequent addiction problems.  I mean, what else are you going to do in a cramped hole in the bush?
One of the best belly laughs is this phrase. "Ninety-three percent of the timberland in BC and Alberta is Crown land, and almost all of it is certified sustainably managed. " I would love to know how this is even credible, given that forestry management is almost entirely the purveyance of the companies now that Harper has slashed the government positions to mere fantasy. It was bad before, but now many of those departments have literally ceased to exist. Some have suggested it is a deliberate Harper ploy to facilitate Chinese ownership of Canadian forests. Yes, it's Crown land, but all that means is that the government has the right to lease out the land for a few dollars on the acre and let a company have it's way with it. The companies almost own the land, but don't have to pay any real taxes or many royalties, and they can order people off it or have them arrested, even if they are activists or native and claim the land in historical documents. Especially then. That wasn't the way Crown land was originally designed, of course. It was supposed to be held in trust by the government for the people, with no one owning it, everyone welcome, and managed for future generations. There is still a homestead law in effect that allows an individual to claim a certain amount of Crown land if they meet certain criteria. Clearly, it's not supposed to be given wholesale to transnationals for their own use, for a mere pittance...
There is also no mention of exactly what toxic material this magical glue is made of. One can only assume that something that can create "strong panels of almost any size, and is fire resistant as it is designed to char, which acts as a fireproofing. It can replace concrete and steel in apartment buildings, offices and now, airports" is certainly a petrochemical miracle, and not of the traditional starch or hoof variety...
I used to refer many articles from Treehugger to my audience, but this is one of the most eye-popping, glaring propaganda masquerading as journalism I have ever seen. If your contributor got paid for this, assuming he isn't just a agent of the Harper Resource management office, I'd ask for my money back.

For further reading on what's really going on, instead of the greenwashing propaganda:

"But in addition to simply destroying natural habitat, oil companies may now be involved in directly killing off wildlife in the area, according to a new report."
A treaty signed in 1899 enshrined First Nations' right to practice traditional life, and is now being used for a legal challenge to Shell Oil’s mining of tar sands.