About Society

My Political, Economic and Religious Self-Education

“The general population doesn’t know what’s happening. And it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.” -Noam Chomsky


Unknown Unknowns

My politicization began roughly a decade ago and has steadily developed since then. When I moved from rural Alberta to Edmonton, I knew little to nothing about the world and how it operated. I didn’t have a political affiliation and was clueless about the fundamental differences between the Conservative and Liberal parties, whether federal or provincial. To complicate the matter, Canadian politics consists of three levels of jurisdiction: Continue reading

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About Society

Rethinking ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’

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Growing up as children, we were all told to “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”

Collecting glass bottles, aluminum cans and plastic containers was easy to do and felt good. And since it was in line with this simple three-word chant, it seemed like we were doing the right thing. Unfortunately, this chant has not curbed the growing consumerism found in rich, Western countries.

One reason is that it equates a reduction in the consumption of products with recycling products. These are two very different actions. The easy-to-recognize ‘green triangles’ that are found at recycling facilities and on most products themselves further this inaccuracy. Continue reading

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About Society, Books

Selling Off the UK Government to the Lowest Bidder

Government outsourcing–contracting private companies to provide public services–can produce amazing results. The process links government revenue with business tools. When a government’s own in-house capacity is limited, contracting private companies can be an essential solution, whether it’s providing stationary or building bridges.

Outsourcing can also be a stressful exercise, as John Glenn, American astronaut and the fifth person to go into space, responded when asked how he felt sitting in a space capsule getting ready to launch and listening to the countdown: “I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of two million parts — all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract.” Continue reading

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About Society, Books

A Critique of Sport

“Sport is war minus the shooting,” wrote George Orwell.

For a long time, I have been thinking about sport and its role in society. It can be like simulated warfare, as Orwell notes, with teams commonly attacking each other, injuries abounding. It can also seem like a religious experience, with fans idolizing players and dogmatically watching every game available.

Foul Play: What's WRONG with Sport by Joe Humphreys Icon Books, 271 pp

Foul Play: What’s Wrong with Sport
by Joe Humphreys
Icon Books, 271 pp.

It seems to be a mixed bag of the best and worst in society. Sports are found nearly everywhere and played by nearly everyone at some point in their life.

These are some of the intersections that Joe Humphreys explores in his book Foul Play: What’s Wrong With Sport. Largely based on his football fandom, Humphreys describes in six chapters the virtue and vice of sport. I found the book to be a timeless expose of a world unable to face criticism. Recent news from the world of sport, like fighting between football fans at Euro 2016 or doping at the Rio Olympics, point to the continued challenges found in competitions around the world. I will explore some of the book’s topics below. Continue reading

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About Society, Books

The Business of Good Intentions

While working in Ghana back in 2012, I witnessed a distribution of Toms Shoes (here’s my blog post about it), also known as a “shoe drop”. Back then, I assumed their intentions were good and that they might be making a positive difference. I think now is a good time to reflect on this view.

Clothing+Poverty-+The+Hidden+World+of+Fast+Fashion+and+Second-hand+ClothesI found Andrew Brooks’ book Clothing Poverty and the podcast Tiny Spark useful in this process and have used their research below. I highly recommend both of them!

Clothing Poverty shows how recycled clothes are traded across continents, the companies behind clothing donations, and the myths of ethical fashion, such as Toms shoes.

Hosted by Amy Costello, Tiny Spark investigates the business of doing good. Beyond their episode on Toms shoes (which I’ve embedded below), Tiny Spark investigates the world of philanthropy, international aid and development.

After gaining a better understanding of global development and the complexity of tackling global poverty, I am far more critical of Toms Shoes and similar companies espousing ethical consumption. I will focus mostly on their shoe distributions as this is what Toms is most known for and an aspect I witnessed first hand. Continue reading

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