Field Guide For Change Agents

Now, this is what I am talking about – actions that lead by example.  I just recently saw a Tweet by Rodd Lucier (@thecleversheep) that was remarkable.  He has just taken part in an educator’s conference in Pennsylvania this past weekend.  Together, participants created and posted a field guide online using Slideshare (which means that they created a PowerPoint presentation and simply posted it, licencing it as an Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike 3.0 document under The Creative Commons).

It is a great example of how the online world can help us to act rather than meet or plan; collaborate rather than work individually when “the collaborative” has results much greater and more powerful than the individual; and share what we know and produce freely in the world for others to use, adapt or build upon.  WOW!

In my view, there are some really important principles illustrated in this short slide show that we can implement in our day-to-day actions for when we are attempting to work with others.  Great job Rodd et al!  Thanks for sharing.


Grosbeaks at my feeder

Evening grosbeak

Evening grosbeakEvening grosbeak

Two of the most common birds at our winter feeder are evening grosbeaks and pine grosbeaks.  The males are particularly striking in colour.  Evening grosbeaks males are yellow, black and white.  Pine grosbeaks are red, grey and white.  My interpretation of their behaviour is that the evening grosbeaks are the brash ones, whereas the pine grosbeaks are the stately ones – gentle and firm.  When they move in, every other bird moves away.  No pushing, no shoving – they just land.

Pine grosbeak Riding Mountain National Park

Male pine grosbeak

I enjoy watching both bird species at the feeder. A cup of coffee in one hand, my binoculars at the ready, and my camera with its smooth focusing 100 – 400 image stabilizing lens in the other.  Each day has its unique moments.

A Manitoba perspective on governance and the state of our nation

Interesting Times
We are living in interesting times… I am watching two governments (one national, one provincial) mirroring each other in their current tactics to reduce the public service, reduce departmental budgets, and and ultimately reduce services to Canadians or Albertans, depending on which government we are talking about…

Here are some things that I am noticing:

1. Our Canadian parliament was prorogued when there was no requirement to do so, other than the Prime Minister was not willing to take the heat of the day. A waste of $48 million is estimated for having to pay parliamentarians for not being in the House for the 22 days that Parliament is prorogued.  In my view, this is irresponsible, as elected representatives accountable to the people of Canada.  Proroguing was to be used for very special circumstances.  It has now been used twice by Prime Minister Harper, both times when the heat became unbearable.

2. Stockwell Day as the new head of the Treasury Board is going to launch a spending review, promising years of spending scrutiny to find cuts to slay the deficit, reduce government budgets, government services and government expenditures.  Unfair and un-necessary.  The current government cut GST twice – with no requirement to do so – we have now encountered a major deficit as a country, which Mr. Day is going to try to recover by reducing government spending, public servants, and public services. GST should never have been cut – as a value-added tax, GST is paid by those who spend, not those who do not spend (in other words, it taxes discretionary spending.)  We could have fared much better in this economic downturn had we not trimmed GST.  When the budget comes up for a vote in March 2010, I dearly hope that it will not be passed.  This is not playing fair ball.  Yes, that means an election – but the present government has had its chance, actually several chances.  They fumbled, badly.  The irony right now is that the government has promised to balance the books without raising the taxes.  If they had not cut the GST in the first place, we would not be having to “shrink the public service”, chop grants for valuable social investments, or reduce support businesses or non-profits.

3. Instead of investing in the new and emerging hot green economy like Ontario has done and the US administration and several European countries (solar, wind, other  alternative energy technologies, and new manufacturing in green technologies), the current government chose to use “bailouts” instead of investments into growing a sustainable economy for the future.  Their support to “big oil” is both short-sighted and unsustainable.  Even Shell sees the larger global economic pattern and is pulling out of big investments and planned expansions in the Oil Sands and moving to other countries.  Read…Shell to slow expansion in Canadian tar sands.

Now, to Alberta
The provincial government is, by all reports, set to bring down a budget that will include significant cuts to Alberta’s public service. Just like in the 90’s when Ralph Klein made hurtful cuts that Alberta is still reeling from, Ed Stelmach is set to do exactly the same.

Calgary news release: Albertans join together for public services

Last Updated: January 15, 2010 Print Comments (0)New campaign challenges government not to cut fabric of our communities…

It’s interesting to note citizen responses to these parallel national and Alberta initiatives:

The Conservative government has tumbled in the polls this January 2010, as Canadians begin to understand the deep irony in what is taking place, and as the present government carefully tries to filter out what it does not want us to know.  Fortunately, with social and alternative media, we are learning about what is taking place through other means that are both credible and helpful.

In Alberta, an amazing movement is taking place…While the Alberta government swears in a new cabinet, representatives from community human service organizations, teachers, parent groups, health professionals, students, faculty and labour organizations launched a new campaign in Calgary and Edmonton to get Albertans to join together for public services…..To help mobilize citizens and bring together people from various sectors, we are organizing 22 town hall events across the province.

The town hall meetings will start January 25 and will go to a number of cities and towns before the final two large events in Calgary (February 16th) and Edmonton (February 17th). “We are building an extensive movement to challenge the plan to cut $2 billion out of the provincial budget,” says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “People need to deliver a very loud message to the government – deep cuts to public services are going to hurt people and our communities, and they are completely unnecessary given the continued growth of our economy and our billions in savings.”

This is not honorable
When a government makes bad decisions, invests in short-term tactics primarily for political gain, and does not respect some of the basic principles of sustainable economics, and then turns around and attacks the public service, reduces government services and budgets, expecting Canadians to support them, the people have to speak out.

This type of approach is not appropriate, not warranted, and definitely not honorable.  We, the people, will be the ones affected by reduced government budgets and services.  It is important to remember that public servants serve the people, but work for the government.  They are not in a position to object – their masters are the governing party.  It’s time to say… “enough is enough”.  We need both a more caring and economically savvy government.

For the record, this is a Manitoba perspective on the state of our nation!!

The bird feeder – daily insights

I’d like to take you inside a daily practice that I have.  I live on the south side of Riding Mountain National Park.  We have several bird feeders hung from aspen trees in our south-facing yard.  I grab a coffee early in the morning….

8:15 the first black-capped chickadees arrive.  Each one has a separate little perch.  They grab a seed and pound it between their little feet with a tiny bill and take the powerful package of protein inside themselves, puffing out their feathers with success and return to gather another one.

Blue jay adult fees juvenile sunflower seed

Blue jay adult fees juvenile sunflower seed

8:40 the first blue jay arrives; then three more.  They are smart.  One gathers suet droppings under the suet feeder; another uses its bill like a shovel to sweep away snow and reveal particles of seeds; another one feeds a shelled seed to a juvenile.  Smashingly colourful, strikingly loud, they arrive with flair and depart quickly.  Insight: These colourful birds must be recorded.  Grab my camera with 100 – 400mm IS lens and take photo.  Backlighting creates a halo around the adult feeding the juvenile.  Stunning image!  Reminder:  I am doing this from my living room.  Post photo to my online photo gallery and share with the world. I live in beautiful part of this province, and yet am connected to the world via the Internet.  Isn’t that called, “having your cake and eating it too?”  Access to the Internet and its communication highway has levelled the playing field.  It’s not where you live; it’s how you live life daily.

8:45 a large flock of evening grosbeaks descends at the top of the aspen trees.  They descend through the trees kind of like leaves in the fall touched with frost and flutter off the tree in a light wind.  They gather around each hanging feeder, squawking, tussling and engorging on sunflower seeds.

8:47 a white-breasted nuthatch arrives. Now, here’s a striking bird.  It’s kind of like a guy in a tux arriving for breakfast.  He stands out.  He quickly darts in, grabs a seed and flies close by to consume it.  Insight: I like rebels; I like people who advocate; I like Manitoba as a place that celebrates diversity, where we can be different and by and large we are not ostracized for being different.  We may not be well understood by others, but we are not rejected.

This feeder observation daily practice is good for me.  It connects me to life outside myself.  It connects me to winter.  These birds have all kinds of neat adaptations for not just surviving winter, but for thriving in winter.