Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Solar Energy: A Global Overview of the Rise of Rooftop Energy Storage

The demand for renewable energy sources is increasing every year due to climate change.  The  Rooftop solar energy storage is available, affordable and on the rise.  The following infographic will provide charts and statistics tracing its growth around the world.  It highlights the trends in solar energy and how attitudes, how global attitudes are changing and which countries are leading the way.  I hope you find it informative and useful.  

- Joanne

The Rise of Rooftop Energy Storage by Roof Stores.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Reflections on Earth Day 2018

If I had to name the most serious threat to the survival of humanity, my answer would be climate change.  In second place, would be nuclear devastation.  Some people shrug and say they are sick and tired of hearing the preaching of "tree huggers."

Here is my reply:

There is no choice.  It is time to sound the alarms and they should be blaring!  We need to shout our message from the mountain tops!  Like ancient Rome, the Earth is burning and like Emperor Nero, too many our leaders are fiddling.  How can environmentalists let up when there is such a crisis?  Scientist the world over, especially Canada's Dr. David Suzuki, have been warning us of the dangers.  They are united in the same cause as religious leaders such as Pope Francis, who has pointed out clearly that climate change is a moral issue. (Who says that science and religion can't find common ground?).

At the moment, one of the most powerful leaders in the world refuses to to do anything about the environmental crisis.  The current American president and his Republican cohorts are more beholden to oil companies than to human beings.  They are  more interested in protecting the wealth of the fossil fuel industry than in protecting the health and welfare of ordinary Americans.  President Trump has pulled the United States out of the Paris climate change agreement and has encouraged the revival of dirty coal mines, despite the fact that these mines cause sickness, disease and pollution.  Of course, people need jobs.  They have to put food on the table.  However, there are alternatives to reviving a dead fossil fuel industry.  Why should American workers regress to a time when their livelihood threatened their health?

Anti-environmentalists would have youo believe that we have to make a choice between jobs and the environment.  However, it doesn't have to be an either/or proposition.  There are alternatives.  It is possible to create jobs while protecting the environment.  Employees can be retrained or work at "green jobs."  Not only than, but do we really want people to work in mines and destroy their health.

Thank goodness that Jerry Brown, the current Governor of California, recognizes the dangers of climate change and pollution and wants to do something about it.  He has leverage, too, because California boasts the world's sixth largest economy, Governor Brown wants to work with the Canadian province of Ontario, where I live.  Unfortunately, there is a clear and present problem on the horizon.  The people of Ontario are scheduled to go to the polls on June 7, 2018 and Doug Ford, leader of the Progressive (italics mine) Conservative Party of Ontario,  is poised to  become the next premier of the province.  Ford is a right-wing populist.  Like Trump, he is a climate change denier and he plans to repeal Ontario's cap-and-trade system, which imposes a limit (cap) on industrial emissions and permits companies to buy (trade) credits that allow them to exceed that limit.  By the way, this is not a tax because the price is not paid directly buy taxpayers.  If Ford's party wins the election, as expected, it will be a terrible blow to environmentalism in Canada's most populous province.

Unfortunately, right-wing populists have been making strides.  There could not be a worse time in history for the rise of right-wing climate change deniers.  We sol-called "tree huggers" must counter them before it is too late.

The Earth is what we all have in common.

Wendell Berry (1934- ), American poet and novelist.
From The Unsettling of America [1977]

Whatever our age, our gender, our race or ethnic background, our social and economic status, we all inhabit the same planet.  We all have a stake in the protection of the Earth.  As a farmer and environmental activist, Wndell Berry makes the case that we all have an interest in the future of our common home.

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

- Native American proverb

There was classic public service announcement (PSA) from years ago.  It showed an Indigenous man with a tear in his eye after seeing the environmental devastation caused by litter.  That PSA was poignant and extremely effective.  It should be shown again to an new generation.  If only non-natives respected the earth like the aboriginal people, we would would have clean air and clean water.  We would be healthier and happier.

Here are two things you can for the environment on Earth Day and every day.

* Don't use plastic water bottles.

*  Don't forget the three Rs - Recycle, Reuse and Reduce

Note to Smokers                                                 

Please don't throw your cigarette butts on the ground.  Cigarette butts remain on the ground for for years, leaking toxic chemicals into the environment. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, cigarettes contain almost 4,000 chemicals,  About 50 of them are carcinogenic.  Here is a list of some of those chemicals: arsenic, acetone, ammonia, lead, formaldehyde etc.  Carelessly discarded cigarette butts contaminate our water supply.  They harm humans and animal life.

- Joanne

Friday, April 20, 2018

An Open Letter to John Tory, Mayor of Toronto


This is the first in a series of open letters to Mayor John Tory regarding the serious issues facing the city of Toronto. until this fall's municipal election.

Dear Sir,

You are widely expected to win re-election as Toronto's mayor in the municipal election scheduled for Monday, October 22, 2018.  At the moment, there are few obstacles on your path to re-election.  Doug Ford has left the race and is now the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, although I don't know what's "progressive" about the party under his leadership.

Registration of candidates for the office of mayor will officially open on Tuesday, May 1, 2018.  Unless a popular candidate with strong credentials decides to enter the race, you might as well be acclaimed for a second term.  This would not be a good situation for the city of Toronto and it would not be a good situation for you, Mr. Mayor.  For the sake of democracy, you need to be opposed by a capable opponent.  You need to really defend your record in order to be worthy of a second term.  This election should not be a cakewalk for you.

There are many issues in this city that ought to be addressed.  I fear that if you do not have a strong challenger, these issues will not come to the forefront.  If Torontonians are resigned to your re-election, they will be apathetic and voter turnout will be extremely low.  The fact is that turnout for municipal elections is already traditionally low and will be even lower if voters are not engaged in a competitive campaign.  "Tory is going to win anyway, so why should I bother voting." they will say. What a shame that would be!  As you well know, Mr Mayor, municipal issues are closest to home and they affect people the most in their everyday lives.

This 2018 election will decide Toronto's future for the next four years.  It will be sad if people regard it as such a snoozefest that they don't even consider the problems facing our city.  Mr. Tory, I realize that you have no control over who decides to become a candidate for the office of Mayor of the City of Toronto.  However, no matter who runs against you in the coming election, there are many pressing issues that will not magically disappear and must be dealt with carefully.

I have lived in Toronto my entire life and I am concerned about my city.  Here are the the three issues I consider of paramount importance.  There are countless other issues, but these need to be highlighted.because they require the most attention.

* Homelessness, poverty and addiction:  In my view, this is by far the most pressing problem facing Toronto.  On April 12, 2018, the Toronto Star published a piece about a report by the city's medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen De Villa.  Dr. De Villa stated that "Homelessness remains a significant issue in Toronto, affecting some of the city's most vulnerable residents."  She exhorted local hospital to join efforts to track homeless deaths.  De Villa's report revealed a shocking statistic: 100 homeless people died across the city in 2017.  How accurate is that number?  Well, it is based on the city's first year of collecting death data on the homeless.  Dr. De Villa said that although Toronto's continued effort to collect homeless data is among the most comprehensive in the country, hospital participation is needed for more accuracy.  Still, the number is reasonably accurate and it is alarming.

Beggars and homeless people are scattered all over this city.  They are ubiquitous.  They can be seen both downtown and in the suburbs.  They are ensconced on sidewalks and on the steps of subway stations. They are outdoors in the bitter cold, in the searing heat and in all kinds of inclement weather.  They can be found in food courts and in front of shops and theatres.  They remind us that all is not well in Toronto and that there is a lack of affordable housing and services for the mentally ill and the addicted.

The degree of homelessness and poverty in Toronto is unconscionable and unacceptable.  It is truly a disgrace for the largest city in a resource-rich country such as Canada to have so many people without shelter.

* The environment, health and cleanliness:  In 1987, English actor and writer Peter Ustinov described Toronto as "New York run by the Swiss."  By that, he meant that Toronto was a clean and efficient big city.  I regret to say that Ustinov description no longer applies.  This town could be so much cleaner.  I see food containers and toxic cigarette butts everywhere.  There is much too  much litter on our streets and inside and outside our subway stations.  You can bet tourists notice. Visitors are always impressed by a clean city.

* Transportation:  I believe in public transportation.  I travel by TTC almost every day.  Unfortunately, however, the system is deeply flawed.  It is not reliable and dependable.  There are far too many delays and service suspensions.  I realize that some delays are unavoidable, but TTC.  Commuters do not feel confident that they will arrive for their appointments on time.  In addition, almost every weekend, some portion of the subway is closed for repairs.  Why weren't improvements made years ago?  Why wasn't the York University subway built years ago?  Our leaders have been penny-wise and pound foolish.and it certainly takes along time to get anything done in this city.

The desperately needed downtown relief line is a case in point.  There is so much overcrowding at Bloor and Yonge and Bloor and St. George that someone may be crushed to death or seriously injured some day.  Do we need a tragedy to occur for some action to be taken?  The City of Toronto has proposed building such a line, in one form or another,since 1910 - that's 108 years ago!  The UrbanToronto.ca website displays a map that appeared in the Evening Telegram on November 25, 1911,  It outlines a streetcar subway along Queen Street and future connections along Pape Avenue.  There has been some progress recently.  For example, last month the TTC's board of directors awarded a contract for designing the tunnels of the Relief Line South.  Still, the project has been moving at a snail's pace.

Don't even get me started on the renovations to Union Station.  They keep taking longer and longer to complete and costs are escalating.

Then there is the debate over the controversial Scarborough subway extension.  Mr. Tory, I respectfully disagree with your stand on the Scarborough extension.  The proposed one-stop subway is not worth the expense to taxpayers.  Its cost may exceed a whopping $3.35 billion and I have little doubt that it will.  We don't know the updated cost yet, but as you confirmed to reporters, we may have the answer by September.  Does the anticipated ridership really warrant that kind of grandiose expenditure?  I think not.  The money can be put to better use for the residents of Scarborough.

Despite its problems, Toronto is a vibrant city with much to offer.  It is my home.  That's why I want it to be even better.

Yours sincerely,

Joanne Madden

Monday, April 9, 2018

Montreal Sculpture: The Illuminated Crowd


On March 27th of this year, I attended an exhibition game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the St. Louis Cardinals at Montreal's Olympic Stadium.  The next day, while strolling along McGill College Esplanade, I came across a sculpture that immediately intrigued me.  It is located in front of the 20-storey Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) Paribus Canada office complex.

The name of the sculpture is The Illuminated Crowd and I was not surprised to learn that it is one of the most photographed sculptures in Montreal.  This thought-provoking and controversial work was created by Raymond Mason in 1985.  Mason was a native of Birmingham, England who immigrated to France in 1946,  He lived in Paris until his death in 2010.  In 1980, The Louis Dreyfus Property Group approached him with the idea of designing a sculpture for the future plaza at 1981 avenue McGill College.  The artist was already working on The Illuminated Crowd and he chose a revised version of the theme for the Montreal setting.

From September to November 1985, prior to being shipped to Canada,, the sculpture was exhibited at the National Museum of Modern Art at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.  It depicts a crowd of 65 people of various ages and racial backgrounds.and it illustrates a rather dark side of humanity.  The crowd is gathered tightly together.  The figures in the first row look off into the distance.  Behind them, however, the mood worsens.  It gradually deteriorates as the people display a gamut of emotions including fear, hatred, lust, sadness and sheer terror.

The Illuminated Crowd is ochre in colour against the background of the blue BNP building.  It is a large sculpture - 8.6 metres long by 3.2 metres wide.  Its depiction of a mob of humanity is disturbing and provocative.  That is why it is such a fascinating work of art.

At the base of the sculpture, there is a plaque with the following words:

"A crowd has gathered, facing the light, an illumination brought about by fire, an event, an ideology - or an ideal.  The strong light casts shadows, and as the light moves toward the back and diminishes, the mood degenerates; rowdiness, disorder and violence occur, showing the fragile nature of man.  Illumination, hope, involvement, hilarity, irritation, fear, illness, violence,  murder and death - the flow of man's emotion through space."

- Joanne

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Photo of Laurel and Hardy dolls at Granite Brewery and Restaurant

Some family members and I recently had lunch at the Granite Brewery and Restaurant in Toronto (245 Eglinton Ave. East.)  It was a cold, drizzly March day and we enjoyed sitting near the restaurant's cozy fireplace.  We had to leave at a certain time and we appreciated the prompt service.

As we were leaving, something caught my eye.  I noticed a table with Laurel and Hardy dolls playing chess. I just had to take a photo and I would like to share it with you.    I hope you find it amusing, as I did.

- Joanne

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter: Marry Magdalene: Her image from the Bible and Renaissance art to Jesus Christ Superstar and The Da Vinci Code

Today is Easter Sunday and I would like to share some quotations with you.  This will be followed by a profile of Mary Magdalene.

Tomb, thou shall not hold Him longer;
Death is strong, but Life is stronger;
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right . . .

- Phillips Brooks
From An Easter Carol

Awake, thou wintry earth -
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!

- Thomas Blackburn
From An Easter Hymn

IN SEARCH OF MARY MAGDALENE: Was she a fallen woman who became a devoted follower of Christ?


In many ways, Mary Magdalene is elusive and mysterious.  She is not clearly identified in Scripture and very little is known about her life other than what appears in the New Testament and later Gospels which are not included in the Bible.  One source of confusion is the number of women called "Mary" in the Gospels ("Mary" is derived from the Hebrew name "Miryam" or "Miriam").

It is usually assumed that "Mary Magdalene" means "Mary from Magdala."  Although no specific location of Mary's birthplace is mentioned in the Bible, many Christian academics believe she came from a place the Talmud calls Magdala Nunayya ("Magdala of the fishes"), on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  She is thought to be of Jewish descent, and all four canonical Gospels present her as a follower of Jesus who travelled with him and his disciples.

According to the Gospels of Luke (8:1-3) and Mark (16:9), Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons."

Then followed a time in which he went on journeying from one city or village to another, preaching and spreading the good news of God's Kingdom.  With him were the twelve apostles and certain women, whom he had freed from evil spurts and from sicknesses, Mary, who is called Magdalen, who had seven devils cast our of her, and Joanna, the wife of Chusa, Harod's steward and Susanna, and many others, who ministered to him with the means they had.

Luke 8:1-3

But he had risen again, at dawn on the first day of the week, and showed himself first of all to Mary Magdalen, the woman out of whom he had cast out seven devils.  She went and gave the news to those who had been of his company, where they mourned and wept; and they, when they were told that he was alive and that she had seen him, could not believe it.

Mark 16:9-11 

Mary Magdalene has been characterized as a repentant sinner largely as the result of a homily delivered by Pope Gregory 1 in 591.  Gregory lauded Mary for her devotion to Christ, but referred to her as the unnamed female sinner with perfume in Luke's Gospel (7:36-50) and as Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus.  The pope also made reference to Jesus cleansing Mary of the "seven demons," which he associated with the seven deadly sins, which include not only lust but pride and greed as well.

Centuries later, Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples, a French theologian and humanist, challenged this version of Mary Magdalene.  In Da Maria Magdalena et triduo Chriisti disceptatio (1517), Lefèvre argued against the conflation of Mary the sister of Lazarus, Mary Magdalene and the anonymous penitent sinner who anointed Christ's feet in Luke's gospel.  He contended that they were different people and received much condemnation from French theologians.  However, in 1969 the General Roman Calendar put an end to the dispute about the composite Mary when it identified different dates for Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and the anonymous sinner.

Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples

It is a myth that Mary Magdalene was a penitent prostitute, even though that image of her has persisted in Western tradition and theology.  Mary has long been portrayed as a fallen woman who repented,  Western medieval and Renaissance art pictured her in extravagant clothing or dressed immodestly in contrast to other women of the era.  Some paintings even depicted her nude, discreetly covered by long, blond hair, especially the works of Italian artist Titian (1488-1576).

This image of Mary has continued into more modern times. From the 18th century on, institutes that cared for prostitutes were called "Magdalenes."  In the 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar (music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Tim Rice), there is a song entitled "I Don't Know How to Love Him.," sung by Mary Magdalene.  Here are the lyrics:

"He's a man. He's just a man.
"And I've had so many men before, in very many ways he's just one more."

It  has also been theorized that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.  In Dan Brown's bestselling 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code, it is discovered that "The Church, in order to defend itself against the Magdalene's power, perpetuated her image as a whore and buried Christ's marriage to her, thereby defusing any potential claims that Christ had a surviving bloodline and was a mortal prophet."

According to Dorothy Ann Lee, Professor of New Testament, Trinity College, University of Divinity in Australia, "nowhere in the Gospels is Mary Magdalene associated either overtly of covertly with sexuality."  Although she is described as having had seven demons in Luke's Gospel, this description does not mean she was a prostitute.  This description, argues Professor Lee, does not refer to "unfettered sexuality."

In her 2018 essay in The Conversation, Lee states that exorcisms are common in the first three Gospels.  "Those suffering from demonic possession,," she writes, "are never described as sinful but rather are victims of external evils."  Today we would refer to them as illnesses such as epilepsy or mental illness. In other words, Lee concludes, "Magdalene has been the victim of a serious illness and Jesus has healed her."

What we do know is that the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John clearly place Mary at the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ.  However, as Professor Lee points out, "the gospel references don't describe her personality, history or character."  There are very few direct quotes from her, nor any description of her temperament.

In the New Testament, there is no doubt as to Mary's devotion to Christ.  According to the Gospel of John (20:1), it was Mary Magdalene who came to the tomb of Jesus early Sunday morning and discovered that the stone was removed.  It was she to whom Jesus first appeared after his death.  Despite Mary's image in art and literature, there is no solid evidence in the Gospels (or anywhere else) that she was a prostitute or a repentant sinner.  We do know for certain that she was a dedicated and beloved disciple of Jesus.

- Joanne