Nasza Notre-Dame

1928, Albert Lebourg
by Bogumił Pacak-Gamalski

Jedyny sposób, w jaki potrafię pokazać mój żal i ogromny smutek na wieść o strasznym pożarze w Paryżu. W czasie pobytu tam, mieszkałem dość blisko i prawie codziennie albo zachodziłem albo przechodziłem obok tej Katedry. Oczywiście to serce Paryża – ale to też serce Polski, serce nowożytnego Europejczyka. Może bardziej niż jakiekolwiek inne miejsce w Europie. Europy Karolingów i Merowingów od których wszystko się zaczęło. Nad Sekwaną i nad Renem i nad Wisłą.

Pomyslałem o ‘polskim’ Paryżu i naturalnie zaraz przypomniałem wiersz wielkiego francuskiego poety przełomu XIX i XX wieku, Apollinaire’a, (przez dziadka Kostrowickiego, z polskimi korzeniami) – “Most Mirabeau”. Z mostu Mirabeau trudno dziś dojrzeć Notre Dame, jest po drugiej stronie Łuku Tryumfalnego. Ale łatwo katedrę oglądać z mostu Neuf, a tam często bywałem. Więc utrzymując dość ściśle formę Apollinaire’a tak literacką, jak i używając jego semantycznego stylu napisałem dwie pierwsze zwrotki tegoż wiersza na nowo. Niech to będzie mój skromny i jakże niedoskonały pocałunek dla Paryża i Notre Dame.

Pont Neuf i Apollinaire pod Pont Mirabeau

Pod mostem rzeki, w sercu Europy
                 Moknie cień Notre Dame               
Wieże, absyda, ja sam
Płoną przez historię i przez potopy.


               Dzwon się rozhuczał, ogniem kołysze
              A ja jak kamień zapadam w ciszę.


15 kwiecień, 2019, Nova Scotia


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Election in Alberta and few facts

Elections in Alberta are always a bit dramatic (like in Quebec and in Ontario). And always (except the ones in Ontario – they are mostly interested only in themselves, almost as if Canada was part of Ontario’s Confederation, not the other way around) evolve close to the argument ‘us versus them’ – meaning the only and always discriminated against Alberta (or Quebec) contra the rest of Canada, especially the awful and foreign Federal Government, the epitome of Evil, Corruption and Greed (unless it is conservative government, mind you, LOL). And a government of Trudeau (doesn’t matter which one) must be straight from Hell Eternal. From the old times of great dynasties of Getties and Logheeds (although they were the last ones that were willing to stand for Canada as a country, even before self-interest of Alberta) till today. Ralph Klein, first truly populist leader in Canada, provided some relif as a popular drunk and likable media and mayoral personality. But now we are back to a true throwback to good ol’ times: Mr. Jason Kenny, voila (pardon for French)!

As I came to settle in Alberta in the old days of beginning of 1980’s – it was already the beginning of an end to full and numerous oil drills in the foothills between Calgary and Lethbridge and toward Bassano and Medicine Head to the East. The good light oil, mind you. Not the sands. For all practical reasons the coal was just a memory of the past. But money were still plentiful. Smart premiers (the old Progressive Conservative Party) started on a small scale  diversification of the economy, but the pace was way too slow. After all, oil was still treated as God given right and God given present to the folks nested between the prairies and mighty Rocky Mountains. Hardly anyone talked or heard of climate change. Unless we talked about biblical times or the times of dinosaurs (and remembering that Drumheller and Badlands are in Alberta, we talked about dinosaurs often). The grand huge glaciers feeding three oceans were still massive and touching the edges of  Icefield Highway from Lake Louise to Jasper. When I travelled that highway in 2017, the mighty icefields were so far away from the road, I could hardly see their edge. Times have changed. But not the way Albertans think. Which brings me back to the subject of Badlands and dinosaurs …  Yes, it is true – even today you can use a hand pick and kitchen fork to find pieces of dinosaurs bones near Drumheller. Not so much live dinosaurs, though…

Moving forward 20 or 30 years. Alberta built huge oil sands fields in the north. The climate change moved as rapidly as the oil development. No, it was not and is not an engine of the Nature’s phenomena called climate. But it is a major contributor to it. It is particularly dirty and inefficient fossil fuel that requires a lot of …    yes, fuel, to make it usable and energy producing fossil. Being a land locked based province it requires extremely long pipelines to move it or very energy consuming other transport (rail, trucks). It leaves terrible and massive ecological mess of toxins and destroyed habitat in the northern Alberta. Mess that will need to be cleaned at an extremely high cost ones the oil corporations will be gone. And gone they will be. Of that there is no doubt. The huge giants, despite massive (over 3 to 4 billion dollars year by year) subsidies failed to build a single one petrochemical plant in Canada capable of producing a single drop of gasoline or usable oil from the oil sands. Therefore we are forced to sell it as a raw, cheap material. While relying on our usable oil and gasoline from US. Yes, when the oild prices were around 100 dollars a barrel – Alberta reap huge royalties and huge taxes went to federal level. But the Canadian was left with paying higher and higher prices to fill their car tanks. And now again, as the prices grow on world market – so do the prices at the pump. Did Canadians (or Albertans for that matter) receive subsidies for the high prices just as the oil producers did for their operations? Not so much.  This is not an attack on oil industry. Just some simple facts of life and costs faced by ordinary citizens not employed directly by oil companies. Also citizens of Alberta.

But this are just side costs. High but not the most important. The most important by now, by 2019, is the fore mentioned climate change and costs associated with it. And not even the tragic consequences for our children and grandchildren. No, the costs now. Factual and actual. The ones we, as taxpayers and consumers pay already in the billions.

Here is very few, the most famous ones and the ones that touched particularly Alberta itself or just across the provincial border.

This is how Calgary major street, McLeod, looked in 2013. It is not Bow River. It is a busy city street. Result of huge floods in Southern Alberta. Frequent and massive floods are part of massive and rapid climate change. Cost of the flood was conservatively estimated to be over 5 billion dollars. Dollars of Alberta’s and Canada’s taxpayers. How much more you think you paid since then for your car and home insurance? And what serious and energetic climate change plan for Alberta and for Canada is presented to voters by Jason Kenny?

But God’s (or Nature, whatever you prefer – results are the same) plaque do not come as waves of water only. They come as wave of flames, too.

In 2016 entire Canada was horrified and sprung to help Alberta as the huge, colossal flames engulfed it’s northern part. Specially around Fort McMurray. It generated the largest evacuation of entire towns to its capital, Edmonton. The largest in our national history.  The cost was  … ten (10) billion dollars.

view of Fort McMurray fires from satelite

And again – the hidden costs of higher prices for numerous services needed by Canadians for years to come. Mostly the raising insurance premiums, but not only that. What is Jason Kenny going to do to help mitigate the strength and frequency of such disasters related to climate change?

In 2017 and 2018 neighboring British Columbia suffered back to back to worst wild fires in its entire history. Combine the cost of both them will be, conservatively speaking, over another 1 billion dollars.

That’s 16-18 billion from 2013 to 2018 just for four major disasters. Not counting the tens of smaller ones. Directly related to climate change. Recent scientific major study revealed that Canada’s north is warming 2 to 3 degrees faster than the rest of the world. It is catastrophic.

Yes, we do want a healthy and responsible energy industry in Canada. And it is mainly concentrated in Alberta and Saskatchewan. We do want good employment opportunities. I would even say, that yes – we do need to be able to finally build (twin) at least that one pipeline to Burnaby (if for anything, then for easing the more dangerous and more energy consuming other ways of transporting oil sands). And since we are an oil producing nation – it would be nice to be able to sell it at fair market value instead of the scraps from Texas refineries.

But we need to start right away planning and paying for investments in industries and technologies that will replace the fossil fuel development as soon as possible. Not 10 years from now. Now. Ten years from now a quarter of the industry will be gone anyway on its own. They won’t stay just because they love Alberta workers and politicians. No. The only think they like is a dollar. Made on the market or from government (means: yours and mine) pockets.

And that’s the real problem facing Alberta in two days’ time. Not ‘socialist’ or ‘conservative’ ideologies. The truth is that Notley’s NDP is really rather far from socialism. And Kenny’s UCP is closer to bigotry and cheap tribalism than to conservatism.  And now, good night to you all. Time to go to bed.