I want to take you out on a date

So here’s the thing. I wish I was an expert on everything — Byzantine history, jump-rope, sedimentation — but I’m not. Consequently, I’m always looking for people who are better-informed than me to help with stories I’m working on.

The cutest mug in the world, featuring a teddy bear surrounded by hearts.
I'd be beary happy to take you out for coffee.

Earlier this year, I was trying to brainstorm ways to meet people outside of my areas of expertise. I decided to make my friends a standing offer for 2012: I’ll take you out for coffee in exchange for the names of three interesting people in Edmonton who know a lot about something.

I’ve already had one person take me up on the offer. We had a lovely breakfast, and I learned who to talk to about technological savourism. Now I’d like to open it up to anybody. That means you!

Media types, environment types, and queer issues are all easy for me. Pretty much anything else goes, though. If you know someone who has been collecting highway signs for 20 years, I want to hear about them. Your eccentric neighbour who can answer any question about girls’ basketball teams in town? Let me take you out for a bevvie so you can tell me all about them.

This pairs somewhat well with a more public project I’m working on for the Multimedia & Multiculturalism project in town. We’re working on a database of resource people from under-represented ethnocultural communities in town, aimed at journalists. If you’ve got people in mind for that project, I’d love to hear about them too.

Give me a shout if you’re interested, and in the meantime have a look at the Community section, where I’ve added details about some upcoming dinosaur talks, a new job posting for a bike workshop coordinator, and the Coming Out Monologues.

Destroy the environment before it destroys us

Caption: Positive effects of environmental degradation. Man in clear-cut forest smiles, "Hey, my allergies are gone!"This week’s episode of Terra Informa was a labour of love and the most fun I’ve had helping produce the show so far. We decided to use April Fool’s Day as an opportunity to make fun of our usual earnest environmental news reporting. We call it Terra MisInforma.

You can download the podcast on iTunes, stream it online or listen live in Edmonton tomorrow at 5 on CJSR 88.5 FM. Hear how the federal government passed up a huge opportunity for a parking lot with the new Rouge Valley National Park, the Top 5 Environmental Threats to Our Security and Freedom, and the Ezra Levant Award for Excellence in Excellence in Journalism.

I’ve also updated the Community section with a new Lawrence Hill lecture coming up, details about the Pride Centre re-opening, and a link to the bike lane consultations happening around Edmonton right now. The headlines might be all election all the time, but there’s still plenty of other stuff happening around town.

New section, an attempt to be helpful

CommunityWhile I was at the GLOBE Conference last week, someone mentioned I need to be less exasperated with people who don’t think the same way I do. The world needs some connectors, some mavens, and some… well some other things, she said.

I’m a connector.

I like watching the steady stream of events around town, job opportunities, conferences, funding opportunities. Not all of it is stuff I can take part in, but I love connecting people to it. So in the spirit of fellow Edmontonian¬†KikkiPlanet‘s #yegenda, I’ve decided to start a little section on the website here to share the good stuff. It’s just called Community.

I heard an interview with Kikki on The Unknown Studio a few months ago (an Edmonton podcast that does local interviews worth checking out) where she talked about her calendar. She said people told her sometimes that there wasn’t anything going on in Edmonton, which is a common lament from anyone who’s had a taste of Toronto or Montreal. But actually, she said, there’s something cool happening every night of the week if you know where to look.

There are plenty of events calendars out there, so I’m going to try to share things that I’m interested in, and things you might not hear about otherwise. That will probably mean science lectures, social justice and environment workshops, queer events, and the odd scholarship or grant I see. Right now I’ve started with a pop-up multicultural teahouse, an Albertan women’s film series, Public Interest Alberta’s conference next month, and a few other goodies.

Have a look, and let me know what you think! What am I missing? What would you like to hear about?

Hope and groundwork

Man weaving kente in Eastern Region, Ghana

Hi there.

You might know me personally, or have encountered some of my other writing drifting around the world, or maybe you don’t know who I am at all. I’m someone with a lot of curiosity and a lot of passion for contributing positively to my communities in the ways I can. I’m embarking on a path into journalism as one way to do that. And I’ve decided to make this blog to get across ideas that don’t really fit anywhere else, and collect some of the things I’ve worked on.

I’ve been in the social justice and journalism worlds for a little while now, and I think work in both can do a lot to rattle us loose from feeling complacent about this world. One thing that really irks me about both too, though, is that we can very easily get sucked into the undertow of waves of sarcasm,¬†skepticism, and cynicism. It’s so easy for us to fall into that trap of always criticizing action, and never proposing a new vision. Criticism and protest can become a refuge for us when we’re eaten up by intellectual cowardice.

Often when I write, I have Ishmael author Daniel Quinn murmuring in the back of my head. In one of his books, he says that vision is like the flowing river — meaning, to me, that criticism and opposition to a mainstream vision are like putting sticks in the middle of a river to stop its flow. You might, it’s true, eventually dam up the river. A much easier way to change minds though, he says, is to offer a new path, a new channel for ideas to flow through. Once a trickle starts, more will follow, until you have a flood.

I can see many people I admire groping towards these new visions. I am humbled by the courage of the people this year who’ve been beaten back in Tahrir Square, used tent cities to challenge economic orthodoxy, and tried to make us see our place among viruses and tectonic plates. I want to make sure to tell those hopeful stories, to lay the groundwork for what comes next.

I believe we need to build a world where we see ourselves as citizens of our human and ecological communities, with the right to live on this earth and the responsibility to make them more robust, more resilient. That means not just halting the species crash, but reversing it: contributing to spaces that nurture new life, expanding them. Not just giving aid to people in poverty, but reshaping our society so all of us have the power to reach our potential. It means making our “waste” streams a useful, healthy part of our ecosystems’ survival. And building a place for ourselves again amidst long-lasting, diverse communities of organisms with room to grow.

I won’t pretend I’ve got all this figured out. My aim, though, is to use this space as much to tell those stories as to ramble on about what I think you might find important to know. Criticism is important. It exposes hypocrisy, abuses, and inaction. But I think we can do better than just that.