Sunday, October 07, 2018

The New NAFTA

I have had a chance to review the new USMCA agreement and my greatest response is "Is that it?"  Is that all we got from over a year of negotiations?

I realize this all started because of the ego and stupidity of the current occupant of the White House so I guess it is probably a bit of a blessing that things have not been changed drastically but I am still kind of surprised at just how much it has not been changed.

Then again, since we were dealing with a bloviating windbag it is impressive that the Canadian negotiating team did not have to make significant and potentially detrimental concessions in order to secure the new agreement.  

As I stated here I am not a true believer in free trade agreements in general and the NAFTA in particular.  It has done some good but it has also done alot of bad for the Canadian economy since its implementation.

All that being said there are a couple of changes in the new agreement that I believe make it somewhat better than the original.  The first is the virtual elimination of Chapter 11.  The idea that a company can no longer sue a government for taking actions to protect the environment, food and water supply and labour standards is an improvement.  The second is the change in the energy provisions that used to force Canada to sell its energy resources to the United States even during shortages, potentially leaving Canada short of these resources for its own use.  Brian Mulroney essentially sold Canada out on that provision in the original Canada/US FTA and it is significant that when the US asked Mexico to do the same thing in order to join NAFTA the Mexicans told the Americans to get bent (diplomatically of course).  This provision was one reason for the discount that Canadian firms had to sell their energy products to American firms so maybe the elimination of this provision will help improve that situation in the future.

The media and the other political parties are being their usual obtuse selves.  The other parties because the agreement is a win for the government, albeit a limited one, and they cannot have that.  They have to find some fault with it so they have focused on dairy.  It is true that the dairy industry has to allow more access to its markets but the amount is not that great.  It can easily be absorbed by the industry on its own and with the promised compensation the government has indicated they will give them no one in the dairy industry is going to lose their shirt.

The Globe and Mail had another angle yesterday in their Saturday paper editorial.  There is a provision of the new agreement that states that none of the signatories can enter into a free trade agreement with another country without approval from the other signatories.  This provision is aimed directly China.  The Globe and Mail seems to believe that this is a somewhat unreasonable infringement of Canadian sovereignty, which is silly.  Free trade agreements by their very nature are huge infringements on the sovereignty of the signatories and they have always been that way.  There is a reason why the Liberals ran a political advertizement showing a guy erasing the border between Canada and the US during the Free Trade election of 1988.  Everybody knew that the new FTA would reduce the sovereignty of both Canada and the US.  That did not seem to bother the Globe and Mail in 1988 or since.  Now they seemed to be bothered by this one provision.  Is this an indication that the Globe and Mail has a limit to how much an agreement can impact Canadian sovereignty or is this just the Globe and Mail quibbling because they believe they have to find something to criticise the government with in this treaty?  My guess is it is the latter.

The new USMCA is a slight improvement on the old NAFTA but it is still a flawed agreement like the NAFTA.  I doubt its will change how the three partners deal with each other in a significant fashion which kind of makes the whole past 13 months kind of pointless.  The government was forced into this situation by a sociopath so I guess we can be satisfied that the agreement that was finally signed should not do significant harm to the Canadian economy and society.

Populism is here to stay

So says none other than Stephen Harper in an op-ed piece in yesterday's Globe and Mail.

I do not totally disagree with this assertion but I do not believe that it will have as much of an impact on our political system as some believe.  Many believe the recent success of some populist politicians in Canada is a harbinger of their takeover of the political system.  This belief is based on a very superficial analyses of these successes and if you look a little deeper into them you will find that maybe other factors than just populism lead to their success.

The other assumption of Mr. Harper is he seems to believe that right-wing populism is the only kind around.  The problem with that assertion is right-wing populist politicians are just spouting more of the same conservative dogma that we have been seeing from the Canadian political establishment for the last 30 or so years.  They are just being more in-your-face about it.  Those policies have failed to improve the lives of Canadians.  In fact, they have made them worse off and the political establishment knows this.  That is why they are doubling down on them while attempting to distract people with debates about niqabs, immigrants, asylum seekers and terrorists.  The time of the conservative consensus in Canada is coming to a close and they know it and are terrified by that fact.

It is only a matter to time before some left-wing populist begins to take advantage of this situation.  It may take another few years but the swing of the pendulum back to the left will begin in a relatively short period of time.

So Mr. Harper may be correct but it will probably not play out as he currently assumes.

Fahrenheit 11/9

My wife and I went to see the latest Michael Moore film last night.  It was what I expected, being typical Michael Moore fare.  I liked the film.  It was entertaining and in many places it was enlightening.  However, there were a couple places where I thought he missed the mark somewhat.

In general he did a very good job of describing an America where those that would govern have completely lost touch with those that they would govern.  This is not a situation unique to the United States.  All of the Western countries are going through a period where the ruling elites have almost completely lost touch with their citizens.  The problem is made worse in the US, however, by the prevelence of money in their political system.  Ms. Clinton raised and spent more money on her failed bid to win the US Presidency than the Canadian federal government and all of the Federal Parties spent on the 2015 election combined.  And by a huge margin I would add.  Power corrupts but money greases the wheels for that corruption and that is what is happening in the United States right now.  The segment in the movie describing the Flint, Michigan water crisis and how it came about is a great demonstration of that.

There were a couple of arguments in the film where I believe he is off base.  He spent a fair amount of the film describing how the Democratic Party establishment was and is undermining left wing candidates in the Party, from Bernie Sanders to many candidates currently running as Democrats in the mid-term elections.  He puts this effort down to the fact that the Democratic Party takes money from many of the same donors as the Republican Party.  Although there is some truth to that it is probably not the whole picture.  The Tea Party movement in the United States is an extreme conservative movement that rose up around two decades ago.  In that time it took over the Republican Party and Donald Trump is its progeny.  I am no fan of Mr. Trump for many reasons but one big one is the historian in me knows that extremism breeds extremism and history has demonstrated that nothing good comes from extremists battling each other.  It invariably leads to hardship, injustice and authoritarianism.  And it sometimes leads to war.  The current crop of very left-leaning candidates in the Democratic Party could be the beginnings of left-wing "Tea Party" movement and as with the real Tea Party movement it will continue moving farther to the extreme left, which will inevitably lead to a left-wing version of Donald Trump.  Preventing that from happening is in the best interests of society so any attempt to impede the movement towards extremism is a necessity.  The Republican Party completely failed in doing that and the United States is living with the consequences.  If the Democratic Party fails to keep a lid on its extremists then the situation in the US will become much worse.

The second argument where he was off base was to compare the situation in the US with with the fall of the Weimer Republic, to Adolf Hitler, in the 1930s.  Mr. Moore's comparison, in the film, is compelling but it was superficial and somewhat misleading.  To compare the two situations is to compare apples to elephants.  The Weimer Republic came into existance in Germany in 1919, after centuries of Germany being lead by autocrats.  There was no democratic tradition in Germany before 1919.  The democratic institutions of the Weimer Republic were weak and ineffective because of that.  So when Adolf Hitler managed to win enough votes to become Chancellor (Prime Minister) of Germany just 14 years after the establishment of the Republic he had no problem subverting the new democracy.  The United States has more than two centuries of democratic tradition to fall back on.  Its democratic institutions are effective and robust.  If any US politician had designs to do what Hitler did in Germany he would find it impossible to pull off.  The price of freedom and democracy is eternal vigilence and Michael Moore effectively reminds us of this fact but he let himself go too far by inferring that the US was on the verge of going the way of Germany of the 1930s.

Other than those two quibbles I would say Fahrenheit 11/9 is a good film and I would highly recommend going to see it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A look Into the Future: The Optimistic View

In a previous post I wrote about a possible future that awaits us as the rise of China, automation and climate change continues on the pace we are currently seeing.  I presented a very pessimistic view of the future from the standpoint of us in the West where China had risen to the top of the financial world, gaining the military and political clout along with it and relegating the West to second world status and widespread poverty, in the West, for all but a very small elite.  I posited that the very small elite had already seen this future and were diligently working at concentrating money and power into their hands in order to insulate themselves from the worst of the transition.

This post is a more optimistic view of that possible future.  As with the pessimistic view, climate change will inevitably impact our world but we as a species will be able to mitigate that impact so that our species and our civilization will survive.  As well, as with the pessimistic view, automation will change the nature of work in the world, leaving billions without any form of meaningful work.

It is climate change and automation which is a cause for optimism.  The reason is China will not be immune to their effects and in order to mitigate their effects a global effort will need to be undertaken to do so.

Make no mistake, without those two trends the Chinese would reach the pinnacle of the international community, carrying most of Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East with it.  The world would be divided into a dominant Eastern Block lead by China and a smaller increasingly weaker Western Block, consisting of increasingly poorer people lead by increasingly autocratic governments working at the behest of rich and powerful elites.

However, with climate change and automation in play China will not have the luxury of trying this approach.  China has the same interests in trying to mitigate the negative impacts of these two trends as the rest of the world and that gives them an interest in working with the rest of the world to do just that.  So, although the processes used to achieve the objective of mitigating the negative impacts of the two trends will be not always be easy or selfless they will achieve the desired effect.  Further since these two trends are not going to end any time soon the efforts to mitigate their negative impacts will be ongoing with no real end date.  That is, the world will need to continue to cooperate on these two issues for decades and no country or block of countries will be able to accomplish what needs to be accomplished by going their own way.

As a result we can conclude that one optimistic view of the future will see China rising to the pinnacle of the international community.  I believe that is essentially inevitable.  They will use their new found power to create a new international system that better serves their interests but they will not be able to change it so much that it will harm the former great powers.  China will need to ensure the cooperation of the former great powers in the continuing efforts to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change and automation so they will have an interest not to let them fall as far as they could fall.

Further, the pessimist in me sees the trend towards the concentration of wealth and power in the West and I do not believe that those who would take a much different approach have what it takes to reverse that trend before it becomes irreversible.  However, we are starting to see the reaction to this trend within the Western world so there is cause for some optimism that those who would take that different approach will get their shit together before it is too late.

One other note.  For all of human history it has always been a requirement that if you wanted to survive you had to work.  Whether it was hunting and gathering, working in the fields, working in a factory or working in an office we have always had to do some kind of work to allow us to acquire the necessary resources to eat and put a roof over our head.

Automation could be an opportunity to change all of that.  Automation could very well make work voluntary.  We may no longer need to work in order to survive.  We would let the machines to the work for us and we would reap the benefits.  Yes there are a whole host of issues around the dangers of technology, with Hollywood providing us with many of the worst case scenarios.  However, if we did it right we could launch the human species into a whole new era.  Without needing to work to survive the human species would be free to use its intelligence and cognitive abilities to explore all sorts of things, within us, on the planet we live on and the universe about us.  There is no telling where we could end up as a species with this freedom.  Sure it could kill us all but it could also allow us to transcend the boundaries we currently find ourselve operating under.

The truly optimistic view of the future is that one.  We gain the upper hand on climate change and its impacts, which nation leads the worlds becomes largely irrelevant and humans begin to reap the rewards of not having to work just to survive.

So, which of these two views of the future do I believe will come to pass?  Right now I would say I am heavily leaning towards the pessimistic view.  Hopefully, I will be proven wrong.

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Maxime Effect

So Maxime Bernier has publicly and spectacularly removed himself from the Conservative Party of Canada and he has indicated that he will form his own right-wing political party.

This really should not come as a surprise to anyone really.  He was the front-runner throughout most of the Conservative leadership campaign, garnering the most votes on the first count, finally only losing the leadership by less than one percentage point after the prefered ballots were counted.  There were rumblings of some irregularities during the voting and they were not put to bed by the party when they destroyed all of the ballots almost immediately after the winner of the leadership campaign was announced, preventing a recount.

Things settled down somewhat after the Conservative leadership vote although there were rumours of Mr. Bernier publishing a tell-all book about it that seemed to go nowhere after what appeared to be some back-room wheeling and dealing.  This started to go sideways when Mr. Bernier was fired from the Conservative front bench, ostensibly for voicing his opposition to Canada's supply management system.  What I found curious about that is he has never kept his opposition to that system a secret so why it suddenly became a problem last June was a mystery to me.

His crashing out of the Conservative Party this week solved that mystery.  I believe not everything was all rainbows and sunshine within the Conservative Party since the leadership vote and it finally came to a head this week.

So how will this impact the next election?

Right off it needs to be stated that the most probable outcome of the 2019 election was a Liberal Majority government before the Conservative implosion.  I will not go into the reason why at this time.

The events of the last couple of days increases that probability regardless of how this all shakes out.

If Mr. Bernier flames out and just disappears from the Canadian political scene Andrew Scheer will still be saddled with the burden of being the leader that could not keep his party together.  Mr. Bernier had been a stalwart of the Conservative Party for years, he was extremely popular with many Conservatives and he is the most popular conservative politician in Quebec.  Losing him is a big blow to Mr. Scheer's credibility and if he is not around it is an open question of whether the Conservatives win any seats on Quebec in 2019.  Virtually every Conservative elected in Quebec attached themselves to Mr. Bernier's coattails in order to win their elections.  With him gone and with no obvious replacement for him in the Conservative caucus the Conservatives could be in tough, in Quebec, in 2019.

If Mr. Bernier follows through on his assertion that he will form his own political party it could potentially spell political disaster for the Conservatives.

He has set himself a very daunting task of forming a political party with 338 candidates in just over a year.  I doubt he can do it but he could probably find enough candidates to fill out the ranks in Quebec and perhaps Ontario.  In all probability that would spell the end of Conservative hopes in Quebec at the very least and it could spell the end of Conservative hopes in both Ontario and Quebec.  In both provinces a Bernier lead party would probably split the Conservative vote allowing the Liberals to walk away with many additional seats in both provinces.  As I have stated here the Conservative movement is very weak in the country, even when it is united behind one party.  If the movement splits that weakness is increased.

If Mr. Bernier does pull off forming his own party with a full slate of candidates then the Conservatives would be in deep trouble everywhere.  A Bernier lead party would just need to siphon off 5 percentage points from the Conservatives and it would be bad news for them.  Any more than 5 points and things would only get worse.  Fifteen points and it is conceivable that the CPC only wins its Alberta bastion and a handfull of other seats in the West.  

Many Conservatives, both the politicians and the Conservative cheerleaders in the media, have been downplaying the impact of Mr. Bernier's departure.  However, watching them they seem to be doing so through gritted teeth.  They are spinning this as best they can but I am certain that many of them do not actually believe their own spin.  The events of the past few days have damaged the Conservative Party.  Only the fullness of time will reveal to what extent it has been damaged and whether that damage will be short-lived or enduring. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Look Into the Future: The Pessimistic View

In my previous post I wrote about the possible Triple Whammy of Climate Change, the rise of China as the preeminant economic and political power in the world and the creation of a large number of unemployable people as a result of automation.

One or all of these three situations will occur in the next two or three decades and they will have an impact on the world.  That impact could be negative or positive.  This post will examine the possible negative impacts.  A later post will examine the possible positive impacts.

First and foremost it has now been revealed by climate scientists that we have gone past the point of no return with regard to preventing "hothouse Earth".  That is, global warming is going to get worse no matter what we do from now on.  The only question is how bad it will be.

The most pessimistic outcome would be runaway global warming which changes oceans currents and completely changes the climate of the planet.  In that case the combination of vast areas of the planet becoming uninhabitable and the possibility of the creation of "Canfield Oceans" could lead to a mass extinction that would include the human species.

That is not the most likely outcome but it is possible.  A more likely outcome of runaway global warming would be large areas of the planet becoming unproductive and uninhabitable, leading to widespread famine and mass migration, leading to war.  That in itself would lead to a mass die off of the human species, although not an extinction level event, with the resultant fall of our modern civilization, which would worsen the die off.  The number of humans that would die in this scenario would be in the billions and we would be cast back into the dark ages.  All of the progress we have achieved in the past 2000 years would be lost.

However, the human species is resilient and it has a very healthy survival instinct.  As such, I do believe that our species will realize the danger with enough time to sufficiently reduce greenhouse gases and to develop effective eco-engineering technologies to prevent the worst effects of global warming and climate change.  They will still be disruptive and destructive.  Many human will die but our civilization will survive.

So humans will survive but they will still need to face the impacts of automation and the West will need to deal with the impacts on the rise of China.

Taking the pessimistic point of view I can see China changing the way the world economy works once they have achieved economic and political primacy.  When the West was running the show all of the Western countries had to integrate their economies in order to create sufficient wealth to keep their populations generally happy and satisfied.  The same in not true of China.  They have a population of over a billion people and a large number of them are still not part of the Chinese middle class.  When China reaches the pinnacle of the world economy it will be able to reach even greater heights just by elevating its own people into the middle class.  It will not need to trade with the West in order to create wealth.  Further, China is spending over a trillion dollars in Africa and Asia to help countries on those continents of develop.  Like all aid this funding is tied to Chinese priorities.  So just when they are rising the top of the economic and political heap they will have a further billion or two people beholden to them in Africa and Asia.

It would not be surprising if the Chinese close their economy and demand their client states to only trade with China and themselves when they overtake the US as the largest economy in the world.  They will not need the West to generate wealth and the West has a history of abusing China in the past which may motivate the Chinese leadership to attempt to even the score.  That would reduce the ability of the West to generate wealth at its current levels.  In fact, it would probably cause the Western economies to shrink, if not totally collapse.

Then there is automation.  If the Chinese move to freeze out the West from markets in Asia and Africa is combined with the impacts of automation then things would only be worse for the West.  Huge numbers of people in the West would be in such dire financial straits that the destruction of the Western democracies would probably be inevitable.  Automation will impact China as well but they will be in a better position to absorb those impacts.

I have stated in the space before that I believe a large segment of the ruling classes in the West see the negative impacts of the rise of China and increased automation and that they are preparing for it by concentrating wealth and power so that they will be able to ride out the coming economic and political upheavel in the West.  I have also stated that there is another segment of ruling class in the West who believe that the negative impacts of these two events can be mitigated by investing in their societies and peoples and preventing the concentration of wealth and power in a few hands.  These two opposing views will inform the political and economic debate in the West for the next couple of decades.  

In the pessimistic view of the future those that would concentrate wealth and power into their own hands will prevail.

This is just one possible future that could result from the impacts of climate change, automation and the rise of China.  My own opinion is that this future is the more likely one at this time.  Those that would concentrate wealth and power into their hands are winning the debate so far.  Hell, they are framing the debate, and history has demonstrated that he who frames the debate wins it almost every time.  There is still time for the other side to push back but so far they have been completely ineffective.  That could change in the next couple of decades but my gut tells me not to hold your brealth waiting for that to happen.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Future Triple Whammy

There are three situations that will have a great impact on Western society and according to what I have read all three of them will peak in about 25 years.

The first situation is that automation will destroy more than 50% of the existing jobs in the Western world by about 2040 to 2050.  That is the net loss after taking into account the jobs that will be created in the same time period.

The second situation is, if current trends continue, the Chinese economy will overtake the US economy by about 2040.  I have written here many times that when that happens it will have a profound impact on the Western economies and the societies underpinned by them.

It is believed that the greatest effects of climate change will begin to be felt around 2040, 2050 at the latest.

Just one of these three events will cause a tremendous amount of disruption within the Western world.  The negative impacts of any one of these events would put horrendous pressure, not just on Western governments but on their very democratic foundations.  It is conceivable that one or more of the Western democracies could fall as a result of the widespread unrest that would be generated by the impacts of just one of these events.

So, you have to ask what is to become of the Western democracies and societies when they could very well be faced by more than one of these events, maybe even all three?

My own feeling is none would survive as true democracies.  They may have some last vestiges of democracy but fundementally all of the democracies will fade away to be replaced by something else.

We are currently feeling the beginnings of the impacts of all three situations and it is leading to widespread unrest.  That unrest has to lead to the rise of demogogues and more authoritarian measures taken by governments to maintain "order".  So far, they have directed those authoritarian measures at people from outside of their own societies but once the security apparatuses, which are currently directed at outsiders, becomes securely entrenched within their respective countries they will be turned inwards.

I have written here before that the current ruling elites in the West see the dangers posed by the three situations I described above.  I have also stated that they can deal with this by reducing income and wealth inequality or they can handle it by concentrating economic and political power into their hands and use force to maintain order.  Currently, the approach being taken by all of the Western democracies is the latter.  That could change in the next decade or so but I have a sneaking suspicion that it will not.  My fear is actually that it will accelerate.

Being north of 50 I will be around to see the transition of our democracies into authoritarian societies but I will probably be gone before the transition is complete.  It is our children and grandchildren who will be the most impacted by the fallout of climate change, automation and the rise of China.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Homo Deus is Yuval Noah Harari's second book and while Sapiens was a look at the history of Homo sapiens, Homo Deus is a look ahead into the future.

It is a speculative book and the author admits that it is not prophecy but a look at the possible future of our species and our world.

This book is more provocative than his first book asserting some ideas that could be considered rather controversial.

As with my post on Sapiens I will not summarize the whole book.  Instead I would point out three ideas in the book that stood out for me.

The first one is Dr. Harari points out why the very religious have such a hatred for the Theory of Evolution.  As he indicates the very religious do not have any problems with other scientific theories such as Relativity.  However, they really get worked up by Evolution.

As he points out the very religious believe that God created the universe and he created humans.  When He created humans He infused them with the soul which gives us the ability to enjoy life after death.

The Theory of Evolution, on the other hand, states that we arrived on this planet as a result of a random set of changes to our DNA over the course of millions, even billions of years.  Since the Theory of Evolution indicates that we arrived at random, instead of by means of a higher power, that would mean the Theory precludes us from having a soul.

That is bad enough for the very religious but if you take the logic a little further then the Theory of Evolution could be used as evidence to deny the existance of God.  If God did not create humans and give them a soul then you can legitimately ask the question whether He exists at all and plausibly say 'No".  So, the Theory of Evolution strikes directly at the central tenent of all of the Abrahamic religions which would explain why those who cleave to those religions very closely would consider it a threat and would hate it as much as they do.

The second idea that stood out for me was he is yet one more author who sees automation as something that will fundementally change our socieites and our economies.  He calls automation algorithms and he states that algorithms will eventually create a class of people he called the "useless class".  These would be a large number of people who would not only be unemployed but they would be unemployable.  They would be people "devoid of any economic, political or even artistic value, who contribute nothing to the prosperity, power and glory of society".  

This is not a new idea.  It has been around for awhile but when we take it with the third idea that stood out for me it gains a fair amount of signficance.

A third idea that he points out is the 20th Century was the era of the masses.  Governments needed masses of reasonably educated and healthy people to man all of the factories that produced all of the modern goods we consumed and to man the armies that were needed to fight the two great world struggles of the 20th Century.  As a result, governments and businesses spent a tremendous amount of money on public education and public health care and created other tools to keep the masses happy enough so that they would quietly work away at creating our current societies.

Dr. Harari then points out that the era of the masses is probably coming to a close.  With increased automation our societies and economies no longer need masses of people to man the factories.  Instead the only workers that are needed are those trained to develop and maintain the algorithms.  As well, militaries no longer needs masses of people achieve their objectives.  They only need a small number of "super soldiers" (special forces) and people to maintain and develop the algorithms that are increasingly being used to run the worlds military orgaizations.

The question then becomes, if the masses are not needed for the factories and the armies, would governments, the owners of the algorithms (who stand to make billions) and business continue to be willing provide funding for the masses to become reasonably educated and to stay reasonably healthy?

Dr. Harari does not state any concrete responses to that question.  However, you just need to look at the actions and policies of some of the more conservative politicians in the world and their allies in the business community to know that there are some who would abandon the "useless class".  However, there are other politicians and business people who would not.  The most interesting question that will need to be answered over the next couple of decades is which one of these two sides will prevail?

Those ideas are just three of many put forward by Dr. Harari in Homo Deus.  I would highly recommend this book to anybody who would be interested in seeing one of the possible futures of our world.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sapiens is a book by Yuval Noah Harari.  It is a short history of the human species from its time as hunter-gatherers on the African savannah into modern times and a little beyond.  I highly recommend it to anybody interested in how got here.

I will not try to summarize what he wrote.  However, one thing that really stood out for me when I read the book is just how murderous our species is to other species.

Scientists agree that we are currently experiencing a mass extinction in the world.  They even call it the 6th mass extinction.  The evidence to support this is very compelling but one of the things that is misleading about it is science gives the impression that it is a recent phenomenon.  That is, it has only been going on for a few decades or a couple of centuries at the most.  Essentially, since humans discovered industrialization and science.

Dr. Harari points out that in actual fact the mass extinction began over 70,000 years ago when Homo sapiens began to move out of their ancestral home in the African savannah to all parts of the globe.  Dr. Harari points out that whenever Sapiens showed up in a certain part of the globe animals, plants, birds and other wildlife began to die off.  

Whole species of animals, large and small, went extinct, usually just centuries after the arrival of Homo sapiens.  This includes other species humans such as Homo rudolfensis, Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis.  In Africa, Asia, North and South American and Australia, whenever Homo sapiens showed up, native living species died off.  The evidence is compelling that the causes of these extinctions was human activity.  There does not appear to be any malice intended, although that could be debatable with regard to the other extinct human species, it was just ignorance and lack of awareness of our ancesters about their impact on the world around them.

So, the mass extinction that we are witnessing today began 70,000 years ago as our ancestors spread around the world.  It had been slow and steady throughout those 1000s of years but in the last couple of hundred it has accelerated as we harnassed science to do our bidding.  

Our ability to change the environment around us to meet our needs and our encroachment into areas of the planet that were inaccessible just a few centuries ago has been a death sentence for thousands of species in the world and it continues to be so as time goes by.  

This fact was a revelation to me when I read it in Dr. Harari's book.  Up until then I always believed that the mass extinction was a recent phenomenon but now I am aware that it has been going on for 10s of thousands of years.  It puts a different perspective on it.

When I believed that it was a recent phenomenon I believed that we would be able to stop it.  I reasoned that since we only started it a couple of centuries ago we could change our behaviour and stop it.  I no longer believe that.  I no longer believe the current mass extinction can be stopped.  Although I am saddened by it I now believe the continuation of the current mass extinction is inevitable.  It is just not in our power to prevent it.  The simple fact is we as a species are a walking death sentence to our fellow creatures, particularly those in the wild, we always have been and we will continue to be so until we kill off most of the life on this planet or the planet decides that a major correction is necessary and we join those species on the extinction list.  

Some would argue that we have evolved to the point where we should be able to stop the mass extinction.  I do not believe that and you only need to see what is happening in the world to see that I have reasons for my doubts.  We know what we are doing to our planet but not enough of us care enough to gather up the collective will to put a stop to it.  The simple fact is we have not evolved that much in the last 2 million years.  You take someone from downtown Ottawa and plunk them down into a hunter-gatherer society a million years in the past and, except for the lifestyle, our ancestors would be recognizable by our modern city dweller.

So, although I believe we still need to fight the good fight to stop the mass extinction I believe that we should also be resigned to the fact that it is a fight we cannot win.  Maybe by some miracle Sapiens will suddenly change their ways but I do not believe that will happen.  It is sad to see the destruction of species that I grew up learning about in elementary and secondary school but I no longer believe that there is anything we can do to stop it.