Wednesday Night #1127

8 October 2003
On the eve of Thanksgiving (1), let us give thanks for our many blessings:
– Jean Chrétien & Paul Martin – we could have had George Bush
– We don’t live in California – we could have had recalls, chads and Arnold
– We have the Fed’s Radwanski rather than Tyco’s Kozlowski
– We suffer from “milder” forms of hurricanes
– No typhoons
– An abundance of water
– Cold winters, yes, but lots of sunshine
– Changes of season
– Snow geese
– Wednesday Nights
Come this Wednesday and add to the list!

(1) Thanksgiving in Canada is generally thought to come from three
traditions.
European farmers in Europe held celebrations at harvest time to give thanks
for their good fortune of a good harvest and abundance of food. When
Europeans came to Canada they may have brought the tradition with them;
Around 1578 English navigator Martin Frobisher held a ceremony, in what is
now Newfoundland to give thanks for surviving his journey there. Other
settlers later arrived and continued these “thankful” ceremonies;
The third influence happened in 1621 when Pilgrims celebrated their first
harvest in the “New World”. Around 1750 this celebration was brought to Nova
Scotia by American settlers from the south. At the same time, French
settlers arriving were also holding feasts of “thanksgiving”.
In 1879 Canadian Parliament declared November 6th a day of Thanksgiving and a national holiday. Over the years the date of Thanksgiving changed several times until on January 31st, 1957 Parliament proclaimed…..”that the 2nd Monday in October”……..”be a Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.”

We are thrilled to congratulate Dr. Margo Somerville on her most recent award: she is the first winner of the UNESCO Avicenna Ethics in Science Prize.

The Report – More with photos

CALIFORNIA – HERE WE GO!
Who are the winners and who the losers in the recent California gubernatorial recall and election? It is not difficult to target dethroned governor Gray Davis as a loser, most certainly the victim of legislation permitting the recall of elected officials, but also, the much heralded legislation making the provision of services within the legislated constraints virtually impossible to comply with, most probably even for a terminator.
Arnold Schwarzenegger will most likely find that his super-hero physical and intellectual movie powers will not prove up to the task of untying that Gordian knot. Fortunately his wife is rumoured to be capable of continuing to earn a good living.
There is another possible loser, namely President George W. Bush. He lost California in 1980 and thanks to the Terminator whose image does not fit in with that of those in Bush’s entourage, risks losing it again in 1984, when he will probably be greatly in need of all the support he can get.
It is the population of California, of course, that has the most to lose, but surfers are said to be used to living on the edge.

INDIA
To our great pleasure, Vithal Rajan took the time from the crowded schedule of his first trip back from India since January 2001 to make a return visit to Wednesday Night, bringing with him Sheila Arnopoulos and his former wife, Ann Rajan, who has just received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Bishop’s University for athletics.
Canada has been increasing trade ties with India, a country of half a million people with significant problems currently but which is believed to have the potential to contribute enormously to its own well being as well as to world stability. In fact, the Asia Pacific Foundation has published Canada-India Trade: Retrospect and Prospects, the first comprehensive review of merchandise trade between Canada and India.
Its population of slightly over a billion is an indication of the India that is possible. Although the literacy rate is only 25% with a rural illiteracy rate of 95%, 80% of the population have neither electricity nor flush toilets, and only 8% file a tax return, the challenge of reaching the potential indicated by increasing wealth of the wealthy in a democratic country and the work ethic of the population can be met. Although the British in 1910-1912 maintained that they could make everyone in India literate in thirty-five years, that goal has not been achieved half a century after independence. Where industry exists, especially in the field of technology, India has been very successful. The solution appears to lie not in changing the nature of the population nor the system of government so much as the increase in literacy and the decrease in the cost of providing power to rural areas. A very small increase in productivity in a population that large, would have an enormous impact on the total economy of the nation.
One positive factor is the tremendous decrease in the cost of the technology in the manufacture of solar cells. In northern climates, solar panels have only a minimal impact on the cost of producing electricity, but India, with abundant year-round sunshine will certainly profit greatly from the process, which can provide energy at a manufacture and installation cost of one dollar a watt. Gerald Ratzer reminded Vithal that McGill’s Brace Centre for Water Resources Management works on solar energy and alternative sources of energy and has an active interest in India.
Vithal will visit Prof Dave Irvine-Halliday of the University of Calgary, winner of the 2002 Rolex Award for his work with the volunteer-driven Light Up The World (LUTW) Foundation which provides inexpensive and energy-efficient lighting systems to homes, schools and temples in some of the world’s poorest, most remote villages. Vithal is enthusiastic about the potential of the lighting system based on white-light emitting diodes (LED), which can light up an entire village with less energy than that used by a single, conventional 100-watt light bulb. By the end of 2001, LUTW’s rechargeable, energy efficient and environmentally friendly systems were lighting up 700 homes and buildings in remote villages in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka.
Meantime, Vithal continues his work with the “untouchables” (Dalit) and extreme poor, concentrating on the low end of the spectrum of business deals, and has built a Federation of 165 co-ops with over 200, 000 members who now have savings of over 100M rupees. While there is a need for management skills, because of their strong sense of community, women tend to undertake activities that benefit the community, particularly the children. Women dominate much of the small farming, using ecological principles because that’s the way to save the land and guarantee food security.
Vithal is also a member of the Board of Governors of the Environment Protection Research Institute of India.
Great progress has been made in the increase in the rate of literacy through non-profit organizations working not through governmental or industrial organizations, but directly with Indian women. In India there is little if any objection to women playing this role and the multiplier effect of creating literate children will enable India to play a larger role in the international community.
The conflict between India and Pakistan has been a financial drain on both countries that could do much with the money the military now costs them. However, with the European Union as a model and both Indians and Pakistanis pushing for an understanding between their governments, the resolution of this problem will help the development of twenty-first century India and will contribute to the stabilization of the region. The danger of the proliferation of nuclear weapons is not that the countries that are nuclear powers will use them, but that those individuals who are willing to give up their lives for a cause will acquire and use them.
Some fear that within the context of increased trade between Canada and India, good-paying jobs in Canada will be transferred to Indian sweatshops. In reality, however, those who are the net losers are not the Canadians who are candidates for similar or better paying jobs in a stable employment market, but those who have taken investment risks and previously profited from those risks.

THE CANADIAN DOLLAR
The Canadian dollar continues to rise against its American counterpart, but this is really an indication of the fall of the American dollar against world currencies. The low U.S. dollar will force Americans to spend more at home and import less, thus improving the currently disappointing U.S. employment picture.

QUOTES of the EVENING
The disaster is not unique. We expect all kinds of services for the taxes we don’t want to pay. In California, the people have lost track of the fiscal process.
If five hundred million people are enriched by (an average of) ten dollars, five billion dollars of wealth have been created.
Unless you work with the very poor, the wealth doesn’t percolate down from the top.
The sense of community (in India) is very strong among the women.
The (nuclear) technology is increasing at a more rapid rate than human intelligence at pushing the button.
The poor repay (bank loans) on the button and very rarely default
One thing about technology is that it accelerates the learning process.
Whenever you make a change there are winners and losers. The perception is that labour lose their jobs, the reality is that investors lose their investment.
We are climbing up out of the recession and are likely to continue to do so
Interest rates are low. Money is cheap because no one wants it.
This whole discussion of quality of life in Canada is very unclear from the point of view of us who live here who have it, not from the point of view from the people want to live here. We are a beacon.

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