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The Big Banks’ Green Bafflegab

The Big Banks’ Green Bafflegab

Look behind their pro-climate ads and do what they do. Follow the money.

There must be a basement somewhere on Bay Street full of English majors. Every day they churn out great reams of verbiage about “environmental, social and governance strategy” and fill annual reports with a dozen different ways to say that the big five Canadian banks care about the environment.

Except the numbers tell a different story, and if you want to know the truth, then the old adage “follow the money” will steer you in the right direction, passing quickly through all the green bafflegab and arriving at the conclusion that the banks are sacrificing our climate to make a profit.

The latest news is a recent pledge by TD to achieve a “target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions associated with our operations and financing activities by 2050,” trumpeting that it’s the first Canadian bank to do so. Sounds good, yes?

But dig deeper and there’s no mention that since the Paris Agreement TD has financed more than C$135 billion in fossil fuel projects, the eighth largest amount out of all the banks on the planet. What will TD’s net-zero pledge do to alter this climate-killing practice? It doesn’t say. But judging from the collective shrug from the oil patch, probably not much.

What TD does say is that it will “work closely with clients” rather than decide that certain clients probably shouldn’t be clients. Notably, Suncor, Cenovus and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. all also have 2050 net-zero pledges, so presumably TD will continue to finance them, whose products rapidly fill our atmosphere with “green” carbon while our life-support systems fail.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Horgan Seems Fine with Muzzling the True Site C Watchdog

Horgan Seems Fine with Muzzling the True Site C Watchdog

The independent BC Utilities Commission demanded answers on risks and was brushed off.

BC Hydro has, in a Trumpian gesture, brushed off the last independent oversight of the out-of-control Site C project, with the apparent support of the newly elected NDP government.

The BC Utilities Commission is supposed to make sure BC Hydro is acting responsibly in the interests of its customers. It’s the only check on the monopoly $6-billion Crown corporation.

But BC Hydro just gave the finger to the regulator, and to British Columbians. And Premier John Horgan seems to be fine with that.

The utilities commission is mandated to ensure BC Hydro makes good decisions in the public interest. It scrutinizes the corporation’s budgets, plans and projections. It approves — or rejects — rate increases, and reports on whether projects like Site C are needed and based on a sound business case.

In doing that, it relies on BC Hydro to accept the oversight and provide needed information.

And BC Hydro has simply dismissed its obligation to accept independent oversight.

On July 31, BC Hydro filed updates on Site C with the utilities commission.

They were alarming. BC Hydro revealed there was “uncertainty with the dam’s schedule and in-service date” and “significant financial pressures.” So significant the corporation said it was coming up with a new budget and schedule for the megaproject.

And BC Hydro said that in late December a “project risk” had “materialized.”

The dam’s main structures — spillways and the giant power generating hall — are being built on unstable ground. The corporation is trying to figure out a solution and it has no idea how much this will cost.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘You Have Zero Privacy’ Says an Internal RCMP Presentation. Inside the Force’s Web Spying Program

‘You Have Zero Privacy’ Says an Internal RCMP Presentation. Inside the Force’s Web Spying Program

‘Project Wide Awake’ files obtained by The Tyee show efforts to secretly buy and use powerful surveillance tools while downplaying capabilities.

A 3,000-page batch of internal communications from the RCMP obtained by The Tyee provides a window into how the force builds its capabilities to spy on internet users and works to hide its methods from the public.

The emails and documents pertain to the RCMP’s Tactical Internet Operation Support unit based at the national headquarters in Ottawa and its advanced web monitoring program called Project Wide Awake.

The files include an internal RCMP presentation that contradict how the force has characterized Project Wide Awake to Canada’s privacy commissioner and The Tyee in past emails. A slide labels the program’s activities “Social Media Surveillance,” despite the RCMP having denied that description applied.

Communications show one high-level officer blasting the project before leaving the RCMP for Chinese tech firm Huawei.

Other members were jokingly dismissive of public concerns about privacy violations — a training slide for the project says: “You have zero privacy anyway, get over it.”

In seeking contract renewals and wider capabilities, the RCMP claimed its spying produced successful results, including finding online a “direct threat” to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The documents reveal the RCMP:

    • Gained permission to hide sole-source contracts for Project Wide Awake from the public through a “national security exception.”
    • Discussed “tier three” covert operations involving the use of proxies — intermediary computers located elsewhere — to hide RCMP involvement with spying activities.
    • Purchased software with an aim to search “Darknet,” which it defined to include “private communications” and those from “political protests.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Today’s Contemplation: The Coming Collapse VIII

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Chitchen Itza, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Once again, a comment I posted in response to an article on The Tyee.

Where to begin? I realise this article is primarily about a federal political party and its future but there are two underlying issues that are discussed that need far more exploration and understanding if we are going to be projecting where a particular party or even government will be down the road (let alone the entire world).

If we are going to be discussing energy and Peak Oil then there is SO much more to bring into the conversation. Yes, politics plays a role (as it always does) but the topic is vastly wider than sociopolitics. It encompasses virtually everything in our complex, globalised industrial world. Everything. From the way we create potable water, to how we feed ourselves, to how we build and heat our homes (I’ve purposely focused on the three items we NEED to live…everything else is icing but just as dependent on energy, especially fossil fuels).

First things first. There is NO substitute for fossil fuels. At least not one that can sustain our current world the way it is configured. No, alternatives to fossil fuels cannot do it. They are not ‘clean’ as the mining, refinement, and manufacturing processes for them are environmentally damaging. They have a low energy-return-on-energy-invested (EROEI) and provide little ‘bang for the buck’. They cannot fuel many important industrial processes such as steel and concrete production. They depend very much on continued exploitation of fossil fuel, both upstream and downstream. They are NOT a panacea.

We are stuck with fossil fuels, until and unless we are ready and willing to give up probably 90% or more of what we consider ‘modernity’.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Concrete: Our Future Is Anchored in the Stuff

Concrete: Our Future Is Anchored in the Stuff

The modern world is made of a wondrous, terrible product of human ingenuity. A new book tells the story.

Concrete: From Ancient Origins to a Problematic Future

University of Regina Press (2020)

When something is everywhere, we stop seeing it: air, tap water, electricity. And concrete.

Concrete is everywhere, but many of us still call it “cement,” which is just one of concrete’s components. We take it for granted, unless we’re using it in some DIY project and it sets too soon. Using it right is almost as much art as science: Roman concrete still survives in places, but the concrete in the Samuel de Champlain Bridge disintegrated in a matter of years.

In this very readable book, Mary Soderstrom takes us from the chemistry of concrete though its long history as a kind of artificial stone to its present status as a fatal necessity — a building material urgently needed to protect us against the climate change it helps to cause.

Soderstrom’s narrative returns often to the new McInnis Cement plant on the Gaspé coast in eastern Quebec. It’s one of the latest producers in an industry that’s thousands of years old; it has an extensive market and bills itself as “ecologically sound.” But it also needs heavy government support, and inevitably contributes to the carbon dioxide emissions driving climate change.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh VI

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh VI

It’s truly unfortunate that our society pursues such self-evidently egregious exploits on our environment. You can’t continue to pollute your backyard without eventually destroying the complex ecological systems that support you — to say little about the finiteness of most resources we overly depend upon. And, certainly, we can’t continue to allow our sociopolitical ‘leaders’ to pursue such destructive policies and actions.

Yet, the issues and underlying dilemmas are much more complex than just exploitive foreign capital and revenue-seeking politicians. Yes, these are problematic; without a doubt. But they are one piece in a multi-layered puzzle that may or may not have a ‘solution’.

Society’s embracing of several self-destructive behaviours must be undone and reversed. Perhaps the most fundamental of these is the pursuit of ‘growth’. Economic. Population. Technological. Et cetera.

We do not live on a planet with infinite resources and the exponential increase of our activities continues to paint us further and further into a corner. While it is unlikely there will be a definitive ‘day of reckoning’ because of our blasting past our natural carrying capacity (since collapse is a process, not an event), the consequences of our actions will be felt as surely as day follows night.

In fact, it could be argued that we are already and have been experiencing the fallout of our expanding and increasingly complex activities for some time now. Decimated species required for food crop pollination. Expanding geopolitical tensions over resources, especially fossil fuels and water. Supply chain interruptions. Environmental disasters. Increasingly authoritarian government policies and edicts to control populations. Currency debasement. Global pandemics. And on and on.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh V

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Pompeii (1993) Photo by author

Yet another of my comments for an article on The Tyee regarding energy and how we should approach our coming dilemmas. https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/10/02/BC-Needs-Wartime-Approach-Climate-Emergency/

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While I certainly appreciate the need to ‘correct’ our global industrial civilization’s path from its current trajectory there is an obvious ‘problem’ with the argument presented here: forcing the wrong ‘solution’ upon society is a recipe for an expedited collapse. As in the movie/series Snowpiercer (where an attempt to ‘correct’ global warming ended up leading to a frozen planet), the human need to ‘do something’ often leads to negative, unintended consequences and, quite frequently, the opposite of what was desired.

A great example of how the above ‘solution’ would likely bring about more quickly the opposite of what is desired is found in this statement: “We must conduct an inventory, determining how many heat pumps, solar arrays, wind farms, electric buses, etc., we will need to electrify virtually everything and end our reliance on fossil fuels.” To me, this shows quite clearly that the ‘solution’ is not to address the dilemmas created by chasing infinite growth, as our ‘modern’ world does, but maintaining business as usual by trying to have our cake and eat it too. It proposes maintaining all the technological, industrial, and energy-intensive baubles/conveniences that fossil fuels have brought us without realising the price that must be paid to do this (in fact, I would argue the impossibility of doing this).

As I have argued several times on these pages, renewables are NOT the panacea they are marketed as. The energy-return-on-energy-invested (EROEI) is markedly lower than fossil fuels resulting in significantly less energy available for end use. They all rely on environmentally-destructive processes for their material input. They depend upon industrial processes in their manufacture that cannot be done without fossil fuels. They use finite resources, some of which are already experience diminishing returns. They cannot replace fossil fuels.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh IV

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Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

My comment on an article in The Tyee about our federal government’s latest throne speech by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/09/24/Throne-Speech-Stew/).

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The idea that a sovereign nation can never run into trouble financially because it can create its own currency is certainly the dominant narrative amongst government and ‘mainstream’ economists/bankers. After all, who benefits the most from this storyline?

But is it in fact true?

Scratching below the surface of this ‘experiment’ suggests it is not.

If printing one’s own money were a panacea, then nations like Venezuela, Zimbabwe, or the German Weimar Republic (and countless other nations throughout history) would never have experienced the hyperinflation that they have. They would be the richest nations ever to have existed.

One could counter that this is because they had to use their debased currency to import goods. True, but if one is debauching one’s currency through exponential ‘printing’, then this may be true for any nation dependent upon imports, which almost every nation is in our globalised, industrial world.

The solution that nations have rested upon given this reality is that the central banks collude to all print at relatively the same rate, so currencies don’t fall/rise too drastically compared to their trading partners.

Fine, but what does endless money/credit creation due to the purchasing power of this fiat currency created from thin air?

Previous trials in this approach indicate that it totally debases/debauches the currency, significantly reducing the ‘wealth’ of the people holding/using it because of the inflation that it creates.
Here’s what John Maynard Keynes had to say about this: “By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Coastal GasLink Gets Green Light to Start Pipeline Work Near Unist’ot’en Healing Centre

Coastal GasLink Gets Green Light to Start Pipeline Work Near Unist’ot’en Healing Centre

BC approves impact studies and calls for consultation with Wet’suwet’en as work proceeds in contested area.

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Freda Huson (Howilhkat), director of the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, continued singing as the RCMP arrested her at the site on Feb. 10. Photo by Amanda Follett Hosgood.

The province’s Environmental Assessment Office has granted Coastal GasLink permission to begin pipeline construction near the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, the scene of a standoff and arrests in February.

On Thursday, the office issued seven letters confirming its approval of an impact assessment report submitted July 17 by the pipeline company. Coastal GasLink can now begin work on its natural gas pipeline in the Morice River Technical Boundary Area south of Smithers, B.C.

Completion and approval of the 324-page report was a condition of the company’s environmental assessment certificate, initially granted in 2014.

Until 2019 the company was unable to access terrain near the healing centre to do impact assessments, because the Wet’suwet’en house group had gated the Morice River bridge at its territorial boundary. Coastal GasLink submitted an initial report in November, and the Environmental Assessment Office requested additional information in February.

The letters issued Thursday were addressed to Coastal GasLink, four Wet’suwet’en band councils and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, which represents the nation’s hereditary chiefs.

By far the longest, at 11 pages, was the letter to Unist’ot’en Hereditary Chief Knedebeas, whose English name is Warner William.

In it, Nathan Braun, acting assistant deputy minister for the Environmental Assessment Office, acknowledges the house group’s lack of consent to the project and recent willingness to engage in dialogue to mitigate impacts to the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, located a kilometre from the pipeline route.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fort Nelson’s Gas Boom Went Bust. Who’s Going to Clean Up?

Fort Nelson’s Gas Boom Went Bust. Who’s Going to Clean Up?

Ottawa has announced money to clean up the oil and gas industry’s old wells and infrastructure, but critics say it’s not enough.

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The Cabin gas plant expansion was supposed to provide jobs near Fort Nelson. Now it sits idle. Photo by Garth Lenz.

In the face of the economic fallout from COVID-19, it’s easy to forget that some communities in British Columbia were in deep fiscal distress long before the pandemic began.

Fort Nelson is a good example, and a textbook case of why senior levels of government need to be mindful when they roll out recovery plans such as the announced $1.7 billion in federal funding to address cleanup costs at aging oil and natural gas wells.

In 2008, B.C.’s northernmost city was rocked by news that logging and sawmilling giant Canfor was closing two panel mills. Four hundred and thirty five men and women, among the highest paid workers in their community, lost their jobs. The mills never reopened.

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For 14 years, Canfor’s massive PolarBoard mill has stood idle on the outskirts of Fort Nelson. Hopes that gas extraction would provide new jobs were soon dashed. Photo by Garth Lenz.

The fossil fuel equivalent of a gold rush owed its roots to developments in distant Texas where companies had figured out how to force oil and gas out of stubborn shale rock by blasting it with tremendous volumes of water, sand and chemicals in fracking operations. With that innovation, a wave of drilling and fracking for “shale oil” and “shale gas” swept across North America. 

Before long Encana, Apache, Nexen, Chevron and other energy companies swarmed Fort Nelson. The city’s main street buzzed with pickup trucks, its hotels and restaurants were fully booked, and the bar tabs ran high.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What Kenney Had to Kill to Embrace Coal

What Kenney Had to Kill to Embrace Coal

Alberta’s 1976 Coal Policy protected vital drinking water supplies for much of the province. That’s gone now.

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. His government, after being heavily lobbied by coal interests, opted to open a huge swath of sensitive Rocky Mountains land to open pit mining, rendering longstanding protections ‘obsolete.’ Photo by Jason Franson, the Canadian Press.

Under the cover of a pandemic, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quietly wiped away a near half-century of safeguards against open pit coal mining in most of the province’s Rocky Mountains and foothills.

The result could be the stripping away of mountain tops across more than a million and half hectares of terrain — about half the size of Vancouver Island.

Gone, as of last May, is the province’s 1976 Coal Policy, which protected the headwaters of rivers that secure drinking water for Canadians across the prairies.

The Coal Policy was established by the Progressive Conservative government then led by Peter Lougheed, based on nearly six years of active public consultations. It was quietly axed this spring without input by First Nations or the wider public.

In fact, Kenney’s government only talked to one group, the Coal Association of Canada. (See this related story published today on The Tyee.)The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

That lobbying group is directed by Robin Campbell, a former Tory provincial environmental minister.

Now a handful of largely Australian-owned corporations intent on serving metallurgical coal markets in India and China are poised to begin transforming Alberta’s eastern slopes into an industrial mining zone.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Canada’s Oilsands City Is Supporting Indigenous Food Sovereignty

How Canada’s Oilsands City Is Supporting Indigenous Food Sovereignty

A new Métis Cultural Centre in Fort McMurray aims to revive traditional practices in an urban setting.

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‘The garden has become a place where people begin to reclaim their land literacy,’ says the director Indigenous Research Partnerships at UBC, and that’s why projects like the Métis Cultural Centre are meaningful. Photo by Olivia Szostek, UBC.

Genevieve Noel was in the room when Fort McMurray city councillors voted unanimously last month to provide almost eight acres for a Métis Cultural Centre.

Noel, a Métis woman and designer, said she had goosebumps as the votes were counted. The $22-million project offers a chance to reconnect with her Indigenous identity, she said.

And that includes exploring Indigenous food sovereignty as a solution to food insecurity, climate chaos and loss of culture, she said.

“As we were reconnecting with Indigenous culture, it just was so evident to me that the wisdom of traditional Indigenous culture is the way forward. We really need to embrace the Earth and really reconnect,” she said. “The spirituality was another layer that I really appreciate.”

Noel and her husband Maginnis Cocivera are founders of Mindful Homes, a North Vancouver architecture firm that hopes to facilitate “a seamless transition to the post-carbon era in response to climate change.”The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

The firm has been selected by McMurray Métis to design the project.

“It’s an honour to work with them and help bring all these things back,” Noel said. “It’s really a nice healing process to bring community together, and we want to present the project that way, like we’re all moving forward together, we’re not leaving anybody behind, and people can learn to live together again in a more positive way.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Has Suncor Seen the Climate Crisis Coming for 61 Years?

Has Suncor Seen the Climate Crisis Coming for 61 Years?

A US lawsuit wants the oilsands producer to pay for global warming havoc.

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Suncor Energy Centre is the tallest building in this photo (and second highest on the Calgary skyline), built in 1984. That would be a quarter century after corporate leaders were first told about global warming and around the time the company was involved in public relations to downplay the threat, alleges a lawsuit. Photo by Danielle Scott via Flickr.

Did Canada’s largest oil producer learn about climate change as early as 1959, develop a massive bitumen industry in northern Alberta knowing the atmospheric damage it would cause, and then take part in an international effort throughout the 1990s and 2000s to convince the public that climate change isn’t real?

Those questions are now at the heart of a closely-watched lawsuit filed against Suncor in the state of Colorado, which earlier this month cleared an important legal hurdle.

Now it’s up to a judge to determine whether the lawsuit, which also names Exxon as a defendant, can move beyond procedural wrangling into the first phases of an actual trial. Such a trial has the potential to set a transformative legal precedent: for the first time ever assigning legal blame for climate change to oil and gas companies in a U.S. court while holding those companies accountable for undermining life-saving science.

“That would be huge news,” said David Bookbinder, an attorney with the Washington D.C.-based Niskanen Center, which is helping the city of Boulder and several other local Colorado communities sue Suncor and Exxon for allegedly profiting from climate change while concealing the devastating impacts. “We’re waiting for the judge to give us an answer.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

We’re Dumb about Exponential Growth. That’s Proving Lethal

We’re Dumb about Exponential Growth. That’s Proving Lethal

And not just for COVID-19. The same ignorance accelerates the climate crisis.

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Exponential growth looks like a jet taking off. It is rapid and explosive and follows a geometric progression. It is often about doubling times. Image via Shutterstock.

Gradually, and then suddenly. That’s how exponential growth can ruin your day, undo your family, evaporate your economy, destroy your climate, crush an empire and destabilize a planet.

Consider the performance of COVID-19.

Last month a 30-year-old male attended a “COVID party” in San Antonio, Texas.

At a COVID party, the host has tested positive. He or she then does not sit down with a math primer to understand how many human dominoes they might cause to fall. Nor does the host watch this handy video which, in three short minutes, explains the deadly implications of exponential growth of infection.

WATCH: A mathematician explains the power of exponential growth to spread the coronavirus at increasing speed throughout a population if unchecked by social distancing and other measures.

No, at a COVID party the host invites others to come over and mingle, have a few drinks, test fate, laugh in the face of reality.

The 30-year-old male who came to the COVID party died several weeks later, but not before he made a brief confession to the nurse attending him. “I think I made a mistake, I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.”

That’s how exponential growth can ruin your day.

The percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Texas has risen steeply in recent weeks. Up to 22 per cent of tests showed positive in the San Antonio area last week.

The exponential function is all about growth, and growth follows a logical curve. It can be linear or exponential. Linear is what children do as they grow in weight. Or what stalagmites do as they grow with dripping water.

But exponential growth looks like a jet taking off. It is rapid and explosive and follows a geometric progression. It is often about doubling times.

After China reported its first case of COVID-19 last January, it took 67 days to reach the first 100,000 global cases.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is Jason Kenney Ready to Bet Albertan Pensions on Failing Fossil Fuel Firms?

Is Jason Kenney Ready to Bet Albertan Pensions on Failing Fossil Fuel Firms?

The UCP government is moving to take control of citizens’ savings — and they should be very worried.

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney may be eying up the retirement funds of public sector workers as a financial lifeline for companies in the oil patch. Photo via the Government of Alberta.

Cautious. Reliable. Boring. Those are words that are appropriately associated with pension fund management. However, pensions have recently become a hot button political issue in Alberta, for some ominous reasons.

As international investment dries up for the fossil fuel sector, evidence mounts that Premier Jason Kenney may be eying up the retirement funds of public sector workers as a financial lifeline for companies in the oil patch.

The United Conservative Party didn’t mention sweeping pension reform in its election platform, but it has been a curious legislative priority since they were swept to power last year.

Bill 22 forced the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund to hand over its $18-billion pension fund to Alberta Investment Management Corp. — a Crown corporation that just lost $1.9 billion of the Alberta Heritage Trust Fund’s assets. This bill also prevents the numerous public pensions under AIMCo control from ever taking their investment business elsewhere, regardless of poor investment results.

Kenney has also proposed pulling out of the Canada Pension Plan after a vote under his new referendum-on-anything bill. AIMCo could then be in charge of over $260 billion entrusted for the financial futures of millions of Albertans.The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Legal firewalls are often in place to prevent political meddling in public pension management. If a politician even attempts to contact a Canada Pension Plan board member, it is a reportable offence.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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