About Father Theo

Writer, educator, parent, musician, historiographer, autobiographer.

Attended 17 schools between grade one and twelve. Then.  Educated in Creative Writing, BFA, MFA, plus a couple years of Law, all at U.B.C.

I have numerous identities depending on the way I’m facing.  That’s not unusual.  Like anyone about a task (such as the task of living) I pick up and use whatever tools are available and applicable for the task at hand.

I use a certain set of tools for writing.  I have other tools which I use for tasks which have nothing to do with writing, and nothing to do with what I do here.  That’s my other face.  My other faces.  Not a mystery.  Simply not relevant now.

(And please don’t suppose I am coyly side-stepping autobiographical detail.  I blog about those same details.  They are part of the show.  I may be simple–although I highly doubt it–but my story is complex.  Anyway…)

I’m a teacher.  A parent.  I coexist with cats and tax-paying bipeds.  I write.  I play music.  I actively pursue an interest in history, historiography, psychology, anthropology, autobiography, literature, science, cosmology, law, culture, and, I suspect, a number of other ‘isms’ and ‘ologies’ that I can’t bring to mind just now.  I have never recognized any natural boundaries to knowledge, so basically when I get to the edges of knowing about a thing, I just keep on going.

A packrat mind.

We live in a world of social constructs.  I have been socially constructed as a Tsimshian.  Well, almost.  As a Tsimshian inside and outside whitestream society.  And you have been socially constructed to understand who I am–or to suppose you don’t know who I am–because I say I am Tsimshian.  We’re both wrong, but I’m far too polite to mention it when the children are present.

When the sun expands to swallow the earth in 5 billion years, it won’t much matter anyway.

In the shorter term, and as I write this, the question I return to again and again concerns the fate of the planet–ocean acidification, climate change, extinctions, tipping points–and whether humanity, whether human nature, is capable of meeting the challenge these questions entail.

I have spent much of my time up to now–when not engaged in things that only matter to me–thinking about human concerns–racism, poverty, women, foster care, Aboriginal education and governance, human rights, and so on.  (Mixed in with literature, art, music, and the stuff of everyday living, of course, before as now.)  They still concern me.  But what I have realized is that, unless our civilization somehow turns the whole caravan around double quick, and we stop hurtling toward the brink of irreversible climate change, there will be no human rights.

Because human rights imply a civilization to uphold them.

——————–

If you want to find out more about me, read my blog entry Quixotic, where I say more.

If you find you can’t get enough of that stuff, try my autobiography, currently playing out chapter by chapter under the name of Legends of Myself.  It even has its own index if you’re not into that sequence thing.

Oh, and about my nom de blog.  It’s the same as my nom de stage.  I play in the band Haisla with Nasty, Brutish & Short.  The star, she’s my daughter, so I’m …

–Father Theo

12 Responses “About Father Theo” →

  1. sabrina tuiono

    May 1, 2010

    Hi juz wondering what sources should I be following on the climate change debate? I mean what are the “real sources”. And also, do you have a facebook page?

    Reply

    • fathertheo

      May 1, 2010

      Climate change research involves a lot of looking around and following up on the web, and it’s worthwhile doing because you begin to get familiar with some of the names. I like to build lists of names of prominent and recurring voices (for my own use only, of course, nothing sinister) simply because this is relevant information. You always have to know who’s talking.

      One of the ways of sorting the reasonable from the dishonest is to look at the sources they are citing. Here’s where your list starts to come in handy. Denial sources will inevitably cite each other. And the citations are often in non-peer-reviewed journals. That’s a term you should keep in mind: peer-reviewed. Unless a journal is a mainstream peer-reviewed scientific journal, fundamentally, you can’t trust it. It doesn’t mean that everything outside of peer-reviewed journals is wrong–that’s absurd–it is simply that it has not been scientifically vetted. As outsiders to the scientific debate (as I assume you are as well) we can’t afford to accept any science outside of the mainstream because–bottom line–we lack the tools to assess it ourselves.

      I have no problem with mainstream science vetting itself, anyway. That is practically a definition of what science is. If something can’t be reconciled with the known data, it’s time to go back and recheck your data.

      Okay, sources for the science. I regularly follow New Scientist, Scientific American, Science Daily, and NASA’s Earth Observatory, all of whom have regularly updated websites. Only Earth Observatory specializes in the earth sciences, but you can follow the evolving science in the other sites. They also have features you can access which answer questions about the current state of the science, FAQs, etc. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has a news website called ScienceNOW, and the National Academies (which includes the National Academy of Science, etc.) has a website as well. Just google these names, I’m sure you’ll find them. You can follow links on my sources list too–when I’m being academic and not just polemical.

      Let’s see. RealClimate.org is excellent. Real climate scientists fighting back against the denial industry. I steal ideas from them regularly. (Hey, it’s all the same battle.)

      DeSmogBlog gives leads on some of the lead deniers and why real scientists discount them. These are personalities, of course. And it’s always better to multisource, follow up and look around when you are dealing with personalities. But DeSmogBlog is a good place to start if you want to start investigating the denial industry–which represents the non-scientific aspect of the global climate change debate.

      Reply

  2. saffron676

    December 8, 2011

    Thanks Fr Theo. This is excellent info.

    Sabrina

    Reply
  3. Anyone may comment on any post. But please don’t spam me with trackbacks to climate denier websites on this thread.

    I don’t believe in “alternative” science for a particular reason, that it requires me to substitute MY judgement of what is good science for the judgement of the scientists themselves. Scientists work in their fields of specialization, work with the evidence everyday, work within the scrutiny of a highly-competitive company of peers. How can my judgement of what is good science possibly be better than theirs? Reasonably, it can’t. And when every major scientific organization on the planet agrees with a scientific conclusion as is the case with human-caused climate change, rationally I ought to agree as well.

    So the rule on this thread, no fringe science. Only 1% of actively publishing climate scientists actually deny climate change. Another 2% think it won’t be as bad as we think. 97% more or less agree with the conclusions of the IPCC, although this group includes an ever-growing group of scientists who think the IPCC understated the case.

    97% versus 1% makes climate change denial fringe science–even when you ignore the ideological conflicts and fossil fuel sponsorships which undermine and taint the opinions of many prominent deniers.

    Reply
  4. Father Theo, You’ve done an excellent job at putting together some unique cultural history! Congratulations! And best of luck with the site. Very attractive and easy to use, too.

    Reply

  5. Charles W. Plummer

    May 19, 2013

    Father Theo,
    I am 61-year-old father of four, including a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old. Global Warming and the Climate change it will faster has filled me with guild and frustration. A couple years ago, I donated a couple domain names to the folks at 350.0rg in hopes that someone would put them to good use. One was Denier-R-Us. The other was Ostriches-R-Us. Humbly, I hope you saw mine and thought it was good enough improve on it and use it to effect. And if we simply think alike on this subject and this is purely coincidence, I applaud your good work. I confess, it is becoming tougher for serious people to deny what 97% of the Climate Science Community is telling us, but unfortunately, it’s also becoming too late to do anything about it globally. Deniers still seem to be out there. Unfortunately, lobbyists continue to use these few remaining ‘experts’ to effect. I think the majority of people are herd animals, followers by nature. They WANT to believe the ‘feel good’ and resist the ‘feel bad’. Your blog does exactly what I had in mind when I wrote to the folks at 350.org and asked, “Where does one go to read about these so-called experts?” “Who’s fighting back?” Today, I think the best we can hope for is to inform our children what’s on their horizon. I wrote the following to my 26-year-old son on the subject of Climate Change. I think when presented as an apology and admonishment (on a personal level as in this case from Father who loves his Son), this format might be taken more ‘heart-felt’ rather than as an impersonal informational exercise. I beg your indulgence and apologize for its length.

    Dear Tristan,
    The history of man’s relationship with Nature is filled with Irony. Nature converts living things into coal and oil and natural gas over millions of years. Man burns cheap fossil fuels to underwrite the advance of human civilization and grow its population from 1 to 7 billion persons. Man over-exploits fossil fuels and fails to act in spite clear warnings from Nature. Nature gets even. Nature reclaims Earth from man. An Irony closer to home involves the position many in our government have taken by supporting and funding those who cast doubt, discredit scientists, and deny Global Warming. A scientific consensus regarding Global Warming and Climate Change became truly credible in the mid 90’s, after an overwhelming body of disparate scientific evidence was finally pulled together. From where, you might ask? From an international scientific collaboration, a preponderance of which was funded by the United States Government–Ironically, mostly conservatives. The motive for funding research in Meteorology, Oceanography, Glaciology, Astronomy, Climatology, and other Geo-Sciences might have originally been to develop new and imaginative ways to conduct war (like when to launch an attack; how to alter weather patterns to cause famine and floods; and how to disperse bio, chem and nuclear agents, etc), but it morphed into a consensus on Global Warming as reported in 1996 by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), an organization established on the Republicans watch in 1988, and whose specific objective was to give world governments a better understanding of the risks posed by Global Warming. Now that’s irony Son.

    Global Warming and Climate Change. I suggest you become familiar with these issues, because this is something you don’t want to get wrong. Not at your age. I’m calling your attention to this because it’s all I can do right now. It’s the only way I can try and atone for the mess my generation will leave yours after we won’t be around to do the job ourselves. You and others under forty will want to know enough about this subject to satisfy yourselves one way or another. And don’t listen to anyone, including me. I’ll tell you what I believe just to try and get your attention. But you need to roll up yours sleeves and do your own checking.

    I initially became interested in this subject by accident. My job required much travel, mostly driving. This was before I-stuff and laptops and barely after the cell-phone was invented. I never left home without ‘books-on-tape.’ In 1991, I was accidentally mailed ‘The End of Nature’ by Bill McKibbens. Like most people, I had heard the words Depleting Ozone Layer and Global Warming, but the book made sense of it. I have tried to stay up on the issues, but in our busy lives, we’re easily satisfied with recycling and conserving energy, and hybrid electric car development, and the new generation of commercials from Shell Oil and Chevron which say soothing words about a ‘Green,’ sustainable future; with trees and sparkling brooks and smiling children, all played to soft music and narrated by plausible sounding ‘average Americans’. It’s like being hypnotized–you end up shaking your head to come out of it. As the father of four, I take the subject of Global Warming and its subsequent effect on Climate Change extremely seriously, and for what its worth, I’ve never hoped so much in my life that I’m wrong. Like most people, I don’t like ‘alarmists’, unless of course, there is something to be alarmed about. Then I find them rather helpful. These particular ‘alarmists’ are Climate Scientists; an extremely conservative, highly educated and dedicated group who have been trying to inform us about something which happens to be alarming. I think it is arrogant for us not to at least listen to what they have to say.

    I have come to believe the threat of Global Warming and Climate Change is real. I think the debate is an invention. Global Warming and Climate Change enjoys a (practically unanimous) consensus from the Climate Science Community. Where did the debate come from? I think it came from people, industries, corporations, lobbyists, and politicians with lots and lots of money to buy lots and lots of opinions and influence. That’s something you may want check carefully. In a world of ‘Arab Spring’ and ‘Occupier’ here-and-now movements, Global Warming seems to have been shunted to a side rail. Big polluters must be ecstatic. But the timing seems right. It all sounds connected if you step back and look at it. Basically, young people the world over are pissed off at having to clean up this s__t-pile left by greedy old rich people. And well they should be.

    I’ve read a dozen books and I try to keep up with a few blogs. I won’t try to sell you on the science. But the Cliff Notes version goes something like this: If you burn a 100 lb pile of leaves and are left with 10 lbs of ash, 90 lbs of something went somewhere and does something. How? Because matter cannot be created or destroyed. It took over half a billion years for nature to make coal and oil and natural gas from living plants. It stands to reason that if we burn, in 200 years, what it took all that time to create, something is bound to happen. We know the chemicals involved and the properties of those chemicals when released to the atmosphere. When those properties produce, say, green house effect, things are bound to warm up. Now, IF true, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has been rising since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The increase of this greenhouse gas has been linear until the last three decades, when it and the global temperature it fosters went exponential. How do we know? Because we can measure it. US, China, India, Brazil and others keep on burning fossil fuels and plan to burn more. Cheap oil is harder to find, so the master plan to power the lives of an additional two billion persons before 2050 is to construct thousands of new coal-fire power plants. Coal emits lots of CO2 when combusted. More than oil. Much more than Natural gas. The world has lots of coal. Coal is nature’s trump card for getting even with man. Without major policy changes and active compliance with greenhouse gas mitigation during the next twenty years, you are pretty much guaranteed a 3 to 6 degree (C) rise in average global temperature this century, much of it in your lifetime. All of it in your kid’s lifetimes. That’s 5.4 to 10.8 degrees F. that’s a temperature increase too rapid for most people to adapt to without unimaginable changes in the way daily life is conducted. The heat is only part of the problem. Heat changes the climate and climate is a biggie. It’s the most important factor in food production, access to drinking water, and severity of weather events, to name a few considerations. And that’s the good news, because I have an idea these estimates are conservative. Son, I want you to be able to live your life how you choose on healthy blue planet, and be able to raise your own kids in the same kind of place. Charlito and Naomi are two decades deeper into having to deal with Climate Change than you and Morgan. So yeah, it’s serious.

    Even conservative predictions of Global Warming constitute the most significant challenge mankind has ever faced. Climate science consensus is telling us to reduce CO2 emissions to 350 ppm’s (parts per million) by 2030 to ‘functionally be doing something’ to halt and reverse this increase in global warming, or at least slow it down to where man can live life, adapting to the change. We are currently at about 400 (10 more than when I wrote this letter two years ago). The debate over global warming has raged for over thirty years, and the facts of the matter have become increasingly compelling. Yet here we are with a bigger elephant to eat. “One bite at a time”, would not appear to be an effective world-saving strategy. Alone, little feel-good measures like ‘Green Days’ won’t do the trick. This trend is measurable. One may debate how measurements are taken, but 2% is not 1% and words can’t change that, no matter the money paid and the false credentials touted. You can’t negotiate or compromise or delay Math and Chemistry and Physics. It is what it is. We know how to measure CO2 over time. We can measure temperature and sea level changes. We can measure ocean ph. We can input new and mounting paleoclimate data from ice-core and sea-bed core samples, modeling a window into Earth’s climatic past. A new breed of powerful computers model-out scenarios and probabilities. And we know carbon chemistry and the physics of greenhouse gasses. We understand the ramifications of ‘climate feedbacks’: i.e. Warmer temps mean more permafrost thawing which releases more methane, which further warms the atmosphere and so on. And we have ‘in-our-face’ empirical trends during the last 100 years, which point directly to a changing climate. The ‘the hottest years on record’ or ‘the strongest storms’ or ‘biggest floods’ or ‘most severe wildfire seasons’. We can see from thousands of before-and-after photos of melting glaciers and ice fields that the ice is melting. In your lifetime, sea level increases alone are estimated to rise by enough to affect the lives of vast populations. And most importantly, we understand how exceeding the Earth’s climatic ‘tipping point’ becomes the ‘point of no return’. I think the Earth is talking to us and it’s telling us the climate is changing. It’s telling us to pay attention.

    I try to imagine a parallel scenario, easier for my limited scientific mind to grasp. Let’s say tomorrow, a gathering of the world’s leading astrophysicists announced that after five years of examining the data, they confidently announce that in 64 years on such-and-such a day, a quarter-mile wide iron asteroid will impact the Earth. We are told that if we all work together and marshal our resources, we can prevent catastrophe. Now, no one wants to believe that much bad news, so there would be a lively debate over its veracity. But it wouldn’t be like this debate. For one thing, it would be short, not decades long. We’d be checking the data; doing our homework as individuals and families; and governments would be establishing a global consensus and forcing industry cooperation, regardless of the objections. Why would governments do that? Because concerned citizens would force them to. We’d vote the people out who weren’t behind the effort. We’d be listening to our top scientists and mathematicians. We’d quickly learn to prioritize what’s important and what isn’t. We’d have less patience with agenda-driven, unqualified opinions that stall and confuse; and the audience these persons would draw would shrink dramatically. We would get on with mitigating the problem, no matter the cost or sacrifice, before it showed up on our grand-children’s doorstep at 27,000 MPH. Fiction? Some of the upper-end estimates of Global Warming and the resulting chaos during the next 100 years are barely less onerous to humanity than my poor asteroid example, should mankind fail to effectively respond.

    I understand the problem. The belief in global warming and what it will mean to the future of this planet is so big; it’s hard to get your mind around it. Most of us, even I sometimes, find myself saying, “It just can’t be! Can it?” It requires a courageous leap of faith to embrace the data–to take it seriously; one which most people won’t make without a push. Lets look at the players:

    Team One—Science: On one side, we have a group of Climate Scientists who are telling us what their research tells them. Thousands of them. Collectively, they have education, dedication, and years of hard won data; let’s say facts. Do scientists make mistakes? Yes. Do scientists falsify data to gain recognition and receive grant money? It’s happened but it’s rare. Today’s peer-review process pretty much assures the end reader that facts have been checked, adjusted, corrected, rechecked and signed-off-on prior to publication. Are scientists ever wrong? Sure, but the top 1000 of them in any given field probably aren’t when they all agree. Are scientists conservative by nature? Yes. You would be too if you spent the majority of your life trying to ferret out the truth of some obscure matter, only to be proved wrong; its embarrassing. Are scientists right about the hazards of Global Warming and Climate Change? Thirty years of conservative peer-reviewed results say, “Absolutely.” My personal answer is, “I f____g hope not.” I’ll tell you what points me toward climate scientists being right as much as the things we can see and measure; after thirty years of flat denial, big polluters no longer deny Global Warming. Big polluters used to be ‘flatlanders’, now they sound stupid when they deny the world is round. So without missing a step, they tossed the ball laterally to a new argument, “global warming isn’t man-made so there’s nothing we can do about it.” I think they plan to finance that debate for another thirty years. Team Science calls “bulls__t!” They state unequivocally, “It is industrial man that is causing this much Global Warning this fast. Its something we can measure. It’s something we can do something about.”

    Team Big Polluters: On the other side of the Global Warming debate, we have the largest, richest, most complex man-made entity on this planet, the Fossil Fuel Industry. And playing on their team is the Auto Industry, the Electric Utility Industry, The Transportation Industry, and most Governments (following along behind, checking for shifts in the wind). I believe they all know the world is heating up and their game plan is to keep the subject “in play.” I think they are happy to settle for a draw. I have read a number of analogies comparing the Global Warming debate to Big Tobacco’s strategy in defending their position in the ‘hazards of smoking’ debate. It works well to a point. Does anyone really think the CEO’s of Big Tobacco didn’t know his or her product was harmful? They knew it. They knew they would lose to the truth in the end, so they developed a master plan for corporate survival, knowing they would lose. Big Tobacco needed time to diversify and time to adapt and wanted to keep making money while they were at it. Big Tobacco invested whatever was necessary to create doubt, confusion, debate, and delay. The world is a courtroom, and ‘reasonable doubt’ is all it takes to dismiss the case or ‘hang a jury.’ Parallels to Global Warming are hard to ignore. The difference is, in this context, if we allow big polluters a chance to burn all Earth’s remaining fossil fuels and diversify and adapt according to their timetable, we all might just as well buy a pack of Camels and light up.

    It’s money son, and the opinions and influence money buys that is controlling the field. The game used to be whether Global Warming was true. No longer. The NEW end-game strategy is to sew doubt, and confuse, and delay having to stop burning fossil fuels. Big Polluters, just like Big Tobacco, already know they will lose to the truth. They don’t care. They aren’t trying to win the battle for truth. They are trying to make money the way they’ve always made it and they are trying to do that for as many more years as they can. Does anyone really believe all those smart people running Big Fossil Fuel and Big Auto and Big Transportation and Power Generation and Big Governments don’t know the truth? I think they do. But they’re not going to make meaningful changes unless they are made to. I think big polluters will burn this planet down if we let them.

    I remember the ‘Ozone Layer’ debate. Cloroflourcarbons (CFC’s) were to blame. Why isn’t the Ozone Layer the big public debate it once was? Because scientists convinced the public and the public forced the government to change the regulations, and the government forced industry to curtail the use of CFC’s. You practically need a HAZMAT crew to charge a car air conditioner these days. Can a world mobilize? Again, I think so. It did twice for two world wars. I figure the U.S. has five years to get organized. Five years to develop and begin implementation of a master strategy whose aim is to muzzle the Coal and Oil industry, put real horsepower behind the development of alternative energies, and put the world back to work, working on that very problem—to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions on this planet. The target date for stabilization would be 2030. The goal? 350 PPM’s CO2. How do you do it? First, do your homework. Don’t bother going any further if you don’t believe this is a problem. But please, take yourself far enough to be able to support an informed opinion. And then, if you believe, you still may decide not to get involved, but at least you won’t be caught leaning the wrong way, and for sure, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions about your future; your career path; where to live; and what necessary skills you need to hone for living in a warmer future. Good luck taking all this in. I’m hear to talk to when you are ready.
    Love Dad

    Reply

  6. Darlene

    March 24, 2014

    I think we live in a time that people have this thing in their heads called “I want” “I want” and “I will not”. People do not want to hear of change, change is usually contected to something that would cost more or take more time, so therefor they denie the reality of it. To me the “I want” is alot of greed in people that do not want the responsibility of owning up to the distruction of our planet. It is money, money and more of it. To people in general one would buy a one acre of beautiful forest and remove all the trees to build a 2 million dollar home and have a nice lawn because of greed and so called prestige.. Oh look at my place isn’t it nice!!!!!!! in my book no it isn’t one has destroyed something that was already beautiful “NATURE”.

    Reply
  7. I really appreciate your Blog FatherTheo- Axel Theo

    Reply

  8. Maret Saar

    April 16, 2017

    Dear Father Theo,
    You wrote that you have a packrat mind. This encouraged me to ask you the question “Who lived in the area of the Caribou Mountains (situated in northern Alberta) in the period of 1830-1849?”
    At present there is the Caribou Mountains Wildland Park. Some information gives the website https://albertawilderness.ca/issues/wildlands/areas-of-concern/caribou-mountains. This is as follows: “The south central and south eastern escarpment of the Caribou Mountains…is part of the traditional lands of the Little Red River Cree Nation and Tallcree First Nation, who have inhabited this area for over 5,000 years. …Several historic and prehistoric aboriginal settlements are known to exist in the area. At one time there were 8,000 Beaver Indians in the area. They suffered massive death due to disease and numerous Beaver Indian graves can be located at Margaret Lake.” It is impossible to understand, which of these three nations was dominating in the area in 1830-1849.

    Reply
    • The Beaver or Dunne-za were most likely the primary inhabitants of the area until 1849. The Cree manifestly did not live in Northern Alberta for 5000 years. That is only true for their original territories near Hudson’s Bay and eastward. Much of their present range is a result of their expansion under the fur trade and the access to rifles that gave them.

      Reply
  9. Thank you, Father Theo, for the answer.
    Are any of references (books or articles or documents) available?

    Reply
    • Useful is The Plains Cree by John S Milloy, U of Manitoba Press, 1998. Otherwise, any good history of the fur trade in Canada. The expansion of the Cree with the fur trade is so widely known in the history that you can find numerous sources.

      Reply

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