I can’t save the whole world, but sometimes I get to help a tiny piece of it.

Mother and baby squirrel. All photos herein by the author

On day one, I noticed all three of our cats were sitting side by side in a line, paying intense attention to the stairs. The next day, we figured out that it was a squirrel that had found its way into our house. Hestia the cat chased it out through its bolthole and while it was outside I cut a piece of lumber to fit and sealed up the egress. The squirrel returned, appearing desperate to get inside. We could hear it scrabbling at the wood with its tiny hands. My partner Moira and I concluded that perhaps we had…

Not all ideas need to be spread any further.

Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash

I already know what you’re thinking: this is cancel culture gone mad. We should all be able to agree that book burning is bad. Nazis burned books. Nazis are bad. Let’s not get distracted by the fact that a frightening number of our neighbours apparently can’t even agree on that “Nazis are bad” part, and focus on the book burning bit. Even the politicians quite happy to court the white supremacist vote seem to be able to get outraged about book burning. It is the implied core of the straw man argument about cancel culture that has them constantly infuriated…

We need resilient health care systems, and the pursuit of efficiency has destroyed them.

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash, before photoshop additions by author

Every time you have heard a politician talk about efficiency, they were also arguing against resilience. Efficiency is all about trying to do more with less. Can we do it cheaper? Can we dedicate less time to it? What corners can we cut? Efficiency in health care is maintaining as few hospital beds as possible and working as few staff as you can get away with hiring as hard as you can possibly work them to maximize the system’s per-dollar output. To someone focussed on efficiency, every bed that’s empty is a waste, and if a nurse has a minute…

Actual pride is something to reserve for actual accomplishments

Blonde young me, about age three

The light-skinned offspring of German immigrants, I have photographs of young me with blonde hair to prove it, like the one of my sister and I that you see above these words. Despite this, I have never experienced the faintest morsel of “white pride,” ever, for the merest millisecond. Whenever the term arises, I always feel revulsion, because nothing good has ever come from those words, but it is always blended with a soupçon of pity. That pity is something of a luxury. I can indulge in it because I have enough melanin in my skin that the hostility of…

How bipartisanship transformed from statesmanship into something more like a death cult

Photo by Micah Williams on Unsplash

For generations, we were often told in the political realm that a political solution was probably a good one if it satisfied neither side. This idea that the middle ground was the right place to govern from is a quaint relic of a bygone era when both sides of the political aisle were capable of agreeing on the most basic facts. …

Economics is a belief system, not a science, wielding the wrong tools for the job

Thermometer photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels, Tools on table photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels, Peeler image by Walter Bichler from Pixabay, and photoshop by author

One way to build something wildly awful is to use the wrong measuring tools. Even the most skilled carpenter in the world will be incapable of building something wonderful if you take away his ruler and replace it with a thermometer. It can be a crazily accurate thermometer, but it will still be measuring the wrong thing to get the job done.

So let’s imagine that what you’re measuring is the economy. If you revisited political discussions about the economy from the 1930s, you would find them refreshingly unfamiliar. You would hear questions like “how well is the economy serving…

Yes, it works, but no, not the way you probably think.

Photo by Dmitry Vechorko on Unsplash

I spent more than two decades as a practicing modern pagan. The Wiccan reverence for nature offered a compelling framework for my environmentalism, and I found the community far more tolerant than other faith groups. Eventually I acknowledged that at heart I am a rational atheist with no interest in taking anyone’s dogma literally, although I’m still close with many of the same spiritual people. My biggest takeaway from those years relates to the popular concept of magic. Whenever the topic arises, people are often confused that I reconcile accepting the idea of magic with a scientific approach to my…

How the West knowingly condemned millions to death by Covid

Capitalism thrives on crises like Covid. Photoshop by the author

In terms of the total number of deaths, the United States accounts for the biggest fraction of Earth’s Covid body count thus far, but that record will likely topple soon. At the date I’m writing, Brazil’s death toll is nearing 400,000, and India’s 200,000, with little hope of slowing down. With hospitals in India buckling under the strain and desperately short of oxygen, the US, UK, and Germany have already pledged to send aid, and other countries like Canada are preparing to do the same. What’s missing from this display of performative compassion is any acknowledgement of a dark truth…

but Doug Ford’s conservatives keep doing it anyway

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

We’ve understood that quarantines can be an effective tool to reduce the spread of a disease since the 14th century. It’s not a difficult concept: if a contagious person interacts with fewer other people, there are fewer opportunities for the spread of infection. 2020 provided us with several lessons in how effective this approach can be. Nations like Taiwan and New Zealand which locked down quickly and thoroughly at the first appearance of Covid effectively contained it well enough that by the summer of 2020 they were able to pack stadiums elbow to elbow with sports fans safely once again.

In an increasingly cruel world, the social weight of kindness is magnified

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

Some years ago I was leaving the apartment that I had moved to after the end of my marriage. It was on the fourth floor, at the top of an old brick walkup that was stiflingly hot in the increasingly warm summers, and I had found a new space which was not only bigger and cheaper, but blissfully cooler. While carrying a box of my possessions down the stairs for the last time I ran into one of the other tenants and took the opportunity to say goodbye. We didn’t know each other well, but had always been polite.


Michael Nabert

Researching a road map from our imperilled world into one with a livable future with as much good humour as I can muster along the way.

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