On the 100th Anniversary – Memories of Vimy Ridge

August 5th 2014, marks the first full day of the United Kingdom and the Commenwealth’s war against Germany and the start of the First World War.

To honour and remember that I am reposting a story I wrote of my own pilgrimage to Vimy Ridge 11 years ago.  It is still, and will likely always be one of my most memorable moments of my life and it is because of the sacrifice of all soldiers and innocents in war that it affected me so deeply.

The day I walked from Arras, France to Vimy Ridge…

The stories of Arras and Vimy Ridge are intertwined. There were actually tunnels from the city halls and buidings of Arras all the way to the front lines near Vimy Ridge.

On one of the very hot days when I was there in June 2003, I walked from the center of Arras all the way to Vimy Ridge. It took me about 4 hours… I think it was around 30km. I tried to keep to the country roads out of town… there are plenty in France… the countryside was quiet and beautiful.  A perfect pilgrimage.

A poppy in a field in Normandy
I didn’t take many pictures on my walk… this is a poppy in a field in Normandy outside Dieppe that I saw a few days before.

As I got closer to the site of the memorial, visual clues around me triggered a growing sense of anticipation and quiet at the same time. The heat beat down upon me as if to ensure that both body and mind were sufficiently assaulted.

As I approached the memorial there was suddenly a forest. After seeing only huge expanses of fields and grass this native stand of trees was odd. When I entered the forest it became clear that this forest was as much a part of the memorial as the stone monument itself. Amongst the trees were huge depressions, poked periodically by small red flags. The flags signalled the position of mines, bombs and grenades… all manner of ordnance… still left from 80 years before… the depressions were craters, from bombs, shells and battle.

I continued to walk up the now nicely shaded road, the occasional car passing by. The hill was a steady climb into the forest, but it was not clear when I would reach the crest.

Then through the trees I could see a clearing, indeed, it looked as though the forest ended as quickly as it appeared. A few more steps and all I could see was the monument.

Vimy Ridge – 2003

I have never been so moved by an object. I was not prepared for how this visit would affect me and apparently I was not prepared even for my initial reaction. My stomach flipped and tears quickly swelled in my eyes. I had never seen anything quite so beautiful and powerful and imposing all at the same time.

That is why I took the pictures I did. From a distance. The picture above was the point where I first perceived the monument, and I simply could not bring myself to take more pictures of it after that. So moved was I by the reverance of the place that I would not, could not, embarrass it and its’ visitors by taking photographs.

As I walked up the path… cordoned off on both sides to protect visitors from entering the still deadly surrounding fields, the majesty of the monument made me bow my head. I found it difficult to look at. It was as if the statues were challenging me to look them in the eye and keep my composure.

It was too much for some. There were a handful of people looking for names enscribed in the stone…and more than one cried out in grief as they found the name of their loved one.

I am proud of what my countrymen did at Vimy Ridge, but my visit to the sight did not fill me with pride. It was with great sadness that I looked out upon the French countryside that was the final resting place of so many men and women. And given the events of the previous few months in Iraq and elsewhere it was a startling reminder of the horror that war brings upon all involved.

Dieppe Cemetery – 2003


I had posted this a few years ago to commemorate another moment of remembrance. The rededication of Vimy Ridge on April 9, 2007.  For my own archives, that post that preceded my story is included below…..

There will be ceremonies today at the Vimy Ridge memorial rededicating it after a 3 year restoration process.

I travelled to France in 2003, and my stop at Vimy Ridge was the most memorable and striking part of my tour. It is a solemn place, a place of mourning. Not of celebration.

Below are a couple pictures… of Normandy, of Dieppe (another battle this time in WWII that was much less “successful” and very costly), and of Vimy.

I’ve also included the words I wrote back in August 2003 after I had returned. They describe best my pilgrimage to this place. I would also like to note the loss of 6 more Canadian soldiers yesterday in Afghanistan. While Vimy and Kandahar are worlds apart, the sacrifice and cost remain. I fully support our troops and understand their sacrifice and their raison-d’etre. But lest-we-forget that at the end of the Great War, the words “Never Again” rang out. The human race has yet to figure out how to resolve it’s difference without resorting to war. I will continue to hope, and advocate for a day when peaceful negotiation can always, and forever replace bloody conflict. Then places like Vimy will not only be places of mourning and pride for loss of our best and brightest, but also places to remind us of why we can never do it again. After the bloodiest century in human history, I hope that that day will come sooner rather than later.

Newt Gingrich can’t Count (oil) he’s dangerous.

Today the House Energy Committee got a visit from Al Gore… and he ruffled some feathers… especially those of Mr. Gingrich.

Here’s his response

He says that Al Gore presented “misleading ascertions”.

Newt says…

[Al Gore] said for example, the rate of new discoveries, is falling for energy. That’s factually not true.

Actually, Newt, it is true. And it has been true for over 60 years… and here’s the proof Newt:


In 1965, 60 Billion barrels of conventional oil were discovered.

But Newt goes on:

In the last 3 years we have found (who is we?) have found 100 years of Natural Gas in the United States

That’s nice Newt. If I took only one sip out of a coke bottle every day then it might last 100 years as well. The question Newt, is not the amount, it is the rate. How much of the 20 million barrels of oil that the US consumes in a day can that “new natural gas” displace.

The answer, according to the US Energy Information Administration (PDF), is very little.

From 2004 – 2007, 46 Trillion Cubic Feet of “Proved Reserves” were added. Yet Estimated Production only grew by 0.2 Trillion cubic feet a year… the US consumed 23 Trillion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas in 2007

The picture for oil and oil substitutes like Natural Gas Liquids is even more grim:

From 2004 – 2007, 1.6 Billion Barrels of Crude Oil Equivalent were discovered of Natural Gas Liquids reserves. Yet estimated Production grew by 4 million barrels a year. That equates to 11,000 barrels of oil a day… roughly 0.06% of the daily 18 million barrel consumption in the US.

And finally, for crude oil…

From 2004 – 2007, -547 million barrels. Repeat. Negative 547 Million Barrels of crude oil were “discovered”….. in other words, we used it up faster than we discovered new stuff. Which brings us back to the graph above, the graph that matters.

Production of crude oil in the United States was 1.8 Billion barrels in 2004, and 1.7 in 2007. That’s a drop of 100 Million Barrels of oil a year or 0.5%.


I hope that clarifies things for you Newt. The party is over. I know you’ll never accept it… probably not even when either your country collapses under its own debt to oil producing countries, or riots erupt from gas shortages and skyrocketing prices… but at least there are some who get it.

And by the way, from 1997 to 2007 total estimated production of Crude Oil plus Natural Gas Liquids went from 3 Billion Barrels of oil a year, to 2.5 Billion Barrels. A drop of 16%.

Brazil can’t save you Newt. Even without the current global recession, production from the new Brazilian finds wasn’t going to reach its full potential of 1.1 Million barrels a day (400 Million a year) until, wait for it, 2017.

Lets see.. in another 10 years we will likely drop another 16%… another 500 Million a year… much more than Brazil could provide, if even it all went to the US, which it won’t.

You’re dangerous Newt. You’re Dangerous!

Here we go again… Oil Price Speculation or Real?

CNBC.com this morning has an article that I wasn’t expecting until at least August this year. But here it is all the same. The topic? Oil Prices Resist the World’s Recession Trend

Their main point:

The resilience shown by the oil markets is not because of any improvement in the global economy or rise in oil consumption. Global demand remains on course for its steepest drop since the early 1980s, and oil inventories are at their highest levels in 19 years.

Instead, analysts said, oil is once again being sought by investors as a refuge against a slumping dollar and rising inflation.

Lets stop right there. Slumping Dollar? The US Dollar has gained over 20% over the Canadian dollar since July and the same can be said for the Euro and Yen. INFLATION? Last month, the US officially experienced DEFLATION (negative inflation)… so I’m really not sure what planet CNBC is on!

But then, the very next sentence, they take a different tone:

Stabilization of the oil price is also a victory for the OPEC cartel, which has succeeded in cutting output sharply to match lower demand.

and so, once again, it’s all evil OPECs fault. Because, you know, it has nothing to do with plummeting oil production in Mexico (World #3 Super Giant field Cantarell is now producing less than other Mexican fields).

Oh.. but wait…

The perception remains well ingrained in the market that oil supplies, while plentiful today, may prove insufficient once demand picks up again.

Huh. So you mean investors don’t buy the “drill drill drill” mantra? You mean investors have looked abroad and seen conventional production in Mexico, Canada, the UK, Russia and Norway declining even while prices skyrocketed over the past 5 years? You mean investors have seen Saudi Arabia hit a wall, unable to pump more oil without damaging it’s fields.

Investors know this.

The OECD knows this.

So why the “speculation” talk? We have been given a great opportunity during this recession… depression, the first shrinking of the world economy since WWII (OECD), demand is knocked down. The pressure is off… people are LOOKING for work. We need to put them to work creating a new economy… low energy, high efficiency, low carbon.

If we wait until “recovery” happens, then we are doomed to be right back here within 2 years.

G20 Leaders must create new Reserve Currency… or face decade of hardship.

That is one of the recommendations from a European Think Tank “LEAPE20/20” in an open letter published last week. (hattip: The Oil Drum).

Your next summit takes place in a few days in London; but are you aware that you have less than a semester to prevent the world from plunging into a crisis that will take at least a decade to resolve, accompanied by a whole series of tragedies and ferment? Therefore, this open letter by LEAP/E2020, who saw the arrival of a « global systemic crisis » as early as three years ago, intends to briefly explain why it happened and how to limit further damage.

Until now you have merely been concerned with the symptoms and secondary effects of this crisis because, unfortunately, nothing prepared you to face a crisis of such an historic scale. You thought that adding more oil to the global engine would be enough, unaware of the fact that the engine was broken, with no hope of repair. In fact, a new engine must be built, and time is running out, as the international system deteriorates further each month.


1. The key to solving the crisis lies in creating a new international reserve currency!

2. Set up bank control schemes as soon as possible!

3. Get the IMF to assess the US, UK and Swiss financial systems!

Basically they’re telling the G20 to dump the US Dollar as the defacto reserve currency… which it has been since the gold standard was dropped in the 60s/70s.

There is no doubt this recommendation is as much a way to limit exposure to rising crude oil prices as well… because if the US Dollar goes into hyper-inflation due to the trillions of dollars spent bailing out the financial mess, then so will the price of crude, and the world will spin into an even deeper depression.

The US Dollar and economy are no longer capable of supporting the current global economic, financial and monetary order. As long as this strategic problem is not directly addressed and solved, the crisis will grow. Indeed it is at the heart of the crises of derivative financial products, banks, energy prices…

he solution to this problem is well-known, it is about creating an international reserve
currency (which could be called the « Global ») based on a basket of currencies corresponding to the world’s largest economies, i.e. US dollar, Euro, Yen, Yuan, Khaleeji (common currency of oil-producing Gulf states, to be launched in January 2010), Ruble, Real…, managed by a « World Monetary Institute » whose Board will reflect the respective weight of the economies whose currencies comprise the « Global ».

Would it help? Maybe…

Likely to happen? I certainly don’t think so.

For all of the good and proactiveness of President Obama in some respect… overall, he is still the cut from the same cloth as every other politician. He is a reactionary. Change like this will not happen on a global level until the we all have suffered immensely and there really is no other choice.

That is why it is so important for us, as citizens, to make these types of changes in resiliency *locally*. *We* must set the example for our governments to follow. www.transitiontowns.org

Economic turmoil a manifestation of hard-wired, human Darwinism?

I had a great little discussion with a colleague yesterday about the economic troubles in the United States and around the world right now.

He mentioned that if you go to the Wiki for The Great Depression, many of reasons cited there correlate strongly with what is going on right now…. but more than that, apparently, and I don’t have confirmation of this yet, apparently in 2000, one of the last regulations on the stock market that was brought in by FDR and the New Deal, expired. 8 years later, here we are.

So that got me to thinking. Is this just a manifestation of human instinct? Left completely boundless, is our natural impulse simply to expand and grow and consume as much and as quickly as possible… moreover, is this Natures way of ensuring there is still some measure of Darwins theory of survival of the fittest embedded inside us? When food is bountiful, deer and caribou populations can explode, until finally when there is a lean year, a great percentage die, or are eaten by increased numbers of predators and in the end the deer or caribou diminish from their original number… humans do not have the benefit of that cycle to control population, so is this our built in cycle?

Humans are unique on the planet in being the only species capable of overcoming their instincts a great majority of the time through thought, desire, and most importantly, logic. When you really think about it, is it logical to have a stock market that is completely free of regulation?

Probably not right? Or at least not in certain ways.

So when we ignore that logic at some sort of level we remove one last barrier, and it sets off events in human interaction and behaviour that ultimately leads to our [economys’] demise.

Let us hope that the coming Recession, or Depression, does not take Darwinism any farther than our corporate beings.