Hello everyone, I hope the new year is starting well for you.
Here, at last, is our continuation of the Academy’s Quarterly Review series. It is AQR 4 of 2020, the winter edition. So the next review should come around again soon, about the end of March, and we will be welcoming spring. We hope to provide you with some interesting reading and a focus on the lives and interests of members of the Academy. A regular feature will be about a workshop in the spotlight. Please find in this issue an article about Europe Between the Wars by Keith Walden. We would also like to feature some members’ stories; they might be about special events or your thoughts on issues that you feel are important. In this issue you will find an article about Sandy’s bucket list. In this review you will find our commentaries on the fall forums that have occurred since AQR 3 2020. They include: On Pandemics: Deadly Diseases from Bubonic Plague to Coronavirus, on October 7th, when our speaker was Dr David Waltner-Toews; a review of the Fall Follies on October 21st, put on by graduates of last year’s Comedy workshop; a lively Academy debate on November 4th; and, Meat: to Eat or Not to Eat, with our guest speaker Dr David Jenkins on November 18th. We think that the forums have been a resounding success so far. We have learned to pick up the email invitation from OurAcademy2021 to register for up-coming forums, and have managed to sign on to the webinar with our own personal link sent to us by the Canadian Webinar Service (CWS). All this in numbers often far exceeding our in-person forum attendance!
The Communications Committee will resume posting the forum and spring talks reviews on the Academy`s website to give you a timely update of these important Academy events. Please look for them on our newspage.
Persistent global economic sluggishness; authoritarian leaders spouting populist nationalism; and, an Asian power intent on flexing its muscles. Parallels between the present moment and the years between the two world wars are striking. It’s not surprising that the workshop on Europe between the Wars has attracted an enthusiastic following.
Certainly, this year’s version has featured some sobering topics. Joe Casse underlined the connection between the punitive reparation provisions of the Treaty of Versailles and the onset of depression at the end of the 1920s. Bob Langford described the viciousness that characterized both sides of the Spanish Civil War, while Brian O’Leary documented how quickly Hitler, once made Chancellor, destroyed German democracy and launched a regime of hate. Liz Guccione movingly captured the heartbreak and hope of the Kindertransport, the international effort to save Jewish children from Nazi clutches. We have touched on some less depressing themes as well, including Jeff Biteen’s discussion, replete with vintage recordings, of the growing popularity of jazz, and my own talk on the evolution of London nightlife.
If there is a thread that has connected all of the contributions, other than a decided focus on Western Europe, it has been the revolutionary character of developments in these two decades. This truly was a period of creative ferment and changing perspectives. Linda Tu on biology, and Ernie Fallon on physics, highlighted the transformative discoveries in science that occurred during these years. Dave Phillips, reporting on interwar Nobel Peace Prize winners, revealed how invested the Swedish Academy was in building a new international world order, especially through the League of Nations. Mary Thomson reminded us of how writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald reinvented American literature from the café terraces of Paris. Irv Nyman described how Kemal Ataturk put paid to the Ottoman Empire and reoriented Turkey towards Western secularism. Kudos to Irv for taking us to the periphery of the continent. All in all, it was a very instructive term, particularly as we honed our skills on Zoom.
Do you have a bucket list? A list of things you want to do because it is a challenge, something that seemed exotic or just seemed like it would be loads of fun? Do you still have items on that bucket list?
Well, Sandy Macpherson had something specific on his list, and, before he died last October, he had achieved that particular goal. Sandy had a good long life (88 years) and he had many landmark achievements, but this one was special. I was fortunate enough to accompany him on what he said was a trip of a lifetime. His wish was to visit Haida Gwai and sail around the islands there. In 2014 his children felt they should give him a nudge in that direction and bought a ticket for him to go the next year.
Then I came on the scene. Yes, he needed a companion for this trip to succeed. We flew via Vancouver to Sand Spit airport on the north tip of Haida Gwai’s South Island. The next day we were taken on a bumpy bus ride on logging roads to our sailboat. The boat had four crew members and twelve passengers. We would spend the next week or so sailing all around the island in search of its history, ecology, wildlife and ocean. Most of the villages we visited do not have permanent residents; they are cared for by watchmen of the Haida nation. Our captain knew these people well, and we were able learn about the culture and history of the former inhabitants. One of the crew was a biologist who showed us many of the sea creatures and forest habitats along our way. Bird watching and whale sightings were always on the agenda. A pod of killer whales swam right under the prow of our vessel. The captain obviously enjoyed high-speed chases (hold onto your hats!) with humpback whales, of which we saw several at quite close range. Sandy marvelled at the versatility of our cook, who was able to create fabulous meals and snacks to fit the variety of culinary needs of all on board.
Congenial company, heartwarming musical evenings, and plenty of food for thought filled our on-board trip. We also visited the museum and some local residents on the North Island. There I learned something of the Haida language from a young researcher. Alas there are only 35 fluent speakers left, although the high school has a program to help keep the language alive.
The first distinguished guest in the Academy's Fall 2020 FORUMS series was the noted epidemiologist Professor David Waltner-Toews.
David Waltner-Toews presented a lively, enormously informative talk which was based on his recently published book, On Pandemics; Deadly Diseases from Bubonic Plague to the Coronavirus. He traced the evolution and ecology of diseases, specifically in terms of how viruses can and do gravitate from animals to humans. The professor emeritus from Guelph University has decades of experience as a veterinarian and award-winning researcher. Waltner-Toews's sense of humour (he is also a published poet) was evident throughout his talk. He acknowledged that he wished he could leave the audience with more optimism. However the facts are that with globalization, more animal-to-human contact, and increasing individual travel, it is likely that we may see more severe pandemics, such as the current coronavirus.
Based on comments received, it is clear that this topic was one of great interest to Academy members as well as a number of their friends who were able to join the webinar. They became more knowledgeable about the pandemic topic and were introduced to the Academy electronically.
Moderator, Linda Tu, proposed: This House Resolves that it is time for Canada to mandate a Universal Basic Income (UBI), payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means test or work required.
In the initial poll taken among Zoom attendees, the majority supported the proposal -- For = 61%, Against = 7%, Undecided = 32%.
FOR proposer was Ian Darragh; seconder was Pat Cross. AGAINST proposer was Stephen Johnson; seconder was Karena de Souza.
The ‘For’ side argued that we now have a ‘gig economy - the hiring of workers for short term temporary positions without any benefits’. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has assisted during covid: Old Age Security (OAS) (started in 1927) reduces poverty amongst seniors; and similar programs which have complex and confusing rules. However these measures still fail to provide a basic income. A trial UBI in Hamilton did not encourage people to give up their jobs, and allowed single moms to return to school, enabling them to pursue higher paying jobs. In the USA, UBI received by Hispanic and African Americans did not result in these people giving up their jobs. Furthermore, there is the cost and time for a complicated bureaucracy to assess peoples’ eligibility for needs-based programs. The invasion of privacy is a huge barrier to program use, posing for example questions such as: “is a disabled person disabled enough¨, or ¨is a single mom receiving money from a man and not disclosing it to the government for tax purposes”?
The 'Con' side of the debate argued that people are in different circumstances - some are single, some married with children, some without employment, some with mental or physical health problems. However the UBI treats everyone in the same way and does not address their differing needs. Now that covid has disastrously affected some people while others have been affected much less severely, there is even more reason for social programs to target funding to address these specific problems, and UBI does not do that. Handing out money alone does not solve all problems. Our current programs are carefully created. Beyond immediate financial support, they offer human encouragement and access to what the next steps could be - these important elements would be lost in a flat UBI scheme.
Well folks, it appears that the ‘Con” side won the day! Attendees changed their minds after the debate: For - 51%, Against - 34%, Undecided - 32%. This writer congratulates Academy members for listening closely and letting the debate influence their thinking! As we all know, political debates seldom influence voters’ minds!
On October 21st the Academy’s Standup Comedy group presented the Fall Follies. This year is a challenge for comedians of all stripes. Any of us who have engaged in theatre know that we thrive on audience feedback. It affects delivery, timing and, most importantly, our energy levels. A webcam (no matter how pretty) does not a warm audience make. However, the Academy’s crew rose to the occasion and worked with rather than struggled against the technology.
The show was divided into two main sections. The first part featured short scenes involving several persons. For instance, one was a call-in show featuring a doctor as expert, a harried host and a sports-loving caller who kept getting through despite the host`s efforts to block him. The comedic possibilities were well exploited. The players made use of some kind of tech device to give themselves hats – hats that kept wobbling as they performed. Nice use of the video medium!
In the second part, members had the opportunity to showcase their individual talents. We all have individual responses to comedy and so, by way of example, I am going to highlight two very different routines that I especially liked. So as not to embarrass anyone, I am not going to use names. One act I might call ‘bird meets hat”. Now to be honest, I do not remember the dialogue because I was focusing on the facial expressions that the performer was a master at. I could not take my eyes off her face – congratulations! My other favourite was a one-way phone conversation with a funeral director. The latter was misunderstanding a few vital details, not the least that the recently dearly departed had two wives, each giving separate directions. The pacing was excellent, the audience got the necessary pauses and voice tones that allowed us to keep track of exactly what was happening.
Well done Fall Follies, a big Zoom clap to you all!
To be honest, while I listened to Adele Robertson and Priscilla Platt introduce Dr. David Jenkins, a highly respected nutrition scientist who has made a world-wide impact on the way we eat, I steeled myself for yet another ‘fire and brimstone’ lecture about how my love of the occasional rare steak (birthdays and special occasions only!) was causing irreversible damage to the environment and drastically shortening my lifespan. I expected to leave the session – as I had others on the general subject – feeling guilty and somewhat ashamed, but not motivated to make a change.
I was immediately engaged, however, when Dr Jenkins gave his lecture. He provided balance by giving us a range of information drawn from science (theories and observation presented for the layman), his industry-leading professional experience, and his own personal experience, thus arming us with what we need to make our own decisions. And he emphasized that benefits come as a result of both diet and lifestyle. He helped us to understand the different drivers (health, principle, religion, culture) that might play into our own thinking, and assured us that it was normal for the issue of whether or not to eat meat to comprise both emotional and practical considerations.
He also spoke of the reassuring concept of compromise –in selecting the diet we follow, and in understanding that cost, availability and palatability also play into the dietary paths we forge for ourselves. Dr Jenkins also indicated that it was okay to compromise on regimen, to enjoy flavours and the occasional ‘treat’.
While I always start my shopping with the well-meaning intent to make healthy, age-appropriate food choices, part of me is still what Dr Jenkins referred to as ‘a supermarket feeder’, driven by taste and convenience as well as by nutrition.
At the end of the session, I was not discouraged or feeling guilty about my diet choices. Instead, I left with my brain full of ideas and things to try – the Mediterranean Diet seems perfect for me. Inspired by Dr Jenkins’ thoughtful, detailed, balanced presentation, I left motivated and keen to make changes.
Thank you to Dr Jenkins and to the Talks Committee for inspiring me!
June 27, 1930 - Nov 10, 2020
Gabriele was a remarkable erudite woman who lived a truly varied and fascinating life. She was born in a leafy area of Berlin to parents, both architects involved in the early evolution of the Bauhaus movement in the early 1920s. During the war Gabriele was evacuated to Dresden where she witnessed the tragic carpet bombing of that city in February 1945 from a family farm on the outskirts. She survived that, the Soviet occupation and, having obtained a PhD in mathematics, managed a flight to West Germany around the time the Wall was going up. Shortly thereafter she followed a romantic interest and fellow mathematician to Toronto where, despite a lifetime of unrequited wanderlust, she established her domicile.
Her professorial and demographic careers took her to such varied places as Ghana and Chile, Holland and China and finally the University of Waterloo.
Like her mother, she painted and having been brought up playing the piano, loved music, especially the more modern composers. She was at home whether trekking across the width of the Sahara, horseback- riding on Easter Island or hitch-hiking through South America.
The Academy benefited from her decade-long active participation in variety of workshops, walks, talks and get togethers, her own workshop on Demography, chairing of the Special Events Committee and her charming, if no nonsense, approach to life.
Gabriele passed away quietly in her sleep at West Park LTC. A grateful thank you to all her caregivers that helped make her days at West Park comfortable.
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Forum -21st Century Espionage: The China Conundrum
Forum - Presenting the Academy Presenters
Forum - Social Engagement Across the Life Course
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