Euphemisms target benign nouns

By George Sipos

Originally published in Gulf Islands Driftwood

Who still remembers George Orwell and his essay Politics and the English Language? Or cares, for that matter.

His warnings about how totalitarianisms of both left and right manipulate language to deaden critical thought seem antique nowadays, the tilting of a mid 20th-century idealist against windmills that have long since vanished.

Well, have a look at a news piece in a recent issue of the Globe & Mail reporting on the controversy surrounding a proposal to build a 66-room hotel at Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park.

Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park, Source:

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Value is not a commodity: Math test analysis proves nothing


Published in Gulf Islands Driftwood on December 11, 2013

The national media are all abuzz right now over results reported by the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment. It seems that achievement in mathematics among 15 year olds in Canada has slipped from seventh place in 2006 to 13th place this year in a sampling of 65 countries.
John Manley, former Liberal deputy prime minister and now CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, has called these results “a national emergency.”

Setting aside any qualms we may have about the methodology of the survey and accepting the numbers as they are, it is fascinating to look at the meanings that have been drawn from them.

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Innocent Passage

Along a narrow trail through the meadow
eleven of us convoy behind the naturalist
with his binoculars and sextant and field guide to
seas of alpine flora that ebb
toward a horizon of peaks.

He dispenses the taxonomy of the living world
as a kind of jurisprudence —
the law of the sea after Linnaeus —
rendering our habitation of the world a kind of trade,
the sea-lanes of minds that name and name
in the name of exploration
that turns plunder in the end.

The trail leads upward through the alpine
via little boardwalks across bogs
toward wind and cloud and rocky
zones of the minimally living,
but I fall behind the others
ready to give up such pre-destined navigation,
and sit it out on a rock to watch
the season’s fading vegetation
do nothing,
listen to seedpods of lupin ripen,
wait for the first faint flurries of snow.

Begin to learn the patience needed
till the bears’ return, the day
they launch themselves, hungry
and untamed, onto the pathless flood
of a new spring’s tide.

—George Sipos


About the author: George Sipos is a poet from Salt Spring Island. Two collections of his work are in print, both from Goose Lane Editions: Anything But the Moon (2005) and The Glassblowers (2010).

Wilderness Protection — A complex task

by George Sipos

Originally printed in the Gulf Islands DriftwoodSept. 25, 2013

A lawyer, a philosopher, a poet and a lichenologist walk into Wells Gray Park and the flora and fauna say, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

Well, that’s not quite right. Let me start again:

Fifty scientists, naturalists, environmental activists, philosophers, writers of various stripes, a first nations elder, a half dozen members of the Order of Canada and yes, Canada’s most renowned lichenologist gathered during the first week of September in the Upper Clearwater Valley north of Kamloops to consider … well, I guess you could say to consider the nature of the bad joke that human kind is perpetrating on the living biosphere of the planet.

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