All I remember is the Alamo
13 Jul 2021 13 July 2021    Canada politics, Prague    First/Last in set    More photos   
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I consider myself well-educated, at least numerically (courses taken, grades assigned, prestigiousness of college), but I feel like I missed history. It was ... something about the Alamo. But I give myself a pass for not knowing much Canadian history. You can't expect that of Americans. So I'm working on it. For example, I learned some history reading Doug Saunders' Maximum Canada on immigration. And walking around Quebec City, reading the placards and our guidebook, was where we pieced together the history of the St Laurence sea way.

A good way to learn about a country, be it history or civics, is by observing a government under stress. The pandemic for example revealed some of what falls under federal control and what is under provincial. And then there is climate change, which is an especially challenging threat because it's easy to ignore the warning signs and do nothing. The recent heat wave being hard to ignore, it's a fine coincidence that I'm reading Seth Klein's A Good War, a climate emergency manifesto and a book I'd likely never read if it weren't the topic of this month's book club.

Klein makes these arguments: climate change is real; the Canadian politicians are eliding it; here's what Canada did during the last great emergency (WWII) and it worked well; and here's what we can do now if we'd only adopt that same model as our response in WWII. (What would also be handy, according to Klein, would be a clone of C.D. Howe as minister of everything.)

Klein is at his best when discussing politics and history. For example, he mentions the curious names of political parties in Canada. In the US the Democrat - Republican divide has existed, rock solid, since as far back as I can remember, which is all the way to LBJ. You're either a D, an R, or an undecided between D and R. That's it, those are your choices. We've far more choice of toothpastes than parties to represent us.

In contrast, Canadian parties are more fluid, disappearing and re-forming like tidal pools, and the connection between like-sounding parties may or may not exist. For example, our provincial Liberals are a different party to the federal Liberals, the provincial version more akin to the federal Conservatives. On the other hand, the NDP's win in Alberta a few years ago was actually a problem for the federal NDP because of their close alignment. Alberta's interests being a bit different from Ottawa (see climate change), it put them in an awkward embrace.

Klein's is an interesting, even optimistic book, though it's a bit boggy at times.