Jonathan Brun

Government Role in the Environment

A debate has erupted regarding whether sound environmental behaviour and a responsibility to curb global warming lies with the individual or with the government. Do the hones to help the environment lie with the consumer? Is it your fault global warming is occurring because you have not invested in a low-emission car or a hybrid vehicle? Or should the blame lie with the government who has not set stringent standards or put in place regulations that encourage responsible behaviour?

Despite scientific consensus and a large social awareness, our federal government has not done its part. Prime Minister Harper’s new plan seems to follow in the footsteps of George W. Bush’s, relegating difficult choices to the next government and the next generation. While progress is being made on the provincial and state level, the central governments of both Canada and America have not honoured their moral obligations. Nevertheless, we must, as citizens, stop blaming our elected officials and find a new way of addressing our pending environmental disaster.

There is no doubt that a general social conscience regarding the environment has arisen over the past few years. This is largely due to the tireless efforts of activists and scientists who have been sounding the alarm bell for over four decades. Centuries from now, if we are successful, their work will be regarded as some of the most important work ever done. The question we must now identify is how to address the problem of our impact on the environment without compromising our quality of life.

The free-market optimist perspective is that the market will regulate itself. They argue that when the consumer becomes sufficiently concerned with the environment, he will demand that companies modify their business practices or risk losing his business. My personal spending habits demonstrate this perspective’s fallacy. I have not personally experienced any negative effects due to my consumption, yet I (along with a significant part of society) have elected to purchase more organic food, lower emission cars and produce less waste. However, we must understand that the average individual, lacking time to research products, has spending habits which are a product of circumstance.

The first type of circumstance is the past circumstance. On a development side, scientists generally agree that an individual’s character is 50% genetic and 50% environmental. Judith Harris, author of The Nurture Assumption, has convincingly argued that the part of ourselves that is a product of upbringing is tied mostly to the schools we attend, the neighbourhood we grow up in and the friends we have. As long as our family life is relatively normal – loving parents, lack of abuse and basic nurturing – half of our personal traits are tied to the environment outside the home that we grow up in, the other half is genetic.

Pushing the idea even farther; according to drop out rates and delinquencies, a child is better off in a broken home and healthy social environment than in a good home and bad social environment. The application of this principle is that if we surround our children with healthy environmental options such as recycling, sustainable products and energy efficient appliances, we will be much more likely to use them. We are a product of our environment; thus, the environment we create is the environment we will breed.

The second type of circumstance is the present circumstance. Confronted with a purchasing dilemma, it is the circumstances that dictate our decisions, not our principles or ideals. One example is Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, who famously told a supplier of toothpaste that if marked his product 10 cents higher than a competitor’s, he would not sell a single tube. The supplier, convinced of his product’s superiority, insisted that his product be placed next to the competitor’s and be marked with a slightly higher price. After months of lacklustre sales, the supplier succumbed to the reality and dropped his price. The average individual, who lacks the time or desire to examine the quality and sourcing or a product, will nearly always go for the less expensive version. As sad as this may sound, there is hope.

Some will argue that we are moral beings who base part of our decisions on our personal convictions; John Daley and Daniel Batson at the Princeton Theological Seminary did a pertinent study highlighted in the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. They gathered a group of seminarians and asked each one to prepare a talk and fill out questionnaires concerning their personal convictions. Each individual was held in a closed room and told that they had a meeting on the other side of the street where they would deliver their talk. Then, they were told that they should leave and had a few minutes to spare or that they were already late and should hurry up.

Outside the building where their meeting was to be held, the test organizers placed a homeless man who would wheeze and cough when a test subject walked. The test was repeated numerous times and the end result demonstrated the determining factor of whether an individual stopped to aid the man was his time constraint, not his personal background or convictions. Of those seminarians in a rush, 10% stopped, whereas when they had time to spare, 63% stopped. This helps demonstrate that our actions are largely determined by present circumstances. Whether we buy a hybrid car, low consumption light bulbs or recycled paper is tied to their ease of access and price, not consumer awareness or principles.

Another example of current circumstance is a test done in two Home Depot stores in Oregon. When a sign indicating environmentally friendly practices were used to harvest lumber and the lumber was the same price as non-certified version, people were dramatically more likely to purchase the certified lumber (2 to 1). When the certified wood was 2% more expensive than non-certified lumber, the consumer was more likely to purchase the cheaper wood; though a large portion (37%) purchased the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) labelled wood. A large portion of consumers are morally conscience and willing to pay a premium when they know it is for a good product, but they have to know it is.

These sociological studies may not be directly pertinent to environmental behaviour, yet they convincingly demonstrate that we are creatures of circumstance. The items and environment that surround us are the determining factor in our decisions. No matter what awareness we may have, the price and availability of environmentally friendly solutions is the key factor.

It is essential for us to recognize the role of government in relation to environmental regulation. The government’s role in regulating and offering aid and subsidies has dramatically reduced over the past decade. In its place, we have seen an emergence of NGOs (Non Government Organizations) and NPOs (Non Profit Organizations) who perform a variety of tasks in our society and abroad. Certification-type NGOs such as Organic Foods, Forest Stewardship Council, Fair-Trade, Eco Logo and Energy Star have offered us practical ways of evaluating a product’s impact on the environment. In the United States, the EPA (Environment Protection Agency) relies heavily on private consultants to formulate policies. The Canadian government must rely on such organizations, who have developed practical expertise, to implement plans for more environmentally friendly regulations.

The most immediate area where government can play a role is by introducing the cost of externalities. Pertaining to global warming, we need to create carbon credits based on consumption. This issue has been debated ad-nauseum and now appears to be inline for approval and implementation across a large part of North America – though not on a federal level. Suffice to say that it entails the creation of a market for the exchange of carbon credits. An industry or individual who produces more CO2 than a set standard must purchase credits on the open-market to offset their costs. We are introducing the externality of global warming on products. According to a recent poll in the Globa and Mail, 87% of Canadians support heavy penalties for industries who do not clean up their act. Nationalized companies should set the example. Provinces who develop their energy supply from gasoline and coal should pay the premium over provinces that favour wind and hydropower. We must understand, as a society, that costs of production include the future costs to society, not just the present and past costs.

Secondly, the government should mandate ecological labelling on consumer products. We need to emulate what has been done with the tobacco industry. All products should have to devote 15% of their packaging to a description of their sourcing methods, production methods, and wastes. The exact content of the labels would have to be debated, but their prominence should not come into question. The certification of ECO LOGO or another certification should play a prominent role on packaging and more importantly, on in-store display cases and promotional material. Three pertinent examples of packaging campaigns include the cigarette, food and canned fish industry.

Cigarette consumption has dramatically been reduced through social awareness and packaging products. Labelling of food products with their nutritional value and ingredients has also helped improve consumer health. The labelling of canned tuna fished with ‘No Dolphins Caught’ forced a large part of the canned tuna industry to adhere to better fishing practices.

We already have a great deal of social environmental awareness; we now need to make the link to individual products. Similar effects such as those described above can be achieved with ecological labelling and it should be noted that polluting products do not have the addictive power of cigarettes – so the change in consumer behaviour should be all the more rapid.

Protecting our industries by preventing the advance of environmental issues is ultimately detrimental to our society. The protection of the U.S. Steel industry and U.S. Car manufacturers has been their downfall. European and Japanese companies, with more stringent environmental requirements and more aware clients, have surpassed their North American competition. Innovation and development are born out of difficult situations; we need to create a society where more consumers reward environmental innovation, not just the lowest price. The constraints of environmental growth in China will breed an entire industry of products, if we lag behind, our economy will suffer the consequences. As a society, we must stop ceding to companies who are resistant to change. The question is not whether environmental problems are the responsibility of industry, government or the individual; but rather how we connect the three sectors to create a progressive movement towards sustainability. By challenging our companies with new challenges we will see the creation of new innovative products, jobs and wealth.

Forest Stewarship Council
Fair Trade
World Business Council for Sustainable Development
ÉEM Inc.

Published on October 23, 2006

What a Great Speech

John F. Kennedy
Commencement Address at American University
Washington, D.C.
June 10, 1963

President of the United States, 1960-63. Growing up in the shadow of the Second World War and the Cold War, Mr Kennedy intensely aspired to “a world of law and free choice, banishing the world of war and coercion.”


“President Anderson, members of the faculty, board of trustees, distinguished guests, my old colleague, Senator Bob Byrd, who has earned his degree through many years of attending night law school, while I am earning mine in the next 30 minutes, ladies and gentlemen:

“It is with great pride that I participate in this ceremony of the American University, sponsored by the Methodist Church, founded by Bishop John Fletcher Hurst, and first opened by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. This is a young and growing university, but it has already fulfilled Bishop Hurst’s enlightened hope for the study of history and public affairs in a city devoted to the making of history and the conduct of the public’s business. By sponsoring this institution of higher learning for all who wish to learn, whatever their color or their creed, the Methodists of this area and the Nation deserve the Nations thanks, and I commend all those who are today graduating.

“Professor Woodrow Wilson once said that every man sent out from a university should be a man of this nation as well as a man of his time, and I am confident that the men and women who carry the honor”For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” of graduating from this institution will continue to give from their lives, from their talents, a high measure of pubic service and public support.

“‘There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university,’ wrote John Masefield in his tribute to English universities – and his words are equally true today. He did not refer to spires and towers, to campus greens and ivied walls. He admired the splendid beauty of the university, he said, because it was ‘a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see.’

“I have therefore, chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived – yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace.

“What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women – not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.

“I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generation yet unborn.

“Today the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need to use them is essential to keeping the peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles – which can only destroy and never create – is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace.

“I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men. I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war – and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.

“Some say that it is useless to speak of world peace or world law or world disarmament – and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitude – as individuals and as a Nation – for our attitude is as essential as theirs. And every graduate of this school, every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward – by examining his own attitude toward the possibilities of peace, toward the Soviet Union, toward the course of the cold war and toward freedom and peace here at home.

“First: Let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable – that mankind is doomed – that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.

“We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade – therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be a big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable – and we believe they can do it again.

“I am not referring to the absolute, infinite concept of peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream . I do not deny the value of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and immediate goal.

“Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace – based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions – on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace – no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process – a way of solving problems.

“With such a peace, there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor – it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever. However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbors.

“So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all peoples to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it.

“Second: Let us reexamine our attitude toward the Soviet Union. It is discouraging to think that their leaders may actually believe what their propagandists write. It is discouraging to read a recent authoritative Soviet text on Military Strategy and find, on page after page, wholly baseless and incredible claims – such as the allegation that ‘American imperialist circles are preparing to unleash different types of wars…that there is a very real threat
of a preventive war being unleashed by American imperialists against the Soviet Union…[and that] the political aims of the American imperialists are to enslave economically and politically the European and other capitalist countries…[and]to achieve world domination…by means of aggressive wars.’

“Truly, as it was written long ago: ‘The wicked flee when no man pursueth.’ Yet it is sad to read these Soviet statements – to realize the extent of the gulf between us. But it is also a warning – a warning to the American people not to fall into the same trap as the Soviets, not to see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats.

“No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. As Americans, we find communism profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and dignity. But we can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements – in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and in acts of courage.

“Among the many traits the peoples of our two countries have in common, none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of war. Almost unique among the major world powers, we have never been at war with each other. And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union suffered in the course of the Second World War. At least 20 million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and farms were burned or sacked. A third of the nation’s territory, including nearly two thirds of its industrial base, was turned into a wasteland – a loss equivalent to the devastation of this country east of Chicago.

“Today, should total war ever break out again – no matter how – our two countries would become the primary targets. It is an ironic but accurate fact that the two strongest powers are the two in the most danger of devastation. All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours. And even in the cold war, which brings burdens and dangers to so many nations, including this Nation’s closest allies – our two countries bear the heaviest burdens. For we are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty, and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other, and new weapons beget counter weapons.

“In short, both the United Sates and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours – and even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest.

“So, let us not be blind to our differences – But let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.

“Third: Let us reexamine our attitude toward the cold war, remembering that we are not engaged in a debate, seeking to pile up debating points. We are not here distributing blame or pointing the finger of judgment. We must deal with the world as it is, and not as it might have been had the history of the last 18 years been different.

“We must, therefore, persevere in the search for peace in the hope that constructive changes within the Communist bloc might bring within reach solutions which now seem beyond us. We must conduct our affairs in such a way that it becomes in the Communists’ interest to agree on a genuine peace. Above all, while defending our own vital interest, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy – or of a collective death-wish for the world.

“To secure these ends, America’s weapons are non provocative, carefully controlled, designed to deter, and capable of selective use. Our military forces are committed to peace and disciplined in self-restraint. Our diplomats are instructed to avoid unnecessary irritants and purely rhetorical hostility.

“For we can seek a relaxation of tension without relaxing our guard. And, for our part, we do not need to use threats to prove that we are resolute. We do not need to jam foreign broadcasts out of fear our faith will be eroded. We are unwilling to impose our system on any unwilling people – but we are willing and able to engage in peaceful competition with any people on earth.

“Meanwhile, we seek to strengthen the United Nations, to help solve its financial problems, to make it a more effective instrument for peace, to develop it into a genuine world security system – a system capable of resolving disputes on the basis of law, of insuring the security of the large and the small, and of creating conditions under which arms can finally be abolished.

“At the same time we seek to keep peace inside the non-Communist world, where many nations, all of them our friends, are divided over issues which weaken Western unity, which invite Communist intervention or which threaten to erupt into war. Our efforts in West New Guinea, in the Congo, in the Middle East, and in the Indian subcontinent, have been persistent and patient despite criticism from both sides. We have also tried to set an example for others – by seeking to adjust small but significant differences with our own closest neighbors in Mexico and in Canada.

“Speaking of other nations, I wish to make one point clear. We are bound to many nations by alliances. Those alliances exist because our concern and theirs substantially overlap. Our commitment to defend Western Europe and West Berlin, for example, stands undiminished because of the identity of our vital interests. The United States will make no deal with the Soviet Union at the expense of other nations and other peoples, not merely because they are our partners, but also because their interests and ours converge.

“Our interests converge, however, not only in defending the frontiers of freedom, but in pursuing the paths of peace. It is our hope – and the purpose of allied policies – to convince the Soviet Union that she, too, should let each nation choose its own future, so long as that choice does not interfere with the choices of others. The communist drive to impose their political and economic system on others is the primary cause of world tension today. For there can be no doubt that, if all nations could refrain from interfering in the self-determination of others, the peace would be much more assured.

“This will require a new effort to achieve world law – a new context for world discussions. It will require increased understanding between the Soviets and ourselves. And increased understanding will require increased contact and communication. One step in this direction is the proposed arrangement for a direct line between Moscow and Washington, to avoid on each side the dangerous delays, misunderstandings, and misreadings of the other’s actions which might occur at a time of crisis.

“We have also been talking in Geneva about he other first-step measures of arms control designed to limit the intensity of the arms race and to reduce the risks of accidental war. Our primary long range interest in Geneva, however, is general and complete disarmament – designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms. The pursuit of disar
mament has been an effort of this Government since the 1920’s. It has been urgently sought by the past three administrations. And however dim the prospects may be today, we intend to continue this effort – to continue it in order that all countries, including our own, can better grasp what the problems and possibilities of disarmament are.

“The one major area of these negotiations where the end is in sight, yet where a fresh start is badly needed, is in a treaty to outlaw nuclear tests. The conclusion of such a treaty, so near and yet so far, would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas. it would place the nuclear powers in a position to deal more effectively with one of the greatest hazards which man faces in 1963, the further spread of nuclear arms. It would increase our security – it would decrease the prospects of war. Surely this goal is sufficiently important to require our steady pursuit, yielding neither to the temptation to give up the whole effort or the temptation to give up our insistence on vital and responsible safeguards.

“I am taking this opportunity, therefore, to announce two important decisions in this regard.

“First: Chairman Khrushchev, Prime Minister Macmillan, and I have agreed that high-level discussions will shortly begin in Moscow looking toward early agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty. Our hopes must be tempered with the caution of history – but with our hopes go the hopes of all mankind.

“Second: To make clear our good faith and solemn convictions on the matter, I now declare that the United States does not propose to conduct nuclear tests in the atmosphere so long as other states do not do so. We will not be the first to resume. Such a declaration is no substitute for a formal binding treaty, but I hope it will help us achieve it.

“Finally, my fellow Americans let us examine our attitude toward peace and freedom here at home. The quality and spirit of our won society must justify and support our efforts abroad. We must show it in the dedication of our own lives – as many of you who are graduating today will have a unique opportunity to do, by serving without pay in the Peace Corps abroad or in the proposed National Service Corps here at home.

“But wherever we are, we must all, in our daily lives, live up to the age-old faith that peace and freedom walk together. In too many of our cities today, the peace is not secure because the freedom is incomplete.

“It is the responsibility of the executive branch at all levels of government – local, state, and national – to provide and protect that freedom for all of our citizens by all means within their authority. It is the responsibility of the legislative branch at all levels, wherever that authority is not now adequate, to make it adequate. And it is the responsibility of all citizens in all sections of this country to respect the right of all others and to respect the law of the land.

“All this is not unrelated to world peace. ‘When a man’s ways please the Lord,’ the Scriptures tell us, ‘he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.’ And is not peace, the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights – the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation – the right to breathe air as nature provided it – the right of future generation to a healthy existence.

“While we proceed to safeguard our national interests, let us also safeguard human interests. And the elimination of war and arms is clearly in the interest of both. No treaty, however much it may be to the advantage of all, however tightly it may be worded, can provide absolute security against the risks of deception and evasion. But it can – if it is sufficiently effective in its enforcement and if it is sufficiently in the interests of its signers – offer far more security and far fewer risks than an unabated, uncontrolled, unpredictable arms race.

“The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war. This generation of Americans has already had enough – more than enough – of war and hate and oppression. We shall be prepared if others wish it. We shall be alert to try to stop it. But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we labor on – not toward a strategy of annihilation but toward a strategy of peace.”

Published on October 13, 2006

Chinese Labour Laws and EU Chemicals

The EU is looking to pass new regulations regarding the approvals of chemicals. New chemical regulations for the European Union would essentially force companies to prove that their chemicals are not harmful, rather than the government having to prove that they are harmful. This is logical as it will indirectly increase the price of products made with hazardous materials because the companies will have to spend more on approvals and lawyers.

The law will favour people who can create products using non-hazardous, natural substances. As much as we bash the EU in North America, these laws show that perhaps they are thinking a little more than us and they have the courage to stand up to the lobbies.

The relevant article is found here: Click Here

China, like many other developing countries, has an exploited workforce and large differences in wealth. However, China has two things most developing nations don’t, size and power. They are going to pass new labour laws that will help many people who are working in hazardous and under-paid situations. Though this is not the silver bullet, it is an important step to helping the poor and bringing more balance to the system. Surprise, surprise, American companies are leading the charge against this new regulation. Apparently, 25 cents per hour is too much to pay for labour costs. It is unlikely that they will succeed in shifting the Chinese government, who has become very powerful.

The president, Hu JinTao has also recently consolidated his power by removing business friendly (read money-friendly/corrupt) officials who were very high up in the party. This consolidation of power allows the president and his following to pursue some of their interests such as environment, social balance, and welfare. This may sound a little dreamy-tears-in-your-eyes for the leader of a “communist” nation; but the reality is that without these improvements in social welfare, the government would lose legitimacy in the eyes of the 1.1 billion poor Chinese and there would be serious risk of large general social unrest. China is looking towards its future, not just that of middle class westerners.

The article concerning the labour laws can be found here: Click Here

The article concerning the consilidation of power can be found here: Click Here

Published on October 13, 2006

Turkey and the European Union

The primary question that the EU, and the rest of the world has yet to address, never mind answer, is whether Islamic culture and European (read Christian) culture can productively co-exist or whether we even want it to. Can we create a secular state where religion can play a central role in a person’s life, but not be part of the government to which he belongs? If we believe the answer is yes, then there is no doubt that Turkey has what it takes to be part of the EU.

The EU guidelines are a great power for good; they spread democracy, social institutions and transparency without guns or micro-management. The old European fashion of colonialism was effectively a heavy-handed way of introducing European style institutions into a foreign culture. The EU guidelines allow for a more macro approach. Guidelines and end-goals are set, and the countries that wish to join the EU must find their own methods of reaching the goals. This allows for stable nation building, which avoids many of the weak links in armed or colonial approaches. It takes longer, but it also lasts longer and penetrates deeper into society. The improvement of eastern European governments over the past 15 years is largely due to their adoption of EU standards with regards to government, social issues and business practices. I believe this same method can be used to help Turkey become a secular, stable state with an Islamic population. Turkey would then act as a model for other Islamic societies. It is evident that the heavy-handed approach in Iraq will not work; as such, we must re-think our approach to helping Islamic states modernize.

My recent trip to Turkey was very illuminating. To be completely fair, I did not speak Turkish and I only travelled to the most modern parts of the country. Tales from other travellers I met described eastern turkey as a truly third world area with little to no modern infrastructure. However, the situation in China – through which I travelled extensively – is not very different and yet they are progressing towards modernization at an astounding pace. One major issue that still hangs over Turkey, is their freedom of speech and their denial of the Armenian Genocide. It is necessary that Turkey take responsibility for their actions during WWI with regards to the Armenians. Their apologies must be whole-hearted and on a scale similar with those of post-WWII Germany and then they must be integrated into the Turkish education system. A cleansing of the Turkish conscience and a demonstration of their ability to be transparent is absolutely imperative if they have any hope of joining the modern world, let alone the EU. Of course, their potential membership with the EU will not come overnight; it will likely take 20 years.

I was really impressed with Turkey, its people and the general atmosphere. They were much more European than I expected. The question that remains to be resolved is whether Islam and Christianity can peacefully co-exist. The adhesion of Turkey would dramatically shift the demographics of Europe. Can such vast quantities of people come to agreements in an open government forum or do we need to separate them as is done in Israel. If we believe in their compatibility, then I think Turkey has a legitimate case at entering the EU and the EU has a fantastic method of modernizing foreign nations without direct intervention.

Published on October 9, 2006

The Turkish Affair

I recently travelled to Turkey for 8 days. My itinerary was fairly brisk as I wished to see as much of the country as possible. The trip was as follows:

Antalya (1 day) → Olympus (2 days) → Izmir (1 night) → Sulçuk/Ephus (2 days) → Istanbul (3 days)

There were a couple of reasons I wanted to visit Turkey. I had previously read and heard great things about Turkey and I wished to see it to examine its potential as part of European Union. Prior to going, my opinion in relation to the EU was that it was too different, namely too Islamic, to be in the EU. The third motivation was to go more ‘east’ than my friends; Eastern Europe has become as backpacker friendly as Western Europe, and there remain few sites not crammed with Canadians, Aussies and Americans.

I was hoping to find some remnants of isolation in Turkey, though I did not have my hopes too high. In reality, the places I visited are on the top of the tourist hit-list and as such, were full of tourists – though more Aussies than I expected, largely, they come to visit the battlefields of Gallipoli. The Australians suffered massive casualties during the WWII battle of Gallipoli, which then acted as a catalyst for Australian independence, not unlike Dieppe for Canada. The presence of all these tourists may have impeded my visitation of ‘real’ turkey, but to be fair, not speaking Turkish and going for eigh days was not going to permit me to penetrate the Turkish society.

Antalya was a nice port city with little culture, but no lack of nightlife. While in Antalya, I took a day trip to Perge (45 min outside Antalya), an ancient Greco-Roman city, which was very impressive as a first site. The site, was very open and you could walk throughout the ruins with no security control. I then travelled south to Olympus, where the use of concrete has been banned. As such, all the houses are treehouses made of wood. The description of the town as, “an Ewok Village” was what motivated me to visit, the addition of bars and beaches was the cherry on the cake. While there, I visited the flames of Olympus, naturally occurring flames that are the source of The Olympic flame. I partied in an open roof club, surrounded by 100 m cliffs and jumped off 12 m rocks into the warm Mediterranean.

I then travelled to Izmir for a brief 6 hour stay before making my way to Ephus, Turkey’s most famous archaeological site. The town of Ephus is remarkably intact and is an amazing demonstration of what a 100 000 person Greek town looked like at its peak. After Selcuk and Ephus (same town really), I took an overnight bus to Istanbul. Istanbul was everything I had hoped for, a great blend of the Islamic and European world. Though three days were not enough, the mosques, churches and food were amazing. A little bit of partying in the newer, more European centre on the other side of the Bosphorous and then I caught a flight back to Paris to meet my father and board our sailboat.

My trip to turkey led me to two independent conclusions, which I wish to set on paper: Why Turkey may become a EU member and Why it is time to hang up the back-pack. Turkey was an amazing trip and I will definitely return; there remains so much history and culture, I could easily spend months travelling the country. You can see my photos here: Turkish Affair Photos

Published on October 8, 2006