Icarus and Hubris

That’s not the name of a pop group or a group of lawyers. It’s a mythology and an attitude. And in this case, they’re one and the same.

Hubris: excessive pride or self-confidence.

Icarus: In Greek mythology, Icarus is the son of the master craftsman Daedalus, the creator of the Labyrinth. Daedalus had been imprisoned by King Minos of Crete within the walls of his own invention, the very same Labyrinth. But the great craftsman’s genius would not suffer captivity and he devised a way of to get free.

Icarus and his father attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father, Daedalus, constructed from feathers and wax. But Icarus, dared to fly too near the sun on wings of feathers and wax.  Naturally, the wax melted, the feathers came loose and Icarus plunged to his death in the sea. This perhaps was the first example of hubris – an over-weening pride in one’s own ability.

One can see it applied many ways. Certainly in sports. Back it up as Babe Ruth did when pointing to the outfield, he unloaded a home run to that very location. That wasn’t hubris. That was ability.

Today we see it in numerous forms, politics for certain, and most recently manifested in the Dunning-Kruger effect, a type of cognitive bias in which people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are. There’s no apparent ability displayed.

And like Icarus, their wax will melt and the inevitable plunge will occur. The question remains – when?  #bmeisterman.com

When do the needs of the few really outweigh the needs of the many?

The seal hunt – This is one of the most contentious issues around, galvanizing people such as Paul McCartney against it. On the surface, it would appear to be an easy thing to categorize. But there is so much more involved that we don’t usually hear about.
If one is a deer hunter, then a strong case can be made for that activity if it is done responsibly. Culling a herd is necessary for its well-being and survival. Portraying these animals as helpless is good for PR purposes, but letting them starve because of a too large herd size is no less harmful than hunting them. If one is against hunting, then it is just as easy to view it as a senseless slaughter. In this respect, the seal hunt is confronted with many of the same concerns from both sides.
Done for sport, hunting (anything) is absolutely wrong and immoral. For food and sustenance, it’s understandable. Trying to maintain a herd’s health and feed people is an entirely different proposition that certainly has its benefits as well its detractors.. Reconciling these two disparate points of view may be well near impossible. And whatever the disposition of this may be, you know there will still be anger over it. What are your thoughts?

Federal ministers call for change in EU seal products ban

Legal review process ongoing in Geneva, Switzerland

The Canadian government is speaking on behalf of sealers and seal product producers as a World Trade Organization (WTO) appeal body looks at the decision made to uphold the European Union (EU) ban on Canadian seal products.

Fred Henderson loads his truck with seal pelts in Noddy Bay on Newfoundland’s northern peninsula in 2004. — Telegram file photo

While a team of lawyers made arguments in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, at the start of three days of scheduled hearings, two federal ministers again made public calls for a change in the EU’s position.Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea — attending Seafood Expo North America in Boston — told reporters her department hopes the ban will be overturned.“As a government, we’ve always supported the Canadian sealing industry because it supports our small coastal communities,” she said in a teleconference call, making note of government’s efforts through training to ensure the seal hunt is humane.“We have an abundance of product which I believe provides an opportunity for this industry,” she said.In Geneva, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq emphasized the federal government’s position that the EU is treating Canadian seal products unfairly.“The EU allows seal products from Greenland to be marketed in the European Union with(out) any regard in which they are hunted. So in other words, the European Union seal regime does nothing to actually keep seal products out of the EU market or away from the EU public,” she said in a telephone interview.“I think it was very clear in the last decision that the WTO did find, the panel did find, that the European Union ban on import of Canadian seal products did violate the EU international trade obligations. Having said that, they went and used the moral cards issue to not change that (ban).”She said using a moral reasoning for decisions on conservation matters is dangerous.“To go down this path really outside of science puts to risk the whole global food supply,” she said, suggesting it establishes the potential for similar actions against other products.Aglukkaq spoke to The Telegram while side by side with Dion Dakins — chair of the Canadian Seal and Sealing Network and CEO of Carino Processing, in Switzerland to campaign for Canadian seal products and the work of sealers.His trip was covered under $60,000 in funding from the provincial government for the Canadian Seals and Sealing Network, announced in February.“The reality is the first ruling was not catastrophic for Canada. In fact it proved that the Inuit exemption as offered was discriminatory in its application. It also revealed the marine mammal exemption under the EU ban was not applied fairly,” he said.“The disappointing thing is the authority of groups like the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Humane Society International has yet to be challenged here in Europe adequately,” he said. “This is part of my role here, to actually and explicitly go after the false messaging they’ve been spreading about our industry.”Sheryl Fink with the IFAW was in Geneva to submit an amicus curiae — “friend of the court” — written briefing on the seal hunt and seal products, something the court may or may not choose to refer to in its final decision.“I think what’s happening here is, in a way, quite historic, regardless of what the outcome will be. This is the first time this public morality issue has really been challenged at the WTO, so we’re very interested in seeing how it all plays out,” she said.“I don’t want to pre-judge the panel’s decision, but realistically … we need to remember that Europe wasn’t a big market for seal products from Canada prior to the ban. It’s probably not going to be a large market for seal products no matter what happens here at the WTO.”She said the IFAW sent representatives to monitor the international court proceedings since the organization’s anti-seal hunt campaign is considered both a founding campaign for the group and a fundamental issue in the world of animal rights activism.She rejected the idea the decision to uphold the EU ban on moral grounds would lead to a rush of similar campaigns against other products.The WTO appeal body’s decision is expected at some point between April and June.

And a partridge in Logy Bay – Christmas in Newfoundland.

A Merry Christmas to all!

From the  Telegram in St. Johns, Newfoundland.

Trailer12 Fogo Island.

Making the cut for the Christmas Bird Count

Christmas Bird Count, the world’s longest-running citizen science wildlife census, is 114 years old. “Are you a bird watcher?” asked Paul Linegar when I called him at home to volunteer my family for this year’s Christmas Bird Count.

I wasn’t sure how to respond. I knew “I can’t tell a crow from an eagle” would not get me the job. But I couldn’t lie.“I am not a birder, but I love birds.” I figured this would be a more appropriate response.

It’s true. I spent this past summer running up the Cuckold’s Cove Trail to see if Lucky, the eaglet, had finally ventured out of the nest. Last February at Bowring Park, I was thrilled to meet the red-footed goose even though I could’ve sworn he was a duck. And as soon as I heard about the wayward snowy owls, I headed straight to Cape Spear.

“Any owl sightings today?” I asked the first guy I saw after pulling in.

“There’s one right there,” he said pointing to a rock on the north side of the parking lot.

Well now, this birding thing is easier than I thought.

The owl was an exquisite creature, its thick white feathers barred with brown and its head pivoting this way and that like a weathervane. We were only there a minute or two when the white ball of feathers took flight, its massive wings reaching down to almost touch tips under its body.

The white plume landed on a rock in the bog to the south of the parking lot where the barracks used to be in the Second World War.

He sat stock still on a small bluff, keeping his big round eyes trained on the long lenses pointed his way. He didn’t seem scared, just curious.

It was at this point I noticed a half dozen other groups scattered throughout the bog, no doubt viewing this guy’s feathery buddies. Now I can’t wait to go to Cape Race to see the Harry Potter invasion.

All this to say: if I know what bird I’m looking for, I should be able to identify it.

Plus I’ll take descriptive notes and photos so if I can’t identify something in the field, I can always bring home a picture and cheat notes and go from there.

This seemed good enough for Paul Linegar and he signed me up for the stretch of trail between Torbay Point at the end of Doran’s Lane in Outer Cove to Red Cliff in Logy Bay. I am excited to finally be a part of the world’s longest-running citizen science wildlife census.

The Christmas Bird Count started in 1900, when an American named Frank Chapman asked people all across North America to count birds and submit the results to him.

Chapman’s census has grown to include thousands of counts throughout the States, Canada and further south.

The results of these counts are compiled and allow researchers to get a better handle on how many feathered creatures are where during one specific period.

Here in Newfoundland, the Christmas count takes place on Boxing Day, regardless of weather. Fourteen designated areas from Wabush-Labrador City to Ferryland each cover a 24-kilometre circle administered by a local birder.

Paul Linegar, my bird boss, will collect data from volunteers who walk in his circle which stretches from Torbay in the north to Paradise in the west and the Goulds in the south.

If you are interested in helping out and can tell a puffin from a partridge, and don’t mind walking outside in severe weather, consult the following site which shows leaders’ names and co-ordinates: www.birdscanada.org/volunteer/cbc/index.jsp?targetpg=compilers&lang=EN&prov=NL

If you’d like to set up a new count in your community, contact count co-ordinator Dick Cannings at dcannings@birdscanada.org.

And if you’re in the mood for a stroll, or snowshoe, in the woods on Boxing Day, consider the Red Cliff area where seven Flanagans might need help distinguishing a grouse from a ptarmigan.

Just kidding. I, the informed birder, now know they are one and the same.

Susan Flanagan would like everyone to say a special prayer this Christmas for

Pat Gehue, whose family wants him to come home. Susan can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca.

A child’s Christmas feedback

Ruth Wakeham writes: “Your family’s experience was in so many ways similar to ours. I, too, wanted knee boots so badly, probably in the same year that your sister did. We also still have photos of all the children of the family in cracker hats. There was nothing quite as good as new pyjamas. Your column took me right back. I could almost feel the cosiness of the flannelette as I was reading. I must ask Dad if he still has that white-handled electric knife. Thanks again. You made my Christmas.”

Andrew Tucker writes: “Your article in the Telegram, “A child’s Christmas,” brings back a lot of memories. We have the same Christmas picture in front of the couch, Christmas tree in the background. There were 10 of us — nine boys, one girl. Back in 1966, looking at them, you wonder who the goofball was, who the serious one was, how they would all turn out. We were fortunate enough to do the same picture 16 years later on the same couch, believe it or not. Nobody was ever allowed in the living room except at Christmas time.

“When friends look at and compare our two pictures, the 1966 one and the 1982 one, they often joke: same kids, same couch, same wallpaper, is that the same tree?

“Great fun. There are a lot of stories in pictures like that. Thank you for sharing it.”

Lynn Courish writes: “I hope I have stopped crying enough to send you a heartfelt thank you; my sister pointed out this article to me today as she actually recognized Gerry (just from the photo). What an amazing story you have done here, but hey, it is not a story is it? It was life and still is. I loved every minute of it. It was very well written but I have to be honest, for me, the memories just came flooding back at me. … Thank you so much. It feels like a Christmas gift to me.”

Heather LeShana writes: “Just read your article about Christmas. You could have been writing about my childhood. Thanks so much for the memories. Wishing you and yours a holiday filled with love, hope and new memories.”

Shirley Birmingham called to say that for her, the magic of Christmas was seeing the lit tree for the first time Christmas morning. She also still has a ginger container from A. Lilly and Company.

See COLUMN, page B2

Linda Ryan writes: “I dearly loved your story about your family’s Christmases on ‘Turn. It brought back so many wonderful memories of my own.  I, too, had an aunt who had moved to the States. Before their little family left Argentia, my military uncle gifted to my dad a handsome, hand-painted and rather significant, wooden Santa complete with sleigh and reindeer. Oh, how we treasured it.

“Whenever my dad would judiciously set it up in our front yard, Christmas had officially arrived in our neighbourhood. Soon after, winking lights and wreaths of all kinds would appear on the surrounding houses in a harmonious nod to the season. And, we would all wait with great anticipation for a soft sifting of snow to entirely set the scene. I can still see Santa and his reindeer in my mind’s eye. It was the first of its kind around our small town.  Some people would slow their cars to admire it and some would even stop and take pictures of their own children standing alongside Santa and waving.

“My sister and I, and certainly my parents, too, would always look forward to the boxes to arrive each year from Virginia. The boxes would always contain something that could not be found around here. Often, my aunt would send jumpers that she had expertly sewn for my sister and me.  And, we would wear them proudly with sweet white long-sleeved blouses to all the Christmas and New Year festivities. I remember one year, my aunt sent us the most beautiful cherry red corduroy jumpers.  We immediately put them on and literally wore them out. When I had finally outgrown mine, I wore my sister’s. I never wanted to give it up. Eventually, my mother, who was a pretty good sewer herself,

re-created the jumpers into miniskirts for my friend Judy and I — we wore them with our short white patent leather go-go boots in a Christmas concert singing and dancing to “Jingle Bell Rock.” Oh, my!

“I still have the only Barbie (American Girl, brunette in a striped swimsuit) I ever owned, given to me by my cousin — the year was 1965. Barbie had made the international trip along with her best friend, Midge. Who knew that some decades later, I would marry a man named Midge.

“The packages inside the ‘Christmas Box from Away’ were always beautifully individually wrapped which, for me, was the most magical thing about it all. I remember one year, customs had torn open the presents (leaving their inspection slips) and hadn’t bothered to rewrap even one.  I was devastated that someone would do that and not have the decency to at least tape up the torn papers. Imagine! At 7 or 8 years old, it was an atrocity.

“We didn’t have a lot back then. But what we had, we surely appreciated. And, we surely appreciated our American relatives thinking of us at Christmastime.

“My dad is gone now (he loved Christmas and I inherited that love for the season from him), as are his sister and my American uncle. But to this day, my cousin, sister and I still carry on the tradition across the miles. It helps us all to keep the spirit of Christmas present and the beautiful memories of Christmases past alive. …

Thank you, Susan, for reviving those in your column today.”