The newest addition to our library collection is a copy of Jack Miner on Current Topics (first published in 1929). Mika found a copy in the Ex Libris book store at the Ottawa Public Library and thoughtfully purchased it, knowing I would like it. Jack Miner (1865-1944), born in Ohio, but settled in Canada in 1878, was a deeply religious man and pioneering conservationist. Miner was not a trained biologist, he had no formal education and was illiterate until he was in his thirties. He was Christian and subscribed to a literal interpretation of Scripture, believing “God put birds and animals here for man’s use and for man to control.” He founded a bird sanctuary on his farm in 1904, which exists to this day, and contributed to the effort to determine the migratory paths of wild ducks and geese in live trapping and banding them. He manufactured his own hand-stamped aluminum bands adding with his address Bible passages: “Keep yourselves in the love of God—Jude 1-21” and “With God all things are possible—Mark 10-27”. Bands recovered from birds after they were shot by hunters indicated where the birds had traveled.
In this book he discusses the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA) which was signed between the United States and Great Britain (acting on behalf of the Dominion of Canada), which effectively ended market hunting, but allows for the hunting of game species for private consumption. He puts forward his case for the conservation of wildlife resources through education and wise use. He includes two chapters detailing his admiration for the Canada goose, proposing it be designated as Canada’s national bird. That he was not a trained biologist shows through in the chapter in which he shares his dislike of crows, referring to them as “cannibals” and “murderers.” He trapped and killed them in droves, believing he was protecting more “desirable” species of birds and mammals. In keeping with his religious beliefs he tended to anthropomorphize wildlife in ascribing human morality to animal behaviour, noting, for example, that Canada geese mate for life and never seeing a pair divorce.
He is remembered for banding wild ducks and geese, having banded over 50,000 wild ducks and 40,000 Canada geese. His efforts in banding waterfowl popularized the procedure leading to its standardization and is still in use as a tool for wildlife biologists today. After his death, the Government of Canada enacted the National Wildlife Week Act to be observed the week of Jack Miner’s birth, April 10 each year. He was a simple and pious man whose passion for migratory birds inspired him to help lay the foundation of the modern conservation movement and for those who love the natural world he is worth remembering.
Today, Sunday February 24, 2013 kicks off Freedom to Read Week in Canada (February 24 – March 2, 2013). As such, it is apropos to say a few words about censorship in Canada. Geoffrey is a librarian; Mika is a bibliophile. Between them they have a personal library collection of approximately 5000 volumes. Having the freedom to read is is something to cherish and not take lightly. Section 2.(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms lists as “Fundamental Freedoms” guarantees “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.” In spite of these guarantees in law, the reality is in Canada, a society founded on the principles of pluralism and liberalism, efforts to censor in the form of book challenges are all too common. Public libraries and school libraries are where most book challenges take place. For more information on Freedom to Read Week in Canada 2013, check out this website: www.freedomtoread.ca. By all means enjoy your freedom to read and never take this freedom for granted.
Pope Benedict XVI announced on February 11, 2013 he is leaving office. The reason he gave for reaching this decision is as follows:
in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of St Peter and proclaim the gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary. Strength which has in the past few months deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity adequately to fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.
This came as quite a surprise to me and to many other people across the world. It is commonly understood that once elected pope, the holder stays in office for life. While I am no longer a practicing Roman Catholic, I maintain an interest in the Church, her history, doctrines and current theological discussions. Continue reading →
In the past few weeks the British parliament passed legislation to move forward in allowing same sex couples to marry in England and Wales. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales received its first reading on 24 January 2013. On 5 February 2013, the House of Commons debated the bill, and later approved the legislation on second reading in a 400–175 vote. Hitherto, civil unions were allowed between same sex couples under the law since 2005. This is very welcome news indeed. Certainly English society has come a long way from when homosexual sex between consenting adults were decriminalized in 1967. Still, there is determined opposition to amending the law to allow same sex marriage, most notably from religious institutions. The Catholic Church in England and Wales together with the Church of England are campaigning against this legislation. The Muslim Council of Britain and the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue are also opposed. The more things change, the more they stay the same it seems. Continue reading →
Sanctifying Misandry: Goddess Ideology and the Fall of Man / Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson. McGill-Queen’s University Press, c2010.
The introduction into the academic world of the notion that culture in paleolithic Europe was matristic or goddess centred came in 1974 with the publication of The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe by Marija Gimbutas, a Lithuanian archaeologist. The gist of her argument is that Neolithic cultures across Europe were woman-centred, peaceful, free of homophobia and egalitarian. These inferences were greeted with skepticism from her peers and that probably would have been the end of the story except her arguments were taken up and made popular by Riane Eisler in her publication The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future, 1987. Following the publication of The Chalice and The Blade various forms of goddess worship and spirituality emerged. With this came a yearning for a return to what is believed was the culture of Paleolithic Europe before the ‘Fall.’
In publishing Sanctifying Misandry: Goddess Ideology and the Fall of Man Katherine K. Young, Professor of Religious Studies at McGill University and Paul Nathanson, Researcher of Religious Studies at McGill University, offer a critique of versions of this modern goddess religion they view as antithetical to equality between the sexes and actively promoting misandry, hatred of men in popular culture.
This book was published in 1960 by the Rev. Robert Wood, a Congregationalist minister. Wood, a gay man, was upset at how Christians condemned homosexuals without attempting to understand them. After an unsatisfactory search for material dealing with ministering to homosexuals, he decided he would write his own book on the subject. Continue reading →
“There but for the grace of God go I” a famous quote attributed to John Bradford (1510-1555) as a prisoner in the Tower of London upon seeing a fellow prisoner en route to his execution. This quote seems appropriate in introducing a recent acquisition to our library collection. 88 men and 2 women is the memoir of Clinton T. Duffy (1898-1982) during the 12 years (1940-1952) he served as warden at San Quentin State Prison in California. In those 12 years he presided at the executions of 90 condemned prisoners, 88 men and 2 women. Interestingly enough, Duffy opposed capital punishment and campaigned against it after leaving the job. In addition, during his tenure as warden he introduced broad reforms in the treatment of prisoners making conditions in the prison far more humane, but could not stop the executions. Commenting on this he said the following:
“I could get rid of the instruments of torture, but I couldn’t get rid of the instruments of death. San Quentin had its gallows when I was born, and it still has its gas chamber, which claims an average an average of about nine lives a year. Gallows, gas chamber, electric chair, firing squad, or whatever other ‘humane’ method of execution may be devised in the future, they all add up to the same thing. After months or years of horrible mental anguish, a person dies in a medieval torture-chamber setting often in a Roman holiday atmosphere while society, although trying to turn its head away and not look, condones it.”
This memoir is an interesting look into the life and conscience of an executioner who became acquainted with prisoners on death row, seeing them to their execution in the gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison. It must take great strength of character to be able to carry out the job of the executioner viewing it as a job to be done and to go on with life as an ordinary citizen. Like Mr. Duffy, I oppose capital punishment and unlike him, I could not take on the job of executioner. Capital punishment was abolished in Canada in 1976, though the last hangings were carried out in 1962. Despite Mr. Duffy’s efforts to see capital punishment abolished in US society, it persists in the 21st century. I hope before too long this will become a thing of the past.