Adam Kingsmith

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Adam is a PhD student in political science at York University in Toronto, where his research explores the nexus of technology and critical theory. His work has been featured in a variety of publications including ,The Public Intellectuals Project, The E-International Relations Journal, University Affairs Magazine, and Rabble.ca. For more of his work, check out his website.

Canada and the Politics of Fear: Anti-Terrorism, Surveillance and Citizenship in a Changing World

ottawa shooting
The Harper government  like so many governments that have come before it and will come after it — is more than ready to make good use of a crisis. 
 
Acting on the oft-quoted maxim, “never let a good crisis go to waste,” nations, politicians and tacticians have all taken advantage of negative circumstances to advance political agendas and Canada is no exception. But when tragic events are leveraged to silence debate and expedite new laws that could negatively affect ordinary citizens, Canadians should take note. No one wants to be ruled by the politics of fear, after all.
 
Take the recently introduced anti-terrorism Bill C-44.
 
Also known as the “Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act,” the bill was drawn up many months ago and tabled in Parliament just five days after a gunman shot an Ottawa soldier and breached the main hall of Parliament’s Centre Block before being killed by security guards. 
 

In Defence of Hypocrisy

hypocrisy
Do I contradict myself? 
Very well then I contradict myself, 
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
 
The ‘I’ in this passage — from section 51 of Song of Myself, by poet Walt Whitman — stands as a reference to the erratic and self-contradictory ways in which people think and act out their lives.
 
Whitman is drawing attention to an everyday experience that defines the human condition — people do not, and cannot, live pure and ascetic lives. In saying ‘I contain multitudes,’ what Whitman is really highlighting is that we all contain multitudes, a mess of perspectives and sentiments that leave us in a state of perpetual hypocrisy.
 
So say it with me now — we are all hypocrites.

8 Logical Fallacies That Misinform Our Minds

Imagine coming across a piece of reliable information that contradicts everything you’ve ever believed about, say, global warming or the war on terror. It would likely prompt the question: if you were wrong about such an important issue, what else could you be wrong about? What’s more, if you’ve been wrong about a bunch of things, then perhaps you’re not quite as well-informed as you had previously believed.
 
Thoughts like these are jarring ones because they threaten our sense of self — making us feel stupid, empty, even worthless. Unsurprisingly then, most people’s willingness to open up to new information depends largely on how this information will challenge or coincide with their preconceived notions of what is good or bad, right or wrong, true or false.
 
According to a study by researchers at the University of Waterloo, called Self-Affirmation and Sensitivity to Argument Strength, when people are presented with corrective information that runs counter to their ideology, those who most strongly identify with the ideology will intensify their incorrect beliefs. And as such, the greater the challenge new information poses to a person’s self-worth, the less likely it is to have any impact at all on them.
 
If there's something positive to draw from these uncomfortable realizations of our purposeful ignorance, it's that if we take the time to better understand why and how people think and feel the way they do, these inherent biases can be successfully mitigated and controlled.
 

9 Reasons Why 2013 Was a Slow and Painful Year for Freedom In Canada

freedom in canada desmog canada
Earlier this year I wrote an article attempting to cut through tired, rhetorical pandering in order to shed some much-needed light on the ways in which the Harper government has been overseeing The Slow and Painful Death of Freedom in Canada.
 

The Psyche Behind Canada’s Environmental Apathy

No Planet B

Recent Environment Canada reports show that the Harper administration does not have the policies in place necessary to meet Canada’s existing environmental commitments, which have already been criticised as being the feeblest in the industrialised world. For instance, Canada was the only country to weaken its climate target under the Copenhagen Accord, and has since become the only country to formally withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol

Even more concerning, according to the 2013 Climate Change Performance Index—a look at emissions levels, emissions trends, energy efficiency, efforts at renewable energy, and government climate policies of the world’s 61 highest CO2 emitting nations administered by the Climate Action Network—Canada ranked a dismal 58th, trailed only by Kazakhstan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, it was worst performance of any developed country by a long shot.
“At a time when institutions such as the World Bank and the International Energy Agency are calling for more climate action it is disappointing to have so many countries still being reluctant to move forward,” said Wendel Trio, Director of the European-based Climate Action Network and lead investigator for the 2013 Climate Change Performance Index, “Canada is a strong example of this lack of willingness to improve climate policies.”

Canada’s Surveillance State Equates Protest to Terrorism

Protest.

Last month’s PRISM revelations are a disconcerting reminder that even here in Canada, paranoid fantasies about mass government surveillance are more than a work of fiction.

Listening to our phone calls, monitoring our Internet searches, reading our emails, trawling our social media accounts. These things are not only possible, but thanks to government fear mongering feeding our increased tolerance for supervision in a post-9/11 world, they’re also entirely legal.
 
In Canada, government data mining is administered by the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC)—a top-secret federal agency that reports directly to the Minister of Defence, employs over 2,000 people, and operates with an annual taxpayer-funded budget of nearly half-a-billion dollars.
 
Armed with enough raw computing power to process boundless amounts of information, this “NSA-North” is free to intercept and cultivate all metadata—essentially a record of who we know, and how well—coming through the country in order to map out our social networks, patterns of mobility, professional relationships, and even our personal interests.

Alberta Tar Sands Demonstrate a Legacy of Negligence and Deceit, New Study Says

Operation Arctic Shadow, Fort McMurray

It’s no secret that the province of Alberta, the government Canada, and the titans of the fossil fuel industry pride themselves on robust regulatory and oversight structures when it comes to the extraction of natural resources.

“Environmental protection is a priority for our government and Canada is a global environmental leader,” said Canada’s Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver. “This is why Canada's oil sands are subject to some of the most stringent environmental regulations and monitoring in the world.”
 
“The regulations that are in place are very stringent, the most stringent in North America and certainly around the world,” added Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Diana McQueen. “We have a lot of development in this province, but we also have very tough regulations with regards to any spills that happen.”
 
“The system is working,” continued Alberta Energy Regulator CEO Jim Ellis. “We have the resources we need now to properly regulate it. And that includes compliance, on the ground inspections, regulations… They are capably handling the workload right now.”
 
Yet that’s not the story that the numbers tell.

Pretty Little Industrial Liars, Pt. 2

Emissions Stacks Smoking Away

Big Industry has committed some of the most atrocious crimes against the environment in Canada and around the world with little fear of reprisal. This is Part Two of a two–part series highlighting some small and large-scale instances of industrial–environmental greenwashing and misdirection in an attempt to better hold conglomerates accountable to the Canadian public.

The Industrial Bait and Pollute
 
Like an environmental fairy tale, it has been thrust into our consciousness for more than a generation – carpool, recycle, take shorter showers, unplug electronics, and shop green, we’ve all got a part to play in conserving the planet for future generations.
 
The Citizen’s Guide to Pollution Prevention – a report from the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy published in collaboration with the federal government, is a perfect example of this institutionalised emphasis on the role individuals are to play if the devastating effects of climate change are to be mediated.

Pretty Little Industrial Liars, Pt. 1

Greenwash detector

Big Industry has committed some of the most atrocious crimes against the environment in Canada and around the world with little fear of reprisal. This is Part One of a two–part series highlighting some small and large-scale instances of industrial–environmental greenwashing and misdirection in an attempt to better hold conglomerates accountable to the Canadian public. Read Part 2 here.

Greenwashing the Canadian Consumer
 
The deplorable act of greenwashing – constructing the misleading perception that a company’s policies, practices, products, or services are environmentally responsible and sustainable, is becoming common practice amongst titans of industry in Canada.
 
It should come as little shock to acute Canadians that fossil fuels and the tar sands – more genially referred to as the “oil sands” by energy multinationals and the Harper Government, are being linguistically and rhetorically greenwashed – my colleague Jeff Gailus has an insightful three-part series exploring this very issue.

How The Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Kill Internet Freedom In Canada

What the future of the Internet may look like.

A wish list of the 1%, a worldwide corporate power grab of enormous proportions,” “undemocratic and patently unfair,” “the biggest global threat to the Internet.”

These are just a few of the disconcerting phrases legal experts and digital rights advocates are employing to describe the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a highly secretive, contentious, and perpetually undemocratic multinational trade agreement currently being negotiated between 600-plus industry advisors and unelected trade representatives on behalf of 11 different national governments including Canada.
 
While the devious, closed-room nature of the discussions have made it difficult to determine how exactly the TPP will infringe on freedoms of speech, rights to privacy, and peoples’ abilities to innovate on the Internet, a leaked draft from February of 2011 reveals that concerned citizens have every reason to be alarmed by the many copyright enforcement provisions buried deep within this trade deal.

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