Browsing articles in "commentary"
Jul 9, 2019
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Starboard (2019)

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Keywords: ecocide, whales, society, conscience

The Japanese government lifts the whaling ban and kills two the first day. That is the headline we all woke up to hear. For me, it was like reading that we were at war, that an earthquake had struck, that a bomb had exploded.

How can we consciously decide to get out to slaughter the few whales that are left in the oceans? And for what? How can we do this after having been exposed to all of the awareness campaigns of the last 30 years? After having seen all of the whale movies? Was it all just entertainment, good old fun? Today our conscience is more akin to bling, something that we wear if it matches the rest of our outfit. It seems that we are not capable of becoming aware of any moral principles, incapable of being motivated to act upon them and that we cannot assess our character, our behavior, and ultimately ourselves against those principles[1] We are the spect-actors of a horrible spectacle, but we still enjoy the drama.

Everything that we have seen and everything that we have believed in is as useless as the trash blowing on a street. Worse, we are the ones throwing the refuse out of the car windows while driving on a scenic route. I am ashamed to be part of it. Yes, I am part of it, we all are. At this moment, we are putting our raincoats and sharpening our harpoons. We are leaving our homes under the cheers of our friends and families. We are going to bring back as many whales as we can. The world has made us monsters roaming the seas, death is our trophy.

And right here, at the antipode of these Japanese killing fields, in our own Gulf of St. Lawrence, scores of whales wash onshore, entangled, hit, rotting. At first, we see a stand-to from the government, imposing a speed limit on vessels in the Gulf. It didn’t take long to hear protests from the shipping, the cruise lines, and the fishing industries. Our vacations, our consumption, and our infinite appetite for seafood are what count here. It is all complicated, they say. For our economy, etc. It has come down to this: to us, wanting things and not giving a damn about anything else. Making payments on a fully loaded F-150 has more value than saving a whale. And our subsequent collective silence is a collective nod to kill the last of every living thing. We are like those who are directly involved, those putting on raincoats and sharpening harpoons.

When the last whale alive will near the end of its life, entrepreneurs will surely seize the opportunity to create an event where seats will be sold and snacks will be served. The chosen few will witness the extinction of that great animal. It will become a handle, a hashtag, an image on Instagram, as it vanishes from our world.

The sea is rough and my shame and my sadness have no weight to hold it back. I am on a dingy, struggling to float beside the larger ships of our modern life.

P.S. A few years ago, the International Criminal Court was considering adding Ecocide to its list of punishable crimes [2]. I am sure that whaling falls into this category.

[1] Conscience, paraphrased from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Mar 14, 2016
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/conscience/

[2] Proposed amendment to the Rome Statute, Eradicating Ecocide
https://eradicatingecocide.com/the-law/what-is-ecocide/

Image: Cutting up a blue whale | Library of Congress https://www.loc.gov/item/99614373/

May 5, 2019
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XR & Monarch logos (2019)

ER-MONARCH

I am a supporter of the Extinction Rebellion movement (XR), but as a designer, I have misgivings about their logo. According to Wikipedia the circle in the XR logo ‘signifies the planet, while the hourglass inside serves as a warning that time is rapidly running out for many species.’

I think that there is a striking similarity between the Extinction Rebellion movement logo and the logo of the Monarch organization. This ‘Monarch’ was created by Legendary Pictures and appeared in the 2014 Godzilla film, and more recently in Kong: Skull Island. I understand that one is an hourglass and the other probably a butterfly, but there is something unsettling when you see them side-by-side.

Apr 9, 2019
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Jim and I (2019)

Office-landscape-plan

My bank went through a rejuvenation treatment also known as a ‘renovation.’ The contractors worked mostly at night and then, the bank closed altogether for a few days. When it came back into the physical world, it was as an open-concept entity.

As far as transformation goes, this was an important re-emergence. The bank is more spacious and brighter, with little restaurant-booths-like stations on the side. I like to think that customers could sit there to dream of cheesecakes and other delights. The only thing missing, it seems, is a Ping-Pong table. But as I waited in line, yes there is still a queue area – a difficult concept to fathom in an open-plan design, I started to think of how strange the whole thing is. What is this openness all about? Is the bank really open, or does it just feel open?

Banks have always thrived on the idea of privacy, of cubicles, of safety deposit boxes and even if the appearance of the bank happens to change, the invisible walls are probably as thick now as they were before. It probably boils down to simple economics; fewer wall surfaces and less maintenance might translate into more profits. All of the above advantages come into play without mention of the fact that an open banking surface becomes easier to monitor. In fact, my bank’s openness might be closer to Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon than to Frank Lloyd Wright’s pioneering open-plan designs, which “represented the promise of a new social ideal […] that would […] allow egalitarian integration”.[1]

But now, why would a bank – not the most benevolent entity in the world – care about egalitarian integration? I think that by opting for an open-plan layout, my bank was hoping for a magical, sympathetic effect; that seeing the openness of the space; we could automatically assign these perceptions to the bank itself. In short, that we could believe that the bank is as open, generous and honest as the space it occupies.

So here it is, my new bank, based on the foundation of my old bank. A wolf dressed up as a grandmother has opened its doors to welcome me, to do business with me. I wait in a line that is as long as the one before. Then, I notice a smiling clerk getting up and walking toward me. “Hi, I’m Jim, how can I help you today.” It is nice of him to say that, but there is something artificial about our first contact, something uncomfortable. The script will be restated over and over in the coming weeks, months and years. No doubt, it will come to sound more natural. Meanwhile, Jim and I walk to his workstation where he opens his computer. I stand on the side, almost like being in a pub. As I enter my passcode, I realize that it signals the end of all openness. Night has suddenly fallen; the bright sunshine of my bank is no more. We are now moving in a closed-floor-plan, a world of encryption, firewalls and privacy screens.

[1] The Curse of an Open Floor Plan, The Atlantic, Ian Bogost, May 17, 2018
https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/05/the-curse-of-an-open-floor-plan/560561/

Sep 15, 2018
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Nationalization (2018)

k_irving2

Painting by Daniel H. Dugas, 1997.

In this New Brunswick election campaign period, we are bombarded with all kinds of promises from the leaders of the new-world-to-be, but I have not heard the following. What would happen if New Brunswick would nationalize its natural resources? Nationalization of natural resources has successfully taken place in the recent past; Norway nationalized its oil, and Québec nationalized its electricity. As Irving is involved in so many sectors of New Brunswick life, it might be more efficient to assume control or ownership of the Empire itself.

The Irving entity is the third richest in the country. It is perhaps ironic that it is based in New Brunswick, a province recognized as holding one of the lowest gross domestic product ratings in Canada. It is perplexing how one of the poorest provinces in the country has produced one of the richest entities and it brings the question of whether the wealth of the former is related to the difficulties of the latter.

In any case, the Irving Empire is vast and might be considered to be a form of cancer. We all know someone who had it; died from it or survived it, and we all know someone who works in one of Irving’s invasive ventures. We fill our cars with Irving gas, we live in their prefab homes, read their newspapers, use their tissue products and sometimes, we go out to enjoy the parks that they have created to protect “environmentally significant areas.” [1]  And as if this were not enough, we are also footing the bill to spray glyphosate on crown lands [2] to create monocultural forests to make Irving’s tree harvest easier and more profitable. Profits aside, the regular spraying of this chemical alone is reason for concern.

This mighty empire is comprised of the following: Irving Pulp & Paper Ltd., Irving Paper Ltd., Irving Tissue Co. Ltd., Lake Utopia Paper, Irving Sawmill Division, Irving Woodlands Division, New Brunswick Railway Co. Ltd., New Brunswick Southern Railway Co. Ltd., Eastern Maine Railway Co. Ltd., Maine Northern Railway Co. Ltd., Midland Transport, Midland Courier, RST Industries, Sunbury Transport, Atlantic Towing, Kent Line, JDI Logistics, Universal Truck & Trailer, Harbour Development, Saint John Shipbuilding, Halifax Shipyard, East Isle Shipyard, Shelburne Ship Repair, Woodside Industries, Fleetway Services Chandler, Kent Building Supplies, Shamrock Truss, Irving Tissue (Royale, Majesta, Scotties, private labels), Irving Personal Care (diapers, training pants), Cavendish Produce (fresh vegetables), Cavendish Farms (frozen potato processing), Indian River Farms, Riverdale Foods, Atlantic Wallboard, Irving Wallboard, Gulf Operators, Irving Equipment (crane rental, heavy lifting, specialized transportation, pile driving and project management services), Kent Homes, Plasticraft, Personnel Services, Protrans Personnel Services Inc., Industrial Security Inc., Moncton Wildcats, Telegraph-Journal (Saint John NB), Times & Transcript (Moncton NB), The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton NB), The Tribune (Campbellton NB), La Voix du Restigouche (Campbellton NB), The Bugle-Observer (Woodstock NB), Le Journal Madawaska (Edmundston NB), L’Étoile (various editions), Édition provincial, Édition La Cataracte (Grand Falls NB), Édition Chaleur (Bathurst NB), Édition Dieppe (Dieppe NB), Édition Kent (Bouctouche NB), Édition Péninsule (Shippagan NB), Édition République (Edmundston NB), Édition Restigouche (Campbellton NB), Édition Shédiac (Shediac NB), Kings County Record (Sussex NB), Miramichi Leader (Miramichi NB), The Northern Light (Bathurst NB), Here (Saint John NB, Moncton NB, Fredericton NB).

What would happen if all of this would be nationalized? The answer is that it wouldn’t be quite the same.

[1] Our Nature Parks and Nature Education Programs
https://www.jdirving.com/jd-irving-sustainability-nature-parks.aspx

[2] Stop Spraying NB:
http://www.stopsprayingnb.ca/

 

For more info:

Provincial and territorial natural resource indicators, 2009 to 2016:
https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/13-604-m/13-604-m2018088-fra.htm

List of Canadians by net worth :
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Canadians_by_net_worth

Nationalization: Advantages and Disadvantages of Nationalization:
https://www.importantindia.com/15749/nationalization/

Oil together now: Lessons on nationalisation from Norway:
https://mg.co.za/article/2011-09-08-oil-together-now-nationalisation-lessons-from-norway/

 

Apr 19, 2018
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Common Interest (2018)

medals

Commonwealth Games: medal table for Gold Coast 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/ng-interactive/2018/apr/05/commonwealth-games-medal-table-for-gold-coast-2018

 

Looking at the results of the recent Commonwealth Games, I don’t know if I should be amazed, shocked, or outraged by the medal count. For example, Australia, a country of almost 25 million people, got three times more medals than India, a country of 1 billion, 300 million people. In other words, India, a country with a population 52 times bigger than Australia finished the Games with 132 fewer medals than Australia. One might conclude that the athletes from Australia are either born with superpowers, an impossible and racist conjecture or else there is a political will and economic policies to sustain and elevate levels of athletic prowess Down Under. The gap between winners and non-winners begins to look like a canyon with the seven nations of Australia, England, Canada, New Zealand, Wales Scotland, North Ireland and the Isle of Man winning a total of 565 medals. The other sixty-four participant nations took away 234 medals, that count includes the total medals won by the sum of participating African nations.

If the Commonwealth is the traditional English descriptor for a political community founded for the common good, I wonder what is the common wealth at play here. It is certainly not embodied in the haul of medals that are awarded to the best of the best. What we are seeing in competitions like the Commonwealth Games, even more so than in the Olympic Games, is a visualization of international inequalities.

When we talk about fair games, the usual common topic is anti-doping criteria. There are clean and not-so-clean participants, but chemical enhancements are not the only kinds of boosts that can propel your average sprinter. Wealth is a marker that could be used to identify the possible ability, success, and/or failure of a participant or nation. Perhaps the Gini index which looks at wealth distribution of a nation’s residents to measure inequalities could be tailored to test athletes, not for prohibited chemical enhancements, but to quantify economic advantage.

See also:
DEMOS / The Racial Wealth Gap: Why Policy Matters
http://www.demos.org/publication/racial-wealth-gap-why-policy-matters
Handicap (golf)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handicap_(golf)

Jan 9, 2018
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The Ghost in the Machine (2018)

 

keyboard

While the airwaves are filled with news that computers are vulnerable to the Meltdown and Spectre attacks, something incredible happened deep inside my own Yamaha synthesizer.

I have been playing on this keyboard since 2002 without a glitch. Last year, after a gig, I mentioned to someone that my synth was a workhorse; after fifteen years of composing and playing music, it was still going strong. That must have been the signal for something to go wrong. Suddenly, the up and down arrows stopped working. Without these, I lost access to crucial functions in my workstation. I contacted a local electronic service center and brought the keyboard in for an emergency visit. The technician found that one of the PCM boards was not working and a replacement part was purchased from Japan. After weeks of waiting, the part finally arrived and the keyboard was healed. This renewed vitality was more like a short remission as the arrows soon lost their power for a second time. I brought the keyboard back to the shop but nothing else could be done. My beloved sound-making machine looked like it would never be the same.

The keyboard still worked, it just wasn’t what it used to be. As time went on, I learned how to live within its reduced capabilities. Then a few days ago, I turned it on, selected the piano voice and started to play, but the machine seemed to have another idea in mind. It kept cycling through voices and parameters. The yellow, red and green lights on the controls were flashing on their own. I tried to regain control but was unable. In desperation, I hit the surface of the keyboard with my fist to power it off. I thought this could be the death rattle of it, the end of music.

I waited a few seconds and turned it on again. The lights flashed once more, the names of voices on the LED window kept cycling around and around. And then, all of a sudden, all of that madness stopped. I looked at the keyboard as if it was a wild animal, unsure if it was going to jump at me or burst into flames, but nothing happened. I touched the keys; the piano was there. I played a little something. Everything sounded okay. Then I noticed that the up and down arrows were working! I played some more, accessing things that were not optional since the breakdown. I was shocked. I thought that these reemerging sounds might be the last to come out of my machine; if I closed it, it might die. I was afraid to power it off, so I played all day thinking that it was the last day.

Then, at some point, when I was ready, I shut it down. I waited a few minutes and put it on again. It was still working, and it is still working now, days after the incident. I don’t know what happened, maybe the ghost in the machine decided to make a move, or a speck of micro dust stuck under something fell off when I hit the keyboard. What do I know of the secret lives of microprocessors? Maybe I will never know, but for the time being I am ecstatic, enjoying the return of the way things were.

Nov 5, 2017
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The bus route (2017)

CodiaclogoCodiactransit23-sm

Sometimes waiting for a bus in a small town takes courage. That day, we were the only ones at the bus stop, which is not a good sign. The size of the crowd is like a measuring cup. The more people at the shelter, the closer the bus and inversely, the fewer people, the farther the bus, the longer the wait. On that day we were the only ones and we were hoping for the best: for the exception to the rule. The sun went down and the northern night came with her big coat. Just as we were wondering if buses were still coming to this bus stop, a pickup truck stopped in front of us with its window sliding down. A quick glance at the truck door revealed that it belonged to the City’s transit department. The driver was leaning toward us, his body language was telling us that he wanted to say something. We approached. The man explained that an accident on a main street was blocking any buses from coming to our location. To our surprise, he offered to drive us home.

John was his name. He had been a bus driver with the City for 35 years and was now in charge of the logistics of moving people. He said that the accident had happened hours ago and police were still busy at the scene. He said that his job was to try to keep the system on time and picking people here and there at any congestion points was actually the best thing to do. John was driving very slowly. The heat was on. It was definitely a comfortable ride. We followed the same route as the bus would have taken and stopped near our home. We thanked our driver for his help.

Sometimes waiting for a bus in a small town takes a lot of courage, but occasionally something unexpected happens, something that could only happen in such a place.

 

Daniel H. Dugas
November 2, 2017

 

Image: By Stu pendousmat at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13114323

Oct 10, 2017
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Everything is relative, connected or disconnected (2017)

blade-declin

In September 1986, while in Vancouver for the Expo ‘86, I went to see Le Déclin de l’empire américain. [1] The theater was half full and the audience was comprised mainly of young people in their 20’s, like me. ‘A spontaneously Funny Sex Comedy!’ was the then tantalizing tagline for the movie’s Canadian release in June. As the movie progressed, the young people started to leave the theatre, one by one, two by two. I also wanted to leave, but stayed until the end, as I became more interested in witnessing the mass evacuation than seeing the conclusion of the movie itself. What I witnessed was a profound lack of interest. It did not matter because the movie went on to be shortlisted at the Oscars for best foreign film. Nor does it matter that it has remained one of the great films realized by Québec Director Denis Arcand. Many years later, I saw the movie again. The images of the exodus I witnessed during its debut still stood out for me as stronger than the film itself.

Blade Runner 2049 seems to have something in common with Le Déclin that I saw. On the opening weekend 2049 it became a box office flop. Commentators are saying that something didn’t click with audiences. [2] It reminds me of the crowd of young people in the Vancouver cinema. But, everything is relative, and Blade Runner 2049, like Le déclin will not rely on reactions of audiences to gauge its greatness. It could still become a cult favorite.

[1] The Decline of the American Empire – On this occasion in Vancouver, the film was presented in French with English subtitles.

[2] Why Blade Runner 2049 is a box office flop
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=11930950

Oct 3, 2017
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The Power of Outrage – ‘Anger is an Energy’ (2017)

r-electrical

I was invited through the Regroupement des éditeurs canadiens-français (RECF) to take part in two events in this year’s Burlington Book Festival. The first event Text(e)/Image was a performance with Herménégilde Chiasson at the Contois auditorium. The second event was called The Power of Outrage, a panel discussion with Shenaaz Nanji, Mary Dingee Fillmore, Leda Schubert, Melissa Febos and myself. It was moderated by Cora Siré. The discussion was centered around the question of ‘What fuels writers to take on burning issues? How do they handle the political? Does writing give them refuge from despair?’

I think that writing is a way to make sense of the world that exists around us. That is probably the main reason why I write and because the world is always moving, always transforming, the situation is always new and the need to understand it never-ending. My practice is multidisciplinary but economy and the political economy of our world is something that I continue to visit and to revisit. I believe that this is the foundation of societies; an uneven field. During the panel, I spoke about the vast empire created by Irving and our dependencies as citizens in New Brunswick, Canada. I spoke about glyphosate, ‘an herbicide sprayed throughout New Brunswick’s forests to kill hardwood growth’ [1] and the surrealistic battle forcing citizens of Moncton to demand that the spraying by J.D. Irving near Greater Moncton’s drinking water supply be halted. [2] The chemical itself is actually paid by the Province of New Brunswick, a practice that maximizes the profit margin of Irving. To me, this is a proof of whom is in charge. Obviously, the taxpayers are not, because we are forced to demand for the discontinuation of a practice that is polluting our forests, our groundwater and our very drinking water itself.

On my way back home, driving through Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, I had time to think more about the panel. There are a few things that I wanted to say but they did not surface. In the last few years, our feelings as a society towards outrage have changed. Even Facebook now recognizes the importance of anger as normal, or at least a possible reaction.

If, for Facebook, anger is data to tailor a more personalize experience for its users, it can be form of energy to others.[3]

Anger Is An Energy, like the lyrics of Johnny Rotten’s song states. It can force someone to take a stand, to make a point in the hope of making something better. But anger can be a difficult road and sometimes, it can only take you so far. To be angry is to give out sparks, to shed light where it is often needed. The outrage must be voiced but it demands an enormous amount of energy. It can suck the light out of the room, the sanity out of an individual. To be distressed and in pain all the time cannot be healthy for anyone. This is why it has to be dealt with extreme care.

Driving through the Green Mountains of Vermont, the White Mountains of New Hampshire and into the forests of Maine gave me enough time to ponder about anger, its potential and its drawbacks. Yes, anger is an energy with dangerous currents, but it can also be a form of resistance that can protect individuals from getting electrocuted by the aberrations of the world.

[1] California places popular N.B. herbicide on list of cancer-causing chemicals http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/gylphosate-herbice-new-brunswick-california-1.4182805

[2] Moncton mayor calls for halt to glyphosate spraying inside city’s watershed https://globalnews.ca/news/3694180/moncton-mayor-calls-for-halt-to-glyphosate-spraying-inside-citys-watershed/

[3] Facebook’s Five New Reaction Buttons: Data, Data, Data and Data http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2016/02/24/facebook_s_5_new_reactions_
buttons_are_all_about_data_data_data.html

Jul 9, 2017
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We all want the same thing: to leave our children and our children’s children a better community. (2017)

We all want the same thing: to leave our children and our children’s children a better community: Environment/ City of Moncton: Reducing our environmental footprint [1]

old-car

The City of Moncton can do great things. The new Rabbit Brook Trail that goes from Mapleton Road to Reade Street Park is a perfect example of this desire to create a better community.[2] Moncton even has a plan to reduce our environmental footprint. The page on the City of Moncton’s website states that ‘Moncton is a city whose residents believe in sustainability, creativity, and leadership …’ and ‘that fewer cars on the roads mean cleaner air.’ The obvious question is how we are going to achieve this lofty goal with events glorifying vehicles that are notorious for polluting the atmosphere? The cars in the Atlantic National, which is happening right now, are known polluters with extremely high emissions. What is the toxic legacy that is left by the 2000 + cars coming into town every year for this event? Is this part of the ‘children’s children’s better community’? As a pedestrian in the city, I can attest to the difficulty of walking in noxious fumes during this celebration.

And it is not just the Atlantic Nationals filling the air with this rich fuel mixture. Moncton is also home of the Greater Moncton Corvette Club Show & Shine; the Annual Mustang Club Car Show and, of course, the Atlanticade Motorcycle Festival. How many motors will it take for our city to be truly green?

I understand the importance of commerce and having a place where everyone can live their lives, but if we continue to host such damaging environmental events, we should be conscious of our actions. First, we should cross out the line on the City’s website that states ‘… fewer cars on the roads mean cleaner air’, as this is a misleading statement in view of these featured auto events. The second thing that we could do is to perhaps invite one of the Volkswagen executives who ‘pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges to get around US pollution rules on nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles by using software to suppress emissions of nitrogen oxide during tests’[3] to be the grand marshal of one of the car exhaust festivals.

 

Daniel H. Dugas
7 July 2017


 

[1] ‘We all want the same thing: to leave our children and our children’s children a better community.’ from:  Environment/ City of Moncton: Reducing our environmental footprint
https://www.moncton.ca/Residents/Environment.htm

[2] Google Maps

[3] Volkswagen pleads guilty to all criminal charges in emissions cheating scandal, The Guardian, 10 March 2017.
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/10/volkswagen-vw-pleads-guilty-criminal-charges-emissions-cheating

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Daniel H. Dugas

Artiste numérique, poète et musicien, Daniel H. Dugas a participé à des expositions individuelles et de groupe ainsi qu’à plusieurs festivals et événements de poésie en Amérique du Nord, en Europe, au Mexique et en Australie. Everglades, coécrit avec Valerie LeBlanc, vient de paraître aux Éditions Prise de parole.

Daniel H. Dugas is a poet, musician, and videographer. He has participated in solo and group exhibitions as well as festivals and literary events in North America, Europe, Mexico and Australia. His tenth book of poetry, co-written with Valerie LeBlanc, Everglades has just been published by Les Éditions Prise de parole.

Everglades
À partir de leur exploration du parc national des Everglades, Daniel H. Dugas et Valerie LeBlanc cartographient dans cet essai poétique les effets de la présence humaine sur le milieu naturel, les traces qu’elle y dépose. Everglades est une ode à la beauté, à la fragilité et à la résilience d’une nature aux prises avec une espèce envahissante, la nôtre.

Everglades
Through their exploration of the Everglades National Park, Daniel H. Dugas and Valerie LeBlanc document, in this poetic collection, the effects of human presence in the natural world and the traces left behind. Everglades is an ode to the beauty, the fragility and the resilience of nature faced with the invasiveness of a particular species, ours.

Date : Mars 2018
Genre : Poésie
Collection : Poésie
ISBN : 9782897441029
Français/English

Éditions Prise de parole

http://www.prisedeparole.ca/auteurs/?id=1148

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