threat – The North Grenville Times http://www.ngtimes.ca The Voice of North Grenville Sun, 22 Apr 2018 15:09:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 True lies http://www.ngtimes.ca/true-lies/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/true-lies/#respond Wed, 29 Nov 2017 19:54:29 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=9935 “What is Truth?” That question is probably the most repeated biblical quote around these days. The phrase “fake news” has entered into our dictionaries and minds and represents a genuine threat to the future of democracy. Does that sound extreme? It is a fact (?) that somewhere between half and three-quarters of Americans get their […]

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“What is Truth?” That question is probably the most repeated biblical quote around these days. The phrase “fake news” has entered into our dictionaries and minds and represents a genuine threat to the future of democracy. Does that sound extreme? It is a fact (?) that somewhere between half and three-quarters of Americans get their news from Facebook. The figures for Canada are less drastic. A Public Policy Forum survey earlier this year showed that 75% of Canadians still get their news from traditional media sources, such as TV and newspapers. But more than half also looked for information from social media sites like Facebook, and that trend will likely continue.

Is this a problem? It is, if the discovery that Russia and other countries and intelligence agencies have been busy posting false reports on these sites in order to influence, not just elections, but public attitudes too. It was bad enough when con artists and hoaxers were doing this, their “news” items were usually obvious. But the statistics from the United States, in particular, makes one wonder about what’s happening on this side of the border. An Ipsos Reid survey found that three-quarters of those surveyed believed a fake news story was either somewhat, or very accurate 75% of the time. It also showed that 86% of Trump supporters believed false headline stories to be true.

That is the basic situation in our world today: there is an enormous rise in the number of false stories going the rounds on social media sites. Fake accounts are being set up on Facebook, Twitter and Google simply to distribute untrue stories, and it doesn’t take a lot of money or time to do so.

In the past, media outlets depended on their reputations as accurate purveyors of news. There was a clearly understood difference between, say, the Globe and Mail and the National Enquirer. Of course, even then, there was a huge market for the kind of fictional and dramatic nonsense published by the Enquirer and other supermarket tabloids. The frightening thing is that this kind of misinformation has now spread to platforms that are read and trusted by millions more than would ever be seen reading the Enquirer. But today it is much more difficult to be sure of the truth and accuracy of what we find on-line, where there are no footnotes, no sources, no reliable way to discriminate between the solid facts and the deliberate fiction.

Forbes magazine recently stated that: “‘Active misinformation’ is a threat to democratic systems. This is because democracy depends on people voting in an informed way, weighing the pros and cons of policies, candidates and parties. But if they are misinformed, believing things about the “other” that are completely untrue, the informed voter ceases to exist and democracy is reduced to whoever can tell the most believable lie. Nazis brought that to a high level of professionalism, and we are now seeing it in our own part of the world.

False news distorts and corrupts the body politic. It encourages division, hatred even, and an inability and unwillingness to compromise. Yet compromise is at the heart of all democratic systems: it is how we avoid going to war over issues that may be serious, but can also be trivial.

The world, and that includes Canada, Ontario, even down to our municipal level, is being assaulted via the internet, an invention that is otherwise one of the greatest achievements of modern society. Liars and frauds get away with so much more than they could in the past, simply because of technology. I watched one man recently being faced with lies and false claims he had posted on his web site. It seemed, as it were, black and white. But he blustered and claimed that someone had hacked his site, that the false statements had been deliberately placed there by his enemies. That photographs and video of him had been Photoshopped and altered. All of this may be possible, and is certainly another sad fact of modern on-line life. The point is that it is becoming ridiculously easy for people to deny what is there on the written and visual record, and people believe them.

This puts a responsibility on all of us. We have to pay more attention to what we read and see and hear. We have to make sure, as far as we can, that we are believing the truth, the reality, not what some want us to think and believe. As an historian, I believe in sources, footnotes: show me where you got that piece of information. Verify that statement or document. These days, it seems, we all have to be detectives, sorting out the facts from the red herrings, trying to discern truth from lies. Democracy has never been the easy option: it is often far easier to let someone else tell us what to think, what to do, how to act. But today, more than ever in history, we as democratic people, have the responsibility to choose who rules. Think for yourself. Ask questions. What is true will come through.

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Invasive species poses threat to local habitats http://www.ngtimes.ca/invasive-species-poses-threat-to-local-habitats/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/invasive-species-poses-threat-to-local-habitats/#respond Wed, 28 Jun 2017 14:51:47 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=6829 An invasive species of wetland reed has the potential to wipe out entire habitats in Eastern Ontario, if it is not taken seriously. Phragmites Australis is a tall perennial wetland plant from Europe that is closely related to the native species Phragmites Americanus. It is a tall reed with a thick stem and a plume-like […]

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An invasive species of wetland reed has the potential to wipe out entire habitats in Eastern Ontario, if it is not taken seriously.

Phragmites Australis is a tall perennial wetland plant from Europe that is closely related to the native species Phragmites Americanus. It is a tall reed with a thick stem and a plume-like tip that you may have noticed along highway 416. Despite their almost decorative appearance, they are a huge issue for our ecosystems. They grow so aggressively, and form such dense stands, that they have the potential to take over entire habitats, endangering the lives of the native plants and animals that live there.

Dr. Fred Schueler and Aleta Karstad of Bishops Mills have been tracking the spread of the invasive Phragmites since the 1990s. Fred says that the Phragmites are thought to have been spread by attaching to the treads of construction equipment. “That is how the 416 became walled with them,” he says. Once a stand is established, the plants have the ability to send rhizomes (or runners) under or across the ground to establish another grouping of them further into the bush. Fred says it is not uncommon for these runners to grow up to 10 metres in a single year.

Although these roadside stands of Phragmites may seem harmless, the very fact that they are not native to this area poses an issue. In Europe, where this type of Phragmites is prevalent, there are insects that eat it, and birds that are specialized to live within the dense stands. In North America, we don’t have the same kind of wildlife, so very few things can live within it, once it has taken over. In Long Point Bay, along the shores of Lake Erie, Phragmites have taken over many of the marches where some particularly rare species live. “It has filled in ponds where some endangered toads breed,” Fred says. “It has completely changed the ecology of the area.”

Steps are being taken in many parts of the province to stop the Phragmites from spreading. Fred says stands have been sprayed with herbicide in Long Point Bay, as well as along the 401 in Scarborough and the 402 near London, Ontario. While this is a positive step, it does nothing to combat the issue in our area, which is becoming more of a problem by the day. Fred says the area that is most at risk at the moment is called the Long Swamp Orchid Fenn, a wetland in Leeds County that is home to many rare and at-risk species. He says the area was supposed to be sprayed last year, but, somehow, the job got lost in the shuffle. “We are trying to get them back on the case, because it’s the most dangerous stand we have in the area.”

If steps are not taken to control the Phragmites, they will continue to spread, fill in marshes and roadsides, and kill native flora and fauna. Using the established protocols that have been developed for spraying in other parts of Ontario is the best way to stop them before they cause more damage.

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