Welcome to PineTreeRepublic!
My name is Nic, and I love to read the morning newspaper. Yes, the hard-copy, page-turning version of the newspaper that seems to be so rare these days. When I wake up on a weekend morning, go for a lunch break during the workday, or land in a new city’s airport, the first thing I do is scour the local newsstand to see which paper has the day’s most interesting headlines. There’s simply something about the experience of holding newsprint in my hand, surrounded by the smells and sounds of a good coffee shop, that helps me focus and think better than anything I could experience digitally.
I’ll admit to having a couple quirks related to current events and reading the paper. First, I have a compulsive habit of cutting out interesting articles and underlining interesting quotes, facts, and analysis. This dates back to my days as an undergraduate International Relations student, when I had a foreign policy analysis professor who challenged us to think critically about the news. Current events don’t just happen in a vacuum, he taught us; there are always layers to peel back to better understand the motivations of the different players involved in any given story. In his class, each news article was like a puzzle to decipher – what unstated assumptions and linkages were truly driving the headline of the day? My Master’s program (in Energy and Environmental Systems) and professional and volunteer lives in sustainable development have also challenged me to think in systems about our world – what feedback loops, stocks and flows, relationships and dependencies, and path dependencies are driving the world of today and tomorrow?
Secondly, I am an incorrigible list-maker. You know how magazines and blogs will publish “Best of” lists at the end of a year, as in “Best Albums of 2014”, or “Top 10 Movies of 2014”? Well, currently (as of February 2015) I have running lists for my favourite albums, books, concerts, movies, public lectures, museum exhibits, live sporting events, hikes, races, restaurant meals, and newspaper articles of the year. And there will probably be more lists created as the year progresses.
This blog is in part an attempt to put each of those strange habits to at least some productive use. I believe most people are genuinely interested in better understanding the world around them, but perhaps don’t have the time or tools to connect the dots behind the headlines they read in passing each day. At the same time, I believe there are also people who do already analyze and interpret the news, and are looking for a place where they can debate and discuss with like-minded people.
In either case, consider yourselves members of PineTreeRepublic. I aim to use this blog to provide some quick but useful context behind the major events of each week, to help readers see the forest for the (pine) trees, and to provide a community for respectful and enlightening dialogue. No matter where you are in your journey of engaging and making sense of this confounding and fascinating world, I hope you find some value in this “republic”. And yes, there will probably be several year-end “Best of” lists.
A note on my information sources, as we are all limited in some sense in terms of where we get our news: I live in Calgary, Alberta, which means that my main daily print news sources are the Globe and Mail, National Post, Calgary Herald, and the Sunday New York Times. I also get a lot of interesting perspectives from the always-excellent daily podcast, The World. At various points when I’ve travelled or lived abroad, I’ve greatly enjoyed reading the Los Angeles Times (U.S.), The Guardian (U.K.), La Presse (Quebec), Le Monde (France), Ha’aretz (Israel), and El Pais (Spain), and will check their sites from time-to-time to gain different perspectives on the news of the day. Most importantly, I’m always up for tips on other interesting news sources I should be consulting, so please hit me with suggestions through e-mail or in the comments!
As you can tell from the picture, I also like hiking, the outdoors, baseball, and pine trees.