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From the archives

The Other Side of “Irish Eyes”

Brian Mulroney abroad and at home

The Ramble

Memories from the PMO

Vintage Years

Two political memoirs

Alanna Mitchell

Alanna Mitchell is a journalist, author, and playwright who specializes in science.

Articles by
Alanna Mitchell

Screen Saver?

Questioning routine mammograms March 2019
We live in a fretful age. Truth is custom-­made. Cynicism swells. Tribalism scorches the middle ground. Institutions languish in disrepute, and so do facts. Authority figures are suspect, unless they are demagogues with a base. At the same time, we covet knowledge and certainty. We wield our smartphones and GoPros like swords of vengeance, posting images of wrongdoing on public evidence boards such as Facebook and…

Power-Hungry Humans

Vaclav Smil and Chris Turner on the millennia-old story of energy January 2018
Just before Christmas, I found myself at a snowbound cabin in the woods about three hours north of Toronto. The cabin was off the electrical grid. It featured a wood stove for heat, solar panels for light, and a backup generator for emergencies. Every morning, my husband knelt before the wood stove, worshipfully coaxing its embers back to life and tending to the fire as the day wore on with split logs from the stack kept outside by the…

A Brilliant Attack

The PMO sets its sights on Enlightenment scientific ideals November 2013
By sheer chance, I was reading Chris Turner’s scathing new book, The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada, at the same time as Gillian Beer’s 30-year-old scholarly tome, Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. It occurred to me that the unerring surgical excision of the Canadian government’s mandate and inclination and ability to perform science that Turner catalogues is as quantum a…

A Dark Dystopia

This petro-history paints modern humans as helpless captives to our own high-tech servants October 2012
As luck would have it, just as I finished reading Andrew Nikiforuk’s new book, The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude, my copy of The New York Times arrived and, with it, salvation. There on the front page was an article explaining that in two states, it is legal for doctors to prescribe lethal doses of barbiturates for those wishing to commit…

Joy in Battle

An activist’s voice soars, from the blockade to the boardroom December 2011
When I joined a choir recently, I was such a musical idiot that I had to ask which of the four notes at the beginning of a bar the alto is supposed to sing. Ah, said the music director, widening and then swiftly narrowing her eyes, that would be the bottom note in the treble…

Green Menace

Suffocating the oceans could be deadly for the earth. September 2008