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Technology, War and Humanity — April 24, 2017

Technology, War and Humanity

One may wonder at what points do these three things, technology, war and humanity, coincide as one.  My path to this discovery is as follows.

Across Canada, April 9th marked the 100th anniversary of an identifying moment in Canadian history, the Battle of Vimy Ridge.  Since learning about this historical event, it has been my favourite moment along Canada’s journey to reach the present day, as it was one of the greatest battles led by Canada during World War I.  Beginning on April 19, 1997, the Battle of Vimy Ridge lasted three days of heavy combat before the Canadian troops were the only ones to emerge victorious.  Though many people had been lost over the course of the previous three days, this battle left such a great impact on the Canada as a whole.  In the end, while Canadians from across the country together delivered an unprecedented victory, they also proved to themselves and everyone else that they were their own united people, spreading feelings of nationalism across the country.  Today, the Vimy Memorial, located at the sight of the battle, stands to honour all Canadians who served in the Great War of 1914 – 1918.


While I spent much of April 9th reflecting on all things Vimy Ridge, it also happened to get me thinking about greater aspects of war and tactics.  Thus I came up with my first topic of research:

“How did the nature of warfare and technology contribute to World War I?”

The Great War commenced on the 28th day of July 1914, and though many believed that the fighting would cease by Christmas of that year, the war continued to be a reality for people across the globe well into 1918.  The types of warfare used in World War I can often be identified by the military strategies that developed around the technological advances of that time.

For the first three years of the World War I, the military generals involved their troops in a war of attrition; a military strategy based on exhausting the enemy’s manpower and resources before their own were depleted.  This strategy proved to result in heavy casualties on both sides as a result of the new war technologies that were being developed.  These advancements in war technologies could be found on land, in the air and at sea.

Technology such as machine guns, artillery, war tanks and poisonous gases was developed for use on land.  Rifles that required soldiers to manually insert gunpowder were replaced by machine guns and artillery that were crafted to fire 400 to 500 rounds per minute, or send explosive shells 130 kilometres away.  This resulted in casualties followed by a stalemate that fostered the war of attrition as men were ordered “over the top,” only to be immediately mowed down by snipers or blown up by shells.  War tanks were finally able to withstand the force of machine guns, artillery and barbed wire, which allowed soldiers to advance in no man’s land and declare the trench warfare system obsolete.  On the battlefield, the Germans were the first to use chlorine gas, originally outlawed by international agreement, to suffocate soldiers to death.

In the air, technology such as dirigibles and biplanes were essentials of warfare.  Though they were not invented during the course of the war, they were originally used in reconnaissance missions (i.e., to scout the position of enemy troops).  Later on, they were enhanced to be equipped with top-mounted guns and grenades, which lead to aerial dogfights.  During World War I, life as a pilot was treacherous; thousands were killed in training and the length of the average career of a pilot could be measured in weeks.  Thus, where a pilot could prove he had shot down five enemy aircraft, he was named an air ace.

At sea, technology such as heavily armoured battleships and U-boats (i.e., submarines) were employed, distinctive of the British and Germans.  While the British HMS Dreadnought was respected as one of the largest and fastest battleships in the world, German U-boats could travel underwater without detection, carrying torpedoes that were used to attack merchant marine ships and freighters.  These merchant marine ships were transporting civilians, food, weapons and munitions, and were attacked by the Germans as an attempt to starve the British into submission.  In fact, in 1917, Germany announced that its U-boats would sink any ship within the British war zone, such as the Lusitania that was sunk along with 1200 Americans and Canadians on board, hoping to put pressure on Britain and help end the war.  However, the only thing that came of this threat was the entry of the United States into the war in 1917 on the side of the Allies, after American ships had become targets of the Germans.  Further, to combat the deadly repercussions of the German U-boats, eventually the convoy system was developed to provide merchant marine ships with armed destroyers as defense, and with underwater listening devices to locate German U-boats early.

Overall, the new types of warfare that had developed as a result of the advancements in war technologies could not prevent stubborn military generals from engaging in a war of attrition, and thus only served to contribute to the millions of deaths in the Great War.

Now, after having done research on the technology of World War I, I became curious about technology’s influence on humanity in drastic ways.  Thus I came up with my second topic of research:

“What is a significant technological development that has changed humanity?”

The first time I learned of the devastation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, on August 6th and 9th, 1945, I was led to firmly believe that no method of destruction could be more morally wrong than the technological development of the nuclear weapon that had been derived in Japan.  However, I can now fathom that humanity would be left in a far worse scenario, had nuclear weapons never been developed in the first place.  While this may seem contradictory, I believe that the technological development of nuclear weaponry has changed humanity for the better because the world today may coincidentally be a much more violent place had nuclear arsenal never existed.  Firstly, it was nuclear weaponry that brought an end to the Second World War, forcing Japan to surrender to the Allies.  Had the atomic bombs not been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the World War would have only continued to play out, costing many more lives in the detrimental process.  Secondly, despite nuclear arsenals being tools of mass destruction, they have also purposefully served as peacekeepers on various occasions since the Second World War.  Thus, nuclear deterrents can be attributed as a reason that we do not currently find ourselves in the midst of Word War Three.  Finally, nuclear weapons served to prevent the proliferation of other chemically and biologically hazardous materials that today are restricted by stronger regulations for their safety perils.  At the same time, the technological development of nuclear arsenal has allowed for a greater understanding of the atom itself and nuclear pulse propulsion, which in turn has allowed for further technological developments of spacecraft and space travel.  To these extents, though nuclear weapons have inflicted their fair share of damage on our world, I resolutely believe that the technological development of nuclear weaponry has, and continues to, change the course of humanity in our favour by providing civilization with a safer place to exist.




One may wonder at what points do these three things, technology, war and humanity, coincide as one.  In my research, I came to discover that one, simply put, cannot exist without the other.


  1. http://www.warmuseum.ca/firstworldwar/history/after-the-war/remembrance/vimy-memorial/
  2. http://www.atomicheritage.org/history/attack-pearl-harbor-1941


Glenn Gould: The Story of a Canadian Genius — April 16, 2017

Glenn Gould: The Story of a Canadian Genius

“Occasionally irritated, often enthralled, usually impressed, and constantly fascinated.” -Critic

Born in 1932 and dead 50 years later, the Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould is the most enthralling and enigmatic character classical music has ever seen.


Gould was born in Toronto on September 25, 1932 to Florence and Bert Gould. Ever since he was born, he displayed a natural aptitude for piano, and started playing at just three years old. He demonstrated perfect pitch, as well as an uncanny ability to memorize music quickly. Despite clear gifts and skills, Gould never did well in school, and never earned his high-school diploma. He studied with the Chilean pianist Alberto Guerrero, and became a world-renowned pianist at just 21 with his recording of The Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Gould started to tour around North America, and in May 1957, embarked on his biggest journey yet: a month-long series of concerts in Russia. Almost no Westerners had performed in the Soviet Union since the end of World War II, and Gould performed to sold-out crowds in Moscow and Leningrad. His influence to the musical students who were at his concerts still remain to this day. The tour could be considered to be the high point of Gould’s performing career. He contracted several illnesses in a subsequent tour around Europe the next year, and one particular incident greatly damaged his image of concerts. During a collaboration with the American conductor Leonard Bernstein for a concert in New York, they found themselves having different interpretations of the work they were to perform. The composition was ultimately played Gould’s way, but Bernstein gave an impromptu speech before the concert declaring that he did not agree with the interpretation. Gould loved the speech, but was consequently destroyed in newspaper reviews. In 1964, due to the New York performance, and a multitude of other reasons (he once said of concerts: “I think they’re a force of evil”), Gould decided to quit giving concerts in 1964 and focused on exclusively recording music.


Gould with Bernstein.

Switching to recording was the most controversial decision he ever made, as no classical musician had ever done so before (and no one has since either). Gould hated the multitude of variables that came with performing: different pianos, temperature of the halls and audience distractions. The recording studio offered him a shelter, where only a handful of people were in attendance at once and he could edit the works to perfection. He thrived out of the public eye, and kept a steady pace of recordings through the 1960’s and 70’s. In 1982, Gould died of a stroke in Toronto General Hospital. He had celebrated his 50th birthday just a week before, and had already planned to move to conducting and composing in his later years.

This decision wasn’t the only part of Gould’s personality that set him apart from others. The way he played his pieces – often completely disobeying the tempo and dynamic markings written out by the composer – infuriated critics and contemporaries. But his playing style was fresh and new, and that meant that there would always be people who loved the music and people who hated his playing.




But, as with most geniuses, Gould had his eccentricities as well. He was a creature of habit, wearing a scarf, hat and mittens in all temperatures, playing on the same chair for 30 years, and only eating one meal a day (it was always the same order at the same restaurant at the same time – scrambled eggs at a 24-hour diner around 4 A.M). Gould was also an extreme hypochondriac, once eating 2,000 pills in nine months, and recording his blood pressure every 30 minutes near the end of his life. These quirks naturally decreased his social life – Gould was never married. Gould was said to have been a lonely person, although those who were close to him remembered him as a warm, kind, and funny man. He loved nature, and often retreated by himself to Northern Ontario.


Gould wearing his infamous cap, gloves, and coat.

Glenn Gould: reluctant performer, recording aficionado, television and radio extraordinaire, reclusive eccentric, autistic savant, and a man that left a long-lasting legacy. He was different than any musician who had come before or after him in every single respect. But it’s also important to remember that he was the modern Renaissance-man – he also composed, made radio and television documentaries, and wrote about music. And even though he died nearly 35 years ago, thanks to dozens of books, documentaries and commemorations, we will never forget the 50 years when Glenn Gould captivated the musical world.


Gould, with the author.

By Lucas


British Columbia’s National Parks — April 5, 2017

British Columbia’s National Parks


From the stunning west coast of the Pacific Rim National Park, to the vast rocky backdrop of Glacier National Park, British Columbia has some of the oldest and well known parks in Canada. Since the creation of Canada’s first national park in 1885 at Banff, national parks have come to be defined as areas that are set aside as a public heritage or trust to preserve outstanding examples of scenery, wilderness, geology, natural phenomena or native flora and fauna. The parks are dedicated to public use and enjoyment by all citizens. Trekking, beachcombing, kayaking/canoeing, surfing and camping are just some of the activities available when one visits these parks. In addition to outdoor activities, the parks preserve the natural history and cultural heritage of Canada.

Before venturing to some of British Columbia’s most popular national parks, let’s look back at how the first national park came to be. In 1885, the Canadian Pacific Railway fulfilled its goal of linking eastern Canada with the west coast by a transcontinental railway. During the exploration and building of the railway over the Rocky Mountains, the discovery of several mineral hot springs in Banff, prompted applications for private ownership of the springs. The federal government rejected the application and instead created a reserve around the hot springs. In November 1885 the first national park, the Banff National Park was created. Throughout its history, national parks were not always protected, logging, mining and development were still allowed. Between 1960-1985 saw policies for preservation and protection of national parks. In 2001, the Canada National Parks Act passed requiring a cap on commercial development in parks and required the legal designation of wilderness areas in national parks. In 2002, Parliament passed the Canada National Marine Conservation areas Act that further provided protections to marine areas.

Today, there are more than 40 national parks and national park reserves in Canada.

Yoho National Park and The Burgess Shale


Yoho National Park is the second oldest National Park in Canada. It was declared as a National Park in 1886 after a visit by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald who arrived on the Transcontinental Railway. The Group of Seven founder, Lawren Harris’ painting, “Mountain Forms” inspired by the spiralling mountain backdrop of Yoho National Park recently sold for a record $11.21M at auction. Within the park, the Burgess Shale was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. The Burgess Shale is one of the world’s most significant fossil sites preserving soft bodied animals from over half a billion years ago.


To learn more about Yoho National Park:



To explore the history and science of the Burgess Shale go to:



Glacier National Park


Glacier National Park lies within the Columbia Mountains between Golden and Revelstoke. It was established in 1886 and drew visitors to take the railroad to view the scenery of steep mountainous terrain, valleys, glaciers and waterfalls. Glacier National Parks has one of Canada’s most extensive cave systems, the Nakimu Caves. This park is closely tied to two historical Canadian transportation routes, the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Trans – Canada Railway. The famous Roger’s Pass, located in the heart of the park, was used as a shortcut for both the Trans – Canada and Canadian Pacific Railways, and is also considered a National Historic Site of Canada.


To learn more about Glacier National Park go to:




Pacific Rim National Park Reserve


Canada’s oldest national park reserve, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, is located on the South west coast of Vancouver Island. It includes Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands and the West Coast Trail. The park was established in 1970 as the first national park reserve. The Pacific Rim National Park has a rich history of First Nations peoples settlement from thousands of years ago. The northern area of Long Beach is the most popular. It is easily accessible by road. Long Beach has 11 kilometres of beach providing an opportunity to explore the different areas of the marine park including the ocean, intertidal, beach and forest. The Broken Group Islands consists of more than 100 islands. This part of the coastline is known as Graveyard of the Pacific because storms, fog and strong currents have sunk many ships. The West Coast Trail is a world-class 75-kilometre hiking trail, which traverses through some of the most pristine west coast old growth forests to the rugged waves of the open Pacific. Access to the trail is through reservation.


If you would like to learn more about this challenging hike go to:



National parks not only preserve natural history but cultural history. The parks such as Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage site also give us a glimpse into the environment and homes of First Nations peoples, their culture and their art. Our nation’s spectacular national parks inspire our young and old to preserve and protect our natural wilderness. It reminds us of the importance of co-existence with our natural environment. Let’s ensure future generations enjoy and protect our nation’s natural heritage.

National parks are such a great place to explore and learn. Now more than ever, you should visit BC’s national parks because through Canada 150, you can get a free pass to visit our National Parks, Historical Sites and Marine Conservation areas all year! So go out and learn about Canada’s natural history!

Get your free pass:




Kraus, J.A. and McNamee, Kevin. The National Parks of Canada. Key Porter Books Limited, 2004.

Lothian, W.F. A Brief History of Canada’s National Parks. Minister of the Environment, 1987.

Maybank, Blake and Mertz, Peter. The National Parks and Other Wild Places of Canada. Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 2001.

Photo Credits

Passenger Train – Yoho National Park Archives.


Burgess Shale – Niddrie, John, Parks Canada.