Archive for the ‘B.C.’ Category

Keystone Pipeline XL

The Huffington post ran an article recently about the massive sit in going on in front of the White house right now. The protest is over the Keystone XL Pipeline, planned to run from the Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.  The project has garnered protests on both sides of the border.

This New York Times editorial opposes the pipeline, sighting two main concerns;  “the risk of oil spills along the pipeline, which would traverse highly sensitive terrain, (including drinking water for millions of people and ground water used for over 30%  of the United States agricultural needs) and the fact that the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse emissions than conventional production does.”

Building this pipeline would double production (extraction) of oil over the next decade to more than 1.8 million barrels a day. While creating an equally alarming rise in green house gas emissions and cutting down at least  740,000 acres of boreal forest — a natural carbon reservoir.

This Keystone Pipeline Infographic clearly documents the 12 SPILLS that have already occurred in the one year old Keystone 1 pipeline.

Can anyone stop the  corporations and two governments that are set on putting profits before people?


From Occupy Vancouver October 15th 2011

World Food Day – October 16th

October 16th is World Food Day.  Developed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of The United Nations, the purpose is to raise awareness about food security issues, agriculture, poverty and hunger around the world.

Each year a different focus is taken in an attempt to encourage dialogue, highlight areas of concern, and as a call to action. In 2011 the theme is Food Prices -From Crisis to Stability. Food Security is on the minds of everybody these days. From shopping local at farmers markets and growing food in community gardens, to  buying sustainable and fairly traded foods.  The media is saturated with stories and images about hunger, from the horn of Africa to our local elementary schools.The story is the same, poverty leads to food insecurity and in the poorest nations, death.

Yesterday I went down town to Occupy Vancouver, to stand in solidarity, and bear witness to this important movement.

What do the Occupy Protests have to do with food security?  The movement is a voice for us all, it is students, and families and seniors. It is the unemployed, and the underemployed. It is a global call to action for every person who feels the system needs to change, starting now.Occupy Wall Street is the direct result of the dissatisfaction felt by  millions of people.

The issues are varied, but one message is clear; We can not continue to consume and exploit natural resources.

The famine that exists today is a direct result of greed. Will we allow this to continue?  Sometimes these issues seem far away and we can feel overwhelmed and helpless to make a difference. Action speaks louder then words.  Grow some of your own food, volunteer in any capacity working with food. Help people in your own neighbourhood, donate to local food banks, and organisations around the world that are helping the most vulnerable. You can make a difference.

One man’s trash. . .

When you live in a big city you often see people moving in and out of houses and apartment buildings. One casualty of many movers is furniture and electronics left abandoned near apartment building dumpsters at the end of the month. Luckily there is a huge network of people ready to rummage through castaway treasures on every other street corner too.

“Binners” or “dumpster divers” are recyclers roaming the city on bikes and pushing shopping carts. Although many of these people collect mainly bottles to take to the recycle depot, transfer stations, or Encorp Return it centres, these places  will also accept electronics. This helps in the reduction of hazardous toxins in landfills, and reduces the amount being shipped over seas to be processed by workers who’s health and very lives are put at risk  in the name of  “Ewaste recycling.

Toxins like Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Chromium, and Polyvinyl Chlorides (PVC) are found in many common electronic devices today. When they become obsolete the items are discarded, leading to  these toxic materials being released back into the environment during the process of reclaiming more valuable components.

People today are more aware of the issues and Extended Producer Responsibility or “Product Stewardship” is now becoming more commonplace in manufacturing.

What to do with unwanted furniture has been a solid waste issue for many property owners, landlords and householders alike. There are some places that will take furniture to resell, requiring the items be delivered there. When this is not an option people look to places like Big Brothers, The Salvation Army, and The Developmental Disabilities Association to take away the unwanted furniture.

Most places are so overwhelmed with unusable junk that it actually costs them money to dispose of these items causing them to no longer accept any furniture, good, bad or otherwise.These organisations will still pick up clothing, toys, books and small household items.

The Home Start Foundation now offers an environmentally friendly option to recycle your good used furniture. This foundation takes used items and helps furnish houses and create homes for some  needy and deserving people. Clients include  families, elderly or other people who are in need  and are refereed through social service agencies.  They help create a comfortable environment when it is most needed.

This is a great example of finding a way to reduce your waste and in turn into do a good dead for someone else.

Happy Birthday GREENPEACE

Greenpeace was started 40 years ago this week in a living room in Vancouver, BC.

On their website it proudly boasts 40 years of  Inspiring Action, Making Change, Bearing Witness, Solutions, Victories! And this is what I think of when I hear the name as well.

Activists had a simple message in 1971 and it remains vital today; TAKE ACTION! The founders of Greenpeace were regular Canadians. What began as protests against nuclear weapons testing / transporting/ now covers climate change, toxic pollutants, protection of forests, oceans, agriculture, and even PEACE and disarmament.

I am proud to live in the same province where such ideals could evolve into an international movement called Greenpeace.

 

Food or Fuel ?

Is there a food crisis looming?

If you read the news online you can find numerous stories warning that the yes a real food crisis does exist and may in fact be worse then has been predicted.

Climate change leading to extreme weather events like flooding and droughts, and massive soil erosion have left farmers the world over scrambling to produce a stable food supply.

A few months back the USDA fully deregulated genetically engineered (GE) corn that is grown in the United States. This is considered to be an industrial crop and not for human consumption but grown to become Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol.

It is estimated that ONE THIRD of the corn grown in America today is not for FOOD but for FUEL

As world food prices continue to rise, even where yields are at record highs,  the worlds  poorest nations continue to suffer the most. A change in the worlds climate  has created a market of uncertainty and food insecurity.

Growing  food for fuel is controversial. Growing genetically engineered crops for fuel could be considered immoral and, at the least, is a dangerous guessing game when it comes to maintaining a diverse organic seed supply. The fear is that corn grown as biofuel will contaminate food crops with irreversible consequences. Can we really afford to take these kind of risks with our food supply?

There are alternatives like recycled biodiesel, and in fact most major cities,including Vancouver has a bioDiesel co-op!

Made from recycled vegetable oils collected from restaurants, this is true recycling.

There are no modifications needed for a diesel engine to run on this fuel.

So why is there even a need to grow new crops for oil?

These are the questions that we should be asking.

The decisions we make each day when it comes to the food we eat, and the fuel we deem necessary may become an even hotter topic to debate as the prices at the grocery store continue to rise.

Water Fracking – is it harmful?

Fracking Natural Gas

Fracking Natural Gas

Just What is Hydraulic Fracturing?

That’s what I asked a colleague of mine recently when he told me about the documentary Gasland: A film by Josh Fox

The largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history has swept across the United States. The Halliburton-developed drilling technology of “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing has unlocked a “Saudia Arabia of natural gas” just beneath us. But is fracking safe? When film-maker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination. A recently drilled nearby Pennsylvania town reports that residents are able to light their drinking water on fire. This is just one of the many absurd and astonishing revelations of a new country called GASLAND. Part verite travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown.”

The website is filled with information about this questionable practice that has reached epic proportions throughout the United States, and now Canada. With alarming statistic like over 80 000 pounds of chemicals are injected into the earth’s crust to “Frack” each well, the majority of which are toxic VOCs that contaminate the water table and air in the process of extraction.

Much controversy has arisen from this movie, the powerful Gas lobby and industry has replied with a “truth” campaign designed to discredit the director and the undeniable facts that this process is harmful, and largely unregulated.

The reply from the film-maker also goes to great lengths to substantiate his claims. The magazine  The Environmental Leader Recounts the New York Times article questioning the safety of the water fracking industry.

For a Canadian perspective Fracking Canada informs of the dangers of the practice.  It also seeks to encourage a dialogue about a subject that is not well known, except to the people who live with the reality of the wells and waste water in their backyards.

This is an important topic to learn more about.  We need to question whose interest is being served in the process of this resource extraction.

Spring 2011

Crocuses on East Columbia Spring 2011

Crocuses on East Columbia Street New Westminster ~Spring 2011 ~ ♡ ॐ

No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.  ~Proverb

Throw away culture

Late night I attended a local screening of a film called “The Clean Bin Project – documentary“  The movie follows a Vancouver couple over the coarse of one year, in a competition to buy nothing, and create no waste – or as little as possible.

Their story was funny, relevant and poignant. Topics like the Pacific Garbage Patch, and ethical recycling were touched on. The couple made a point of saying their intention was not to be preachy, but to show what their experience was.

The part of the movie that really struck me was that involving Midway Atoll, a remote  island nation in the centre of the pacific ocean. The movie relates the story of the albatrosses of this island. Sea birds that are consuming plastic instead of food and dying in unprecedented numbers.

This photo is alarming ,  disturbing and vital.

It is hard to look at, and not question where our own responsibility lies in this problem.

The participants in this challenge are not exceptional environmentalists. There are compassionate, conscious individuals who try and show what is possible. They readily admit that they have not continued to have a zero waste goal,  they have an intention to change small things and make a difference one step at a time.

The term Zero Waste can illicit contempt by some people. People argue that ZERO is not possible and at best we can only aim for a garbage diversion rate of 70%.  Metro Vancouver singed on to the ZERO WASTE CHALLENGE as a part of their plan to become The greenest city in the world by 2020. The question is why not aim for a Zero Waste? If that starts a dialogue then the value is proven.

Personally participating in a local Zero Waste Challenge the results were encouraging.  By the end of our four month experiment my family and neighbours were able to reduce our garbage by 50% We also doubled the amount of waste diverted through increased composting. We did not reach zero waste, in fact, our success was to increase our awareness of what we were throwing away, what we were buying, and what we could change.

The average person will probably look at this picture as I did, and feel that what we are doing is not enough.

Moving towards a greener community?

When I moved recently I wrote about Frogbox a local Vancouver company that provides reusable shipping containers that are dropped off and picked up in a timely manner. This helps create less waste and offers a green moving alternative. Before you get to the point of packing all of your belongings, there are a few things to consider when choosing a new neighbourhood.

Google maps has made it easy to check out the new place, and see how the neighbourhood compares to your current digs. I have a few other great resources to use as a guide for helping you to choose the greenest community to live in.

DSCN1833

I used the walk score software to look up my current address (scored at 67/100)  The verdict on my new place is Somewhat Walkable. This will no doubt improve when the construction on the grocery store at the bottom of my street is finished this fall. We are extremity close to transit, a hospital, coffee shops, cafes and restaurants, some boutiques and a thrift shop. Also nearby are a number of parks, access to the  river and a bike route. Being a car free family, we have found this area great for walkability. This may depend how far you would walk for such things as the library, major grocery store and community centre. For us, a stop or two on the Skytrain or eight minutes on the bus are acceptable travel distances for these resources.

This program maps out your neighbourhood and rates it’s walkability. It shows where the closest amenities are in kilometres, giving you an accurate picture of where you will be living and shopping.

Another thing to consider is the air and water quality of the place you are moving to.

Emitter.ca allows you to access statistics about what has been reported to the National Pollutant Release Inventory*. Emitter tells you the name, type of company and a sliding scale rating of the amount of pollution reported to be pumped into the air.  This resource has helped me to understand what these large factories I see in the distance are doing and how harmful the toxins they release may just be.

So if you are thinking of making a move in the near future, check out these sites. They may be a valuable new resource and a sense of pride for communities of the future!

URBNgreen
URBNgreen is committed to education and environmental stewardship. Our objective is share information about what people are doing locally and around the world to create a sustainable future.
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