Posts Tagged ‘environmental issues’

From Occupy Vancouver October 15th 2011

Solar Bottle Light


A good use of plastic bottles, using water, bleach and sunlight  people are turning trash into a useful and necessary product – light!

This website gives more details.

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.


Toxic legacy! Canada’s Asbestos Industry

Black Lake Asbestos Mine in Quebec,

This week is the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention  (COP5 ) From June 20-24th

(Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade ) Essentially it is a multi-party treaty about trade in hazardous substances within the United Nations Environmental Program

Today Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper refused to bend to pressure  to add chrysotile asbestos to an international trade list of toxic substances.

Asbestos is used  as insulation, as a binder in cement, and in anti-fire walls. Evidence that Asbestos is harmful is mounting and undeniable. As asbestos is being removed from homes, businesses, schools  and even the  Parliament Building in Ottawa, Canadian asbestos producers continue to promote and sell their fibre worldwide – especially to developing nations.

The danger is from small asbestos fibres inhaled by labourers. The fibres cause cancerous growths in the lungs, lung lining and abdomen but can take 20 years or more to manifest.

In 1997, Canada exported 430,000 tonnes of asbestos - more than 96% of production – most of it to the developing world.

Canada is the world’s second-largest exporter of asbestos after Russia. 1

In Europe the evidence is overwhelmingly;  Ten EU members have banned asbestos.

With startling facts like  seven out  of Canada’s top 10 markets are Third World Nations, the question of ethics needs to be raised.  In countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America workers are being exposed to deadly toxins, while in the developed world the alarm bells are sounding.

The Third World News shines more light on this issue.  The reasons seems clear;  a political stand off is at work. In Canada Quebec has the dubious distinction of operating the last asbestos mine.

The headline in the Montreal Gazette reads that Canada concedes the science is correct, yet still opposes limits on exports of this deadly fibre.

How far will the Canadian government go to protect some jobs? Why are the lives of these Canadians more valuable then that of the potential thousands  who will have the misfortune to work with this material?

Moving towards policy that protects people equally around the world needs to be a priority.

Responsibility, transparency, and calling on all countries to honour their commitments to fair and ethical practices is mandatory when it comes to workers rights around the world as well as at home.

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.

Trash Talking

While reading the news this week, I came across an article on Madrid’s Beach Garbage Hotel

The hotel is made of garbage found on beaches around the world. It was created by artist Ha Schult, in an attempt to raise awareness about the state of the Oceans, the garbage that is dumped into the Oceans of the World and garbage that washes ashore on every beach across the planet.

Schult speaks about it ” “I created the Beach Garbage Hotel because the oceans of our planet are the biggest garbage dump,”

Most people are award of the Pacific Garbage Patch that exists and grows daily. The plight of the worlds Oceans are only one factor a long line of environmental destruction that is a result of our mass consumption and disposable lifestyle.

I was on The Story of Stuff website today and saw the newest instalment in their campaign The Story of Electronics.

The fact remains that we in North America use way more then our share of resources and create an exceptional amount of garbage per citizen.  Corporations are largely to blame, along with our governments that allow the production of mass amounts of “stuff” with no thoughts as to the end of life requirements of said stuff.

Some governments in Europe and even China are taking steps to force manufacturers to take responsibilty. The fact remains if we didn’t buy into the mass consumer culture in the first place we wouldn’t have these problems.

We need to make informed decisions when we make purchases.

Fairly traded products and closing the loop from the manufacturing all the way to the disposal of garbage needs to be on the agenda of every consumer, government and corporation in the world.

The problems that exist today are a direct result of our actions. We can change things by making sustainable choices and only buying things that can be disposed of ethically.

Things have to change and it has to start with each  of us.

China bans plastic bags

I just read a post on another blog about China’s voluntary ban on plastic bags.

It has been one year since China made giving bags away for free illiegal.  Stores are forced to sell bags at whatever price the market will allow.

A report published in Science Daily suggests that China has already reduced it’s plastic bag consumption by 50%!!

That is a reduction in the use of one time disposable plastic bags by half, without enforcement!  Still more can be done in the future to reduce the use of plastic bags.

China is leading the way, and showing what is possible.

Banning plastic bags raises awareness about the disastrous environmental impact plastic bags have on the environment.

This is proof that once motivated,  people will make better choices.

image from TreeHugger

image from TreeHugger

Water World

When I was a kid growing up near the great lakes in Ontario, the topic of water conservation, water pollution, and acid rain where taught in school. A child of the seventies, and eighties by the time I was in school, the environmental era had taken hold in the mainstream. I can clearly remember the posters we made and hung in the school halls about all the issues surrounding water. Even then I was aware water was something of great value. I remember watching television and being horrified by the plight of people a world away in Africa dying because they didn’t have water. Live Aid, Band Aid and the likes were played on the radio and T.V, like an anthem to my generation. We are the world – We are the children -

Fast forward to my twenties; I made the pilgrimage from central Canada to the West Coast. I started spending time up at my father’s vacation property, miles away from any town, deep in the mountains surrounded by Ponderosa pines, wild streams, and rugged beauty. It was here I first learned the true value of water.


Years ago at my father’s property there was no well dug yet. We trucked in all the water we would consume ourselves. Lucky to have a stream at the very edge of his acreage, we would hike down to it for water to boil to wash dishes. This gave me some small insight into what it means to have water at the tap; the convenience I had taken for granted for twenty years was never more clear to me then.

If you have never been lucky enough to experience camping in the wild, it may be hard to comprehend my experience. Here in north America we have an abundance of water, in Canada particularly, with the most fresh water in the world, it can be hard for the average city dweller to relate to a lack of water.

Today there is World Water Day - World Ocean day, and World Rivers Day to remind us of the issues and very real threats that our water supply faces. You don’t have to look far, watering restrictions, water contamination, and bottled water are all hot topics for the blogisphere and beyond. When the statistic I read in the April 2010 National Geographic related that EVERY YEAR, U.S. SWIMMING POOLS LOSE 150 BILLION GALLONS OF WATER TO EVAPORATION, one has to wonder if everyone has forgotten the value of water.

After heavy irrigation some progress has been made the world over to improve the availability of water for drinking and farming. There are still millions of people around the world who do not have access to clean water or proper sanitation. The divergence of this water has caused many problems as well, damming natural streams, piping water, sometimes miles into dense cities is not effective, the longest water tunnel supplying New York City at 85 miles, loses 35 million gallons of water a day, we can not say this is effective.

In California irrigation enables farmers to grow half of all the fruit, vegetables and nuts in the United States, while at the same time creating a dust bowl where fresh water used to flow.

Water Aid is an organisation that’s focus is to improve access to fresh water and sanitation for the poorest nations on earth. Still there are people, usually woman and girls, who spend hours a day fetching water, usually contaminated , just to survive.

An article in the April  2010 National Geographic is appropriately named The Burden of Thirst. When writing about water in Africa one quote states ” Villagers think of water as a gift from God. But someone has to pay for it. Although water springs from the earth, pipes and pumps, alas do not. And water is most expensive to provide for those least able to afford it.”

The reality in poor nations, and the world over is the same; “When clean water becomes plentiful, all the hours previously spent hauling water can be used to grow more food, raise more animals or even start income-producing businesses.”

The United Nations has stated that access to clean water is a human right. Our bodies are made up of 60% water, it is the most valuable element on earth. Water conservation and stewardship is one place to start.

This graph from the Environment Canada website is telling;

There are many things we can do to improve on this statistic. From using more effective shower heads,  tap aerators and modern toilets, even water displacement in toilets can save huge amounts of water. Rain water collections, reusing grey water – watering plants with dish water for example.  Watering by hand instead of using a sprinkler;  take short showers, keep water in the refrigerator instead of letting it run to get cold. All these measures can make a difference.

One thing everyone can do is inform themselves about the issues and make better choices to conserve and become better stewards of the water.

Here more tips on wise water use

Thousands have lived without love, but not one has lived without water. — W.H. Auden

Eye of the Tiger

white tiger Gung Hay Fat Choy! Around the world it is the Lunar New Year, Chinese New Year, or Spring festival. The year 2010 is the year of the White Metal Tiger. Promising to be a fruitful and positive year astrologically. We are encouraged to to aim at fulfilling our most cherished plans.

In that spirit, and to honour the symbol of the year, let us direct our attention to the flesh and blood tigers of the world.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
, reports there may be as few as 3200 tigers alive today.

India, which has the largest wild tiger population in the world, is estimated to have fewer than 1400.


Climate change is a huge threat to tigers . Rising sea levels are destroying habitat.  Destruction of forest for timber, agriculture and road building contribute to vanishing land for tigers to live on. Poachers for their skins and organs for their “medicinal” properties, all threaten the survival of the species.

You can help Save the wild tiger.

Launching an ambitious project to double the wild tiger population by 2022, the next year of the tiger, the WWF campaign coincides with the new year.

Conservation projects, raising awareness, ending poaching, and encouraging industry to better manage forests will help in this effort.

If action is not taken there may be no tigers left by 2022.
This is a critical point in time.

Tigers are in crisis, it is up to us to take a stand.

Earth Month

03-20-09-081 Recently I found out that some people are calling April “Earth Month”  The first Earth Day was held on April 22 1970. Now 39 years later Earth Day is still  celebrated  April 22.  After a very successful earth hour last month people are building on the momentum and continuing to keep the environment in the news.

What a great idea! A whole month  of activities to support the earth and raise awareness about what we can all do to protect the environment and make sustainable choices.

Planting trees come to mind as one way people celebrate earth day.  Trees are essential to the health of people and the planet.  If you can,  there is no better choice then to plant a tree, but what if you don’t have land to plant a tree on? What can everyone do to take action and help the earth?

Leave the car at home

bike Bike, walk, or transit are all better choices for the environment, your health and your pocket book. Now that the winter snow has melted it’s time to pump up your tires and wipe the dust off your bike and hit the trails and streets!


You can recycle most food scraps with a back yard or balcony composter, natural recycling, we have a worm composter and it couldn’t be easier, just keep a bowl near you when you are preparing dinner and all the vegetable waste you have can go  into the composter. You can also add coffee grounds, filters, tea bags, egg shells and even small amounts of newspaper. Some municipalities even have curb side composting!

Bring your own bag


Many retailer will give you a rebate if you bring your own bag. This cuts down on the amount of plastic in our landfills. It is easy to accumulate a number of good bags, canvas, cloth, or nylon are all good choices. Many companies have sprung up to offer a variety of different choices and I will be reviewing many of them in the next few weeks to let you know which ones we like and use.

Buy recycled products

recycle3 Recycled products are everywhere. One major thing everyone can do is use recycled paper products. Be sure to check the post consumer content on the package to be sure it is really recycled an not just picked up off the floor of a plant that uses virgin timber for it’s pulp.


Something as simple as a power bar is a great way to reduce your power consumption. Turn it off when you are out or at night. This also works as a surge protector.

These are just a few ways you can start to make a change for the health of the planet.  Every choice you make is cumulative, it all adds up. You can and do make a difference!

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.
delicate little plant in need of freedom. Einstein quote at