Posts Tagged ‘living in B.C.’

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.

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.

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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!

gifts that last

Metro Vancouver has a new campaign to curb excess garbage created over the holiday season.

This time of year is a retailers delight, with many businesses making the majority of their sales in the month of December. Our consumer culture reaches a crescendo at holiday time.  Increasingly we see “green” gift ideas, and while supporting local businesses, buying  ethically fairly traded products is a good choice, this new campaign has come along to remind us there is another option.

The website gives ideas for low waste gifts. Some idea’s include giving the gift of experiences; classes and memberships, a new soccer ball or a bike,  dinner out, tour local light displays, visit a historical site or experience a live presentation of some kind.

Be creative and have fun; make a wreath from things in your backyard, cut out paper snow flakes,  look through thrift shops for treasure, give a family heirloom to a loved one, or offer to fix a broken step or paint a room for a friend or family member who may not be able to do it themselves.

The gift of time is often the most welcome of all.  What is more valuable then memories we create with the people we love?

This holiday season if you find a way to give more of yourself you will be richer for it.

And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer

If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change

Vancouver Earth dance 2009 photo credit: Katia Somerville

Vancouver Earth dance 2009 photo credit: Katia Somerville

Man in the mirror – Michael Jackson

a matter of survival

Eco blogs and websites around the world are reporting on the climate talks wrapping up today in Cancun, Mexico.

World leaders have gathered for the Sixteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP16) and the Sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol (CMP6).

big tree

Canada is falling short of the measures set out in Kyoto and with the United States refusal to accept the treaty, the progress is slow going.  Even with dialogue between the two nations continuing Canada is one of the worst offending countries when it comes to CO2 emissions.

Many countries would like  the Kyoto Protocol to be extended and built upon. The present agreement expires in 2012, with little over one year until then, the movement needs a solid action plan in place.

Island nations are on the font lines of the Global Warming disaster. They are not the only ones who face catastrophic consequences if climate change is not stopped, they have the unfortunate role of  “the canary in the coal mine.”

A Canadian activist group called Evolve Love have live coverage of the meeting and their reporting indicates a strong activist presence at the talks.  Some  groups represented there are the Youth Climate Action Network, The Indigenous Environmental Network, and the people from 350.org

Will the world leaders have the courage to make this a priority? Switching to renewable energy, creating green jobs, and implementing stringent environmental protection laws is the only way to achieve the goals of these treaties and accords.

The Evolve Love promotional material asks how we can see the climate crisis as a love story?

The answer is, it’s up to each of us.

Are we willing to make the changes we need ?  The wealthiest nations have the power in our hands.

Make a change.


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World Toilet Day November 19th

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toilet

Today, November 19th is designated as World Toilet Day

2.5 billion people worldwide are without access to proper sanitation, which risks their health, strips their dignity, and kills 1.8 million people, mostly children, a year.

Even in the world’s wealthiest countries people still have toilet problems – from unhygienic public toilets to sewage disposal that destroys our waterways.

This topic is not glamorous, but the fact is this basic necessity  most of us take for granted in the developed world is not available for close to one third of the worlds population! Today in the year 2010 this is a fact.

In many  major cities in North America, even  here in Vancouver the issues of public toilets has been dealt with in some efficient and creative ways.

There are now public toilets on the streets, in small self contained steel boxes, these toilets are automated, washed after each use and open automatically after 12 minutes. They are free, and some are wheelchair accessible.

toilet vancouver

The Big Squat is an event that asks people to squat for one minute to help raise awareness for World Toilet Day.   People need access to proper sanitation and clean water now.

This campaign is about  helping people gain dignity, and helping the planet at the same time.

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The Cove-

More then 20 000 dolphins and porpoises are slaughtered each year off the coast of Japan.
Take Part is a website that highlights issues of animal rights, environmental protection, poverty and social justice issues.

Visit this site and learn more about the movie The Cove which documents this heart breaking travesty that is occurring everyday under the noses of the people of Japan and the world.

Animals do not belong in captivity, No Whales In Captivity is another organisation that aims to educate people and liberate mammals that are used as circus performers the world over.

Surely in the 21st  century we can decide that animals are worthy of respect and deserve to live their lives in freedom.

10 10 10 global work party

Today, 10 10 10  350.org has helped people around the world to organise a Global Work Party.

Today thousands of events, 7347 at last count,  in a total of 188 countries will take place simultaneously on this auspicious date. Millions of people will be taking real action to help stop climate change.

We are lucky to live in times of so many “cool” dates to celebrate.  We all actually got to party like it was 1999 in 1999!  Sometimes twice, if you thought it was when we rung in the year 2000.  We entered a new century, and celebrated the millennium with great fan fair. We saw the great dates of 01 01 01,  02 02 02, and so on, now as we arrive at 10 10 10, besides sounding cool, this date has become something more.

People want to help make change, today you can be a part of that too. Search 350.org for an event near you.

You can host an event or you can ride your bike and not drive today. You can pick up garbage. You can eat a vegetarian meal. You can join a community garden. You can hang your clothes on a line to dry. You can buy local food. You can plant a tree.

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You can do a million things to help the planet. You don’t have to wait for any special day to do it.

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