Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The state of journalism in Canada?

National Post columnist Don Martin wrote at length about the mistakes made by the Green Party in the last election. None of this is news, and pales into insignificance alongside his remark that he, and possibly other reporters in Ottawa, could not name another Green candidate.

I could excuse this ignorance if it came from Joe Public, but not from a journalist. Surely they should keep themselves better informed than this? It doesn't take long on the internet to find out who the candidates are, who the deputy leader is, or to answer most other questions that an inquiring mind might ask. Has Mr Martin already forgotten the name Blair Wilson? And does he live in one of the few ridings that didn't run a Green candidate?

If this really is indicative of the intelligence of the people in the media whose job it is to keep the public informed, then Canada is in real trouble.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Picnic in the Forest

Picnic in the Forest happens tomorrow, October 18, 11am-2pm. It is hosted by Friends of Redtail Society to launch their campaign to save forest lands from industrial clear cutting.

Redtail Nature Awareness is a nature retreat and experiential education centre located in a semi-wilderness region of northern Nova Scotia, Canada. It offers year round camps for youth and nature retreats for adults that help participants explore the richness, mystery and sacredness that is inherent in nature.

Friends of Redtail Society have concluded negotiations to purchase land comprising approximately 313 acres near Scotsburn, Pictou County that had been slated for clear cut. To complete this purchase the Society has until December 2009 to raise upwards of $250,000. For more information please call (902) 485-4688

Google Map. 400 MacBeth Road

Fair Votes

Once again an election has shown just how broken our voting system is.

FairVote.ca campaigns for change to the electoral reform. Join today!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Liberals and CAW endorse Elizabeth May in Central Nova

On Tuesday, prominent Central Nova Liberals endorsed Elizabeth May. Senator Jim Cowan said "The country needs her. Stephane Dion needs her, and I ask you to do your part."

On Wednesday, CAW announced today that the union is throwing its support behind Green Party leader Elizabeth May in the Central Nova riding, as a part of the CAW's strategic voting approach.

Remember, You Have A Choice:

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Vote for visionaries

Green Party spokesperson Angela Reid talking about the need to vote for candidates and parties with a vision of the future.

Tired of the same old party lines?

Hamilton Greens have created their own election video called Green Door. It is aimed at voters who are tired of the way politics is done in Canada, and maybe want to know more about green policies and the six fundamental principles underlying everything the Green Party stands for.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Recyclable gift box

Here is a nice idea for making a recyclable gift box that will cost you $1 in the US, or $5 in Canada!


Friday, September 26, 2008

Strategic voting

Avaaz.org are organising a grass roots effort to prevent a Harper majority government...

Dear friends,

For the last two years, the Harper government has done everything it could to wreck the world's efforts to fix climate change. Given the "fossil award" by environmental experts, Canada (our Canada!) has been repeatedly voted the WORST country in the world on climate change. Now, it's election time, and we have to make sure that Harper pays a real price at the polls for his reckless and un-Canadian climate policy.

Our first step is to target 3 of Harper's top MPs, including Environment Minister John Baird, and try to stop their re-election by telling their constituents just how irresponsible they've been, and what they've been doing in the name of all Canadians. Our ad campaign is ready to launch in these ridings, but we urgently need Canadian Avaaz members to donate $50,000 this week to get started. Click below to see the ads and donate just $10 or $25:


In an initial 3 target ridings, we'll be appealing to all voters to help save the planet by voting for the candidate most likely to beat the Conservative candidate. In one riding, we'll be supporting an NDP candidate, in another a Liberal, in another a Green. We're making sure to be "tripartisan" - we don't support any particular party, we just want to make sure the Conservatives pay for their almost criminal record on the environment. A large majority of voters in these ridings oppose Harper, but have split their votes among the 3 progressive parties, so even just a small shift in strategic or "smart voting" to favour the most popular progressive candidate will likely defeat the conservatives. That's the pitch our ads will make.

There's so much at stake, and no time to lose, let's pull out all the stops for Canada, and for the world.

With hope,

Ricken, Lisa-Marie, Laryn and the Avaaz Canada Team

PS - Canadian Avaaz members have a long record of campaigning against Stephen Harper's environmental policies, from calling him out on his failure to implement the Kyoto Protocol, to challenging his wrecking tactics at the Bali summit. In our online poll, 90% of Avaaz members strongly opposed a Harper majority. We've won some of these fights before, and if we all pull together in the next 2 weeks to give our voices, our time, our talent and our money, we can do it again!

PSS - Here are some links to more information:

Green party leader Elizabeth May calls for 'strategic voting' across party lines to stop Harper:

Straight.com writer analyzes the stakes of the Canadian election for the world:

This site shows that at a national level, strategic or smart voting will benefit all the opposition parties and prevent a Harper Majority:
The initial three ridings that Avaaz are targeting are:

Central Nova, NS - Vote GREEN, Elizabeth May
Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC - Vote NDP, Mike Bocking
Ottawa West—Nepean, ON - Vote Liberal

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dictatorship in the making?

There is an excellent article in the Globe and Mail today by Margaret Atwood. She is commenting on Stephen Harper's attack on the arts and culture community, in particular his comments suggesting that "ordinary people" don't care about "the arts."

One sentence in particular stands out:

Every budding dictatorship begins by muzzling the artists, because they're a mouthy lot and they don't line up and salute very easily.
The more I read about this man, the more worried I get. Take a look at The Harper Record and make your own mind up. Vote ABC, or ABC.

Atwood's article is an excerpt of her speech to be delivered at the Hurtig Lecture on the Future of Canada, Wednesday October 1, 2008 at the University of Alberta.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The magic of mushrooms

Here is Paul Stamets presenting "6 ways mushrooms can save the world". The presentation seems terribly rushed. I had trouble understanding some of it, but found these links useful: Prototaxites, medicinal uses of fungi, mycoremediation, mycofiltration. He even suggests using mycellium to convert cellulose into fungal sugars which can be turned into ethanol.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bicycle safety

More and more people are taking to their bikes as a means of transport. Here is a film by the (US) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on safely driving, fitting and maintaining a bicycle.

They also have a leaflet about cycle safety.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Diseconomies of Scale

Last weekend I was at Moncton Market and picked up an interesting booklet at a table selling environmental cleaning products. It was produced by the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and titled 'Roadmap to a self-sufficient energy future' (pdf).

They report that New Brunswick is already experiencing the effects of climate change. The snow pack in the southern part of the province is only half the long-term average; extreme weather events have risen five fold; sea level is up 30 cm; the average annual temperature up 0.7C.

Greenhouse gas emissions in NB are up 37% from 1990-2005 and the province is the third highest per-capita emitter in Canada. The government has committed to get back to 1990 levels by 2012, and 10% below that figure by 2020. The problem is, New Brunswick Power is responsible for over half of the province's emissions, and while they do use hydro and wind power, every year they send $500 million out of the province to purchase nuclear and fossil fuels.

These are used in large and inefficient power plants. Coleson Cove, Belledune and Point Lepreau run at about 30% efficiency. They tend to be located a long way from where the power is needed, resulting in further transmission line losses. They dump large amounts of heat into the ocean.

What the Conservation Council of New Brunswick are proposing is a move to smaller combined heat and power stations which typically run in excess of 70% efficiency and can be as high as 80% or more. They would be powered by locally produced biomass, creating employment and keeping money in the province.

Since the 1980's it has been widely acknowledged that larger power plants are inefficient, expensive and time consuming to build, and down-time for repairs is hard to manage. Smaller systems however can be mass produced, more easily financed and rapidly deployed. They are faster and easier to maintain, and down-time of one generator has much less impact on the whole system. This is what is termed the Diseconomies of Scale.

NB Power Nuclear are considering building a second reactor at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station. Elizabeth May, writing in her blog about the inability of AECL to commission two medical isotope reactors at Chalk River, Ontario, asks the Government of New Brunswick:

Are you sure you want to buy a reactor from AECL that so far is only at the design stage? That's what the MAPLE reactors were. Reactors on paper. Why would anyone have confidence in AECL? Why go with a nuclear reactor when New Brunswick has so many other options?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bus ridership increasing

I heard on the CBC recently that transit companies in both Halifax and St.John are seeing increased ridership. With the cost of gas, this is hardly surprising.

Other areas are reporting similar increases. In Colorado, bus driver Chris Gray says he has seen plenty of evidence that people are using transit as an alternative to driving themselves. In Michigan ridership is up 7% this year, and "Gas prices are doing what all the practical and common-sense arguments for mass transit have been unable to do -- driving people to change". In Bournemouth, England, figures show the number of bus passenger journeys has increased by 18 per cent in the last year. In Adelaide ridership is up 18% since 2000 and some services are reaching capacity.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Seed bomb your neighbourhood

Do you live in an urban environment full of unkempt vacant lots? Why not seed bomb them and add a little beauty to the 'hood? Here's how.

Read more about seed bombing and Guerrilla gardening on wikipedia.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Climate change in Canada

Climate change is already creating serious problems in Canada. Here is a video of Elizabeth May addressing the Global Greens Conference in Sao Paulo earlier this month.

The text of the speech is here if you prefer.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Meat and methane

If you haven't yet realized the environmental consequences of a carnivorous diet, take a pause before your next tasty mouthful and think about the global warming it will cause.

In Climate change experts target cow flatulence, the Telegraph reports on research being conducted in Scotland to reduce the amount of methane a cow produces. They report that a cow has the same impact on greenhouse warming as the average family car.

I asked for clarification on this. Apparently these figures were based on a cow producing 400L of methane per day, and a car that does 12,000 miles per year. The cows daily impact on global warming is 1.6 times as great as the car travelling 33 miles a day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Would you like to live in a Sudanese refugee camp?

I just came across an piece in the Western Standard, Cooling it on Warming.

I can't say that I am swayed by Jan Narveson's editorial. He obviously hasn't much of a grip on the subject, as shown by his confusion of weather and climate change. He does make the point that if everybody lived up to Kyoto, the net result in terms of climate cooling over 50 years would be in the order of 0.1 degree Celsius - equivalent to nothing.

To me, this just indicates that Kyoto doesn't go nearly far enough. We have been abusing the biosphere ever since the Industrial Revolution. It is going to take a long time to revert that cumulative abuse.

I do agree that science doesn't have all the answers. Also that there is only a certain probability that continuing CO2 emissions will lead to environmental disaster. But three things are very clear to me.

  • Our excesses of population and lifestyle are a gross abuse of the biosphere upon which we depend for our life.
  • The natural systems that drive our climate are very complex. It is impossible to accurately predict their behavior under abnormal circumstances.
  • These natural systems are huge. If they do suddenly switch into a permanent catastrophic mode, there is nothing we can do about it. Nothing.

This is a high stakes game that we cannot afford to loose. I for one would prefer some relatively insignificant hardships now in the hope that we can avert much worse consequences later.

Have you ever considered what it would be like to live somewhere like a Sudanese refugee camp?

Because that could be the consequence of doing nothing about global warming.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tell China to respect Tibet

I just got this in from avaaz.org, an organization that has over 2 million members, and has begun to make a real impact on global politics. The Economist writes that Avaaz is poised to deliver "a deafening wake up call" to world leaders, the Indian Express welcomes "the biggest web campaigner across the world" and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore says "Avaaz is inspiring, and has already begun to make a difference."

Dear friends,

Tibetans have exploded onto the streets in frustration--call on China to respect human rights and enter dialogue with the Dalai Lama now:
After decades of repression under Chinese rule, the Tibetan people's frustrations have burst onto the streets in protests and riots. With the spotlight of the upcoming Olympic Games now on China, Tibetans are crying out to the world for change.

After decades of repression under Chinese rule, the Tibetan people's frustrations have burst onto the streets in protests and riots. With the spotlight of the upcoming Olympic Games now on China, Tibetans are crying out to the world for change.

The Chinese government has said that the protesters who have not yet surrendered "will be punished". Its leaders are right now considering a crucial choice between escalating brutality or dialogue that could determine the future of Tibet, and China.

We can affect this historic choice--China does care about its international reputation. China's President Hu Jintao needs to hear that the 'Made in China' brand and the upcoming Olympics in Beijing can succeed only if he makes the right choice. But it will take an avalanche of global people power to get his attention--and we need it in the next 48 hours.

The Tibetan Nobel peace prize winner and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama has called for restraint and dialogue: he needs the world's people to support him. Click below now to sign the petition--and tell absolutely everyone you can right away--our goal is 1 million voices united for Tibet:


China's economy is totally dependent on "Made in China" exports that we all buy, and the government is keen to make the Olympics in Beijing this summer a celebration of a new China, respected as a leading world power. China is also a very diverse country with a brutal past and has reason to be concerned about its stability -- some of Tibet's rioters killed innocent people. But President Hu must recognize that the greatest danger to Chinese stability and development comes from hardliners who advocate escalating repression, not from Tibetans who seek dialogue and reform.

We will deliver our petition directly to Chinese officials in London, New York, and Beijing, but it must be a massive number before we deliver the petition. Please forward this email to your address book with a note explaining to your friends why this is important, or use our tell-a-friend tool to email your address book--it will come up after you sign the petition.

The Tibetan people have suffered quietly for decades. It is finally their moment to speak--we must help them be heard.

With hope and respect,

Ricken, Iain, Graziela, Paul, Galit, Pascal, Milena, Ben and the whole Avaaz team

PS - It has been suggested that the Chinese government may block the Avaaz website as a result of this email, and thousands of Avaaz members in China will no longer be able to participate in our community. A poll of Avaaz members over the weekend showed that over 80% of us believed it was still important to act on Tibet despite this terrible potential loss to our community, if we thought we could make a difference. If we are blocked, Avaaz will help maintain the campaign for internet freedom for all Chinese people, so that our members in China can one day rejoin our community.

Here are some links with more information on the Tibetan protests and the Chinese response:

BBC News: UN Calls for Restraint in Tibet

Human Rights Watch: China Restrain from Violently Attacking Protesters

Associated Press: Tibet Unrest Sparks Global Reaction

New York Times: China Takes Steps to Thwart Reporting on Tibet Protests

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lady Madonna

Here is a treat for you from 40 years ago.

"Lady Madonna" was released as a single in March 1968.

They don't make 'em like that any more:)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fisheries waste insufficient for gannet chicks

A new report from the Royal Society says that gannets who feed their chicks on waste from fishing boats are giving them junk food.

The problem they discovered in the western cape of South Africa was that waste from the hake fisheries was too low in fat to sustain chicks. The gannet's natural food is high fat species like anchovies and sardines, but these species have become seriously depleted. While the waste from the hake helps maintain adult birds, chicks reared on this diet suffer much higher mortality rates than normal and far fewer chicks are fledged.

The full report concludes that

marine management policies should not assume that fishery waste is
generally beneficial to scavenging seabirds and that abundance of this artificial resource will automatically inflate seabird populations.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Peak Soil

George Monbiot makes some good points about fuel sources.

He cites a recent report that Peak Oil is upon us, and although environmentalists and geologists have being warning of this for some time, this new report is written by capitalists, so perhaps now governments may start to pay attention.

Growing biofuels to replace fossil fuel seems to getting a lot of criticism, and Monbiot says that land clearance for biofuels causes a massive increase in emissions, and creates a carbon debt that takes between 17 and 840 years to recoup.

An alternative is to use agricultural 'waste', but Alice Friedemann points out that this will likely result in Peak Soil.

Monday, February 11, 2008

For the love of Dog

Last week one of the main news stories in Nova Scotia was the discovery of nearly 100 cats and dogs being kept in appalling conditions at a private animal shelter. This is yet another reminder of the gross overpopulation of cats and dogs, many of which will end up homeless or at a shelter desperately hoping to find a loving home.

PETA have two videos on the subject which I'd like to share with you. The first talks about all the reasons why owners should have their pets neutered or speyed:

The second is a plea to get pets from a shelter rather than a pet store or breeder:

Learn more about PETA's ABC campaign at PETA.org.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Give up carbon for Lent

Christians in Britain are being urged to give up carbon for Lent and they can even download a 40 day calendar to help.

It's not a bad idea, but why just do it for Lent? But I do hope that it encourages people who don't already take these actions to begin doing so, all year round.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A LoveBug for your valentine

I first came across Hilary Pfeifer's blog when she took part in the International Turning Exchange 2006. Hilary describes herself as a mixed-media sculptor, making small wood parts that are assembled into larger sculptures.

Two years ago she did an installation of 1500 lovebugs at the Fuller Craft Museum and later at the Museum of Contemporary Craft. Now you can get a pair of these lovebugs mailed to the love of your life just in time for Valentine's Day.

Dolphins at play

The content of this blog has been getting a bit depressing lately, so something a little lighter today:

Blowing ring bubbles

Monday, January 28, 2008

More reasons Harper needs to go

Coming fast on the heels of the Chalk River nuclear fiasco in which the government overuled then fired the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Mr Harper has decided that he doesn't need any advice from scientists. This man is unbelievable in his arrogance. I thought the Liberal party were bad enough, but this regime is totally out of control.

No science in the PM's ear: Canada dismisses National Science Adviser

One of the comments in the post above suggests that Harper gets all the advice he needs from Washington. I suspect he also takes a fair bit from some whacko interpretation of the bible.

Another troubling aspect of his character is highlighted by Elizabeth May who reports that all the art in the Government Lobby at the House of Commons has been replaced by photos of Harper.
[Update: confirmation of this by Kady O'Malley, and the Ottawa Citizen seeks a comment from a Harper press aide]

Is Canada safe with this man as leader?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The cost of advertising

Have you ever thought about how much it costs it costs to advertise to you? Not the cost to the advertiser, but the cost to you?

Every weekend a bunch of flyers gets pushed into my mail box. They end up in a blue bag and get hauled off to the dump where I think they get sent on to a 'balefill' facility in another county. I don't know if or when they actually get recycled.

This morning the flyer collection weighed 200grams. This was actually a light load, am I am sure that at other seasons we regularly get twice that amount or more. But lets stick at 200g. Over the course of a year that is 20kg. There are 18,000 households in Pictou County, so that comes to an annual total weight of 360 tonnes.

Don't forget that is just one county. How much would this be for the whole of Nova Scotia, or Canada. Bear in mind too that most of this advertising trash comes from large corporations, not small local retailers, so much of the economic advantages of flyer advertising flows out of the local community.

Who pays for collecting and processing all this? I bet it's not the advertisers or the printers. It's you and me through our municipal taxes. And of course the cost of your blue bags.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rethinking biofuels

I am pleased that the EU are rethinking their policy of encouraging biofuels.

The Royal Society has just published a report (Adobe PDF File, 788kb), which Professor John Pickett, Chair of the study discusses in this video:

Wikipedia has a lengthy article about Biofuel, and lots of links to references on the subject, so I won't go into all the details. But do beware of claims that biofuels are 'green'. The only real problems they solve are those of fuel security and peak oil. Their carbon neutrality is debatable, and certainly not all biofuels are created equal. Their other environmental consequences are very real, and a full field to forecourt analysis needs to be done for each fuel type.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The cost of wasted food

I just read an interesting news release from WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme, an organisation in the UK), Food Waste Set to Soar over Festive Season.

I find the figures rather hard to believe. It works out at 8.5 pounds per person. The article raises a lot of questions, such as how do they arrive at the statistics, how many days does the Festive Season include, and do the figures include waste from food retailers? Elsewhere on their website they look at annual waste and say:

In total food waste in the UK is around 18 - 20 million tonnes, with household food waste making the single largest contribution (6.7 million tonnes).

Retailers are believed to generate about 1.6 million tonnes of food waste, food manufacturers about 3.5 million tonnes, with food service and restaurants producing about another 3 million tonnes. The remainder comes from the agricultural and horticultural sector, and commercial food waste (e.g. from hospitals, schools, etc).

However accurate the figures are, it does make good points about the environmental impact of producing, storing and getting the food to our homes. They calculate it is equivalent to taking 1 in 5 cars off the road in the UK. Food is wasted because we either cook or prepare too much, and we let food go off. Love Food Hate Waste is their campaign to reduce waste.

WRAP have a number of other initiatives, including the Courtauld Commitment which aims to reduce waste from retail packaging, including looking at ways to extend shelf life of food products.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008