October 2, 2020

Growing a community, one garden at a time

Plants with Neighbours for the Bees sign
One of the micro street corner gardens with “Neighbours for the Bees” sign

Back in 2008, when I was living in Surrey, BC, I stumbled upon a grassy, vacant lot and an age-old idea: a community garden where the area’s townhouse residents could grow their own veggies and compost their food scraps. It never materialized beyond a blog post, “Community solutions for food security and urban health“, and today — I did some Street View sleuthing — there’s another cookie-cutter house on the lot. So be it.

Fast forward to 2020. We’re currently 6 months into a pandemic, there are issues with food security (still), and seed sales are through the roof. We need each other more than ever, but we have to stay apart. That doesn’t mean we can’t come together on solutions.

Continue reading Growing a community, one garden at a time »

March 16, 2015

8 reasons why I’m voting YES in the transit referendum

Car Free Day 2009

I get around everywhere by bike, public transit and on foot. So when my mayor presented the Mayors’ Council plan during a HUB committee meeting, I was super excited. More SeaBus? B-Lines in my neighbourhood? Bike lanes? YES!

All this and more needs to be funded somehow. There’s a lot of fact-slinging, grumbling and even partying happening, so I thought I’d offer my own personal reasons for supporting the plan. And some info along with it.

Here’s why I’m voting YES:

1. Safe cycling paths are the best!

More safe cycling paths means cyclists like myself — and those usually less comfortable riding in the city — can get to their destinations more easily. 2700 more kilometres of bike paths will encourage more people to take up cycling as a convenient, fast, safe and fun way to get around. Check out my 6+ reasons why bikes are good for Vancouver.

Erika lifting bike

I’m this excited. (Photo by Pia Massie)

2. 50% more SeaBus service, woo!

10-minute SeaBus service at peak times at 15-minute service otherwise will literally change my life. It’s so stressful to miss — or almost miss — one, especially when buses in my neighbourhood often fail to make this critical connection at rush hour. More frequent SeaBus means more freedom in our schedules. I’d hardly need to look at the time. Leave when you want, and you won’t have to wait long. I think this will be a huge draw for people who currently deal with backed-up bridge traffic. Speaking of which…

Continue reading 8 reasons why I’m voting YES in the transit referendum »

April 18, 2013

Greedy Lying Bastards exposes the money, men and lies behind climate change denial

I wondered for a long time why climate change deniers existed. Maybe, I thought, because the truth is scary and requires us to change our ways — not a comfortable request for a society so deeply anchored in business as usual. While it’s true that climate change is indeed frightening and changing ourselves can be met with resistance, the actual reason is that there is a handful of very wealthy people who stand to lose a lot of money from the societal shift required to prevent catastrophic climate change. The rest of us, well, what we stand to lose by doing nothing can’t be measured in dollars.

Continue reading Greedy Lying Bastards exposes the money, men and lies behind climate change denial »

October 16, 2011

Death to the supermarket

Supermarket produceUniform, flawless produce requires a heartbreaking amount of food waste. (Photo by rick via Flickr)

If we’re to feed the world delicious, nutritious food and halt climate change, we have to kill the supermarket.

There are many reasons why I suggest this enormous beast be culled. It thrives on the unsustainable industrial agriculture model of large-scale, monocrop food production, where food is not grown for taste or nutrition. It’s then shipped long distances, so you can eat lettuce in Vancouver in January. Even if garlic is grown in your region, you’re served up the garlic from China instead.

The produce section is a sterile place devoid of scent (the first sense to get us salivating), where the fruits and vegetables are uniform, barely ripe (if at all) and virtually flawless. It’s no wonder children don’t know their food grows in the ground or on a vine: the produce is so unnatural, it hardly seems a product of nature. Its sprawling, dizzying vastness is a maze that encourages overconsumption and takes up excess land to, among other things, allow for extra-wide shopping carts. It makes buying junk food more appealing than buying produce through a combination of store positioning, packaging and price, and this leads to disease.

I could go on; the reason I’m going to focus on here, however, is its massive — and one could suggest criminal — contribution to food waste.

Continue reading Death to the supermarket »

May 21, 2011

Talking trash: Projecting Change Film Fest opens May 26, and plastic is a Texas-sized problem

projecting change

You might expect a film about a Vancouver couple who spend a year almost zero-waste and without buying any stuff to be a tale of unimaginable hardship and sacrifice. Indeed, the prospects of using the same toothbrush for 365 days, not replacing worn-out clothing, or making crackers from scratch are daunting but The Clean Bin Project‘s Jen and Grant take a delighted, energetic approach akin to Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon’s The 100-Mile Diet, but on the screen. The project was for them a competition for who could produce the least amount of garbage by year’s end (I won’t tell you who won), and involved learning about plastics, asking for their cheese unwrapped in their reusable container, and making the most of an old razor. Their enthusiasm was infectious. The 76-minute film is merely a glimpse at an entire year, but if it suggests anything about the 525,600 minutes they spent saving the planet, I think they enjoyed most of them.

Their artistically delicious film intersperses their own narrative of discovery — and occasional humourous disappointment — with the broader view of our consumption-based lifestyle and its consequences: successful community recycling initiatives; the Pacific Garbage Patch (which is twice the size of Texas); albatross death by plastic; landfills; and incomprehensibly large volumes of disposable stuff as depicted by Seattle artist Chris Jordan.

Continue reading Talking trash: Projecting Change Film Fest opens May 26, and plastic is a Texas-sized problem »

March 25, 2011

What are you doing for Earth Hour?

Saturday night, people around the world will be participating in Earth Hour (8:30 pm local time) and taking a stand against climate change. We participants — over 1 billion last year in 128 countries — recognize that energy conservation and sustainable, clean energy solutions are crucial in making sure we have clean air and clean water now and long into the future. But WWF encourages us to go beyond energy and make everyday positive changes in our lives that, in myriad ways, help the planet just as much as they help us.

The Earth has limits just as our bodies do, and those of us paying close enough attention have noticed over the last few decades the changes that have made our natural systems unhealthy, and us along with it. We don’t have to look far to see it. That also means we don’t have to look far to see solutions. You, your neighbours, and your friends can all have a positive contribution that together adds up big time. Look at what powering off for just an hour can do:

In 2010, energy consumption for that hour dropped 1.4 percent province wide, with Burns Lake, BC, reducing its consumption by a whopping 7 percent. According to BC Hydro’s Team Power Smart, “If British Columbians implemented the same conservation measures (as they did in 2010) for just one hour every evening, the combined savings would be enough to power close to 2,200 homes for an entire year.” — Granville

Continue reading What are you doing for Earth Hour? »

February 17, 2011

Office gets ugly for National Sweater Day

Creative Services team photo

Today is National Sweater Day, WWF’s cheeky campaign to encourage us to collectively turn down our thermostats and embrace the (Ugly) Sweater. It turns out our woollies could go a long way to saving winter:

Turning down the thermostat by three degrees can make a big difference in fighting climate change. In fact, if every Canadian turned down their thermostat in the winter, we could save 2.2 megatonnes of carbon dioxide per year. That’s like taking 350,000 cars off the road. — WWF Canada

Yowsers. But forget the statistics for now, because Ugly Sweater day at the David Suzuki Foundation is a perfect excuse for a team photo. With one absentee, Creative Services did an impromptu photo shoot showing off our range of sweaters, from stylish to nostalgically ugly.

Got your own photo? Post the link here!

75th graphicThis daily green blog challenge is in celebration of David Suzuki’s 75th birthday, supporting the David Suzuki Foundation. Please help me out by sponsoring me online now.

Note: I am writing solely on my own behalf, and do not claim to represent the David Suzuki Foundation or its views here.

February 9, 2011

Still waiting for the Environment Minister to protect the environment

Fort McMurray Photo by sbamueller via Flickr

The Minister of the Environment oversees the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which states on its website: “Our role is to provide Canadians with high-quality environmental assessments that contribute to informed decision making, in support of sustainable development.”

The Agency’s commitment to sustainable development (SD) is ensconced in the preamble to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (the Act), established in 1995:

…The Government of Canada seeks to achieve sustainable development by conserving and enhancing environmental quality and by encouraging and promoting economic development that conserves and enhances environmental quality. …Environmental assessment provides an effective means of integrating environmental factors into planning and decision-making processes in a manner that promotes sustainable development.

Sounds great! To BC citizens’ delight, they blocked the Prosperity Mine development in BC (Jim Prentice’s parting gift). But since new Environment Minister Peter Kent’s appointment, all I have heard him do is defend and spew lies about the oil sands.

“I have a feel for the sensibilities of the people, of the environment,” Mr. Kent says, yet he seems clueless that the majority of Canadians are concerned about climate change, something about which his government is clearly not. Otherwise the Conservatives would be taking leadership on greenhouse gas reductions and fighting climate change. Instead, they block international consensus in order to preserve the economy — an economy that cannot function without the environment. And why is the environment the last item on Kent’s website’s quicklinks list?

Does the Minister not know his own ministry’s mandate? Minister Kent is spending more time protecting the economy than the environment, though if he did his homework, he’d understand they aren’t mutually exclusive.

Well, at least there’s some good news, from the United States.

Related post: Alberta’s tar sands a humanitarian issue, too

75th graphicThis daily green blog challenge is in celebration of David Suzuki’s 75th birthday, supporting the David Suzuki Foundation. Please help me out by sponsoring me online now.

Note: I am writing solely on my own behalf, and do not claim to represent the David Suzuki Foundation or its views here.

February 1, 2011

Alberta’s tar sands a humanitarian issue, too

Tar sands, 1981Tar sands excavation north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, in 1981. Despite a recession, the project continues to expand. (Photo by CanadaGood via Flickr)

Update: Alberta continues fight against EU climate measures and Environment Minister Peter Kent outright lying to Parliament.

I was first introduced to the PR paradox of “ethical oil” when my friend Ben West at the Wilderness Committee went head-to-head with former tobacco industry lobbyist Ezra Levant in a debate on the subject. In this week’s Science Matters column, David Suzuki and Faisal Moola pull apart Levant and his fellow Conservatives’ argument, saying “the ‘ethical oil’ argument they promote has >holes as big as the ones in the ground around Fort McMurray.”

The environmental impacts alone should be a no-brainer. The razing of forests just to drill releases carbon dioxide — and if allowed to expand, an area of boreal forest the size of Greece will be industrialized with little hope of reclamation. The volume of greenhouse gases emitted prevent Canada from achieving any progressive, critical targets on GHG reductions and therefore thwart global efforts to reach consensus. The world’s largest construction project, the tar sands can be seen from space, but its effects are felt right here on earth, and no more deeply than by the First Nations downriver of the project, who are seeing higher than normal rates of rare cancers caused by toxic contaminants. Fish are turning up deformed, the water is polluted, the air is polluted. I see absolutely nothing ethical about this. It’s hypocritical for the Conservatives to suggest that oil from other nations be avoided because of human rights violations or lack of democracy. There is a human rights crisis going on in Prime Minister Steven Harper’s own back yard while his so-called “Environment Minister” Peter Kent claims our source of oil is ethical.

Continue reading Alberta’s tar sands a humanitarian issue, too »

November 6, 2010

Why we need biodiversity, not monoculture

blue squashes

Monoculture, by its very nature (pardon the ironic pun), is not a resilient agricultural system to begin with. More susceptible to disease because of genetic similarity, and terrible for soil health, it’s a venture with growing risks that are starting to outweigh its purported benefits. A new study is warning its lack of genetic diversity puts it at risk from a new enemy that doesn’t discriminate like fungus or insects do: climate change.

If the current reports of species loss around the globe isn’t already freaking you out, taste this:

The genetic diversity of the plants that we grow and eat could be lost forever due to climate change, threatening future food security, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said on Tuesday.

Experts from the Rome-based organization warned that the loss of biodiversity will have a major impact on humankind’s ability to feed itself in the future as the global population continues to rise to nine billion by 2050.

“There are thousands of wild crop relatives that … hold genetic secrets that enable them to resist heat, droughts, salinity, floods and pests,” FAO director general Jacques Diouf was quoted in the report as saying.

“Increasing the sustainable use of plant diversity could be the main key for addressing risks to genetic resources for agriculture,” he said. (Vancouver Sun)

Continue reading Why we need biodiversity, not monoculture »