I just saw this video on Facebook, created by … Sustainable Guidance? Not sure who that is exactly. While I’m very aware that this is biased (but what isn’t these days), I found it very interesting. Some big questions that come to my mind: How do we increase transparency and accountability for the oil sands? How do we decrease dependance on oil?
In my humble opinion, the risks associated with this development are way too high. There is not enough transparency and accountability to show just how much pressure the developers and oil companies are under to take responsibility for the environmental and health impacts of this enormous project. It makes more sense to go from a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach – if we aren’t sure that something is safe, continue to conduct proper, diligent testing until you are sure. And make sure that those who would benefit from a project aren’t paying for the research…
I haven’t shared pictures here yet, but our backyard garden is going pretty well! The space is small, typical for urban Montreal, but we’re using the space well! Here are pictures of the garden over the last few months. Scroll down to view the images or click on one to see a slideshow.
This is a great question, asked by Jonathan Foley, professor of Ecology and Director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, during his TEDxTC talk entitled “The Other Inconvenient Truth” (watch the video below).
This fantastic presentation really emphasizes my belief that food is at the centre of so many issues, both as cause and solution.
Let’s take climate change for example, possibly the largest threat facing humankind and the plantet today. Yet, did you know that “agriculture is one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters – representing 30% of human activity? That’s the single largest source of emissions on earth.” Clearly fixing our agriculture system is essential in the fight against climate change.
The water needed to grow crops, the crops needed to feed livestock, the land needed to grow crops and raise livestock, the petrol needed to fuel the farming machines and food transport vehicles, the facilities needed to process waste – all of these things require energy and produce emissions. They need to be properly managed or else they cause enormous damage to our earth, our health and our future.
“Without a doubt, agriculture is the single most powerful force unleashed on this planet since the end of the ice age. No question,” Foley states. “And it rivals climate change in importance. And they’re both happening at the same time.”
“More people, eating more stuff, and richer stuff. And of course having an energy crisis at the same time…” Due to our insatiable appetite, lack of foresight and clear disregard for nature’s precarious balance, we will soon have no food to feed our families and no water to quench our thirst.
“[Food is] not option, it’s not a luxury. It’s an absolute necessity.” This is why it’s critical that food be part of the solution to an issue like climate change. We “need to feed nine billion people, and do so sustainably, equitably and justly. At the same time protecting our planet for this and future generations.”
Here’s what Foley says we should do:
Farm the lands we have – better. Improve yields without harming the environment. We can and should do this by combining the knowledge and advantages of conventional agriculture, organic farming, environmental conservation. Bring all these players to the same table.
What is this called? Foley calls it Terraculture (farming for a whole planet).
This compliment between corporate and alternative farming structure is paramount because, as Foley points out, “there is no silver bullet.” I believe that it’s crucial for us to reduce our food consumption, eliminate food waste, emphasize closed-loop food production, produce more food locally. And this ‘small-scale’ mentality needs to happen on a large-scale – but not large-scale in the way that monocrops of organic lettuce aren’t sustainable.
There needs to be an explosion of urban agriculture, community gardening, and rooftop green spaces. There needs to be more use of ancient and heritage crop species to restore biodiversity. There needs to be investment in low-water irrigation systems, like drip irrigation. The list goes on.
What’s most important is that the knowledge is out there, we just have to forget about corporate interests and bring all the players together to deliver the solution. That will be the real challenge…
Check out the video:
This is on top of Canada’s insane exploitation of Alberta’s oil sands through a devastatingly high-impact extraction process that uses 2-5 barrels of water to produce 1 barrel of oil while contaminating groundwater and freshwater in the entire area. The mines created in order to extract the oil are some of the largest in the world. It’s estimated that the emissions generated in order to refine tar sands oil is 3 times more than conventional oil production. Well, I guess we wouldn’t have met our Kyoto emissions targets anyhow….
Next is our pathetic attempt at establishing TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline, which was stalled because the Obama Administration recognized that much more research on the environmental impact needed to be done. Why? Because the proposed pipeline was to go through environmentally sensitive areas that, should a rupture occur, would be devastated. More PB oil spills anyone? As to be expected, this has tainted American’s view of us Canadians. Wait, aren’t we supposed to be the good guys?
To add another layer to the cake, the Harper Government’s inability to properly manage our environmental impact and seeming disinterest in funding Environment Canada is the scorn of environmental critics everywhere, including the the federal commissioner of the environment and sustainable development. According to the scathing report, our industries aren’t properly held accountable for ineffectively transporting dangerous goods across our country. Yikes.
Oh and now here’s another layer – and it’s a big one! The recent US-Canada border deal apparently has the potential to significantly save some cash, simplify trade and reduce border bottleneck. But at what cost? One example: “To reduce border choke points, the deal calls for officials to inspect shipments arriving from offshore at the perimeter. That means a shipment destined for Canada but arriving first in the United States would be inspected only once, by Americans.” (Emphasis added.)
Ottawa intends to harmonize commercial regulations with the U.S. that could have significant impact on Canadians. Rules governing agriculture and food products are just one area where there may be changes. For instance, the two countries seem intent on creating a “common meat nomenclature” in the years ahead to end discrepancies in classification of cuts. But there are also likely to be changes across a wide range of products, including vehicle safety standards, boating gear such as life jackets, health products, workplace chemicals, environmental standards and the approval process for new prescription drugs.
And we trust agencies like the FDA to screen Canadian-bound goods???? This means products containing GMOs from big agricultural firms are soon to be crossing our border. Other things like labelling, preservative use and testing methodologies will be unified too. Franken-food anyone?
These examples are just a few of the recent failures on the part of our Harper Government. Now, back to that icing on the cake. The Kyoto Protocol. Essentially it was designed to encourage major emitters in the ‘developed’ world to take responsibility for the emissions we have spewed out since our industrial revolution. While I have to admit I think it’s emission reduction targets could have been much harsher, what it symbolized is pretty critical: the unity of the world’s nations to fighting climate change and reducing its impacts. Now that Harperites have said ‘no’ – arguing that if the major emitters aren’t signed on, neither are we – we’re showing that we just don’t give a shit. Apparently the cost of reducing our emissions, which would require breaking our addiction to dirty oil, is too much. Do they not know that catastrophic shifts in the environment will jack up the bill too? Oh wait, they probably won’t even be in power by then, so why would they care if it’s someone else’s mess to clean up? Now we’re the subject of intense global scorn on the issue. Thanks a lot, Harper.
So, to sum up my disappointment. As a Canadian, I believe in respecting and protecting our valuable resources, which we are so fortunate to have. I also believe in protecting our health through tough food regulations and inspection, as well as putting an emphasis on sustainable, local and organic agriculture. Also important is my belief that as one of the chief emitters of CO2, it is our obligation to reduce these emissions and invest heavily in renewable energy. I know I’m not alone on these beliefs and I’m petrified to think of what else Harper is going to do with his newfound power as a majority government. It’s really time to tell them to get their act together. Otherwise, being Canadian is going to get a whole lot worse.
It’s been a loooooong time since I’ve posted on my blog, The Eco Advocate, and have since posted so many ideas, frustrations and inspirations on Facebook that I’ve pretty much turned it into a blog… But Facebook really doesn’t do it justice, so with all these things going around in my brain, I’m about to explode.
‘I need a blog!!!’ I was thinking. But, wait. I have one! Silly me.
Time to remember my login and start typing again. Even if it’s just for me. : ) If anyone out there is reading this, hope you like it!
Some things I’ve been sharing on Facebook lately:
Arctic Sea Ice Decline Greatest, Longest In 1,450 Years: Study
“No matter how good we are, no matter how much we respect women, the biases the women in our lives struggle against are the same biases fueling our success.”
via The Huffington Post
Britain’s promotion of Canada’s tar sands oil is idiotic
Now that the US has temporarily declined the Keystone pipeline, Canada pressures the UK to import our oil – and for some idiotic reason they seem to be bowing to that pressure. I think Harper’s a bully. Not cool.
via The Guardian
Re:Cycling- Bike Activists Use Trash To Prove That Bike Lanes Work
Sadly, it sometimes takes a tragedy for real change to happen…
Ok, that didn’t really count as a real post but I’ll soon get back into the swing of things, I promise!!! Stay tuned.
There’s a great campaign in the UK to get people, businesses, schools and organizations to reduce emissions by 10% in the year 2010. It’s reasonable, it’s possible and it’s a good first step!
10:10 is an ambitious project to unite every sector of British society behind one simple idea: that by working together we can achieve a 10% cut in the UK’s carbon emissions in 2010.
Why bother jumping out of the way of a speeding car?
Cutting 10% in one year is a bold target, but for most of us it’s an achievable one, and is in line with what scientists say we need over the next 18 months. We now know for certain that unless we act quickly to reduce our use of dirty fossil fuels, humanity will face terrible problems in the years to come. Politicians have so far failed to do what needs to be done, so it’s time for ordinary people to step in and show that we’re ready to defend our children’s futures. It’s now or never for the climate.
By signing up to a 10% target we’re not just supporting 10:10 – we’re making it happen. In our homes, in our workplaces, our schools and our hospitals, our galleries and football clubs and universities, we’ll be backing each other up as we take the first steps on the road to becoming a zero-carbon society. It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of a huge problem like climate change, but by uniting everyone behind immediate, effective and achievable action, 10:10 enables all of us to make a meaningful difference.
10:10 is the perfect opportunity to discover what’s possible when we work together. Let’s get started.
Although I’m not in the UK, there’s absolutely no reason not to go along with this plan. Climate change is world-wide, and so should be our action!
For more info, visit: www.1010uk.org
A few of the many related links (if you have more, let me know!):
Electronic waste, or “E-Waste,” generated by computers, TVs, cameras, printers, and cell phones, is a growing global issue. According to the U.S. EPA, Americans currently own nearly 3 billion electronic products and as new products are purchased, obsolete products are stored or discarded at alarming rates. About two-thirds of the electronic devices removed from service are still in working order. However, only about 15% of this material is recycled while the vast majority is disposed in landfills.
The Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), hosted by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), is pleased to announce the International E-Waste Design Competition, in which participants will explore solutions to this problem at the local level and beyond, by using e-waste components to create appealing and useful products.
The competition began in spring 2009 as a local event on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. It was held in conjunction with a class on sustainability and e-waste issues taught by industrial design professor William Bullock of the School of Art and Design. Students in this class conducted an e-waste collection on campus to gather unused CPUs, monitors, keyboards, mice, printers, scanners and cell phones as fodder for design competition projects. Educational goals for the students included learning about ways to re-use e-waste for new and productive means, exploring ideas for how to address e-waste problems, and contributing to the body of knowledge that advances the practice of environmentally responsible product design for current and future computing technology products.
Participants in the spring 2009 competition worked in groups of no more than five people, and their creations were displayed during a public competition event, held on the UIUC Quad. Eighty-one students from various disciplines competed in the contest, which awarded $15,000 in tuition support and other prizes. Judges included representatives from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center; the Chicago Center for Neighborhood Technology; Dell Inc.; the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Bureau of Energy and Recycling; Microsoft Corp.; Wal-Mart Stores Inc.; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and West Monroe Partners LLC, Chicago.
Response to the competition was so positive that it was decided to expand the scope of the competition to an international event for 2010. Having projects submitted online in the form of videos allows anyone in the world to participate. The competition is open to anyone 18 years or older still in school or who has graduated since May 2006. Teamwork across disciplines, backgrounds and ages is encouraged. One entry per person or team is allowed. Participants can submit entries in either of two categories: the “Designer/Artist Category”, which focuses on the aesthetic elements and physical interaction with the device, or the “Technical/Geek Category,” which focuses on electronic components. Entries will be in the form of original video compositions uploaded to the competition web site. Registration is free. Online registration opens January 11, 2010. Registration closes and competition submissions are due April 1, 2010. Detailed registration information, judging criteria and submission information is available on the competition web site, http://ewaste.illinois.edu.
Professor Bullock will once again be teaching a class on e-waste issues in the spring 2010 semester, and students will be holding another local collection event on the UIUC campus to obtain materials for their designs. Students will be encouraged to enter their class projects into the international competition, and will have a local exhibition of their projects, similar to the event which took place on the Quad in spring 2009. The finalists’ videos from the international competition will be presented to the public during the International E-Waste Video Festival, on April 20, 2010 at 5 p.m. in 112 Gregory Hall on the Campus of the University of Illinois. This festival is part of the Food/Health/Place/Sustainability Film Series being shown on campus in the spring. Finalist entries will also be publicized through the ewaste.illinois.edu web site and press events.
Awards will also be announced during the April 20 video festival. The jury will award one finalist from each of the two categories, for a total of six monetary awards. A total of $16,000 in prize money will be awarded to six winning teams: A Platinum Award of 4000 USD, a Gold Award of 3000 USD, and a Silver Award of 1000 USD in each category. The decisions of the jury are final. Honorable Mention awards may be given at the discretion of the judges. Juror invitations have gone out to industry leaders representing Fortune 500 companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Motorola, the U.S. EPA, Boeing, Dell and others, and will be announced in the spring.
The International E-Waste Design Competition and the related industrial design course taught by Professor Bullock are part of the educational component of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI). SEI is a consortium dedicated to the development and implementation of a more sustainable system for designing, producing, remanufacturing, and recycling electronic devices. Members of the consortium include academia, non-profit organizations, government agencies, manufacturers, designers, refurbishers, and recyclers. Specific elements of the SEI include programs for research, education, data management, and technical assistance. SEI conducts collaborative research; facilitates networking and information exchange among participants; promotes technology diffusion via demonstration projects; and provides forums for the discussion of policy and legislation.
For more information on SEI, visit www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu or contact Dr. Tim Lindsey, Associate Director of ISTC, at +1 217-333-8955.
For more information on the International E-Waste Design Competition, contact Professor William Bullock at +1 217-265-0873 or Joy Scrogum at +1 217-333-8940.
The recent trend of well-designed, ethically-inspired videos out there is really lifting my spirits. This latest one is part of the 350.org campaign to stop the climate crisis. Take a look:
You can see a whole lineup of great videos here: 360 Video Retrospective