Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts


making the move from plastic to glass food storage

I bought these! I love them!

For the longest time, I've had a very large collection of plastic food storage containers. Allan and I have always brought most of our meals to work -- for healthy eating, for convenience (I'd rather not spend any part of my meal break foraging), and to economize. I also tend to cook in batches, plus of course there are always leftovers.

Eons ago, when I bought all the plastic, I didn't know it was unhealthy -- that the polymers break down and enter your food. I knew plastics were bad for the environment, but I thought if I kept the same ones for a long time, it was not as disposable. Plus I commuted by subway to my day-job, with a lot of walking on both ends. Even if I had known that glass food storage existed (which I didn't), it would have been too heavy to carry.

More recently I learned that all this lovely plastic has been leaching into our food for all these years. Yuck. Plus the containers have gotten old and ugly. I was torn between the desire to switch to glass food storage and my attempt to not replace things that are still useable. So I held off for several more years.

Now, in our new small-town lifestyle, we are cooking more, so I'm using a lot of plastic containers, and they are squicking me out. I gave myself permission to replace them. After all, I bought them more than 15 years ago! And I'm not even throwing them away: they will have a new life storing supplies for library craft programs. (I am single-handedly de-cluttering and organizing the Port Hardy Library!)

The next question was: Rubbermaid or Pyrex? Both are known for good quality. Both are safe for dishwasher, microwave, and oven (although not in rapid succession). Both have lots of nice sizes and options. Reading reviews online, it seemed somewhat of a toss-up. This wrap-up at Wirecutter finally tipped the scale to Pyrex.

I bought two of the set pictured above -- one 7-cup, two 4-cups, two 2-cups, and 2 one-cups (times two). Each size has a different colour lid, which is good for organization. I purchased them from, my current go-to for online housewares.

I can't do anything about all the carcinogens we've already ingested, but at least we can slow down the overall load. Plus I'm an organization freak: I love containers! I've just received two big boxes of shiny new toys! I find that having nice kitchen tools makes cooking more enjoyable.


happy canada day: a wish for a pledge

One unfortunate result of the current ascendancy of white supremacy in the US is the increase in Canadians' nationalism and self-love -- the strengthening of Canadians' conviction that our society is peaceful and democratic, our institutions benevolent, our kindness manifest in law.

We pat ourselves on the back while Trudeau spends our money trampling Indigenous rights, poisoning our water, and hastening climate catastrophe. We say "We're the greatest country in the world," while our most populous province has elected a false-majority, white supremacist government of our own.

So often, if Canadians can believe that it's better here than in the US, they are happy enough to stop there.

We can do better.

We must do better.

This Canada Day, let's pledge to push our governments -- and to educate our friends, family, co-workers, and ourselves -- so that Canada can live up to its reputation, a little more every day.


mighty leaf tea: green tea and greenwashing

I recently tried a new brand of tea. I'm always looking for almond tea, which is difficult or impossible to find (more on that below), and noticed Mighty Leaf had an Almond Spice. It's green tea, and I prefer black, but I thought for the almond, I'd take a chance.

The Mighty Leaf Tea box is covered in stories about how carefully they care for the tea, the quality of their tea leaves, and how green the company is. The tea is whole leaf only, the tea pouches are made from the greenest material, and so on.

Back when we had organics recycling, we always tossed used tea bags in the "green bin". Now, living in an apartment, we no longer have that option. The tea bag is going in the trash anyway, so the greenness of the pouch isn't a big concern for me. However, ordinary tea bags are fine for organics recycling, so I'm not sure why this pouch is so special.

When I brought the tea home and opened the box, I was surprised and dismayed to find each individual pouch packaged inside a plastic sleeve! Fifteen tea pouches, 15 plastic sleeves! What the...?

Mighty Leaf tea pouch

Mighty Leaf tea pouch as packaged

I tweeted the company and did not get a response, then tried email.

I recently bought a box of Mighty Leaf tea for the first time. When I opened the box, I was horrified to find each pouch packaged in an individual plastic bag! I would never have bought this tea if I had known this -- and it is exactly the opposite of all the promotional copy on the box.

I am planning on writing about this on my blog, but wanted to contact you first, so I can include your statement or reaction.

I'm guessing this plastic is some specially made material that is considered biodegradable. But as I'm sure you know, almost nothing biodegrades in landfill. Are the plastic pouches suitable for organics disposal? If so, why doesn't it say so on the box?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

I received this response.
Hi Laura,

Thank you for your e-mail. Our tea pouches are in fact bio-degradable and compostable, although we would recommend industrial composting available in many parts of Canada. Our tea pouch has in fact won awards for being environmentally friendly:

[This was pasted in.] Artisan Hand-Stitched Pouches

In ancient traditions around the world, a freshly brewed pot filled with whole tea leaves is revered as the richest in character. Inspired by this legacy, Mighty Leaf specially created the silken Tea Pouch filled with the world’s finest whole tea leaves, herbs, fruits and flavor. No longer was it necessary to brew a pot of tea and use a strainer or an infuser to experience whole leaf tea the way it's enjoyed in gardens across the world!

Each portion of whole leaf tea is precisely measured and carefully wrapped in our hand-stitched pouches. These large, silken pouches showcase the distinctive beauty of our special blends and give the leaves room to unfurl as they steep, allowing the nuanced flavors to fully infuse for the ideal tea experience.

Besides the beautiful leaves you’ll notice that our pouches have a lot of tea inside. Typically our pouches contain about two and a half grams of tea, which allows you to brew a large cup of tea (btw 12oz to 14oz).

Each tea pouch is hand stitched with 100% unbleached cotton. The silken material is made from polylactic acid (PLA), which is derived from corn starch. The pouches are biodegradable and can be composted in an industrial composter.
The email also included this image.

I find the tea-pouch narrative a bit much. But in practical terms, did this person really misunderstand my question? Was my question unclear? I tried again.

Thank you for your reply. However, I was not referring to the tea pouches. Each pouch is packaged in an individual plastic sleeve. I am referring to that outer container or sleeve.
He replied:
Hi again Laura,

In order to conserve the freshness of our teas and herbal infusions we need to hermetically seal them in some form of envelope. Unfortunately nobody has yet developed a material in which you can hermetically our teas which is also biodegradable. As you can tell from the environmentally friendly efforts that we made with our tea pouches, as soon as someone does, we will look at using it.

Enjoy our teas!
I'm afraid I took it one step further, and I did (unintentionally) ignore the word "hermetically".
Are you kidding me? One already exists. It's called paper.
Their response.
Hi again Laura,

No, I don’t believe I am kidding you – paper cannot hermetically seal, unless of course you wax it and then it won’t biodegrade.
Does tea really need to be hermetically sealed? Why isn't a paper envelope -- similar to how Lipton (US) and Red Rose (Canada) are packaged -- adequate? My all-time favourite tea, Bewley's (Ireland and the UK), uses mesh bags with no string and no paper. Works great.

I didn't like the almond tea very much, probably because it is green tea rather than black. But no matter how much I enjoyed it, I would not buy a product loaded down with unnecessary plastic packaging.

* * * *

The story of the almond tea. I used to love Celestial Seasoning Almond Sunset tea, but it disappeared many years ago, apparently discontinued. I have not been able to find a decent substitute, even in expensive loose-leaf tea, which I would rather not buy. For this post, I found the Celestial Seasoning website -- and they have a Canadian site, too -- which encourages you to contact them if you cannot find what you want in stores. If I could buy Almond Sunset directly from CS, that would be amazing.

And why don't I use loose-leaf tea? We do sometimes buy and enjoy loose tea for interesting flavours or because we find ourselves in a nice tea shop. But we drink tea every day, and we both enjoy the convenience, the strong flavour, and the consistency of tea bags. Our favourite is Bewley's Irish Tea, which we used to go out of our way to buy in New York. We have not found a convenient place to buy it in the GTA, but if I ever see a box, I would pounce on it.


what i'm watching: before the flood: good information but ultimately a weak message

Tonight we watched "Before the Flood", Leonardo DiCaprio's film about climate change, which I had heard such good things about.

It's well done, and is chock full of appropriately terrifying and depressing information. But in the end, the film delivers yet another "it's up to each of us" message, focusing on individual actions, rather than systemic solutions.

Early in the film, we hear that discussions of climate change used to focus on individual solutions -- change your light bulbs, bring your own coffee mug -- but now we know that's not enough. Yet in the end, the film concludes: "Consume differently: what you buy, what you eat, how you get your power." Vote for people who promise to do something.

After seeing miles of gray, dead coral reef, rainforest devastation in Indonesia, and the monstrosity of the tar sands, "consume differently" is an empty platitude. And how you get your power? Most of us have no choice about that.

Sure, eat less meat, carry your own coffee mug, take public transit, if the option exists in your area. You'll create less landfill, you'll make more conscious choices, and you might inspire others to do the same. Just don't think that you're making a dent in climate change. A dent? Not even a scratch.

"Before the Flood" might actually produce the opposite of its intended effect. Upon seeing this film, I think many or most viewers would feel that climate change is so huge, so widespread, and so advanced, that there is nothing we can do, so we should just live our lives, and try not to think about it. The optimistic NASA scientist interviewed towards the end of the film says that if we all stopped using fossil fuel, the earth will be able to heal. So if the impossible happens, we'll be OK? Not a lot of hope there.

Tar sands, fracking, palm oil production, deepwater drilling -- all of this is driven by profit and an economic system that demands so-called growth. In other words, the root cause is capitalism. It will never be more profitable to conserve and protect than it is to extract and destroy. So until our world is motivated by something other than profit, the destruction will not end.

The one thing that may achieve our goal is barely mentioned: massive, sustained protest. The kind of protest we are seeing right now in North Dakota, on a much larger scale. Because, as Mario Savio said, there is a time.
There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

I thought of Mario Savio tonight. Although my heart and soul are against the gears, and always have been, I cannot say that I put my body upon the gears. I can only say I support the people who do, and I am ready to do so when the time comes.


fun with bag signs: in which i am photographed removing garbage from my neighbourhood

Are there bag signs where you live?

In Mississauga and perhaps most suburban places, people put up bag signs advertising services. The signs are cheap to buy and easy to post. They are also illegal. To me, they are the Nexus of Evil: advertising plus visual pollution plus polyethylene waste.

I have called 311 to complain about these signs in my neighbourhood, and if the City has someone available, they will sometimes dispatch a crew to remove the signs. Presumably this crew is also doing other outdoor maintenance, or perhaps they are driving around removing bag signs, which would be awesome.

Allan and I also remove these signs ourselves. When we lived in a house, we would throw the signs in the garage until enough had collected, then bundle up the vinyl for trash and the metal frames for recycling. Now, while we're out with our dogs, we'll just put the whole thing in a public trash barrel.

This morning while I was out with Diego, I slipped the vinyl off a bag sign, crumbled it up, and threw it in the trash. As I turned the corner, I noticed a car parked across the street, the driver removing something from the trunk. Then he walked towards me, carrying a sign.

Diego and I watched as he pushed the metal frame into the ground. I said, "You know that's illegal, right?"

Sign man said, "Are you a city councilor or a police?"

Me: "No, I'm a resident of this neighbourhood and you are polluting it."

Signman: "It is only for a few days, then I will come back and remove it." Ha!

Me: "That doesn't matter. It's illegal. As soon as you walk away, I'm going to remove it."

Signman: "You cannot do that. Only a city councilor or police can do that."

Me: "That's incorrect. I've called the City and they said it was fine to remove these any time."

Signman: "If you remove this sign, I will take your picture and I will sue you!"

Actual Photo of Me Throwing Out the Sign
Me: "Great! Excellent. I will give you my name and phone number right now. Let's exchange phone numbers and you can sue me."

Signman: "I don't want your name and number! I will take your picture!"

Now, I am not a lawyer, but I think it might be difficult to sue someone if you only have their photo, but not their name.

Me: "Ok, get ready." He backed up -- I assume because of Diego's presence -- and I stepped forward to slip the vinyl off the frame.

He took out his cell phone, and I smiled and posed with the crumpled sign. I normally hate being photographed, but this was fun.

As Diego and I walked away with the sign, Signman shouted after me, "See you in court!"

"See you there," I said. "Have a nice day!"


the other side of waste management in peel: shocking lack of recycling in apartment buildings

Goodbye, old friends
In the 10 years I've lived in Mississauga, I've always been impressed with Peel Region's recycling and trash management. Now that I live in an apartment, I'm seeing another side of those services, and it's not pretty.

First, there's no "green bin" - organics - recycling. I've grown so accustomed to throwing all food waste, coffee grinds, tea bags, tissues, wet paper, dog fur, and other organics into the green bin, it feels very strange and wasteful to toss these in the trash.

Instituting an organics recycling program for apartment buildings would be challenging, but other cities with denser populations do it, so it must be possible. I don't know if Toronto is still in the pilot phase or if green-bin recycling has been rolled out to the whole city, but at least it's begun. On the Peel Region waste management website, I find no information that anything like this in the works. (I will tweet this post to Peel, so maybe I'll learn more.)

Starts like this...
Second, and perhaps most importantly, recycling in the building requires an extra step, somewhat time-consuming (in a short-term, selfish kind of way). And there is no incentive to take that step.

For houses in Peel, there is a two-bag standard for trash. Anything over two bags requires a tag; tags cost $1.00. At the same time, recycling is simple. You keep a large blue bin handy somewhere, toss items in it, and leave it at the curb on pick-up day. It's very easy to determine what's recyclable and what's not, either online (an easy redirects) or through the booklets Peel distributes to every household.

...ends like this...
Many people, especially those in large households, do buy tags. In our last house, because there were tenants in the basement (that is, two households), we often needed one tag. And many people skirt the issue in creative and less-green ways. But generally speaking, the two-bag standard, the minor cost and inconvenience of garbage tags, and the ease of recycling, combine to keep household trash to a minimum.

Here in our apartment building, it's exactly the opposite. When you move in, building management distributes large carry-bags and information about recycling... full stop. A flyer notes that recycling is mandatory in Peel, but no one monitors or accounts for how much trash any household tosses down the chute. There's only one recycling room for the entire 20-story building, and it's on the first floor. The minor inconvenience of a separate trip for recycling plus no disincentive for trash must equal a much lower diversion rate.

...and this.
And indeed, when I toss the dog-waste bag into the building's dumpster, I see bags of household trash clearly containing bottles, cans, jars, and all manner of recycling. I find this so depressing!

In one sense, apartment living is greener than living in a house. Apartment-dwellers take up less space, use less energy, and don't have water-sucking lawns. But if the majority of residents are not recycling, it's a very different picture.

In order to increase recycling rates, recycling must be easy, and there must be a disincentive to not recycle. For most people, simply helping to take care of the environment by producing less trash is not enough.

Our building is 35 years old, which is old for Mississauga. I realize that when these buildings were constructed, recycling was not a consideration (although it could have been), so there's no extra room on each floor, as you will find in newer buildings. The room with the trash chute is little more than a closet, so there's no room for blue bins. Still, is there not some way to encourage recycling? To make it less cheap and easy to throw everything away? There must be examples from other cities and counties from which Peel could learn.


rtod: this changes everything

Revolutionary thought of the day:
All of this is why any attempt to rise to the climate challenge will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of worldviews, a process of rebuilding and reinventing the very idea of the collective, the communal, the commons, the civil, and the civic after so many decades of attack and neglect. Because what is overwhelming about the climate challenge is that it requires breaking so many rules at once - rules written into national laws and trade agreements, as well as powerful unwritten rules that tell us that no government can increase taxes and stay in power, or say no to major investments no matter how damaging, or plan to gradually contract those parts of our economics that endanger us all. . . .

This is another lesson from the transformative movements of the past: all of them understood that the process of shifting cultural values - though somewhat ephemeral and difficult to quantify - was central to their work. And so they dreamed in public, showed humanity a better version of itself, modeled different values in their own behavior, and in the process liberated the political imagination and rapidly altered the sense of what was possible. They were also unafraid of the language of morality - to give the pragmatic, cost-benefit arguments a rest and speak of right and wrong, or love and indignation. . . . .

As the historian David Brion Davis writes, abolitionists understood that their role was not merely to ban an abhorrent practice but to try to change the deeply entrenched values that had made slavery acceptable in the first place.

-- Naomi Klein, from This Changes Everything


what i'm reading: this changes everything by naomi klein, one of the most important books you'll ever read

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, by Naomi Klein, is incredibly difficult to write about. I've been putting sticky notes beside important paragraphs as I read, and my copy now looks like an art project, bristling with coloured paper squares. I can say without exaggeration that this is one of the most important books you'll ever read.

In her clear, readable prose, Klein demonstrates exactly what is destroying our planet: unregulated, unchecked capitalism, brought to you by the scourge of our era: neoliberalism. (US readers may be more familiar with the term neoconservatism.)

In her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine, Klein showed us how corporate interests exploit crises to enact policies that enrich a small elite, using the holy trinity of neoliberalism: privatization of the public sphere, deregulation of the corporate sector, and lower corporate taxation, paid for with cuts to public spending. Now Klein widens her lens to demonstrate how that same orientation actively prevents us from taking the necessary steps to halt and reverse climate change, and with it, the impending destruction of a habitable Earth.

To reverse warming, reverse course

Klein succinctly and precisely diagnoses the root problem. In order to challenge climate change, in order to reverse a course that threatens billions of lives and is ultimately suicidal for humanity, radical change is required. We must stop living as if infinite growth is possible on a finite planet. This goes way beyond separating our trash into different bins and using more efficient light bulbs. It means dismantling the fossil-fuel industry, powering our entire society with renewable energy sources (it is possible!), and ultimately, abandoning the idea of growth as the basis for our economies.

Tackling climate change means, ultimately, dismantling neoliberalism itself.
A belief system that vilifies collective action and declares war on all corporate regulation and all things public simply cannot be reconciled with a problem that demands collective action on an unprecedented scale and a dramatic reining in of the market forces that are largely responsible for creating and deepening the crisis.
This means rethinking the false notion of "free" trade. Ontario, for example, would be decades ahead in wind and solar production, not to mention good, green jobs, but for the crippling mandates of free-trade agreements. "Free" deserves scare quotes.
Not only do fossil fuel companies receive $775 billion to $1 trillion in annual global subsidies, but they pay nothing for the privilege of treating our shared atmosphere as a free waste dump.
Klein reminds us that if free-trade regulations block our ability to disrupt our dependence on fossil fuels, then those regulations must be rewritten. And so it goes for any number of policies that express the neoliberal ideology, which, as Klein writes, "form a ideological wall that has blocked a serious response to climate change for decades."

Of course, nothing is free; the question is who pays the price. The price may be unemployment, or jobs that can't sustain a decent life, or overcrowded classrooms, or a generation condemned to poverty-stricken old age. The price may be flammable drinking water, or whole villages beset by rare cancers. The neoliberal agenda wreaks its havoc in ways seen and unseen. Shell's Arctic oil rig ran aground when it braved impassable winter weather, attempting to beat a timeline that would trigger additional taxes. In Montreal, the MM&A rail company received government permission to cut the number of staff on its trains from five to a single engineer: thus the Lac-Megantic disaster. However measured, it's a price paid by ordinary people, while corporations wallow in profit.

Less carbon means more democracy

In turn, dismantling neoliberalism would mean rethinking our governments, too, as democracies driven by lobbyists, corporate donors, and industry interests - valuing profits over people - pave the way for policies that are killing us all. Can a society where this can happen be rightly considered democratic?
...the most jarring part of the grassroots anti-extraction uprising has been the rude realization that most communities do appear to lack this power; that outside forces - a far-off central government, working hand-in-glove with transnational companies - are simply imposing enormous health and safety risks on residents, even when that means overturning local laws. Fracking, tar sands pipelines, coal trains, and export terminals are being proposed in many parts of the world where clear majorities of the population has made its opposition unmistakable, at the ballot box, through official consultation processes, and in the streets.

And yet consent seems beside the point. Again and again, after failing to persuade communities that these projects are in their genuine best interest, governments are teaming up with corporate players to roll over the opposition, using a combination of physical violence and draconian legal tools reclassifying peaceful activists as terrorists.

....Only two out of the over one thousand people who spoke at the panel's community hearings in British Columbia supported the project. One poll showed that 80 percent of the province's residents opposed having more oil tankers along their marine-rich coastline. That a supposedly impartial review body could rule in favor of the pipeline in the face of this kind of overwhelming opposition was seen by many in Canada as clear evidence of a serious underlying crisis, one far more about money and power than the environment.
When reviewing the proposed solutions to climate change, Klein skewers the chimeras that don't and can't work, from the corporate boondoggle known as cap-and-trade, to various technological fixes that would take our fantasy of controlling nature to bizarre new heights.
Indeed, if geoengineering has anything going for it, it is that it slots perfectly into our most hackneyed cultural narrative, the one in which so many of us have been indoctrinated by organized religion and the rest of us have absorbed from pretty much every Hollywood action movie ever made. It's the one that tells us that, at the very last minute, some of us (the ones that matter) are going to be saved. And since our secular religion is technology, it won't be god that saves us but Bill Gates and his gang of super-geniuses at Intellectual Ventures.
Klein also heaps contempt on the so-called partnerships between large environmental organizations and the fossil-fuel industry, which are something like the partnership between the pig and Oscar Mayer. As Klein puts it, "the 'market-based' climate solutions favored by so many large foundations and adopted by many greens have provided an invaluable service to the fossil fuel sector as a whole."

Already changing everything: Blockadia

This Changes Everything illuminates an impressive array of activism, introducing most readers, I'm guessing, to a new expression: Blockadia. Blockadia represents the global, grassroots, broad-based networks of resistance to high-risk extreme extraction. From Greece to the Amazon to New Zealand to Montana to British Columbia, the resistance is in motion. Taking many forms - the divestment movement pressuring institutions to sever economic ties with the fossil-fuel industry, the towns declaring themselves "fracking free zones", the civil disobedience that physically slows the building of pipelines while court challenges continue - Blockadia is creating space for public debate and the possibility of change.

In many places, Blockadia is led by people from indigenous communities. Not only are indigenous peoples often the first victims of climate destruction - witness, for example, the off-the-chart cancer rates of First Nations people living downstream from Canada's tar sands - but their worldviews may form the basis of our way forward. On a Montana reservation where young Cheyenne are learning how to install solar energy systems - cutting residents' utility bills by 90% while learning a trade, creating an alternative to a life spent working for the coal industry - a female student makes this observation:
Solar power, she said, embodied the worldview in which she had been raised, one in which "You don't take and take and take. And you don't consume and consume and consume. You take what you need and then you put back into the land."
I despair. But it doesn't matter.

I want everyone to read this book, and because of that, I hesitate to share this unfortunate truth: ultimately, This Changes Everything filled me with hopelessness and despair. I wouldn't say it made me pessimistic, as I am optimistic about humankind's ability to change ourselves and our systems, if we choose to. Rather, the book filled me with outright hopelessness, because I don't believe we will even have the opportunity to make that choice. The forces aligned against the necessary changes are massive, and massively powerful. Untold profits depend on the system not changing, and what's more, gargantuan profits are being reaped off the destruction itself. The oligarchs who profit from climate change are associated with the most powerful tools of violence ever known - the mightiest armies and the greatest amorality.

Adding to the difficulty, our society clings to what Klein calls "the fetish of centrism": of the appearance of reasonableness, of "splitting the difference, and generally not getting overly excited about anything". This is the illogic that dictates we must "balance" the interests of the petroleum industry with our need for clean water, or the profits of real estate developers with the human need for shelter. This fetish of centrism allows the government and its partners in the media to label as "extremists" people who want to protect water and land from catastrophic oil spills.

Added to this, huge numbers of ordinary people, led by corporate media and astroturf faux activists, align themselves against their own interests, stoked by fears of imagined foes (be they communists, immigrants, or feminists) and cling to notions of a supposedly free market, which in reality is heavily subsidized by taxpayers. This global market is anything but free: the risk is socialized in every way possible, but the returns are strictly privatized.

If you've read Jared Diamond's Collapse, you are familiar with the concept that societies don't always do what's best for them. Societies make choices that ultimately chart their own demise. I do not despair of our ability to remake our world, but I know that the forces aligned against us will stop at nothing to prevent us from doing so. The most powerful people on the planet can shield themselves from the effects of climate change until it is too late for the rest of us.

And yet... and yet. I feel hopeless, my feelings don't matter.

What matters is this: we have little time, and we must try. Resistance movements have changed cultures. Resistance movements have brought mighty empires to their knees, have ended deeply entrenched systems: slavery, colonialism, apartheid. For centuries, there was something called the Divine Right of Kings, a concept which must have seemed permanent and immutable. Now it does not exist. Capitalism, as currently practiced, is killing our planet - killing us. We cannot shrug our shoulders.

If you agree - and more importantly, if you disagree - read this book.


towards a cruelty-free face: switching to products not tested on animals

I've begun changing my personal care products to cruelty-free: natural products from companies that are better for the environment and don't test on animals. I'm not sure how far I'll be able to go, but I've begun the process.

After a lifetime of using conventional products, I was moved to think more about this by a few different sources.

When I worked in the children's library, I often saw a book about animal cruelty. It was not the one I wrote about here, about dogs, but a book in a series called "Tough Issues," similar to the kind of series I used to contribute to. This "tough issue" asked the question, "Why do people harm animals?" It's a good book, one that successfully treads that very careful line separating honesty from the overly graphic. Even so, there was one image that burned in my brain. (I know this image would have been highly disturbing to me as a child. Considering I saw the image in a children's book, this is very bad.) And now that image from that book joins the panolpy of disturbing images that I will never be able to un-see.

Another source: I belong to the Humane Society International (or HSI Canada), and their excellent advocacy against animal testing has influenced me.

The rational case for using animals in medical research has ended: as one prominent researcher says, "Whatever you discover, you will have to re-discover using people, so not only do the animals suffer using these experiments, the first few patients using these novel treatments will suffer, too." Using animals to test cosmetics and personal-care products shouldn't even be controversial. It is absolutely cruel and unnecessary.
Eliminating animal testing of cosmetics is entirely feasible. In the past three decades scientists have developed many advanced alternatives to animal testing—methods that use human blood, cell lines, artificial skin or computer models to test the safety of products. And many multinational companies have embraced these alternative test methods, reducing and in some cases eliminating their dependence on animal testing. As a result, they cut costs and save time; animal testing is expensive, slow and, because animals are not people, not always predictive.

The movement to eliminate animal testing extends beyond the cosmetics industry. In 2007 the National Academy of Sciences issued a report recommending that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fundamentally change the way chemicals are tested for human health risks. Through a greater reliance on in vitro testing, researchers could evaluate the effects of chemicals on biological processes while using very few animals. Scientists would generate better data and test a greater number of chemicals more quickly and cheaply.
And then there are microbeads. Perhaps I was the last person in North America to learn about microbeads, but the news finally reached me.
Tiny particles of plastic have been added to possibly thousands of personal care products sold around the world. These microbeads, hardly visible to the naked eye, flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to filter out microbeads and that is the main reason why, ultimately, they contribute to the Plastic Soup swirling around the world’s oceans. Sea creatures absorb or eat microbeads. These microbeads are passed along the marine food chain. Since humans are ultimately at the top of this food chain, it is likely that we are also absorbing microbeads from the food we eat. Microbeads are not biodegradable and once they enter the marine environment, they are impossible to remove.
Although I used products that contain microbeads, I never asked, "What are the scrubbing particles in this product made of?" Indeed, I never even thought of it. But now I have learned that a few products I buy regularly contain these tiny plastic particles that go straight to our water supply and into animals. And so, microbeads became the final kick in the pants I needed.

I looked into cruelty-free products on line, mostly at Leaping Bunny and, but I was quickly overwhelmed. There are so many products... where to begin? Then I remembered my dictum from other changes I've made: away from all-or-nothing thinking. This cheered me up.

I decided to start with two products: face cleanser and scrub, since these are most likely to contain microbeads. This would also allow me to stop buying products made by Procter & Gamble, a name found on boycott lists for decades.

The next time I was in Whole Foods, I talked to the person in the "Whole Body" department. She showed me several alternatives. I decided on products by Green Beaver, a Canadian company with an interesting genesis.
As young scientists, Karen was a biochemist with experience in the pesticide industry and Alain was a microbiologist working for the pharmaceutical industry. We were both appalled by the amount of chemicals found in kid’s shampoos, bubble baths and other products. Given our background, we decided to do something about it. We quit our jobs and left the chemical industry behind to create healthier, natural products for your family and ours. We wanted to make a difference, and this is our story.
The scrubbing particles in Green Beaver's grapefruit and aloe scrub are made from bits of bamboo.

Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, and others who have written about the horrors of the industrial food chain often note that the only way we can live with such a disgusting and inhumane system is by purposely not knowing about it - by willful collective ignorance. (This is the same ignorance collectively employed about capital punishment in the US, now unraveling thanks to activists forcing people to see.) We don't want to know where our cheeseburger comes from. We don't want to know about the feed lot, the gestation crate, the chicken prison, the killing floor. Or the lab prison.

Most people want to avoid thinking about cruelty to animals. We don't want to know about it. We especially don't want to know that we're complicit in it! And our closed eyes allow it to continue.



Revolutionary thought of the day:
Hunger isn't about the amount of food around. It's about being able to afford and control that food. After all, the U.S. has more food than it knows what to do with, and still 50 million people are food insecure.

Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved and The Value of Nothing, quoted by Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything


rotd: this changes everything

Revolutionary thought of the day:
...if there is a reason for social movements to exist, it is not to accept dominant values as fixed and unchangeable but to offer other ways to live - to wage, and win, a battle of cultural worldviews. That means laying out a vision of the world that competes directly with the one on harrowing display at the Heartland conference and in so many other parts of our culture, one that resonates with the majority of the people on the planet because it is true: That we are not apart from nature but of it. That acting collectively for a great good is not suspect, and that such common projects of mutual aid are responsible for our species' greatest accomplishments. That greed must be disciplined and tempered by both rule and example. That poverty amidst plenty is unconscionable.

It also means defending those parts of our societies that already express these values outside of capitalism, whether it's an embattled library, a public park, a student movement demanding free university tuition, or an immigrant rights movement fighting for dignity and more open borders. And most of all, it means continually drawing connections among these seemingly disparate struggles - asserting, more instance, that the logic that would cut pensions, food stamps, and health care before increasing taxes on the rich is the same logic and would blast the bedrock of the earth to get the last vapors of gas the last drops of oil before making the shift to renewable energy.

Naomi Klein, from This Changes Everything


mini-garden update: the eggplant arrives

I grew this! It's eight inches long, and three more are on the way.

What's ordinary to you veteran gardeners is still miraculous to me. Gardening on a small scale is easy, fun, and very rewarding.

Next stop, eggplant recipes.


คาสิโนออนไลน์ แจกเครดิตฟรี 2019

upcycling with teens at the library

My summer youth programs have been going really well. Attendance has increased with each program - first 7, then 13, then 15 - and yesterday we hit the jackpot with 23 teens. We actually had to turn away three kids without tickets, as our program room was so packed with people and materials.

I wasn't planning on blogging about individual programs, but there seems to be some interest. Plus, since I regularly Google for ideas for programs and displays, I'm happy to give back by adding to the ideas out there.

Upcycling was a huge hit! For those not familiar with the term, upcycling is an expression for taking an item that would normally be thrown in the trash or in the recycling bin and creating something useful or decorative from it - moving it "up," figuratively, in the lifecycle of the product.

I like to begin programs with a bit of context, and to immediately get the teens engaged. This is not difficult to do: I structure a brief introduction in the form of questions.

First, I asked if someone could explain what "upcycling" means. I got exactly the definition I wrote above.

Next, I said that I could think of two ways that upcycling is good for the environment and for the earth. Can someone tell me one way? One of the teens said, "It removes something from the waste stream, so all the energy that it would take to recycle the item - to break it down and re-form it - isn't used. Or if the thing is not recyclable, it keeps it out of landfill." Exactly!

And lastly, I asked if anyone could think of another way upcycling is good for the environment. A third teen said, "It helps us consume less. Instead of buying something new, we re-use something we already have." Smart kids, eh?

So after that little intro, we showed some samples made by an artistic colleague of mine who worked on this program with me: a milk carton change pouch, tin-can caddies, and pen or pencil holders made from plastic tubes. (The tubes are the rollers inside the paper that library slips are printed on. We generate zillions of them.)

I had a few YouTube videos and some Pinterest pages cued up on the projector, and we watched some of the ideas in action. I told the teens that I found all these ideas online, I didn't think of them myself.

I also tell them that I'm not very artistic or crafty. I just like to try new things and to create something. I always emphasize that whatever they make today doesn't have to win a prize or look like something you would see in a store, because the only way to learn how to do something is to fool around and learn what works.

Then I give a few ground rules, something like... If you haven't done a DIY program with me before, here's how it works. There are lots and lots of different materials at various stations around the room. Help yourselves to anything you see, and if you think of something you could use that you don't see, ask us, we might be able to get it for you from our craft supplies. You are free to create anything you wish, using any combination of materials. The samples are examples - you can re-create those, or add to them, or do something entirely different. I say a few words about safety - wear gloves when using hot-glue guns, no more than two people at a glue gun station at a time - and we're off.

It was a huge success. We practically had to kick them out of the room to clean up. Here's how I know for sure that it worked: several teens asked if there were other programs like this, and could they come back for more.

Here are some pics of the kinds of things we made.


in which i defend the suburbs against misconceptions (some thoughts on reading jane jacobs)

I'm reading Dark Age Ahead, Jane Jacobs' 2004 strong caution to North American society. I'll blog about the book in general at a later date, but wanted to share some thoughts that keep coming up as I'm reading.

This is the first time I'm reading Jacobs since living in a suburb, the kind of area Jacobs reviled, rather than living in a dense urban environment, the kind she revered. And now, when I read Jacobs' shorthand descriptions of suburbs, I wonder if she truly understood them.

Two of the charges levelled against suburbs - and if you've read Jacobs or anyone influenced by her, you've encountered these repeatedly - are (1) no one knows their neighbours, and (2) you have to drive everywhere. The former refers to the absence of shared community spaces. Jacobs often wrote that we must encounter each other face-to-face in order to build tolerance and a sense of community. The latter criticism is often expressed as, "You have to drive [x] distance just to pick up a loaf of bread."

I think this reveals some misunderstanding about how most suburban people conduct their lives. Most suburbanites don't live in walking distance of a big supermarket, but that doesn't mean they drive to the store every time they need anything. Based on my observations, most people do all their shopping at once, bringing home groceries for a full week or more from one trip. In other words, just because they (supposedly) need to drive just to pick up bread, doesn't mean they do.

Urbanites may pick up small numbers of items every day, often on their way home from public transit. Many people shop for dinner on the way home from work. Many urbanites don't have the means to shop for a week's worth of food at one time, and may not have the space to stock up on staples. To those people, the absence of a variety of shops and services within easy walking distance looks incredibly inconvenient. But to suburbanites, shopping daily or several times a week may look similarly inconvenient.

I said "supposedly need to drive" for a reason. Most modern suburban neighbourhoods do have a small commercial strip with a few stores and services in walkable distance. However, these strips are often not visible from the main arteries. They're located inside the neighbourhood, so to speak, on smaller through-ways. So while it may appear that suburbanites must drive to pick up milk or bread, chances are (a) they buy milk or bread weekly, along with everything else they need, and (b) if they do need something in an emergency, they can walk to get it, or drive a very short distance, if necessary (recognizing that not everyone can walk carrying packages, in all weather).

Commercial strips aren't the only suburban feature not visible from the main roads. Many or most suburban neighbourhoods also contain green space, tucked within the neighbourhood itself. My Mississauga Library System colleagues who live in Toronto often claim that Mississauga lacks for green space - shared, outdoor, public commons. As commuters, they see Mississauga only from the main roadways. In fact, almost every neighbourhood in Mississauga has green space, inside the subdivision. And in those spaces, you'll see people walking their dogs, kids in playgrounds, teens on their bicycles, seniors out for a stroll, and so on.

As for knowing our neighbours, we do, to the extent that we want to - and that's exactly the extent we knew them in New York. Mississauga is more diverse than most of New York City, and in general it's more tolerant and less insular than any given New York City neighbourhood. But that, I think, is more a function of Canada and Mississauga, and the high value placed on newcomers and diversity in our area.

* * * *

I grew up in the suburbs (Rockland County, in lower New York State). It was before the existence of McMansions: my family had a small house and a huge yard. We owned two cars, and needed them both, and when we reached our teen years, we needed more than two. There was no local public transit, just buses to New York City. As children, we were completely dependent on adults driving us to do anything. We did have a lot of freedom to roam around the neighbourhood, but so did urban children in that era (and many still do).

The suburbs in which I grew up was very much like the ones that Jacobs loathed: isolating, and completely dependent on the automobile.

hated living in the suburbs, and vowed I would never choose to live in one as an adult. Never is a big word when you're young and have no idea the shape your life will take. But even a few years before we moved to Mississauga, I couldn't have envisioned being happy in the suburbs. I always thought if we left urban life, we would opt for a small town in a rural area. (Where, I should add, people are equally dependent on cars!)

And now, of course, I live in a suburb and I really enjoy it. Mississauga is technically a city - Canada's sixth-largest! - but it's an extremely suburban environment. The City of Mississauga has come a long way in adding public transit and in cultivating public spaces and excellent community services. But when it calls itself "urban," it's stretching that word beyond all meaning.

Many suburban and rural people disparage cities - cities are dirty, crowded, noisy, and so on. I usually sense that they've never lived in a city, so they see the negatives without understanding the positives. That is, they don't see the trade-off.

Think back to the woman I overheard on the plane, wondering with horror why her urban friend spends so much money to live in Brooklyn when she doesn't even have a backyard or a detached house. I've heard countless people similarly wonder why people pay such exorbitant rents to live in Manhattan. While there's no proper justification for the ridiculous housing costs, I would say that those people simply don't understand the trade-off: they don't understand what you get in return for those crazy housing prices. As E. B. White said, "...the city makes up for its hazards and its deficiencies by supplying its citizens with massive doses of a supplementary vitamin -- the sense of belonging to something unique, cosmopolitan, mighty and unparalleled." You pay those prices, live in those small apartments, put up with the crowds, because you thrive on urban life.

In a quieter and less spectacular way, the suburbs can also offer a rich trade-off. Naturally we need more and better public transit. That's a given. And suburbs must be more than places to live and shop. People need to be able to work, play, and create in their own communities. But Jacobs herself reminds us that smaller towns and cities all over the US were once equipped with trolley cars, linking communities internally and to each other, before North American society (thanks to General Motors) (this, too) abandoned public transit in favour of the automobile.

We need better planning, for sure - more density, more transit. But the suburbs themselves are not the problem.


this year's garden and diego's new favourite food

Three years ago, we planted our first-ever garden, really a tiny garden-ette, growing two tomato plants and some daisies. (I had forgotten about the flowers til I saw that older post.)

I really enjoyed growing the vegetables, and was surprised and pleased to learn that it wasn't very time-consuming, at least not on this level. The following year we again planted tomatoes, but substituted herbs for the flowers. Much more fun! I was so taken with snipping fresh herbs from my garden that I cooked more often.

Last year's garden was a bust, thanks to the flood and our subsequent move.

This year, in our new place, we cleared a little patch and took a baby-step forward: four tomato plants, one eggplant plant (your highness, your highness), one zucchini plant, basil, and thyme. I'm hoping for grilled veggies this summer.

The very helpful person at Sheridan Nurseries recommended a natural plant-food made from chicken manure. Apparently chicken poo is rich is calcium and fruit-bearing plants love it. And guess what? So do dogs! Diego says, "Chicken manure?! Yum! More, please!"

Vegetable gardening is good for your health, good for your wallet, and good for the planet. For me, it's also a healthy psychological challenge, a step away from one of my most pernicious traps: all-or-nothing thinking. Doing something different, just a little bit, without judgment, without obsession, without perfectionism. Not "do your best," just do.

Photos and updates to follow!


dark times in canada, part 1: the lancet: the case against canada as a world citizen

I want to share two articles from well-respected venues reflecting on what's happening to Canada now - where it is and where it may be going.

In The Lancet Global Health, one of the foremost medical journals in the world, there's "A rising tide: the case against Canada as a world citizen", Chris David Simms. It begins:
A generation ago, Canada was perceived to be an exemplary global citizen by the rest of the world: it took the lead on a host of international issues, including the Convention of Child Rights, freedom of information, acid rain, world peacekeeping, sanctions against South Africa's apartheid regime, and humanitarian and development assistance—much of this under conservative leadership.

During recent years, Canada's reputation as a global citizen has slipped, in recent months more precipitously than ever before, and in new directions. The Climate Action Network recently ranked Canada 55th of 58 countries in tackling of greenhouse emissions. Results of other analyses show a government systematically removing obstacles to resource extraction initiatives by gutting existing legislation, cutting budgets of relevant departments, and eliminating independent policy and arms-length monitoring bodies.

Canada's reputation is further undercut by its silencing of government scientists on environmental and public health issues: scientists are required to receive approval before they speak with the media; they are prevented from publishing; and, remarkably, their activities are individually monitored at international conferences. These actions have outraged local and international scientific communities.
It's a short piece, and worth your time to read and circulate. And agitate, and write letters, and demonstrate, and vote.


surveillance at the border: outrage fades as we accept the new normal?

The surveillance state continues to grow; news of its magnitude continues to trickle out. Some people shrug, claiming only criminals and terrorists need be concerned, but in these extreme conditions, that attitude looks increasingly ridiculous - or government-sponsored. The rest of us shudder and shake our heads... but what more?

The Canada-US border has become another instrument of the surveillance state. For decades, people have claimed that border agencies had access to all our personal information, including tax and credit status. In the past, that was a myth. Now, what was once paranoid rumour appears to be true.

We, the surveilled, are not consulted on these changes. The changes are not open to public debate. Neither we nor our elected representatives have an opportunity to vote for or against them. They are being instituted by fiat. Those magical words - "national security" - make everything possible.

Some stories.

September 2011 (note date): Canadians with mental illnesses denied U.S. entry, Data entered into national police database accessible to American authorities: WikiLeaks

June 2012: "The United States will be allowed to share information about Canadians with other countries under a sweeping border deal.".

November 2013: Disabled woman denied entry to US based on medical records: The issue is not the US's border policies. The important piece of the story is how the US border had access to a Canadian's health records.

November 2013: Accusations that private health details of Canadians being shared with U.S. border agents sparks probe: NDP provincial health critic France Gelinas has been contacted by three Ontarians who have been denied entry to the US based on their personal health history.
Gelinas said another person she spoke to told her that they had been turned away at the border over a physical ailment that had nothing to do with mental health.

She wouldn’t provide any details to protect the person’s privacy, but Gelinas said she was told that the U.S. agent in that case also mentioned a fairly recent, specific medical episode that happened in an Ontario hospital.

Gelinas said at first she tried to find some explanation for why U.S. authorities might have the information, such as police records. She asked many questions, but nothing seemed to explain how the Department of Homeland Security got the information.

“The amount of their personal information that is spit back at them is astonishing,” she said.

“I have no idea how this could happen, but it did. I believe those people. They have given me physical, tangible proof that this happened.”

A person’s medical history must remain confidential, she said. To hear that specific details of a person’s medical history is being shared with a foreign government is “extremely alarming.”
December 2013: Toronto woman with bipolar disorder refused entry into U.S. for being a ‘flight risk’. This occured about a year earlier. The woman came forward after reading the highly-publicized story in November.

January 2014:
Canadian border officials plan to share personal information obtained under a new Canada-U.S. border data exchange program with other federal departments, the Star has learned.

The program, in which Ottawa and Washington will start sharing their citizens’ travel and biographic data this summer, means anyone from Canada travelling to or from the United States by land can have his or her information passed on to federal departments.

The Canada Border Services Agency confirmed the new practice and said data would be passed on only in accordance with stringent rules.
January 2014: If you need extra evidence of how these practices are not for our own safety:
Canada’s border agency misled the public on its highly touted “most wanted” list by inaccurately portraying some people as war criminals, says Canada’s Privacy Commissioner.

The finding came more than two years after refugee advocates complained that border officials violated the individuals’ privacy rights by posting their mug shots and personal information, including date of birth, on the Internet and social media.

Although the federal privacy watchdog said Canada Border Services Agency’s information disclosure was justified in its attempt to locate those wanted for removal from Canada, it chided officials for the loose use of the term “war criminals” to describe the people on the list. . . . .

Toronto immigration lawyer Angus Grant, who represented the complainant, said the commissioner’s finding vindicated what refugees’ advocates had said all along.

“The list was created for political purposes,” said Grant, calling the most-wanted list the Conservative government’s attempt to “vilify refugees on its own assertion that they were war criminals.”
It's not only health records, and it's not only entry to the US that's at issue.

November 2013, from DeSmog Blog: The Day I Found Out the Canadian Government Was Spying on Me: CSIS and RCMP spying on activists, and sharing that information in classified meetings with - you guessed it - Enbridge. Talk about the petrostate!

October 2013, from The Guardian: Canadian spies met with energy firms, documents reveal:
Government agency that allegedly spied on Brazil had secret meetings with energy companies.

* * * *

We must try to keep these stories alive. Government spying should be an election issue.

Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Open Media privacy petition


government destruction of environmental archives: the harper govt's war on facts marches on

At year's end, The Tyee reported that a memo - marked "secret" and first reported on - cast grave doubts on the Harper Government's claim that environmental archives were destroyed only after they had been preserved digitally. In other words, the memo proves what progressive and concerned Canadians have long known and suspected to be true.
A federal document marked "secret" obtained by Postmedia News indicates the closure or destruction of more than half a dozen world famous science libraries has little if anything to do with digitizing books as claimed by the Harper government.

In fact, the document, a compendium of cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that can be read in its entirety at the bottom of this story, mentions only the "culling of materials" as the "main activities" involved as the science libraries are reduced from nine to two. Specifically, it details "culling materials in the closed libraries or shipping them to the two locations and culling materials in the two locations to make room for collections from closed libraries."

In contrast, a government website says the closures are all about digitizing the books and providing greater access to Canadians -- a claim federal and retired scientists interviewed by The Tyee say is not true.
BoingBoing reports:
The destruction of these publicly owned collections was undertaken in haste. No records were kept of what was thrown away, what was sold, and what was simply lost. Some of the books were burned.
These actions must be seen in context of the Harper Government's ongoing and pervasive War on Facts. The Harper Government serves the interest of two groups: Canada's small but influential religious right, and the corporate elites, especially the very powerful extraction industries. And to keep these groups happy - or at least, when it comes to the religious right, mollified - the Government must appeal to the general public on an emotional, rather than factual, level. Evidence of this is all around.

The Government's war on immigration and refugees relies on denying facts and eliciting emotional reactions of envy, fear, and discontent: witness the "gold-plated" refugee health care plan that never existed, or Jason Kenney's frequent assertions that Roma and other persecuted peoples made "bogus" refugee claims.

Pouring taxpayer money into privatized for-profit prison schemes is all about denying facts (crime is at an all-time low) and playing on fears (liberal Canada was soft on criminals! criminals are coming to get you!).

And of course, there are the Big Lies. The war in Afghanistan is being fought to liberate women. Climate change doesn't exist. They have to deny and destroy a mountain of facts to support those whoppers.

What are the demise of the mandatory long-form census and the deep budget cuts to Statistics Canada if not a war on facts? Indeed, if government decisions are to be based on what's good for the energy industries and what social regressives want, then we'd better not keep accurate statistics. Statistics will only prove the depth and breadth of Harper's destructive effects on Canada.

Nothing makes the Harper Government's War on Facts more literal than its massive budget cuts to Library and Archives Canada, and its literal destruction of libraries. As Donald Gutstein points out in a 2012 Tyee story:
Why would the Harper government cut Canada's Library and Archives budget? Heritage Minister James Moore explained the 10 per cent overall cut would not hurt the agency because records could be digitized and made available to Canadians via the Internet.

But the 2012 budget cut the digitization staff by 50 per cent.
Gutstein enumerates the three overlapping motives behind the Harper Government's War on Facts. One, the need to "satisfy his party's evangelical base". Two, the drive for government-sanctioned, whitewashed history: cross-reference the celebration of The War of 1812 and Vimy Ridge, and my analysis of Discover Canada. And three, to silence voices that challenge the Harper Agenda.
Limiting access to Canada's actual archives makes it easier to promote revisionist histories like The Canadian Century, a book written by Harper government allies -- three libertarian economists with no formal historical training.

Authors are Brian Lee Crowley, head of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa, Niels Veldhuis, who now heads the Fraser Institute, and Jason Clemens, who once worked for the Fraser Institute and now is at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. They are among Canada's elite economic conservatives.
In this sense, the destruction of the environmental archives is to be expected from this Government. The original story from PostMedia demonstrates how perfectly it dovetails with the Harper agenda.
The downsizing also includes the shutdown of federal libraries and millions of dollars in reductions to climate change adaptation programs. In total, the department estimates it will cut about $80 million per year from its budget by 2014-15, and over $100 million per year in the following fiscal year.

But the cuts coincide with internal advice from top bureaucrats that the government should instead be increasing its spending in the department to protect both economic and environmental interests, particularly for Coast Guard services which are facing cuts equivalent to about $20 million by 2014-15 and 300 full-time jobs.

“Rising marine traffic, technological changes, climate change impacts (such as fluctuating water levels), and extended shipping seasons are among the factors expected to continue to place increased demands on Coast Guard services,” said briefing notes prepared for the department’s deputy minister Matthew King in December 2012. “For example, there are demands for increasing icebreaking services on the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the Great Lakes, for extending Marine Communications and Traffic Services, aids to navigation and ice breaking services in the Quebec North and Arctic for additional environmental response as well as search and rescue capacities in selected areas.”
I also note that more than a knowledge base and marine programs were destroyed. These budget cuts - and all budget cuts - represent massive job losses, making the lives of countless Canadians more precarious in a country that has already destroyed much of it social safety net.

The Harper Government says these budget cuts are necessary to eliminate a budget deficit... which speaks to the biggest lie of all: the fiscally conservative Conservative. For more on that subject: Harper is a fiscal conservative — except when he isn’t, and The Myth of Fiscal Conservatism. From the latter article, in Canadian Dissensus:
The idea of fiscal conservatism must be stripped bare and revealed for what it really is. It has no relation to budgetary probity and the wise use of public funds. Rather it is a rhetorical tool used to justify the selfish desire for tax cuts – regardless of the value – and provide intellectual cover for direct (or more typically indirect) regressive social policies and a more strident social conservatism. It is a tool of state retrenchment masquerading as prudent planning, of forcing governments to ‘live within their means’ while continuously reducing these means. It is a dishonest idea used by scoundrels. Sadly it is effective rhetoric. People still think Mussolini made the trains run on time.


a small green victory: more plastics now recyclable in peel

Yes! A few years back, I blogged about discovering that many of the plastics I had been putting in my recycling bin were not, in fact, recyclable. A few months after that, I unpacked a typical environmental dilemma: organic lettuce.

Organic lettuce is the perfect example of a green paradox. It's unquestionably better for the local water supply, and for the health of the people who pick it and who eat it. On the other hand, it requires a huge amount of energy to stay fresh, and is often packed in non-recyclable plastic. We can ask, "Which is better?" but the answer is another question: "Better for what?"

Now, after considerable consumer pressure, Peel Region will accept clear plastics for recycling. Of course, it's always better to avoid buying produce that is packed in plastic, but if you shop at a supermarket, that is difficult or impossible to do. I hope this change marks the beginning of more recycling province-wide and nationally.


the tarsands are coming to toronto: speak out on october 19 (and every day) to stop the madness

By now I hope you all know about Line 9, Enbridge's plan to transport the dirtiest, most spillable oil on the planet through the most heavily populated areas of Canada and some of the most environmentally sensitive areas of New England.

Line 9 is the third stage of Enbridge's plans to get their resource-draining, health-destroying, earth-killing tarsands oil from Alberta to the rest of the world, putting the drinking water, health, and lives of millions of people at risk in order to squeeze more private profit out of our earth.

On October 19, concerned Canadians will demonstrate outside the National Energy Board hearings in the Toronto Metro Convention Centre. The rally caps a two-week calendar of events educating the public about this insanely dangerous plan. For more immediate and excellent education, see the Oil Sands Reality Check website, which gives you the basics in a few important clicks.

The Line 9 plan would reverse the flow in two existing pipelines, causing oil to flow from Alberta through Sarnia, Hamilton, the Greater Toronto Area, Montreal, and down into New England, ending in Casco Bay in Portland, Maine - approximately 1200 kilometres (750 miles), through the most densely populated area of Canada, through the sources of drinking water for millions of people. The route passes through 99 towns and cities and 14 indigenous communities.

This is absolute madness - as are the other two Enbridge pipeline plans, now (at least temporarily) stopped: the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska, and the mind-blowingly insane plan to bring huge supertankers into the rocky, island-dotted British Columbia coast.

The fossil-fuel industry and the politicians who they own (including, of course, much of the Harper Government) peddles their snake oil with lies. (Remember this map?) It's up to us to educate ourselves and each other.

My comrade Dr. J of Your Heart's On The Left gives us nine reasons to oppose Line 9. Along with the ultimate goals of protecting clean water and protecting our health, Dr. J challenges the false choice of environment vs. jobs: the fallacy that we need to destroy the environment and our health in order to provide employment.
8) demand green jobs
The billion dollars in subsidies to the tar sands each year could provide thousands of green jobs, and the climate justice movement includes labour activists pushing for a just transition from the oil economy to one based on sustainability. Last year unions endorsed a sit-in against tar sands pipelines and tankers, and this year the Steelworkers Toronto Area Council has endorsed the rally against Line 9 and provided funding for First Nations activists to bus into Toronto to join the rally. As a CAW organizer said last year, “tens of thousands of unionized and other jobs depend on healthy river and ocean ecosystems. We will be standing in solidarity with thousands of working people in BC and our First Nations sisters and brothers.” Line 9 will only produce a few temporary jobs in an industry that exposes workers to chemicals while undermining the environment on which future jobs depend. Stopping Line 9 is part of a movement demanding good green jobs for all.
If you're in the Toronto area, there will be two great opportunities to learn more about Line 9 and tarsands oil in the week preceding the October 19 demonstration.

On Tuesday, October 15, Toronto350 is showing the movie "Do The Math", followed by a panel discussion. Screenings at 5:45 and 8:00 p.m.: Details here.

On Friday, October 18, the Tar Sands Reality Check Tour comes to Toronto, at the Bloor Street United Church, 6:00 p.m.

And on Saturday, October 19, you can join the NO LINE 9! NO TAR SANDS PIPE LINES rally outside the NEB hearings.

And finally, whether or not you can attend the October 19 rally, make sure your MP and your City Councillor knows how you feel about Enbridge putting your health, your water, and your city at risk for their own private profit.