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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays 2010

The Holiday season has arrived and thoughts have turned to parties and gift-giving. But for the eco-conscious people in your life there is the wonderment of how they can party and keep their carbon footprint low. The drama continues because people already feel pressure during the Holidays. The roads are more crowded causing more air pollution, the malls are crowded and there is the expectation to be nice to people you don’t necessarily like or agree with. (Green is seen as the new Grinch).

One of the first rules of environmentalism is to reduce consumption and buy less. However, to some ears, the call for less excessive consumption during the holidays sounds almost un-human. Here is a good Green thought - If you are going to buy gifts – Buy Local.

Canadians create up to 60,000 tons of packaging waste during the holidays so it is wise to do what you can to avoid extra packaging. You can try making homemade gifts. Even if you're not a crafty person, you could make coupons that promise friends and family the gift of your time — like a dinner, a massage or something that reflects your skills.

You could also buy as many organic, local ingredients for your holiday feast as you can afford. As we plan to sit down with family and friends to give thanks for all that we have, perhaps the biggest “Thank you” should go to Mother Earth for putting up with our blunders. Earth really has taken a lot of abuse from us humans and yet keeps providing for us and all the other species. It’s not an easy task and it keeps getting harder.

Other environmentally conscious ideas could include: wrapping your gifts in reusable bags, recycled magazines, fabric, newspaper, or turning paper bags into wrapping paper. Get even more creative by using old maps, posters, kids' coloring book pages, or sheet music to wrap gifts. Canadians go through 40 square kilometres of forest in wrapping paper each year!

As a final suggestion you can buy cards printed on recycled paper, handmade papers, or paper made from materials like hemp. Three of Hallmark’s lines have recycled content: Shoebox Greetings, My Thoughts Exactly, and Comedy Club. If you have a computer you can send e-cards instead of paper cards. By the way, Hallmark has e-cards as well. You can buy cards that donate a portion of proceeds to a good cause. At the end of the day you can reuse any paper cards you received by cutting them up to make gift tags for next year.

We live in a world where climate change, deforestation, holes in the ozone layer, water scarcity and air pollution are growing sources of concern. Finding a solution as individuals and as nations against the environmental crisis, even at this time of the year, has never been greater.

I am wishing the best for all of your Holiday celebrations. Therefore, those of you that celebrate Christmas have a happy, healthy and very Merry Green Christmas and for those of you that celebrate a holiday of a different name – Happy Green Holidays and health and happiness to all. For this is the season to celebrate that which you cherish the most: your faith in that which is greater than you, including Mother Earth.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Climate Change Conference - Mexico December 2010

The 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in CancĂșn, Mexico, from November 29th to December 10th, 2010. The expectations for the conference were slim following the non-binding Copenhagen Accord, which was put forth at last year’s conference in Copenhagen.

However, the Climate Change Conference in Mexico ended with the adoption of a balanced package of decisions that will put all of the governments on a path towards lower emissions in the future. The decision will also support and enhance action on climate change in developing nations such as China and India.

According to the Russian contingent there seems to be an "inconvenient" truth, in the ongoing lack of awareness in all nations regarding global warming. It is noted that in most countries the domestic problems take the forefront of decision making. In this day and age, the financial crisis, which affects nearly the entire industrialized world, gets the priority while attempts to adopt a binding global treaty to reduce climate change becomes discouraging.

A key working group under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change came up with a six-page text last year in Copenhagen. The draft formed the core of a new global agreement to combat climate change beyond 2012, when the present framework, the Kyoto Protocol, expires.

At the end of this year’s Climate Change Conference in Mexico there were some key elements that were put in place:

• Parties meeting under the Kyoto Protocol have agreed to continue negotiations with the aim of completing their work and ensuring there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods of the treaty.

• A new “Cancun Adaptation Framework” has been established to allow better planning and implementation of adaptation projects in developing countries through increased financial and technical support, including a clear process for continuing work on loss and damage.

• Governments agree to boost action to curb emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries with technological and financial support.

• A total of US$30 billion in financing from the industrialized countries to help support climate action in the developing world up to 2012 and the intention to raise US$100 billion in long-term funds by 2020 was included in the decisions.

The next Conference of the Parties is scheduled to take place in South Africa, from
November 28th to December 9th, 2011.

Manufactured Landscapes

Manufactured Landscapes is a filmed documentary regarding how our industrialized society has changed the landscape of the planet. According to the photographer, Edward Burtynsky the film shows nature being transformed through industry.

The film follows Burtynsky through China and exposes the effects of the country’s massive industrial revolution and the dumping grounds of its waste. It allows the viewer to comprehend what the industrialized society of today has done to the environment and landscape of the earth we all share.

Since so much of what people in North America buy is made in China the film is correctly focused on China. We can all certainly agree that the emerging economies of China and India will create a huge demand on environmental resources. This demand will begin to strip the earth of its natural resources; and when resources become scarce…the end result is typically war. There have been many wars fought over resources throughout the ages.

What about e-waste – Did you know that most recycled electronics and copper wire ends up back in China? This film will probably change your perspective on waste and waste management. That can of pop you just finished drinking – will you throw the can in a recycle bin? Where does it end up after that? What about your old cell phone or computers? What actually happens to them after you drop them off to a recycling centre that is holding a special pick-up for e-waste? You will have to watch the documentary to find out.

The film itself has very little dialogue. The images themselves should say it all. After all, a picture says a thousand words. The film will continue to display landscapes of assembly lines, mines, and mine tailings, dams, trash heaps, recycling yards, quarries, refineries and piles of industrial and e-waste. It is up to the viewer to decide how they feel about the images that will be forever imprinted on the brain.

You are probably asking yourself why you want to see a film showing piles of what we call garbage. This documentary should at the very least make you analyze the waste you throw away. We have all partaken in the output of waste on a daily basis. If we continue to use up natural resources to provide materials for our consumption and just leave behind piles of waste – what will the landscape of the future look like?
I extend a promotion for everyone to take the time to see this film. On Friday, December 10th at 10:00 a.m. there will be a screening of this documentary at the movie theatre.

See you there.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Senate Kills Bill C-311

In a snap decision, November 16, 2010, the Canadian Senate killed the Climate Change Accountability Act by a vote of 43-32. This vote caught the Liberal senators off guard and not enough of them showed up to vote and possibly save the Legislation.

The Bill had already spent the past year bouncing between the Parliament and the environment committee. The elected House of Commons passed the Bill in May and then it went to the Senate for final approval.

The way this vote was carried out was an insult to all Canadians and our democracy. The vote was called without notice and without debate. The Senate killed the Bill before they studied it or even called for independent expert witnesses.

The Act would have committed Canada to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 205 and a 25% reduction below 1990 levels by 2020. Stephen Harper’s government claims the cost of reducing emissions will be economically devastating. Since the government could not defeat the Bill in Parliament they relied on the Senate to defeat it. Economists from the World Bank have concluded that the failure to reduce greenhouse gasses will have catastrophic economic and environmental consequences.

Our government dismissed its obligation under the Kyoto Protocol, which was an international climate change agreement that originally Canada and 186 other countries ratified. Now this defeat of the Climate Change Accountability Act – shows why Canada has earned the dubious reputation of obstructing progress at international negotiations regarding climate change, even though Canada is probably more vulnerable to the effects of climate change that any other industrialized nation.

In Nova Scotia, the effects of climate change would be particularly devastating as most of our infrastructure and communities are along the coastline, which would be hard hit by the rise in water levels. Even the marsh area surrounding the Town of Amherst could be hard hit by the rising waters.

Using an unelected body of government to kill a bill that was passed by a significant majority of the members of Parliament and was supported by a petition signed by more that 150,000 Canadians shows a lack of respect for Canadians that do care deeply about climate change. It was irresponsible and will leave the burden of this decision on the shoulders of our children.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Royal Engagement and the Eco-Home

Well, you would have to be living under a rock if you have not heard about the story of the decade for Royal watchers with the announcement that Prince William will be getting married to Kate Middleton in 2011. A royal wedding for a future king doesn’t come along very often. Much of the world will probably be watching the event next spring or summer. Besides being the Royal event of the decade this story holds some eco-friendly interest.

Prince William’s father is in the process of spending between eight and nine million pounds turning a once run-down estate into an eco-farm, including the creation of a ‘green mansion’ earmarked for William’s and Kate’s use. The property, which is under construction, will be a model of eco- friendliness and will include a reed-bed sewage system, wood chip boiler, solar panels and walls lined with insulating sheep’s wool.

Construction on the six-bedroom home is likely to begin later this year. The plans include the incorporation of the most up-to-date green standards. The property will also include a chapel plus a rainwater reservoir and stables. The 8,500 square-foot, two-story home would feature solar-powered heating and insulation made of sheep’s wool. It would also include a grand dining room, a tree garden, and a hall lined with Greek columns.

As for the home’s environmental standards, there was great input from the Prince of Wales who is passionate about the environment and has a long-standing interest in architecture. This being England, there will be plenty of rain and a 200 L rainwater reservoir will recycle and then provide rainwater to the house and grounds. There will be energy-efficient lighting and a boiler using wood chips from trees on the estate. Water saving and low-energy appliances will also be included throughout the property.

For those of you, like myself, that do not live in a mansion or will likely want to spend several million dollars to build one – I am including some tips that you can use to make your own homes eco-friendly.

To Save Energy:
• If you are not using it, turn it off;
• Try to find and enable energy saving settings on all appliances;
• Unplug anything that takes energy even when it is turned off
• Plug equipment into power bars and turn them off until needed.

Sometimes it may seem difficult to go green especially for those who have a lot of other things to do within a 24 hour day. However, you can play your effective role in being eco-friendly by doing the same old activities in a different more conscientious style, keeping in mind that being environmentally friendly is not as difficult as people think it is.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chignecto Game Sanctuary

Scientists have been saying for years that we need to protect more land to conserve wildlife and maintain natural ecosystems. The laws for the current game sanctuary protect the animals from rifle hunting and trapping but the land that they live on is not protected from mining and clear cutting. Thus the ecology of the land that the animals need to survive is slowly being destroyed. The proposal from Cumberland Wilderness encourages the protection of both.

The sanctuary will remain intact once the wilderness protected area is created over this land and the crown lands surrounding the sanctuary. The sanctuary will then hold laws that protect both the animals and the land they live on. Wilderness protection does allow long gun hunting but in the sanctuary hunting will be restricted to bow hunting only as it is now. There are many stakeholders involved with the future of the Chignecto Game Sanctuary. A blended approach is needed with ideas from all of the stakeholders interests included.

Better protection for the area does not mean that citizens and tourists will be excluded from the wilderness area. In fact parts of the Wilderness Protection Act want and allow more tourism potential and educational awareness in the form of hiking trails and other outdoor adventures.

The proposal from Cumberland Wilderness keeps 70% of the snowmobile trails open and these trails would be grandfathered in so that they will remain as usable trails. However, the Department of Natural Resources and the people that already use the trail system want to keep all of the trails open. Their interests should also be included in this blended approach. Perhaps having the Wilderness protection and all the trails that are already in existence “grandfathered in” would be the way to go?
Areas designated under the province's Wilderness Areas Protection Act are off limits to logging, mining, and industrial development, but still available for most forms of outdoor recreation including hunting, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, cross-country skiing and eco-tourism.

Section 23 (3-5) of the Wilderness Protection Act says that snowmobiles may be permitted on designated trails if the trail was in existence at the time of wilderness designation; the trail is an essential link to a more extensive snowmobile network outside the wilderness areas; and the continued use will have minimal environmental impact. Atvs may be used to gain access to recreational activities such as hunting, fishing only if no other alternative exists.

Under the Act, Section 17, the prohibited activities would be those used for commercial resources such as mining, forestry (clear-cutting), pipelines, drilling etc. Other activities that are prohibited may include: more roads, railways, altering the surface of the land and littering.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day, held each year on November 11, is a day of commemoration for the individuals who lost their lives in the First World War. During this time of remembering, many nations also choose Remembrance Day to honour all the individuals that have died during times of war. One the eleventh day, of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour we shall remember.

This year, I will think of the importance of the day, respecting the tremendous sacrifices that all troops give when offering their lives for the freedom of others...sadly thinking of the people around the world who are still fighting over resources, land, and past grievances. I will think of the possible wars to come because there will be so many eco-refugees moving from place to place due to the lack of water, good farmland and the rising sea levels.

As well as remembering past wars, it is important that we work to ensure there are no more future wars. War has an enormous impact on the planet – socially, morally, psychologically, financially and also a devastating environmental impact. We’ve all seen pictures of the horrific battlefields, with scarred trees, burned oil fields, destroyed crops and bomb craters, but there is so much more to it than that.

The earth’s environment is battered by war, its preparation, practice and aftermath. It is destroyed as an act of war; it is used as a weapon of war; and its destruction is expensive and sometimes irreversible. Its involvement with war is often secret, widely ignored, and easily forgotten.

This year the United Nations designated November 6th as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. This day was set to educate people about the damaging effects of war and armed conflict on the environment.
The assembly considered that that any environmental damage in times of armed conflict impairs ecosystems and natural resources long after the period of conflict has finished. During this designated event People learn and share information about the dangers of new technologies in war such as depleted uranium ammunition, which poses unknown threats to the environment. People around the world are also made aware that all efforts must be taken to limit environmental destruction caused by conflict.
“Lest We Forget”.