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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Edible Schoolyard

One of America’s most influential chefs Alice Waters created a revolution in 1971 when she introduced local organic fare at her Berkeley California restaurant Chez Panisse. Twenty-five years later she and a small group of teachers and volunteers turned over long-abandoned soil at an urban middle school in Berkeley and planted the Edible Schoolyard. The schoolyard has since grown into a universal idea of Edible Education that integrates academics with growing, cooking, and sharing wholesome delicious food. With inspiring images of the garden and kitchen — and their young caretakers — Edible Schoolyard is at once a visionary model for sustainable farming and childhood nutrition and a call to action for schools across the country.

This year Slow Food Nova Scotia produced a DVD called “The Edible Schoolyard”. This DVD shares the inspirational story of the students, staff and friends of Dr. Arthur Hines Elementary School and their community garden. It documents the school yard's transition from pavement to green space, and the gradual change from bagged lunches to healthier, freshly-picked options.

Slow Food Nova Scotia is a non-profit organization founded in 1989 to counteract fast food. Led by chef Michael Howell. This organization teaches the importance of eating healthy food that is grown close to home.

The film tells the story of a group of Summerville students with green thumbs. Dr. Arthur Hines' elementary students have been tending a vegetable garden at school for nearly six years, as part of a healthy-living initiative with Hants Shore Health Centre. Each fall, Mr. Howell travels to Dr. Arthur Hines Elementary to help students prepare a meal from the crops they harvest. With the chef's assistance, they host a feast for the community, with food travelling from field to plate in less than three hours.Gardening increases students' physical activity, consumption of vegetables and fosters community. Students can learn a lot in the garden, including patience and ethics of care and responsibility. When students grow their own vegetables and see where they come from they will become more interested in eating them. This garden project would help make the healthy choice the more popular choice.

We do have a community garden in Amherst, on East Pleasant Street, across from Dickey Park. This past summer we did have several young people that planted seeds and help tend to the gardens. But community gardens do not have to be in just one spot. A community garden can be developed anywhere there is green space or in some cities gardens have been built on rooftops. Lets encourage growing some of our own food throughout the community including the schools.Copies of The Edible Schoolyard DVD are on loan in all 77 public library locations.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Remembrance Day - The Environmental Impacts of War

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.

The First World War was the 'war to end all wars', 1914-18, and the people that fought during this time did so because they thought they could make a difference. I wonder what the people that sacrificed their lives would think of the world today. Would they be proud of Canada's role of peacekeepers? After-all, they did fight in a war that they were determined would be the last one. What would they think of the soldiers in Afghanistan?

Wednesday, as I attend the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the cenotaph, 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 twentieth century technology has ensured a more lethal harvest. For example, landmines: planted in millions of war-torn countries across the world, killing and maiming long after wars are over, and denying agricultural use of the land in which they are hidden. Also, it is the testing and manufacturing of the nuclear bomb, which has been responsible for some of the most profound and persistent environmental damage around the globe. Nuclear waste is a global problem that won’t go away, threatening environmental disaster on a huge scale.

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 – until now.

Just as veterans have offered their lives for a cause they believe in, I can also have the strength and power in me to take on the tasks that face us today, like the global climate crisis, with faith that we can make a difference and together we can change the world.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Are Climate Change and the Swine Flu Related??

Swine Flu and climate change may be inextricably related. Both are the end results of unbridled economic growth and environmental degradation. The catastrophic impacts of climate change and unsustainable development can cause damage to human health. Climate change is a direct result of unsustainable development as is environment degradation and the emergence and spread of diseases which have their roots in the combination of intensive agricultural practices, water polution and food production.

In October, 2008, the Wildlife Conservation Society, named the “deadly dozen” diseases that could be more virulent and spread more intensely, as a ramification of weather and climate changes. The list includes avian flu, which is one of the three genetic components of the Mexico swine influenza, along with the human and swine genetic presence.

Climate Change may contribute to the accelerated occurrence of pandemics, but I believe it is more than likely the size and deadliness of the recent 100 years of pandemics that may be attributed to global activities such as the economy, war and pollution.

The term ‘climate change’ conjures images of melting ice caps and rising sea levels that threaten coastal cities and nations, but just as important is how increasing temperatures and fluctuating precipitation levels will change the distribution of dangerous diseases.Since the 1500s, flu pandemics have been occurring at approx. every 10 to 30 years.

The Spanish Flu (1918) — actually started in the United States and recorded approximately 50 million deaths worldwide. The Asian Flu (1957) — approx. 2 million deaths worldwide and the Hong Kong Flu (1969) — approx. 1 million deaths worldwide. Different internet sites quote differing statistics so these are just approximate.The Hong Kong Flu lingered around for 20 years (1969 to about 1992), but it was not a pandemic by definition. However, within the last 10 years, there has been three new potential pandemics (Avian Flu 2004; SARS 2005; and now the Swine Flu 2009). The reason is unclear, but fortunately, knowledge and quick actions were taken to slow the spread.

Vaccinations against smallpox heralded a new era for worldwide human health but how can we keep up with providing protection against the accelerating mutations of viruses?

The swine flu of today's concern is a descendant of the same pandemic flu that killed 50 million or more people in 1918. But on the other hand, so are almost all of the seasonal flues that human populations are exposed to every year, they usually aren't as virulent as this one is proving to be.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fear and Loathing - The Swine Flu Vaccine

There is a portion of both fear and loathing in this province since the second wave of the swine flu has hit. There are long lines of people waiting for their swine flu shots, the rules of who can get the shot keep changing and there is a serious shortage of the vaccine.

On the other hand there are those that refuse to get the swine flu shot due to the lack of any real information regarding its safety. We only get the information that the drug companies want us to know.

All of this has caused a loathing of governments at all levels, which does not bode well for the federal government, which is trying to win more seats in next week's byelection.

Some of the facts that are causing fear of the vaccine include:
1. There is possibly some scientific evidence that the swine flu vaccine, especially the adjuvants, specifically squalene, can cause serious injury and death. However, there is a possibility of side effects from any medications administered.

2. The new swine flu jab can be linked to a deadly brain disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which could be triggered by the vaccine. Are we doomed to repeat history: Remember the use of a similar swine flu vaccine in the United States in 1976? More people died from the vaccination than from swine flu, and approximately 500 cases of GBS were detected!

3. Immunization is a natural process, and even the "best vaccine" cannot protect you or give you a stronger immune system to protect you.

What do we do with all this information - We wait in long lines for the swine flu shot and in a year's time we find out IF the vaccine was indeed safe.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Stephen Lewis Lecture at Mount Allison University September 28, 2009

Millennium Development Goals: Targets for 2015

Cut Hunger and Poverty in Half – This is a section where we will probably not succeed. ¼ of the world’s population is living on $1.25 per day. Somehow we have found millions of dollars to bail out banks but we can not come up with the pennies needed to feed people??

Drop in the Infant Mortality Rate – Close to 9 million children die every year from reasons that should not cause their demise. Such as diseases they could be vaccinated for, hunger and other causes.

The Reduction of Maternal Mortality – There is nearly ½ million women who die each year in childbirth.

Every Child goes to Primary School – 77 million children do not go to school. They can not afford the school fees, uniforms, or books.

Gender Equality – You can not marginalize 52% (women) of the population. Also the AIDs virus is passed through sexual violence during war times. Up to 5 million people have died in the Congo where ¼ of the women have been raped. There are 19,000 Peace Keepers there but they still can not protect the women.

Turn Back Communicable Diseases - AIDs Hiv, Malaria, PneumoniaThe criminalization of homosexuality will never stop the diseases from spreading. During the AIDs epidemic no one took into account the amount of orphans that would be left behind. The grandmothers in Africa have to take care of the young. There is an entire generation gone from age 20-50 years of age. How can you plan for the future when and entire generation is gone?? Sometimes children as young as 8 years take care of the younger children and whatever family they have left.

Sustainable Development and a Sustainable Environment – There is the possibility of a catastrophic event between the years 2030 and 2050 which is unavoidable. Rising sea levels, environmental refugees, drought and the loss of food security everywhere.

Build a Partnership between the Developed and Underdeveloped Nations – We have made many promises to address the human condition; however, all countries are in trouble. All Countries have been using the economic crisis as an excuse to not fulfill the promises of aid, assistance and environmental problems.

Climate Change will make a lot of these issues even worse. People at the local level are becoming more engaged locally as well as globally. Now they need to get everyone else to understand.