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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Climate Change and Hurricanes

During the past several years, Canada has had to deal with five or six hurricanes a year. Climate specialists say that this particular storm activity could continue for another decade. There is really no way to accurately predict how many storms in the Atlantic will affect Canada. What we lack in number of hurricanes we make up for in their intensity. Think of hurricane Juan and White Juan just a few months later. The cleanup from hurricane Juan still continues in Point Pleasant Park, in Halifax. The predictions for this year say that we will have an active hurricane season with up to five large storms in the Atlantic Canada region between August and November

A hurricane is formed by a group of thunderstorms that circle around each other and form a vortex. This group of thunderstorms continues to spin in tight formation until, in the centre, the eye is formed. The meteorologist watch the eye to see when and where the hurricane will make land fall since this is where the hurricane will pack the greatest punch.

There is growing evidence the climate change and warming conditions in the oceans and the atmosphere will make hurricanes even more destructive in the future; however, this does not necessarily mean more hurricanes. In our area, the Gulf Stream becomes an important factor. Scientists know that the ocean has been warming up on a yearly basis due to more heat in the atmosphere. This has an effect on all storms from thunderstorms to hurricanes.

Hurricane Bill was the first major hurricane of the 2009 Atlantic Hurricane season.. Bill, originated as a tropical wave that emerged from the western coast of Africa on August 12, and organized into a tropical depression on August 15, 2009. The depression was quickly upgraded to a tropical storm. This storm continued to track west-northwestward. Bill attained hurricane status and major hurricane status on August 17 and by August 18th the status as a Category 4 Hurricane. It weakened as it veered north, passing Bermuda with little impact, and then, thankfully, Bill lost its tropical characteristics as it passed into the waters of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Was this hurricane caused by climate change? How will climate change continue to affect Nova Scotia? We are beginning to experience a gradual increase in the impacts of climate change. This may mean increasingly extreme weather (hot or cold), droughts, flooding on the marsh and in towns like Oxford, and erosion along our beaches. How can we be proactive against such an enormous global threat as climate change?

In Nova Scotia, we can expect warmer average temperatures, higher sea levels, more extreme rainfalls and storm flooding, and more-frequent and extreme storms. Preparing for a changing climate poses particular challenges in Nova Scotia because most of our population lives along the coastline and much of our infrastructure is located in those vulnerable areas.

Education should be a major focus. Communities need to understand climate change so they can prepare for expected changes. Hurricane Bill may have been a bit of a dud but continued vigilance and preparations will become very important for everyone.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Positive Aspects of Community Gardening

Community gardens promote healthy communities and help provide food security for some low income persons. Community gardens also strengthen community bonds and create recreational and therapeutic opportunities for the people of the community. They can also promote environmental awareness and provide community education. One of the goals to create healthier communities is to improve the nutrition and access to food for the community as a whole.

One thought behind a community garden is to provide fresh local produce to community organizations that help serve those in need. The community garden in Amherst is a product of many community organizations that help provide for those in need; such as, the Cumberland Food Network, Maggie’s Place, and the local food bank, just to name a few.

During the past week there were a few incidents at our local community garden that may have been a little demoralizing at first for the gardeners; however, everyone is moving forward with the food that is continuing to grow. Some of the gardeners give directly to places like the food bank while others share what they can, from the food they grow, with other people.

There may be a little bit of confusion regarding the term “Community Garden”. Some may feel that once the food is growing anyone in the “community” can go and pick it. During a meeting last week this was discussed and the gardeners are willing to share some of their food but would like to be asked first. After all, they are doing the hard part – growing, weeding, watering and caring for the plants until they are ready to be harvested.

There was a little outcry in the comments section of the Amherst Daily News regarding youth in our community. We have several pre-teens growing gardens and working in gardens with some of our more experienced gardeners. They are learning to grow vegetables and learning how to share and work with others. There was also a Leadership Group from Maggie’s Place that came up to the garden a few weeks ago to help pick weeds and do some cleanup. This was a wonderful group of youngsters and I was very privileged to meet them and work with them. Let us not forget the Canada World Youth Group that helped clean out the garden at the end of last year. They brought some of the food home to the people they were staying with and the rest went to the food bank “from them”.

So, let’s not paint all youth with a bad streak. We were all young once and perhaps did a few things that we may not be proud of including swiping a few carrots or cucumbers from a garden. But give the youth a chance to shine and they will shock you with what they are willing to do to make grownups proud of them. So three cheers to the youth in our community!!

Anyone can grow food for their table or even flowers if they choose at the Community Garden. It does not cost anything for a garden plot. We just hope that you too are willing to share just a little bit of it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Vandals strike at community garden - Local - News - The Amherst Daily News

Vandals strike at community garden - Local - News - The Amherst Daily News

This act of vandalism was very disappointing for the community gardeners in Amherst. But we will perservere. The food that is still being grown will be harvested and most sent to the local food bank.

Dream kitchen of the future is green, survey finds

Dream kitchen of the future is green, survey finds

This article is an interesting approach to bringing the outdoors indoors.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Eco-Friendly School Supplies

Summer vacation is almost over, which means it’s time for back-to-school shopping. This year there are choices you can make regarding environmentally friendly school supplies. There is a green, environmentally-conscious school supply alternative for every one of your school and homework needs, so it’s the perfect time to make a conscious choice to think about the environment while shopping.

The main issue is reducing the amount of stuff that you have to buy. By reusing supplies from last year you will reduce the amount of stuff you have to purchase. It's the best thing you can do to be more environmentally friendly.

We all know the three Rs. If you ask kids how many of them recycle all of them do try. But, if you ask them how many of them reuse or reduce they're completely confused. By reusing you will reduce the amount of stuff you're going to have to purchase. Can you reuse binders, pencils, and markers and crayons from last year? You might not need to buy them new.

Paper, paper, paper! Paper is a product of logging and deforestation, which makes finding a green school supply alternative a bit difficult. Wrong! Most stores sell notebook paper made from 100 percent recycled paper. Just make sure you check the paper package before you buy it.

14 billion pencils are produced every year, many made with wood from forests. Look for the FSC label on pencils and paper. Many paper products are made from trees specifically grown and harvested for papermaking, thus sparing delicate rainforest ecosystems. The Forest Stewardship Council certifies that wood and paper products are grown and managed responsibly.

You can buy refillable pens to cut down on pens you have to purchase. If you must buy disposables, choose pens that are recycled. You can also look for refillable pens made of recycled materials. Every child needs a ruler when they are going back to school. Most rulers that you can buy in the store come in either plastic or wood. There is a green alternative to the ruler conundrum: A ruler that was used last year.
Purchase supplies with minimal packaging. Packaging makes up about a third of the garbage that piles up in landfills. Also, less processing and packaging means less energy goes into production, and less global warming pollution is created.

Environmentally friendly school supplies aren't a new idea — recycled paper and refillable pens and pencils have been around for years — but increased green awareness in the marketplace has made them more prominent. Cutting back on back-school purchases isn't only good for the planet- it's good for your wallet, too.

Lisa Emery, B.A. is currently living in Amherst. Lisa invites comments to her columns. You can contact Lisa at: Follow her on her website at: or view her blog at

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Water Conservation

It is imperative that we protect all that we rely on to survive. This includes clean water, clean air, productive farmland, biodiversity and reforestation. But of all of our natural resources, water is the most essential. However, the available supply is diminishing rapidly as human populations grow and inefficiently drain our precious fresh water aquifers.

The good news is that we can all do our part to conserve water by taking simple measures and such steps can be relatively easy and pain-free. A more sustainable path is to use the water that we have wisely. The first and most sensible thing to do is to make sure that any leaks or drips in your house are fixed to avoid constant water loss.

Other tips involve waiting for a full load of laundry before running your machine or wetting your toothbrush when brushing your teeth and then turning the water off until you are ready to rinse. Do you realize that you are wasting up to 3 gallons of water for every 30 seconds that you leave the tap running while brushing your teeth?

Another idea is not to turn on the shower until you are ready to get in or even get your body wet in the shower and then turn the water off while you soap up, and then turn it back on to rinse off. You could also invest in a water saving showerhead that provides a nice strong spray but uses less water than traditional showerheads.

There are also conservation ideas for water usage outside the home. Instead of using just a simple hose, connect a sprayer to your garden hose so that when watering plants you save one water usage. If you use low spray sprinklers early in the mornings and late in the evenings, the water has less chance of evaporating. Or even better, use a cistern to collect rainwater for watering your plants. Another tip for watering you plants – use the water that you have boiled vegetables in after the water has cooled. This will add some nutrients to the water.

Theses sustainable measures are not ludicrous. They are simple choices for anyone that wants to conserve the water they use in their daily lives. The benefits of these tips are twofold: reduce your water usage while saving on your water bill.

Lisa Emery, B.A. is currently living in Amherst. Lisa invites comments to her columns. You can contact Lisa at: Follow her on her website at: or view her blog at