Tag Archives: Environment

You can’t do that.

picture-41I just read something nice.
It simply proved something I thought true, but that I was told is impossible.
You see, being at Phog, it’s not uncommon to wax futuristic and wonder what the world might hold for us (or vice versa).
When the topic got to cars, and how we’re making vehicles in Windsor that few consumers want anymore, even the artists (lefties) at the bar were nagging, “Well, what the hell can they do to them? Huh? Nothing!”
“Well guys, what if Windsor was a city that decided they didn’t like the status quo. What if people ditched their cookie-cutter cars for older cars, the ones they used to make with steel…and had them retro-fit with eco-friendly parts, making them not only road-safe, but more environmental than ever…maybe even making them electrical? Imagine what the streets would LOOK like! You wouldn’t look out of a window and see what EVERY North American sees. You’d see something unique! And it would all be in part to the engineering and manufacturing prowess in this city!”
Bucky, a local enviro-guy, brilliant guy, was the actual person who hatched this idea some weeks and weeks earlier. I loved his idea. Preserving the past, but doing one better and making something new and refreshing to the eye while blowing a kiss to Mother Nature at the same time.
The people at the bar, most times I reintroduce Bucky’s idea for the sake of dreaming, almost always get out of sorts and try to think of all the ways this idea can’t work.
As a matter of habit, this is how my community OFTEN approaches new ideas and concepts about absolutely anything. They think of all the ways it can’t work before they think of all the ways it can. I can’t be sure, but I wonder if they are just talking themselves out of participating if it ever DOES happen.
This frustration has guided me to some new groups of folks who foster and develop new ideas. Thanks to you, you know who you are…

But back to this article I read at the beginning of this post.
Apparently, there is a company in the US who is way ahead of us, and WAY ahead of the naysayers I lock eyes and wits with almost every shift.

They take gas guzzlers, and make them more acceptable vehicles. Old, new, whatever.
The working class in Windsor could do this in their sleep. I wish the creative spirit drove someone to these lengths. I don’t feel it’s my obligation to “find” the right people and get them fired up to start a company doing this, because SO MANY people in this city could do this work. It would be wonderful if they’d just emerge on their own, and shock this motor city under their own volition, like the company currently doing so in the United States.

I really never listen to anyone who tells me, “You can’t do that,” anymore.


Broken City Lab on NIMBY

picture-41In what will likely be one of many posts about Broken City Lab, I will simply leave you with the content I have collected.

What is Broken City Lab? Well…

A collection of artists/activists who see a broken city in front of them, and use their creativity to interact with the people, groups, bureaucracy, items, places, and mediums necessary to make things less broken. It’s art-through-action. When speaking to Justin Langlois, the guy who decided to get this group together, I was astounded, amazed, proud, and appreciative of the concept and eventual action this group represents. Langlois said something like, “I began to realize that my art could be this…this action…this sharing of concepts to make things better instead of making paintings…” I’m paraphrasing. But if you watch the videos below and listen to his interview on this week’s installment of Not In My Backyard (Tuesdays at noon on CJAM 91.5FM in Windsor/Detroit), you will hear him communicate this clearer.

Here’s the CJAM interview on Not In My Backyard (NIMBY)!

And as usual, there is a TON of extra content on the videos where Justin is able to talk about some of the other projects Broken City Lab is looking at starting.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1565756&dest=-1]

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1566332&dest=-1]

To find out more, go to brokencitylab.org where there is a regularly updated blog with awesome info.

As a further added bonus, check out the blog post that Justin made after taking part in the Big Walk.

Van Jones…Green Job Enthusiast

I read a blog I found out about recently from the writer himself (he commented on this blog in the past). His name is Peder.

His blog feels very similar to mine, except he’s from the US.

His post, recently, was about economic “happenings” in the US, and about the beliefs of a man named Van Jones, founder of Green For All…a green-collar-job promoter.

I am simply borrowing his post, forwarding it to you, and in the same breath, informing you of his blog address and encouraging you to check it out.


That’s the address. Visit often. And thanks Peder for writing about this Oakland-based inspiration.

Here’s Peder’s post:

“A recent article by syndicated New York Times columnist David Brooks got me thinking about the way our government has been spending our money. We’re all aware of the $700+ billion package intended to loosen credit markets which has done little of that up to now. As if that’s not enough, President-elect Obama has stated his desire to see further short-term stimulus packages, either in the final months of Bush’s term or the first months of his own.

This year our federal spending has increased 13.8% over last year, driven in large part by an 18% increase in military spending (bottom of linked article). In spite of this historic credit and economic crisis, the US government has no problem spending money, and will borrow without apparent limit to do so.

But the spending is misplaced. Over the last five weeks the financial sector bailout money has paid for executive bonuses and lavish corporate conferences, and funded the purchase of other banks. It has not loosened up credit markets or relieved individuals’ financial stress, in spite of a recent spat of historic interest rate cuts. The lesson: Banks are greedy. Greenspan has admitted he underestimated this reality. And it’s time for us to quit giving all our [future generations’] borrowed [Chinese] money to them.

Really, we should probably be saving our money right now; tightening our belts, spending less and saving more. But if we’re going to spend it anyway (and this is the point of the David Brooks piece) let’s spend it on something with a lasting, long-term legacy for our nation. Brooks says we should spend it on a National Mobility Project, which has merit; he cites good reasons in his article. But I have another idea.

Van JonesI’d like to introduce you to Van Jones. If you haven’t yet heard of him, he’s an Oakland-based activist, author and founder of Green For All, an organization that promotes “green-collar” jobs and opportunities for the disadvantage. He’s a very talented speaker and motivational leader. In a series of blog posts published by the Huffington Post, Mr. Jones proposes a series of investment priorities into electricity production and building retrofitting programs which will (1) reduce our energy consumption and reliance on foreign-produced, carbon-emitting fuel sources, and (2) provide jobs in the manufacturing and service sectors that can employ disadvantaged and lower-educated individuals, and cannot be outsourced or taken overseas. (Unfortunately, ever the salesman, Van’s posts come across as sales-oriented. His either selling his book or his foundation’s program.) Nonetheless, this video will let you hear his ideas in his own words:

His ideas, and the concept of green-collar job creation in general, remind one of FDR’s Public Works Administration, and Jones cites several studies which point to the potential upside to spending that amounts to fractions of what has already been promised by the government in the 3rd quarter of 2008. It’s important to note that the bailout bill passed about a month ago did include some provisions that support clean tech. But they amount to tax policy. I’m talking about an investment program. As you can see below there are many options here, all of which improve our energy efficiency and create jobs.

No Money, No HoneyIt is important to note that government subsidy has to be viewed as a stimulus, not as an income source. That is, before implementing any spending we need to define return on investment projections and set time limits on these expenditures. We can use our money to prime our economic pump, but we need to ensure it addresses the problem it’s intended to solve, has reasonable ROI expectations and lasts a finite period of time. By my count the economic bailout of October 2008 misses on the first two points. And it’s costing us a lot of money. To alleviate the ruin we’ve wrought so far, the best of what I’ve read says we need to require US banking institutions take the money we’ve given them and feed it directly into credit markets.

And if we’re going to spend more money, then let’s invest in this green-collar revolution. To me it just makes good business sense, and it seems we could use some of this in Washington right now.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Which is why I copied Peder’s post in the first place.

Brazil is everywhere…

Okay, to begin, I need to express my lack of expertise. This is key. I know basic information about the world and the environment, etc., but as I am learning, I like to keep my thoughts and opinions here. If you would like to add anything or suggest some places I can learn more about a post I make, please do so.

Moving on, what is the deal with Brazil?!

Every time I find something interesting happening online, in podcasts, or in the paper, I find that it is often in Brazil.

The tribe that has been photographed from a helicopter in the Amazon was in Brazil. This native tribe was spotted in a fly-over, and when the chopper returned to take more photos (and to scare the living shit out of these people who have NEVER BEEN TOUCHED BY CIVILIZATION) they had hurriedly painted their bodies bright orange or entirely black. It looks like the men (with bows and arrows pointed at the growling demon
in the sky) were orange and the women were painted black.

In other recent news, there are big things going on with the Amazon (in Brazil) as a BBC reporter from The World has just returned from a long trip to the fabled area. He was discussing the science being done above the canopy in the Amazon, collecting air samples since 1998, and measuring how rain actually occurs in the rainforest. They found some cool stuff, and they explain it in detail on The World Podcast with Clark Boyd.

Discussion in the podcast includes the air flow around South America, due in part to the Amazon, and how the moisture finds particles in the air to stick to for the return of water through rain. Since there’s not a TON of pollution above the canopy, scientists didn’t know how the water clung onto stuff that didn’t exist. It’s a scienc-y good story. Check it.

Another story about Brazil, this one in the New York Times, shone some light on the possibility of corruption in the Amazon. This is the main reason I was driven to start blogging at 3am after attending a wonderful wedding party for Dan and Jenna by the lake in Kingsville. I am beat, but I was burning about the way we allow pricks with HUGE companies and capitalist ideals get into office!!

To preface, this dude, the Soybean King, is being seen by scientists as the worst clear-cutting and environment-infringing dudes in the country. He governs the most agriculturized province in Brazil (the Amazon). Yes, I said that the governor of this space of Amazon is the man in charge of the land and agriculturization, and VOILA! he owns the most successful, money-grubbing food company in the whole damn country. Am I shocked by this anymore? No. It seems that somehow, in the grand discussion of democracy, we somehow let these slimy pricks into the highest offices imaginable.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the president of Brazil is supposed to be some environmental Batman or something, but really, if he’s allowing the “selective” clear cutting of one of the WORLD’S most important ecosystems by a COLLEAGUE and government-mate, how hero-like is he? He’s worse than Robin. He’s not even as valuable as one of the smoke bombs on Batman’s belt. He’s like, maybe the “Batman’s sock” of the environment. Nothing to write to Sao Paolo about.

Back to the story. Dr. Câmara, who heads the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil has been measuring the amount of forest being cut down…but they are cleverer than the Soybean King, Blairo Maggi, gave them credit for, because it can measure the loss even when they perform selective cutting…not quite clear-cutting. This information exchange was immediately attacked by the Soybean King, putting some environmental groups on their heels. The deforestation had been in decline for two years, but then it spiked.

It’s being cut down for crops and livestock! Hello!? We are still cutting down rain forest to grow food when there are grossly obese fools running around North America and Mexico, and diabetics are erupting like mad in India! We’re growing food to put in our gas tanks! Jesus Christ people! Can we leave the goddamn car at home for once!? Frig! The Amazon is going away so we can grow corn for our car (while millions starve worldwide, never mind that estimates say 35 million Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from) and to fatten cows so we can eat meat. Yeah, we are pounding these chic slider-burgers like an eight-year-old binges on Oreos and we wonder why the world’s weather is getting screwed up. Some day soon, I’m sure, the corporate-interest-owned media will share the big picture with everyone so they can start consuming less (sarcasm).

“Worldwide agriculture, especially livestock production, accounts for about a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions,” says Treehugger.com. Thanks Treehugger. For a clue what I mean about meat and climate change linkage, click the previous link.

So, back to the story. “Marina Silva, Brazil’s environmental minister and a respected rain forest defender, resigned this month. While leaving, she spoke of heavy pressures being exerted by industry-minded governors, including Governor Maggi, to reverse the federal crackdown on destruction of the forest,” reported ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO of the New York Times. Greenpeace gave the Soybean King the Golden Chainsaw Award in 2005 for his role as the worst Brazilian “deforester”.

This guy is IN CHARGE! I find that the answer is in the people’s power over the corporate interest’s power. It starts by NOT ELECTING a machete-wielding agri-giant who would down his mother’s legs if he could make money by planting corn under her. In essence, he IS cutting of all of our mother’s legs: Mama Nature that is…

Someone make me feel better about this. Tell me that people with the opportunity to evade electing a bio-terrorist to power in ANY country where they allow voting will do the right thing when they hit the ballot box. Geez! What are we to do about these mistakes? Oops, we elected a nature-hating, enviro-suck-beast (a terrestrial lamprey) and now we see him for what he is, a low-life opportunist, and we want him gone…what can you do?

I have to go to bed and dream about trees.

The news. I like.

I am dumbfounded. I’ll tell you why in a paragraph or two.

Listen, I will not pretend to know what is going on in Canadian politics. It is one of the priorities on my list.

Why? You may ask that for good reason. Well, I just like to know when someone is lying to me. I like being able to call “bullshit” when someone in the political spectrum , or someone speaking for one of those boobs, says something completely outrageous. I don’t like hearing things, and gobbling them up like a nice little consumer. I like to know the details.

For starters, our robotic, yet intelligent, Prime Minister of horse-puckey has made a move that I am FINALLY impressed with. He stated today that under the current definitions and rules around saying food in Canada is “Made in Canada” there are problems… As of right now, if 51% of the work being done to prepare food, and make it consumer-ready is done in Canada, companies are legally allowed to say Made in Canada. Which is a stretch, to say the least…I think we’ll all agree.

“Hey gringo, these bananas were grown in Canada…well, that’s not entirely true. You see, we grew them in South America and then they were juggled and handled and banged around vociferously in some shit-hole cannery plant in Ontario, so technically, they’re Canadian…right?”

No. I want to know where my food is grown, prepared, and “managed”.

Stephen Harper has made a promise, of sorts, to adjust this rule, so the definition is less clandestine and malleable to make sense to only those who work in the industry. Food must be grown and prepared fully in Canada to have the label Made in Canada. If it isn’t, it must say where the other “components” (a fruit salad mix, I guess?) are from.

I just love how Harper said something along the lines of, “It’s what Canadians want, so we have to provide it,” as if this dude gives one ounce of care what “Canadians want”. I digress. I must tip my cap to the man who I know to be intelligent and otherwise incompetent. He made good with me on this story.

And in other “news” The Globe and Mail has FINALLY decided to write about The North Pacific Garbage Patch! Holy geez! Someone at Phog told me that I would be happy that it was finally being covered. While reading the piece, I was floored, yet not surprised (we have a Conservative government) to read this admission from Diane Lake, a spokeswoman with the Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. She “said that while the ministry is aware of the North Pacific Gyre, it is conducting no real research on the extent or effects of the plastic pollution.” Perfect. Nice work Diane. Nice to see you give a shit. You know, Canada has a border that kinda touches the Pacific Ocean. Hey wait! That’s one of the words in the North Pacific Garbage Patch! Come to think of it, we’re North too…but, we don’t really need to be studying this. You know, it’ll all go away, like climate change, and racism, and mental illness, and corporatocracy raping us from dusk till dawn…yeah, someone else is taking care of it, I’m sure.

Here’s a shortlist, from The Globe and Mail, of what Captain Moore has been finding: A trail of Taco Bell wrappers, Dolls and action figures, Umbrellas, Tarps, Bottles, Tofu containers(for those of you who think you’re saving the earth with tofu. Maybe we need to be writing letters to tofu companies asking them to consider new packaging?), Lego, Grocery bags, Foam coffee cups, Checkers, Furniture, Toothbrushes, Cigarette lighters, Syringes, Rubber ducks, Basketball shoes

See, this is exactly the kind of thing that should make backbones stiffen. It should make you, reading this, totally annoyed with the laissez faire attitude of people who are paid by us to work for us. These are the issues that will be affecting your family’s family’s family. But what can we do besides thinking globally and acting locally? I’m actually shocked that the fishing industry in the west hasn’t pulled a page from the Argentinian farmers’ handbook.

Get angry at this lack of interest in your job, your industry, and your culturally significant knowledge. Stop fishing until the Department of Fisheries and Oceans decides to look into stemming this abuse in the oceans, and possibly even going so far as to suggesting that maybe we are drowning in our own plastic…and that we should step back from it…sloooowly…with biiiiig steps.

I must also place this in here…as I was listening to Q on CBC with Jian Ghomeshi, I heard the guest talking about food, and mentioning our good friend Michael Pollan. It was “Montreal writer Taras Grescoe on the search for ethical seafood” talking about his new book, Bottomfeeder. I kind of want to read this now. The “Q on CBC” in the first sentence of this paragraph is a direct link to the podcast of this show. It was a GREAT interview, worth listening to…

I bit off more than I could chew. Now I want to get into the whole argument we had at Phog last night…about bananas, how we won’t be eating yellow ones in 5 years, and about the plague/waste of sandwich (Ziploc) bags.

Another time.

Knowing and Living: An Inconvenient Truth

Coming from the “more north” of Ontario, visiting my brother and his family, I am feeling mentally recharged. Not in that way you get when you are ultra-relaxed though. I am more or less recharged because I have been reinvigorated in a larger sense.

Yes, my brother gave his slide-show of An Inconvenient Truth. Yes, it was eye-opening, even though I pay attention to every utterance about the environment, and almost primarily because of listening to so many podcasts. Harry Shearer’s Le Show has a copyrighted feature called “News of The Warm” that keeps on top of the most recent info about our crumbling planet. My brother did an incredible job, and commanded a hushed room of 25 people or so.

The presentation was yet another piece to this expanding interest in the vital signs of Earth for me. It was a reminder of the article in the New York Times Magazine, Why Bother? by Michael Pollan, which made a strong impact on me, almost calling me out for having been remiss to ACT. Applying Gandhi’s Ideas to Climate Change by Peter Applebome was another article in the New York times that made grand references to the differences between thinking something and acting on something.

I am in the first category primarily. I know the correct thing to do, but I often don’t go as far as I should. I find myself waffling in the face of adversity when it comes time to choose correctly for the planet, for the dignity of others, for the dignity of myself. These two articles had superb reminders in them, telling me to get my head in the right space. Do it because it is right. Do it because it is virtuous, even when doing things because they are virtuous is dropping out of style. Why bother? For yourself. Doing for yourself, in the greater sense of self, in turn, is actually doing for all, even when on a small scale, such as picking up trash while walking on a nature trail in northern Ontario (thanks Martha). We spend so much of our day, our relationships, our lives, taking, taking, taking…but if we’ve learned anything in science class, things must balance. It’s time to give back.

Jhoan and I at the rapids of the South River

Also, while on the 7-hour-drive home from the weekend trip, I listened to This American Life. The episode had a bit about Schindler’s List. A guy (a friend of the host who is involved in charity and philanthropic work) who watched this film, commented to the host (Ira Glass) that he did all the work he did, as taxing and time-consuming that it was, because he KNEW he was going to be like Schindler in the end of the film. He knew he would be asking why he didn’t sell his car, his watch, to get enough money to save more Jews. This man didn’t want to be thinking he could have done more.

I don’t want to be the regretful man who, lying on his deathbed is thinking, “I could have done more for others.” I want to do what is to be done. The nausea associated with being a failure, failing myself, no one else, is not an acceptable outcome, and I am geared to see that this life is more heavily geared toward giving.

The Zen Archery approach of intention meeting action is a wonderful way to look at the process from A) learning truth to B) living truth. And the funniest thing about these articles I mentioned is that I was gung-ho to introduce them to my brother Todd. I was thinking about it more like a useful tool, maybe a hand-out at future events or talks. But the irony of me giving a man whose entire family knows the truth and lives truth constantly was lost on me until writing this post. Todd and Martha have been beacons to me of how to live a low-impact life physically, and a high-impact life mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Hey brother, if you’re reading this, I get it! I know you know. I know you don’t need the info in those articles, but I thought it might help relay your message to people like me who need a bit of nudging from knowing to living truth.

Todd, Jhoan, and I

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Screen capture of Garbage Island by VBS.TV

Quite a while ago I heard a podcast talking about this enormous gyre in the North Pacific Ocean that collects a hell of a lot of garbage and plastic. It is aptly named The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I read several articles to follow this up, and subsequently e-mailed Google asking them why I couldn’t zoom in on the North Pacific and see this monstrous garbage patch. Surprise! I never heard back from them. Just found a link to this great conversation about why there may or may not be any visible floating garbage.

The articles I read are from Best Life Magazine and The San Francisco Chronicle. They sadly inform on the state of The Horse Latitudes, which I think is a brilliant name for a band. The discussion basically boils down to the fact that when plastic photodegrades and becomes smaller and smaller pieces of plastic (eventually nurdles) it likes to absorb the most heinous chemicals known to man. No big deal? Actually, it’s brutal. It’s getting eaten by plankton, and just about every other freakin’ creature in the ocean. They eventually get these chemicals in their bodies, and continually pass it down the line until we begin eating our own goddamn garbage. Irony is painful.

So, everything from Bisphenol A, human biochemistry, jettisoned trash from freighters, plastic bag consumption, the evils of bottled water, and much more is linked to this story.

The details are in the articles linked above, as the experts did the work, and it is fresh for the reading.

However, I found the Holy Grail of Garbage Patch research when I found this documentary series produced by Vice Magazine. They had a guy write a short article on his journey into “The Patch” in a recent issue of Vice, and as I read it, I remember wishing for more. More images, more stories, more statistics, more hope. Lo and behold, here is this guy’s face, on a series of videos online comprising a documentary that I cannot WAIT to watch. I highly recommend this, as it is a strong young approach to the issue. Yeah, you may hear profanity here or there, but this is a more reasonable response than simply going about our daily routine creating more waste.

I feel like I can go on and on about this for too long. Not just the ocean issue, but about the waste culture I am firmly situated within. Maybe another day. In the meantime, please go check out these videos called Garbage Island by Vice.