Thursday, August 21, 2008

GreenUnion is on break.....

And will return September 8.

Science Idol - And the winner is.....

The Science Idol winner is Justin Bilicki from New York. This cartoon contest was organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Why are honeybees disappearing?

Did you know that bees pollinate about 1/3 of the human diet? Remember hearing about all those beekeepers around North American and Europe who were reporting the mysterious disappearance of their bees? As in all things physical, there is an answer to this enigmatic puzzle. I know this may come as a huge shock, but it's called "bug spray" - clothianidin in particular.

Lawsuit Seeks EPA Pesticide Data

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is refusing to disclose records about a new class of pesticides that could be playing a role in the disappearance of millions of honeybees in the United States, a lawsuit filed Monday charges.
Pesticides responsible? Who would have thought? The US EPA is doing its best to protect the chemical companies by withholding important data and study results from the public.
In the last two years, beekeepers have reported unexplained losses of hives - 30 percent and upward - leading to a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder. Scientists believe that the decline in bees is linked to an onslaught of pesticides, mites, parasites and viruses, as well as a loss of habitat and food.
OK, so pesticides are not the ONLY problem but the corporate "bee-nocide" deniers will do everything possible to continue to produce these dangerous chemicals and release them into our environment (and ultimately our bloodstreams).

For as long as there is doubt about the EXACT cause of colony collapse, the chemical giants, with their high-priced lobbyists and generous political contributions, can use government watchdogs to protect their own bee-hinds.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Big Water takes on London On.

Well who would have really expected Big Water to sit back while more and more municipalities and organizations (like OPSEU) are phasing out bottled water.

City bottled water ban comes under fire

The move by London's City Council to impose a ban on bottled water at city-run facilities is drawing fire from the Canadian refreshment industry, with Refreshment Canada officials calling the decision a "step backwards" in the recycling effort.

Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of the ban, which will see the sale of bottled water coming to a halt at City Hall starting Sept. 1, with the ban being phased in by next spring at other city-run facilities.

The industry's big argument in favor of their product? Convenience and choice. Their solution to the scourge of plastic bottles ending up in landfills? More recycling. Their answer to the other environmental issues - e.g. transporting water and using oil to produce the bottles? Nothing.
London is not the first city to impose such a ban. Last month, Vancouver passed a motion banning water bottles from being sold inside city hall and other Canadian cities are considering similar measures in regard to bottled water including Kitchener and Ottawa.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ont. peach cannery closes to maximize profits

Another very interesting piece by Thomas Homer-Dixon and Sarah Wolfe about agriculture and the role played by private equity firms in "leveraged buyouts" which maximize profits at the expense of local foods, jobs & the environment.

Everything is not peachy

For the past 40 years, the Smiths have grown everything from onions and tomatoes to cabbages and cauliflower. They also have a large orchard of peach trees. But this year, they had nowhere in Ontario to send their fruit. The canning plant in the Niagara region they'd used for years - the last commercial fruit canning facility east of the Rockies - closed in June.

So instead of locally grown peaches, we will import canned peaches from China from now on. Farmers in the Niagara Peninsula are already reported to have cut down orchards of Ontario's world-famous peaches.

Something is wrong with this picture.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Too bad republicans weren't an endangered specie

Endangered Species Law in Danger From Bush

The countdown to January has begun, and the Bush administration is starting to roll out a long, foul list of last-minute policy changes. If its proposal to gut the Endangered Species Act is any indication of what it has in mind, we all have cause to be frightened of the next several months.

The proposal, which does not require congressional approval, would allow federal agencies to decide for themselves whether or not that highway, dam or mine they want to build would adversely impact any endangered species - instead of turning the matter over to independent government scientists in the Fish & Wildlife Service, the way that they’ve done for 35 years.

Yes, why would anyone allow scientists make these determinations when lawyers and corporate lobbyists can ensure that no project will be left behind. What did a polar bear ever do for me anyway?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Taking action to clean up waterways....

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

While TD Bank has its name all over this, it still looks like a very exciting initiative with more than 1,100 clean-ups all around the country including many in Ontario. Just enter your postal code on the home page to find clean-ups near you. Or start your own. You can give as much time as you have. Some of the clean-ups are just one day annual events.

This is a sample search result using OPSEU's head office postal code.

Modest financial support is available (to buy lunch for example) from OPSEU's Environment Fund for any members who would like to put together a group.

Thanks to Michael Gauthier at Centennial College for this.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Toronto light rail proceeding

The City of Toronto is holding community consultations on the building of a cross-town light rail transit system. The line could be partly underground.

Why is this so important? Yesterday, another new study was released linking smog to premature deaths - estimated to be 2700 a year across Canada and rising at a pace greater than population growth.

Ottawa, Ont.

Meetings in Toronto begin this evening:

  • Thursday, August 14
    6:30pm to 9:00pm
    Forest Hill Memorial Arena, 340 Chaplin Cres. (Map)

  • Tuesday, August 19
    6:30pm to 9:00pm
    Leaside Arena, 1073 Millwood Rd. (Map)

  • Monday, August 25
    6:30pm to 9:00pm

    Humber Valley United Church, 76 Anglesey Blvd. (Map)

  • Wednesday, August 27
    6:30pm to 9:00pm
    Don Montgomery Community Recreation Centre
    (Formerly the Mid Scarborough Community Centre)
    2467 Eglinton Ave, E. (Map)

  • Thursday, September 4
    6:30pm to 9:00pm
    Richview Baptist Church
    1548 Kipling Avenue (just north of Eglinton Ave W.)

Tip of the hat to Jason Crowtz for this important item.

Shell greenwashed oil sands project

Shell rebuked for 'greenwash' over ad for polluting oil project

The Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell misled the public about the green credentials of a vastly polluting oil project in Canada, in an attempt to assure consumers of its good environmental record, a media watchdog will rule today.

In an embarrassing rejection of Shell's "greenwash", the Advertising Standards Authority said the company should not have used the word "sustainable" for its controversial tar sands project and a second scheme to build North America's biggest oil refinery. Both projects would lead to the emission of more greenhouse gases, the ASA said, ruling the advert had breached rules on substantiation, truthfulness and environmental claims.

Thanks to the World Wildlife Fund in Britain for challenging Shell. Something to think about next time you fill up your tank.

See WWF Video.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Environment minister wades into Kanata West development dispute

Ontario Environment Minister John Gerretsen has stepped into the development battle over Kanata West, telling developers and the city that he wants a lot more proof that building there is the right thing to do...

The project has become a giant headache for the city.

The city began the approval process years ago by deciding to be one of the proponents for development, joining with the owners' group -- in addition to being the government approving it.

When the water resources engineer working on the file, Ted Cooper, repeatedly raised questions about the risks of allowing building in the flood plain of the Carp River, he was taken off the project by the then-planning director. He has continued to question the project as a private citizen.

Another city engineer found problems with private consultants' calculations of possible water flow on and from the proposed development around the river.
More to come.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Solar powered A/C

Now this is something different - solar powered air conditioning. Not sure how good it is but it sounds really good!

Mars for martians

Considering what we've done to planet earth, can you blame them?

"Fossil fuel and power companies must be faced down"

On a Planet 4C Hotter, All We Can Prepare for Is Extinction - Oliver Tickell

We need to get prepared for four degrees of global warming, Bob Watson told the Guardian last week. At first sight this looks like wise counsel from the climate science adviser to Defra. But the idea that we could adapt to a 4C rise is absurd and dangerous. Global warming on this scale would be a catastrophe that would mean, in the immortal words that Chief Seattle probably never spoke, “the end of living and the beginning of survival” for humankind. Or perhaps the beginning of our extinction.

The collapse of the polar ice caps would become inevitable, bringing long-term sea level rises of 70-80 metres. All the world’s coastal plains would be lost, complete with ports, cities, transport and industrial infrastructure, and much of the world’s most productive farmland...

The more the ice melts, the more sunshine is absorbed by the sea, and the more the Arctic warms. And as the Arctic warms, the release of billions of tonnes of methane - a greenhouse gas 70 times stronger than carbon dioxide over 20 years - captured under melting permafrost is already under way...

But what are we to do? All our policies to date to tackle global warming have been miserable failures....

So are all our efforts doomed to failure? Yes, so long as our governments remain craven to special interests, whether carbon traders or fossil fuel companies...

The answer? Scrap national allocations and place a single global cap on greenhouse gas emissions, applied “upstream” - for instance, at the oil refinery, coal-washing station and cement factory. Sell permits up to that cap in a global auction, and use the proceeds to finance solutions to climate change - accelerating the use of renewable energy, raising energy efficiency, protecting forests, promoting climate-friendly farming, and researching geoengineering technologies. And commit hundreds of billions of dollars per year to finance adaptation to climate change, especially in poor countries.

Monday, August 11, 2008

International Youth Day - Provincial Young Workers meet

OPSEU's Provincial Young Workers Committee commemorated, celebrated and turned International Youth Day in a 3 session workshop on Unionism 101, globalism and trade and climate change held August 8 and 9th. Over thirty members attended from all parts of the province. The UN's theme this year was YOUTH AND CLIMATE CHANGE: TIME FOR ACTION

I was fortunate to participate as a resource person and co-facilitator with Jennifer Giroux, PYWC R6 & Environment Committee member) in the session on global warming. The workshop, organized and designed by Archana Mathew of OPSEU's Equity Unit and the PWYC members , had several themes:

  1. Experiencing climate change on our lives
  2. Basics of climate change & global warming
  3. Social justice & climate change
  4. Taking action in our unions, communities and workplaces
I also attended the earlier session with some interesting comments and analysis from Jaggi Singh who talked about unfair trade deals and how they are used to protect polluters to the detriment of communities and electd governments. He let people know about the 2010 G8 meeting taking place in Huntsville Ontario and encouraged people to get involved early.

OPSEU 1st Vice-President/Treasurer Patty Rout was also present for the Saturday morning session and said a few words about some of the union's green initiatives and priorities.

Thanks to Annee Simas for the pic.

Reclaiming habitat

I'm going to have to make a point of trying to balance off the "bad news" with some positive, hopeful, good news stories. Here's one from California.

Reclaiming an Ecosystem: A California Success Story

Now, 14 years after the city was ordered to reduce the quantity of tributary water it had been diverting into the Los Angeles aqueduct since 1941, Rush Creek has among the highest concentrations of yellow warblers in California - roughly three pairs per 2 1/2 acres.

“Restrict grazing and bring back the water and things really start hopping,” McCreedy said.
In the words of Greg, OPSEU's native plant advisor, "plant it and they will come".

North pole ice melt may set new record

Given that it's the middle of summer in the northern hemisphere, it's not surprising that melting is a regular theme. Don't want to sound alarmist and say "the sky is falling", but...... "the ice caps are melting!!"

This from Robin McKee of the UK Guardian:
Meltdown In The Arctic Is Speeding Up

Scientists warn that the North Pole could be free of ice in just five years’ time instead of 60

Satellite images show that ice caps started to disintegrate dramatically several days ago as storms over Alaska’s Beaufort Sea began sucking streams of warm air into the Arctic.

As a result, scientists say that the disappearance of sea ice at the North Pole could exceed last year’s record loss. More than a million square kilometres melted over the summer of 2007 as global warming tightened its grip on the Arctic. But such destruction could now be matched, or even topped, this year...

Addendum - August 12
Rush to Arctic As Warming Opens Oil Deposits
Interesting that the US coast guard, despite denials, is doing advanced oil and natural gas exploration in the Arctic which will benefit who? The oil and gas companies who share some of the responsibility for global warming which has opened up the north to exploration.
It’s a scramble for the spoils of global warming as the rapid melting of Arctic sea ice is opening access to previously unreachable deposits of oil and gas, setting off a race by northern nations - including the United States, Canada and Russia - to claim them.
So what motivation is there at all for big Oil to slow down? None whatsoever. In fact, the faster they can melt all the northern sea ice the sooner they can start drilling for more oil and gas.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Shark eats polar bear....

Polar bear eaten by shark: who's top predator?

Scientists researching how far sharks hunt seals in the Arctic were stunned in June to find part of the jaw of a young polar bear in the stomach of a Greenland shark, a species that favors polar waters...

Most shark experts contacted said it was likely the bear was dead before the shark found it. Even a young, two- or three-year-old bear would be a ferocious opponent for a Greenland shark, which can grow to up to 7 meters (23 feet) and weigh more than a tonne.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Tweedsmuir glacier

Check out the pictures in this "home movie"with NDP leader Jack Layton talking about the growing crisis of melting glaciers - in particular the Tweedsmuir glacier in Yukon's Kluane National Park, North America's largest wilderness preserve, which Jack visited with Olivia Chow.

You can also read about the NDP's climate change priorities including investments in public transit, home retrofit programs and just transitions for workers who's jobs are lost due to climate change.

Gravity is moving the melting Tweedmuir Glacier toward the Alsep River where it may block it completely. This movement is known as "surging".

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Paris Hilton's Energy Plan

This would be really funny if it weren't such an indictment of the state of politics in the USA.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Paying the true price of carbon

Hat tip to Manzur Malik for this article from the August 6 Globe and Mail.

We must green the market

Everywhere we look, the prices of goods don't reflect the true environmental costs of their production

Thomas Homer-Dixon holds the CIGI Chair of Global Systems at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Ont. Stewart Elgie is a professor at the University of Ottawa, specializing in environmental law and economics.
Modern capitalist markets are among the most amazing institutions humankind has ever created. They are mighty engines of innovation and wealth. They allow societies to quickly adapt to a world full of disruptions and surprises. And by linking billions of producers and consumers every day, they generate price signals that help people around the world decide what to make and what to buy.

But when it comes to conserving Earth's natural environment, our markets are badly broken. For our planet's future - and for our future prosperity - we must fix them.

The underlying problem is that we don't pay the true environmental costs of making, using and getting rid of the products we buy. Take the gasoline we use in our cars. Every time we push down on the accelerator pedal, we emit a blast of carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming. Our children and grandchildren will pay for this warming - in the form of higher food prices from drought, heat waves and floods, greater health expenses from diseases that thrive in warmth, more property damage from storms and rising seas. Those huge future costs aren't reflected in today's gasoline's price. In effect, our children and grandchildren are subsidizing our current mania for driving.

The same problem arises with electricity from coal-fired power plants. This electricity may seem relatively cheap, but air pollution from these plants is a major cause of thousands of premature deaths in Canada each year - costing our society billions of dollars. And the plants' enormous carbon emissions also contribute to climate change. Because neither power companies nor their customers pay the full costs of coal electricity, cleaner sources of electricity (like wind or solar) are relatively more expensive in the marketplace, even though their overall cost to society is often less.

Indeed, everywhere we look, we see products whose prices don't reflect the true environmental costs of their production. Local food often costs more than imported food, because we don't pay for the climate change caused by getting it to our tables or the damage to soil and water from poor farming practices. Recycled paper usually costs more, too, because we don't pay for the loss of virgin forests or for the water and air pollution from making non-recycled paper.

So, while most of us want to protect the environment, we operate in an economic system that encourages us to harm it. Our moral and economic motivations point in opposite directions. It's time we got them pointing in the same direction.

Economists say we can do this in two ways: We can apply green fees or taxes to reflect a product's environmental harm, or we can create a market for nature's environmental services that we now treat as free.

In Canada right now, both approaches are on the table to combat climate change. The federal Liberals have proposed a carbon tax (joining B.C. and Quebec), while the Conservatives and several provinces are proposing carbon trading - creating a market in rights to emit carbon dioxide.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, but most economists say taxes and fees are more economically efficient, because they involve less bureaucracy and provide clearer signals to companies and consumers. Either way, though, both approaches require government intervention - not to distort markets, but to make them work the way they're supposed to work, by counting real costs.

Yet putting a price on carbon is just a first step. If we want to build an economy that can prosper without ruining our natural environment, we'll have to price other types of environmental harm as well, such as water depletion, smog, toxic pollution and the destruction of wildlife habitats.

Such policies would be good not only for our environment, but also for our economy. In fact, they offer a way out of the narrow environment-versus-economy logic that dominates public discussion of environmental protection. The revenues from green fees or taxes, or from auctioning emission permits, can be used to reduce inefficient taxes on income, employment or investment. We can tax things we want to discourage, such as pollution and resource waste, not things we want to encourage, like income, employment and investment. Also, putting a price on environmental harm spurs green innovation, because companies will pursue the huge potential profits from developing technologies and practices that reduce environmental damage.

The economy of the future will reward energy efficiency, clean production and wise use of natural capital. That's why England, Germany, Denmark, Australia and more recently California and British Columbia have been moving ahead with strong policies to integrate environmental costs into market prices. If Canada as a whole doesn't make this shift, it risks being left behind in the transition to a new global economy.

On the other hand, we can leave to our grandchildren a greener, more prosperous Canada - and set a global example of a sustainable society - if we start making markets tell the environmental truth.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Harper / Baird: Overestimating climate change data?

Expert report questions Tory greenhouse-gas claims

OTTAWA — The Harper government might be overestimating how much its climate-change plan will lower greenhouse gases, says a federal advisory panel.

Flaws in government calculations could skew projections around the Tories' green policies, the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy says...

Part of the Tory plan calls for "intensity targets" on big emitters starting in 2010 and lasting until at least 2017.

Intensity-based targets link greenhouse-gas reductions to a company's industrial output, meaning overall emissions can still rise (Ed.) if a producer is, for example, getting more energy-efficient use out of a barrel of oil.
You can read the full report here.

So not only is the Conservative "solution" a flawed system based on industry-wide "intensity targets" that allow emissions to RISE in specific industries, but it may also be based on flawed numbers. And there's carbon capture and China and India. More reasons to delay. And lets not forget to blame the Liberals for having done nothing. Layered throughout, but not always visible because of the PR smog it creates, is big Carbon with its big money.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Antarctic: The Last Continent

I haven't seen this documentary yet, but it sounds very interesting. Anyone seen it? Leave your comments below.

Tale of Antarctica not just a story of global warming

The global warming debate has transformed Antarctica from a forgotten landmass at the end of the Earth to the canary in the mineshaft -- a harbinger, scientists theorize, that will give the world a glimpse into the future.
To see the trailer, check it out here (for some reason I couldn't embed it directly).

Add to Technorati Favorites directory Add to Bloglines Who links to me?